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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 

Saturday London Affiliate Q&A (Online)

Mindful Yoga + Guided Meditation + Guo Gu Q&A

Sunday, August 21, 9:00am – 11:00am ET

Upcoming Retreats / Workshops

August 2022

7-Day Intensive Chan Retreat 

The retreat application is now full, but you can still submit your application to be on the waiting list.

August 6 – August 13, 2022

London Chan Meditation Group

London, UK

October 2022

3-Day Retreat at the Zen Mountain Monastery 

Over the centuries, Chan Buddhism has developed a distinct approach and language of awakening that is free from the shackles of gradual stages of practice, proliferations of theories, and the very limits of words and language, demonstrating the autonomy of Chan from the rest of the Buddhist tradition. Chan abandoned the complex descriptive terminology of Indian Buddhism in favor of embodied approaches to practice that was at once transformative and sudden.

One such approach is silent illumination, a body and experience-centered approach to awakening. In this retreat, students will explore in depth the writings of Chan master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091-1157), and deepen their appreciation of the workings of mind, its subtle undercurrent feeling tones, the direct perceptions of sight and sound, and the nature of “experiencing.”

October 13 – October 16, 2022

Mt Tremper, NY

3-Day Silent Illumination Retreat at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

In the Chinese Chan (Zen) tradition, silent illumination refers to the natural awakened mind. It is also a method of cultivation, the simultaneous practice of stillness and clear-seeing, quiescence and luminosity, or samādhi and prajñā. It is similar to the practices of śamatha and vipaśyanā (Pāli: vipassanā) in the Theravada tradition and the shikantaza (“just sitting”) practice of Japanese Soto Zen. Silent illumination, however, is also unique. As a practice it cannot be pigeonholed into distinct sectarian methods, intellectual knowledge, or some kind of reified experience that can be possessed. This study retreat will be based on the writings of Chan master Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157). We will explore several expedient means to cultivate silent illumination on and off the cushion, learning formal seated meditation practice as well as how to cultivate silent illumination in daily life.  

October 28 – October 30, 2022

Barre, MA

December 2022

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, 2023

Tallahassee Chan Center

Tallahassee, FL

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
2022:  Aug 27 • Oct 22 • Dec 10


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