Great Master Xu Yun: On Essential Points of Ch’an Training


Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD

Translator’s Note:  This is the opening paragraph of original Chinese language text entitled ‘虚云大师参禅要旨’ which I have rendered into English above.  I include the Chinese text with my English translation, and would advise English language readers that the entirety of this text has been translated by Charles Luk and appears in Ch’an and Zen Teaching – First Series, Rider, (1987), in Chapter 1 – entitled ‘Prerequisites of Ch’an Training – Pages 19-28.  Although I only cover the direct Ch’an method in this translation – the body of Xu Yun’s text deals specifically with the practice of ‘sila’ – or Buddhist psychological and physical discipline – and emphasises how a monk, nun, or indeed lay-person must follow the appropriate Vows contained within the Vinaya Discipline – if the direct Ch’an path is to be successfully cultivated and attained.  In this teaching (and many others), Xu Yun firmly rejects the false notion that enlightenment within Buddhism can be attained with the required following of virtuous discipline.  This is a thoroughly new translation which maybe compared to that of Charles Luk’s – with the differences between the two serving to help others in their self-cultivation.  ACW 24.5.15

Part One – Prerequisites of Ch’an Practice

The purpose of Ch’an training is to clear the mind and perceive its inherent nature. This is achieved by striving to clear the mind of obscuring pollution, so that the true self-nature (自性 – Zi Xing) can be clearly perceived and distinguished. Pollution is the continuation of delusion, whilst the true self-nature is the Tathagata’s (如来 – Ru Lai) essence of virtuous wisdom. Virtuous Tathagata wisdom is the essence of all ordinary beings and Buddhas alike; it is non-dual in nature, and there cannot be anyother essence. Ordinary beings and Buddhas realise the virtuous Tathagata wisdom only when the obscuring layer of delusion in the mind is permanently swept away. However, delusion is difficult to see through because it is premised upon the false notions of an ‘I’ and a ‘you’, which boundlessly robs the mind of clarity of insight. This delusion has stained the mind for a very long time, and is the basis and driving force of the continuous cycle of life and death. This why it is often not possible for delusion to be wiped-out immediately, and why the Ch’an training requires certain prerequisite (and supportive) practices to be effective.

How is delusion removed by Dharma? Shakyamuni Buddha spoke of this often and advocated a simple nurturing of a ‘Bodhi that achieves cessation’ (歇即菩提 – Xie Ji Pu Ti), which is a method of final and complete ‘cessation’. The Patriarch Bodhidharma (达摩祖师 – Da Mo Zu Shi) brought the Ch’an Lineage (Ch’an Zong) to the east. Through the teaching of the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an (六祖 – Liu Zu) the Dharma was spread far and wide – his example shook the ancient and modern world, and has shone without end…

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.




One comment

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s