Overseas News


A dialogue between Abbot President
and Venerable Chi-Chern: Historic development of Chinese Chan practices

Hosted by Professor Yang Pei (楊蓓教授), Director of Master Degree Program of Life Education in Dharma Drum Institute of Liberal Arts, the symposium of “Inheriting the Past and Ushering in the Future, vows and practices never end : Chinese Chan practices in the contemporary era ” 承先啟後.願行相續―漢傳禪法之當代實踐” was held at the new building of Dharma Drum Malaysia Center on Nov. 17. DDM Abbot President Venerable Guo Huei (果暉法師) and Venerable Chi-Chern (繼程法師) were both invited to be the panelists. Nearly 300 participants joined the symposium to explore how Chinese Chan practices can be applied more broadly in modern society.

Professor Yang Pei first initiated a discussion of how Chan practices of Chinese Buddhism was transmitted and settled across different regions over the changing eras in history. Venerable Chi-Chern elucidated the spread of Buddhism, which originated in India, en route from Western Regions then to China; as well as the historical development of Chinese Chan Buddhism.

The Sixth Patriarch Master Hui Neng was a true heir of both Chinese culture and Indian Mahayana Buddhism wisdom. He streamlined Chan practices into the core idea of “concentration and wisdom are non-dual,” (定慧不二)as clearly stated in the Platform Sutra, from which evolved the principles of “concentration and wisdom are of the same essence” (定慧一體)and “stillness and contemplation done together“ (Shamata-Vipashyana) (止觀雙運) of Chinese Chan School.

At the time when Chinese Chan Buddhism has just transmitted to Malaysia, Buddhists paid more attention to the aspects of faith and making vows. Back then, limited methods were available to the followers; only those derived from the Pure Land School, and those evolved from Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s and Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva’s vows. In terms of Chan practices, Buddhists could only access Theravāda Buddhism. Due to this, Venerable Chi-Chern therefore decided to bring about Master Sheng Yen’s complete teachings to Malaysia, in that his teachings thread together the methods of moving meditation, breath counting, Hua-Tou and Silent Illumination. According to Venerable Chi-Chern, “It is extraordinary that Chinese Chan Buddhism is still a living tradition; Buddhists are still continuing on assembling the practices.”

In his talk about the essence of Chan practices, Master Chi-Chern pointed out that the practitioners could practice Chan either in stillness or in motion. In that concentration is the noumenon of wisdom and the wisdom is the function of concentration; Chan practitioners attain inward thusness and consummated awareness of all external phenomena; and, with consistent silent illumination, Chan practitioners could enter the state of Chan through self-cultivation of “concentration” and “illumination”.

On the other hand, Chan practices can also be incorporated into the practices of daily life; in everyday motions including eating, sleeping, carrying woods or water-carrying tasks. Through Chan practices in daily routines, practitioners can make the best use of meditative wisdom, so as to return to their innate quintessence and one’s non-attaching mind would manifest.

Texts: Lin, Hui-Ru (林洄如) Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Centre Malaysia
Translation: Elenda Huang
Editing: DDM Australian Editorial Team; John Wu (吳俊宏)

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