Our Order's founding Master, Teacher and the 48th Patriarch in the Lin-chi (Japanese Rinzai school) line of Ch'an says of Ch'an, "Ch'an is the abbreviated form of the Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit tern dhyana; it means quiet contemplation. But to describe Ch'an is not any easy task, for Ch'an is something that can not be talked about nor expressed in written words. The moment language used we are no longer dealing with true spirit of Ch'an which is beyond all words, yet, Ch'an cannot be left unexpressed. Ch'an is life. When life is complemented by the flavor of Ch'an, the meaning of life will be grasped all the more clearly. As one poet says, "The moon outside the window is always the same, but it looks more brilliant when the plum flowers are in bloom."
in our bustling, intense, turbulent, and chaotic contemporary society, we need
to find something that can set our impetuous minds at ease. Ch'an is undoubtedly
such a force; it can free us from anxiety and misgivings, as well as exert a calming
effect on our minds and souls. Ch'an reflects wisdom, humor, and compassion. It
can prevent the formation of wishful and vexing thoughts. Guided by the ease,
humor, profundity, and liberating nature of Ch'an, one will not be bother by unkind
words, awkward behavior, or painful memories of the past. They simply vanish like
mist and smoke. Ch'an raises life to a level of art. It manifests the perfection
of life by revealing the original nature that underlies all phenomena. (Ch'an)
belongs to every family and to every human being. Everyone is in need of its wisdom,
spontaneity, freedom, and ethics in his or her daily life."
PURE LAND BUDDHISM
Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Order and its Los Angeles branch temple, Hsi Lai Temple, practice the integration of Ch'an Buddhism (self-power) and Pure Land Buddhism (other-power) which, as one looks more deeply, one begins to understand and experience that self-power is other-power and other-power is self-power. This is so because Truth is divisibly one.
After the death of the historical Buddha, the teachings of the Buddha spread in two basic directions: southward and became known as the Theravada tradition, and eastward to China, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and became known as the Mahayana tradition. In East Asia, the Buddha's teachings developed into ten different schools or approaches to practicing the teachings. Several of these schools have remained important to this day: Ch'an (Zen), Tantric and Pure Land. Pure Land is by far the most widespread form of Buddhism in East Asia.
Through the development of Mahayana thought, there developed a more flexible spiritual tradition and practice that combined self-power with other-power; it is called Pure Land Buddhism. The main practice of Pure Land Buddhism is reciting the name of Amitabha Buddha, cultivating one's single-minded vow, diligent practice and the development of a strong faith for the purpose of attaining rebirth in the Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha through the power of Amitabha's 48 great vows. However, as D.T. Suzuki has pointed out, the psychological effects of the repetition of Amitabha's name are close to the effects in Zen (Ch'an) meditation: calmness, deep concentration and wisdom.
The Western Pure Land, as it as also called, is a perfect training ground in which to attain Enlightenment and Buddhahood. One is no longer subject to retrogression because he or she has left the cycle of birth and death behind forever and can now freely, without obstruction, focus his or her efforts to attain Buddhahood. Amitabha Buddha exemplifies the Bodhisattva ideal within the Mahayana tradition.
Pure-Land Zen, Zen Pure-Land, Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang, Translated by
Master Thich Thien Tam, Forrest Smith, editor for further information.)
Strongly influenced by the reformist teaching of the Mainland Chinese monk, Venerable Tai Hsu, our teacher, Venerable Master Hsing Yun teaches that the Pure Land is a fundamental aspect of our minds and is our highest standard and our highest ideal. And how can we begin to establish the Pure Land in this world? Major changes don't happen overnight. However, as any community learns how to function with kindness, compassion and ungrudging support for its members, then that community can be said to have established a piece of the Pure Land in this world. Insofar as any family can establish respectful and harmonious relations among its members, that that family can be said to have planted the seeds of the Pure Land in this world. Insofar as any individual can base his or her thoughts and motives on selflessness, compassion and mutual benefit, then that individual has done his or her part to bring the Pure Land here to us on earth.
Venerable Master Hsing Yun teaches that the Pure Land will be built in this way, piece by piece, heart by heart, home by home. We will not establish a Pure Land here if we place our hopes in some other world that can only be attained after death. In the deepest levels of reality, the Pure Land is not something separate from us. It is properly, part of our minds. How can we ever expect to establish it, then, if we do not establish it in our minds?
selflessness will lead our families toward harmony, our communities toward cooperation,
and our nations toward compassion. In the end, the entire world will be bathed
in the light of Buddha's wisdom and his illimitable concern.
ORIGIN OF CH'AN
It originated in India. Legend has it that during an assembly on Vulture Peak, the Buddha picked up a flower and held it up to the assembly without saying a word. The millions of celestial and human beings who were gathered at the assembly did not understand what the Buddha meant, except for Mahakasyapa, who smiled. Thus Ch'an was passed down without utilizing any spoken or written language, but was transmitted directly from mind to mind. Later, Ch'an was introduced into China. During the time of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, Ch'an flourished and developed into five schools which became the mainstream of Chinese Buddhism.
In the Ch'an school, what is important is the direct experience derived from actual practice and not reliance on the written or spoken language. One practices Ch'an through varying forms of meditation. Our teacher, Venerable Master Hsing Yun comes from the Lin-chi school of Ch'an, which has as its practice the use of the Koan. The koan is a word or phrase, which is used as a tool for cultivating awareness of and living from the realization of our Buddha nature. Although not excluding the traditional koan practice which would have the practitioner contemplate on such phrases as, "What was one's original face before being given birth by one's parents?, or "Do dogs have Buddha nature? And "Who is reciting Buddha's name?", Venerable Master Hsing Yun teaches the integrative and challenging practice of "daily life". Therefore, Ch'an involves:
Ch'an through doubt
In other religions, there is no room for doubt; one has to believe unconditionally. But Ch'an encourages one to start from doubt. A little doubt will lead to a little realization. A great doubt will lead to a great realization. Without doubt, there will be no realization.
realization through contemplation
Once doubts are aroused, one needs to contemplate them in order to attain realization. Diligent contemplation and investigation of our doubts will eventually lead to realization.
Ch'an by asking
When contemplating our doubts, however small or large, the most important thing is to keep asking until one attains realization. It is like trying to catch a thief; one has to keep pursuing without letting up. For example, when contemplating "Who is reciting Buddha's name?" one can ask, "Is it the mind that is reciting?" "Who is the mind?" "If the mind is me, then is the mouth that is reciting Buddha's name not me?" "If the mouth is me, then is the body that makes prostrations to the Buddha not me?" "If the body is me, then are the eyes that pay respect to the statue of the Buddha not me?" Final realization will be attained, if one keeps on questioning like this.
Realizing Ch'an by personal
In order to practice Ch'an, one has to start with doubting, contemplating and questioning, but the final and most important stage is the personal experience of Ch'an. Ch'an is not something that is spoken with words nor contemplated with our hearts and minds; in fact, we have to let go of all these to experience Ch'an. Realization is a state of mind that cannot be expressed by words. Ch'an can only be experienced by those whom have attained it.
Have you ever listened to a rippling brook? That is the sound of Ch'an! Have you ever looked at the green leaves of a willow? That is the color of Ch'an! Have you ever seen the heart of a lotus blossom? That is the mind of Ch'an!
Pagodas originated from pre-Buddhist traditions and were originally burial mounds marking the graves of religious and political leaders and reminding people of the leader's power. They were integrated into Buddhism after Shakyamuni Buddha's final passing or parinirvana as symbols for his continuing presence in the world. Although their early hemispheric shape was sometimes interpreted as a symbol of the cosmos or of the mythical Mount Meru, the center of the Buddhist understanding of the cosmos, they gradually became reminders of his teachings which intended to stimulate spiritual progress among the living toward liberation.
if not more importantly however, the pagoda universally remains as both a place
where spiritual progress can occur for the living and the deceased and as a symbol
architecturally of that progress. As a cross is often placed upon the grave of
a Christian as a symbol of the assurance of his resurrection upon the Second Coming
of Christ, the pagoda is a symbol for the Buddhist of the stages of spiritual
progress leading to Enlightenment and ultimate freedom symbolized by the pinnacle
of the pagoda. In the Mahayana tradition, while enlightenment is a personal goal
of one's spiritual practice, it is also a cosmic process that benefits all sentient
beings. The pagoda is a symbol of that individual and cosmic liberation.
Copyright@2002 International Buddhist Progress Society