Richard Hunn (1949-2006) – British Sinologist.

‘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.’

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

‘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.’

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

‘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’.’

The Mahayana Transformation.

‘Collectively, the schools of early Buddhism are often historically referred to as ‘Hinayana’ so as to distinguish them from the emergence of the Mahayana. Whereas the Mahayana becomes historically recognisable around the 1st century CE in India, the Hinayana schools are seen to decline around four centuries later – in the 5th century CE. This demonstrates that both types of Buddhism coexisted for hundreds of years (inIndia) and there are records of monasteries containing monks who adhered to either tradition – living and practicing side by side. The emergence of the Mahayana created the conditions for earlier Buddhism to be viewed as ‘narrow’ and in some way ‘incomplete’. As the Mahayana interpretation represents a substantial expansion and elaboration of the teachings contained within earlier Buddhism, this sets the agenda for the historical interpretation of history with regard to what may be described as the ‘perceived’ developmental history of Buddhism as a distinct academic entity.’

Tantra: Enlightenment Through The Ordinary.

‘Tantra (तन्त्र) is a Sanskrit term that translates literally as ‘weave’ – but more specifically refers to the ‘weft’ of a loom, or the horizontal threads that are ‘weaved’ through the lengthwise warp threads. Indeed, the Sanskrit term ‘tantravaya’ refers to a ‘weaver’. The term ‘tantra’ can also be used to refer the ‘thread’ that is actually ‘weaved’, and is related to the Sanskrit term ‘tanti’ (तन्ति) which translates as a ‘cord’ traditionally used to tether calves. Furthermore, the verbal root ‘tan’ is defined as to ‘stretch’. This description of a practical handicraft has become adapted to describe a specific practice that links the practitioner to his teacher, to the Buddha, and to the goal of enlightenment. There is a common ‘thread’ that weaves its way through time and space, and which also links the practitioner as existing in the deluded sphere, to that of the unconditioned enlightened sphere.’

Sunyata: The Beautiful Emptiness.

‘To understand this developmental process, an assessment of ‘emptiness’ (sunyata) must be undertaken. It is clear that in early Buddhism emptiness refers to the lack of the presence of greed, hatred and delusion, as well the abandonment of the notion of a permanent self. It is an emptiness that marks the absence of delusion. Delusion is no longer present in the mind or perceived in the environment (in relation to the mind). The mind does not create the conditions that lead to the desire of external entities or attachment to those entities. It is true that no further karma is produced but that the karma relating to the world and the physical body continues until it is fully burnt off (at the point of death), and there is no more re-birth. The nirvanic state has present within it certain powers of the mind, and perfected knowledge. This concept of nirvana exists as an escape from the physical world of samsara. It is viewed very much as an antidote to the suffering experienced within ordinary life.’

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