Session Two of Academic Exchange and Sharing by the Preparatory Office of Dharma Drum University

Dharma Drum University is interdisciplinary integration, the Office of Academic Affairs has planned to roll out academic exchange and sharing activities periodically by the faculty teams of the four schools starting September of this year It is to share with each other their academic achievements and the courses of developing views and thoughts.

In the morning of Sept 24, Dr. Ping-Kun Chen from the School of Life and Living, was the keynote speaker on the subject of “Chan thinking and Chan behavior in the ”Emerald Crag Collection.”

Ever since he was in college Dr. Chen has been deeply interested in oriental philosophical thinking and he has fully devoted himself to the study. In the field of oriental philosophical thoughts, studies related to Buddhism, with its vast collections of scriptures and theory volumes in profound languages, are regarded as one of the most difficult subjects to pursue.

In this talk, Dr. Chen, based on the first to fifth pieces in “Emerald Crag Collection,” known as the upmost volume of Buddhist schools, took the attendees to visit the innermost state of ”setting one’s mind at peace” from Chung Hwa Chan, so as to reveal the extraordinary characters of Chan teaching.

The “Emerald Crag Collection” was written by Chan Master Hwan Wu Ko Chin during the Sung Dynasty.  This book contains chants and comments on a hundred Chan koans collected by Shan Dou Chuan Shen. The key point of this book is about how to set our mind at peace. In Chan’s traditional language, it was about “how to understand the innermost mindset and uncover the eternal disposition” or “how to comprehend eternity and reach Buddhahood”.

Dr. Chen started with the reasons behind the restless mind by using the dialogue about Buddhist doctrine between the reputed founder of the Chan school, Pu Ti Da Mo, and Emperor Liang Wu in the ancient China Dynasty. Then he turned to the mindset of having obtained something through introspection into one’s own behavior by Chung Hwa Chan, and the corresponding mindset of having not obtained anything. At last he linked this all to the Chan master’s spirit of Buddhist study in overpassing all sorts of opinionated and dual views of the spirit and material world, in order to guide the attendees to enrich their views of Chan teaching style. 

Since ancient times, Chung Hwa Chan masters have valued the methodology of “teaching the heart with the heart”, emphasizing the practice of what they preached. Therefore, they criticized and even depreciated language and words for Buddhism.  As a result, the value and meaning of Chan master’s dialogues in Chan koans have became a difficult problem for fresh Chan disciples.

In the session, Professor Bei Yang mentioned that Chan advocated a position of “no words for Buddhism teaching” but on the contrary became the school which left the most manuscripts behind. Chan’s wordings gain in importance by reading them over and over again.  However, from the angle of practice, if the practitioner sticks to the Chan wording itself, he might forget that the ultimate goal of Chan is to “abort confrontation of opposing parties and treat everything equally with no truth”. Prof. Yang pointed out based on her experience that everyone’s realization of Chan in his life was relativistic. To a Chan practitioner, relativity must be broken and “non-relativity” can then be achieved.

Dr. Chen responded that “non-relativity” can’t stay alone and still relies on “relativity”. Although language and words are not the primary principles of Chan teaching, through language and words, disciples can be guided to practice Chan. Therefore, language and words are not necessarily obstacles to Chan practice.