Read up on our latest Dharma teachings

Insight at the Three Passes in Gradual Awakening with Gradual Cultivation

Translated by Andrew Yang In querying “Who is chanting Buddha’s name?” questions are raised about Who is it? And Who after all? With untiring perseverance on the part of the Chan practitioner, his noumenal intrinsic nature becomes both serene and part of the voidness. In his mind then, the atma or permanent self is extinct but the dharmas are still extant, and so, while the ego-inspired clinging is gone, his clinging to the phenomena is not yet terminated. This is “insight at a beginning stage”, and hence one needs to pursue further. When confusion-based questioning and a sense of the void get knotted, the more query one executes, the more questioning and knotting there is. By this time, the practitioner is not aware of anything except his own confusion. But once all that is thoroughly cleared, the voidness crashes, the earth recedes and there is a sudden liberating enlightenment. His...

Interview with Dr Chung-kwong Poon

Dr Chung-kwong Poon served as president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University for 18 years, member of The Legislative Council and member of The National Committee of The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. Since retiring in 2009, he has been actively involved in charity and dedicated himself to promoting Buddhism and personal cultivation in Pure Land. In the following interview, we ask him about some of the milestones in his life and his personal experience in practising Buddhism. Dr Poon, how did you walk into Buddhism as a scientist and become a serious practitioner? Hong Kong is such a unique place, with its prestigious schools dominated by either Catholicism or Christianity. While studying at Christian schools in my childhood, I accepted Christian doctrines and found that the teachings of Jesus are very good, but I was not baptized. After getting married, I followed my wife to become a Catholic, and we...

Vimalakirti Delivers A Resounding Thunder, Silently

Translated by Andrew Yang   “Where will Vimalakirti go? Forever, it has been tempting but unreachable. About the one and only Dharma approach, ask not how so? At nightfall, the bright moon ascends a lone hill.” This poem is written by Xuedou Chongxian (980-1052), a Chan master of the Song dynasty, after inquiring and inspired by “the silent thunder”, a gong-an or koan involving Vimalakirti. Accessing “the one and only Dharma approach” means that the practitioner has transcended all dualistic thoughts on the extremes and realized the truth, so it is known literally as “the non-duality gateway”. According to the chapter on Accessing the One and Only Dharma Approach, Vimalakirti Sutra has it that once, Vimalakirti and many bodhisattvas assembled to discuss the non-duality gateway as spoken by the Buddha. The Bodhisattvas enumerated many dualistic concepts, such as birth and death, purity and pollution, good and evil, blessing and sin,...

Tathagata Chan

Translated by Andrew Yang What is Chan or meditative concentration? From an ontological point of view, it is not anything, and yet it is everything. If one thinks of Chan as a kind of thinking, it is not what it’s meant to be. The aim of Chan is to free the practitioner from the shackles of thought. Considering this, how is it possible then to set up an ideology system through Chan? We should know that everything that exists, whether material or spiritual, is not the ontological body of Chan itself, and in that sense, Chan is nothing. At the same time, however, it is not accurate either simply to say that Chan is nothing, for although it is not thought per se, Chan has led to an infinite wealth of human thinking. In addition, since beginningless time, it has never departed from the seeing, hearing, knowing and understanding of...

The Five Approaches to Meditation

Translated by Andrew Yang Sentient beings create karma due to illusion, and karma leads to suffering. What then is illusion after all? We worldlings are blinded by innumerous Illusions which can be summed up as greed, anger, delusion, attachment to the self, and a distracted mind, and thus inflict suffering. The five approaches to meditation in Buddhism can remediate these five illusions. The first approach is contemplation of impurity. This approach is used to heal sentient beings with a strong craving. Here, craving means lust or lewdness. Surangama Sutra says, “All sentient beings’ life are caused by lewdness.” Similarly, there is a well-known saying in Chinese, “Of all vices lewdness is the worst.” With contemplation of impurity, the practitioner visualizes the bodies of himself and the subject he violates as extremely impure. One’s physical body being nothing more than a smelly skin bag, the practitioner thinks calmly and intently at...

Zen and Pure Land: A Most Amazing Cultivation Approach

Translated by Andrew Yang For centuries, the mainstream practices of Chinese Buddhism have been meditative Zen and chanting Buddha’s name. There are followers who practise both, and the approach is known as “dual cultivation of Zen and Pure Land”. What do Zen and Pure Land mean? Zen, or Chan, is an abbreviated transliteration of the Sanskrit word Dhyāna, which means training of the mind through meditation, known as samatha and vipassana, i.e., serenity and insight. Commonly referred to simply as medication, it involves the mind concentrating on and contemplating one object through conscious, deliberate suppression of mental defilement to detach and purify the mind’s awareness. Buddhists make use of Zen to nurture serenity and insight for the attainment of Buddhahood upon seeing one’s own innate Buddhahood. On the other hand, the Pure Land approach is through reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name with sincere devotion and piety to eliminate demonic mental contamination...

Eagle Claws in the Snow

Translated by Andrew Yang A few pieces of white clouds linger, Together with a bright moon in flight. The hill is cold, yet the moon and clouds tender. All the tranquility here needs no abiding support. As some affectionate white clouds float by the meditation hut, a nostalgic moon appears in view all of a sudden. While the vast mountains seem quiet and cold, with the accompanying moon and clouds, they merge into one. Right away, an enchanted, serene mind emerges, one that calls for no otherwise careful cultivation. This poem, one of his “Miscellaneous Chants from Living in the Mountains”, was written in the 1970s by Master Yun Wai (1934-1982) of Hong Kong. The master was not only proficient in preaching, but also skilled at poetry and painting. His poems about mountain dwelling are typically simple, serene and full of Zen, enabling the reader to feel spiritually detached and...

The Joy of Mountain Living

Translated by Andrew Yang On Vegetable Roots, a Zen classic containing maxims and aphorisms written by the late Ming philosopher Hong Yingming (1572-1620), has this to say, “A man’s life should not be too idle, lest rambling thoughts crop up. It should not be too busy either, lest there is no room to reveal his true nature. The gentleman, therefore, must not be unconcerned about his body and mind, nor should he be not revelling in the pleasures of nature”. However, how many people who are used to a busy, hasty life are indeed idle enough to have rambling thoughts? On the contrary, most of them are too busy to let their true nature reveal itself. Living in one of these crowded high-rise buildings, where opening the window may not provide a view of the sky, how are they likely to be indulging in the pleasures of nature? Amid busy...

The Joy of Zen

Translated by Andrew Yang Zen, a school of Buddhism variously called Chan, originated in India but became popular in China. In its evolution, it was initially based on Tathagata teachings, and so in the early days it was known as Tathagata Chan, or Chan through teachings for the mind. Later, it spread eastward to China with the advent of Master Bodhidharma (c. 5th century), where it developed into a distinct sect, known as Patriarch Chan. Patriarch Chan, typically not taught or practised following sutra teachings, is thus known for being “not set up through the written word but taught outside the doctrine, and pointing directly to the mind, for the attainment of Buddhahood through insight into the nature of the mind”. That said, how could it have carried on with no textual literature to expound it? To counter that, the founding monks of Chan have left behind numerous quotations, which...
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