Start Here

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 

Dharma Talk for the Houston Zen Center (Online)

I was invited back to talk at Konjin Gaelyn Goodwin’s Houston Zen Center this Sunday, January 30th at 10:45am -11:45am ET. Consider joining the Zoom call. 

Sunday, January 30, 10:45am – 11:45am ET

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

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

Next talk: Monday, February 7, 7:30pm ET

Saturday London Affiliate Q&A (Online)

Mindful Yoga + Guided Meditation + Guo Gu Q&A

Saturday, February 19, 9:00am – 11:00am ET

Upcoming Retreats / Workshops

February 2022

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

May 2022

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

In Buddhism, emptiness is not vacuity, nor is it a thing. It can be understood as relationships and possibilities. This Retreat will redress common Western misconceptions of emptiness to offer nuanced ways to appreciate and practice emptiness to embody buddhadharma in our lives. Teachers Bhikkhu Anālayo and Guo Gu will engage in a lively teaching experience on perspectives of emptiness as found in both early Buddhist texts and in the later Chan (Chinese Zen) tradition. There will also be teachings via guided meditations from both teachers and live question and answer periods on Saturday and Sunday.

May 06 – May 08, 2022

Barre Center for Buddhist Studies

June 2022

Daylong Meditation Retreat (Online)

The daylong meditation retreat is a great opportunity to deepen one’s Chan practice. 

June 11, 2022, 10:00am – 4:00pm PT

Sacramento Buddhist Meditation Group

August 2022

7-Day Intensive Chan Retreat 

Registration Will Open Soon!

August 6 – August 13, 2022

London Chan Meditation Group

London, UK

October 2022

3-Day Retreat at the Zen Mountain Monastery 

More details to be released soon!

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 29 – October 31, 2022

Barre, MA

December 2022

7-Day Intensive Chan Retreat 

Registration Will Open Soon!

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: Feb 12 • Apr 9 • June 4 • Aug 27 • Oct 22 • Dec 10


Follow Guo Gu Laoshi on Facebook to keep in touch with his writings and events.