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Sunday, November 17th, 2013

I have previously written about this religious worldview from a Japanese perspective regarding the schools of Rinzai and Soto which to some degree corresponds to its Chinese equivalents of Linji and Caodong. I am including a link to these posts if there is an interest to research these movements as well.



To begin with this form of Buddhism claims direct descent from Shakyamuni and yet this is quite different from the Indian form of Buddhism as Gautama and Bodhidharma more than likely originated from this region. Actually the most ancient and perhaps authentic form of Buddhism more closely resembles Theravada instead of its more recent expression(s) of Mahayana.

Anyway this whole movement is steeped in obscurity as there is very little that is known, if anything, that may be considered historically reliable about Bodhidharma as the progenitor of this Chinese faith who is regarded as the first patriarch of this sect and exists only in legendary form and myths that surround his character. It has not even been firmly established where he originated from whether it was India/Persia or for that matter if he really even existed at all.

For instance legend claims that he lived to be 150 years old and that during his lifetime he had visited every country. There is also the story about his “deliverance from the corpse” which follows Daoist legend as mentioning that after Damo’s death Songyun supposedly encountered Bodhidharma returning to India with one sandal and this was supposedly confirmed as his tomb was opened to find that one sandal was missing. Also he was supposedly a  “wall gazer”  having faced a wall for nine years in a cave not speaking the whole time. One version of this story said that he had fallen asleep after 7 years and got so mad at himself that he cut off his eyelids so it wouldn’t happen again and as his eyelids hit the floor the first tea plants sprung up which would latter help Chan students from falling asleep during meditation.

Another questionable story is that he refused to teach at one point until Dazu Huike finally cut off his arm to show his sincerity.

Anyway legends developed over time in following Daoist and Buddhist figures such as Baozhi and Fuxi as to give a sense of mystery and awe but it becomes self evident in a modern age that these narratives are not authentic.

So in summary how can a person be so sure of the movement when nothing original seems to have survived his person? Furthermore the subsequent lineages that were later produced are just as legendary in stating that this succession leads all the way back to the Buddha and even D.T. Suzuki mentioned that there are no authorized records of this.

So essentially what would set these Chan personalities apart from all the other thousands of gurus, yogis, masters, teachers, prophets, etc as found among the world’s cults and religions who have irreconcilable paths but similar claims to enlightenment? Obviously not every one can be right even though they could all be wrong. Mankind is incurably religious for a reason because we have been hard wired to innately know that there is something significant beyond our mere existence which transcends our present reality yet human rebellion has yielded to the temptation of its fallen human ingenuity to create in their own mind a subjective reality by idolizing their personal ideals of invention over and above the “ultimate reality” in making a god after their own image.

Anyway these arguments regarding credibility may at first appear to be special pleading in questioning the nature of this movement based on its lack of historical credibility but any reasonable person would know that any faith is only as credible as its founders and if there is corruption in the sources with its fables then everything or all things that pertain should be equally questioned. This kind of controversial testimony with its contradictions and inconsistencies wouldn’t stand up in a natural court of law nor should should it be accepted in the spiritual monasteries  of truth bearers.

Another controversial aspect of Ch’an is that it has become a hybrid of what was originally a purer form of Indian Buddhism as adopting the indigenous Chinese religions as it has been influenced by Taoism and integrated into Pure Land. However you can’t accommodate enlightenment as “Truth” which supersedes cultural relevance and does not change according to the shifting or transitional phases of society. In other words “Truth” is fixed and stands alone apart from frivolous human intervention. If it was truth then it should be truth now otherwise it is practically no truth at all if it is no longer practiced. It is like trying to adapt the laws of gravity to ones personal agenda as you will only fall flat on your face as being overcome by its power no matter what the mind may think about this natural law. Believing something does not necessarily make it a reality as you can still be a sincere believer and still be sincerely wrong. In summary of this point Ch’an lacks a unique identity having been stripped and scavenged so that all that remains is a fossilized skeletal form of it supposed past enlightenment and even Suzuki admits that Chan evolved with Dao with their sense of naturalness as emphasizing the Buddha nature in every day human life. Essentially Chan never did have its own identity and this one vehicle ended up car pooling with everyone else.

What is also questionable about this sect is the disunity and factions which shortly followed the demise of their founder as they couldn’t agree on enlightenment theory on whether it was sudden or progressive/gradual. Was it to be based in meditation, practice or both as the fabricated work of the Platform Sutra attempted to resolve this tension. This duality between the Shenxiu’s Nothern and Shenhui or Henshui’s Southern school and the Oxhead schools stood in opposition of which the Southern school won out. Not as a matter of truth prevailing in having victory over ignorance but rather it was a matter of popularity and a political move. In time these schools died out and my question is if these schools which were closer to the original sources did not entirely survive then what hope is there for enlightenment in this modern age as being in part lost? Moreover this clash continues today among the Linji and Caodong sects and so which one of all of these movements is right if any? As the Jewish gentleman on the “Fiddler on the Roof” stated “they can’t both be right.” It makes me wonder if the Buddha and Damo were to visit China today if they would even be able to recognize what they taught as enlightening.

Anyway latter the Hongzhou or Hung-chou school of Mazu emerged with its eccentric practice of shock enlightenment as a means of using physical blows, slaps, and  shouts  to spiritually awaken the pupil as to startle them into realization away from a limited pattern of thinking . It is said that Mazu at one point grabbed a disciple by the nose and twisted it so violently the pupil cried out in pain and achieved enlightenment. Also Linji who is a successor of Mazu followed this violent practice as well but fell our of favor with his heirs which saw through this unenlightened practice as being irrational and strange as stating that it was devoid of further understanding. So this practice of fight or flight is shocking but not enlightening.

After Mazu’s time came the five schools or houses with the most popular being the Caodong school founded by Dongshan Liangjie and Caoshan Benji and the Linji school founded by Linji Yixuan. Again for political reason the Linji sect won out with its favor from the Imperial Courts.

Along with all of these changes came yet another paradigm shift away from their original enlightenment to accommodate the use of gongans. These stories contained the teaching styles and words of the classical masters in “encounter dialogues” appended with commentary and poetry as recorded in the “Blue Cliff Record” and “The Gateless Gate” of the Linji school and the “Book of Equanimity” among Caodong tradition. This again was another popular transition away from the original solitary practice to more of an interdependency between master and student as a means to attain enlightenment.

Previously I had mentioned the questionable nature of the Chan lineages and yet the authority of these gongan cases are dependent upon a succession of these Masters as an unalterable chain of direct mind to mind contact with the Buddha as bypassing the human language barrier with its corruption of literature and oral traditions as a common link of descent through the Masters in establishing  a clear path to the Buddha of the past. This kind of esoteric transmission between mind to mind or face to face is likened to a flame of one candle lighting another but must now depend on the illumination of these questionable characters as secondary sources with the use of these gongan genre.

This original ideal may have been tactical in its appeal to win converts as it seems to trump other Buddhists groups at that time as having a special authority straight from the source through this kind of link as overcoming the human tendency of error and misunderstanding as potentially losing the enlightenment knowledge of content and context over time. So originally instead of trusting in the knowledge of a sacred script or book they claim to had a primary and credible source of enlightenment straight from Buddha’s mouth or mind to their hearts and lives. My question is why then has this direct revelation of thought stopped with the Masters in channeling these ideals? Obviously this was the preferred and accepted mode of transmission and not the written prescription or representation of the message of which even its founder emphasized a disdain for words. What is likewise questionable is that Bodhidharma emphasized a special transmission without words as being outside the scriptures and yet tradition says that he passed off to his successor Huike the Lankavatara Sutra. Not only this but there are other publications which had relevance and importance in this movement with its various texts, writings, words, etc. as including the Diamond Sutra which largely influenced this group. So essentially their original criticism becomes a self inflicting wound as it has devolved from mind to paper with a written text. Thus this esoteric experience has now transitioned to an inferior exoteric transmission with the latter production of these anecdotes.

Also the whole concept about the gongan exercise of letting go of normal logical conceptual thinking to espouse a paradoxical or linguistically meaningless dialogue or question to somehow mysteriously reveal truth is nonsensical and unlivable in every day life as the practitioner depends on the necessity of logic to order their life apart from chaos. So allowing this spontaneous shock as initiating confusion, anxiety,  frustration and doubt as a method to cause a person to question life differently is just ludicrous. The whole idea of shock therapy may have some therapeutical benefits among psychiatry today but this approach is beyond what these mind scientists would see as a legitimate treatment in hitting the vein of enlightenment and would rather recognize the need to put such a person in therapy to deprogram them from this quackery.

Also to think of enlightenment as a modern art project in randomly throwing paint on a canvas in hopes that it will somehow spontaneously create a beautiful enlightenment becomes merely a matter of subjectivity as established by the originator and spectator but does not necessitate objective truth as this priceless masterpiece may turn into a worthless waste of time, paint,and canvas. There is also a huge difference between having a logical creative intellectual idea as incorporating human ingenuity and reason apart from dredging the dumps of the imagination to find what should be called trash and trying to market it as a colorful work of art.

This dichotomy is further played out according to seated meditation of zuochan as escaping into a meditative dream world of discovery which again is unthinkable and disjointed in contrast to how the practitioner would conduct their rational existence of every day life with reason. Thus it is unreasonable to think that reality exists with this kind of polarity which is inconsistent with other aspects of their daily living. Moreover to describe meditation as a means to detach from external and internal stimuli is inconsistent with its own criteria as to practice Dhyana is to be  personally engaged. Furthermore to come to an experience of stillness and emptiness, if possible, is just a temporary fix or state much like the effects of a drug. Also for Chan meditation to come to a point of divorcing themselves from the bias of doctrines and teachings would likewise equally apply to its own philosophy and to obtain a sense of freedom from the ego is untenable as well as the significance of such a practice is to achieve personal enlightenment. It is also taught that by practicing this form of meditation that you are to rid yourself of false sense impressions and my question is when and how did these false notions originate and how do they now know that they aren’t the ones who have succumbed to delusion with their beliefs in contrast with the majority of the rest of the world? Who knows maybe the concept of enlightenment is illusory as it may be a life long journey in “one vehicle” leading nowhere. Lastly what would you do if you thought you achieved Buddhahood? Would you have to continue your practice, and if so, then how is the end result of the process any more enlightening than its maintenance or continued cultivation?

Anyway forgive me for being so direct its just that this whole philosophy is contrary to human experience and to label this as “The Ultimate Path of Illumination” should be a wake up call to question this methodology in the same way that you are encouraged to question logical thinking which may prove to be dangerously deceptive. Which brings me to my next point in that allowing the mind to freely wander is an open door and gate to a spiritual reality of unenlightened forces or darkness namely opening oneself up to the demonic realm that capitalizes on mind control and brainwashing techniques.

Another text which was given credit to Damo but didn’t originate with him is the “Two Entrances and Four Acts” which is equally controversial as well because the very desire for enlightenment becomes an attachment of  craving in and of itself. Even if it is denied as a desired outcome the practitioner must explain why then they are going along with this practice as it is dishonest to say that there is no agenda to their actions and even Suzuki states that the goal of Chan is striving to come to an awakened state of enlightenment and thus this whole proposition implodes as to live in a true state of non-attachment is really more consistent with death than life. Furthermore this whole idea of living sub humanly as to willfully submit to circumstances and accept all suffering leads to a fatalistic view of discouragement rather than a hopeful enlightenment.

In closing I would like to say I may have shocked you with some of my statements but please don’t misinterpret this as abuse or disrespect but as a challenge to overcome the ordinary thinking of Chan which I believe lacks credibility and integrity on various levels.

A student of Chan may have learned that a polished tile will not result in making a mirror and hopefully you will come to understand that the broken mirror of Chan is not truly revealing as only serving the purpose of signaling for help. So I just ask that you would take a step backwards in introspection as considering to repent by turning around rather than following in the steps of the Masters; who are the blind that lead the blind, as they both fall in the ditch of false religion.

This entire worldview appears to be existing only in the mind of imagination with its undefinable nature that is inexplicable and   unidentified as being solely dependent upon personal experience which I believe leaves the adherent doubtfully grasping for something more that is transcendentally comprehensive and objective.

However there is hope and I would like to encourage you that some of these familiar principles, though not completely analogous to Buddhist definition, are comparative to a Christian worldview or philosophy which I think has more credibility especially as the world has already scrutinized it, and continues to be a majority view in its belief system more so than any other religion.

You may think about Christianity in the same way that the early Chinese first thought about Chan as being a foreign barbaric invasion of their culture and yet Christianity has more relevance to an Eastern mindset than its Western counterpart as it began as an Asiatic religion which has now embraced about 10% of Chinese mainlanders who have experienced a dynamically changed life along with millions of other people including my own.

My testimony with Jesus

In conclusion spontaneous regeneration can be realized when you seek to follow Christ as the only perfect Master who has taught us the true way to God. When someone enters into a personal relationship as His disciple He gives the Holy Spirit who awakens them as making them alive unto God as indwelling a believer resulting in new birth, not to be confused with rebirth, as leading to the process of sanctification as the moral implications of a so called enlightenment manifests itself as reality as going from glory to glory as the believer receives the mind of Christ.

There will be no doubt in their mind as confirmed by a witness, not of human origin, but by the Holy Spirit as becoming a guarantee and deposit in communicating with their soul a new identity as a child of God in becoming one with Him in unity, though not pantheistically.

This will culminate with the outworking of a persons faith with a reality that transcends their current existence as they arrive at a final destination of Heaven as receiving Him or Hell for those who reject Christ.

How this came about was that mankind had their mind and senses defiled in moral rebellion against a Holy God and through the person and work of Christ this defilement has been removed as to regenerate and purify; demonstrating a new found love for God and others as manifested through their actions.

Jesus is the ultimate sense of the Bodhisattva ideal of which His compassion came to help all sentient human beings by giving His life in exchange as a sacrifice or ransom on behalf of humanity as taking away all guilt and shame in making mankind innocent thus reconciling men unto God resulting in the gift of eternal life as canceling all moral debts resulting in righteousness which as humans we are unable to attain apart from divine intervention. Thus when you receive Jesus, He will remove your sin as far as the East is from the West and the consequence for rejecting His gracious provision is damnable.

This form of enlightenment is for everyone, everywhere as encompassing every aspect of human existence regardless of differences and oppositions to language and culture.


John 3:16

16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.


2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.


1 Timothy 2:4-6

who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.


Therefore the  potential for salvation can be “realized” in Jesus as He is the light of the world that lights every mans path unto eternal salvation which in turn radiates His truth as a lantern or mirror through others in sharing His reflective message of compassion towards God and humanity.

Finally as a part of your regimented quiet time of non traditional thinking as letting go of biases and the conceptual thinking of culture and religion I would ask that you would be open to gain insight and response to Gods love as the critical phase to the climatic line of salvation.

Moreover I  would challenge you to ask God to “realize” Jesus in such a way so a way to believe and trust in Him as Lord and Savior. Furthermore I would also ask for you to read the biblical scriptures as meditating on them in encountering and discovering Jesus through the wisdom literate of his sacred utterance of parables as expressing spiritual truths from natural stories of which the Holy Spirit reveals.

Lastly you can be sure and not question when you finally come to Jesus as the result will be peace not confusion or anxiety as freely receiving this gift of salvation not through the self effort of meditation, ritual or practice but by faith in trusting in Him. You may have felt as though you have failed in your Buddhism but in Christ you will have a breakthrough of victory and success.



28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”





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