Master Zhao Bichen (1860-1942) – Daoist Immortal.

Master Zhao Bichen (趙避塵) also known as Zhao Yizi (趙一子) was a much renowned practitioner of ‘neidan’ (内丹) – a term which literally translates into English as ‘internal medicine’, with the word ‘dan’ (丹) actually referring to a ‘red’ medicinal powder or ointment – or more specifically a ‘red pill’ (cinnabar).  Within the context it refers to the practice of ‘internal developmental medicine’ and as a consequence, is often rendered into English as Daoist ‘alchemy’ or ‘yoga’.  The practices themselves are designed to transform the inner mind and body so that a calm expansive (and permanently restorative) awareness permeates the physical body and transforms it at the cellular level.  Such an achievement is referred to as the attainment of ‘immortality’ – which is the eventual objective of all Daoist paths regardless of the differences and peculiarities of each lineage or school.  The term ‘immortality’ is pronounced ‘xian’ (仙) and is written as a person living on a mountain.  However, exactly the same word (xian1) can be written using ‘僊’, which depicts a person in the act of climbing – literally ascending through effort.  Collectively these two ideograms refer both to the specific act or practice of internal development (neidan), and the achievement of the highest Daoist objective, which is the acquisition of spiritual and physical immortality (xian).  Immortality is often equated with longevity or the act of living a very long physical existence before transforming into a purely spiritual essence at the point of death of the human body.  Death in this instance is conquered as the dying process is transformed into a facility for the refinement of the ‘qi’ energy frequency, or ‘vital force’ (associated with the breath) which defines existence.  For the Immortal, death is not the end of existence, but merely a means of ascending to a higher plane of being.  In the popular imagination, however, the concept of immortality has often been taken literally and interpreted to refer to the notion of the attainment of a permanent physical existence.  This viewpoint, although acknowledging a certain spiritual aspect to the attainment of immortality, nevertheless, tends to limit the notion to purely physical attainment.  This viewpoint that defines immortality as the attainment of the state of a permanent, physical longevity, is inspired in-part by the fact that many Daoist masters lived to a very old age, still able to perform impressive physical and spiritual feats in the process.  It is clear, however, from the study of Daoist literature that the concept of ‘immortality’, although often hidden, or obscured within an array of bewildering instructional metaphor and allegory, is actually referring to an inner process of spiritual development that transforms the mind and body through breath control, visualisation, physical exercise, and the imbuing of specific medicinal compounds.  Daoist practices can emphasis the use of the body, but only in relation to the perfection of the mind.  The body is never exclusively trained without the mind being taken into account.  Indeed, the wisdom that defines the structure of Daoist philosophy and practice originates within the mind itself, a mind that has been fully realised, and therefore transformed into a profound wisdom.  For the accomplished immortal, the mind and body are transformed into a state of ‘oneness’, whilst for the ordinary being who has not been through the ‘neidan’ process of cultivation, the mind and body appear separate and distinct.  From the unenlightened position, an immortal appears to live a very long time, but for the immortal, time and space in the conventional sense, no longer has any meaning.  The refinement of qi is so precise and subtle that the immortal’s mind and body appears to give rise to all sorts of miraculous feats.  Popular literature has tended to focus upon these miraculous feats at the expense of the intricacies of the neidan practice itself.  The state of immortality is the realisation of enlightenment itself – with apparently miraculous feats, (such as long life), being merely expedient by-products of this state.  In this respect, the cultivation of Daoist immortality does not go beyond the correct cultivation of vitality and spirit.

Zhao Bichen is a name that means ‘Zhao Avoid Dust’ – with ‘Zhao’ being an old Chinese family name that implies a ‘man who walks’.  In Western literature, two of Zhao’s Daoist texts have been translated;

Weisheng shengli xue mingzhi (衛生生理學明指

‘Clear Explanations of Hygiene and Physiology’ – translated in 1979 by the French academic Catherine Despeux.  This carries the French title of ‘Traité d’alchimie et de physiologie taoïste.’

Xingming fajue mingzhi (性命法訣明旨

‘The Secret Cultivation of Essential Nature and Eternal Life’ – translated in 1970 by Charles Luk, and published in English as ‘Taoist Yoga.’

Zhao Bichen was born in 1860, the penultimate year of the Emperor Qing Xianfeng’s reign (1850-1861), a reign that saw the Qing Dynasty beset on all sides by destructive forces.  Internal rebellions broke out and were eventually defeated (at a terrible cost in lives), at the same time as pressure from Western imperialist forces came to bear from the outside.  The Second Opium War culminated with British and French armies entering Beijing toward the end of 1860, killing, burning and looting as they did so.  Prior to this event, the Western forces had inflicted serious military defeats upon the Qing (and Mongolian) forces, rendering China helpless in the face of further aggression. Beijing was thrown into chaos and the imperial family fled for their lives.  It was against this backdrop that Zhao Bichen was born in Yangfang Town, Changping County, situated in the suburbs northwest of Beijing.   His father was called Zhao Yong-Kuan, and his mother was called Meng Shengzhen.  When young, he expressed a deep appreciation of martial arts and Daoist style exercises such as Dao-fa jia-gong (道法家功), and Dao-jia xing-ming (道家性命).  This training ensured a balanced development of both external and internal qigong cultivation, creating a tough and yet flexible physical body, and an inner body of optimum biological functioning.  With this firm foundation, Zhao was able to focus his mind in meditation and realise the state of emptiness.  Daoist teachings are very diverse; they are also usually very distinguishable from the teachings of Buddhism.  However, Zhao Bichen was originally from the Wu Liu School (伍柳派) founded around 1644.  This school was founded by the Daoist Wu Chung-xu, and the former Ch’an Buddhist monk, Liu Hua-yang.  Wu Chung-xu had previously trained in the Dragon Gate School (Longmenpai), which was itself a sub-branch of the Complete Reality School (Quanzhenpai), whilst Liu had become disaffected with the austere monastic lifestyle associated with Ch’an Buddhist practice, favouring instead a more natural approach to self-cultivation.  However, Liu was initiated into the school by master Wu and attested that Buddhist Ch’an meditation (upon emptiness), correlated exactly with the primordial essence of Daoist cultivation.  Both methods sought a unifying and all embracing, underlying reality through disciplining the body and focusing the mind.  Wu and Liu agreed that Buddhism and Daoism are paths that seek the same reality, and this agreement led to the formation of the Wu Liu School – which is referred to as a ‘xianfo’ path, or a path of Immortals and Buddhas.  The Wu Liu School draws on the teachings of all Daoist schools and specific Buddhist texts such as the Diamond Sutra, the Surangama Sutra, and the Hua Yen Sutra – all prominent Mahayana discourses, routinely found within Ch’an communities.  The Wu Liu also advocates the study of Confucian texts from a Daoist perspective.  This school emphasises an ‘earlier divine sky’ (xian tian) method, which through cultivation (neidan), dissolves ‘essence’ (jing) into earlier divine sky vital force (qi); earlier divine sky vital force into ‘spirit’ (shen), spirit into emptiness and unity, and emptiness and unity into Dao.  The Wu Liu School of Daoism may be viewed correctly as eclectic in approach, but ‘exact’ in instruction.  It manages to integrate not only the diverse Daoist schools, but also the other Chinese religions of Buddhism and Confucianism.  It is a Broad Way (Da Dao), through which all can pass, and is the product of a particular kind of Chinese spiritual ingenuity. Zhao Bichen, after absorbing the teachings and experiences of this school, developed his understanding through a spiritual expression that came to be considered a sub-branch of the Wu Liu School.  This school – with Zhao Bichen as its founder – is known today as the ‘Qianfeng Xian Tian Pai’ (千峰仙天派), or the ‘Thousand-peaks Earlier Divine Sky School.’  In essence this refers to the actual realisation of a primordial substance that underlies all things – including ‘emptiness’.  The ‘earlier divine sky’ concept refers to the notion that spirituality and creativity, (indeed, all of life itself) emanates from a divine substance that is posited to exist in an upward direction, i.e. toward the sky.  In the old days, early Chinese cultures used divining methods that involved burning and smoke – the smoke rose toward the sky – where external divine entities such as ‘di’ and ‘tian’ where thought to reside.  It is also the direction that the ancestral spirits are believed to exist – accessed through correct religious ritual (Confucianism).  Within Daoism, these divine creative forces are viewed as existing not only as an external entity – throughout the broad sky, but also within the mind of each human being.  This external broad divinity is inwardly realisable through the correct cultivation methods and suggests that ‘mind’ and ‘physical matter’ are actually at one in essence, but appear to be separate in the undeveloped, non-immortal state.  The ‘earlier divine sky’ concept refers to the time just before the all things are manifest – it is a state unsullied by the manifestation of the diversity of life.  Multitudinous creation obscures its presence, but does not destroy it.  It can be re-discovered through the cultivation of the mind itself.  The broad expanse of the physical sky becomes the realised all-embracing oneness of the immortal mind freed from the distraction of incorrect paths that waste qi and scatter the mind’s awareness.  Within the Book of Changes (Yijing), the first hexagram is called ‘Divine Sky’ (Qian).  It is comprised of six solid yang lines and denotes out and out creativity.  When the six solid lines transform into six broken lines, the second hexagram ‘kun’ is formed.  This hexagram is interpreted as meaning ‘receptive’, ‘supportive’ and ‘bearing’, and takes this meaning from the broad earth itself, which has the ability to support all things.  In this way it is obvious to understand how the ‘divine sky’ can give rise to the ‘supporting earth.’  The spirit ‘shen’ equates with the principle of the ‘divine sky’.  Jing (the receptive earth), is the physical matter that comprises the world, which arises within shen.  Qi is the animating vital force that flows through shen and jing – in this regard it unites that which is above, with that which is below.  Energy flowing efficiently through both spirit and matter ensures a certain long life and the ability to perform unusual physical feats of endurance and strength.  Many ordinary Daoist qigong exercises perfect this type of practice.  However, these attainments of efficient qi manipulation are not the attainment of true immortality as envisioned by either the Wu Liu or Zhao Bichen’s Xian Tian School.  Regardless of the physical cultivation that is pursued and mastered, the attainment of immortality must be achieved through the focus of the mind itself, so that shen (spirit), Jing (essence), and qi (energy) are returned to their empty essence, and that this empty essence is returned to the pristine state of Dao.  In this context, the pristine Dao underlies all things without contradiction, but its realisation ‘here and now’, is dependent upon effective cultivation (neidan) techniques and good guidance.

The teachings of Zhao Bichen – as translated by Charles Luk in ‘Taoist Yoga’ – make very interesting reading.  Zhao records that he had two teachers – master Liao Jan and master Liao Kung.  The manual itself – ‘The Secret Cultivation of Essential Nature and Eternal Life’ – reads as a list of instructions from these masters, organised into logical and relevant sections, together with longer explanatory passages compiled by Zhao himself, exhibiting the wisdom and experience he has gained from a lifetime of Daoist practice.  Zhao’s explanations about the practice of meditation appear very ‘Buddhistic’ in nature, whilst also containing many technical Daoist terms.  For instance:

“My masters Liao Jan and Liao Kung once said:  ‘When beginning to cultivate (essential) nature and (eternal) life, it is necessary first to develop nature.’  Before sitting in meditation, it is important to put an end to all rising thoughts and to loosen garments and belt to relax the body and avoid interfering with the free circulation of blood.  After sitting the body should be (senseless) like a log and the heart (mind) unstirred like cold ashes.  The eyes should look down and fix on the tip of the nose with one’s attention concentrated on the spot between them; and in time the light of vitality will manifest.  This is the best way to get rid of all thoughts at the start when preparing the elixir of immortality.

When the heart (mind) is settled, one should restrain the faculty of seeing, check that of hearing, touch the palate with the tip of the tongue and regulate the breathing through the nostrils.  If the breathing is not regulated one will be troubled by gasping or laboured breaths.  When breathing is well controlled, one will forget all about the body and heart (mind).  Thus stripped of feelings and passions one will look like a stupid man.”   (Taoist Yoga – Page 1)

Once beyond the initial barrier of potentially bewildering terminology, Zhao Bichen’s approach involves the cultivation of awareness throughout the ‘inside’ of the body, together with an actual awareness of qi as it is distributed throughout the system.  In this respect, the inside of the body is perceived (through meditation) as a number of cavities, or vacuous spaces.  The breathing mechanism maintains the inflating and deflating of these cavities with qi.  Awareness becomes so subtle that even the smallest of movements within the body is clearly sensed.  The qi passes around the body through the action of the inward breath and the outward breath, travelling with the blood through the arteries and veins.  Qi also travels simultaneously around and beyond the arteries and veins, and can not be limited to their physical structures.  In the Introduction (pages xiii-xiv), Charles Luk says:

‘When the generative force moves to obey its worldly inclination, the purpose of regulating the breathing is to draw the force up to the lower tan tien in the lower tan tien cavity under the navel so as to hold it there and transmute it into an alchemical agent which is transformed into vitality in the solar plexus.  Thus the lower tan tien in the lower abdomen plays the role of a burning stove supporting cauldron which contains the generative force ready for subsequent ascension to the solar plexus.

After being purified the generative force is carried in the microcosmic orbit to the solar plexus, called the middle tan tien, which becomes the middle cauldron and is scorched by the burning stove in the lower tan tien under the navel.  It is in the solar plexus that the generative force (now the alchemical agent) is transmuted into vitality which rises to the brain (ni wan) where the vital breath, hitherto hidden and dormant, will be stirred by well regulated breathing which will prevent it from dispersing.  The precious cauldron has now manifested in the brain (ni wan) whereas the burning stove remains in the lower tan tien under the navel.

So while the stove remains in the lower abdomen during the whole process of alchemy, the cauldron changes place rising from the lower tan tien under the navel to the middle tan tien or solar plexus, and finally to the upper tan tien in the brain where it is called the precious cauldron.  In other words, the lower tan tien plays the role of primary cauldron which contains the generative force at the start of the process of alchemy.  When the generative force is cleansed and purified during the microcosmic orbiting and becomes the alchemical agent, it rises to the solar plexus which then plays the role of the middle cauldron in which the generative force is transmuted into vitality.  When vitality is purified it rises to the ni wan or brain which then becomes the precious cauldron in which means the cavity or psychic centre in which transmutation actually takes place.’ 

Qi cultivation occurs in an upward manner, with each ascending energy centre being fully activated and opened, with each level of attainment represented by an actual conscious level of development within the mind, until mind and body cease to be two distinct and different entities.  Daoist ‘neidan’ culture is a journey into the realisation of ‘oneness’ and beyond.  The state of viewing the world through non-Immortal eyes is a product of qi energy not flowing freely through the body and the world.  Qi blockages create the state of physical mortality – where the mind – although appearing separate and distinct from the body, nevertheless relates fully to the substance of the body itself, and thus ensures a purely materialist view of reality.  As the physical body dies – so does the mind that is attached to it.  This is the mind of the ‘small person’ (xiao ren) found throughout the Book of Changes.  The true mind remains undiscovered in this state and a human lifetime is wasted.  Daoist neidan cultivation dissolves this small and petty mind so that the true mind can shine through.  In this state, the body and physical world is perceived as appearing within the mind essence itself, and although everything is distinctive and has its own unique place in the scheme of life, an underlying unity holds it all together.  In the Immortal state, the Dao is in everything and everything is within the Dao.  Bearing in mind that Zhao Bichen’s school is also known as ‘xianfo’ – Immortals and Buddhas – it is no surprise to find a very close relation between the state of Immortality and the state of Buddhahood, indeed, they are considered one and the same.  Zhao’s scheme is similar to that of the Ch’an Buddhist School, this is how Zhao’s teachers explain the ‘void’ (Taoist Yoga – Pages 2-3):

‘Question: ‘When I was taught to meditate I was urged to empty my heart (the house of fire) of all thoughts, set my mind on cultivating (essential) nature and open my eyes to contemplate the void to accord with the correct way; will you please explain all this to me?

Answer: ‘Seeing the void as not empty is right and seeing the void as empty is wrong, for failure to return to the (tsu chiao) centre (which is empty) prevents the light of vitality from manifesting.  Under the heart and above the genital organ is an empty space where spiritual vitality manifests to form a cavity.  When spirit and vitality return to this cavity, spiritual vitality will soar up to form a circle (of light) which is not void.  Voidness which does not radiate is relative but voidness which radiates is absolute.  Absolute voidness is not empty like relative voidness.  Voidness that is not empty is spiritual light which is spirit-vitality that springs from the yellow hall centre (huang ting or middle tan tien, in the solar plexus).

My master Liao Kung said: “When the golden mechanism (of alchemy) begins to move and gives out flashes of light that hall of voidness (hsu shih, i.e. the heart devoid of feelings and passions) will be illuminated by a white light which reveals the mysterious gate (hsuan kuan), the presence of which does but mean emptiness.

Man lives and dies because of this immaterial spirit-vitality; he lives when it is present and dies when it scatters.  Hence it is said: “Spirit without vitality does not make a man live; and vitality without spirit does not cause him to die.”  Prenatal spirit in the heart is nature and prenatal vitality in the lower abdomen is life; only when spirit and vitality unite can real achievement be made.’     

The use of roundel imagery has existed in China for thousands of years.  Originally this may have referred to phases of the moon which are depicted using roundels of shaded and unshaded areas.  Eventually, this kind of symbolism evolved into the theoretical representation of philosophical notions such as yang and yin, or light and its absence, and in-turn were modified to represent stages of meditational development within both Daoism and Ch’an Buddhism.  For instance, the Cao-Dong School of Ch’an use the following roundel arrangement to describe the stages of insight acquisition:

Zhao Bichen, fully accepting the Buddhist schematic of the three worlds of sense desire, form, and beyond form, represents these worlds with the following roundel arrangement:

Charles Luk received instruction in Qianfeng Xiantian Daoism, either directly from Zhao Bichen himself, or one of his students.  He chose to translate Zhao’s manual because although it is most definitely Daoist in flavour, it borrows so much imagery and terminology from Ch’an Buddhism that its teachings are generally understandable to those following the Ch’an path.  Indeed, the Daoist instruction regarding the void is so precise that any Buddhist would benefit from reading it.  Furthermore, Zhao and his teachers carefully acknowledge all the different stage of experience within meditation, whereas a Ch’an master would simply instruct the student to ‘lay it all down’.  It is not that one method is better or worse than the other, but rather that both methods are useful.  The Ch’an master is always taking the student directly to enlightenment and gives no attention to the experiences along the way which are temporary and passing.  However, this does not mean that they are of no actual use.  The Daoist master carefully points them out for the student so that they form definite sign posts toward the goal of the attainment of Immortality.  Zhao Bichen’s Daoist equates the acquisition of the all-embracing emptiness that contains all things, with the state of Immortality.  This means that for this school of Daoism, its ideal of Immortality is exactly the same as the Ch’an definition of enlightenment.  Dualism is transcended and the true nature of reality is achieved.

The picture at the top of this article is of Zhao Bichen.  In the early 2000’s, Richard Hunn was trawling through endless Japanese language religious journals seeking out important information when he came across this photograph.  It is a cropped version of the only known photograph of Zhao Bichen which was taken around 1933.  The original picture is this:

Master Zhao Bichen left his body in 1942 – a time when fighting between Chinese forces and invading Japanese troops was very bitter.  However, his lineage has survived down to the present time in China and outside of it. As well as the two translations of his work referenced above, Vincent Goossaert‘s book entitled ‘The Taoists of Peking, 1800–1949 – A Social History of Urban Clerics’ devotes an entire chapter to Zhao Bichen – referring to him as a ‘new’ kind of master.  On the internet there is much Chinese language content devoted to Zhao Bichen, but by and large this is often of a very generic nature.   However, a very good Chinese language website for the Qianfeng Xiantian School is

Qian Feng = http://www.qianfeng.org/News/qfyl.asp?ID=138

An excellent English language site for Wu Liu Daoism is:

The Great Tao Golden Elixir School = http://all-dao.com/

The authentic teachings of master Zhao Bichen are preserved at this link:

Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study – www.chan-forum.org

Richard Hunn (1949-2006) – British Sinologist.

Master Xu Yun lived into his 120th year, and his lay disciple Charles Luk was in his 80th year when he passed away.  Richard Hunn, the Ch’an student of Charles Luk lived into his 57th year before he was struck down with cancer.  He was diagnosed in August 2005 with cancer of the pancreas, liver and lungs.  He was told that he had less than three months to live and that chemotherapy might be able to give him a few more weeks.  In the evening following this shattering news, Richard Hunn telephoned me fromKyoto,Japan and we spoke for over three hours.  This conversation took place between 12 midnight and 3am British Summer Time (BST).  He said, in a matter of fact manner, that things were growing in him that should not be growing.  The conversation was spacious and all pervading, Richard calmly did most of the talking, discussing both the correct and false Ch’an teaching – and stressing the importance of his teacher’s (Charles Luk) translation work, and the authentic presence of master Xu Yun through its words.   This was further contextualised through the statement that the true Dharma was the emanation of the Buddha himself, and that corrupt paths that spread false Ch’an should be avoided, but that those who perpetuate such error should be treated with compassion and kindness, as this example will eventually lead such people to the straight path.  He talked at length about the requirement to always apply the Ch’an method from the Mind Ground without fear or discrimination.  Although the Chinese tradition of ‘lineage’ was important, and recognising the fact that the historical Ch’an lineage of Charles Luk could be traced back to the Buddha himself, nevertheless, the concept of ‘lineage’ existed only within the mind and should not be emphasised over the more important development of the mind itself.  The realisation of the Mind Ground is the only real lineage – and as this does not exist in conventional time and space – the concept of lineage itself is ultimately ‘empty’ of any profound meaning.  In the year or so preceding this time, Richard had been mentioning that his stamina was not what it use to be, and that he would get tired at unexpected moments.  One such time involved Richard when he was participating in his weekly Kyudo practice (Japanese traditional archery) – one moment he was able to draw the bow with vigour, the next moment his physical strength failed.  The transition from a reasonably fit man to that of a person experiencing the beginnings of a terminal illness was that stark.  Apparently some Japanese people described him as having ‘old eyes’ at this time.  In August 2005, Richard was given just three months to live.  He did start Chemotherapy, but he also began extensive qigong exercises, prolonged meditation and acupuncture as means to assist the body and prepare the mind.  As matters transpired the combination of old and new medical methods extended his life by another 14 valuable months – time that Richard used to good effect getting his affairs into order.  Throughout this time his physical condition deteriorated rapidly in distinct stages.  With the experience of every deterioration, Richard would stabilise for a month or two, before experiencing the next debilitating stage.  His mind held the dying process together, despite the many difficult things the body had to endure.  The physical pain and suffering was immense at times, and the terrible effects of such a demise should not be down played – parts of the dying process from illnesses such as this might be better described as ‘horrific’, but Richard refused to identify with the dying body itself, instead he said that he was grateful for its existence and that it had served his purposes well.  The form and void ever intermingled in his words.  Behind the drama of the situation that unfolded, his mind stayed clear and bright throughout the experience.  He passed away sat-up in aKyoto hospital bed.   Richard Hunn was an enlightened Ch’an master whose life touched many people.  The point contained in the manner of the ending of his life serves to demonstrate that the ‘extraordinary’ is very much a part of the ‘ordinary’.

It may seem strange to begin an article about one’s Ch’an teacher with a description of the end of his life, but Ch’an master Ta Kuan (1543-1604) once commented that if you want to know the true spiritual attainment of another being, watch the manner with which they pass away – at such times nothing can be hidden.  The end of a life is often a demonstration of that life itself.  There was a great spiritual lesson in Richard Hunn’s passing but few actually witnessed it for themselves.  This example lives on through the words used to express it in writing.  It is certainly not a matter of blind faith, or indeed an ‘other worldly ’explanation that is required to explain these events, but rather an appreciation of the absolute ‘ordinariness’ of the enlightened mind itself.  It is mundanity seen clearly, but through a vision that wipes all discrimination away in an instant.  The ordinary is the extraordinary when seen clearly.  Ch’an is harsh to the ego because it sees right through, to the empty Mind Ground.  Its insight does not let the ego’s delusion dominate for a single instant.  Ch’an is harsh toward the ego due to the directness of its vision.  False Ch’an, of course, mistakes the ego for the Mind Ground and absolutely nothing changes as a result, accept that ignorance now thinks itself enlightened.  Suffering beyond words exists in the world of red dust.  Richard told how Charles Luk described the beating of Xu Yun by the Red Guards (when he was well over 100 hundred years old), when translating from the original Chinese text in vivid detail, but how some of the injuries were so appalling that Charles left them untranslated.  One such detail describes how the Venerable Xu Yun’s teeth were broken and knocked out of the gum by kicks, punches and blows from blunt weapons.  Despite the numerous internal injuries and bleeding from his private parts, Xu Yun stabilised his body (through meditation) and managed to heal many of the injuries.  This example inspired Richard Hunn throughout the duration of his illness, comparing Xu Yun’s example to the emaciated Buddha’s ‘smile of unbearable compassion’.  The unbearable is endured by seeing through to its empty essence whilst fully in the midst of experiencing the suffering – there is no denial or hiding from the reality itself.  False Ch’an sets up distinctions between this and that – its practitioners talk about transcendence as a theory, or some far off distant attribute or ambition.  The directness of realisation is lacking in their rhetoric and their inability reduces their practice to the mere collection of lists of empty and pointless facts about Ch’an.  Students are misled due to the endless stream of deluded nonsense, because they can not distinguish authenticity from fiction.  False Ch’an sets up barbs designed to catch the unexpecting and is designed to pull the student into the ego mind of the group leader who has assumed the mantle of ‘teacher’.  It is a seductive process that completely undermines the entire purpose of the Buddha’s Ch’an.  It is existent within the environment here and now and its effects should be guarded against.  In this regard Richard Hunn did not see his role as ‘inventing’ any thing new, but agreed with the Confucius when he described his role merely as a conveyor of tradition.  Richard benefitted fully from master Xu Yun’s teaching as directly taught to him by his Ch’an teacher Charles Luk, and through his translations – and it is this wisdom that he conveyed to the next generation.  His role, up until the end of his life, was that of a facilitator of reliable Ch’an knowledge and wisdom.  He did not distinguish between East and West, although he was at home in both cultures.  He disagreed that Buddhism can be made ‘Western’, but asserted that Buddhism, defined as the actual experience enlightenment, could not realistically be limited to the term ‘Eastern’ – as the experience of the Mind Ground is the same for everyone regardless of their expedient ethnicity.  The Buddha had taught that if others tried to understand him through his physical appearance and presence, they would not understand him at all.  It is only through his teachings (Dharma) that he could be understood, and in no other way.  The Buddha’s enlightenment is a unique event in human history, and is essentially ‘ahistorical’ in nature.  It can not be measured or judged by the deluded mind that it transcends.  The assertion that Buddhism can be any thing other than an experience of ‘here and now’ is the product of the deepest delusion that leads many into the abyss of wearing robes designed in Asia, having a shaven head and a Sanskrit name, whilst simultaneously denying the validity of ‘Asian’ spiritual thinking in the West, replacing the Buddha’s teachings with the dead ash of materialism.  The point is that all culture is suitable for the time and place it manifests and in today’s multicultural world cultures readily mix and merge at regular intervals.  Indian Buddhism has spread throughout the world, adapting within many cultures as it has taken root.  There is a marked difference between an adaptation process that sees the original ethnic Buddhist culture respected as it is integrated with, and the wanton destruction of that distinctiveness by movements that feel an attachment to a racial, ethnic or nationalist identity that has no place in Buddhist thought, whilst merely mimicking its Asian outer form.  Richard Hunn believed that enlightenment has no definite outer culture and that Buddhas have appeared throughout history – including Greek thinkers like Socrates, Plato and Plotinus, etc.  The outer garb of their appearance is of no interest, and to decide that one particular outer garb should be substituted for another is an exercise in pure folly.  Plotinus, like the Buddha, cared little for his own outer form.  In one of his letters, Richard mention that the ‘immutable’ is the same for Hui Neng as it was for Henry VIII.  Buddhism can not be ‘Western’ because it has never been ‘Eastern’, regardless of its geographical origination.

Richard Hunn kept an eye on the political situation in the UK and the world.  One of his heroes was Ch’an master Dahui (1089–1163).  Not only did Charles Luk and Richard Hunn follow the Ch’an letter writing tradition, but both readily acknowledged the genius and bravery Dahui – a prolific letter writer of Song Dynasty China.  He often spoke his mind regardless of the risks involved.  This habit eventually got him in trouble with the imperial authorities and resulted in his punishment and exile.  However, despite the misfortunes that befell him, he never compromised the truth and did not cease to teach even when banished to remote areas away from his students.  Song Dynasty China had fully functioning postal service and Dahui made full use of its reach, communicating with a varied collection of individuals about the intricacies of their Ch’an training.  For Dahui, Ch’an practice was not just a passive ‘looking within’, but rather once the Mind Ground had been fully realised, the resulting development of ‘wisdom’ (prajna) has to be used in the outer world, for the betterment of all.  This can include commenting on corruption in the country, as it causes suffering to the people.  Richard Hunn was often visibly shaken and shocked by the various acts of brutality meted out by governments against their people.  This, in the UK included numerous incidences over the years in the way the Police mercilessly beat unarmed protestors – and then charged those who tried to defend themselves with ‘resisting arrest’.  On the world stage he thought that Buddhist monks, through the use of their education and insight, should use this ability to influence the direction of governmental policies – allowing for the conditions to prevail that allow for the peaceful practicing of the Dharma.  Dahui’s example demonstrates that one does not have to remain silent in the world of expedient form as that simply allows delusion to always retain the upper hand.  It is also true that to speak out in this manner opens the speaker to the possibility of all kinds of reprisals.  Some times even remaining silent is no protection from vicious responses, and if oppression is allowed to build without any kind of wise resistance, eventually everyone becomes its victim.  Speaking out is not without its problems even within a modern Western democracy.  Richard experienced this first hand when he was approached for help by a young man who had escaped from what can only be described as a British Buddhist cult.  This earnest young man had originally entered a particular Buddhist community to study the legitimate Dharma, but instead found himself groomed by the order’s founder and subsequently sexually abused over a number of years.  Because of the help Richard correctly extended to this person, the Buddhist order in questioned launched a highly vicious hate campaign against him in the Norwich area.  This kind of situation is fairly common place in the world of red dust, and demonstrates that the deluded mind will always behave in this way.  In many ways the outer world of expedient politics reflects the inner world of ego politics, with no difference between the two.  Wisdom creates the conditions for precise action.  If the Mind Ground is made clear, all expedient conditions dissolve into its essence.  Charles, Richard and Dahui taught their Ch’an with an astonishing ability that saw the exact use of the right word at the right time.  There was no hesitation, only the hitting of the centre of the target found in the first rate application of the Ch’an Method. The reality of the situation is never ignored even if its structure is fully recognised as delusionary.

The Buddhapadipa Temple, situated near Wimbledon Common, is a wonderfully peaceful and dharmically vibrant place.  It is comprised of a large house, a temple complex, a Buddhist school for Thai children, two small flats, a car park and large grounds – very much like a park with a small river running through its centre and a number of small wooden bridges crossing it at intervals.  A paved pathway weaves it way through the grounds, with verse from the Dhammapada carved into wooden plaques placed along the way.  There is a Buddha Grove for outside meditation and a similar area for children to play and create.  This temple represents the Theravada tradition of Thailand and is sponsored by the king of that country.  Twice a week the monks hold meditation sessions in the evenings, and then again at weekends.  People are able to stay within the temple over a period of time, free of charge to study the Dharma.   It is here in the early 1970’s that Richard Hunn spent much time meditating and scripture reading to such an extent that then abbot suggested that he should consider ordaining as a bhikkhu.  The meditation sessions at Buddhapadipa are very well structured and last around 90 minutes each time.  Usually the first 45 minutes are dedicated to walking meditation which occurs across the width of the hall, with each participant directed to focus attention upon the exact placement, location and movement of each footstep, coupled with awareness of the breath as it enters the nose and leaves the mouth.  This meditation includes a structured 180 degree turning procedure when the meditator reaches the edge of hall, allowing the participant to walk back the other way without hindrance.  This is moving meditation and it is designed to harness the moving mind and the unsettled body and bring them into a state of calmness.  When completed, the next 45 minute session is based upon seated meditation with a concentration upon the breath.  This is stillness meditation.  Both moving and stillness meditation seek to induce a state of tranquillity within the practitioner.  Richard would couple this training with the hua tou method (guided by Charles Luk), making much progress in the process.  This demonstrates that Ch’an practice can happen any where regardless of circumstance.  The solid structure of the Theravada tradition in Wimbledon facilitated the Ch’an practice providing a relevant framework irrespective of any apparent difference in philosophical approach between the two systems.  Indeed, such was the strength of meditational practice at the Buddhapadipa, in 1975 Richard Hunn travelled to Hong Kong for a period of training with his Ch’an master Charles Luk which resulted in a major breakthrough or awakening.  Following this event, Charles Luk asked Richard Hunn to take forward the lineage of Ch’an to the next generation, and in the process to try and keep the English translations of key Buddhist texts in print for the benefit of all.  This included a request to assist Charles in the bringing together of Xu Yun’s English translation of his autobiography into one volume – extensively re-editing it in the process.  Richard Hunn was given by Charles the Chinese Buddhist name of Upasaka Wen Shu.  Around this time Charles Luk was working on an English translation of the Lankavatara Sutra – but Charles would pass away in 1978, before this work could be published.  This work remains unpublished to this day.

In the meantime Richard was pursuing an academic career in Chinese Buddhist studies, and for a time ran the Chinese Buddhist Association at Essex University.  This part of his life is rather diverse, involving an Oxford University sponsored research programme about the famous psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, which involved a trip to Zurich and a meeting with Jung’s grand daughter.  At this time Richard was shown a document written in Jung’s handwriting apparently expressing his belief that reincarnation might well be a real phenomena.  This, and similar work was kept from the public by the Jung family because they thought that its content might diminish Jung’s academic standing.  Richard’s interest with Jung arose because of Jung’s contact with Charles Luk.  In 1961, when Jung was on his death bed, he was reading Luk’s first volume of Ch’an and Zen Teachings.  Jung had his secretary write to Luk and explain that when Jung read what master Xu Yun taught, and when Xu Yun explained the realisation of the mind – Jung felt that he himself could have said just that!  Much later, whilst living in Japan, Richard stumbled upon Jung’s entire published works in English in a small bookshop for a very small price.  Before this, however, Richard had settled in Norfolk founding the Norwich Ch’an Association.  Many people would visit Richard’s home and seek Ch’an instruction, and on occasion Charles Luk would even send one or two people, notably Chinese students from Malaysia.  This was all going on around his work within the multicultural unit of the BBC programme Pebble Mill, which amongst other things was planning a research trip to film at the caves Dun Huang in China– before it experienced a dramatic funding cut.  In between all these endeavours Richard would hold Ch’an Weeks, or set time periods for Ch’an meditation that involved all those concerned being literally locked into the Ch’an meditation process.  Some times one or two would attend, other times would see twenty or more people.  Not only this, but Richard was not sectarian in his approach and he often held Ch’an weeks for other Ch’an groups, working upon the premise that the empty mind underlies all equally.  This is not to say that there was no criticism, but that whatever criticisms there may have been were usually the product of personality clashes, misunderstandings and occasionally the observation of some poor behaviour or the exercising of bad judgement, etc.  This requirement for exactness was probably a habit required within British academia.  Richard Hunn was becoming a very good reader and writer of Chinese script, particularly that involving often difficult religious and philosophical concepts written in varying scripts.  In this regard, he not only worked to keep Charles Luk’s translations in print, but spent much time working on his own English translations of Chinese texts.  This work included Ch’an poems, Ch’an dialogues, Chinese sutras and commentaries – none of this work is published – although Richard once told the author of this essay that a number of Ch’an poems he translated were presented for constructive criticism to a well known Ch’an master living in the West, but the presentation was met only with silence and the incident was forgotten at the time.  A year or so later a book of Ch’an poems was published in this master’s name, and amongst them were Richard’s poems, exactly as he had translated them.  The author of this book did not credit Richard Hunn as the translator, but any one familiar with Richard’s style will know immediately which poems are his.  Ups and downs upon the path are part of normal life.  A long time after his death, a Western Ch’an practitioner accused Charles Luk (a person she had never met) of stealing photographs of Xu Yun from another Chinese Ch’an master!  These stories are obviously the product of a very weak mind, and serve to demonstrate the absurd length to which the ego will go to preserve its fiction of assumed spiritual practice and false pretentions to power.  Xu Yun, like his student Charles Luk always emphasised honesty and moral discipline, a practice Richard thoroughly agreed with.  Despite this trivia Richard carried on his translation of the Chinese book known as the Book of Changes (Yijing).  Samples of this book went down very well at the Frankfurt Book Festival (around 1990), with German and French editions being agreed.  However, this was conditional upon the completion of certain other planned translations.  After moving to Lancashire to continue his studies at Lancaster University, his marriage began to fail, and this failure led eventually to him deciding to migrate to Japan to continue his studies there – particularly upon the subject of the early Ch’an presence in Japan.  These tumultuous changes,, happening as they did in quick succession, removed the settled circumstances that are conducive to book writing and research and as a consequence, the three book deal that would have seen the Book of Changes published never materialised.  It is interesting to note that as well the transmission of the Ch’an Dharma, Charles Luk also encouraged Richard Hunn to study the Book of Changes, a text that Richard greatly valued and discussed with his students.  Texts that elicited a similar profound interest and respect were Confucius’ Analects, the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi, amongst many others.

Armed with research funding, Japan offered a new era for Richard Hunn.  He settled in Kyoto to continue his academic studies, taking a job teaching English at a local college to supplement his income.  Although already working upon a book entitled ‘Zen in China: The Roots of Tradition’, his research began to focus upon the roots of Ch’an Buddhism in Japan.  In particular, much of this study centred round Mampukuji – very much an old Chinese Ch’an temple built in 1661, situated near Kyoto.  Richard preferred Kyoto because it was an old Japanese city that had not been bombed during WWII, and as a consequence was a peculiar blend of ancient and modern mixed together.  Many of Japan’s traditional martial arts training halls (dojo) are to be found Kyoto and it is within one such dojo that Richard Hunn (together with his Japanese wife) took up the practice of Kyudo.  This martial arts practice supplemented his interest in Taijiquan, and to a lesser extent Gongfu.  Richard found the martial arts interesting and in the early 2000’s, during his visits to the UK, he would often look in upon a family gongfu training hall in south London.  He knew that many Chinese Ch’an masters were also proficient in the martial arts and practiced other types of qi cultivation, as did his teacher Charles Luk.  Indeed, in his book entitled ‘Taoist Yoga’ Luk translated the spiritual teachings of Daoist master Chao Pi Chen who is recorded as being born in 1860, but mysteriously never recorded as actually dying.  This has led many to believe that he had achieved true immortality, or that he had ridden to heaven on the back of a dragon.  No pictures are provided in Luk’s book of master Chao Pi Chen – but around 2004, whilst reading through dozens of Japanese journals and newspapers, Richard Hunn finally discovered one such photograph:

Of particular interest is the method known as the five healing breaths – a Daoist visualisation technique that combines special verbalised sounds with breath direction and control.  Both Charles and Richard emphasised this practice to keep the inner body fit and healthy during extended periods of meditation when actual physical activity is necessarily at a minimum.  The mind guides the breath (qi) into a particular organ – such as the heart or liver, etc, and through the vibration of the accompanying sound, alters the qi balance in that organ.  A specific sound equates with a particular organ – and the sounds are not considered inter-changeable.  The sounds are designed to invigorate and stimulate the organ concerned.  The practice is remarkable and can be performed sitting or standing and is accompanied by preparatory exercises that consist of the self-massaging of the face and ears, as well as a teeth tapping exercise and the gentle tapping of the back of the head with the fingers, etc.  Although there are separate and distinct Daoist schools and traditions, there is often much interaction between Daoist qi cultivation and Ch’an Buddhist practice, after-all much of this practice is common knowledge and very much an everyday Chinese cultural activity.  Daoist qi cultivation may be considered directly related to the Buddha’s emphasis upon breath awareness.  This kind of similarity may explain the Chinese myth that suggests that the Daoist sage Laozi left China, to travel to India, where he became known as the Buddha.  When Indian Buddhism finally arrived in China, it was believed (by some) to simply be a form of Chinese Daoism coming back to China, after it had taken root elsewhere.

The year 1992 marked a distinct turning-point in the life of Richard Hunn.  He explained much later that when he left the UK – apart from his family – he cut-off virtually every other tie so that he could put his energies into settling into a new country.  For many, he simply appeared to vanish without a trace.  This was not so much an intentional act – but rather very much an attribute of the time.  One or two people have contacted the author of this essay over the years to tell their interaction with Richard at this pivotal point in his life.  One person was ‘phoned by Richard, who was enquiring about short-term places to stay in Japan, whilst another spent some time with Richard near to his departure and explained that they discussed over many days about the choices that lay a head.  AtLancasterUniversityhe was pursuing a doctorate in philosophy and any major relocation, especially one that involved thousands of miles away, would obviously interrupt such studies.  In the end Richard consulted the Book of Change – a book he much admired and respected – and it advised that it was now ‘safe’ to ‘cross the great water’, and cross the great water he did.  Once inJapanthe focus of his academic work shifted to that county’s part in the transmission of Ch’an Buddhism from China– and as ‘Zen’ to the rest of the world.  Eventually he re-married and settled down to a happy and peaceful existence, visiting the UK occasionally to bring his Japanese language students to see the sights of London.  In the early 2000’s, whilst visiting the author, he would travel to the Buddhapadipa Templein Wimbledon and lead an hour or two of Ch’an meditation.  This also occurred at the Foguang temple in the heart of London– making use of the meditation hall when not being used for official purposes.  At one such visit Richard Hunn donated a Chinese-English Buddhist dictionary to the library there, which can probably still be found on its shelves to this day.  Although Richard was not a member of the Foguang movement, or endorse its agenda, he did not criticise it either.  He felt that the library in the temple – containing books in both Chinese and English – was an excellent device for studying Dharma, hence his decision to donate a very expensive dictionary to it, so that if people required, they could work out translations for themselves.  Unfortunately such thoughtfulness is often only manifest in one direction, as when the book was presented to a temple volunteer, it was snatched away  and no word of thanks was offered.  When Richard passed away a short eulogy for him was placed of the Foguang UK website – only to be removed by a Foguang moderator – who said that as Richard was not a fully paid-up member of the temple, a eulogy was not permitted.  The important point in all this that, as master Xu Yun taught, it is the possession of exact knowledge that enables the correct path to be followed to enlightenment – nothing else should be of concern.  This is why Richard Hunn, in his 2004 visit to the UK, suggested to the author that it would be a good idea to set-up a free, basic, but workable website to focus the world Ch’an community through the teachings of master Xu Yun as translated and transmitted by Charles Luk.  This website was to facilitate an East – West dialogue through the filter of Chinese Buddhism.  Its layout was purposely decided to be simple and not eye-catching.  Its content was to be reliable Ch’an information in English, from legitimate Chinese sources.  Its function was to emphasis self-sufficient meditation practice regardless of personal circumstance and irrespective of gender, ethnicity or race, etc.  This website was set-up toward the end of 2004 – and to distinguish it from Japanese Zen Buddhism was originally called ‘Chinese Ch’an Buddhism Forum-UK’.  It offered ‘mind to mind’ instruction from Richard Hunn in Japan, and Richard’s Dharma successor in the UK.  When Richard died in 2006 the forum was renamed in his honour – ‘The Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study’.  It has had two web addresses associated with it:

1)     http://chanbuddhismuk.proboards.com/index.cgi?

2)     www.chan-forum.org

The second address (although no longer working) has an interesting story attached to it.  In 2011, the forum administrator (the author of this essay) was contacted by a very polite young man from the UK.  Over a couple months, discussion was had regarding Ch’an Buddhist philosophy, the Ch’an method and how this fitted in with Chinese martial arts practice.  During these interactions the young man revealed that he had been caught up in the terrorist bomb blasts in London in 2007.  Indeed, he was one of the injured victims.  Out of appreciation for the forum, and due to this young man’s thoughtful and generous nature, he purchased the second web address so that the forum user may access it more readily when required.  The forum’s structure is to remain plain so as not to encourage egotism.  That is it is not to be used as a form of ego entertainment, or be of a shallow intellectual attraction.  The forum itself is an illusion – an expedient means – designed only to assist others gain self-knowledge through the assistance of good guiding advice.  Richard Hunn had a very good sense of humour and often saw the irony in many of life’s situations.  He would have laughed at a recent email from a so-called ‘zennist’ website that although including an article about master Xu Yun, Richard Hunn and the author of this essay, nevertheless was refusing to list Richard’s Ch’an forum because, ‘it is not interesting enough to be listed for my readers’!  All structures are empty and the forum just as much.  It contains the best of Richard Hunn – his goodness limited to a computer screen – use it well.

The authentic teachings of Richard Hunn are preserved at this link:

Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study – www.chan-forum.org

Charles Luk (1898-1978) Ch’an Buddhist Scholar.

Charles Luk was born when China still had an imperial system and around the time that the wide spread peasant martial art movement – known as the Boxer Uprising – was brewing northern China.  This was a popular uprising against the presence and politics of Western imperialism in China, aimed particularly at the presence of evangelising protestant and catholic Christian movements.  These movements, manned by missionaries from the West sought to undermine traditional Chinese cultural values and religious beliefs and create a climate where Chinese people had to convert to Christianity if they wanted to continue to live in their ancestral areas now under direct Western control or political influence.  The massed peasants, using traditional Chinese qi (energy) cultivation techniques and martial arts believed that the climate of Western imperialist oppression was creating natural disasters such as crop failure, drought, disease, and wide spread famine.  Ch’an master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was in Beijing in 1900-01, and was stopped by a Western soldier and threatened with death.  Xu Yun, already in his early 60’s by this time, responded with a calm mind and careful words, and the soldier relented and let him go.  Due to the devastation the Western forces wreaked in Beijing, master Xu Yun was forced to flee westward with the escaping imperial family.  Although the imperial house had issued a decree declaring war on the Western troops, many provinces not directly caught up with the fighting in the north of China, did not openly respond to the order.  The governor of Guangdong, for instance, did not send troops to the fighting, or openly make war on Westerners in his area – he wanted to see how things would go before committing his troops and province to war.  As matters transpired, the Boxer forces were eventually beaten, and tens of thousands of them were publically beheaded for daring to confront the West.  Ironically is was the imperial house itself that ordered these executions as a means to placate the Western authorities – with the imperial house claiming that its declaration of war was an act of traitorous intent committed by a rogue minister.  Charles Luk was born into this tumultuous time in the southern province Chinese of Guangdong.  With its south facing coast and close proximity to the British island colony of Hong Kong, this area experienced much multicultural interaction and extensive commerce.  Charles Luk was born Lu Kuan Yu (陸寬昱), and in many of his books he uses the term ‘Upasaka Lu Kuan Yu’, with the term ‘upasaka’ referring to a lay-male follower of the Buddha.  陸 (Lu) – According to the book entitled ‘The Origins of Chinese Surnames’ By Chung Yoon-Ngan – Pages 303-304, this surname is around 2,400 years old and is associated with the Zhou Dynasty.  It was linked to an area around Shandong in the early days, but during the Han Dynasty it had become associated with a place in Henan.   It is comprised of the particle ‘阜’ (fu4) which can mean a ‘wall’, and ‘坴’ (lu4) which denotes a tree growing out of the ground.  Many Chinese names are derived from locations or landmarks.  寬 (kuan1) refers to a wide area, free of obstacles, with 昱 (yu4) designating a man holding a light.  Lu Kuan Yu is the Manderin (or Putonghua) pronunciation of his name.  In the Cantonese dialect (guangdonghua) the surname ‘Lu’ is pronounced ‘Luk’ and this is the spelling that he preferred.  The name ‘Charles’, is of course an Anglicised version of ‘Kuan Yu’.  Within the public domain very little biographical information is available either within Chinese or English language sources, but much can be gleamed from his own writings, particularly his Prefaces and Forewords to his books, etc.  It is known that he was married and that he had a daughter name Irene Luk last known to be living in Hong Kong in the 1980’s.  Indeed, following her father’s passing, Irene Luk took over the administration of her father’s work and mediated for a time with the outside world regarding Copyright permission.  Today, despite extensive searching, her whereabouts, or that of her descendents is currently unknown.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s China was experimenting with republicanism, self-strengthening nationalism and even democracy. China was very much looking forward to the future by abandoning the stultifying habit of only seeing worth in the distant past.  The Western presence had introduced the Chinese people to different ways of seeing the world and of developing unique technologies and social strategies.  The battle against the Western presence had been fought and lost in the early 1900’s and now a new era of accommodation was developing whereby the Chinese intelligentsia was undergoing a familiarisation with Western education and as a consequence, developing means of referencing Western ideas through the Chinese cultural filter.  Of course, although direct conflict with the West was at an end, the various factions battling for the political control of China was still locked in warfare.  The warlords, the nationalists and the communists fought bitterly for control ofChina’s future, occasionally making large tracts of countryside uninhabitable, causing streams of starving refugees heading in any direction, as long as it was away from the fighting.  Chinese and Western people were beginning to encounter one another ii situations other than military or political, and as a consequence understanding between the two broad cultural camps began to develop.  Eventually some Westerners would enter China with the deliberate intent of seeking Chinese spiritual knowledge.  In the mean time Charles Luk was training in the Tibetan Buddhist (Vajrayana) lineages of Kagyu and Gelug under one teacher – the Tulku of Xikang – namely the Venerable Hutuktu, who was of Mongolian ethnic origin.  Xikang is of course Xikangsheng (西康省) which is sometimes written as ‘Sikang’, and translates as ‘Western Abundance Province’.   Now no longer in existence, it was once a province of easternTibet(Kham) controlled by the forces of the Republic of China.  Today, part of this former province is in eastern Tibet, whilst the other part is in the western Sichuan province.   This area, although comprised of a Tibetan majority, is known for its small Mongol ethnic grouping.     During this time, Charles Luk was initiated into the secretive technique known as Phowa – or the method of the transference of consciousness at the point of death, to a Buddhafield (i.e. rebirth) of one’s choice.  His other great Buddhist teacher was Ch’an master Xu Yun (1840-1959) – from whom he inherited the dharma of the enlightened lay-person which is believed to go back to Vimalakirti – an enlightened contemporary of the Buddha.  The Ch’an tradition is replete with examples of enlightened lay-people, but this is because authentic Ch’an teaching does not discriminate between male and female, layperson and monastic.  Even in the conservative Pali Canon examples of enlightened members of laity abound, and this is in accordance with the Buddha’s own teachings:

“I proclaim there is absolutely no difference between a layperson with a mind (citta) which liberated and a bhikkhu which has been liberated for a century.”   SN5.410

“The layperson Tapassa, because of hearing the Tathagata, has gone to supreme transcendence…and has his being in the enlightenment of the immortal itself.”  AN3.451’

In reality, enlightenment is neither ‘lay’ nor ‘monastic’, but some times a bias develops favouring one mode of practice over the other.  For those who think that lay-people can not gain enlightenment, then the effectiveness of lay practice is emphasised.  Certainly master Xu Yun taught all equally without discrimination, and this included Charles Luk.  As master Xu Yun met with many Western students of Buddhism – who usually spoke English – he became acutely aware of the need for Chinese Buddhist texts to be translated into reliable English, with good, insightful commentaries.  In this regard he chose Charles Luk to carry out this important and far reaching task.  Although Xu Yun travelled outside ofChina(includingBhutan), he never had the opportunity to visit the West.  However, it is interesting to note that Charles Luk visited Europe in the 1930’s, meeting with the founder of London’s Buddhist Society – Christmas Humphries – as early as 1935, in an attempt to promote Chinese Buddhism abroad.  At this time in his life, Charles was around 37 years old and obviously able to comfortably move around within European cultures outside of the confines ofChina.  This demonstrates a remarkable cosmopolitan streak to his character, and is a testimony to his educational background.  Here was a Chinese man pursuing an ancient Chinese Buddhist (and Tibetan) tradition, but who was fluent in reading and writing English (as well as Chinese) and just as much at home in European society as he was in Chinese society.   Following the fall of the Chinese mainland to the forces of Mao Zedong, Charles Luk spent the last 30 years or so of his life living within the British colony ofHong Kong.  It is from this place that he maintained a world-wide correspondence, instructing people from all kinds of backgrounds about Ch’an and Buddhism through written letters in the days before the instantaneous communication afforded by the internet.  It was through this correspondence that he came into contact with such people as Carl Gustav Jung, Lobzang Jivaka, William Picard, Richard Hunn, Grace Constant Lounsbery, Mr & Mrs Carroll Aikins, and many others.  From around 1956 Charles Luk began to dedicate his life to the translation of key Chinese Buddhist texts into English.  Indeed, within the 1960’s he started to present articles to magazines detailing the life of master Xu Yun, creating the beginnings of an autobiography in English.  His list of English translations and dates of publication are as follows:

Ch’an and Zen Teaching First Series – 1960.

Ch’an and Zen Teaching Second Series – 1961.

Ch’an and Zen Teaching Third Series – 1962.

The Secrets of Chinese Meditation – 1964.

The Surangama Sutra – 1966.

Taoist Yoga – 1970.

Practical Buddhism – 1971.

The Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra – 1972.

The Transmission of the Mind – 1974.

Empty Cloud The Autobiography of a Chinese Zen Master (Kapleau) – 1974.

Empty Cloud The Autobiography of a Chinese Zen Master (Hunn) – 1980.

Empty Cloud The Autobiography of a Chinese Zen Master (Hunn) – 1988.

Of these 12 publications virtually all first appeared in print in theUnited Kingdom.  Luk’s presentation of the English translation of the Chinese autobiography of master Xu Yun first appeared in serialised form in the 1960’s in World Buddhism.  In 1974, the American Zen master Roshi Philip Kapleau of the Rochester Zen Center gathered these articles together and published them in a single book.  In the 1970’s Charles Luk had become the Ch’an teacher of the British Sinologist Richard Hunn.  When Richard visitedHong Kongin the mid 1970’s, Charles Luk asked him to carry-on the Ch’an tradition of Xu Yun and in the process keep the English translations in print, and to arrange for an updated and thoroughly re-edited version of Xu Yun’s biography.  Charles Luk passed away in 1978, but Richard Hunn arranged for an edition of the biography to be published in 1980, and for a re-edited version to be published in 1988.  It is important to note that extracts of Xu Yun’s biography appear throughout the Ch’an and Zen Series, and that through the meritous work of Kapleau and Hunn, this fine work of translation finally saw the light as a single, self-contained publication.  These works contain a wealth of reliable information.  The impression left with the reader is that these works were produced during an extended period of meditation.  That is, as well as being the product of a highly accurate and precise translation of Buddhist Chinese terms, there is also a sense of deep wisdom and stillness throughout.  These translations are far more than the good presentation of a well educated intelligence; they are the presentation of the function of prajna itself.  The enlightened mind of Charles Luk shines through the words.  Many of these books contain extensive and copious footnotes that could form the basis for a separate and distinct Ch’an instructional manual – meaning that each work as presented contains the translated text, together with a parallel text from Charles himself.  Ch’an dialogue and interpretation is just as baffling to the everyday Chinese mind as it is to the Western mind.  Luk understands the text in Chinese, and is then able to translate that understanding into a working English commentary.  The purely distinct Ch’an material – the exclusive product of the Ch’an masters and their students – should be viewed as separate and distinct from the translation of the Buddhist sutras themselves which are steeped in the old conceptual language of China, used over a thousand years ago to translate Indian Sanskrit terms.  Charles Luk chose to translate the sutras that would best serve those engaging in independent Ch’an meditation anywhere in the world.  Such sutras include:

Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, Surangama Sutra, Sutra of Complete Enlightenment, The Altar Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Transmission of the Lamp, Yung Chia’s Song of Enlightenment, and the Autobiographies of masters Han Shan and Xu Yun, etc.

The 6th Patriarch’s (Hui Neng) Altar Sutra is of cause the only body of work to be spoken by a non-Indian that is considered a ‘sutra’ in its own right.  This is to say that it is considered a true manifestation of the ‘word’ of the Buddha himself.  In India, of course, there is the sutra of the enlightened layperson – Vimalakirti.  The amount of work involved in the translations of these texts is immense.  Not only this, but a translation without a good guiding commentary renders the translation itself virtually unusable by practitioners from cultures that have little or no knowledge of Buddhism.  Luk’s grasp of the English language in its philosophical usage is quite extraordinary.  His use of the terms ‘nounomena’ and ‘phenomena’ to represent ‘void’ and ‘form’ respectively throughout the translations, appears to be a borrowing from the philosophical thinking of Immanuel Kant.  Luk uses these terms to explain the Ch’an notions of ‘host’ and ‘guest’ to the Western mind.  Although found within a German philosophical system, they are of course Greek terms.  Luk presents the expedient Ch’an teaching as a method that aims the practitioner toward an underlying reality (nounomena) that is obscured from the perception of the Ch’an student by the continuously moving surface content (phenomena) of the mind, further compounded by the mistaken idea that the world of physical objects exists outside of, and independent to, the mind that perceives it.  The moving of the mind and the perception of disparate external objects constitute the world of ‘form’, ‘phenomena’ and the ‘guest’ position – it is the normal perspective of the deluded mind that is always in motion and never still – its behaviour is like that of a guest who visits but does stay.  The Ch’an master skilfully unravels the deluded mind of the student – removing the knots of delusion and pointing the student’s attention firmly in the direction of the Mind Ground (nounomena).  With the right kind of instruction, delivered at the right moment, the delusive surface movement of the mind can be swept aside and the Mind Ground perceived and integrated with in an instant, transcending duality.  The promise of the ‘void’ (Mind Ground), acts as an enticement away from the painful entanglements of the world.  It very much appears as an unchanging essence underlying the changing surface world of phenomena.  However, this is an illusion used to end all illusions, as the Buddha taught that there is no permanent ‘self’ within a living being, and no permanent substance underlying the material of the world.  Once the Mind Ground is attained and all dualism wiped out, then the all-embracing mind will manifest, and the ‘emptiness’ of the void will be perceived as ‘empty’ of ‘emptiness’ – therefore the skilful Ch’an method is an expedient – a medicine to cure the illness.  Yet its presence as a method is absolutely vital if Dharma-students are to make progress along the way.  Charles Luk, through his translations, skilfully engages the Western mind and leads it away from its habit of attachment to myriad externals, cures it of its obsession with intellection, and reveals its true essence to it – an essence that is beyond definition and the reach of words and phrases.  This is a very real and effective manifestation of the use of ‘skilful means’ to liberate all beings – in reality the notions of ‘Western’ and ‘Eastern’ do not exist, they are only apparently real, and as Charles reminds his readers there is no place within Buddhism for ideas such as racism or nationalism.  Writing in the 1960’s, Luk makes the point that he has heard that some Asian Buddhists believe that Westerners are unsuitable for Dharma practice, and that some Western writers have argued that Buddhism, being Asian, is of no use to the Western mind, and fervently disagrees with both opinions.  This type of reasoning is nothing more than the product of deluded thinking appearing as ‘informed opinion’, and is very much a manifestation of the unenlightened mind.  Charles Luk, following the opinion of his master – Xu Yun – believed that the empty essence of the mind is the empty essence of all things, without exception.  No single being is excluded from the ramifications of this thinking, or unable to benefit from the skilful presentation of Ch’an instruction.  Indeed, Luk shares a number of letters from Western Ch’an practitioners who, through the use of Luk’s translations, had made considerable progress in Ch’an Dharma cultivation, these included Americans, British and other Europeans.  It is interesting to consider that today, members of the Chinese diasporic communities, who have families that have been brought-up in the West for many decades, often speak English as a first language and make extensive use of Charles Luk’s translations, as there appears to be a peculiarly ‘Chinese’ spark of genius that underlies the work.  This serves to demonstrate that Luk’s works are really universal, even if (early) original intention behind it was aimed at Western cultures.  His translations – as a distinct body of work has moved far beyond the remit of the original underlying intention.  Indeed, on this point, many of the re-prints of this work have been produced through Indian publishers.  The turning point was obviously Luk’s ability to transmit Chinese Buddhist thinking across, what was then perceived as two very different cultures.  A conceptual barrier appeared to separate the ancient Chinese Buddhist tradition from that of the curious and enquiring Western mind.  The Western habit of simply noting observations from a distance and then organising these notes into theories, simply did not work when it came to understanding a different subjective mind set of a unique culture.  As a consequence, much misunderstanding abounded.  This has also been seen in some early attempts of Chinese thinkers to understand Western culture.  Invariably, understanding of this nature is necessarily one-sided and therefore incomplete – as it is incomplete, it is also incorrect.  Culture and ethnicity are the products of karmic fruit, relative and subject to change.  The empty Mind Ground underlies all cultures and ethnicities equally, and these may be viewed as the outer expression of the deluded surface movement of the mind.  Whatever the case, following Xu Yun’s exhortation to present Dharma texts to the West, Charles Luk notes in the dedication contained within his book entitled ‘Practical Buddhism’ that he originally hesitated in the undertaking of this great endeavour, but that it was through the encouragement and insistence from Upasika Grace Constant Lounsbery – the Founder and President of ‘Les Amis du Bouddhisme’ –  that this hesitation was finally over-come and the work began in earnest in 1956.  This interaction between East and West elevated Chinese Ch’an Buddhism to that of a world movement free of dogma and political institutions.  Through the work of Charles Luk aimed at the West, Ch’an Buddhism became international and transcended the barriers of cultural prejudice and racialised thinking.

Master Xu Yun’s compassionate insight sustained Charles Luk’s spiritual endeavours.  Xu Yun met John Blofeld, Ananda Jennings and a British diplomat (on a boat), all of whom expressed a deep and respectful enquiry into the Dharma.  In his long life there may have been many others, as there were certainly many Buddhist disciples of Xu Yun hailing from countries situated around China– including the king of Thailand.  Of course, as the world changed and travel became more convenient, Charles Luk, both before and after he moved to Hong Kong had an extensive network of contacts, despite the fact that he explained his private life as being one of seclusion.  Certainly his time in Hong Kong – from 1949 to 1978 – is described as a situation of ‘exile’ from the mainland of China.  The regime change on the Mainland ushered in a period of chaos and destruction.  Religion was a particular target.  Whilst Charles Luk was in Hong Kong, Xu Yun was experiencing the pain and suffering of the new regime first hand.  When Xu Yun passed away in 1959 a bad situation turned far worse, and China closed its doors to the world, leaving Hong Kong and Taiwanas the main contact points between the West and Chinese culture.  These two places seemed to represent the lost culture of the mainland of China, and both, despite their thoroughly modern outlook and culture, nevertheless became bastions of traditional Chinese culture, preserving ancient traditions with a contemporary cultural setting, at a time when Mao Zedong’s regime was looking to modernise by actually destroying the very culture that defined the Chinese people.  For a long time, traditional knowledge, wisdom and physical culture was all but wiped out on the Chinese mainland, leaving the Chinese diaspora as the only functioning example of Chinese tradition.  The 1960’s in the West saw a great liberalisation and expansion of awareness.  The Western mind was undergoing a cultural revolution of its own.  The old was not necessarily destroyed as a consequence of this broadening of awareness, but it did lead to the accepting of other ways of viewing the world.  Asian thinking was not new in the West – Buddhism had been in Englandfor some time prior to this, and the movement known as Theosophy had done much to propagate Asian spiritual ideas in the West.  Of course, it is also true that various members of the German philosophical community were aware of certain aspects of Buddhist and Hindu thinking before the 20th century came to pass.  The 1960’s however, exemplified a certain feeling of ‘togetherness’ and ‘compassion’ that existed independent of the structures of the prevailing religions of Judaism, Protestantism and Catholicism.  It should also be remembered that the Soviet Union and Mao’sChina, misinterpreting the writings of Karl Marx (and Lenin for that matter), advocated an atheistic approach to spirituality.  This effectively excluded around half the world from the new era of spiritual oneness that was pervading Western Europe from the 1960’s onward.  This situation was not to change until 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the re-engagement of Central and Eastern Europe with the rest of the world.  Today, through the internet, the story of Xu Yun and the translations of Charles Luk have spread throughout the entire world, an expansion of spiritual culture that is now even accepted in a much liberalised China, a China that is now rediscovering its ancient spirituality.  When Charles Luk passed away in 1978, he was working on a number of translations which were shown to his British student Richard Hunn – one of these was the completed translation of the Lankavatara Sutra.  Charles Luk’s estate was handled by his daughter – Irene Luk – who was last heard of by Richard Hunn around 1987 when she gave permission for the 1988 edition of Empty Cloud to be published in theUK.  The author of this article has been asked many times recently where Irene Luk or her descendents can be located, as publishers would like to re-print Luk’s work, but unfortunately no one within the Luk family can be located.  It would be a very good idea if Charles Luk’s excellent translations could be kept in print for future generations to benefit from.

The authentic teachings of Charles Luk are preserved at this link:

Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study – www.chan-forum.org

Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) – Present Awareness.

Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) was one of the last great Ch’an masters of China.  There are others of course, and each has contributed in his or her own unique fashion – to the preservation of the Chinese Buddhist School known as ‘Ch’an’.  Master Xu Yun lived much of his very long life during the 19th century, before entering a 20th century that would see the ancient civilisation ofChina ripped apart, and its people suffer probably more than in any other time in its history.  This is a remarkable statement to make when the length of Chinese history is considered, together with the many and bloody wars that signified the end and the beginning of different dynasties.  This culture formed around an official hierarchy and a very deep sense of martial prowess.  The hierarchical nature of traditional Chinese society – believed to have been endorsed by the great sage Confucius – was really an attempt to retain social order by defining clearly, differing social ranks and the responsibilities such an ascribed rank entailed.  When working at its best, the system allowed for those without experience to follow those who had experience – thus ensuring the more mature were always in control of the less knowledgeable.  Eventually, of course, those who followed would learn to be wise and assume the responsibility of teaching, participating in a cycle of continuous self-improvement.  The theory was that today’s students would be tomorrow’s teachers, just as today’s children would be tomorrow’s parent, etc.  The patriarchal nature of Chinese society ensured that virtually every emperor was a man, to whom the entirety of China looked-up to and obeyed without question, and that the every ordinary family living in China was a replication of the imperial court, with the wife and children obeying the father as if he were the emperor himself.  The five relationships of China – the ruler to rule, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend – were considered the very foundational order that Chinese society was based upon, and the defining quality that separated a superior Chinese culture from that of the inferior ‘foreign’ and barbaric one.  Duty and filial respect acted as the social glue that held it all together.  Within traditional Chinese society the social order is not necessarily that which is imposed from the outside, but is rather internally created within the mind of every child from an early age, so that the outer culture is merely an externalised inner preference.  The child grows-up knowing only the five relationships, and this forms an important psychological structure within the mind of the adult individual.  In this regard, tradition Chinese society does, and can not, recognise the notion of the ‘individual’ in the Western sense of the term.  Within Chinese society every single person – without exception – is part of the social fabric of duty bound interaction.  Freedom of expression is not allowed because it does not ‘fit-in’ to any of the specified five relationships.  Freedom to express anything that is not strictly predictable is defined as an act of social chaos.  That is not to say that things can not change, but that the process of change (and by association the realisation of innovation) happens in a very controlled manner, with the emphasis always being toward the preservation of the present status quo.  This does create a stable outer climate when it is functioning correctly, but one that is designed never to have its underlying notions questioned in anyway.  What change there is, is allowed because it is viewed as conforming to a set of very stringent guiding principles.  Thousands of years of this kind of social organising did lead to a myriad of technical developments – often hundreds of years a head of Western development.  This society is Considered Confucian in nature, and indeed the study of the Confucian Classics is believed to be the only education worth pursuing, as the wisdom of the ancient sages is imbued in the student’s mind.  However, even a cursory examination of the classical Confucian texts will reveal a Confucius concerned with gentlemanly behaviour and duty – this is true – but also a deep humanity set upon self-development that is often very subtle and of a far greater reach than the mere interpretation of social conformity that later governments imposed upon his teachings.

Often it has been the case that to be spiritual in China is to condemn oneself to a life lonely wondering within the hills.  In reality, an ‘other worldly’ aspiration that is not catered for through a state defined Confucian ritual results in the aspirant having to leave the world of everyday life and seek out solitude away from judging eyes.  This had already been the case for Daoism with many of its sages living on the top of mountains – indeed, so common was this occurrence that it came to represent the concept of what it was to be an ‘immortal’.  It is ironic to consider that the sages that Confucius respected were very much of the Daoist mould, and that the obsession of giving birth to boys within marriage is apparently against the saying of Confucius which declares that a true sage has no descendents.  The arrival of Buddhism fromIndiaat around 100CE was problematic.  The Indian notion that leaving home and giving up social responsibilities was ‘spiritual’ was asymmetrically opposed to the established Chinese tradition of the family and clan being the facilitator of religious ritual.  Each family within a name clan, and the clan itself would have temples and altars set-up for the various religious rituals that occurred throughout the year.  Religion of this nature is set to the calendar, decreed by the emperor, and carried-out as a communal activity.  Leaving the social network is viewed as leaving the civilised world which is sustained through the correct (and timely) performance of ritual which regulates the flow of ‘qi’ (vital force) throughout Chinese society.  The root of this ritual is the veneration of the ancestors who dwell in the heavenly realm.  Correct behaviour toward them ensures that the qi flows without blockage and that the crops will ripen, animals will stay healthy and children will be born.  Buddhism was tolerated however, despite some historical ups and downs, but leaving home to become a monk has always been a difficult affair.  It still was in 1858 when master Xu Yun decided to leave home and pursue the Buddhist monastic path.  As his father was a government official, Xu Yun was expected to follow in his footsteps, get married and produce a son to keep the family name of Xiao going.  Even though he had expressed spiritual inclinations to his father, his father would not give permission for him to leave.  Instead his father arranged for a Daoist teacher to come to the family home and teach Xu Yun internal and external qigong – or ‘energy work’.  Considering how many fathers from this era would probably have merely decreed a marriage and not discussed the matter any further, this action may be viewed as some thing of a compromise.  However, Xu Yun was not satisfied with the Daoist teachings as they differed from the Buddhist teachings of Dharma.  As he could not get his father’s permission, Xu Yun decided to leave home without it – a shocking decision for the time – and go into the hills to seek out the Buddhist masters.  This he did, and although his motivation was to follow the Buddhist path, by heading into the hills he was following the old tradition of the ancient sages which amounted to the experience of a kind of social death, whereby the aspirant had no further choice left but to pursue the lonely path to the very end.

Reading the autobiography of master Xu Yun, every occurrence and happening – good or bad – is recorded with a matter of fact attitude.  In reality, much of what it describes could not have been like that at all.  This is not to imply that the autobiography is dishonest – far from it – but that in his unassuming manner Xu Yun always played down his own suffering.  Often the reader has to rely upon the added notes of Xu Yun’s editor – Cen Xue-Lu – to gain vital background information to important events.  Xu Yun would often say something like ‘misfortune befell me’, and leave it at that.  This approach of spiritual self-sufficiency is the product of living in the wilderness outside of a society that eulogises the community over the individual.  Generally speaking no help was forthcoming outside of the Buddhist groups and establishments, indeed, many homeless monks often relied upon their families to support them with food and clothing, as Buddhist monks were not allowed to beg inChina.  It is a curious paradox that involves the experience of social rejection to pursue an ancient path to sagehood, with occasional support from relatives that are supposed to have been left behind.  Living in the wilderness was a potentially dangerous activity.  Poor weather, lack of clothing and shelter, attacks from bandits and wild animals all conspired to cause, illness, injury or death.  Master Xu Yun spent many years in isolated meditation, but he believed fully that a calm and expansive mind can over-come all threats of danger by emanating waves of psychic qi into the environment and inwardly transforming all that it came into contact with.  Wild animals would divert their hunting away from the spot of meditation and potentially violent people would not feel the urge to cause trouble.  When bad weather struck, master Xu Yun would enter deep meditation (Samadhi), and regardless of his outer environment, his body would be preserved and safe, regardless of the length of time in that state.  Master Xu Yun lived his time on this planet through his physical body, but from a very young age he did not feel that he was his body.  His answer was to pursue the Buddhist path – and eventually the Ch’an method – to become mindful and clear about his real nature that was not simply the physical body, its senses and desires.  He did not meditate in purpose built meditation centres common in the contemporary West, but rather confronted his own deluded mind face to face.  For Xu Yun the physical body was not something that needed to be made ‘comfortable’, as this process itself is an act of the very delusion that he was striving to over-come.  This kind of commitment was complete and thorough – the physical body and the material world it inhabited – were the problem set before the mind’s inner eye.  The Buddha, thousands of years ago found the truth he sought and developed a path for others to follow.  Today there is a very definite trend within Buddhism of intellectual understanding taking the place of practice and actual realisation.  It is as if by the act of formulating an understanding about what enlightenment might be, enlightenment itself has been attained.  Of course, this is an absurdity of delusion that imagines itself as higher knowledge, rather than the shackle it actually is.  Unless the aspirant commits himself to an ardent path of meditation, no realisation will occur.  Intellectualism, regardless of its refinement, is simply more delusion.  Master Xu Yun, through his example of passing many years meditating in the wilderness is setting an eternal example of the kind of practice intensity that is required if the deluded mind is to be transcended.  This is not an easy task.

In the Tang Dynasty Ch’an literature examples abound of enlightenment occurring after a short dialogue with a master, or after some kind of demonstrative action, such as a slap, a kick or a shout.  For the effectiveness of the Ch’an method this is an important observation.  When Xu Yun was travelling through the Chinese hills in his youth, he did not come across any masters of this calibre and so had to rely upon meditative practice.  This is not an error, or an inferior practice.  It must be borne in mind that many of the apparently spontaneous acts of enlightenment happened in an instant; this is true, but usually after many years of meditative experience.  It is a general belief within Ch’an circles that modern living creates a layer of delusion within the mind that is particularly dense and difficult to break through.  Therefore cases of spontaneous enlightenment, although not impossible are nevertheless a rare occurrence.  Even the gongan – the recorded dialogue between an enlightened student and a Ch’an master – is often held in the mind as a meditative aid within certain lineages.  That is to say that the record of a free-flowing enlightened exchange is converted from its spontaneous ‘freeing’ function, to that of a potentially long term meditative method whereby the dialogue is imagined within the mind with a certain intensity that is designed to draw all thoughts into ‘its’ structure, and therefore eventually free the mind by removing the obscuring layer, thus revealing the Mind Ground within.  This kind of usage applies the gong-an as a method of thought absorption, whereas originally the very same dialogue (comprising the gong-an) was representative of a penetrating insight that was cutting through a student’s mind layer of obscuring delusion and revealing the Mind Ground immediately, without recourse to method or technique.  Eventually, this re-application of the gong-an was refined further into the hua tou – an ingenious device designed to reveal the essence of thought itself.  Of course, if one thought is used to reveal the Mind Ground, all thoughts are necessarily uprooted and delusion is smashed.  The hua tou internalises the enlightened exchange to a more subtle degree.  A question that bests suits the ego being uprooted is given to the student – in reality the question itself is of no relevance – as long as the question begins with the word ‘who’?  Whereas the original gong-an usage demonstrates a non-specific penetrative technique of instantaneous ‘turning about’ within the mind, the gong-an as a meditative device seeks to draw all thoughts to its mental structure where they are dissolved in concentrative effort.  The hua tou reduces all thoughts to ‘who?’, and through the power of enquiry implicit within the word, not only dissolves all thoughts, but carries the enquiry into the empty essence of the mind itself.  Both the gong-an and hua tou methods are designed to be used by the aspirant independent of any other external assistance, regardless of whether a master is present or not.  In many ways these innovative Ch’an methods are designed to achieve the same end as that of concentrating upon the breath found within early Buddhism.  The main distinction is that the Ch’an methods contain an implicit driving force that is designed to push the concentrated awareness beyond the mere awareness of the object of meditation.  The Ch’an method combines both tranquillity and insight meditation into one powerful practice.  There are no levels as such, merely enlightenment and the lack of enlightenment, even though there may appear to be many expedient levels of development.  The hua tou particularly aims to replicate the exact moment the enlightened master penetrates the previously deluded mind of the student – thus instantaneously wiping out all delusions and revealing the Mind Ground.  The interesting thing about this is that the student is effectively enlightening himself.

After the initial opening of the mind, master Xu Yun teaches that a further period of meditation is required to wipe out all psychological habits.  A ‘stilled’ mind still has the potential to experience klesa or impurities as it is not yet fully realised.  Xu Yun likens this to a jar of water containing dirt – if the jar is left for a long time without being moved, the dirt will sink to the bottom and the water will appear clean.  However, if the jar is picked up and shaken, the dirt re-appears through the water.  When students are not instantaneously enlightened, but achieve lesser, but equally important states of development, further training is required to progress further.  It is also true, however, that on occasion the Ch’an literature mentions students who are perfectly enlightened, but that still require a period of further training to clear-up residual mental habits.  What is important is a central practice that firmly anchors the practitioner to the spiritual spot, so to speak, and allows for the penetration of the mind without error or doubt.  Xu Yun does talk of a useful ‘doubt in the mind’ (yi-qing) that is spiritually positive.  This kind of doubt does not allow the mind to settle for egoistic interpretations, or to development attachments to Dharma and insight.  This type of doubt always knows that there is further development to be undertaken and is always watching for subtle delusions to develop, so that they can be cut-down without mercy.  This is why a constructive doubt, coupled with an effective meditative method, can be ruthlessly applied on the spiritual path.  When realisation occurs, its validity can be sought within the Ch’an literature, specific Mahayana Sutras and of course, and from qualified masters who might be monastic or lay, male or female.  The Great Wayknows no distinction.  Master Xu Yun, over many decades experienced numerous enlightenment breakthroughs which he confirmed through scripture consultation and master consultation and dialogue.  What is important is that false Ch’an is not indulged.  Throughout virtually every age there have been various versions of so called heretical Ch’an taught by charlatans and fraudsters.  These people and their methods exist even today and they lead many honest spiritual seekers astray.  Teaching a false path to others to aggrandise the deluded ego leads only to terrible karma.  The bad karma is magnified due to the fact that the Buddha’s teaching is being slandered and misrepresented, and that this effect is being magnified through the destroyed spiritual efforts of those who have been deliberately taken through the wrong path.  Xu Yun demonstrated a brutally honest approach to self-cultivation and set an example of what is good and reliable Ch’an.  The power of the mind as Xu Yun conceived, it was not an abstract idea that theorised about reality but never actually proved its theorisation.  Instead, the mind in its entirety is the underlying reality to all phenomena, and it influences, guides and directs all physical experiences.  Experiences come through the deluded mind as good, neutral and bad karmic experiences.  By working upon the mind through meditation, not only is the fabric of the mind being transformed, but the sheer psychic power that is unleashed through meditation, is able to permeate the entirety of physical matter and change it for the better.  This is the effect of waves of qi flowing outward in the ten directions.  This is because everything exists within the mind and is inherently ‘empty’ of any permanent substance.  The positive effect of meditation upon the environment however, regardless of its strength, is only a secondary manifestation and such an effect should not be given any undue attention.  The physical body, regardless of its apparent state can be sustained spiritually through the meditative practice when a lifestyle within the wilderness is the only option.  Illnesses and injuries can heal at a faster rate than normal when regular meditation is engaged within.  Master Xu Yun was often ill, and occasionally hurt – this includes a terrible beating given to him by Red Guards when he was well over 100 hundred years.  He demonstrated time and again the power of the human mind to achieve physical longevity and to endure often long term hardship.  The level of qi development is often so strong in extensive meditators that they are often able to manifest unusual abilities and tremendous feats of strength.  Xu Yun, of course, displayed this ability through the mundanity of his simple life on the road.  He often refused to sleep in warm rooms and comfortable beds, but rather preferred being close to nature and the elements.  In his life he was able to walk vast distances all over China, and this included travelling to foreign lands.  The only transport he used was some form of boat to get across the seas – but only when necessary.  He walked in all kinds of weather, including thick snow.  Occasionally he would prostrate in prayer every third step, even when he was suffering from illness.  Once, whilst travelling back from Burmahe picked-up a very large and heavy boulder to prove to the labourers that were with him that they could carry the Buddha statue in their charge back to China.  On the other hand, despite these obvious displays of spiritual power, Xu Yun always emphasised the act of meditation over the performance of miraculous feats.  Indeed, when he visited the famous templeof Shaolinhe made no mention of martial arts practice, but instead simply noted that Bodhidharma had once stayed there, whilst transmitting Ch’an Buddhism from Indiato China.  Xu Yun was very well known from his travels within and outside of China.  Although he never came to the West, he did travel to places such as India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Hong Kong, Tibet, Malaysiaand even Thailand.  Indeed, whilst in Thailandhe was introduced to the king, who became his disciple.  Much of Xu Yun’s popularity was due to his reputation as a pure follower of the Buddha’s path, and to his ability to effectively teach the Ch’an Dharma with compassion and wisdom.  Although he did not come to the West, he did meet a number of Westerners, including the American Ananda Jennings (mentioned in his autobiography), and the British academic John Blofeld – both whom enquired about the Ch’an teachings.  These meetings, no doubt, sparked an interested in Western Buddhist, and it is through this interest that he asked his lay student Charles Luk (1898-1978), to translate important key Chinese Buddhist texts into English so that Westerners might have a reliable resource for their meditative study.  Not only this, but because of Xu Yun’s inspiration Charles Luk visited London as early as 1935, and when living in exile in Hong Kong due to the government of Mao Zedong on the Mainland, kept up an extensive written dialogue with Western Ch’an Buddhists, demonstrating the ancient Ch’an letter writing tradition prevalent in China.  Such a tradition works upon the premise that a well chosen word or phrase can take a student beyond the reliance upon ‘words and phrases’.  Charles Luk taught many people and one of his students from Great Britain- Richard Hunn (1949-2006) – was specifically asked by him to keep the English translations in print, and continue the Ch’an teaching.  Today, the Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study (www.chan-forum.org) continues this tradition.  Although Xu Yun did not physically travel to the West his influence has reached there through his students, with lineages in America, Britain, France, Bulgaria, Slovenia and many other places.  His influence is demonstrative of the purity and strength of his enlightened mind, and the trust that he placed in particular individuals to take the Ch’an Dharma forward.  Although he abandoned the world of family relations and had no descendents, the lineage that he perpetuates, takes forward the Shakya name of the Buddha, as a spiritual essence that spreads down through the ages.  Today, as modernChina recovers from the trauma of a destructive revolution with its pointless attacks upon tradition and religion, people such as master Xu Yun are being re-discovered and their teachings re-engaged.  Their value as spiritual beings and cultural icons is now being recognised.  Of course, other than his robe and one or two simple objects, Xu Yun did not wealth, family or social status and much of the time he led a physical existence that might be described as that of a wondering beggar.  The outer physical body was just a vehicle to practice and spread the Dharma.  His Chinese philosophical education was nothing short of first class as is evident through the content of his discourses delivered during Ch’an Weeks – that is times of extended meditation in a particular place attended by whoever wishes to meditate.  Chinese history is replete with examples of extraordinarily gifted individuals that although lacking in material wealth have amassed an inner wealth through years of dedicated study – much like Confucius himself.  Generally speaking, outer wealth is not necessarily a guarantee of knowledge, and even if a privileged upbringing does secure a certain education, it is doubtful that wisdom is a result.  Wisdom is often the result of long suffering and self searching.

In his teaching and lecturing Xu Yun often emphasised ‘good conduct’ as an important strand toward effective self-development.  In this regard he spoke often and clearly about his belief in karma and the re-births experienced because of it.  Not all experiences are directly related to volitional actions, but it is the volitional actions – that is patterns of behaviour formulated within the mind and manifest through actions in the physical world – that directly influence the kind of birth experienced, pulling disparate materials together to form a ‘life’.  These conditions can be conducive to Dharmic practice or antagonistic to it.  Obviously through pure intent and clean actions a good human re-birth is assured, together with the conditions that lead to the direct contact with the authentic Dharma.  Deviation from this path leads to re-births in realms that do not allow the Dharma to be manifest or practiced – the human realm is unique in as much as deluded beings can escape from the suffering of their delusion whilst existing within.  Greed, hatred and delusion, together with teaching the reality of materialism, the denying of karma and re-birth and distorting the Buddha’s teachings for selfish ends, leads invariably to non-human births, or to human births that entail negativity and a limited spiritual possibility.  Feigning enlightenment and leading others into the dark tunnel of intensified delusion leads invariably to a state of enhanced suffering.  This can be instantly changed if he need for reform is truly present.  The escape from this mire is related to karma producing actions – change the actions and the inner and outer environment will be transformed for the better.  Karmic fruit will manifest that are positive and bright drawing others to the glow of good Dharma cultivation.  For Xu Yun, this was a crucial aspect of Ch’an training and a living reality – it was not an abstract theory.  Just as the Buddha changed his life through meditation, so did master Xu Yun – following the principle of generating positive karma and acknowledging the living of numerous previous lives.  Needless to say, without the acceptance of the idea that karma and re-birth are an integral and foundational aspect of Buddhist thinking, then the path of Ch’an can not be taken.  Just ten years after Xu Yun left his body, his student Charles Luk, writing in his 1966 book entitled ‘The Surangama Sutra’, mentions the presence of materialists and blasphemers, particularly in the West who try to mislead other Westerners by expressing misinformed opinions disguised as freedom of speech,  Buddhism is an art that must be mastered.  As such it is comprised of many aspects.  Ch’an, although often dispensing with the requirement for a formal Buddhist education, nevertheless involves the practice of a particular method which must be fully understood by the student, who should be guided by a living master or an authoritative text, or both.  Many Ch’an practitioners, whilst following an extensive meditative path also learn about the sutras.  Others abandon all learning until they have become clear about the Mind Ground.  Whatever the case, neither type of student can say that they have understood the Dharma until they have personally experienced the Mind Ground and wiped out all notions of dualism and entered the all-embracing mind.  Until that time, any one who has not experience this breakthrough can not speak with any authority about the Ch’an Dharma.  Those not engaged in Buddhist practice at all, can not speak at all, and when they do they merely express the current superficial movements of their undeveloped mind.  Master Xu Yun eventually experienced full enlightenment at aged 56 – in the year 1895-96.  He dedicated his life to the practice and teaching of the Buddha Dharma, and the extent of his success can be measured from the fact that this monk (who was born in Fujian province and left home at around 19 years old), eventually inherited all of the five schools of Ch’an, breathing new life into an old tradition.  His life served as the spiritual conduit for the modern world, and not just in China.  In 1934 he had a number of visions of Hui Neng – the Sixth Patriarch – and after this event embarked upon a life time of temple and monastery restoration – an activity that he continued even after Mao Zedong’s government came to power, up until Xu Yun’s death in 1959.  Despite being asked to stay in Hong Kong in his 110th year (1949-50) and not go back to the Mainland of China, Xu Yun responded by saying that he could not abandoned the people of China and that despite the change of government there was still much work to be done.  The next decade, the last of Xu Yun’s very long life time, would see a time of great personal suffering the Xu Yun and for the people ofChina.  Out of the pain of the material world the path of Ch’an emanates in to ten directions.  Master Xu Yun is considered the right dharma eye for this generation.

The authentic teachings of master Xu Yun are preserved at this link:

Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study – www.chan-forum.org

Bill Hicks: The View From Within.

Intellectuals and philosophers are often depicted as inhabiting the academies, or working in prestigious universities or high powered government positions.  Very rarely are they products of the ordinary people.  In the usual procedure of production it is the general trend that the educational elite produce the next generation of the educated elite, as social position and economic well-being create the conditions that allow for elitism of this type to self-replicate.  Of course, it is not always like this, as on occasion a true genius shines through regardless of social position or family history.  Bill Hicks – the American comedian – is just one of these remarkable people.  Although his chosen medium of communication was humour, the quality and content of his work, when objectively analysed, has to be described as the presentation of a deep and penetrating philosophy disguised as humour.  It is a philosophy that contains the added ingredient of making people laugh whilst simultaneously providing them with an education.  Like the Greek philosophers of ancientGreece, Hicks stood up in public and delivered his rhetoric.  He started doing this in his early teens up until his death from pancreatic cancer in 1994 – aged just 33 years old.  The volume of his work by this time demonstrates that although he died young, he was able to fill his short existence with a lifetime of words.  As is the case with any philosopher – the standard of the philosophy produced is dependent upon the quality of the words chosen.  His presence upon stage was a blend of the ‘public’ and the ‘personal’ – in a room full of hundreds of people he had the ability to make everyone feel as if he were talking directly to them and sharing a private joke, observation or complaint.  Hicks drew the audience into his psychological sphere of influence – creating a sense of approval – even if the spell was broken somewhat at the conclusion of the performance.  Although obviously an American, Bill Hicks presented the best of that culture that served its purpose primarily through the function of criticism.  American media presents an essentially rightwing and highly religious narrative by way of a means of defining what it thinks ‘America’ is, or should be.  Hicks operated strictly as a provider of a continuous counter-narrative that never relaxed for the duration of his lifetime.  He was genuinely affronted by much of what passed as ‘American’ through the media, and had a very poignant grasp of the US’s involvement in politics around the world, including the way it uses its military to create regime change.  The image Hicks presents through his work is that the majority of Americans either have no interest in what their country does in their names, or are just naïve or legitimately ‘unaware’.  His purpose is not just to entertain, but rather to act as an educator to people living in theUSwho simply do know or care about reality.  American culture, in its local or regional variety tends to exist oblivious to the outside world.  Its information is gained from a media that deliberately dumbs down news articles and in so doing, misrepresents the facts of those articles, creating a ‘Diseny-fication’, a kind of cartoon version of the world andAmerica’s place within it.  This kind of narrative is entirely devoid of any ability to observe itself in an honest or impartial manner.  The comedy routines developed around this lack of this internal observation.  Americanism is presented as never wrong and always practical – the cutting-edge of Hicks’ observations were often uncomfortable for those who paid-in to the system without question.  The Christian rightwing was wrong, the American foreign policy was wrong, American militarism was wrong, homophobia was wrong, racism was wrong, the Police were wrong, politicians were wrong, sexual attitudes were wrong, the media was wrong, capitalism was wrong, discrimination was wrong and the war in Iraq was not just wrong, but illegal as well.  Hicks was not un-American.  The impression one gets from watching and listening to his performances is that here was a man who had educated himself beyond the confines of his own culture.  As an American, in many ways Bill Hicks represents the very best of what the culture of theUSAhas to offer.  But this brilliance does not mean that it has to conform to every contemporary attitude extant withinAmerica.  This voice of opposition was far more important than a quiet voice in the wilderness.  Like Lenny Bruce, Bill Hicks would not compromise with what he thought was wrong with the country he lived in and the people he lived amongst.  His counter-cultural approach signified an aspect of his character that always sought the ‘beyond’ or the ‘transcendental’ from within the ordinary.  His experimentation with LSD and his belief and acceptance of UFO’s as being representative of an advanced alien culture visiting the Earth is indicative of this inclination, as is his practice of meditation and his studying of Eastern philosophy.  In many ways, his public performances helped him psychologically transcend the reality of his situation, but in so doing, also helped those who came into contact with him during these performances, to experience a very similar effect.  He often spoke out against what he perceived as the corruption of institutional religions – but did not reject the notion of spirituality – in fact he drew a very precise line between the two.  Established religions were corrupt and practiced a type of highly exploitative brain-washing upon its members.  Religions of this type tended to keep practitioners ignorant of the facts and in a state of self-imposed fear designed to prevent any real spiritual growth.  Spirituality, on the other hand, contained endless possibilities of inner exploration.  These journeys were self-selected and self-enacted and the results immediate and unmediated by a priestly hierarchy who claimed to have your best interests at heart.  For Hicks it was definitely the human mind that was the key to human evolution – and he saw the next stage of human development as comprising of a conscious transformation of being above and beyond the base level of the banal everyday existence.  He wanted humanity to rise together in one gigantic wave of developmental bliss, the experience of which would mean that nothing would be the same again.

In 1992 much of his output centred on the defeat of George Bush Jr, in the US Presidential elections following his successful invasion of Kuwait and southernIraqin the first Gulf War.  Through such material Hicks described his political stance ‘as a little to the Left’.  He says that he did not vote for Bush because the recent Republican administrations had sponsored genocide in South American countries – whilst the US media limited the issue to whether a new Democratic President would raise taxes.  The natural Rightwing bias within theUnited Statessystem is so prevalent that any legitimate notions of Socialism are treated as if they are a crime of immense immorality, stupidity and the product of extreme mental illness.  Hicks detested the mainstream media – and along with corporate advertisers – viewed it as a product of Satan’s seed.  In this respect he could be very forceful in his opinions – surprisingly so when his style of delivery is taken into account.  The passion manifests suddenly within a meandering narrative about this or that.  Regardless of the raw human emotion, he never abandoned the principle of considered opinion gained through intellectual analysis.  The intelligence of Hicks – and his intelligence was as able as any renowned thinker Western civilisation has produced – never abandoned an accompanying morality that moulded ideas and directed actions.  This morality, however, was never aimed at anyone else as a meta-theory, Hicks primarily targeted himself through its filter honestly expressing all his human failings to the general public.  It is true that his political views were highly critical of the American system, but as an American brought up within the ‘land of free’, that his criticism was a natural conclusion of a free thinker and a confirmation of the so-called ‘American Way’.  He expressed his highly intelligent criticism of the USA because American culture, with all its implicit underpinnings of the right to free and equal expression, provided the very conditions needed to produce some one such as Bill Hicks, a person that could well be described not only as an eternal cultural icon, but also as a multifaceted ‘genius’ who was primarily unacknowledged during his short life-time, but whose work continues to affect and effect people’s lives despite him no longer being on this plane.  What is distinctive about Hicks and his political opinion is that he refused to bow down to the American Rightwing – which had become very powerful during the Cold War – and the mainstream media it controlled.  As an American, Hicks expressed the finest qualities of the unwillingness to conform to what he saw as oppressive thought patterns and the political and military actions premised upon them.  In this regard he was often attacked as being ‘unpatriotic’ by the Right, and bizarrely ‘un-American’, when in fact even a cursory glance of his work would inform the average person that Hicks was American, but that he expressed a kind of Americanism that harked back to the heady days of revolutionary thought that founded the US system, and the inherent Leftwingism that use to be obvious and present within the US political narrative.  Bill Hicks was not a cultural aberration, but rather a confirmation of the American Revolution that threw-off the shackles of direct Colonial rule fromLondon.  Only in relatively recent times has the American Rightwing totally subsumed the Left to such an extent that it appears no longer to exist in that country.  No wonder that Bill Hicks often describes himself as a ‘little to the Left’, because in a country where the Rightwing dominates alone, absolutely any questioning of that system is immediately attacked, ridiculed and destroyed through the use of words and imagery, and as the last great threat to American Capitalism was the Soviet Union – any one who disagrees with Rightwing Republicanism is of course immediately accused of be a Communist, as if being aware of, or a member of that noble school of thought were some kind of crime.  Even today, the Democrat President Barak Obama is referred to by his political enemies as ‘Comrade Obama’.  Hicks says that we are the ‘puppet people’, the docile masses who believe that every thing placed upon the TV has to be true because it is ‘there’.  The contemporary American political system, consisting as it does of just two parties, was presented by Hicks as two separate puppets controlled by the same person.  Nothing was beyond the discerning eye of his precise criticism.  What is interesting is that he was able to create a political dialogue that questioned the status quo of the country he lived within, whilst presenting that dialogue (at the point of first contact), through the filter of a refined humour.  It is as if Hicks was aware of the institutional resistance educated into the minds of the American public, and designed his performances to engage the resistance, nullify it through a gentle humour – that is ‘softening up the resistance’ – before delivering the implicit Leftwing thrust of his thinking to a relatively receptive, or prepared  mind.  This method of accessing the minds of others is incredibly sophisticated – and this is before the actual content of his rhetoric is taken into account.  Although very clever, it can not be accused of being a manipulation of the masses, as the audiences choose to attend the public performances actually paying to be entertained in this manner.  Today, thousands of people continue this activity by purchasing the DVDs and CDs of Bill Hicks’, allowing themselves to be transformed by the Bill Hicks experience contained within.

The content varied in his performances around the subjects of politics, religion, extraterrestrial visitation, human ignorance, violence in society, city life and of course sexuality.  InBritain, Hicks would gather knowledge about local areas and tailor his sketches accordingly.  For instance, when inOxford(in 1992) it was the area of Cowley that took the brunt of some his humour – to the appreciation of theOxfordaudience.  It was here also that Bill Hicks lamented the recent election defeat of the British Labour Party earlier that year.  This performance, perhaps one of the best all round of his later career, spends time talking about pornography and the hypocritical attitudes existent within theUSAassociated with sexuality.  This a country that produces a very large output of hardcore pornography at an alarming rate, whilst simultaneously practicing a moral conservatism that leads to simulated scenes of a sexual nature being deleted from mainstream cinematic films.  The Kennedy Assassination is a favourite theme of and recurs through his performances.  He pours scorn upon the ‘official’ version of events and through a re-cap of the key points of the event demonstrates that this version is not only probably incorrect, but at the same time signifies a cover-up that is an insult to the average intelligence.  This interlocks with the idea that the American political system attempts to lull people into a sense of false security where even their democratic right to ‘question’ is not required to be practiced – ‘go back to bed America, everything is fine…’  It is the apparent negating of the principle of free and informed thinking that offends Hicks the most.  His response is to ‘think more’, not less, whilst confronting such a homogenised culture that is comprised of a blend of ‘control’ and ‘oppression’.  Although the powers that be might prefer their citizenry not to think, they can, whilst perpetuating the contradictory mythology of the ‘land of the free’, actually prevent a person thinking should they choose to do so – Hicks effectively demonstrates this point.  What can happen, however, is that society can be controlled in such a way that creates patterns of behaviour that actively discourage the practice of informed debate – the point Hicks makes through his performances is that America has become such a place where institutional ignorance rules over refined intelligence – and that the higher aspects of education are preserved only for those wealthy enough to afford them, and who, consequently, are supportive of the idea that the majority of the people are conditioned not to think for themselves, but continue the daily grind of repetitive, exploitative behaviour, which contains within it the programming to attack and ridicule any outside attempt to free them from their imposed predicament.  Part of the conserving nature of this situation arises from the presence of fundamentalist religion, which serves as a kind supportive harness to the establishment – accepting its thoughts and actions without question, and actively participating at times in the implementation policies based upon them – invariably Rightwing Presidents are careful to create a media image of a close proximity to religion – usually some kind of Christianity.   Hicks makes the controversial point that many of these Christian groups are opposed to the practice of pregnancy termination – claiming that all life is precious – whilst at the same time often vocally supporting the practice of judicial execution whereby a convicted criminal is put to death by the State.  Hicks does concede, however, that without the practice of the judicial Death Penalty, the distinct religion of Christianity would not exist.  Jesus – of course, taught humanity should love one another and not take any other human life – Hicks appears to be in agreement with this position, but criticises the modern Christian Church for not actually following the teachings as laid down in the scripture of their founder.  This kind of situation is compounded by the anti-scientific stance adopted by many people who take the teachings contained within the Bible at face value.  This literal interpretation denies the teaching of Evolution and instead insists that the presence of dinosaur bones in the earth – that are not mentioned in the Bible – have been placed there by god to ‘test their faith’.  Bill Hicks took exception to the idea that a Christian god is a ‘prankster god’ that spends his time f’cking with his head!

Almost without exception Hicks would always leave his audience with the message that life is just a ride – as it is an essentially a delusional experience – made real by the power of the human mind.  This mind however, has the further ability to consciously evolve to a higher level of being beyond the limitation of everyday thought habit.  This is the transcendental quality of Hicks’ humour.  It is as if the content – as excellent as it was – was just passing the time so that the real underlying message of escape through growth could be delivered.  In a blink of an eye – Hicks informs us – can create peace on Earth, now at this moment.  This is achieved by looking through the eyes of love – rather than the eyes of fear.  This message correlates with the other Hicks idea often deployed as the carrier of this transcendent message, namely that existence is in reality one consciousness experiencing itself through the lives of many.  Unity, peace and transcendence, coupled with love and understanding will take humanity to the next level of evolution and in the process forever leave behind the drudgery, suffering, injustice, persecution and killing that has defined humanities progress for thousands of years.  Within this process it is acknowledged that it is a matter of will – if the entirety of humanity so wished it – peace could become the immediate situation here and now.  Drugs such as magic mushrooms, marijuana, LSD and opium have their place in human development.  Hicks always made the point that the legal drugs of alcohol and tobacco have absolutely no benefit to those partaking in them, and actually lead to the breakdown of society through drunkenness and disease, etc, whilst those untaxable drugs mentioned previously, that have a conscious expanding affect, are prevented from reaching people in a legitimate format due to their assumed illegality.  The ‘War On Drugs’, according to Hicks was actually a war on civil rights.  Hicks stated that as long as a person is not hurting another human being, what business is it of any one else what we do with our own consciousness?  Bill often stated that he once ingested magic mushrooms and spent the next four hours lying in a field experiencing a deep and profound love for everything in existence.  If enough people had a similar experience it would become very difficult to justify warfare as a concept and an activity, and the arms manufacturing business would collapse over-night.  Hicks suggest here that there is a conspiracy conducted by the establishment that conspires to prevent ordinary people partaking in substances that would probably enable them to see the absurdity of their situation and the brain-washing techniques used to sustain it.  This is one of the methods the authorities use to retain power in a real sense that gives the illusion of choice as exercised through the modern democratic process.  When the government is not busy openly controlling the outside of the human body, it is actively participating in the suppression of the inner mind, preventing conscious growth and the kind of associated education that would see through the government’s role in holding all the oppression together.  Although the official propaganda continuously declares that drugs are bad, Hicks continuously counters these claims by pouring scorn upon the official rhetoric, and decisively stating for the public record that he has engaged in mind altering drug experimentation and has never robbed any one, or killed any one, but rather had an amazing experience before going about his day.  In many of his recorded shows he actually encourages the audience to experiment with drugs and make their own mind up, pointing out that much great music and art has evolved from the creative genius of those under the influence of such substances.  There is a peculiar parallel to these statements in as much as by 1992 Hicks had already been off of drugs for four years, and had just stopped smoking.  However, despite these adjustments of habit for health reasons, Hicks never backed away from the idea that mind altering substances are beneficial to the humanity’s consciousness.  For Hicks these kinds of drugs offer a speeding up, or a short cut through the evolutionary process.  This is all backed up by the idea that no one under the influence of marijuana has ever gotten into a fight – because it is just impossible to do so.  This open and honest approach endeared Hicks as an icon of counter-culture to the younger generation, and confirmed his status as a philosopher pioneer to those older than himself.  Bill Hicks spoke passionately about his experiences in life without distortion or unnecessary elaboration – he never claimed to be any thing he was not.  In many ways, what the audience saw, they got.  The ordinary human condition was not a mistake or hindrance upon the spiritual path of development – it was the path itself – and that meant that everything was up for grabs and comedic discussion.  Sexuality, drugs, the ‘United States of Advertising’, politics, mundane life religion and finally the dying experience, combined in a rich mosaic of experience that if used in the right way could lead a human being to an understanding of the universe far beyond the material plane of existence.  Each word and sentence uttered by Bill Hicks was designed to free the listener from the tyranny of their own everyday existences.  In this respect he was like a modern day Ch’an or Zen master, cutting down delusion with correct verbal expression, presenting at times the most brutal of compassion.  Hicks could be harsh –his monologues involving the Goat Boy, Satan’s Seed, corporate and political hypocrisy and many others, although dark and brooding were never dishonest.  Hicks displayed both sides of humanity whilst always pushing for a spiritually transcendent experience.  He manifested a certain gentleness of spirit that enveloped whatever communicative mood he happened to be on the night, and recorded conversations off stage, often with people he did not know, show that as a human being he was thoughtful and caring, never appearing selfish, or full of arrogance due to his celebrity.  Indeed, he came across as very ‘ordinary’ and one of the people.  It is true that this ‘ordinariness’ contained within it an unparalleled ability to entertain random audiences, and simultaneously make them laugh as well as make the think, but behind the professional persona Hicks refused to become a ‘media whore’ whose identity was dictated by the whims of passing fads and expedient commercial considerations.  Hicks was very much of the people, when he spoke to the people, indeed he spoke for the people.

Around 1992 – 1993 Bill Hicks’ career was really taking off.  He was becoming well known in the UKand the USAthrough TV appearances and good press.  He was working continuously and travelling extensively giving nightly performances.  He spent much of his life on the road, but at this time a certain increase in frequency was prevalent.  Hicks was going places.  People wanted to pay to see him perform, whilst managers and producers wanted to book him.  He had been performing from the age of thirteen years old – inspired by the other American comic icon Woody Allen.  From this early age he had honed his philosophy of gentle anarchy in front of adult audiences.  Now, in his early thirties, after performing for nearly twenty years, he seemed to possess a spirit of one far older.  Appreciation for his work as an artist, performer, philosopher and member of the counter-culture intelligentsia, was just beginning to become mainstream.  A number of his live shows had been purposely recorded for release on CD and there was talk of regular TV shows with Hicks as the host.  Furthermore, his American grown humour critical of the current state of USculture had found a very warm welcome in Great Britain.  He played in Scotlandand Englandto sell out crowds whose enthusiasm for his presence seemed to lift Bill Hicks to another level (or frequency of being) in his performances.  Not long after his performance in Oxford (November, 1992), Bill Hicks started to experience discomfort in his abdomen area – as his schedule was very busy, this was put down to indigestion brought on by a fast lifestyle and late nights.  Just over six months later, in June 1993, Hicks was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.  Hicks was given just three months to live.  He was started on treatment designed to give him a little more time, which it did.  Bill Hicks lived another eight months before passing away on February 26th, 1994.  He continued to perform and make plans for the future in 1993 after the diagnosis, but the chemotherapy and the illness were beginning to take their toll.  Incredibly, Bill Hicks performed live one more time on stage on January the 5th, 1994 at Carline’s Comedy Club, New York.  Half an hour into the performance Bill asked if his manager was in the audience – he then said ‘I can’t do this anymore.’  Hicks replaced the microphone and walked off stage.  The strength of spirit required to do the gig at the advanced stage of his illness and walk off stage in the dignified manner that he did, exhibited the highest calibre of character.  On February 7th he penned a short piece entitled a ‘New Happiness’.  Within it he thanked god for all the artists, and expressed a remarkably upbeat attitude toward life which was full of hope.  He expressed the shock he felt when first learning of his terminal illness, and the accompanying sense of injustice.  Now, as his illness was nearing its end, Bill Hicks’ creative genius came to the surface once again through the haze of treatment and illness.  This short piece, some just five paragraphs long, reads like a script to one of his performances, expressing a section of incredible insight and glowing wisdom.  He speaks of aNew Hope and a New Happiness contained within his search for answers to life’s great questions – least of all his own particular situation.  Like a Ch’an or Zen master, Hicks appears to be writing his ‘final word’ as his physical life comes to a conclusion.  He concluded this piece with the following words:

I left in love, in laughter, and in truth and wherever truth, love and laughter abide, I am there in spirit.’*

On February 14th, 1994 – St Valentine’s Day – Bill Hicks contacted old friends, and then announced that he would no longer be using speech to communicate.  He was coming to terms with his rapidly deteriorating physical condition and acknowledged the dying process for what it was.  He was withdrawing attention away from the outer world at a time when his diminishing energy was required to maintain the failing body for whatever time it had left.  The dying process, particularly in situations such as this is always an isolating experience – not only for the person under going it, but also for those around who can not help or prevent the inevitable in any meaningful way.  Death at such a young age is devastating to all concerned.  Bills Hicks was a gentle spirit with a sharp, insightful mind.  The manner with which he approached the physical demise of the vehicle that had carried his spiritual essence around for the previous thirty two years or so, can be said to be dignified regardless of the actual realities of such an unfolding of events.  A physical demise of this nature is a waiting game, regardless of the apparent speed with which the time drags by between diagnosis and conclusion.  As with much of life, a paradox appears to be in motion.  It is ironic that much of Bill’s output along his path was based upon actually revealing and clarifying the contradictions inherent in life that many people were unable to perceive.  The final act of this remarkable life involved a shocking exit from the stage.  In one sketch Bill Hicks suggests that the ‘terminally ill’ be used as disposable stuntmen in the movies – giving the impression that this rather public form of euthanasia – was far more dignified than the usual practice of placing the elderly and the dying in unfamiliar care homes to face their end amongst people they do not know.  For Hicks, it was the established modernity that was terrifying – not his suggest that the dying go out in a blaze of dignified glory – Hicks asks the rhetorical question as to whether grandma should die a cold and lonely death – or should she meet Chuck Norris?  Hicks, of course, passed away within the home of his parents, amongst those who loved him, and with those whom he loved.  Bill Hicks left his body at 11:20pm on the 26th of February, 1994.  He lives on, of course, through the memories of those who knew him personally, and through the audio-visual recordings of his many performances and lifetime experiences.  One night inOxford in 1992, he was arguably at the absolute peak of his powers.  It is probably fitting to end this tribute to Bill Hicks not with a profound statement of his – of which there are many – but with a request aimed at him from an appreciating audience.  That request is; ‘Come on Billy!’

Reference: Hicks, Bill: Love All The People, (2004) – Page 293.                            

The Visionary Nature of the UFO Phenomena.

UFO Oregon 1950

UFO Illinois 1950.

The rounded apparitions repeat themselves over and over again, not only in photographs and films but are also believed to be represented in old works of art and description of unusual historical events.  In many cultures the circle is seen as a representative of completion and perfection.  The Chinese civilisation, for instance, has a very well developed tradition of representing what are considered fundamental truths through rounded imagery and symbolism.  The principle of roundedness appears to represent a deeper reality to the human perception than any other shape.  It is complete because the circular nature is not discontinuous and in and of itself it is non-threatening and is therefore profoundly satisfying, linking simultaneously the religious impulse with that of complete awareness.  The rounded shape is logical and allows the intellect to rest within it without distraction.  The phenomenon of the ‘Unidentified Flying Object’ (UFO) is primarily a visual event.  The other senses, although not entirely dormant in the experience of a UFO event, remain, nevertheless, secondary in nature to the visual stimulation.  A UFO is seen first and foremost through the eyes, and it is this contact that triggers the secondary usage of the other bodily senses.  The image itself may exist in the environment independent of the observer, forming a distinct and verifiable objective event, or it may manifest from the mind of the observer using the eyes as a portal from the inner world of psychological process to that of the outer world of external objects.  Of course, in the strict materialist model of existence, that which is created within the mind is an illusion, a phantom or ghost of the imagination that although may convince the observer that some thing is ‘out there’ in the environment, is in fact projecting psychic content outward that appears to be exiting ‘in front’ of the observer, but which in reality remains a purely mental event which contains no physical content.  Generally speaking, the confirmation of the existence of an external event is verified by the consensus of gathered evidence which relies primarily upon objective fact that is beyond dispute.  Psychic events, on the other hand, are considered by and large not to be recordable and certainly unable to project and create a concrete object into the environment.  This would involve the mind pulling elements together in the external world and creating an object of choice.  Even if this was possible and a UFO could be created by the human mind, it would remain a creation of the mind that produced it and not necessarily a flying craft from another planet.  These quandaries are the product of the human reliance upon material philosophy that views the physical world as separate and distinct from the human mind that perceives it.  It is this distinction that renders the human mind as merely a passive observer of an external world it has no direct control over.  It is true that the human intelligence can manipulate matter for particular ends (such as space travel), but this tends to be the product of accumulated human knowledge (over centuries), and the corporate control of resources.  The individual remains first and foremost the recipient of sense-data and at the
whim of social and natural forces.  The many the UFO phenomenon is a highly spiritualised experience.  This experience does not rely upon or even recognise the materialist interpretation of science or philosophy.  UFO’s are not merely concrete physical objects passing through an external world, nor are they simply imaginations projected into the environment – but rather a far more complete manifestation of a deep multiversal truth that transcends the limited human modes of contemporary thinking and existence.  The effect is simultaneous with the experience of the UFO itself and can not be separated from it.  The rounded UFO image appears to be fulfilling the human requirement for an immediate experience of perfection that represents a higher truth unbounded by the habits human convention.  A translucent multiverse allows all to be seen from any single perspective, and the roundel motif of the archetypal UFO represents a constant that although appearing solid is in fact a visual doorway to other parts of existence which includes differing planes of mental awareness.  The laws of conventional physics do not apply in this situation.  An interesting aspect of this phenomenon is that even forged photographic evidence of UFO’s, regardless of the motivation of the forger, serve the function of bringing together many different aspects of the human psyche and many different planes of existence, to such an extent that it has the affect of healing through the experiencing of wholeness.

All the above photographs are listed as appearing throughout four decades – the late 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s, and were taken across theUSA and theUK.  When presented in a montage the shared symbology is obvious and apparent.  Circumstantial differences in the place, time and environment, although interesting are only of a superficial concern when the ‘visionary’ nature of UFO symbolism is being examined.  These differences can be suitably recorded and then filtered out of the analysis.  Simply staring at the four photographs for a number of minutes will let the human mind sieve out the superfluous information and allow for the dominant present archetype to become exclusively manifest.  This process necessarily supersedes even the presence of colour, even if the photographs are in black and white.  Colour, again although useful and interesting in a broader consideration of UFO experience is not, and can not be a defining aspect of a UFO’s presence.  It is the spherical shape of the UFO that is its defining feature.  Every other piece of information within this context becomes secondary in importance to this fact.  This is to say that the study of the UFO phenomena involves the gathering of absolutely any and all information for consideration and analysis – this is a very important area of study for many reasons, the accumulation of which may one day lead to a major breakthrough in a possible human – extraterrestrial interaction, but to gain an understanding about specific aspects requires a concentration only upon the relevant details.  Presence and shape appear to be the base information that suggests a UFO has manifest in the environment.  It is this information that then transforms all accompanying factors toward a higher plane of perceptual awareness.  Nothing is the same again after the moment a UFO manifests in the environment and is perceived through the human sense of vision.  There may, or may not be an associated sound as UFO’s are often reported to be silent.  UFO’s can be still, hanging in the air, or can move at incredible speeds changing angles of flight in ways that should not be usually possible for the speed observed.  UFO’s can be motionless whilst present, or utilise a spinning upon their axis, whether still or moving quickly.  Occasionally a UFO may appear to flicker in and out of perceptual existence, only appear ‘solid’ for a moment or two.  Although the above pictures all share the attribute of air born UFO phenomena, sometimes UFO’s as circular discs have been seen moving through sea water or emerging from the sea into the air.  Appearing and disappearing without suddenly and without warning is a fairly common experience.  Another is that they appear to manifest out of the public gaze in the least public of areas.  Although there have been military reports involving UFO’s – including a sighting upon a military base in the UK – the authorities have been reluctant to share information about these events, even ridiculing those involved as some how being in perceptual error or in dereliction of duty, etc.  It is a similar situation with commercial pilots who are often reluctant to report what they have seen in case their professional judgement becomes subject to scrutiny.  This is the expected response of a culture enthused through with materialist principles.  The presence of UFO’s is a direct threat to the apparent supremacy of the materialist philosophy which is based upon the quantification of matter – as UFO’s – by their very nature can not be quantified and still resist this type of categorisation even today.  Materialist thought that is questioned and threatened with being proven incorrect resorts to the immediate deployment of extensive scepticism and cynicism as a means of bludgeoning a reality that is threatening to burst the seams – back into conformity with the materialist line of thought.  Extensive and over-whelming criticism of any thing that is different allows for the parameters of materialist organised society to remain intact.  Of course this kind of thinking and the society it presumes to protect is nothing but a temporary illusion that appears permanent.  The multiverse does not allow for the many planes of existence to be totally consumed by any one mode of thought, as this would prevent the creativity that lies at the heart of all sentient life.

How does a UFO materialise within the perceptible environment?  The materialist mode of analysis posits three possible explanations.  1) The UFO travels through (materially defined) linear time and space.  It begins its journey from some where else and arrives (i.e. ‘materialises’) at the point of observation.  2)  The UFO is the product of human imagination.  The UFO is conceived within the mind of an individual (or group) and is physically created as a rounded structure, being comprised of materials originating upon this human plane.  This may be a deliberate attempt to deceive, or for some other legitimate activity such as dramatic effect, etc.  3)  The UFO is generated solely within the mind of a single individual, or group of individuals, and although appearing to exist within the surrounding physical environment external to the perceivers, can not be seen by any one else or electronically recorded as being present.  This may be explained as an hallucination generated by an individual, or generated and shared by a group of individuals who are some how bound together.  These three definitions can be extrapolated and extended to include virtually all circumstances surrounding UFO observation.  Although UFO’s are viewed by many as being inter-stellar craft from other planets – possibly carrying alien life forms that have developed a technological culture that is vastly superior to contemporary human scientific achievement – this can not be directly known from just the observation of a spherical object in the sky or sea.  Conversely, such an idea can not be decisively disproven upon the same grounds – a spherical object remains at its core simply a ‘spherical object’ and nothing more can be satisfactorily assumed.  The matter remains open; such is the neutral power of the rounded object to the human mind.  Neutrality as used here implies that the rounded object, although it inspires awe (and some times fear), nevertheless serves as a conduit between the negative and positive force in the multiverse, operating as some thing akin to a ‘zero’ ((i.e. ‘0’) in modern mathematics.  Its presence draws every thing into it without limitation.  It is both ‘alien’ and ‘non-alien’ at exactly the same moment, regardless of its actual origination.  Even a forged UFO can induce this sense of totality within the mind of the unaware observer.  This totality of perception is the product of the observer turned back upon itself and magnified beyond assumed (and normal) perceptual limitations.  A sense of conscious expansion occurs that happens irrespective of the state of mind of the observer.  In this respect, the spherical UFO performs the function of the mandala – an abstract picture found within Asian religion that is designed to reflect various conscious levels of the mind, and to induce these frequencies of heightened perceptual awareness in the individual perceiving the event.  A relatively modest design can appear to contain a potentially vast reality beyond its apparent simplicity.  Of course, this raises issues of philosophical presence and being.  The material model, although definitely useful can not be representative of the whole of reality, but remains limited in scope.  If the world is not actually externally present to the sense organs that detect it, it is interesting to consider that the material model of perception may be severely limited.  A UFO might not appear from another place by following a linear, external flight plan.  If the world is actually comprised of ideas perceived as objective images, hrough its spherical shapethen a UFO, although apparently having followed a flight path could well have simply travelled from one point in a vast multiversal consciousness to another – appearing to physically appear as if out of nowhere.  Conscious matter is matter that is not necessarily solid, but that only appears to be solid.  Moving through time and space does not apply if the strict materialist notion of reality is abandoned in favour of an idealist interpretation.  The UFO appears multiversal because it is a localised presentation of consciousness itself.  Throughits spherical shape, the vastness of existence is condensed into a relatively small area of perception.  The UFO, possibly traversing great distances is in fact moving through the psychic fabric of existence.  The multiverse, as a conscious entity without limit, includes physical matter, but this physical matter is merely a certain frequency of reality within the mind itself.  The personal mind in its ordinary state reflects the UFO in its manifestation – both signify some thing far beyond the limitations of their own particular presentation.  It is multiversal presence in miniature.  Whatever a UFO is or is not, it can seldom be perceived as simply a round shape of little import.  The significance of its presence is often unsettling beyond the realms of reason.  A new reality is beckoning that often threatens the limitations of ordinary life.  Many interpret a UFO as a flying machine from another civilisation.  This is one way for the ordinary human mind to come to terms with the archetypal impulse to seek reality beyond its habitual limitations.  The UFO can not be ‘ordinary’ in any conventional sense.  The human bias is to assume that humanity is the only intelligent life form on the planet, and in the multiverse.  It is more or less a ‘taboo’ subject to assume that a life form could exist any where else other than the planet Earth.  Certain religions have taught for thousands of years that humanity is fashioned in a divine image because it is superior to lesser life forms.  The presence of an alien technology beyond that of humanity’s current level of development seems to represent a secular movement away from religious domination and out of the human bias of singular importance.  UFO’s in the contemporary setting appear to have arrived at a time when theistic religious models are no longer serving their previous functions of explaining virtually everything through the authority of scripture.  Material science, with its specific mode of the interpretation – and consequent limitation of perception- nevertheless has moved humanity away from the reliance upon the authority of scripture and revelation.  It is not that these things have no relevance – they certainly do – but that all religions originally were premised upon an expansive conscious experience that became obscured as the religions spread and became popular – the halo found within Christianity is common inAsiaand signifies the expanded consciousness of an enlightened being.  Like a halo, for instance, the UFO, as a rounded object represents a spiritual completeness.  Carl Jung commented upon this similarity and suggested that humanity, as it moves into the (secular) technological age, was protecting a religious technology upon the rounded objects seen in the sky, but that when assessing various sightings, he said that around 50% appeared to be in the mind only, whilst the other 50%  seemed to be actual physical events.  Jung also commented that the UFO’s did seem to behave as if they were visitors (or strangers), that did not know their way around an unfamiliar place.  A UFO can appear in the physical environment or in the psychological mind – it is interesting to entertain the notion that perhaps these two descriptions represent the same place or point of origin, and that to understand this depends entirely upon where the observer is observing from.

Many legitimate UFO sightings can be explained as fairly ordinary phenomenon that is not unusual or extraterrestrial in nature.  Cloud formations, aeroplanes, tricks of the light, birds, secret military experimentation, and general misinterpretation often are behind UFO manifestation.  Deliberate fraud is behind many others.  But when all the sightings are checked and categorised there are usually a small number that remain unexplained, or that can not be explained to everyone’s satisfaction.  Added to this can be added film and still photography from various NASA space missions.  This is where the analysing skills of material science are very helpful.  Those UFO’s which are explainable are no longer a UFO, but rather an ordinary explained flying object.  This knowledge removes these kinds of sightings from consideration, as well as those objects exposed as bits of cardboard, hub-caps or kites, etc.  Nevertheless, this analytical success should not be allowed to create a bias ‘a priori’ attitude that a true UFO is impossible or improbable.  Good science always allows for the unexpected, and from the philosophical perspective materialist thinking – scientific or otherwise – should not be viewed as the only possible way of viewing existence.  It is also important to remember that science is not beyond the realms of political and financial persuasion, and that sometimes the scientific method in the hands of certain people, can be wrong, immoral or both.  The objective analysis should not distract from the revelatory nature of the UFO encounter regardless of its actual origination.  This encounter is always ‘visionary’ to a certain degree.  This visionary experience can range from a mild sense of euphoria to that of a complete transpersonal experience.  This is essentially a spiritual experience and amounts to the presence of religion without religion.   It is spirituality as yet undefined (and undefiled) by cumbersome concepts.  Both inner and outer space converges upon the physical body of the spherical UFO, so that no dimensional difference can be detected.  The experience of the UFO is a sudden collapse of partial world views into that of complete understanding.  It is a dramatic and unexpected experience, as sudden as it is difficult to explain.  Sometimes the experience stays as a permanent attribute to a persons character, at other times the experience, although extremely memorable, fades virtually as soon as the UFO leaves the ordinary visual range.  Whatever the case there is no doubt that the experience is never forgotten and serves to inform opinion about life and its experiences.  The entanglements that evolve around power in society are often incorporate into the UFO experience.  The UFO presence is so powerfully present that it inspires confidence and bravery in the face of established social order.  In many ways the clash is inevitable between the ordinary person and the limiting structures of established society.  Many assume that the government and the military, as well powerful corporations are in possession of information and technology acquired from downed UFO’s and gathered over many decades.  This even extends to the recovery of alien bodies – either alive or dead.  The denial of this reality by those expected of it only serves to add fuel to the fire as the nature of the denials appear very non-committal and often as illusive as the UFO phenomena itself.  The denials are of such a psychological frequency that they actually serve to encourage the allegations they are designed to annul.  The fact that these social entities spend time on constructing barely credible denials is in itself highly suspicious behaviour and certainly not the kind of response expected for the removal of an apparently untenable allegation.  The denial seems to be designed so that it encourages the perpetuation of the allegation.  From a philosophical perspective it must be assumed that the presence of UFO’s – and the conspiracy theories based upon them – serves a hidden purpose for the authorities who expediently adopt an official denial position that encourages the continued existence of the accusation.  Such is the power of the presence of the spherical UFO.  During the existence of the Soviet Union (1917-1991), Soviet scientists investigating the events surrounding the Tunguska incident that occurred on June the 30th, 1908, considered the possibility that the massive explosion that devastated an 800 square miles of a remote Siberian area was extraterrestrial in nature.  This celestial body apparently exploded in the air aboveTunguska leaving vast forests flatten roughly in the shape of a butterfly’s wings – consistent with what is thought by many to be an airborne explosion of a very large meteorite – although no evidence of this meteorite has been discovered upon the ground during the numerous expeditions mounted to the area.  The explosion was so intense that areas ofEurope remained ‘light’ for weeks afterwards.  Soviet scientists at the time pursued an investigation based upon the observation of matter, drawing whatever conclusions they could from the evidence gathered.  The early expeditions photographed and filmed the devastation, revealing thousands of trees lying like match-sticks upon the ground, all facing in the same direction – indeed the photographs carry a certain disturbing quality – suggesting an almost unimaginable scale to the destruction.  Later, following the advent of the nuclear age, some Soviet scientists started to theorise that the explosion may have been the result of the presence of an alien technology within the area, and that this display of force occurred in a part of the planet that although being geographically large was also sparsely populated.  This does not mean that no one died – as these areas were occupied by the Evenki nomadic people – some of whom survived just beyond the periphery of the explosion itself.  Eye witness reports sound very similar to those of survivors of the atomic bombs dropped onJapan during the last days of WWII.  InTunguska the exact numbers of dead are unknown.  In 1947 – just after the dropping of the atomic bombs, a story emerged (and gradually developed over the years) of an apparent UFO crash in theRoswell area ofNew Mexico,USA.  Although originally involving one alien craft, the story eventually expanded into two or more craft crashing in the area.  This story is augmented by a military press release that stated a UFO had crashed and been recovered by the US military – the next day the story was retracted and the apparently alien UFO was replaced by an innocuous weather balloon.  As the story emerged, developed and was revealed the allegation surfaced that the US military had recovered the bodies (either dead or alive) from the wreckage, and that the weather balloon story was a very rushed and poorly planned cover-story designed to hide the facts from the general public.   This story has expanded as the years have gone by – as if an act religious revelation is unfolding.  He conscious human mind is the obvious conduit for this development of a completely different set of outer circumstances used to meet the highest spiritual yearnings of humanity, but there are parallels with the old religions.  Jesus Christ, for instance, is believed to be the Son of a monotheistic God born into human form.  Despite what might be considered the presence of immense spiritual and physical power, Jesus experiences a life of apparent oppression before being physically killed by the authorities of the time.  This contradiction of immensity and fragility present in a single being seems to be reflected in the Tunguska andRoswell incidents.  It the UFO’s believed to be evident in these incidents are the product of an alien civilisation far more advanced than contemporary human society, and bearing in mind that presumably they must have travelled very far distances to get to this planet, then it is surprising that such an obviously superior physical presence experiences a destruction based upon circumstances it can not control.

The spherical shape of the classic UFO sighting appears to suggest a link through perception to the underlying nature of all things.  The conscious human mind is the conduit for this process.  Perception, whatever it may be, is the two-way portal to expanded understanding.  Linear time and space as defined as the measuring of matter can not be the full philosophical picture that defines existence In its complete form.  Therefore, the assertion of ‘presence’ and non-presence’ is based upon a partiality, or an obscured view of reality.  This dichotomy gives the impression that a UFO ‘travels’ into perceptual awareness, and then ‘travels’ out of perceptual ‘awareness’.  In reality such a situation can not be adequately known as a basis for truth.  Errors occur when definitive statements are formulated based upon such a limited observation.  Alien life has to originate ‘over there’, for it to be unusual ‘over-here’.  However, this may not be the case.  The ‘alien’ and the ‘familiar’ exist side by side, and perhaps even within exactly the same time and space.  The presence or non-presence of an object to the human senses does not necessarily correlate with the notion that the object is ‘here’ one moment, and ‘absent’ the next.  A UFO, therefore, may be:

1)     Present.

2)     Not present.

3)     Both present and not present.

4)     Neither present and not present.

Like Schrödinger’s Cat, the spherical UFO is both present and non-present all at once.  The travelling through external space, from one material base to another, might well turn-out to be an incredibly inefficient and relatively slow method of transportation.  At the moment, outside of the yogic sciences the travelling within inner space remains a mystery or an absurdity.  Certainly space can not be limited to any particular plane of existence, but instead serve as a universal constant within the multiverse.  It is also important to note that the notion of space can not be limited to the mere quantification matter.  In other words, the apparent logical association between ‘space’ and ‘time’ may well not be ultimately correct.  Once space is unencumbered by the materialist association with time (and therefore a specific place), its all-embracing nature can then be fully cognised, understood and utilised by humanity.  If a spherical UFO does represent an as of yet unfamiliar mode of existence involving other unique life-forms, perhaps these life-forms have already realised the totality of space as an independent multiversal reality, and in so doing developed modes of interaction that allows for time to be manipulated outside of its usual association with space, and produce elements of their existence in apparently different realities to their own.  This presence may well manifest on this plane in a very fragile and impermanent manner.  This flimsy manifestation might be an intrinsic value of the mode of travel involved, or a product of human consciousness that is limited to the material realm.  It could of course be a product of both.  The spherical UFO emits a certain complete sense of reality beyond its own manifestation.  This is similar to Mandalbrot’s Set:

There is the presence of an obvious structure that renders its own design immediately redundant through its infinite replication.  It appears to have an actual physical structure, but as perpetuation through change is in operation, the structure becomes transparent and non-existent in its eternality.  The spherical UFO, although appearing in different times and places within the human awareness, represents a continuation of changing manifestation that effectively only appears to be disparate and apart, but is in reality a form of multiversal presence interpreted through the disruptive filter of human perception limited to the measuring of reality through the quantification of matter.  When this hold upon the human consciousness is broken species wide, then a new understanding will emerge and the spherical UFO will become normalised through correct understanding.

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