Literally, huatou means "head, or crux, of a saying....that which occurs just before a thought arises in your mind. To practice huatou the practitioner recites the sentence or fragment in a questioning manner but without theorizing or analyzing in order to find an answer. If you tried to reason out the meaning of a huatou, this would be looking at the tail end of the thought, not the head. ...In practice, you must abandon concepts, knowledge, and previous experience until the huatou becomes the only thing in your mind, and you must eventually smash through the huatou itself." from Master Sheng Yen in Shattering the Great Doubt, pg. 4.
Zenkei Shibayama, a Japanese Zen Master writes, "Like having bolted a red hot iron ball' describes the one who, with his whole body and soul, has plunged into the Great Doubt, the spiritual quest. All the emotions are exhausted, all the intellect has come to its extremity; there is not an inch for the discrimination to enter. This is the state of utmost spiritual intensification. When it is hot, the whole universe is nothing but the heat; when you see, it is just one pure act of seeing--there is no room there for any thought to come in. In such a state, Mumon warns us, never give up but straightforwardly carry on with your striving. In such a state no thought of discrimination can be present. "Illusory discriminating knowledge and consciousness accumulated up to now" refers to our dualistically working mind we have had before. No trace of it is now left. You are thoroughly lucid and transparent like a crystal. Subject and object, in and out, being and nonbeing are just one, and this very one ceases to be one any longer. Rinzai said, describing this state, "This whole universe is sheer darkness." Hakuin said, "It was like sitting in an ice cave a million miles thick." This is the moment when the I and the world are both altogether gone. This is exactly the moment when one's discriminating mind is emptied and cast away. When one is in the abyss of the absolute "Mu" in actual training, the inexpressible moment comes upon him--the moment when "Mu" is awakened to "Mu," that is, when he is revived the self of no-self. At this mysterious moment, he is like a dumb person who has had a wonderful dream, for he is fully aware of it, but is unable to use words to express it. The Absolute Nothingness ("Mu") is awakened to itself. This is the moment of realization when subject-object opposition is altogether transcended. To describe it we have to use such words as inexpressible or mysterious. "You will then be like a dumb person who has had a wonderful dream: he only knows it personally, within himself."...from Zenkei Shibayama in Zen Comments on the Mumonkan, pg. 28
Also check out these Chan sites of interest:
2. How to chan meditate:
3. How to chan meditate: Master Sheng Yen in Facebook
4. The Western Chan Fellowship at http://www.westernchanfellowship.org/
Call Adrian at 250 898 8201,