What is Chan?
Chan is the school of Chinese Buddhism popularly known as “Zen” in Japanese. It is also a term that refers to a way of living or experiencing the world. But ultimately, Chan means direct awakening to interconnectedness and impermanence, and the consequent arising of Buddhist wisdom and compassion. This awakening experience is inexpressible in words; it is inaccessible to the dualism of language and concepts. It is a state of awareness free of self-reference.
For this reason there is a saying: “Chan is not established on words and language;” yet Chan freely uses words and language to benefit the world. The teaching starts with knowing one’s self, but the process of practice leads to a discovery of our interconnectedness with others. Direct personal experience of Chan brings about the actualisation of wisdom and compassion, which leads to peace and understanding in the world.
Specifically, the Chan teaching encompasses four key elements: faith, understanding, practice, and awakening. Faith is confidence in oneself and the path. Understanding refers to the insights gained on the path. Practice transforms our negative habits and distorted views. Awakening is the actualisation of wisdom and compassion. These four elements are inseparable and mutually inclusive.
Your practice can exist in any situation. All you need is a few moments during your busy day, stop, sit, relax, and clear your mind. You need not always sit on a cushion to practice for thirty minutes. You can practice anywhere – at your desk, in a car, bus, or train – and any time, like right now. Relax your body and mind, let clarity and a gentle smile arise from within, and allow your body and mind to release and refresh.