Chan is a way of living---Learning from Dr. Simon Child

Chan is a way of living---Learning from Dr. Simon Child                    Tina Tai

Translation of Chan is difficult, due to the language barrier and culture difference. It usually loses some ‘flavors’ and ‘senses’ when we try to translate it.  This is what Dr. Child mentioned at his talks at Stanford University, “Chinese Zen Comes West”.  And I totally agree.  I am lucky to be bilingual.  It is a great benefit to take advantage of learning Chan.  In Chinese, there are so many words that are puns, double meanings, and even triples.  We would use all kinds of descriptions to create an image or feeling. In English, it tends to be straight forward. It is much easier to get to the meaning/point, but somehow it could lose some senses beyond.  It reminded me of Guo Gu Pusa’s translation workshop.  He also mentioned that translation isn’t rendering something from one language to another.  It involves correct interpretation, especially in Chan, I would say.

The second talk was given at DDM Chan center, “Introduction to Chan Buddhism-Theory and Practice”.  Dr. Child simply introduced the history of Buddhism and Dharma Drum Mountain and drew us to Chan, “Let it through”, “Let it be”, and “Let it go”!  The practitioner would not attach to any thoughts.  We live in the present, right at this moment.  When something happens, we notice it. We should accept how it is, and then we learn to let it go.  This is also what Chan Master Sheng-Yen’s teaching on “Four steps for handling a problem”:  Face it; Accept it; Deal with it; and Let it go.  That is why we practice to be mindful.

This came with a two-day weekend retreat, “Calming Your Mind” and “Investigating Your Mind.”  Our minds are always busy, full of thoughts, ideas, comments, and all the likes and dislikes.  At the retreat, we would watch our thoughts and try to calm it down, not react with it, not talk with it, and not follow it.  When it raised, we noticed it and then let go.  The best part of the retreat I liked the most was “Direct Contemplation”!  We usually have too much thought about one object when we first see it.  We would try to identify it, judge it, analyze it, label it, and even like it or dislike it. A chain of reactions just come out we don’t even notice it.  When we practiced “Direct Contemplation”, we kept on watching it and tried not to have any thought.  That was quite difficult, but I really enjoyed it and learned not to think further about the object, but just looked at it with itself.

An example I really liked during Dr. Child’s stay was when someone proudly told a master that he has been practicing half an hour every day.  The master asked this person, “How about the rest of 23 ½ hours?”  Practice is not only when you are sitting on a cushion.  It is whenever and wherever you are and whatever you are doing.  We should practice to be mindful around the clock.  This is a way of living.  Our Chan Master Sheng-Yen once said, “…All you have to do is keep going, keep going…” 

Let’s keep going and being mindful!