What is Chan (Zen)? 

Chan (Zen) is inconceivable and inexpressible. The five principles of Chan which summarize the Chan approach are:

  1. Not relying on words and languages.
  2. A special transmission outside the teachings (In the Chan expression, "Finger Pointing to the Moon." The finger refers to Chan teachings).
  3. Direct pointing to the mind (which is often referred to as the moon).
  4. Insight into the mind and seeing into one's own nature.
  5. Sudden awakening and attaining Buddhahood.

Chan, the Chinese expression which is also popularly known as "Zen" in Japanese, is not something new brought here to the West by Asians. Chan is present everywhere: in space without limit and time without end. Nevertheless, the teachings of Chan have been brought from India to China, and further on to Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and finally the West. Although the Dharma of Mind (Chan) is beyond thinking and speech, the Dharma of Teachings is transmitted by Chan Masters in order that Chan practitioners will be able to realize Chan.

The core of Chan teachings are listed in the form of questions and answers (Q&A) as follows:

  1. Q. What is Chan?
    A. Chan is to live an ordinary life with an ordinary mind. Ordinary life is the life of inner peace and true happiness. Ordinary mind is the mind of wisdom and compassion (loving-kindness).
  2. Q. What is wisdom and compassion?
    A. In our daily life, wisdom is the living attitude that does not put our "self" (self- centeredness) into the situation. In our daily life, compassion is the living attitude of impartially helping all sentient beings in "just the right way."
  3. Q. How do we cultivate wisdom and compassion?
    A. Wisdom and compassion cannot be attained through cultivation; wisdom and compassion are intrinsic to all sentient beings.
  4. Q. How do we manifest "ordinary mind"?
    A. "Letting go of all conditions and letting not one thought arise" is the prerequisite of Investigating Chan. At the right moment of "great resting,"the ordinary mind (Chan mind, Great mind, or Buddha mind) manifests simultaneously.
  5. Q. What is "true awakening/true liberation"?
    A. A truly awakened and liberated one is able to see "things-as-they-are" and "things-in-themselves," that is, he/she has the profound insight of "independence" and "interdependence" ("Inter-being" and "Inter-penetration"), which are manifested spontaneously from the true nature of ultimate no-self.