The word "Chan" in Chan Buddhism is derived from sanskrit word of dhyāna (Chan/Zen). Dhyāna pāramitā is one of the six perfection in Buddhism, which is commonly translated as "meditation", and often equated with "concentration", refers to withdraw the mind from the automatic responses to sense-impressions, and lead to a "state of perfect equanimity and awareness".
Dhyāna has a double meaning: first, refers to the realms of four samadhi stages; second, refers to the wholesome meditative practice to develop samatha(concentration) and vipassana(wisdom) which are the two paramount mental qualities. Dhyāna is a central aspect of Buddhist practice in Chan, essential for the path to "true nature".
*Samatha: calm abiding, which steadies, composes, unifies and concentrates the mind;
*Vipassanā: insight, which enables one to see, explore and discern "formations" (conditioned phenomena based on the five aggregates).
The origin of Chan
Chan Buddhism is a Chinese school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Its origin is atributed to "The Flower Sermon" in which Gautama Buddha transmits direct prajñā (wisdom) to the disciple Mahākāśyapa. During the time of Southern and Northern Dynasties, Bodhidharma, an Indian monk, regarded as the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Gautama Buddha via his disciple Mahākāśyapa, transmited the Chan Buddhism to China.
According to sources, after Bodhidharma failed to persuade the Emperor Wu-ti of Liang to accept the esoteric way of thinking, he went to North China and lived in a cave nearby the Shaolin Monastery for nine years. He became the first Chinese patriarch of Chan Buddhism. Shortly before his death, he passed on the symbolic robe, bowl and a copy of the "Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra" of dharma succession to Dazu Huike. The transmission then passed to the third patriarch Sengcan, the fourth ancestral patriarch Dayi Daoxin, the fifth ancestral patriarch Daman Hongren and the sixth Huineng.
Chan Buddhism is known as the school of Buddha mind, in the traditions of Chan, there was no fixed method or formula for teaching meditation, and all instructions were simply heuristic methods, to point to the true nature of the mind or Buddha-nature. Chan is different from Taoism and Confucianism, it is a "natural evolution of Buddhism under Taoist conditions" as D. T. Suzuki mentioned, it is the adaption of Buddhism to the Chinese culture and understanding.
Chan is deeply rooted in the teachings and doctrines of Mahāyāna Buddhism. What the Chan tradition emphasizes is that enlightenment of the Buddha came not through intellectual reasoning, but rather through self-realization in Dharma practice and meditation. It was this spiritual message that Bodhidharma passed on, Bodhidharma's four line stanza are:
A special transmission outside the scriptures
Not founded upon words and letters;
By pointing directly to [one's] mind
It lets one see into [one's own true] nature and [thus] attain Buddhahood.
Furthermore, Huineng clarified that
Since Buddha is made by your own nature, do not look for him outside your body.
If you are deluded in your own nature, Buddha is then a sentient being;
If you are awakened in your own natures, sentient beings are then Buddhas.
By Introducing teaching of "sudden Enlightment", which on the one hand simplified and purified the Buddhism, on the other hand, made Buddhism more acceptable to the Chinese mind. Therefore, Huineng is regarded as the true inheritor of Chan Buddhism and the real beginning of Chinese Chan Buddhism came after the succession of Huineng.
The Purpose of Chan
The essential texts of the Chan school were often considered to be both the "Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra" and the "Diamond Sūtra". In the early phase of Chan "Lankavatara Sutra" was regarded as the only book worth studying by Bodhidharma and his followers learned only from this sutra, which emphasizes purity of mind and Buddha-nature can be attained in gradations. The "Diamond Sūtra" emphasizes sunyata, which "must be realized totally or not at all". At the 9th century CE, the "Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch" became the the most important and influential Chan texts in all of Chinese Buddhism.
As the Chan school grew in China, it is necessary that the community of Chan practioners should have a set of rules and discipline to manage daily life and practice. Baizhang Huaihai is seen as the creator of a new pattern of Chan monastic life, and thus developing the first truly independent Chan monastery. The "Pure Rules of Baizhang" was an early established set of rules for Chinese Chan monastic discipline based on Chinese social circumstances, which led to the development of a temple and training-center system in which the abbot and the monks all performed mundane tasks and allowed the Chan communities to be self-sufficient. From this text comes the well-known saying "A day without work is a day without food" (一日不做一日不食 ).
Through the practice of meditation in the form of both actual physical sitting and activity of any kind, Koan practice, scriptures study, and performing daily tasks including work and farming, Chan taught that the Buddha is within you and enlightenment comes when you have clearly seen the Buddha-nature in yourself.
After the Song Dynasty, Chan Buddhism referred itself as "gate of Chan" and others as "the gate of religion". The term came from Buddhist monastic tradition, according to "Lankavatāra sūtra", "Buddha taught that mind is the implicit truth, and ‘gatelessness’ is the dharma-gate."
The ancestral temples of Chan Buddhism include Henan Shaolin Temple, Anhui Yuexi Second Ancestor Temple, Tianzhu Mountain Third Ancestor Temple, Hubei Huangmei Fourth Ancestor Temple, Wuzu Temple, and Guangdong Nanhua Temple.
BodhidharmaDazu HuikeSengcanDayi DaoxinDaman HongrenNiutou FarongHuinengYuquan ShenxiuDazhao PujiHeze ShenhuiGuifeng ZongmiNanyue HuairangMazu DaoyiHongdong SchoolBaizhang HuaihaiGuishan LingyouGuiyang SchoolYangshan HuijiHuangbo XiyunLinji YixuanLinji SchoolShishuang ChuyuanHuanglong HuinanHanglong BranchYangqi FanghuiYangqi BranchEisaiRinzaiDahui ZonggaoSilentIlluminationNanquan PuyuanZhaozhou CongshenQingyuan XingsiShitou XiqianShitou SchoolYaoshan WeiyanYunyan TanshengDongshan LiangjieCaodong SchoolCaoshan BenjiHongzhi ZhengjueMozhaoDōgenSōtōTianhuang DaowuLongtan ChongxinDeshan XuanjianXuefeng YicunYunmen WenyanYunmen SchoolQingliang WenyiFayan SchoolXuedou ChongxianYongming YanshouNanyang HuizhongYongjia Xuanjue
The history of Chan in China can be divided into four periods.
Chan Pioneers
Buddhist meditation was practiced in China centuries before the rise of Chan. During the Han Dynasty, Buddhist translators such as An Shigao, Dove Morosh, and buddhabhadra introduced various Dhyāna sutras and texts into China. These translated meditation manuals formed the basis for the meditation techniques of Chinese Chan. Monks who taught Dhyāna methods based on these classics can be regarded as the pioneers of Chinese Chan Buddhism, but the true founder of Chan Buddhism is Bodhidharma.
Chan Early Period
The early chan Buddhism began from Bodhidharma in the late 5th century to China, and ended with the succession of Huineng followed by the rise of Chan. Bodhidharma arrived in Guangzhou on a merchant ship during the time of Southern and Northern Dynasty in China. he taught the disciples the four volumes of the "Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra" translated by Guṇabhadra and spread the Sutra to northern China, his teaching styles was a "special transmission outside scriptures" which "did not stand upon words". "By pointing directly to one's mind, it lets one see into one's own true nature and thus attain Buddhahood.", which forms a new way to teach "Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra". Later, the transmission passed to the second Patriarch Hui Ke (487-593), the third Patriarch Sengcan (?-606), the fourth Patriarch Daoxin (580-651), the fifth Patriarch Hongren (602-675), and the sixth Patriarch ancestor Huineng (638-713).
Early Chan emphasized not to found upon words and letters, advocated "study the spiritual meaning but not taken literally", got rid of the attachment to words and phrases, and intended to "not dependant upon form".
Chan development Period
In these periods Mazu Daoyi founded Hongzhou School and Shitou Xiqia founded Shitou School, the two schools further developed into Five Houses and Seven Schools (Linji School, Huanglong Branch and Yangqi Branch, Fayan School, Cao Dong School, Yunmen School, and Guiyang School). They are all the descendants from the lineage of sixth Patriarch ancestor Huineng. The period is from Tang to the early Southern Song Dynasty.
After the Anshi Rebellion, Chan Buddhism was divided into the Southern School and the Northern School. Shenxiu was regarded as the founder of the Northern School. His teachings emphasized "purifying one's mind", required students by "staying away from harmful associations, mindfulness and comtemplation of mind", through meditation practice to develop the innate ability to illuminate mind and to see "the emptiness of phenomena", eventually achieved "In one moment you can purify your mind and suddenly transcend to the stage of buddhahood.", the Northern School teaching was regarded as gradual and indirect.
Huineng arrived at Faxing Temple in Guangzhou on the eighth day of the first lunar month in the year of 676, where Master Yinzong was giving a lecture on the Mahaparinirvana Scripture at Faxing Monastery. During the talk A wind was blowing across the temple, and a flag fluttered. One monk said: 'the wind is moving.' the other monk said: 'No, the flag is moving.' the debate was continued... Huineng suddenly spoke: 'It is neither the wind moving, nor the flag moving. It is your mind that is moving.'. Yin Zong immediately realized Huineng is the Dharma successor of the fifth Patriarch Hongren, he soon ordained Huineng as a monk, and became his disciple.
The following year, Huineng went to the Baolin Temple in Caoxi (now Nanhua Temple in Shaoguan, Guangdong) to teach Chan associated with the "sudden enlightenment" and influence various sects in southern China. Hui-neng called his own school the "Southern School of Bodhidharma". where he preached the dharma for 37 years.
The key themes of Huineng's Platform Sutra are the direct perception of one's true nature, and the unity in essence of śīla (conduct), dhyāna (meditation) and prajñā (wisdom). Huineng taught the themes of inherent enlightenment, the non-dual nature of wisdom (Sanskrit: prajna) and meditation (Sanskrit: dhyana), No-thought and Sudden Awakening which dominateed Chan discourse and practice.
For the first time in the history of Chinese Buddhism, Hui-neng revolted against dhyana itself. He said: "In my teaching, Ting ( Samatha , meditation) and Hui ( Vipassana , insight) are one, and not two. Calm is the lamp and insight is the light....introspection of your own mind is no dhyana; and looking inward at your own calmness is no dhyana." In thus overthrowing the principal element in the Indian dhyana, Hui-neng was laying the foundation of Chinese Chan which was no Chan at all.
The Southern School split into Caoxi Northern School and Caoxi Southern School. Caoxi Northern School was called Heze School, and Caoxi Northern Schools split into two branches, Shitou School and Hongzhou School.
From the late Tang Dynasty to the early Northern Song Dynasty, Caodong school, Fayan school and Yunmen school derived from Shitou School and Linji School and Guiyang school from Hongzhou School, Together with the two branches of Huanglong School and Yang Qi School under Linji, they were collectively called Five Houses and Seven Schools, became the mainstream and the dominant form of Buddhism after the Tang Dynasty. Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Guiyang, Fayan, and Yunmen houses were gradually absorbed into the Linji house and only Linji and Caodong were left.
There are forty-three disciples from the lineage of the six ancestors Huineng enlightened and the teachings were transmitted. It is so-called "One flower bloomed in five petals; the resulting fruit ripened naturally.".
During the period of Ningzong of Song dynasty, according to the appeal of Lord Wei, the level of Jiangnan Chan Temple was determined, and the five mountains and ten temples were set up. The five mountains are above all the temples, and the ten temples are second to the five mountains. The five mountains are: Jingshan Temple, Lingyin Temple, Jingci Temple, Tiantong Temple, Ashoka Temple.
Chan middle period
Chan middle period began from the early years of Southern Song Dynasty when the "Kanhua Chan" advocated by master Dahui Zonggao from Linji School and "Silent Illumination Meditation" introduced by master Hongzhi Zhengjue from Cao Dong School, ended up in the middle and late Ming Dynasty.
At the beginning of the Song Dynasty Chan Master Yongming Yanshou of Fayan School stated that attaining budhahood can be realized in different ways. Therefore, one cannot cling to a certain way and deny other ways. His view was purposely used by later generations for bringing Chan and Pure Land Buddism close together. It is believed that the unified practice of Chan and Pure Land Buddism has ability to open the heart to Compassion through Pure Land practice, and cultivate concentration and wisdom through Chan practice, which led to find the true Self and attain the Buddahood.
Since the Southern Song Dynasty, the unity of Chan and Pure Land Buddhism has become a general trend. Chan was taught alongside Pure Land Buddhism in many monasteries, and many masters taught both Chan and Pure Land.
Chan late period
The Chan late period began from the late Ming to the end of the Qing Dynasty, which was the decline period of Chan Buddhism.
At the end of the Ming Dynasty, Chan master Hanshan Deqing lamented the downturn of Chan Schools, he said the only successor to the Linji School was master Zibai, after him there was no one.
With the integration of the three religions and the dual cultivation of Chan and Pure Land Buddhism as the mainstream, Although it is so-called dual cultivation of Chan and Pure Land Buddhism, however, the teaching style was mainly on the Pure Land's practice of reciting the name of Amitābha Buddha in order to attain rebirth in the Western Pure Land. It is no longer the original Chan style.
In the Qing Dynasty, Ningbo Tiantong Temple, Zhenjiang Jinshan Temple, Changzhou Tianning Temple, and Yangzhou Gaomin Temple were the four major Chan temples.
Chan Modern Times
After centuries of decline during the Qing Dynasty, Chan was revived again in the early 20th century by Hsu Yun (虛雲), a well-known Chan master of 20th-century Chinese Buddhism. Xuyun was practising Linji and promoting Caodong. He also inherited the three schools, Guiyang, Fayan and Yunmen that were absorbed into the Linji school. He practiced and integrated the five meditation methods, is one of the great masters in modern Chan.
At the beginning of the 20th century, D. T. Suzuki spread Zen thought to the West. The Zen thoughts spread by D. T. Suzuki are more of a philosophy of life than a philosophy of worldview, and are more suitable for the taste of the public.
The 78th generation of the Chogye sect (조계종) Zen master Chongshan Xingyuan from South Korea promoted the Caogye Zen (조계선) in the 1970s, and established the first Zen center in Providence, the United States. He also founded the International Guanyin Temple (Kwan Um School of Zen) in 1983. Chogye sect is said to be the largest Zen sect in the West, with nearly 100 Zen centers all over America, Europe and Asia.
Master Sheng Yen (1930–2009) was the founder of the Dharma Drum Mountain, a Buddhist organization based in Taiwan. During his time in Taiwan, Sheng Yen was well known as one of the progressive Buddhist teachers who sought to teach Buddhism in a modern and Western-influenced world. As such, Sheng Yen published over 30 Chan texts in English.
Master Xuan Hua, or Hsuan Hua, the ninth ancestor of the Guiyang School, came to California in 1962 to preach, and brought Mahayana Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism to North America, and did an excellent job of translating Buddhist scriptures.
Guiyang school
The Guiyang school (潙仰宗 Guíyáng, Jpn. Igyō) was the first established school of the Five Houses of Chan. Guiyang is named after master Guishan Lingyou (771–854) (Kuei-shan Ling-yu, Jpn. Isan Reiyū) and his disciple, Yangshan Huiji (807-883, or 813–890) (Yang-shan Hui-chi, Jpn. Kyōzan Ejaku).
Guishan was a disciple of Baizhang Huaihai, the Chinese Chann master whose disciples included Huangbo Xiyun (who in turn taught Línjì Yìxuán, founder of the Linji School). After founding the Guiyang School, Yangshan moved his school to what is now modern Jiangxi.
The Guiyang school is distinct from the other schools due to its use of esoteric metaphors and imagery in the school's kōans and other teachings.
Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Guiyang school, along with the Fayan and Yunmen schools were absorbed into the Linji school. Chán master Hsu Yun, however, attempted to revive absorbed lineages. The attempt was successful regarding the Guiyang school, Hsuan Hua being its most known modern representative.
Linji school
The Linji (Chinese: 临济宗; pinyin: Lín jì zōng) was named after Chan master Línjì Yìxuán, who was notable for teaching students in ways that included shouting and striking in an attempt to help students reach enlightenment. The Linji school is the predominant Chinese Chan school.
Linji is described as using The Three Mysterious Gates to maintain the Chan emphasis on the nonconceptual nature of reality, while employing sutras and teachings to instruct his students:
◦The First Gate is the "mystery in the essence", the use of Buddhist philosophy, such as Yogacara to explain the interpenetration of all phenomena.
◦The Second Gate is the "mystery in the word", using the Hua Tou for "the process of gradually disentangling the students from the conceptual workings of the mind".
◦The Third Gate is the "mystery in the mystery", "involving completely nonconceptual expressions such as striking or shouting, which are intended to remove all of the defects implicit in conceptual understanding".
Caodong school
The Caodong school was founded by Dongshan Liangjie and his Dharma-heirs in the 9th century. Some attribute the name "Cáodòng" as a union of "Dongshan" and "Caoshan" from one of his Dharma-heirs, Caoshan Benji; however, the "Cao" could also have come from Cáoxī (曹溪), the "mountain-name" of Huineng, the Sixth Ancestor of Chan. The sect emphasized sitting meditation, and later "silent illumination" techniques.
In 826 Korean Seon Master Doui, a student of Sixth Ancestor of Chan Huineng, brought Chan/Seon (Korean Zen) to Korea and founded the "Nine Mountain Seon Monasteries" which adopted the name Jogye order.
In 1227 Dōgen Zenji, a former Tendai student, studied Caodong Buddhism and returned to Japan to establish the Sōtō school. The Caodong school is still a respectable Chinese Chán school and is second only to Linji in number of monks and temples.
Yunmen school
The Yunmen school was named for Yunmen Wenyan. it was one of the Five Houses of Chan and very prosperous in the Northern Song Dynasty.
Three propositions of the House of Yün-men:
◦1. Permeating and covering the whole cosmic order.
◦2. Cutting off once for all the flow of all streams.
◦3. Following the waves and keeping up with the currents.
Fayan school
The Fayan school was named after Chinese Chan Master Qingliang Wenyi (885–958), it was one of the Five Houses of Chan, the major schools of Chan Buddhism during the later Tang dynasty.
Via Xuefeng Yicun the Fayang school and Yunmen school are traced back to Shitou Xiqian and Huineng. Xuefeng was one of the most influential Chan-teachers at the end of the Tang Dynasty, when "a widely influential zen center formed around Xuefeng Yicun". The loss of control by the Tang Dynasty, and the accompanying loss of support for Buddhist institutions, lead to a regionally based Chan of Xuefeng and his students.
The Zutang ji (祖堂集 "Anthology of the Patriarchal Hall"), compiled in 952, the first document which mentions Linji Yixuan, was written to support the Xuefeng Yicun lineage. It pictures this lineage as heir to the legacy of Mazu and the Hongzhou-school, though Xuefeng Yicun's lineage is traced back to Shitou Xiqian (700-790). It was written by two students of Zhaoqing Wendeng (884-972), a dharma descendant of Xuefeng Yicun.
During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period the Fayan school became the dominant school in Southern Tang (Jiangxi) and Wuyue. It propagated jiaochan yizhi, "harmony between Chan and the Teaching", in opposition to jiaowai biechuan, "a special transmission outside the teaching", the latter eventually becoming one of the defining slogans of Chan.
Over the course of Song Dynasty (960–1279), the Fayan school, along with the Guiyang and Yunmen schools were gradually absorbed into the Linji school.
The lineage of the Huanglong branch of the Linji school
Huanglong school, was a collateral lineage of the Linji School, one of the five houses and seven schools of the Chan during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1126). The school was named after its founder, HUANGLONG HUINAN (1002–1069), who was a disciple of Shishuang Chuyuan (986–1039),himself a sixth-generation successor in the Linji school.
The Huanglong school was especially known for "lettered Chan"(WENZI CHAN), a style of Chan that valorized belle lettres, and especially poetry, in Chan practice.
The Huanglong School was the first school of Chan to be introduced to Japan: by MYŌAN EISAI (1141–1215), who studied with the eighth-generation Huanglong teacher Xu'an Huaichang (d.u.).
The lineage of the Yangqi branch of the Linji school
Yangqi school, was a collateral lineage of the Linji School, one of the five houses and seven schools of the Chan during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1126). The school was named after its founder Yangqi Fanghui (992–1049), who was a disciple of Shishuang Chuyuan (986–1039), All of the Linji Zen schools in the world today are spiritual descendants of this branch.
Principles taught is that Chan is manifested in everyday events, and the great way of emancipation is to be sought in the common activities of people’s lives.
Spread of Chan Buddhism
Seon was gradually transmitted into Korea during the late Silla period (7th through 9th centuries) as Korean monks of predominantly Hwaeom (Korean: 화엄종; Hanja: 華嚴宗) and East Asian Yogācāra (Korean: 유식종; Hanja: 唯識宗) background began to travel to China to learn the newly developing tradition. Seon received its most significant impetus and consolidation from the Goryeo monk Jinul (知訥) (1158–1210), who established a reform movement and introduced kōan practice to Korea. Jinul established the Songgwangsa (松廣寺) as a new center of pure practice.
Chan was not introduced as a separate school in Japan until the 12th century when Eisai traveled to China and returned to establish a Linji lineage, which is known in Japan as the Rinzai. In 1215, Dōgen, a younger contemporary of Eisai's, journeyed to China himself, where he became a disciple of the Caodong master Rujing. After his return, Dōgen established the Sōtō school, the Japanese branch of Caodong.
State that the nature of the mind is pure, the nature of the Buddha is inherent, and everyone is Buddha. The essence of Chan Buddhism is attaining Buddhahood by seeing one's self nature directly; without the intervention of the intellect.
Two Entrances and Four Practices were attributed to Bodhidharma
Two Entrances
The two entrances referred to in the title are the entrance of principle (理入 lǐrù) and the entrance of practice (行入 xíngrù).
Entrance of principle refers to seeing through the obscurations of our daily mind and manifesting our true nature, that is, Buddha nature; it is referred to in one short passage:
To enter by principle means to realize the essence through instruction and to believe that all living things share the same true nature, which isn’t apparent because it’s shrouded by sensation and delusion. Those who turn from delusion back to reality, who "meditate on walls," the absence of self and other, the oneness of mortal and sage, and who remain unmoved even by scriptures, are in complete and unspoken agreement with principle. Without moving, without effort, they enter, we say, by principle.
Entrance of practice deals with practicing a "detached perspective on the varying circumstances of one's own life," through different daily practices. In the section on the latter, the four practices are listed as being at the core of Bodhidharma's teaching.
Four Practices
◦1.Practice of the retribution of enmity: to accept all suffering as the fruition of past transgressions, without enmity or complaint.
◦2.Practice of the acceptance of circumstances: to remain unmoved even by good fortune, recognizing it as evanescent.
◦3.Practice of the absence of craving: to be without craving, which is the source of all suffering.
◦4.Practice of accordance with the Dharma: to eradicate wrong thoughts and practice the six perfections, without having any “practice”
Huineng inherited this doctrine, nevertheless, he initiates several important ideas in "Platform Sutra" which laid the foundations for later Chinese Chan Buddhism.
Meditation and Wisdom
In Chapter Four of Platform Sutra, meditation and wisdom are said to be of the same essence:
Meditation and wisdom are of one essence, not different. Meditation is the essence of wisdom, and wisdom is the function of meditation. At times of wisdom, meditation exists in that wisdom; at times of meditation, wisdom exists in that meditation.
The "no-thought" Huineng taught is the "pure and unattached mind" which "comes and goes freely and functions fluently without any hindrance". It does not mean that one does not think at all, but is "a highly attentive yet unentangled way of being [...] an open, non-conceptual state of mind that allows one to experience reality directly, as it truly is.
Those who act from the perspective of "no-thought" respond compassionately in all situations, untouched by suffering, much the same way the Mahayana scriptures speak of bodhisattvas (enlightened beings who selflessly seek to aid others) who “course in the Perfection of Wisdom.”
Sudden Enlightenment
Refers to the idea that insight into Buddha-nature, or the nature of mind, is "sudden," "in one glance," or "together, completely, simultaneously," without gradual empirical development or progressive cultivation through meditation. In contrast, Gradual Enlightenment is "successively or uncovered one after the other. The term became a standard doctrine and of central importance in Chan Buddhism.
Chan is neither thinking nor philosophy, but a spiritual world that transcends thinking and philosophy. Chan is hard to explain, language and writing is unable to interpret it. However, in order to see true nature, the best way is to separate from words and letters, or avoid drawing any abstract arguments through the conflict with the language or concepts. Once the mind is librated from the bondage of words and the constriction of logic, you will clearly see the Buddha-nature in yourself. It is simply self-realization.
Chan believe that Tao exists in daily life and every behavior, it is unnecessary to seek any special instructiions, activities or methods for the enlightenment. To be natural, remain a free mind and attach to nothing is the Way.
As an important sect in Chinese Buddhism, Chan monks must abide by the prevailing regulations, such as precepts, discipline, and commitments, as well as a unique set of practices.
Sitting Meditation
Chan focuses on practice, and sitting meditation is the primary practice of Chan Buddhist tradition. When sitting in meditation, practioners need to adjust diet, sleep, body, breath, and mind, and emphasize on the development of concentration. Chan believes that the Buddhist scriptures are as vast as the ocean, and the realm is transcendending the world. It is not language and words that are able to describe the real realms unless one only through the meditative practice. However, some masters still opposed sitting meditation, for example, master Heze Shenhui of the Tang Dynasty condemned the formula of dhyaana practice taught by Northern School and swept aside all forms of sitting in meditation as entirely unnecessary. He believes that sitting meditation is "hindrance to bodhi (enlightenment)".
The objective of sitting meditation is to establish mindfulnees by "contemplation of the body on impurity of the body, perception of feeling or sensation on the feelings of suffering, perception of mind on the impermanence of consciousness, and the perception of Dharma on the fact that mental objects are "ownerless" (Satipatthana or Four Foundations of Mindfulness). The four establishments of mindfulness should be taught with the practice of the profound perfection of wisdom, which provides the way to liberation. During the meditation practioner should meditate beyond all conceptual constructs. In the post-meditation period practioner should treat them as illusory and dreamlike.
Koans developed during the Tang dynasty (618–907) from the recorded sayings collections of Chan-masters, which quoted many stories of "a famous past Chan figure's encounter with disciples or other interlocutors and then offering his own comment on it". Those stories and the accompanying comments were used to educate students, and broaden their insight into the Buddhist teachings. Koans collectively form a substantial body of literature studied by Chan practitioners and scholars worldwide. Koan collections commonly referenced in English include:
◦The Blue Cliff Record (Chinese: Bìyán Lù; Japanese: Hekiganroku), 12th century
◦The Book of Equanimity (also known as the Book of Serenity; Chinese: Cóngróng Lù), 12th century
◦The Gateless Gate (also known as The Gateless Barrier; Chinese: Wúménguān) collected during the 13th century).
Koan practice is a unique teaching and practice approach in Chan Buddhism. Chan masters like to tell the story of Koan to provoke the "great doubt" and to teach disciples to see the nonduality of subject and object, further lead to the initial insight into "seeing self-nature", or to judge a disciple's depth of attainment.
Study of koan literature is common to all schools of Chan, though with varying emphases and curricula. Shaolin Temple on the Song Mountain holds a Chan koan competition every year, which attracts many monks and Buddhist practioners to discuss and study. For example, the final topic of the 2009 Chan koan competition was "When Bodhidharma was facing the wall, where was his back towards?"
Silent Illumination Meditation
Silent Illumination is advocated by Chan Master Hongzhi Zhengjue and became the main practice approach of the Caodong school, it is as known as Kanhua Chan of Linji school.
Silent illumination is derived from the Indian Buddhist practice of the union (Skt. yuganaddha) of śamatha and vipaśyanā, or serenity-insight, the practice is to free the mind from thoughts and leads to the awareness of mind's state. In the Eastern Jin Dynasty, master Huiyuan used the word "Zhaoji (illumination-silence)" to summarize meditation methods, later master Seng Zhao clarified that "Zhaoji (illumination-silence)" is the way for the practice of Prajna in his book "Prajna Is Without Dichotomizing Knowledge".
In the Southern and Northern Song Dynasties, Chan Master Hongzhi Zhengjue under Cao Dong sect wrote various works including "Inscription on Silent Illumination" and "Lancet of Seated Meditation" to promote Silent Illuminationin. Silence refers to keeping the mind in a stable state without being affected by one's own mind and environment, while illumination refers to clearly aware of all changes in one's mind and surroundings.
Master Dahui Zonggao believes that Silent Illumination only taught students to sit in meditation, and does not teach for enlightenment, he criticized it as "silent-illumination false Chan". Since Hongzhi Zhengjue had few successors, after the Southern Song Dynasty, Silent Illumination became less influential.
Kanhua chan ("observing the phrase" meditation)
Corresponding to "Silent Illumination Meditation" used by Caodong School, Kanhua Chan was introduced by Dahui Zonggao of Yangqi line of the Linji School. "Kan", look into; "hua", the huatou of a koan. That is to say, contemplation on a single word or phrase (called the huatou, "critical phrase") of a koan.
The origin of Kanhua Chan can be traced back to Zhaozhou Congshen's famous koan. "A monk asked Zhàozhōu, ‘Does a dog have Buddha-nature?’ Zhàozhōu replied, ‘No’". Dahui taught that "This one word ‘no’ is a knife to sunder the doubting mind of birth and death. The handle of this knife is in one’s own hand alone: you can’t have anyone else wield it for you…You consent to take hold of it yourself only if you can abandon your life. If you cannot abandon your life, just keep to where your doubt remains unbroken for a while: suddenly you’ll consent to abandon your life, and then you’ll be done."
The concept of ‘doubt’ was very important in Dahui’s teaching. He warned his students that they must ‘doubt’ words to not be fooled by them. Furthermore, they needed to ‘doubt’ their very existence. He said, "Many students today do not doubt themselves, but they doubt others. And so it is said, ‘Within great doubt there necessarily exists great enlightenment."
Huatou became the mainstream of Chan Buddhism, but after the Ming and Qing Dynasties, Pure Land Buddhism rose, and Chan gradually merged with Pure Land Buddhism, forming a new trend.
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