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)
Supporting the One-Day Chan Retreat
Next Talk: (For London Chan Retreatants) Q&A at 11am EST Sun. May 16.
Tallahassee Chan Center (Online)
Guided Meditation + Dharma Talk + Live Q&A
Next talk: May 17, 7:30pm EST
Dharma Talk @ Chapel Hill Zen Center
Dharma Talk on Silent Illumination, hosted by Josho Pat Phelan
Monday, May 24, 7pm EST
Upcoming Retreats / Workshops
5-Day Intensive Chan Retreat
Intensive Chan retreat aims to deepen your practice. This retreat includes 30-minute sitting meditation periods punctuated by mindful yoga and walking meditation. Daily Dharma talks by Guo Gu, and opportunities for personal consultations on practice.
August 06 – August 11
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.