Elemental Dharma of Chan

~Chan Master’s Teaching in 2011 Chinese New Year Gathering~

After each one of us arrive into this world, through education and learning, we eventually gain skills on how to make a living, understand the meaning of life, and learn to contribute back to society.  Gradually, every Chan practitioner also realizes that the purpose of practicing Chan is to ferry sentient beings and transform this earth into Buddhaland.

The existence of “Buddhaland on Earth” actually started 2,500 years ago right after Shakyamuni Buddha left this world and entered nirvana.  It is not a brand new idea we thought up just now.  The “Buddhaland on Earth” we describe is indeed the blessed world of Shakyamuni Buddha, a land with pure light.  Many people do not realize that the blessed world of Shakyamuni Buddha in fact exist on our earth.  Shakyamuni Buddha said, “every sentient being has Buddha nature.”  This means that every sentient being has the same potential to attain Buddhahood.  The reason they cannot be Buddha is because of their own ego and dogmas.

“Ego” means people pursue only their own interest while do not care about others, and always put themselves first.  “Dogma” means individual attachments to fame, fortune, social status, and affections.  They often consider their personal achievements of these are the most important.  These values all dwell inside our mind.  Our conscious mind is the representation of our ego and dogma.  If we could overcome our mind, we could be a Buddha.

Therefore, we need to practice the path to bodhisattva by transforming our mind into help sentient beings little by little every day.  And by doing so, we shall become a bodhisattva eventually.  The first stage of Bodhisattva’s ten stages is the “Huanxi Bodhisattva”—a joyful bodhisattva who smiles from inside out every day when dealing with life and work.  You can try to make yourself joyous from your heart every morning when you get up.  This joyful heart enables your blood to be joyful, flowing throughout your entire body and providing nutrients to every cell.  This is the key point of Chan practice.  If we do not understand how to make our heart pure and blissful, our practice is meaningless.  I’d like to remind everyone of the importance of having a blissful heart

In addition, we need to awaken, too.  We all have a heart but only a few of us realize that there is another invisible and exquisite heart within this physical heart.  It’s the “profound heart”.  This “profound heart” is our true self and came from Buddhaland.  We are gathered here today and let our heart be reunited with our “profound heart”.

We can understand this through the state of Chan Ding.  The purpose of Chan Ding is to reunite with our “profound heart”, reunite our physical person with our own Buddha, and return to Buddhaland, the pure land.  In that state, you will feel your heart is very warm or cool.  This is a very important concept of Chan practice.

Most practitioners only chant sutras or Buddha’s name or worship Buddha’s statues.  These are only Buddhist ceremonies which are not the true practice.  The true practice starts from awakening oneself to realize the purpose of coming to this world.  In Buddha’s point of view, the reason we reincarnate into this world is for returning to our spiritual home—the Buddhaland.  How do we go back to Buddhaland?  We need to reunite with our heart with that of Buddha.  This is the first step of Chan practice—“awakening the heart”.  In the state of Chan Ding, you will be able to witness your true nature, your own Buddha, your light.  The profound light comes from your heart.  The real reunion is in finding your true self.

After we find our true self, we shall help people around the world to witness their true self too.  No matter what kind of methods you practice, praying or Chan Ding, as long as you can quiet your mind down, let yourself unite with your profound heart, your true spirit, then you will be able to witness the Buddha inside of you and be a Buddha.

Sutras mentioned that a Buddha came to this world 2,500 years ago.  He practiced in this secular world, reached Buddhahood, and founded Buddhism.  This Buddha’s name is “Shakyamuni Buddha”.  The sutra also said that a future Buddha is called “Maitreya Buddha”.  This statement about a future Buddha is actually a hint and an indication.  Upon my enlightenment, I witnessed the “Maitreya Buddha” in my heart.  I suddenly realized that the Maitreya Buddha mentioned in sutras is the blissful Buddha we all could witness when we attain Buddhahood.  Therefore, everyone is and could be Maitreya Buddha.  It does not refer to the statue of Maitreya Buddha.  It just means the true enlightenment of everyone.  When everyone becomes Buddha, naturally the earth is the Buddhaland.

We all wish for world peace.  People become considerate, respectful, and courteous.  What differs human beings from other animals is the wisdom.  Our wisdom comes from our inner spirit.  The intelligence we learn every day combined with our “profound heart” is the wisdom.  Our wisdom will unfold when our heart is pure.  I believe many of our practitioners have experienced that.

The goal of the Shakyamuni Buddhist Foundation is to help everyone to become a Buddha.  This is the wish of Shakyamuni Buddha.  By following this teaching, I realized what the true practice is.  After I witnessed the realm of Chan, I understood what Buddha and God are.  The true God and Buddha are light of life.  The labels of “God” or “Buddha” are created to communicate to people.  The term “Chan” is used for the same purpose.  Chan is Buddha; Chan is heart.  Through Chan practice we will be able to attain Buddhahood and see Buddha light, the light coming from every cell of our body, just like seeing star lights at night.  Every sentient being in our body contains a living light.  We need to let every one of them shine.  In other words, we need to transform these physical beings into spiritual beings.  This is the goal of our Chan practice.