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What is Chan?

Chan is freedom, expressed through wisdom and compassion. Awakening in Chan means the direct experience of being freed from self-referentiality and vexations. Buddhism articulates this freedom as the wisdom of emptiness (śūnyatā), which is not nothingness but that everything is interdependent, connected. Selflessness or wisdom of emptiness simply means relationships. Compassion is the activity of selfless wisdom. This means wisdom and compassion is selfless activity, the ability to connect with everyone and everything, beyond the duality of self and others, grasping and rejecting.

Chan as practice means grounding and engaging. Grounding means facing, embracing, working through, and letting go of the self. Engaging means offering oneself to the benefit of others. In this practice, all the ups and downs of life become part of the path.

Chan is also a school within East Asian Buddhism, with a history dating back to 7th century CE in China. Later this form of Buddhism was transmitted to Japan as “Zen” in the 13th century.

"One Minute Chan"

During your busy day, try to find a few moments to stop, sit, relax, and clear your mind. You need not always sit on a cushion to practice for thirty minutes. You can do your practice anywhere, at anytime, at your desk, in a car, an elevator, or train, right now. Pick five times or situations to practice the “one-minute Chan” method, which is for one minute relax your body and mind and be completely with the task at hand. If you pick 10am as one of your five “one-minute Chan” practices, then when 10am comes just relax and be with whatever you happen to be doing. If you pick going up the elevator as one of the situations for daily practice, then in the elevator ride just stand there and scan your body to make sure your body is fully relaxed. Let clarity and a gentle smile arise from within; allow your body and mind to refresh itself. if you do this everyday, the power of your mindfulness and focus will increase and these five moments will start to have a positive impact on the rest of your day.

Your Life as Practice

Practice should not be separated from daily living. Proper practice includes cultivating mindfulness, compassion, and wisdom. Be aware of your changing mental and physical conditions. See how they affect your thoughts, words, and actions. In all our actions of body, speech, and mind, we should consider whether our intentions are beneficial to others. In this way, we can check ourselves before acting. If we put other people before ourselves, self-referential feelings will not arise as frequently.

Considering others is as much a form of practice as formal seated meditation. Sentient beings have their own karmic causes and conditions, their own merits and virtues, their own karma. You cannot change them, nor can you take on others’ karma. Of key importance is your intention. You should sincerely try to help others, whether or not you succeed. Do not do anything that will make you feel tense, tired, or miserable. If you whip yourself all the time, you will be no use to others or yourself. Use meditation as a supporting discipline and Buddhadharma as your guide. Do the best you can, but don’t push too hard.

Upcoming Dharma Talks 

Commentary Series on the “Song of Awakening” (Online)

Select Monday Nights. Guided Meditation + Dharma Talk + Live Q&A

Next talk: Monday, December 13, 7:30pm ET

Saturday London Affiliate Q&A (Online)

Mindful Yoga + Guided Meditation + Guo Gu Q&A

Saturday, December 18, 9:00am – 11:00am ET

Awakening to Relationships and Social Engagement (Online)

How do we heal our communities and the racial trauma within them? Guo Gu says it starts with better knowing and connecting with who you are. 

Upcoming Retreats / Workshops

3-Day Retreat: Awakening as Embodied Experiencing

Drawing on twelfth century Chan Buddhist writings, we will explore a new way of approaching silent illumination through embodied experiencing. Cultivating awareness of embodied experience enables our experience to be fresh and open, relaxed and wakeful, prior to the separation of body and mind. We will learn to do this both on and off the cushion, integrating this embodied practice in multiple aspects of our lives.

December 03 – December 06

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies
Barre, Massachusetts

7-Day Intensive Chan Retreat 

In the Chan tradition, there are two main approaches to awakening: the method of silent illumination (mòzhào) and investigating a critical phrase (huàtóu). The former is a settling method of serene reflection on the nature of awareness; the latter is an explosive approach that aims to concentrate and shatter all mental states so awakening manifests. This 7-day retreat will deepen your practice, regardless of method, with 30 minute sitting meditation periods punctuated by mindful yoga and walking meditation. There will be daily Dharma talks by Guo Gu, and opportunities for personal consultations to practice. Vegetarian meals will be provided.

December 26 – January 02

Tallahassee Chan Center,
Tallahassee, FL

Memorial Sheng Yen Retreat 

The 3-day Beginner’s Mind Retreat is our annual memorial retreat in honor to my teacher, Master Sheng Yen.

This retreat has a beginner-friendly schedule, and consists of alternate periods of sitting meditation and standing and sitting yoga. The workshops include the art of sitting, the art of seeing, the art of listening, the art of questioning, and the art of sharing. 

In-Person and Online.

February 04 – February 06, 2022

Tallahassee Chan Center,
Tallahassee, FL

From Indian Buddhism to Chinese Chan: Theories, Methods, and Developments

This course was originally designed by Guo Gu in 1997 to train Master Sheng Yen’s Western Dharma Teachers in the Dharma Drum Lineage and to deepen their appreciation of the evolving nature of Buddhist doctrine and practice. 

It has since been re-taught multiple times and modified for a general audience to highlight the rich repertoire of Buddhist teachings.  The next course begins February 11, 2022 and will meet most Friday nights (see dates below).

Starts February 11, 2022. Fridays, 7:30pm-9:00pm EST

Integrating Emptiness in Sitting Meditation and Daily Life, with Bhikkhu Analayo (Online)

Registration Will Open Soon!

May 06 – May 08, 2022

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

Half Day Meditation Retreat (Online)

Registration Will Open Soon!

June 11, 2022

Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group

5-Day Intermediate Chan Retreat 

Registration Will Open Soon!

August 05 – August 09, 2022

Malmo, Sweden

7-Day Intensive Chan Retreat 

Registration Will Open Soon!

August 12 – August 19, 2022

London Chan Meditation Group

London, UK

3-Day Retreat at the Zen Mountain Monastery 

More details to be released soon!

October 13 – October 16, 2022

Mt Tremper, NY

3-Day Retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

Silent Illumination: The Practice and Realization of Natural Awakened Mind

October 29 – October 31, 2022

Barre, MA

Connect with the Chan Community

World of Chan: a WhatsApp Group

This is a group of invite only, limited to people who are greatly interested in Chan practice and are Chan practitioners. Send us an email with the title “World of Chan Access” and more information about your practice for potential access to the group.

Chan Zoom Call

To support Chan practitioners, Guo Gu hosts a platform for anyone interested in the various aspects of Chan practice. Register for the Zoom link.

Please register one day before the call.
11:00am – 12:30pm ET
2021:  Dec 11
2022: Feb 5 • Apr 9


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