What is Chan?

Concentrating on a focal point is the key to success in everything


The method of sitting in meditation is essential to learn in cultivation. What does the word Chan mean? Chan is a Chinese abbreviation for the Sanskrit word, Dhyana. Dhyana means thought cultivation that leads to stilling our thoughts. Chan meditation is the method used to reach Dhyana, a stilling of our thoughts. Normally, when we sit, our minds wanders. Where do our minds go? They indulge in false thinking, which sends us anywhere our thoughts take us. Without having to pay for traveling, we can take a rocket trip. The false thoughts fly everywhere without restraint. Why is it people do not have wisdom? It is because the mind wanders about. Why do we age day-by-day? It is because the mind rushes to all sorts of places. Suppose someone drives a new car recklessly and aimlessly. Doing that will definitely consume and waste a lot of fuel.

Eventually, the car and its parts will be damaged and mechanical difficulties will result. This analogy applies to the human body as well. If we do not know how to take good care of it, if we endulge it without restraint, it will definitely consume a lot of ‘fuel'. What ‘fuel' would that be? That fuel is our precious mental energy. No matter how many times we refuel, we keep using it up. Take for example people who consume tonics everyday, thinking that they are replenishing their bodies with nutrients

If people do not treasure their mental energy and are selfindulgent, then no matter how much tonic they consume, they will never replenish the wasted energy. As a proverb says, "Concentrating on a focal point is the key to success in everything."

We have to gather our thoughts and concentrate on a focal point. Then we will not deplete our mental energy. In other words, if we know how to drive well, we will not drive around recklessly and meet with an accident. Our car will also last longer. Similarly, if we know how to take care of ourselves, then it is possible to neither age nor die.


Twirling a flower, the Buddha revealed the mind-to-mind seal


Shakyamuni Buddha initiated Chan investigation when he held aloft a flower in the Vulture Peak Assembly to indicate the transmission of the subtle and wonderful mind seal Dharma door. At that time, Patriarch Mahakasyapa understood the intention of the Buddha, and smiled broadly. From then on, the mind seal Dharma door of the Buddhas and Patriarchs was transmitted. Actually, Patriarch Mahakasyapa was already over a hundred years old and because he vigorously practiced asceticism, he normally would not have smiled. On this occasion, his smile was an indication that he had just received the Buddha's mind-to-mind seal.<


Only quiet contemplation can initiate Chan


Chan means stilling thoughts. We will only realize Chan if we still our thoughts. Samadhi means not moving. If we move, we have no samadhi.

By taking Dharma bliss as food, Chan samadhi will manifest. When we cultivate the Way, we practice sitting in meditation. To develop Chan, we need to sit down. As we sit in meditation, our skill will manifest. It should not be the case that as soon as you sit in meditation knowing anything at all. Entering samadhi requires one to sit in an upright posture. One sits with a straight back and holds the head straight without nodding or inclining the neck. What is meant by samadhi power? Samadhi has a certain power that supports and maintains your body in an upright posture so that you do not lean forward or tilt backward. Sitting upright effortlessly, you can enter Chan samadhi. In the midst of samadhi, there is an unimaginable joy that is inexplicable and indescribable. Because it surpasses what your mind can imagine, it is described like this:

The path of words and speech is cut off.
The place of the mind's activity is gone.

In Chan samadhi, you will experience a bliss that is continuous and unceasing. Experiencing the bliss of Chan samadhi inspires in us courage and vigor that surpasses the ordinary. That kind of courage and vigor is extremely strong and powerful. No other forces can overcome that type of power.


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Thought cultivation eliminates false thinking


Chan sitting is also known as thought cultivation. From this definition, we know that it is impossible not to have false thinking during Chan sitting. Normally, our false thinking comes and goes just like waves on water. Waves come up because of wind. When we meditate, why do false thoughts arise? It is because our self-nature still contains falsehood. This falsehood is like the wind, and false thoughts are like waves stirred by the wind.

As we practice meditation, we need to silence our thoughts. That means we must stop the false winds. Thought cultivation aims at reducing false thoughts and stopping the waves that constantly arise in our minds. Stilling means quieting the thoughts so they cease their movement. When we cease thinking and deliberating, we can give rise to samadhi power. Over time, as samadhi power develops, wisdom will manifest. With wisdom, our minds can illuminate the true nature of all dharmas.

When not a single thought arises,
the entire substance manifests.

When the mind is completely stilled so that not a single of shred of false thinking remains, we will be able to enter samadhi and our original wisdom will thus manifest. We will then truly understand the basic reason why we are human beings, and will no longer be moved by external things. When the myriad external conditions do not move our minds, we can then be considered to be:

In unmoving suchness where all is absolutely clear and constantly understood.

At that time, none of the eight winds: praise and ridicule, sorrow and joy, gain and loss, defamation and eulogy, will be able to move our minds.

People may praise us or ridicule us as they wish.
In favorable or adverse conditions,
We will advance vigorously.
No suffering or joy will move our minds.

Gain refers to things that benefit one, loss refers to things that harm one; defamation means to slander; eulogy is to commend or glorify one's name.

Unmoved by the eight winds,
I sit erect on a purple-golden lotus.

Not being blown about by the eight winds is the result of thought cultivation, of silencing the mind. By not being moved by external factors, we can then understand how to practice sitting meditation.


Silencing the mind reveals our wisdom


Investigating Chan requires non-movement of the mind and thoughts and this means silence. The Chan method works like the thrust of a knife, cutting right through. Because Chan investigation is apart from the mind-consciousness, it is known as putting an end to the mind. Ending the mind means ending all mental activities of the mind-consciousness. Only when all the activities of the false mind are stopped will thoughts be silenced. When that happens, we gain the power of knowing and seeing that comes with suddenly enlightening to the nonarising of all things. We then have patience with the nonarising of people and dharmas. And we certify to four stages of practice, which are heat, summit, patience, and first in the world.

1. Heat. This warm energy comes as we sit in meditation.
2. Summit. That energy rises to the crown of our head as we continue to practice.
3. Patience. It becomes very difficult to be patient, but we must still be patient.
4. First in the World. We become a world-transcending great hero.
If we want to attain these four stages, we must first learn to silence the mind. Our mind-consciousness must remain unmoving.

Our thoughts are like waves that cannot be calmed. Sitting in meditation aims at stopping the mind-consciousness from moving. Eventually, it stops naturally. Once stopped, the mind is silent. When it is completely silent, wisdom comes forth. When wisdom arises, we become self-illuminating.

When silence reaches an ultimate point,
the light penetrates everywhere.

That is the power of knowing and seeing that comes with sudden enlightenment to the non-arising of all things.


The flavor of lightness and ease is infinitely wonderful


What is the flavor of Chan? It is the joy of realizing Chan samadhi, which brings a feeling of lightness and tranquility. This infinitely wonderful experience defies conceptualization and verbal description. Those who have personally experienced this state tacitly accept it. Just as when a person drinks water, he himself will know whether it is hot or cold, so too lightness and ease is something we ourselves will know when it happens to us. If all of you want to know whether the flavor of Chan is sweet or bitter, you will have to work very hard at investigating Chan. When you have reached a certain state, you will naturally know the flavor.

Therefore, you have to investigate, and when you have investigated until the truth emerges, then you will experience the flavor of Chan. Chan is not to be spoken of but is to be investigated. This is why the Chan sect does not teach using words or literature. Its truth is transmitted outside the Teaching. It is a method that points directly to the human mind so that one can see one's own nature and attain Buddhahood. When a person who investigates Chan has reached a high level of attainment, he will never get angry. He will not fight or contend with others, because he has attained the Samadhi of Non-Contention. He will not pursue fame nor gain, because he looks upon wealth as being dewdrops on flowers. He looks upon official status as being frost on a rooftop. Both vanish without a trace in no time.


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什麼是禪?

制之一處無事不辦


坐禪此一法,乃修行必經之路。何為禪?「禪」不是中文,是梵文Dhyana之簡稱,此云「思惟修」,亦云「靜慮」。由於中國人喜歡省略,而謂之「禪」,故有「坐禪」或「打坐」等名詞。顧名思義,「打坐」是要坐,坐著為什麼?為攝心。一般人雖然坐在那裏,但心不在焉。心到何處去了?打妄想去了,忽然而東,忽然而西,忽然而南,忽然而北。不用花錢便坐上火箭各處跑,妄想紛飛,不容易控制。

人為什麼沒有智慧?就因為心到處跑。人為什麼一天比一天老?因為心各處馳逐。比如一部新車子,你亂去駕駛,必定用很多汽油,且又浪費很多汽油,結果車身及零件都產生很多毛病,把車子弄壞。人的身體亦同此理,你若不懂好好管它,讓它任意到各處跑,也必定浪費很多汽油。什麼是汽油?就是你寶貴的精神。不管你添多少汽油,也把它耗費了。像人天天吃補品,說有營養能補助身體,可是你若不懂珍惜自己的精神,到處外馳,則吃多少補品也補不了所丟掉的精神。所以諺云「制之一處,無事不辦」,必要把心收攝回來,使他定在一處,才不致浪費精神、透支精神。比如你懂得開車,不使它橫衝直撞,則不會遇到意外,而車子也能用很久。同理,人的身體若懂得修養,則身不會老,且不會死。


拈花示眾以心印心


參禪,乃釋迦牟尼佛在靈山會上拈花示眾,所傳之微妙心印法門。迦葉祖師當時明白佛的意旨,遂破顏微笑,自此佛祖心印法門便有得傳承。本來迦葉祖師已一百多歲,且他修頭陀行,常抖擻精神用功,不會隨便笑,這次微笑,是因為他得到佛陀「以心印心」之表示。


靜慮才能夠有禪


禪,翻譯為靜慮,因為你靜慮才能夠有禪,你若不靜慮就沒有禪。定,就是不動的意思,不動就是定,你若動了就不定。

「禪悅為食」,「禪定現前」。你修道打坐,坐禪,坐禪,禪要坐;你坐,才能功夫現前。不是一打坐就睡覺,這不是坐禪,是睡禪。睡不是禪,睡也不是定,禪不可睡。禪定樂,在一入定的時候就和睡覺不同。睡覺時,已經失去你的靈知靈覺,沒有知覺性,糊糊塗塗睡著了,什麼事情也不知道了。入定就是端然正坐,他坐得腰非常的直,頭也是直的,不會低頭,不會歪歪脖子。

怎麼叫定力呢?定有個力量,這個力量就支持你的身體不歪不斜,不前俯,不後仰,這是得到禪定了。定裏邊就有一種快樂,這一種快樂是說不出來,沒有法子形容,就是超過思慮,超過你心所思慮的,所以說「言語道斷」,「心行處滅」,得到這一種禪定的樂。這種樂,也是繼續繼續不斷的快樂。

你有了禪定的樂,就生出了一種勇猛精進心。這不是普通的勇猛精進心,是一種大的勇猛精進心,當中有大的禪定快樂。這一種勇猛精進是很堅固,很有力量。這一種力量是沒有任何的力量可以擋得住它。


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思惟修減少妄想


坐禪又叫「思惟修」。從此三個字觀之,坐禪不可能沒妄想,一定會有妄想,如水波浪。為什麼水裏有波浪?因為有風之緣故。我們坐禪,為什麼打妄想?因為自性裏猶存虛妄,虛妄如風,妄想就如水中波浪。

現在打坐要「靜慮」,就是要停止妄風。「思惟修」,即是要減少妄想,停止心裏之波浪。「靜」,即是令它不動,「慮」,即念慮;念慮不起,能生定力。定力生出,久而智慧現前;有了智慧,能照了諸法實相,即「一念不生全體現」。靜慮到極點,一絲妄想也無,便能入定,而本有智慧現前,才真能明白做人之根本道理,不被外物所動搖,外面的萬事萬物不能動搖你的心,才算「如如不動,了了常明。」此時,稱譏苦樂利衰毀譽,這八風皆不能動搖你的心。

人稱讚你、譏諷你;你若遇著苦(逆﹚或樂(順﹚境,仍然保存著「順逆皆精進,苦樂不動心。」的態度。利,是利益自己的事;衰,令你損減之事;毀,是毀謗;譽,是讚譽。能夠「八風吹不動,端坐紫金蓮」,不被八風吹動,就是「思惟修」、「靜慮」的表現。不為外物所搖,才能明白怎樣打坐。


頓悟無生知見力


參禪即是心念不動,是為之「靜」。禪門是向上一法,單刀直入,離開心意識參,因此說「了卻心」。這個「心」也包括「意識」活動,要把這種種的妄心活動停止,方為之靜慮。如此,則「頓悟無生知見力」,獲無生法忍,證得「煖」、「頂」、「忍」、「世第一」,四加行。

煖:是坐到有點暖氣。
頂:功夫已達到頂點。
忍:這時很難忍,但仍然要忍可於心。
世第一:成為世出世之大丈夫。

欲證得此四位,先要懂得如何靜慮,即是不動心意識。我們的思慮如水波浪,不能靜止。坐禪是要心意識之念慮不動搖,使它自然停止。止了,就是靜慮;靜到極點,便生出智慧;生出智慧,便會發光。所謂「靜極光通達」,也即是「頓悟無生知見力」。能夠了卻心意識,得到無生知見力,才能開大智慧。


輕安滋味妙無窮


什麼是禪味?就是得到禪定的快樂,得到輕安的滋味。這種滋味奧妙無窮,不可以心思,不可言議,身歷其境的人才能體會,才能領受。好像如人飲水,冷暖自知,只可意會,不可言傳。各位想要知道這種禪味是甜是苦,要努力參禪,到了相當境界時,自然曉得其中滋味,所以要參,參到水落石出時,就得到禪味。禪不是說的,而是參的,所以禪宗是不立文字,教外別傳,直指人心,見性成佛的法門。

參禪的人,參到火候到的時候絕對不發脾氣,不與人爭論,到了無爭三昧的境界。也不求名,也不求利,看富貴為花間露水,看功名為瓦上霜片,頃刻就消逝無蹤。