【Life Lectures】Chan and the Health of Body-Mind-Spirit in Modern Society

The Dharma Drum College Preparatory Office of the School of Life and Values sponsored a Seminar on Life on October 13, 2011. The Seminar was held by Venerable Guo Qi, Director of the Young People Development Department, Dharma Drum Mountain, together with Professor Shi Ling from the Psychology Department, Wuhan University, College of Philosophy, and Professor Yang Pei of Dharma Drum College, School of Life and Values. The three had a discourse on Zen and the health of the body-mind-spirit in today’s world.

After Venerable Guo Qi began the practice of Chan meditation, his health got better and better; his inner fear gradually started to disappear. He realized that a healthy body is the result of a healthy mind and began to study the books written by Venerable Master Sheng Yen. The study of the Buddha’s Dharma changed his perceptions. He recognized that the impermanence of life and the ever changing metamorphosis of all things is really the norm.

In recent years, Professor Yang Pei has conducted in-depth interviews with 12 bodhisattvas who had participated in the 7-day retreat of “Silent Illumination”. She discovered that they not only had relief from bodily pain and illnesses, but also improved the quality of their sleep. These bodhisattvas honestly faced themselves, applying the Buddhist method of “replacing your thoughts,” learned to accept and let go of past traumas. Gradually, they found the focal point in the meaning of their lives. They can now openly appreciate the vicissitudes of life.

Professor Shi Ling believes that people are born with a psychological self-defence mechanism. But once the body and mind are overloaded and pass the limit they can normally bear, discomfort or stress will appear. If this limit is relentlessly and continuously bombarded, the body and mind will gradually form organic lesions and mental illness will develop. According to Professor Shi’s study, he opines that the current Western medical science and clinical psychiatry can only relieve and control the symptomatic discomforts of physical and mental illnesses. On the other hand, Buddhism cures the root causes of the disease of the mind. All diseases start from the mind. To cure any disease, cure the mind first. Chan practice is a panacea for any type of physiological or psychological illness. Professor Shi also believes that Chan is an energy that is innate in all of us. Chan Energy can be mined through many channels and practices.

To synthesize the opinions of all three speakers, it can be concluded that they all believe in cultivation as the only way to solve the root cause of any problem. Everyone has a life course different from others. Everyone has afflictions different from others. Nonetheless, through Chan cultivation, we can see our mind with clarity, uphold correct views and thoughts, do what is right, and free our mind once the matter is over. We should truly integrate Chan practices into the minute details of our activities such as sitting down, walking, sleeping, or standing. With such merging of Chan into our daily lives, indeed, we can improve the quality of our life.