Attaining the Way: A Guide to the Practice of Chan Buddhism
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This is an inspiring guide to the practice of Chan (Chinese Zen) in the words of four great masters of that tradition. It includes teachings from contemporary masters Xuyun and Sheng Yen, and from Jiexian and Boshan of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). Though the texts were written over a period of hundreds of years, they are all remarkably lucid and are perfect for beginners as well as more advanced practitioners today. All the main points of spiritual practice are covered: philosophical foundations, methods, approaches to problems and obstacles—all aimed at helping the student attain the way to enlightenment.
point that everything was in accord with the truth.” Consider Zhaozhou, who said that for forty years he had not applied his mind in a mixed-up way; or Xianglin, who said that at forty he finally achieved unity. Yongquan said at forty that he still sometimes got bent out of shape. These were all things that happened after [these classic Chan masters experienced] enlightenment. The virtuous ones of the past all knew that both favorable and adverse situations are [opportunities] for a great
for your son. An ancient said, “Because cultivators of the Way do not recognize the real and have taken old consciousness [as real], they transmigrate through innumerable kalpas of birth and death. Ignorant people take [consciousness] for their true selves.”15 Therefore, you must pass through this barrier. On the other hand, there are those who experience sudden enlightenment and cultivate gradually. Although these people have experienced deep enlightenment, they still have not suddenly
patient attitude. If you sink into torpor or become scattered, or if your method is not going smoothly, just relax your body and your mind. Tensing will only add to your afflictions and waste time. Remember though, the purpose of relaxing is to further your practice, not to take it easy. To relax and know that you are relaxed—this is the first step in cultivating practice. Relaxing starts with taking the correct posture and then sitting peacefully as if you have no concerns at all. So, if you
method, you will immediately realize it and quickly refocus your attention. To use an analogy, if contemplation is like walking down the road in a concentrated, attentive manner, then awareness is in knowing that you are doing this; you are observing yourself walking. Attention focus occurs when you notice that you have taken a wrong turn, or your pace slackens, and you immediately refocus your attention on walking correctly. Whichever meditation you use requires these three principles:
would be even better if you left with a better understanding of the teacher’s intent, with a clearer idea of helping sentient beings. To repay all forms of benevolence, there is nothing better than delivering sentient beings. Since you have received the benefits of Buddhadharma, you must proceed to protect and uphold it, enabling others to benefit from it. This is truly called recognizing and repaying benevolence. Conscious of earning merit, you attend meditation retreats; cherishing merit, you