How Master Xu Yun Beat the Japanese Using Meditation


Master Xu Yun (in his 103rd year of age) relates the following story in his autobiography:

During the transmission of the Precepts in the spring, a spirit which lived in a tree at the monastery came to receive them as a preceptee. Master Guan-ben, the Superintendent of the temple, recorded this unusual occurrence as follows: At the transmission of the Precepts, a monk came and asked for the Bhiksu precepts. He said that he was called Zhang, had been born in Qujiang, that he was 34, but had never found anyone to shave his head. When asked if he had come with the usual ceremonial robe and articles for the occasion, he replied that he had not. As he was frank and sincere, he was provided with all the things required and given the Dharma name of Zhang-yu. Before his turn came for the transmission, he worked hard at cleaning the temple. He was reserved and did not speak to the other monks. When he was admitted to the Vinaya Hall, he faultlessly observed the rules of discipline, but after he had received the Bodhisattva Precepts, he could not be found, so his robe and certificate of discipleship were kept in the Vinaya Hall and the incident was soon forgotten. The following year, before the transmission of the Precepts, Master Xu-yun dreamed that the monk came and asked for the certificate. Asked where he went after the transmission, he replied that he had not gone anywhere as he lived with the earth god. His certificate was then burned as an offering and thus returned to him. In the summer and autumn we repaired the nunnery of Wu-jin to receive all the nuns coming to Qujiang. Da-jian Temple had just been rebuilt, but the renovation of the Nan-hua Monastery was not yet complete. From time to time I was consulted by Gu-shan Monastery on various matters and thus kept busy all of the time. On top of all this, Japanese bombers disturbed us every day by flying over the monastery on their missions.

Note by Cen Xue-lu, Xu-yun’s Editor

After the fall of Canton to the Japanese, the provincial wartime capital was set up at Qujiang and high-ranking military leaders frequently came to the Nan-hua Monastery. The Japanese Intelligence learned that the temple was used as a meeting-place for Chinese officials. In the seventh month, when a large number gathered there, eight enemy bombers came and circled over it. The Master knew of their intention and ordered the monks to return to their dormitories. After all the guests had taken refuge in the Hall of the Sixth Patriarch, the Master went to the main hall where he burned incense and sat in meditation. A plane dived, dropping a large bomb which fell in a grove on the river bank outside the monastery without causing damage. The bombers returned and circled over it when suddenly, two of them collided and crashed to the ground at Ma-ba, some ten miles to the west. Both planes were destroyed with their pilots and gunners. Since then, the enemy planes dared not come near the monastery and always avoided flying over it on their bombing missions to the hinterland.

The Anti-Chinese Racism of Ricky Gervais (and David Brent)

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The new film David Brent: Life on the Road, is an attempt by actor Ricky Gervais to resurrection the ‘David Brent’ character that started his successful career in the ‘mockumentary’ entitled The Office (which originally ran from 2001-2003).  This apparent ‘fly on the wall’ documentary about an office and its staff, show-cased Ricky Gervais as a comedy actor through the antics of the office manager David Brent.  Brent is portrayed as an inadequate ego-maniac that has somehow risen through the ranks to a position of high authority over a substantial staff, and who ‘dominates’ and ‘belittles’ all and sundry at the point of contact, to prove to himself that he really does possess ‘authority’ over the working lives of others.  David Brent is a racist and misogynist, who continuously derides the Disabled and every concession such people require to manage their daily lives.  It is interesting that Gervais feels the need to portray his ‘Brent’ character with such intensity, and it seems to me that we might be seeing a psychodrama unfolding, whereby Gervais works through his owning inner feelings through the antics of his ‘Brent’ character.  The obvious and continuous racism in this new film is legitimised and excused through the presence on screen of the British Black actor Dom Johnson, who plays a kind of ‘side kick’ to Brent’s racism.  Gervais seems to be saying that as a long as there is a compliant Black actor alongside Brent – the racism is fine because a Black person seems to be allowing it to happen.  However, in real life, Gervais is an ardent animal rights campaigner who has backed a number of campaigns attacking China (and Chinese people) in various stereotypical and racist myth-making ways.  He continues this attack on Chinese people (as there are no Chinese people in this film, or in fact in any Gervais’s other screen outings).  In fact, Gervais (as Brent), alongside a fellow actor, twice embark upon the most appalling anti-Chinese racism that I have ever seen on British TV.  Of course, none of the press has picked-up on this ‘new’ anti-Chinese racism from Gervais, but instead fixate on his use of the ‘n’ word – legitimised by Dom Johnson.  I think the truth must be stated clearly – both the ‘real’ Ricky Gervais and ‘fictional’ David Brent are ‘anti-Chinese’, and as this racism is generally and unquestionably accepted throughout British society, it is viewed as something of a ‘politically correct’ joke to complain about it.  It is interesting to note that whilst starring as a Disabled character in the sit-com ‘Derek’, Ricky Gervais has been well-known for his anti-Disabled comments.

Parliament Street (Exeter) Narrowest Street in the World (20.8.2016)!


I first found this ‘street’ entirely by accident probably around ten (or more) years ago, and made a mental note to record its presence once I possessed the technology to do so.  This is ‘Parliament Street’ – the narrowest street in the world.  Although it is true that there are other contenders, I doubt any are as old as this street, or that the others are still used in an ad hoc manner, as this Devonshire alleyway still is.  In fact, other than a brass plaque – and a modern sign – no one pays this piece of history much notice today.  I believe Parliament Street is the oldest, narrowest, and still used thoroughfare in the world, which links the High Street to Waterbeer Street.  At its narrowest, it measures just 25″, and at its widest around 45″.  Its narrowest part is its entrance at the High Street end, whilst its widest section is its exit onto Waterbeer Street.  It is recorded as existing during the 14th century CE – when it was named ‘Small Street’.  Those who controlled the highly corrupt electoral system in Exeter were opposed to the 1832 Reform Act (designed to bring greater accountability and democracy to the voting process within established boroughs), and as an act of petty defiance, renamed ‘Small Street’ as ‘Parliament Street’, inferring that the British Parliament in London was narrow minded, out of touch, and redundant.









Master Xu Yun: A Cow takes Refuge in the Buddha


Master Xu Yun states, when in his 70th year of life (1909/10), the following in his autobiography:

‘There was another event worth recording. After my arrival at the Wan-shou (Long Life) Monastery in Tengyue, while talking with Zhang Sun-lin in the hall, a dun cow which had escaped from its owner came in and knelt down, shedding tears, shortly followed by its own Yang Sheng-chang and others. I learned that Yang was a butcher and said to the cow, ‘If you want to flee for your life, you should take refuge in the Triple Gem.’ The cow nodded and I immediately taught the animal the Triple Refuge Formula. After this I helped the cow up and it was most placid, like a human being. I took out some money which I gave to its owner who, however, refused it. He was deeply moved by what he saw, … swore that he would change his occupation and asked for his conversion to the Dharma. As he also became a vegetarian, Commander Zhang, who was deeply impressed by the man’s transformation, recommended him for work in a shop.’

(Empty Cloud: Translated by Charles Luk [1988], Page 75)

Carrying the Red Flag






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How the BBC Never Lost Sleep Over Tory-LibDem Austerity

The myth of the eight-hour sleep

The BBC is a bourgeois entity that fleeces the working class through the instigation of a State-sponsored, annual licence-fee, the money raised from which, is used to pay millions to those talentless ‘entertainers’ the BBC currently favours, or to fund politically biased news stories continuously supporting the rightwing, (fabricating stories such as a ‘massacre’ in Beijing, or that the neo-Nazi Kiev usurper government is ‘democratic’).  In 2012, the Tory-LibDem ‘Coalition’ policy of the ruthless implementation of ‘Austerity’ was underway, causing untold misery and death amongst ordinary people.  This was the year the BBC decided to publish an article suggesting that sleeping for ‘8 hours’ was a myth.  This BBC edict seems to be a cynical attempt to justify ‘Austerity’, and designed to comfort those suffering in UK from stress, worries and fear associated with the ‘cuts’.  The entirely ‘fabricated’ nature of this article is exposed by its random and reaching nature.  It draws an association between the early 1990’s work of psychiatrist Thomas Wehr (vaguely ‘medical’), and a book published in 2005, entitled ‘At Day’s Close: Night in Times Past’ by historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech (entirely ‘speculative’).  This research (if correct) appears to suggest that humans rested for around 10 hours a night, comprising of two separate blocks of 4 hours of sleep, with a gap of one or two hours in-between.  I believe that Ekirch’s assumption – (that this change of sleep habit into a single 8-hour block) was initiated by the upper classes – is completely wrong and a biased reading of history.  My view is that humans in the past may well have had radically different sleep patterns (due primarily to pre-modern survival requirements), but that ‘Industrialisation’ took ordinary people into the hellish, unnatural and intense 16 hour shifts of the factory environment, and away from the ‘natural’ rhythm of a lifestyle that was closer to nature. After industrialised, the ordinary people worked so hard (and in such appalling conditions), that they slept unnaturally long as a means to try and ‘heal’ their exploited minds and bodies, between continuous and dangerous shifts around the unregulated machinery. with no break in the monotony or intense pressure.  The upper class had no social or environmental pressure to radically alter their lives of privilege (as everyone else did their work for them).  Human sleep patterns were transformed because of a change in environmental pressures – thus signifying a shift in evolutionary habit.  An interesting aside is that the Spanish habit of ‘Siesta’ might well be a throw-back to how most people in Europe (and elsewhere) used to sleep.

Master Xu Yun: Sincere Geese Practice the Dharma


Master Xu Yun (in his 82nd year of age) relates the following story in his autobiography:

‘That year (1920/21) Upasaka Zhang Jue-xian took a pair of geese to Yun-xi Monastery to set them free.  I was asked to teach them the refuge formula and both birds bowed their heads and kept silent as if to receive it.  After that, they raised their heads and seemed to be very happy.  From then on they went with the monks to the main hall and looked at those reciting the sutras.  For three years they followed the monks when the latter walked in procession round the statues of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas; everyone in the temple liked them.

One day, the goose (i.e. the female) went to the door of the main hall, where she stood still, then walked round three times, raised her head to gaze at the statues and died, her feathers remaining lustrous when placed in a wooden box for burial.  The gander cackled ceaselessly as if he could not bear to part with his mate.  A few days later, he refused to feed and swim and then stood in front of the main hall to gaze at the statues of the Buddha, spread his wings and died; he was also placed in a small box and buried in the same place as his mate.’ 

(Empty Cloud: Translated by Charles Luk [1988], Pages 101-102)



Master Xu Yun: Purify the Mind and Body


Chinese Ch’an training involves the application of ‘moral discipline; (sila), the practice of ‘meditation’ (dhyana), and the generation of ‘profound wisdom’ (prajna).  All three attributes are required, because all tree attributes act like the legs of a three-legged stool – if one leg is missing the entire structure cannot stand.  Meditation without the prior application of moral discipline will be weak and there will be no inner strength to ‘breakthrough’ the barrier of obscuring thought that constitutes the activity of the surface mind.  Moral discipline is nothing less than the purposeful gathering of qi energy, the strengthening of essential nature (jing), and the realisation of empty spirit (shen).  Through limiting the frivolous wasting of qi energy and essential nature, a great force is built-up within the body and mind, and when meditation is used to focus this energy ‘inward’, it acts as a laser-type device fuelled by a strong concentration that literally ‘drills’ through the outer layer of obscuring thought.  The hua tou brings this gathered energy to a very sharp point that ‘cuts’ through all delusive thinking.  However, if the chain of events is logically reversed to its beginning, it is obvious that if there is no moral discipline, then qi energy will continue to be wasted and essential nature (jing) diminished.  Health will continue to be poor and the mind confused.  Life is shortened when the inner energies are squandered in this manner.  The Vinaya Discipline acts as a restraining and focusing device that fits-in exactly with the teaching of traditional Chinese medicine, and the various Daoist Schools.  The behaviour of the body must be channelled into a mode of action that directs the inner energies away from involvement with, and attachment to, the external world.  Without this behavioural modification, a strong and deep meditation cannot be established.  If a sound meditation cannot be established, then the empty mind ground will not be released and ‘prajna’ (profound wisdom) will not be activated. If the body is allowed to do as it wants, then the mind will be full of dualistic desire and incorrect thoughts.  This can lead to all kinds of distortions with regards to the understanding of the Dharma.  Moral discipline is not associated with a god or some other divine entity, and does not offer a reward in some remote and far-off ‘heaven’, but rather signifies the logical application of ‘cause’ and ‘effect’ here and now, in this very existence.  This is the path of self-effort and self-regulation through behaviour modification and psychological transformation.  The behaviour of the body is ‘stilled’ on the physical plane so that the activity of the mind can be ‘stilled’ on the psychological plane.  Stilling the mind and body is the application of taking control of the inner energy and directing it appropriately.  Just as the body comes under control, so does the mind.  Once the mind is under control (and ‘stilled’), further and more indepth meditative training can then be successfully applied.  Stilling the mind and body through moral restraint, is the doorway to realising the empty mind ground, and when the body is suitably restrained, the karmic-producing volition in the mind also comes to an end and is broken forever.  From this position of mirror-like ‘stillness’, the empty mind ground can be thoroughly realised.  Master Xu Yun states that part of disciplining the mind and body is to carry-out the ten good acts in the physical world which can be defined as:

Freely giving and sharing

Moral restraint

Practising meditation

Respect for all beings

Selflessly helping others

Sharing karmic merit with others

Rejoicing in the merits of others

Correctly Teaching the Dhamma

Listening to the Dhamma

Straightening one’s Dharmic understanding


Master Xu Yun: Dull Emptiness is Not Enlightenment

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The Ch’an method of ‘stilling’ the mind signifies an important psycho-physical breakthrough in the practice of seated meditation.  Meditative effort builds-up an ‘inner strength’ or ‘potentiality’, that has the power to permanently shift the substance and functionality of the mind.  This means that the Ch’an practitioner experiences a ‘shift’ in conscious awareness that is simultaneously both ‘subjective’ and ‘objective’ in its scope.  Although obviously a subjective experience unique to the practitioner involved in its attainment, such an advanced attainment is also objective in the sense that the mind (and body) re-engages the world in an entirely different and ‘new’ manner that is easily discernible to all and sundry, although any enlightened being can choose to ‘hide’ such an attainment from prying eyes.  Stilling the mind is a vital first step that proves the efficacy of the Ch’an method and the wisdom of the Chinese Ch’an masters, but in and of itself, merely ‘stilling’ the mind is not full enlightenment in the Chinese Ch’an School, but rather an important precursor.  Why do many people believe that ‘stilling’ the mind is enlightenment?  It is because the experience of a mind that has ‘stopped’ its incessant and deluded surface activity is not only a joy to experience, but is usually accompanied by an attendant sense of ‘bliss’.  Although the bliss may pass, as the mind (within the confines of the skull) is ‘empty’ of any discursive movement, it is assumed to be ‘enlightened’, but this is not correct.  Although an ‘empty’ mind (that is not yet expansive) maybe considered a form of (relative) enlightenment in the so-called ‘Hinayana’ School (i.e. ‘Lessor Vehicle’), within the Mahayana Ch’an School a further stage of training is called for.  Stilling the mind leads to an awareness of a ‘dull’ emptiness that is not expansive or all-inclusive of the environment and everything existing within it.  In Ch’an terms, this is referred to ‘sitting atop the hundred foot pole’, and is an analogy used regularly by Master Xu Yun (1840-1959).  Sitting on a high structure is precarious for an individual, because there is the ever-present danger of ‘falling off’.  In such a situation, the practitioner responds by ‘gripping’ ever more tightly to the structure, and will not let go.  This is an ‘attachment’ to a lesser state of attainment, an attachment which prevents further progression into the true realms of Ch’an enlightenment.  Furthermore, the notion that one is sat ‘atop’ a hundred foot pole is nothing but an illusion.  It is the last ‘inverted’ hang-out of a deluded ego that is desperately trying to retain its hold on the mind.  Although often experienced as ‘exalted’, there is still a subtle ‘subjective’ observer of an ‘objective’ state, with no integration of either aspect of perception.  Giving-up this delusion is like taking a plunge off a high cliff and needs tremendous courage.  However, as soon as the ‘plunge’ is taken, all fear instantly disappears as the illusion dissolves.  When such action is successfully taken, the dull emptiness in the mind (limited to within the skull) gives way to a pristine awareness that ‘expands’ beyond the confines of the skull, and becomes all-embracing (and reflective) of the entire environment.  However, even if this sublime and advanced state is realised, further ‘purifying’ training is required to ‘uproot’ the subtle traces of greed, hatred and delusion that may still exist deep within the psychic fabric of the mind.  Master Xu Yun describes this like a bucket of muddy water that is allowed to ‘settle’ so that the water appears to become ‘clear’ whilst the mud ‘drops’ to the bottom.  However, if the bucket is given a shake, all the mud simply spreads throughout the water again, creating impurity where there was once clarity.  Through the use of the hua tou method, Master Xu Yun advocates a dedicated practice that sees this mud of delusion slowly (or sometimes ‘suddenly’) cleared out of the water.  The water symbolises the empty mind ground that is also the Dharmakaya and the true self nature.  If the water is ruffled and deluded elements are present, then the ‘empty’ nature of the mind that perceives (and reflects) the world is permanently obscured and all is unclear.  Master Xu Yun (like all true Ch’an masters) advocates a continuous effort that does not settle for small advances, or mistakes subtle delusion for profound enlightenment.

Breaking Through at the Point of Contact


All legitimate Chinese Ch’an practitioners access the empty mind ground from varying socio-economic conditions that boil down to two distinct positions in life; either that of a lay-person or that of a monastic.  Both lay and monastic practitioners are both ‘Bodhisattvas’, of course, but a Bodhisattva can be a lay-person, a monastic, or a man or woman, etc.  Within Chinese Ch’an Buddhism, lay and monastic Bodhisattvas follow the Vinaya Discipline to various degrees, as well as the Bodhisattva Vows.  The Bodhisattva Vows mirror the commitment and severity of the Vinaya Discipline, but whereas the Vinaya Discipline focuses on the enlightenment of the individual practitioner, the Bodhisattva Vows focus on the enlightenment of all other beings – together, both sets of rules form a perfect emphasis of all round self-cultivation, and this explains why Chinese Ch’an monks must take both the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows during the ritual that governs the process of transition from the condition of laity to that of Buddhist monastic.  However, there is one vital difference between the Vinaya Discipline and the Bodhisattva Vows, namely in that the Vinaya Discipline demands an end to all sexual activity in the mind and body, so that the agency of ‘desire’ is thoroughly and fully uprooted and not expressed in any way (either subtly or grossly) in thought, speech or behaviour.  The Bodhisattva Vows, by way of contrast, do not demand this commitment to celibacy, and can, therefore, be followed by the laity without any interruption to their normal activities within ordinary society.  The enlightened lay people Vimalakirti and Pang Yun (together with his wife and children) are prime examples of Bodhisattvas who realised complete enlightenment, despite not having followed a path of strict celibacy.  However, within the Chinese Ch’an tradition, a ‘Bodhisattva Monk’ is not a lay-person who follows the Bodhisattva Vows, but is rather a Buddhist monastic who fully adheres to the Vinaya Discipline, and who has further taken the Bodhisattva Vows as a supplement to his or her Dharma practice.  Obviously a lay-person is not a ‘monk’ because they have not undergone the transition ritual that manoeuvres them from the desire-ridden condition of lay-existence, into that of the ‘pure’ condition of the Vinaya Discipline.  This fact is true regardless as to whether the Bodhisattva Vows have been taken or not.  Therefore, a layperson who considers themselves a ‘monk’ is suffering from the delusion of misrepresentation, and is not pursuing the correct Dharma.  This is exactly the same as an ordained monastic considering themselves a lay-person, which is no less delusional.  In the West, this distinction is of fundamental importance because of the spread of a form of distorted Japanese Zen Buddhism (conveyed by Japanese War Criminals), that deviates from legitimate Zen as practised in Japan by many orthodox sects, and which certainly has no relation or connection to Chinese Ch’an Buddhism.  If Westerners cannot get this basic foundation correct, then they are not practising authentic Chinese Ch’an Buddhism as practised within Mainland China.  This problem of misrepresentation of Chinese Ch’an Buddhism extends to many Ch’an sects in Taiwan, that have been historically influenced by the fifty-year colonial presence of the imperial Japanese, who ruled the island from 1895-1945.  This dominance included the eradication of ‘Chinese’ cultural influence, and its replacement with Japanese nationalist culture.  Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) often stated that the pursuance of the ‘Way’ depended entirely upon the possession of ‘correct’ or ‘authentic’ knowledge and guidance.  Without this authentic knowledge that distinguishes between the ‘false’ and the ‘true’, no progression can take place, and the stream of thought that obscures the empty mind ground, cannot be broken-through.  All the rest of it then just becomes a matter of the ego arguing with itself in a delusional game of winning popularity from others who are equally mistaken.  If the presence of correct knowledge disturbs the mind that encounters it, then that mind is delusional.  If a mind is ‘freed’ when it encounters correct knowledge, then that mind is enlightened.  It is not the correct knowledge that is the problem, but the response of the delusional conditioning of the mind that has not been properly disciplined in even the most basic of Ch’an technique.  The deluded mind will always respond with anger and hatred toward that which will uproot its very angst.  It is this angst that must be ‘seen through’ if enlightenment is to be achieved, and any mind can have its inverted functionality remedied, given the presence of good and authentic instruction.

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