Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.
At the above link the meeting between the American Ananda Jennings and the 109 year old master Xu Yun has been copy-typed from Charles Luk's and Richard Hunn's 1988 biography of Xu Yun. This meeting happened around 1948-49 following WWII and as the civil war in China is about to end with victory to the forces of Mao Zedong. Jennings had spent time in India previous to this encounter with Xu Yun. Interestingly, although Xu Yun speaks of Jenning's visit, he does not elaborate about it in the main text of the biography. It is through his editor - Cen Xue-lu - that we learn of the particulars of this meeting, and Jennings Ch'an dialogue with Qi-shi. Jennings shows a remarkable understanding of the Dharma but when Qi-shi tries to take her beyond words and letters, Jennings does not understand and responds with more words and letters. This kind of Ch'an dialogue seems to be straight out of the Tang Dynasty. Qi-shi, through his enlightened insight is using the language of the uncreate to free Jenning's mind. These dialogues have far-reaching ramifications way beyond the circumstance they occur within.
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 15:36:19 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
Many people may know of Charles Luk through his numerous books of fine English translations of important key Chinese (and Daoist) texts, an undertaking inspired directly by master Xu Yun who was concerned for the well-being of Western Ch’an Dharma students. What is often not as well known is that Charles Luk also trained in the Phowa technique of consciousness transmission, found within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, receiving instruction from a great lama. Luk occasionally alludes to this practice in his books, but explains that his teacher swore him to secrecy over the techniques themselves. However, as early as the mid 1930’s Luk visited The Buddhist Society in London, exploring the possibility of that organisation assisting in the spread of authentic Ch’an Buddhism to the West. Unfortunately, at that time, the Buddhist Society was more interested in the Zen Buddhism of Japan, to openly endorse the Chinese counter-part. This is ironic when considered in the light of the fact that without Chinese Ch’an, there would be no Japanese Zen. As it transpired, the work of DT Suzuki was preferred to that of master Xu Yun.
However, another important aspect of the life of Charles Luk is his teaching ability. After 1949, Hong Kong – then a British Colony – more or less immune from the political changes sweeping the Mainland. Master Xu Yun had visited the area and taught in numerous temples and monasteries – Dharma students urged him to stay in the colony and not go back to the Mainland out of fear for his safety, but Xu Yun would not hear of abandoning the Mainland people, or his work of temple re-building. Whilst Xu Yun carried on his mission on the Mainland, Luk settled down to translating Chinese Buddhist texts, eventually producing an English translation of Xu Yun’s autobiography. During this time, and up to his death is 1978, Luk also held together a world-wide correspondence between himself and committed Ch’an students. Some of the letters he received are re-produced in his book entitled ‘Practical Buddhism’, and give a feel for the extent and depth that the Ch’an letter writing tradition entails. A Ch’an master can enlighten another through the correct use of words, either in person, or through the written medium. In his translation work, there exist copious notes to assist the reader. These notes reveal a depth of understanding and enlightenment that is often startling to encounter. More so as it presents itself in a ‘matter of fact’ manner.
The book Practical Buddhism also contains Luk’s essential teaching upon the hua tou technique, and the important issue of ‘doubt’ (yi) in spiritual development. A ‘doubting mind’ (yi-qing) is essential to drive the hua tou process. This is an important point, as today many reduce the hua tou to a mere ‘intellectual’ exercise that happens ‘externally’ to the intellect that it is supposed to transcend. This type of hua tou practice is of no spiritual use. The kind of ignorance that creates this interpretation mistakenly perceives itself as ‘enlightened wisdom’ and presumes an intellectual dominance that only serves to mislead people away from the true path (Dao). Doubt is required because the ego will continuously create the illusion of ‘wisdom’ on the path, attempting to divert the practitioner away from the essential work of ego uprooting. Luk clearly explains how attachment to Dharma can be worse than attachment to ego. Dharma attachment is really subtle-ego not yet completely vanquished. This is clearly seen with reference to the Tang Dynasty Ch’an masters who speak of this problem often. Every view of enlightenment must be ruthlessly ‘cut-down’ until the true Mind Ground is clearly perceived and integrated with. Without a ‘doubt’ that ‘cuts’ through delusion, the practitioner assumes a false intellection, and mistakes this for the true path. Charles Luk was a powerful Ch’an master in his own right.
Those who see through the veil of physicality experience birth and death very much as an occupation hazard upon the bodhisattva path. It may be, in reality an essentially a delusive activity, but nevertheless, it is an event that every single one of us has to undergo to get onto this plane, and then to leave it, or to create a new physical vehicle for it’s traversing. Whatever the case, and regardless of where we end-up in the multiverse, the play of birth and death defines it all. One thing is for sure, much pain attends the birthing process – tempered by the joy of the arrival of new life, and often much fear (and pain) surrounds death. Of course, both events, being in physical time and space will illicit certain passing realities which will include extreme emotion and physical sensation. From a cultural perspective, birthing and dying are objectified activities witnessed by those not actually undergoing the processes themselves. Of course, women always bear the suffering for our physical existences, this is without question and should serve as a firm foundation for respect, but with regards dying, it is always a solitary affair regardless of those in attendance.
Even if the world is seen as an illusion, the illusionary processes must be gone through correctly and at the right time. Like every human activity, there is a special ‘Way’ (Dao) for it’s unfolding. Fear seems to be the greatest hindrance because it colours everything with its taint. Fear, although natural, is not required. The process of death itself, like birthing, very much takes care of itself, which leaves those who experience it to use their minds as they see fit. Unnecessary resistance to a natural process is a pointless exercise – things will happen as they do. What is important is that compassion and wisdom fills the void and that no one is excluded from their embracing security.
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 15:38:08 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
When the idea for this forum was first discussed, around 2002, neither Richard nor myself were particularly sure how things would develop with regard to the the internet. By 2004, it was obvious to Richard - who was living in Japan - that whatever the internet actually was, it was the product of our era and one through which people could be instantly connected, and information shared. Neither of us had very much internet design ability, but this Proboards site seemed to offer a simple platform to create words in the public domain. In other words, a new kind of 'direct' publishing was at hand. This development has coincided with, and been responsible for a revolution in the publishing world. Previously, conventional publishers have picked and chosen what they want to put into print - nowadays that process has been superseded by the immediacy of the internet. Publishers can refuse manuscripts only to see them appear on the internet, more or less immediately. In this regard the internet has freed-up creativity and expression, and cut through the politics and economic concerns of the publishing business. Even in the early 2000's, Richard Hunn was finding the task of keeping Charles Luk's books in actual print an ever more daunting process - with publishers saying that the content was too 'irrelevant' for modern living, and that by re-printing, there was no profit in it for them, etc and so forth.
Once, whilst sat together on a public seat in Sutton high street (London), Richard Hunn told me how he had negotiated with Rider & Co to re-print Charles' work in 1988 - coinciding with Richard's re-edit of 'Empty Cloud', and how even then, Rider was not that keen on 'Taoist Yoga', claiming it to be 'obscure'. However, they did re-print, but they added a bizarre sub-title to it that Richard Hunn was not made aware of until it was too late, a sub-title designed to apparently attract Western audiences - or so they thought - that sub-title is 'The sexual teachings of the ancient Chinese masters'! This is actually misleading in the extreme, because although the genital area is mentioned as an area that vital force (qi) travels through, all the Daoist meditation described by master Zhao Bichen (1860-1942) is performed by the individual, usually in isolation. What is unified is the 'yin' (female) and 'yang' (male) aspects of qi (vital force), that before enlightenment are viewed as two separate entities existing in a dualistic world. This sub-title is completely inappropriate for the nature of the Daoist cultivation contained within the book, which advises against fanning the fires of excessive desire. Rider & Co appear to have been 'cashing-in' on other works described as 'Daoist', that advocate spiritual cultivation through sexuality - Zhao Bichen's treatise is definitely not one of those works!
Through this internet presence, we have been slowly putting together (over the years) an ever sophisticated manifestation of the intention of master Xu Yun (1840-1959) to keep the Ch'an flame bright in the West. We are not the only ones engaged in this process - many others carry-out essential Dharma-work all the time, much of it not readily observable - these people are the true spiritual warriors who create the foundation for the rest of us to work upon - in this entire endeavour, their 'hidden' presence should always be kept in-mind. The spiritual power of master Xu Yun's vital force (qi) carries use forward and onwards. Recently, this energy has intensified to a level that I have not witnessed in many years. Perhaps this is due to it being the Year of the Dragon, or simply because the turning of the Dharma-wheel by Xu Yun acknowledges the spirit of the time. Whatever the case, whilst riding the crest of this particular qi-wave, we have been able to set-up a front-page for the Richard Hunn Association for Ch'an Study which can be viewed here:
There is now a PDF of the Empty Cloud Autobiography, as well as the Surangama and Vimalakirti Sutras - all translations by Charles Luk. It is our sincere wish that the internet be used to assist others, whilst not forgetting that many others in the world have no access at all to it. The written word continues to be important. However, words are just words. Dead words are of no use whatsoever. Within this expression of Xu Yun's Dharma wishes the Ch'an tradition runs deeply. It is here to be made use of in any way that benefits the spiritual growth of the individual.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:15:56 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
The scholar Cen Xue Lu (1882-1963) is pivotal to our (Western) understanding of the life story of Ch'an master Xu Yun (1840-1959). It is through his efforts that Xu Yun's biography was eventually published. From 1952 until around 1961 - Cen Xue Lu worked upon the raw draft copy of the manuscript from his home in Hong Kong. The text had been secretly conveyed to him from the Chinese homeland during a time of great politically inspired social and cultural upheaval - and following Xu Yun's awful beating at the hands of local officials. Between the years 1952 and 1959 Cen Xue Lu would receive biographical updates that eventually culminated in the completed text that was published as the 'Xu Yun He Shang Nian Pu' (The Monk Xu Yun's Yearly Record) in 1961. Cen Xue Lu passed away just four years after Xu Yun - his Buddhist master. Back in 1933 Cen Xue Lu had taken refuge in the Buddha at Gushan Temple (Fuzhou) - being given the Dharma name of Upasaka ‘Kuan Xian’ (or 'Vast Virtue) by Xu Yun himself. They met again in Hong Kong for a final time in 1949 - where Cen Xue Lu asked Xu Yun to stay and not return to the mainland of China.
Without Cen Xue Lu's editing skills it is unlikely that Xu Yun's life story would have survived as it has. Indeed, shortly after its publication in Hong Kong in 1961, Xu Yun's other Dharma student - Charles Luk - undertook the text's translation into English, and thus opened an entirely new audience to the life and times of master Xu Yun. Cen Xue Lu's expertise lurks beneath the surface of all later translations. He added nothing to the text itself, other than clearly marked 'additional notes', but considering the length of the book, these notes are relatively sparse. As the text is considered the truthful words of Xu Yun himself, the altering of these words in any way would have amounted to a profound insult and a disrespect for a Buddhist master so deep that the text itself would have been rendered useless. Cen Xue Lu, as a disciple of Xu Yun was duty-bound to edit the text as Xu Yun produced it. Charles Luk - again as a disciple of Xu Yun, and also following Xu Yun's instructions, translated the text as Cen Xue Lu produced it, with the clearly marked additions of 'explanatory notes' that explain technical Buddhist terms to a Western audience.
What Cen Xue Lu produced was a truthful account in accordance with Xu Yun's wishes. This achievement should not be underestimated or ignored. I have accessed the Chinese language biography of Cen Xue Lu which appears in recent editions of Xu Yun’s autobiography in Hong Kong, and at key-points crossed referenced this the Chinese text and on occasion with Luk’s English translation. I would like to thank Upasika Sheng Hua for providing the photograph of Cen Xue Lu and for translation advice.
Over-time, many have requested a written guide to Ch'an meditation practice. This is not as simple as it sounds, for such a description can engage the intellect and lead the mind away from its own essence by encouraging delusion and attachments, etc. Attachment to knowing is the obstructing 'gold chain' that the old Ch'an masters spoke about. Any 'knowledge' based action must be immediately transcended when it has performed its function. However, effective meditation must be pursued until legitimate break throughs occur . Simply watching others meditate, or casually probing the dead words of others will not do:
At the following link is the obituary Richard Hunn wrote for his teacher - Charles Luk - just after his passing in 1978, which appeared in the Buddhist Society's Journal - The Middle Way - in May 1980.
Richard Hunn was with Charles (in Hong Kong), shortly before his death - andat this time Charles asked Richard to edit the Xu Yun autobiography English translation. Richard Hunn returned to the UK and gathered to get the private funds which financed the rare 1980 edition of this autobiography. Very few copies of this edition survive today. Eight years later - in 1988 - Element Books would through their financial weight behind a completely revised edition of the autobiography - with Richard Hunn as editor. The obituary for Charles appeared around fifteen months after his passing. The time between the two occurrences was taken-up with letter writing, telephone conversations and numerous meetings with influential people as funds were slowly raised to publish a very modest 1980 edition. At the end of this exhausting process Richard Hunn finally managed to put pen to paper and write a moving tribute to his Ch'an teacher whom he describes as the 'old Hong Kong tiger', who left a loud roar!
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:18:30 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
A major stumbling-block that confronts many Buddhist practitioners in both East and West is the notion of materialism, and the subsequent idea that the mind/brain exists within a non-connected physical-body and material universe. Socrates – the great ancient Greek Buddha once commented that whilst young he studied the philosophy of materialism – thinking it superior to every other mode of intelligent enquiry – only to eventually realise that existence is in fact ‘mind made’. Indeed, even during his life-time (c. 5th century BCE), Socrates was of the opinion that the materialist way of viewing the world was not ‘new’, but had existed for a very long time. Socrates, like the Platonic philosophers in general, urges his students to abandon the ways of the body and concentrate their awareness firmly upon the mind. More than this, however, but the physical-body and the environment it inhabits is viewed as an unfolding of consciousness that has at one end a all-embracing divine substance, and at the other, a dualistic manifestation containing little insight in its original, deluded state. Of course, not only did Socrates live very near in time to the Lord Buddha, but his philosophy, when viewed from a certain perspective, can be seen as containing many similar key elements found within Buddhism itself. Probably the most obvious association is that of the emphasis upon the primacy of the mind, and the urge to seek definitive answers through that conscious facility. In this respect using the mind in this way is not unique to any one part of the world and appears to have been fairly wide-spread before the wise of mono-theistic religion – particularly within the West.
When reading through the available Ch’an literature in Chinese sources and English translations, it is obvious that one major concern for meditators is the pain experienced during extended meditation practice. This pain appears physical in origination, but as it increases in intensity it becomes distinctly psychological in nature. However, the great Ch’an masters teach that ‘any’ and ‘all’ discomfort experienced within meditation, (as well as life in general), firmly originates within the mind itself, and only appears to exist outside of it when the practitioner abides within the deluded state. This is to say that the psychic-substance is a self-conditioning, self-perpetuating entity that continuously gives rise to waves of delusion that appear ‘permanent’ to the deluded mind, but are in reality insubstantial manifestations that come and go – the Buddha taught that grasping these illusions as ‘real’ is the cause of all human suffering.
There is a meditative space within which all differences reconcile and pain disappears – for the Buddha and enlightened masters this is the state of reality itself, for those seeking enlightenment through self-knowledge, this is the state that meditation practice is aimed toward. All sensations, whether painful, pleasurable or neutral arise from a certain and definite ‘oneness’ deep within the mind. The realisation of this ‘oneness’ is the direct experience of the origination of all the senses associated with conscious living. In other words all senses return to the same empty base. This ‘oneness’ itself must then be returned to its essence, and this essence fully integrated with. Meditative understanding is the reverse of the deluded karma which creates the seeds of life and expresses these seeds through the mind, body and environment. The meditator withdraws his mind from the awareness of he environment, from awareness of the body, and re-directs it as a distinct faculty exactly onto, and into the mind itself. Meditational wisdom is knowledge of the outpouring of the creative process – only in reverse. Delusion unfolds life as habit, whilst wisdom is the product of understanding this process and thus breaks the chain of conditioning. Ch’an meditation strikes directly at the heart of the matter. The process of uninterrupted delusion is confronted directly for what it is and given no credence whatsoever. The Ch’an meditative method sheers into the delusion smashing it aside with each concentrated breath. The ego, which is use to doing what it wants, when it wants, obviously throws-up all kinds of defensive measures to protect its existence – one of which is physical pain. Even in the midst of the most terribly of pain – there is a still centre. This does not deny the very nature of the reality of intense pain, but it does give an idea of how pain can be managed and transcended. At this point it must be understood that physical and psychological pain are the same in essence even if they appear different in manifestation. All sensation has the same essence. The Ch’an method does not make deals with delusion and is not a path of expedient means. It is a harsh and tough path that has no equal. As such it does not hide behind pointless ritual or useless ceremony – the essence of the mind must be realised here and now without error or doubt.
As the Mind Ground underlies all things equally – the mind essence is everywhere and should be limited to the meditation posture itself. However, it is through the discipline of the seated meditation practice that this wisdom is accessed. It is a wisdom that renders its method of acquisition redundant in the process of its realisation. In the old texts many people were enlightened outside of the meditation hall – simply because the Mind Ground does not only exist in the meditation hall itself. By sitting strongly and applying a firm method or hua tou – delusion is brought to a standstill. At this important time the nature of delusion must be penetrated with the mind itself so that its enlightened fabric can be fully understood. This is achieved by following perception back to its origination. This involves the re-training of the mind out of its normal habit of grasping the surface impressions of phenomena, and its basic understanding that the world consists only of matter which stands in relation to a separate mind. Mind and mater are essentially one and the same entity – but this unified entity can not be limited to, or described by the terms ‘mind’ and ‘matter’. The unified essence (the Mind Ground), gives to, and contains all things without exception. This includes the notion of time and space which is used by the deluded mind to order matter into a logical category of reference. This means that the world seems to pre-exist the mind that perceives it, and appears to post-exist a mind that has died. This demonstrates that material logic has its limits. The Mind Ground itself is eternal – it is only the deluded aspect of it that appears to come and go in and out of existence. This is not to say that material logic does not have its uses – it definitely does and this can be seen in the development of technology and medicine, for instance, but it is also true that these developments only assist existence within the deluded plane, and in no way enable a human being to move beyond the perception of matter.
The material plane and the mind itself are not two different and distinct entities – one is the manifestation of the other and both are emanations of the Mind Ground itself. The ordinary deluded mind is a temporary construct that is dissolved within the meditative act that clears away the accumulated karmic habit that conditions its existence. The Ch’an literature gives numerous examples of this ‘freeing’ action between master and student – which is an example of the Dharmic interaction of wisdom (void), and delusion (form) which results in the disentanglement of the two and dissolves the apparent boundaries between the two. Intellectual constructs are merely shadows that pretend to be authoritative representations of reality. Perhaps the most difficult intellectualism to give-up is the idea that the materialist view is superior to any other, simply because it is assumed responsible for many of humanities scientific and cultural breakthroughs, but it must also be understood that many cultures in the past have achieved remarkable scientific and cultural achievements using a completely different creative mind-set and consequently developing a unique philosophical approach. The modern West, and to a certain degree the modern East, is developing an aggressive secularism based solely upon the idea that materialism is the only real way to view the world. This type of thinking is completely intolerant to any other philosophical point of view and denies the validity of the spiritual dimension. This modern materialism is very much at odds with the philosophy of Ancient Greece whose philosophers – regardless of their philosophical view, accepted without question the validity of the spiritual realm. The existence of the spiritual realm did not prevent many Greek thinkers from developing systems of logic that interpreted the world in materialist terms. Modern materialism, however, despite its obvious technological successes, does not allow for the consideration of the validity of the spiritual realm and so differs from the spark of Greek brilliance that is believed to be its origination. The Greeks offered an all round education for the individual that was equally intellectual and spiritual. Modern education systems tend to advocate the materialist view of the world with the occasional reference to mono-theistic religion. This is the mind-set that often approaches Ch’an meditation and signifies a karmic burden that must initially be over-come. With the rapid economic development in Asia in recent times, a similar mind-set is also prevailing in that part of the world. The material mind-set is so powerful that it tends to try to pull all other ways of viewing the world into its logical structure – so as to legitimise it. Of course, the Mind Ground can not be limited to a very small deluded aspect of its own manifestation. This is the first meditative barrier of those who approach Ch’an with this very modern mind-set.
Even if one happens to live within a different society that does not advocate materialist philosophy as the default method for viewing the world, the Buddha teaches that each and every person is born with a mind karmically induced with greed, hatred and delusion. Grasping externals makes materialists of us all and the only way out of this quagmire is to detach the mind from the world desiring objects and turn the attention within. If the society one is born into advocates materialism, then greed, hatred and delusion becomes legitimised both inwardly and outwardly, creating the illusion that the outer world is separate from the inner, or, as in scientific materialism, the inner mind is merely a by-product of the effects of the outer world. None of this is true. Meditation can occur any where and in any bodily position, but generally it is accessed through the seated posture. When the body meditates in a natural environment, then the barrier between mind and environment disappears to reveal an all embracing, empty oneness that includes all things that arise and pass away within it. A peaceful and harmonious environment allows the practitioner to realise here and now how the mind and material world are intimately entwined with no difference between the two. Space in the environment is actually space in the mind. Spacious emptiness is not a dull nothingness, but some thing quite different. Ch’an demands that a cultivated insight sees through the veil of delusion that makes the mind seem as if it exists only within the head. This is why many hermits and recluses live away from the modern world and instead choose to live in a natural environment free from the institutional embodiment of greed found in virtually every human society.
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:19:57 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
At the following link can be found my English translation of the important Chinese text entitled ‘Zuo-Chan-Yi’, or ‘Seated Meditation Regulations’. This text is attributed to one Changfu Zongze – who compiled a manual of Ch’an monastic discipline in 1103.
This is a chapter from that manual but readers are advised that this chapter circulated as an independent text both before and after 1103 – but it is generally believed that Changfu Zongze is the author. It is important for a number of reasons. It appears to be perhaps the earliest text that explains the physical and psychological technique that is to be employed if one is to meditate correctly. It avoids the controversy of ‘silent illumination’ verses the ‘gongan/hua tou’ method – and appears to represent a time before both methods were considered ‘separate’ and adequate to attain enlightenment in and of themselves. It is a blend of ‘quiet meditation’ and ‘vigorous’ mind discipline, presenting both aspects as being naturally ‘one’ in essence. To this end, Changfu Zongze recommends that a Ch’an practitioner should study texts such as the Surangama Sutra – which advocates the ‘turning back’ of the hearing faculty during meditation – this instruction found within the Surangama Sutra is probably the origination of the hua tou method itself. However, Changfu Zongze does not focus on this aspect in this text, but instead advocates the study of other texts so that a practitioner can arm themselves against the demons of good and bad experience that may manifest during training. Finally, the text itself advocates the development of a great compassion and the taking of vows before the development of tranquillity and insight can occur during the meditation practice itself. This advice firmly places the Ch’an method very much in accordance with the teachings of an earlier Indian Buddhist influence, although there is a distinct ‘Chinese’ flavour to the text. This text seems to be historically at the exact mid-point between many trends and developments (within Chinese Ch’an Buddhism) and is a very valuable document as a consequence. It demonstrates that Ch’an students should not be attached to the external, formal representations prevalent in their lifetime, but rather should consistently strive to realise the essence of all passing and changing phenomena, and through compassion and insight, penetrate to the empty Mind Ground. As this text is relatively brief and concise, I have included the original Chinese text for reference.
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:21:34 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
The Ch’an method is nothing less than the complete removal of all mentally produced barriers forming an obscuration that covers the Mind Ground. In the ordinary state of being, these layers of bubbling obscuration are misconceived as the ‘real’ personality, whilst the True Mind is viewed as a mythological construction. The layers of obscuration are the product of greed, hatred and delusion that mix and part continuously, creating myriad combinations of deluded, painful thought. The combinations that these traits can produce know no end as they blend together and fall away, forming again into a different variant of the deluded theme. Humanity lives its existence mistakenly grasping the ever changing layers of obscurations in the mind as a permanent, unchanging ‘self’. Suffering abounds because nothing stays the same for even a single moment of time. Deluded happiness is really nothing other than a distinct frequency of suffering, as of yet unrealised as such by the experiencer. Many enter discussions about what Buddhism may, or may not be, without ever fully understanding the suffering condition itself – the very condition that the teachings of Buddhism are premised upon. Attempting to understand Buddhism without understanding the suffering it is designed to counter, is like making a table without understanding that the legs support it. Love turns to hate, hate turns to love, and deluded thought goes on in an unbroken chain of conditioning.
A Ch’an teacher is a facilitator for the realisation of the Mind Ground – the Ch’an master fulfils no other role. The Ch’an teacher ‘removes’ obsticles through every word, deed or thought. Outside of this process there exists no other function. Engaging in the trivia of everyday life is merely contributing to the obscuring layers of delusion. Once a Ch’an teacher is engaged in the process of facilitating the enlightenment of another – their can be no other interaction. The task must be pursued to the end. Of course, although the process is continuously directed toward the Mind Ground, the path can be disturbed by all kinds of problems. Unenlightened students who once had respect and motivation, turn into disrespectful and misguided individuals, many lose interest and fade away, whilst others mistake delusion for enlightenment, etc. The Ch’an teacher assumes the unmovable ‘host’ position, whilst the student assumes the ‘guest’ position. The ‘host’ does not move – he is where he is supposed to be – but the ‘guest’ is always on the move, never settling for a single moment. If the Ch’an master is successful, the student gives-up the ‘guest’ position by no longer mistaking the layers of moving obscuration for the real self. The student assumes the ‘host’ position by realising the empty Mind Ground – and through further training abandons completely the false dichotomy of ‘host’ and ‘guest’ – assuming what the old masters referred to as the ‘host-in-host’ position. Although the Ch’an master is ‘free’ in all circumstances, he still exists within a world that the deluded view as ‘dualistic’. As an expedient, he appears to assume the ‘host’ so that the student can assume the ‘guest’ – in this way an enlightened order is brought to a chaotic world. Once this order is established, the enlightening procedure can unfold.
Ordinary human interaction, such as the assumptions and behaviours that underlie everyday life, are part and parcel of the obscuration that prevents the Mind Ground from being clearly perceived and understood. In this sense the Ch’an method cuts through the delusion and reaches the core. The Ch’an teacher does not accept delusion as enlightenment – this is compassion. This may make the teacher appear harsh, but it is only the unenlightened ego that finds this behaviour offensive. The student is fortunate to have a teacher who is not swayed by the deluded world, or who is not tempted by popularity – but continues performing the true Ch’an function. Interaction in this manner is beyond the ordinary and can not be understood by the intellect. In a world driven by greed, hatred and delusion, many seek a ‘compromise’ with its delusion – whilst a true Ch’an master never compromises with delusion but sweeps it aside with a graceful ease. Today, true Ch’an master are rare. Every opportunity of training in the correct Dharmic method should be relished for the importance it represents. Much of Buddhism today is in the service of greed, hatred and delusion, but the true master stands within, above and beyond such delusion. All must strive to become such a master.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:22:28 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
Klesa is the manifestation within the mind of every single thought and feeling associated with living in a physical body and its environment. Klesic formations are the product of greed, hatred and delusion, and the idea that a permanent self exists in relation to a real physical, external world. This dualistic mind-set creates the conditions for a personality that has a life within an environment that is real. This is the materialist mindset that reduces (and limits) all things to a physical definition. Psychological and physical pain evolves from the creation and accumulation of karmic seeds that flower into the delusion of a ‘subject – object’ world, which is the essence of human suffering. In the deluded state, the human mind separates existence into isolated pockets or categories, and then alienates itself from its own these categories – which are its own creations. Klesa may also describe and explain so-called mental illnesses from minor depression to severe psychological disturbances. Buddhism appears to have two distinct methods for dealing with klesa – one ‘gradual’, the other ‘direct’. What is important is that individuals remember that no matter how sad, depressed, upset or otherwise distressed one happens to become, the feeling itself is not real, and will pass. Klesa management requires the utmost application of non-attachment if it is not to be encouraged or sustained as a negative mental state.
The Buddha speaks of two kinds of enlightened being; one occupying a living body, and the other in a state beyond living and dying. Those attaining enlightenment whilst still in a body are said to have karmic experiences related to the body, as in Buddhist philosophy the body is considered a product of the accumulation of karmic habit. In the enlightened state, it is said that further karma (that will ripen) at a future date is no longer created in an ignorant, uncontrolled manner, and that the karma that can be experienced (in this enlightened state) is either now completely negated or very much reduced in severity. The Arahant may abide in this state, whilst a Bodhisattva may wish to expediently create a limited deluded karma so that the conditions for a new re-birth are formulated. Whatever the case, what is interesting is how, once the empty Mind Ground is fully realised and penetrated, the klesa associated with a continued physical existence are controlled and managed. As long as there is a physical body, there will be karma associated with it – even if the mind has fully cognised its own essence and realised that all things are created through karmic habit. It is true that the experiencing of enlightenment greatly reduces klesa – or layers of obscuration – in the mind, leading to a greater wisdom, compassion and understanding, but what is interesting for many practitioners of the ‘direct’ paths is how klesa is managed within the enlightenment experience itself.
Within the gradual paths, the teaching method is one of carefully isolating and permanently eradicating specific klesa formations. These kinds of paths are necessarily thorough and very careful in both their teaching and application of method. A relatively long time-span for training is required that can be measured in groups of 12 years, or indeed through many life-times. The conditions that create specific klesa is clearly understood, and each klesic formation is dismantled through the application of concentrative effort, and wise guidance. These gradual paths are very powerful and require the constant guidance of an enlightened master, or ‘guru’. Exact knowledge and good timing prevents each klesic formation from over-powering the practitioner and reducing all Dharmic effort to nothing. Klesic formation is the product of karmic seeds in the mind that manifest into being as soon as outer, physical circumstances provide the conditions for their arising. The gradual schools can predict and encourage the klesa so that it manifests straight into the requisite meditative method that completely (and permanently) uproots its causal seed - thus clearing the mind (of all klesa) for the eventual and complete realisation of the pristine Mind Ground.
The direct paths are very different. These paths build concentrative power that literally drills through the klesic layers (without necessarily uprooting the klesic seeds), and smashes through to the Mind Ground. This method is difficult to both apply and achieve, as it requires the development of a tremendous (and continuos) concentration that does not cease even for a single moment. All other considerations become irrelevant in the process of building this intense concentration, in many cases even the health of the physical body becomes of no interest. Endurance, patience, concentration and wisdom are all the essence of the direct paths. The direct paths share the Buddha’s teachings with the gradual paths, but apply them in a different manner. When the Mind Ground is fully realised, the mind expands into its natural state - that contains all things. All phenomena arise continuously and pass away within it – as before – but is now understood as thoroughly ‘empty’ of all one-sided existence. Klesa, within the mind and body, also arise and pass away in this (enlightened) state, as their causal ‘seeds’ have not been uprooted during the concentrative stage of realising the Mind Ground. In this post-enlightenment situation, the power of concentration is transformed into enlightened wisdom so that this capacity of mind is able to continuously tread the middle-path between emptiness and existence without being attached to the one, or hindered by the other. Klesa, in this state, although originating within the psychic substance of the mind, nevertheless, is clearly perceived as an experience of the creation of karmic formations that fall away, because the ignorant mind that once supported its manifestation - no longer exists. Over-time, the continuous application of this kind of wise function diminishes the power of klesic seeds, and eventually uproots them completely. Within the gradual paths, klesa is dealt with before enlightenment, whilst within the direct paths klesic formation is dealt with after the realisation of enlightenment.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:23:32 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
On October the 13th, 2012, it will be the 53rd anniversary of the passing of the great Ch’an master Xu Yun. In the autobiography of master Xu Yun (1840-1959) entitled (in pinyin) ‘Xu Yun Heshang Nianpu’ it states that master Xu Yun passed away on the 13th day of the 9th lunar month. This is a significant statement. Today, it is very much the convention when translating Chinese dates into English designation that each lunar month is equated with its numerically equivalent solar month, with the 1st lunar month being assumed to correlate with the 1st solar month, etc. Of course, as a general rule of thumb, this creates an approximate correlation that is always out of exact definition, as the Chinese New Year either falls within January or February of the Western solar calendar. When the Western solar calendar is compared with the Chinese lunar calendar, correlations change from year to year, and this therefore alters how the solar months correspond to the lunar months. In reality the lunar months do not exactly correspond to the solar months, and it may be stated that the 1st solar month does not correlate with the 1st lunar month.
The Chinese New Year of 1960 fell in January, making January correspond with the 12th lunar month. Working backwards from this date it is clear that the 9th lunar month fell within the 10th solar month of 1959. This is to say that in the English translation (of the Chinese text) provided by Charles Luk (1898-1978), it clearly states that master Xu Yun passed away on the 13th day of October (the 10th solar month), 1959. This is correct and does not follow the current trend of literal translation. This is an important point with regard to the importance of accurate translation, particularly in relation to vital dates that may contain spiritual and religious import of great significance. Although master Xu Yun was a Chinese person by birth, his presence in the world dissolves all conceptual barriers that human beings create for themselves in the realms of psychology and society. In reality such an example of pure being belongs equally to the entirety of existence and is not limited to specific definitions of time or space.
Master Ti Guang (1924-2005) was the last person to see master Xu Yun alive. It was in this exchange that master Xu Yun emphasised the practice of the 12 Dhuta, or ‘Ascetic Disciplines’ which are:
1. Wearing rag robes 2. Possessing only three robes 3. Begging for food 4. Consecutive begging 5. Eating only one meal a day 6. Eating a fixed and moderate amount of food 7. Not drinking juices after noon 8. Dwelling in an Aranya (a quiet place) 9. Dwelling beneath a tree 10. Dwelling in the open 11. Dwelling in a graveyard 12. Always sitting and never lying down.
According to master Xu Yun if only one of these rules are kept, then the Dharma will survive, but it is also obvious that for the Dharma to be strong in the world, all 12 rules should be followed if possible. However, although the 12 dhuta rules can be practiced as distinct entities – either one after the other, or all together – this is only the physical practice of purity. The Ch’an method requires the penetration of the surface phenomena (either pure or impure) into the empty essence that lies therein. By successfully penetrating the empty Mind Ground, all 12 dhuta rules are kept in a manner that does not set-up a duality that is the basis of all suffering. If the empty essence of one Dhuta rule is realised (through diligent practice) then the empty essence of all things is automatically attained. These dhuta rules convey a very old notion of spiritual development (from India) designed to discipline the body so that the mind can be fully realised through the development of insight – although attachment to these rules simply creates another layer of delusion. The point of all Dharma discipline is that one sits until the ego dies, or the body dies. When physical form is re-assumed the process continues, but it is advisable to remain clear and aware during the process of physical death and rebirth itself. The awareness of empty processes is itself the functioning of universal compassion.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:25:02 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
Today is the 53rd anniversary of the passing of master Xu Yun (1840-1959). Master Xu Yun taught the Ch'an method which sets-up no distinctions whatsoever. Master Nan Huai Jin - who is very famous in China - was a lay person who is believed to have attained enlightenment entirely through his own efforts - just as master Han Shan of the Ming Dynasty, sat on a bridge and 'turned' his hearing of rushing water back to its origins, deep within the empty mind. Although there is a tendency to assume that only monastics can achieve enlightenment, this attachment to precept and ritual must not allow the Mind Ground to be obscured. At this link is an English translation of a short Chinese article that gives a brief glimpse of the special nature of Nan Huai Jin:
The Ch'an method penetrates straight through to the centre of phenomena and does not become entangled in either 'purity', or 'impurity'. If this causes klesa in the mind, then the klesa itself must be dissolved through the correct application of the meditative method. Attachment to purity and ritual, as well as status and all kinds of other worldly considerations, will have no end. The pristine Mind Ground does not set up the duality of 'purity' and 'impurity'. Be strong in your practice and follow the examples of the great masters!
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:26:29 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
Ordinary human apprehension appears designed to respond to change in the environment in a number of ways that create a feeling of weakness, fear, worry and anxiety. The wrong kind of doubt can pull apart a peaceful interior. For many people, living with this pain is an every day experience. It is a cycle of cause and effect that is very difficult to break. Harmony is not attained due to the extreme emotional situation existing within the mind and body. Fear can be a background ‘hum’, or it can be an abject terror manifesting in many ways. As this response is designed to draw attention to potential danger and threat, it can not necessarily be viewed as an error of judgement, but should be understood as an appropriate reaction within certain circumstances. Generally within society it is the case that those who are not afraid, or in a state of terror, often look down upon those who are. This creates a false dichotomy between those who ‘fear’, and those who appear ‘not to fear’, with the latter group assuming a moral superiority that they do not actually possess. Any one can feel fear if they experience the appropriate stimulus to trigger the response – no one is exempt from it. The differences seem to occur because different people feel fear at different times, and often in different ways.
Fear can be avoided by living in an external environment that is not likely to contain any fearful stimulus, such as a beautiful forest, monastery, or temple, etc. However, this existence amounts to a non-appearance of fear, and does not signify its actual transcendence. Change these idyllic outer circumstances, and the inner terrain of the mind will soon change as a response. Superficial escape from fear is not necessarily wrong or incorrect – every body needs a breath of fresh air from time to time – but the Ch’an method requires that fear is manifest in the mind during meditation so that its texture and fabric can be fully understood. A state of non-fear is achieved not by repressing or avoiding fear, but rather by allowing it to naturally manifest in the mind and for the Ch’an practitioner to ‘see’ through it – whilst employing the use of a focused hua tou. Fear is not an enemy, and it should not be allowed to inspire apprehension – fear is a natural response designed to help humans to better their existential circumstance, the problem comes when its emotional feeling over-whelms the individual so that they become useless and unable to effectively respond to events. In this situation, the mechanism designed to help humans to survive, actually becomes a liability that can threaten human existence.
The answer is simple – do not be afraid – even when fear is present. Note the sensation and return it to its empty essence. Modern human culture has allowed for the fulfilment of desire but does not allow for the training of the mind. Being over-whelmed with fear is a product of a lack of familiarity with the inner workings of the mind itself. This unfamiliarity becomes the basis for the assessment of the mind itself. When balance is restored by developed insight, then the psychic energy that is involved in producing inner fear and terror can be freed for use in further deepening the mind development toward enlightenment. The Ch’an practitioner should ‘sit’ through the storm and look into its very centre. Insight removes the extreme manifestations of fear. It is not that there is no outer circumstance worthy of fear, but rather that the Ch’an practitioner chooses not to be afraid of the fear itself. Who is feeling this fear? Follow this to its root and fear will dissolve instantly.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:32:07 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
‘Seeing the void as not empty is right and seeing the void as empty is wrong..’
Zhao Bi Chen (1860-1942)
The search for spiritual understanding has always been, by its very nature, difficult to define. This is because the transformation that is required in the mind and heart of the practitioner is often at variance to existential culture, or what might be better described as ‘worldly’ existence. This ‘worldly’ existence is often taken as being the exact opposite to that which is sought through spiritual training. The worldly existence appears to be defined as ‘sensory’ led, and this gives spirituality its fundamental definition of being ‘non-sensory’ in nature. The ordinary, non-spiritual existence is one whereby the mind is taken not with its own workings, or its own inner nature, but rather with that which is ‘sensed’ through the sense-organs. The mind habitually focuses its attention continuously ‘outward’, into the world, dealing with one sensory impression after another, allowing the individual to experience life only as a set of ever changing physical circumstance reflected internally as ever changing emotional responses to these changes.
This reality is often described as the pull of the world, and as such serves as the basis for the beginning of all spiritual endeavour. The spiritual search becomes a journey that attempts, through various practices and belief systems, to discover another, more profound way of viewing the world and interacting with physical objects. Invariably this transformation, should it be successful, changes the inner terrain of the practitioner, and this in-turn transforms the manner with which the physical world is perceived and interpreted. One way of explaining this apparent ‘turning about’ of conscious awareness is to state that the ordinary, undeveloped view of the world is ‘deluded’, and that the newly discovered understanding of the world is ‘correct’. This is the approach taken by the Buddha. He states that the ordinary view of the world, being dominated as it is by the sensing of physical objects by the mind, is obsessed with those objects, and in so being has developed attachment, aversion, or indifference toward their sensing. The Buddha’s answer is that greed, hatred, and delusion should be uprooted, and that this is the spiritual path that he advocated – nothing he taught, as conveyed either in the Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana goes beyond this. The Buddha advocates a constant message throughout his voluminous teaching.
The transformation of greed, hatred, and delusion into non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion is the entire purpose of the Buddha’s path. The question has always been what exactly this ‘non-realisation’ actually entails. In other words, if the Buddha’s path is to be followed, how exactly is its final destination to be described? What does the goal look like? It must be understood that non-greed, non-hatred, and non-delusion are not three separate entities, but are rather three distinct expressions that manifest from a single root. This root is the mind’s obsession with ‘turning outward’, which is nothing other than attachment to externals. Over-coming greed, hatred, and delusion is actually the over-coming of just one thing, and that is achievement to externals. To over come this attachment the Buddha advocated the physical and mental discipline of meditation (Ch’an), which turns the mind’s attention away from externals and back onto its own inner terrain. Initially this inner terrain contains thought imprints (i.e. habits of mind) that are the by-products of a life spent attached to externals. Once these psychic impressions are dissolved through meditative concentraion, attachment to the outer world is broken and greed, hatred and delusion fall away. What replaces the perception of ‘some thing’ is the perception of ‘non thing’, and this perception is invariably defined in the Buddha’s teachings as ‘sunyata’ or ‘emptiness’. However, as the physical body and world still exist in relation to this important realisation, this state can not be the end of the path. The practitioner must ‘give-up’ this very subtle, but very powerful attachment to ‘emptiness’ (that is attachment to ‘turning inward’) so that its true nature can finally be fully perceived. True non-attached emptiness is not ‘empty’ but as immortal Zhao Bi Chen states, contains all things.
Peace in the Dharma
Last Edit: May 9, 2013 16:33:21 GMT 1 by Shi Da Dao
Om Mani Padme Hum
In striving to perform one's religious duty, the first thing is to observe the rules of discipline. For discipline is the fundamental of the Supreme Bodhi; discipline begets immutability and immutability begets wisdom. Master Xu Yun.