A full and complete ‘Ch’an Week Retreat’ was held within the Donghua Ch’an Temple between the 25th - 31st of August, 2014. The content and format of this meditation session remained basically the same as the two previous two Ch’an Week Retreats, except that the requirements for the students on this occasion was much stricter, with more than 90% of the students voluntarily requesting a far greater silence! In order to facilitate the reduction of ‘delusive’ movement in the mind and to facilitate the ‘stilling’ of the mind ‘realisation’ – the three-meals served each day in the ‘Fast Hall’ (斋堂 - Zhai Tang) were administered each day according to the Strict Vinaya Discipline as required by the ‘Arahant’ (罗汉 - Luo Han) tradition of rules followed by ordained Buddhist monks and nuns. The lay practitioners were amazed to experience this vehicle for ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ stillness and benefitted greatly from its practice! For many of the lay-practitioners – tis was the first-time they had encountered a deliberately ‘conscious’ approach to ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’ - realising just how integrated with ‘greed’, ‘hatred’ and ‘delusion’ such apparently ‘mundane’ activities can involve!
The 'Great Venerable' - and 'Head Monk' - Qi Xiang (起香): 'All Things Are Gathered Together from Across the Ten Directions into a Single 'Still' Moment. This is where You Learn 'Wuwei' (无为) - Or How 'Action' and 'Inaction' Embrace One-Another Without Conflict. The Realised 'Empty' and 'Still' Mind Permeates and 'Purifies a Complete Buddha-Field! All This is Achieved Through Cultivating an All-Embracing 'Empty Mind' Within Which All-Thing Arise and Pass Away!'
Ch’an Buddhism Spreads Westward - Chinese Ch'an Vs Western Analytical Thought - A Short Comparison (2007)
December 06, 2007 09:30 China’s Five Thousand Years of Culture Network - Editor: Xue Fei (薛斐)
The main contribution of (Western) Analytical Philosophy in the history of human thinking is: it believes that many problems that bother people are actually not problems at all, they are just "false problems." Some questions have not been answered satisfactorily for a long time, not because people have limited abilities, but because the way of asking questions is inherently problematic. Once you follow the train of thought of asking questions in this way, you will sooner or later lead people into a dilemma of infinite ‘no answer’. Therefore, analytical philosophy strives to drive all false questions out of the scope of human thinking, so that people can obtain peace of mind by simply ‘not thinking’ about certain topics.
Similarly, Chinese Ch’an also states that there are many false problems, but its technique of dealing with these problems is different to that of analytical philosophy. Chinese Ch’an teaches that only by restoring the ‘genuine’ or ‘underlying’ questioner (or ‘perceiving the empty mind ground from which ALL questions arise’) can the problems these questions represent be avoided in the genuine sense. Therefore, just as the Western academic scholars might ‘give voice’ to these false questions - the Chinese Ch’an Master refuses to give a positive answer, but crucially, (and often a point not acknowledged in the West) the Ch’an Master does not give a negative answer.
However, it should be pointed out that the distinction between true and false questions within analytical philosophy is also inherently problematic: if the boundary is meaningless (and lacks ‘substance’), then the true question, regardless of its scope, cannot be properly ‘fixed’, ‘located’ or even ‘asked’; on the other-hand, if the question is too meaningful - and possesses definite ‘boundaries’ of import, then it cannot represent the problem of inherent ‘falsity’ as it has ‘concretised’ into something ‘real’ and ‘limited’ in time and space. The recent developments in Western thinking are repeatedly attempting to explain this dialectical problem and double-bind, but in so doing, tend to favour the ‘negation’ of the question. This has led some Western scholars to mistakenly assume that they are implementing a ‘Chinese Ch’an solution’, but this is not the case.
As far as Ch’an is concerned, all questions are unnecessary movements of the surface mind, nothing but habitual contrivances that manifest as ‘false questions’ mistakenly interpreted as being both ‘valid’ and structurally ‘three-dimensional’ in the material world! The tetrelemma of Nagarjuna explains the Ch’an position – 1) everything ‘is’, 2) Everything ‘is not’, 3) Everything both ‘is’ and ‘is not’ and 4) everything is neither ‘is’ and ‘is not’ - so what's the problem? Only the intrinsic realisation of the ‘self-nature’ (as the ‘empty mind ground’) denotes a "person who is not deceived by others", and ‘who understands the law perpetually at peace’. Once enlightened, the problems of defilement, true delusion, life and death - and many other conflicts - although not resolved in the conventional sense, have been completely eliminated in the delusional sense. In other words, all (deluded) questions disappear before they ‘arise’ - as the habitual (inner) conditions that formulate a ‘dualistic’ and ‘suffering-inducing’ question in the mind - have been perpetually ‘removed’.
In contrast, the development of analytic philosophy is very incomplete. It merely attempts to persuades people not to pay attention to the various problems relating to ‘value’ and ‘freedom’ that are incapable of being subjected to ‘reason’, leading to these metaphysical issues still plaguing everyone who lives a serious life. Ch’an Buddhism is different. Its resolution of problems brings people a real "usefulness", which is the tranquillity and clarity of the whole (united) inner and outer being. The Ch’an method permeates the depths of people's hearts and breaks the source of delusion in one fell swoop. How can the complexity and difficulty the Ch’an method employs be conceived and inferred through the narrow experiences and thinking associated with everyday existence?
In summary, what this article is trying to illustrate is just this: Ch’an Buddhism is a part of the entire Buddhist system, no matter how much Ch’an surpasses the Buddha and the ancestors. If you want to keep your understanding of Ch’an from deviating, you should also find a basis within the sutras and understand it from the entire Buddhist philosophical background. At present, there are no other thought systems that can properly interpret Ch’an. If you abandon the scriptures, rely on your own brains, and adhere to Ch’an with some kind of thinking that suits your taste, even if you don’t enter the cave of deluded ghosts, you will eventually fall into a ‘dead void’. These are the products of a lack of genuine knowledge with regard to Ch’an self-cultivation. The ‘Perfect Enlightenment’ Sutra (圆觉经 - Yuan Jue Jing) says ‘The Tathagata-Realm is infinite and an individual mind (and heart) cannot fathom its vastness through an egotistical self-effort – which is like a firefly trying to impossibly burn the infinite dimensions of Mount Sumeru!’ The Western mind needs to breakout of its own self-contained isolation and comprehend the limitations that this cultural programming entails.
‘(74) Whatsoever Bhikkhu, being angry or displeased with another Bhikkhu, shall give a blow – that is a Pakittiya.
(75) Whatsoever Bhikkhu, being angry or displeased with another Bhikkhu, shall make use of any threatening gesture – that is a Pakittaya.
(76) Whatsoever Bhikkhu, being angry or displeased with another Bhikkhu shall harass a Bhikkhu with a (charge of) Samghadisesa without ground – that is a Pakittiya.
(77) Whatsoever Bhikkhu shall intentionally suggest difficulties of conscience to a Bhikkhu, with the idea of causing him uneasiness, - even for a moment; if he does it to that end – that is a Pakittaya.
(78) Whatsoever Bhikkhu shall stand by overhearing when Bhikkhus are quarrelling, or making a disturbance, or engaged in a dispute, hoping to hear what they shall utter; if he does it to that end alone – that is a Pakittiya.
(79) Whatsoever Bhikkhu, when he has declared his consent to formal proceedings conducted according to the Dhamma, shall thereafter grumble (about these proceedings) - that is a Pakittaya.’
Vinaya Texts: Trans, By TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg, Part I – the Patimokkha – The Mahavagga I-IV, Sacred Books of East (Edited by Max Muller), Motilal, (1982), Page 51 – Rules 74-79 of the 92 Rules retained in the ‘Pakittiya Dhamma’ Section of the ‘Patimokkha’ - or those transgression which the Buddha states demand ‘Require Repentance’ to purify the mind and body of the corrupting kamma of mind and body (influenced by the residual taints of greed, hatred delusion).
My role model is Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) - primarily because virtually all the other Masters I have had as excellent teachers have also treated the reputation of Master Xu Yun with the utmost respect. Master Xu Yun is the immense river of ‘Dharma’ within which we all flow into and from which we all emerge empowered and invigorated. Important to this respect is the understanding of the depth and importance of the Vinaya Discipline – the body of work establish by the historical (Indian) Buddha as a guide for monastics and lay-people as they traverse the vicissitudes of life! If the Dharma is a raft which carries all living-beings from this shore to the other – the Vinaya Discipline signifies the rudder and the oars which are used to stabilise the structure and direct it in the correct direct. If the raft heads in the wrong direction – the other shore will never be reached! The raft could spend years traversing the centre of the river and flowing with the tide – unable to breakout of the cycle and reach the other shore. For many people exploring spiritual paths – this is a common experience and hindrance to achieving the final objective of ‘liberation’.
‘(6) Now at that time the Khabhggiya Bhikkhus, on the ground that three robes had been allowed by the Blessed One, used to frequent the village in one suit of three robes, and in another in another suit to rest in the Arama, and in another to go to the bath. Then those Bhikkhus who were modest were annoyed, murmured, and become indignant, saying, “How can the Khabbaggiya Bhikkhus wear extra suits of robes.”
And those Bhikkhus told the matter to the Blessed One. Then the Blessed One on that occasion, when he had delivered a religious discourse, addressed the Bhikkhus, and said:
“You are not, O Bhikkhus, to wear an extra suit of robes. Whosever does so, shall be dealt with according to law.”
(The waist cloth [Samghati] was wrapped round the waist and back, and secured with a girdle. The under garment (antaravasaka); was and reached below the knee, being fastened wrapped round the loins and reached below the knee, being fastened round the loins by an end of the cloth being tucked in there; and sometimes also by a girdle. The upper robe (uttarasanga) was wrapped round the legs from the loins to the ankles, and the end was then drawn, at the back, from the right hip, over the left shoulder, and either (as is still the custom in Siam, and in the Siamese sect in Ceylon) allowed to fall down in front, or (as is still the custom in Burma, and in the Burmese sect in Ceylon) drawn back again over the right shoulder, and allowed to fall down on the back. From the constant reference to the practice of adjusting the robe over one shoulder as a special mark of respect – the Burmese custom would seem to be in accordance with the most ancient way of usually wearing the robe).
Vinaya Texts: Trans, By TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg, Part II – The Mahavagga V-X – The Kullavagga I-III, Sacred Books of East (Edited by Max Muller), Motilal, (1982), Page 212-213 – The MahaVagga – Eighth Khandhaka – Section Thirteen. The ‘MahaVagga’ or ‘Great Path’ contains accounts of Buddha's attainment of Enlightenment and the Enlightenment of ten other senior monks, as well as rules for Uposatha days and monastic ordination.
Of course, in theory a ‘raft’ is not required to traverse a river from one shore to the opposite – but this is an option that is very dangerous and exposes each aspirant to death by drowning! In the realm of spiritual practice this symbolises the utter failure of a spiritual method used in the wrong way. Quite often, this is the expenditure of energy in a completely deficient and incoherent manner that leaves the practitioner exhausted and perhaps totally unable to recover adequately. In extreme cases it can mean ‘death’. The reality is that the raft of ‘Dharma’ is required which is directed by the ‘Vinaya Discipline’ as no other viable option remains open to the average student. Master Xu Yun understood this reality in a precise manner and was very strict upon insisting that each student should be brutally honest with themselves and others. Lying cannot and does not work when an individual is seeking to traverse the rivers of the suffering of existence! Telling the truth and remain ‘quiet’ when no vocalisation is required is the essence of the Vinaya Discipline! As a raft with no rudder or oars is unable to fulfil its function of safely transporting its passengers to the other side of the river!
‘(1) Now at that time the Blessed One was staying at Ragagaha in the Veluvana, in the Kalanaka Nivapa. And at that time no permission had been given to the Bhikkhus by the Blessed One with respect to dwellings. So the Bhikkhus dwelt now here, now there – in the woods, at the foot of trees, on hill-sides, in grottoes, in mountain caves, in cemeteries, in forests, in open places, and in heaps of straw. And at early morn they came in from this place or from that place – from the woods and where have you – decorous in their walking and turning, in their looking on or lokking round, in stretching out their arms or in drawing them back, with eyes cast down, and the dignfified in deportment.
(2) Now at that time the Setthi of Ragagaha went at early morn to his garden. And the Setthi of Ragagaba saw those Bhikkhus coming in from this place and from that place – and on seeing them he took pleasure therein. And the Setthi of Ragagaba went up to the Bhikkhus and said to them:
“If, Sirs, I was to have dwellings erected for you, would you take up your abode in these dwellings?” “Not so O householder. Dwellings have not been allowed by the Blessed One.” “Then, Sirs, ask the Blessed One about it, and let me know.” “Very well, O householder,” said they, in assent to the Setthi of Ragagaba. And they went up to the Blessed One, and saluted him, and took their seats on one side. And when they were so seated, they said to the Blessed One: “The Setthi of Ragagaba, Lord, wishes to have dwellings erected for us. What, Lord, should be done?” “Then the Blessed One, on that occasion and in connection, when he had delivered a religious discourse, addressed the Bhikkhus, and said: “I allow you, O Bhikkhus, abodes of five kinds – Viharas, Addhayogas, storied dwellings, attics and caves.”’
Vinaya Texts: Trans, By TW Rhys Davids and Hermann Oldenberg, Part III – Kullavagga IV-XII, Sacred Books of East (Edited by Max Muller), Motilal, (1982), Pages 137-138 – Sixth Khandhaka – On Dwellings and Furniture. The ‘Kullavaga (Cullavagga) records details of the First and Second Buddhist Councils and the establishment of the community of Bhikkhunis (Buddhist Nuns), and further rules for addressing various offenses within the Sangha (monastic community).
for addressing various offenses within the Sangha (monastic community).
Remaining ‘silent’ like a broken gong is as important as using expressed words in a timely and precise manner. Indeed, remaining silent at the right moment is exactly what is required to ‘free’ an individual from the habits of their deluded mind and deficient patterns of behaviour. Although viewed with a great respect today – even during his lifetime (when he was in his hundreds) jealous members of the monastic and lay communities often made false and malicious allegations against him. These complaints evolved around false accusations that Master Xu Yun a) routinely broke the Vinaya Discipline rules, and b) did so in the most delinquent and outrageous of manners! He was accused of drinking alcohol and eating meat, as well as sexually exploiting the bodies of young monks who were sent to him for ordination and training! Although not common allegations – when they did manifest – Master Xu Yun would just smile and return to his cowshed for deep meditation – advising that all beings must be automatically forgiven for the delusion that manifests within (and dominates) their minds! Sitting quietly and manifesting compassion, loving-kindness and wisdom is the way that the Vinaya Discipline guides all living-beings to react to environment disturbances!
The Master said: If a student is not suitably eager to receive genuine knowledge, then I will not eagerly expound genuine knowledge. If a student does not express suitable urgency to receive genuine knowledge, then I will not urgently explain genuine knowledge. If I hold-up one corner and the student does not respectfully bring me the other three corners, then all interaction with that student immediately comes to an end. — Confucius, Analects 7.8
My above translation is exactly how an ethnic Chinese person understands this saying of the Sage known in the West as ‘Confucius’. Indeed, all interaction – even within modern China – which involves a transference of knowledge from some ‘who Knows' to someone who ‘does not know’ is premised on this short paragraph. The agency of ‘silence’ is a time where a student can re-set their mind and body to begin the interaction yet again - until the circuit is complete and the knowledge flows efficiently from teacher to student. ACW (6.6.2021)
Adrian Chan-Wyles (釋大道 - Shi Da Dao) is permitted to retain his Buddhist Monastic Dharma-Name within Lay-society by decree of the Government of the People’s Republic of China, and the Chinese Buddhist Association (1992). A Buddhist monastic (and devout lay-practitioner) upholds the highest levels of Vinaya Discipline and Bodhisattva Vows. A Genuine Buddhist ‘Venerates’ the ‘Dao’ (道) as he or she penetrates the ‘Empty Mind-Ground' through meditative insight. A genuine Buddhist is humble, wise and peace-loving – and he or she selflessly serves all in existence in the past, present and the future, and residing within the Ten Directions – whilst retaining a vegetarian- vegan diet. Please be kind to animals!
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