Email: Ch’an Transmission and Expedient Means

Beautiful Transmission

Dear B

The traditional Ch’an answer is that the only concern for a Ch’an Teacher is that the Student or Dosciple directly perceives the empty mind ground at all times – and that they are ‘clear’ about this (permanent) realisation. This is how the ‘Teacher’ and ‘Disciple’ become ‘equal’ – like two-sides of a see-saw balancing perfectly around the fulcrum. Within the Chinese-language Ch’an texts – the Masers of old would say that they have ‘no interest’ in how a person lives their daily lives – that is, the details of what a person does from day to day is of no direct interest as it denotes merely ‘changing phenomena’. What is important is the realisation of the empty mind ground – and the understanding that all phenomena arise and pass away within this Great Void.

The Indian Monk Bodhidhara (c. 520 CE)

Remember, Indian Buddhism is quite alien to Chinese culture and even today is firmly viewed as ‘foreign’. It took hundreds of years of Indian monks making the difficult and dangerous journeys to China (bringing Buddhist knowledge with them) – and for Chinese monks to walk to India, gain instruction in the Buddhist teachings – and then successfully return to China! Indian Buddhism had to be correctly understood within the context of Chinese culture. This means that Indian Buddhism is reinterpreted within the framework of Confucianism (which defines ‘respect’ and correct ‘relationship’ within society) – and Daoism which regulated the ‘spiritual’ impulses of the masses. Indeed, despite the absorption of certain (and important) Daoist terms – the Ch’an texts have much in-common with the physical structure of the Confucian texts – the Analects particularly. The question of transmission of Chinese Ch’an into the West must emphasis the empty mind ground (and its realisation). This is the core teaching. As to how you expediently transmit this reality is entirely up to you and your (socio-cultural) conditions. You can learn the Chinese method of transmitting lineages – and you can use a more natural and poignant method that has meaning for your life and circumstances.

Step by Step – Generation by Generation

If you wish to transmit a Dharma-Name, for instance, your student can have the ‘Heng’ ideogram – followed by a single ideogram of your choice depending upon their character. This can be decided online through any translation software. On the other hand, if you clear your mind – the natural ‘prajna’ (profound wisdom) capability will manifest and you will know in a ‘profound’ manner what you should do that best conveys the Ch’an Dharma through your specific ‘life’ circumstances. 

Natural Wisdom (Prajna)

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