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What is Chan?(1)

2014-08-06 20:40:06  Venerable Jing Hui  中华网禅文化  参与评论()人


Today, let us begin with the first sub-title "What is Chan?"or "What does Chan mean?" These are perennial and frequently debated questions. I am not sure how to talk about it or whether I can do it well. I look for your advice or comments.

 

The term Chan (Zen) I address here, is not that mentioned in the Six Paramitas, nor that mentioned in the Catvaridhyanani.

It is, rather, what the Chan School upholds. On the one hand, yes, this is the same thing as that referred to in the Six Paramitas, whilst simultaneously remaining independentof them. Similarly, it is inseparable from, yet different to the one in the Catvari-dhyanani.

We all know the maxim that Chan is a "special transmission, outside the scriptures, with no dependence on words and letters." It is "a direct pointing at the human mind; seeing into one's own nature and the attainment of Buddhahood." This is the term Chan I am going to talk about today.

As Chan is a "special transmission, outside the scriptures, with no dependence on words and letters", language should also be discarded. Why am I here to talk then? The reason is that, without the help of language and words, it is very hard to take to the path of Chan cultivation; very hard to find a point of entry.

This is why, in the "Tan Sutra" the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng (638 - 713) explains that: the so-called :with no dependence on words and letters" does not mean not using words and letters. He said: "Some might argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) letters are to be discarded. But would they realize and appreciate that the two words ‘are discarded' are also letters?" In this case, "with no dependence on words and letters" means to be free from words and letters, but not to be separated from them.

We have to use language and words as the finger that points to the moon. "We see the moon because of the finger, whereas we forget the finger because we have seen the moon." That is the function of language and words.

Now, let us come to what Chan is. I would like to talk a bit about the origin of Chan first, in a succinct way, of course.

Had I extended this subject into a more comprehensive one, I would have used up all these six days, yet might still not have been clearly understood. In addition, that would bemore like an academic approach, which is not suitable for this occasion.

On the origin of Chan, I want to explain it from its beginning in early Indian Buddhism through to its transmission in China. In India, as we all know, Chan's beginning is recounted as follows: one day on Mount Gridhrakuta the Buddha, realizing that his end was at hand, addressed an assembly of thousands; holding up a flower he blinked his eyes. Nobody amongst the audience recognized the true significance of what was happening yet there was one exception. At that very moment the only one who understood the message was Mahakashyapa, who smiled.