Winter 2001
Volume 21, No. 1

Four Pursuiy: Advocacy for Stabilizing People's Minds
Pursue only what we need.
Do not pursue what we merely want, as it is not important.
Pursue only what we can and should acquire.
Never pursue what we can't and shouldn't acquire.

Chan Master Sheng-yen

Song of Mind of Niu-t'ou Fa-jung Commentary by Master Sheng-yen on a seventh-century poem expressing the Chan understanding of mind. This article is the 31st from a series of lectures given during retreats at the Chan Center in Elmhurst, New York. These talks were given on December 1st and 26th, 1987 and were edited by Chris Marano.  Commentary by Master Sheng-yen
The Four Noble Truths This is the last of four Sunday afternoon talks by Master Sheng-yen on the Four Noble Truths, at the Chan Meditation Center from November 1st to November 22nd, 1998. The talks were translated live by Ven. Guo-gu Shi, transcribed from tape by Bruce Rickenbacher, and edited by Ernest Heau, with assistance from Lindley Hanlon. Endnotes were added by Ernest Heau.  Lecture by Master Sheng-yen
So if desire is bad, is Buddhism anything like Stoicism? by David Berman
Retreat Report  

This magazine is published quarterly by the Institute of Chung-Hwa Buddhist Culture, Chan Meditation Center, 90-56 Corona Avenue, Elmhurst, New York 11373, (718) 592-6593. This is a non-profit venture solely supported by contributions from members of the Chan Center and the readership.Donations for magazine publication costs or other Chan Center functions may be sent to the above address and will be gratefully appreciated. Your donation is tax deductible. 

©Chan Meditation Center 

Dharma Drum Publications: 

Phone: 718-592-0915
Address: 90-56 Corona Ave., Elmhurst, New York 11373 

Chan Center phone, for information and registration for programs: 718-592-6593 
Founder/Teacher: Shi-fu (Master) Venerable Dr. Sheng-yen 
Editors: David Berman, Ernest Heau, Harry Miller, Linda Peer 

Managing Editor: Linda Peer 
Section Editors: David Berman: practitioners' articles, interviews, etc. 
Buffe Laffey: news and upcoming events 
Design: Guo-huan / Lawrence Waldron 
Copy Editor: John Anello, John Taylor 
Other assistance: Nora Ling-yun Shih, Christine Tong 

Song of Mind of Niu-t'ou Fa-jung 

Commentary by Master Sheng-yen 

This article is the 31st from a series of lectures given during retreats at the Chan Center in Elmhurst, New York. These talks were given on December 1st and 26th, 1987 and were edited by Chris Marano. 

Neither entering nor leaving, 
Neither quiet nor noisy. 

These two lines of verse speak to enlightened beings as well as to beginning practitioners. The Heart Sutra states, "This voidness of all dharmas is not born, not destroyed, not impure, not pure, does not increase or decrease." In other words, the coming and going of dharmas, birth and death, and;. leaving samsara to enter nirvana, are all products of our discriminating minds. 

It seems relatively easy for people to intellectually accept these concepts. The words are a great source for rationalizations. "You have vexations? Well, vexations and wisdom are one and the same." "Practice? Why? Ignorance is the same as enlightenment, samsara is the same as nirvana, and we are already Buddhas." "Don't worry about birth and death. There is no coming and going." That is all well and good. It works well when someone in a different relationship leaves his or her partner for a new love interest, but what if it is you who are being rejected. These are wise words when someone else's parents die, but how well would the words work for you if it were your parents. 

Humans have emotions. We are attracted to some things and avoid others. Things do not always go as we would like them to go, and we suffer. We all have vexations. The words of the Heart Sutra speak of the enlightened condition. For ordinary sentient beings, replete with discriminating minds and attachment to self, birth and death still exist, vexation and wisdom are different, and practice leads one from samsara to nirvana. From our point of view this is all true. But, when you actually do leave behind all vexation and attachment to self, then you realize that vexation and wisdom as well as samsara and nirvana are one and the same. If you arrive at a level where there is no more clinging to birth and averting death, then you are in nirvana. But if your mind is still influenced by the environment and you are still governed by karma, then you still reside in samsara. 

"Neither entering nor leaving" refers to the deeply enlightened person. Beginning practitioners, however, can also make use of this principle in their attitude towards practice. As I have said many times, when you are practicing, do not think about achieving enlightenment or entering samadhi, or leaving behind wandering thoughts or your pain. Do not seek anything. Just stay with the method. 

Beginning practitioners can also make use of the second line of verse: "Neither quiet nor noisy." First-time retreatants at the Ch'an Center are surprised to discover that we are located in the heart of New York City. If it is peace and quiet you are after, you have come to the wrong place; that is, if you feel that peace and quiet come from the outside. While we practice, we are bombarded by sounds from outside -- traffic, subways, children coming and going to school, people coming and going to work, buses stopping and starting right outside our doors -- and by sounds from inside -- phones ringing, people walking behind you, the clock ticking, people cooking in the kitchen. If you are moved by these sounds, then it will be difficult to concentrate on your method. But if you attend to your method, then the sounds will not be a bother. Sounds are everywhere, it is you who must change. 

I will tell a story. Before a particular monk became a master, he practiced in a large monastery. No matter how hard he tried, he could not concentrate for long periods of time. There was just too much noise and commotion. So, he decided to leave and practice alone in the mountains. When he arrived, he finally  relaxed, "Finally, no more people to disturb my practice. This will be great." He sat down to meditate. Just as he was relaxing, a bird started to chirp right above his head. He tried to push it out of his mind, but he could not. "Too much noise!" He tried to chase the bird away, but it was no use. Finally, he thought, "It's the trees that draw the birds, so I'll  go where there are no trees." So he walked to a meadow and began to meditate again. "Ahh, no more birds." But he forgot about the insects. He would slap the ground and that would quiet them for a few seconds, but they  would soon begin again, and after awhile it became unbearable. He thought, "This is not a good place for meditation. Let me go to a place where there are no bugs and birds." He walked until he found a small pond of water that was fed by a stream. Soon after he sat down, the frogs started to croak, and behind that noise he could hear the continual trickle of the stream. He realized that there was no place that was quiet, and decided to take matters into his own hands. he balled up small pieces of cloth and stuck them in his ears. now it did not matter where he sat because he could not hear anything. "Now I'll be able to meditate," he thought. He sat for a few minutes, when suddenly, "Where is the sound of those drums coming from?" When he removed the cloth to listen, the drumming stopped. As soon as he put the cloth back in his ears, the drumming resumed. Then he realized the drumming was the sound of his own beating heart. Disgusted, the monk figured, "I'm just not cut out for meditation. I may as well forget it."

Later on, a master told him, " The problem is not with sounds, but with the mind that is influenced by those sounds." As soon as the monk heard those words, he immediately became enlightened. This is good advise for all of us. In and of themselves, phenomona are not disturbing. It is the mind that is moved by phenomena which calls them disturbances. I hope that you can put this into practice, especially those of you who are sitting next to the door where the noises are louder. If, however, you agree with the monk in the story that it is the sounds that are a problem, then let me know. We can always move you and your cushion to the boiler room.

The Four Noble Truths

by Master Sheng-yen

This is the last of four Sunday afternoon talks by Master Sheng-yen on the Four Noble Truths, at the Chan Meditation Center, New York, between November 1 and November 22, 1998. The talks were translated live by Ven. Guo-gu Shi, transcribed from tape by Bruce Rickenbacher, and edited by Ernest Heau, with assistance from Lindley Hanlon. Endnotes were added by Ernest Heau.

Please click here for the article


"So if desire is bad, is Buddhism anything like Stoicism?"

The Dharma Lecturer Training Program goes to Stuyvesant High
by David Berman

I came home Thursday to find a message from Guo-yuan Fa Shi: he had been contacted by a teacher from Stuyvesant High School who was looking for someone to come talk about Buddhism, and would I give her a call?

I did, and she turned out to be Jennifer Suri, the Assistant Principal for Social Studies. She had done a web search for local Buddhist organizations, had made a bunch of phone calls, and I was the only one who had called her back. She told me that her ninth-graders had just done Buddhism in their World History class, and had come up with questions that neither she nor the other teachers could answer, questions like, "What about the desire to be a good person, what's wrong with that?" and, "If everything causes suffering then why bother doing anything?", so she had decided to seek some outside expertise. Might I be available to come speak and answer some questions? Maybe two, maybe three classes, maybe she could put some groups together, actually if I could stay till after lunch she could put the Humanities kids together with one of the other classes in the lecture hall, but she didn't want to overtax me, that might be too much…

I would have said yes anyway -- after all, this is exactly what the Dharma Lecturer Training Program is for - but the fact is her enthusiasm won me completely. Here was a public school teacher who didn't know the answer, and was doing whatever it took to get it and make it available to as many students as possible. That, I thought, is a behavior that should be encouraged.

Not only that, this would be an excellent road test for my toddling skills as a Dharma lecturer. I've spent the last year writing and delivering little Dharma talks to small, well-behaved groups of sympathetic colleagues at the Chan Center, but this would be my maiden voyage into the outside world, and I know ninth-graders. I have taught ninth-graders, and performed for ninth-graders, and the thing about ninth-graders is they are the most brutally honest audience in the world. If you bore them, or talk down to them, or, pardon the expression, aim the wrong end of the bull at them, their attention is gone in a heartbeat. At the very least, they would let me know how I'm doing.

I knew from Jennifer that the kids had studied the biography of Siddhartha Gautama, and had been introduced to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. I also had the impression from Jennifer that the history textbook might not have done what we would consider justice to all of the teachings. (It had said that desire was the cause of suffering and left it at that). I had a week to prepare, and I'd have forty minutes for each class, so I started outlining, thinking that I'd concentrate on the First and Second Truths, explaining Suffering, Karma, conditioned arising, the three root vexations, and the interrelations among them. I ought to be able to do that in twenty-five minutes, and leave time for questions. I had already presented twenty-minute lectures on suffering and the cause of suffering in class, so I opened the My Documents/Chan Teachings/My Writings sub-folder and took a look at what I'd already written. 

It was pretty good! Clear, concise, and key points illuminated with examples from my personal experience. But as I started to edit with the Stuyvesant freshmen in mind, everything felt wrong, like I was trying to move them through the material way too fast, and they would never come along. My previous lectures now seemed to be skimming over the surface of the teachings, as if I knew that my audience already knew everything I was saying, which was of course true. I hadn't really been teaching, I'd just been demonstrating that I could teach, as if for a panel of judges, giving answers that were clear, concise, and entirely about me. Yech! 

In discussing the Dharma lectures presented in the training program, the question of who we were addressing had often come up. Was the lecture pitched at beginners, at Buddhists, at experienced retreatants? Often the answer had been, "I wrote this lecture for people who know basic Buddhism, but who may not be clear on all the teachings…", in other words, for people like ME. We were actually lecturing to our Buddhist classmates week after week, and we were naturally trying to appeal to the people in front of us. Now I suddenly had real students to write for, and they were going to be vastly different from me: they hadn't read all the Chan books, or heard all of Shifu's talks, or come to the Friday night classes, and I had to think about how to be informative, and interesting, and helpful to THEM..

What surfaced in my mind was the lecture Shifu had given to inaugurate the Dharma Lecturer Training Program. He had spoken about correct views, and had begun with what you might call "correct overview", a simple, clear outline of Buddhism as a whole: 


Buddha       Dharma     Sangha


Concepts & Ideas          Methods

Buddhism consists of the Three Jewels, the Buddha being the source, the Sangha being the means of transmission, and the Dharma, the teachings, being the centerpiece. The Dharma consists of Realization (what the Buddha sees and knows) and Doctrine (what ordinary sentient beings study and practice). Realization is available to all of us, but is not accessible to language; what the Buddha sees and knows can't be adequately described. Doctrine, on the other hand, consists of Concepts and Ideas, which are ways of pointing in the direction of what the Buddha knows, and which include things like the Four Noble Truths, and Methods, which are ways of making steps toward the experience of realization, and which include the Noble Eightfold Path. 

If I started by laying this foundation, then everything the students had learned from their textbook could be placed in a larger context and understood to have a function, instead of being just a list of technical terms.And now, as I thought again about explaining suffering and its origins, my ideas seemed to have a place to land. I was beginning to understand why Shifu likes to use visual aids, and I was beginning to feel a lot better. 

So now I was charging ahead and getting into the nitty-gritty of the Second Truth with desire and hatred creating the perfect conditions for the seeds of karma to ripen into more suffering in the soil of fundamental ignorance, ignorance of what? Of this, and in my mind I'm pointing at my chart where it says Realization, at which point I realize that that's just a big blank spot, all I've said about it is that you can't say anything about it, and is that going to satisfy ninth-grade honors students? No way! In my mind I see hands shooting up all over the room, with that straining gesture that says, "Call on me!"

Back to My Documents/Chan Teachings/My Writings to look at the Four Pillars of the Dharma lecture. Can I say anything useful about impermanence, emptiness and no-self in five minutes? Because if I can't, I'd better not bring it up. But if I don't, then there's no foundation: without impermanence, emptiness and selflessness, fundamental ignorance sounds like an Asian version of original sin; without a correct view of ignorance, there's no context for understanding vexation, how it arises, and who's responsible for it; and without all that, the First Noble Truth is going to sound like a bad case of pessimism. I still had a lot of work to do. I needed to step back.

What did I want them to know? I wanted them to understand suffering--that suffering is not a characteristic of reality, like a law of physics, but a symptom of a dysfunction, a mistake, a dissonance between the mind of awareness and the phenomena that arise. I wanted them to understand the cause of suffering--what the dysfunction is, and especially, where it can be found. And I wanted them to understand something about the importance of practice--that so much of Buddhism is concerned with what we actually do, both in the world and in the mind, and the power this activity has.

So what if I taught them to meditate? Sure, right after I spend two minutes on emptiness I'll spend two minutes on silent illumination. No, really, what if I teach them a simple method, awareness of the weight against the chair, and have them practice for five minutes? Eyes closed, no moving allowed. Simple instruction on recognizing wandering thought and moving back to the method. How many of them, during that five minutes, will give rise to the desire to be doing something else? There's suffering and its cause in a nutshell. How many will be able to recognize that they weren't suffering while on the method, only while off it? There's the possibility of cessation, and the whole experience is the path, and no matter what happens it will illustrate impermanence…

And I realized there was something else that I wanted--I wanted to demonstrate the truth of these Truths--I wanted to avoid putting the kids in the position of having to believe or disbelieve anything I say. This was in a sutra, and it was in my notes…the green spiral-bound notebook, the first one I brought to the Center…here it is. The Kalama Sutra:

Do not believe in anything because:
          It is accepted by many.
          It is written in religious books.
          It is spoken by teachers or elders.
          It is handed down in tradition.
But if, after analysis, it is found to accord with reason, and to result in the common good, then accept it, and live up to it. (italics mine)

This was the teaching that, more than any other, had opened the door of Buddhism for me. Now, of course, there are many teachings that are important to me --teachings on ethics, phenomenology, epistemology - but what first got my attention was the invitation to come in and bring all my faculties with me, to be, not a follower, but a participant. Maybe it would appeal to others as well.

The following Friday, October 20th, 9:30am. I had arrived at 9, had been duly impressed by the security I had had to get through, had found Jennifer in the social studies office, and had been shown to the classroom, armed with markers. The room was a real lecture hall, with theatre seating equipped with foldout desks facing a wall of white boards; I was busily filling them. The selection from the Kalama Sutra came first, then Shifu's outlined overview of Buddhism, then the Four Noble Truths as a dual system of cause and effect with an arrow pointing to karma, then an expansion of suffering and cause, then the three root vexations with a short list of their attendant branches, and finally the four sentences that express the Four Seals. Whew. I was still writing when they started filing in.

"Mr. Kaufman's class, please take notes. Mr. Harris' class, take notes if you want." (Applause and laughter from Mr. Harris' class; groans from Mr. Kaufman's.) Excellent--I have an example of suffering before I even get started. Then Jennifer introduced me as, among other things, a real live Buddhist, and off we went.

The first class, I'd have to say, went fine. If I were scoring it I'd have to deduct a few tenths for time management and for organization. I started by asking them questions about what they knew, and it had the intended effect of getting them involved--the class was very lively, with lots of questions, which I was still answering as the bell rang and the morning announcements came over the p.a.- but it also had the effect of bumping me off my outline here and there. I didn't quite get to impermanence and emptiness, but near the end I got a question about the non-existence of self that gave me the opportunity to talk a little about the Buddha's view. I described self-centeredness as being like living in a lighthouse, and looking out at everything from within the tower. Then I challenged them to imagine the world without their lighthouse. "Then what's your viewpoint?" "No viewpoint. View, but no point." It was tangible enough to chew on, and quite a few of them left the class still chewing.

Second group, 10:20 to11:00. I tried a different tack--get through the outline in twenty minutes and save the questions for the end. The lecture was better, clearer, simpler, more complete, but there was much less participation, and although I didn't lose them, I didn't have as much fun with them as with the first group. Jennifer said it was the kids that were different; maybe so, but I'd like to have found that out from them.

At lunch (which, by the way, was a disgrace--public school lunches must be the only things in this country that haven't changed since 1965) a teacher sought my opinion. She had a student, a Buddhist, who was terribly offended that Buddhist beads, malas, had become a fashion item, and what did I think? Did they have a religious significance, she asked, pointing to mine, and was it offensive to wear them as mere jewelry? Now, I had been waiting all morning for some smart-aleck fifteen-year-old to ask me a question I couldn't answer, but I was completely unprepared for the fact that I didn't know the meaning of my own beads. Do they have a religious significance? A history? A story? I have no idea. So this is what I said, and I hope it's not offensive to those who are better Buddhists than I. I said that some people use them like rosaries, to keep track of practices like repeating the Buddha's name, but that I don't do those practices, so I guess it would be correct to say that I wear them as mere jewelry. As far as their current popularity is concerned, if I notice myself becoming offended at someone else's fashion sense, Buddhism has taught me to consider that a vexation arising in me, and as long as they wear them on their wrists, and not through holes in their lips or eyelids, I don't let it bother me.

In the midst of this another teacher had joined us, and now he said oh, he wished he'd known, was there any way I could talk to his class too? What would that mean? When would I be finished? 2:10? Sure, why not, I was feeling pretty good, like I'd had two good rehearsals, and I was looking forward to the main event, my double period from noon to 1:25. 

It worked just right. The forty minute classes that morning had forced me to organize the material in my mind for maximum clarity, and I now had a much better idea what the students' understanding was, so I knew where to start, and what I had to cover carefully, and the extra time meant that I could afford to answer questions without worrying about the bell. We meditated, I talked about impermanence in the thought-stream, they asked about ideas from Hinduism and the Greeks (I had to take a pass on Hinduism); we had a great time.

But to my surprise, the best one was the last one, the add-on. Maybe it was the students, or maybe I was just tired enough to be loose, I don't know, but I went from "Buddhism" to "no-self" in twenty minutes flat and didn't lose a kid. I fielded a lot of interesting questions. ("If there's no God in Buddhism, who's my dad prostrating to every morning?") I got a big round of applause. A lot of them thanked me afterwards; I thanked them back. Jennifer asked me to come back next year, and she gave me an official Stuyvesant mug.

Now, looking back from the vantage point of two weeks later, I wish I had expressed my gratitude better, to all of them. I have to admit that at the time I was focused on how well I was doing for them; now, I'm much more aware of what the whole experience did for me. I did so much learning in only five hours: about managing the presentation of Dharma on the one hand and the students' needs and preferences on the other; about being nimble enough to take advantage of all the wonderful opportunities they gave me to teach them. But there were also so many opportunities for me to practice: with my preference for one student and aversion to another; with my attachments, to my lesson plan, to my experience in the previous class; with my habitual desire to fascinate, and have the audience like me. In our sitting we distinguish between daily practice and periodic, intensive practice; this was like a one-day teaching retreat, during which I experienced teaching as practice much more intensively than I ever had in the Friday classes, or in my daily teaching. For that, I send my gratitude to all the students and teachers at Stuyvesant High, to all my colleagues in the Dharma Lecturer Training Program, to Guo-yuan Fa Shi and the Sangha at the Chan Meditation Center, and to Shifu, from whom the Dharma so generously flows.

Retreat Report for #'s 13 and 14

How poor, I think. Only 14 till now. What a small number. Many things happened on these retreats. #13 was full of little occurrences of the slow, beautiful eating away of the personality, and opening up to the unbelievable beauty of what. I don't really know of what? But all this happened a long time ago. Today I think: Who cares? I just want to fill the gap. I don't want to neglect writing these two retreat reports. I want to keep things in order, and not give up. So I'll blend all this with right now. It is correct to do so. Right now- and then- is the same. There are two forces only. One is so beautiful. It is the rising of freedom. The force of the eternally good, deep, encompassing flow of huge love and beauty. The other is fear, out of which cruelty comes, the cruelty of stopping. The first is very simple. It is what it is. Very simple. The second - its nature is to get very complicated, because it is ashamed of itself, so it hides in different guises. That's all there is, folks.

But the world! You'll ask. What about all this tremendous thing around us, going far beyond imagination! What about this?!

Yes, I ask this question too: What about this?

-- Anonymous



Venerable Thich Thanh Tu, a master from Viet Nam, gave a Dharma talk at the Chan Center on Nov. 1.On Sunday November 5 the Youth Group went to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see the Cloud Gate Dance Theater of Taiwan, a Buddhist dance group which is performing as part of BAM's Art and Spirituality series.

On Nov. 11, 2000, Nancy Makso, who has been a practitioner at the Chan Center for 21 years, taught a Beginning Meditation Class in New Canaan, CT. If you are interested in future classes please contact <>

On Dec 18 Master Sheng-yen received a National Cultural and Art Award and honorarium from the "Executive Yuen," a government organization in Taiwan. This is the fourth year this award has been given. It is given to four people in recognition of their contribution to education, culture and the arts in Taiwan. Master Sheng-yen is the first religious leader to have ever been given such honor by Taiwanese government.

Master Sheng-yen received the award in part because of his inclusion in the UN's Millennium Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders last August. Taiwan has been excluded from the UN for the last thirty years, and despite that Master Sheng-yen was included in this historic religious summit because of his stature as a religious leader. The award includes an honorarium of $20,000 US, which Master Sheng-yen will donate to a foundation for scholarship. 

Westerner's Dharma Gathering Friday October 20th, 2000

As always, the welcome back party for Shi-fu drew a crowd. Around 50-60 people came not only to welcome Shi-fu back to N.Y., but also to hear Shi-fu's Dharma talk and spend some time with fellow Dharma students and friends. It is always impressive to see the broad diversity of people who attend the Chan Center. 

In his Dharma talk, Shi-fu spoke on the importance of using both method and concept in our practice. The basis of successful method being to relax the body and mind, Shi-fu emphasized the two key points of relaxation - the eyeballs and the lower abdomen. After the group practiced relaxing these two key points, Shi-fu spoke about the importance of concept. One point Shi-fu emphasized here was that during practice, by letting go of wandering thoughts and returning to our method, we are putting down the self. Why is this? Because the notion of self is just wandering thoughts. Bill pointed out that we can sometimes feel like we are observing our wandering thoughts, while at the same time identifying with the observing, and asked Shi-fu to explain this. Shi-fu explained that even this "observing" is actually wandering thoughts, just more uniform wandering thoughts. Shi-fu told us that because they are so uniform (and thus subtle), we really need to see their nature directly through our own meditation. Shi-fu also reminded us that we can use both method and concept to practice during our daily life as well as "on the cushion."

Our gratitude as always to the volunteers who put the event together and kept it running smoothly.

Dharma Lecturer Training Program Reaches Out

The Dharma Lecturer Training Program, the effort Master Sheng-yen inaugurated last year to prepare speakers to lecture in the community at large on Dharma subjects, is already bearing fruit. On Friday, October 20th, Guoyuan Fa Shi sent Center-member David Berman to Stuyvesant High School in downtown Manhattan to teach the basics of Buddhism to their ninth-grade history and humanities students.

The Chan Center had been initially contacted by Jennifer Suri, the Assistant Principal for Social Studies at Stuyvesant, after several teachers reported to her that they had received questions from their students about Buddhism they couldn't answer. They decided to seek outside expertise, and called the Center after doing a web search for local Buddhist organizations. 

Ms. Suri indicated that Buddhism was part of the world history curriculum, and that the students had read a biography of Siddhartha Gautama, and had been introduced to the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path, but that when they started asking philosophical questions about desire and pervasive suffering, the teachers called for help.

David reported that the day of teaching went very well. He taught three forty-minute classes and one double-period of an hour and a half, starting with a structural overview of Buddhism, covering the Four Noble Truths, and including a brief period of meditation. "The kids were great," he said. "I presented lots of difficult information and they stuck with it, and came up with interesting, challenging questions. I'm very impressed with Jennifer and the program at Stuyvesant High." Ms. Suri and the other teachers also seemed very pleased. They have invited David back next year, and expressed the hope that this can become an annual event.

On October 24, 200, the first Tuesday evening sitting practice took place at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pinebush, NY. This will be an ongoing group practice, and consists of meditation, exercises, walking meditation and a Dharma discussion period. The group is led by Guo-yuan Fa Shi and all are welcome to attend.

Master Sheng-yen represents the Chan Tradition in the conference "Buddhism in the Catskills" at Hartwick College
by Rebecca Li

Master Sheng-yen gave a Dharma talk at Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY on October 26 at 7:30 p.m., as one of the twelve speakers on Buddhism invited to participate in the College's semester-long conference "Buddhism in the Catskills". Master Sheng-yen was invited to represent the Chinese Chan tradition. There were also representatives from the Japanese Zen, Tibetan, and Theravadin traditions in the Catskills area. At the request of the program coordinator, Dr. Huntington, Master Sheng-yen gave a brief overview of the characteristics, goals and methods of practice in Chinese Chan. Approximately 90 students, faculty, and staff of the College as well as members of the surrounding community attended the lecture. 

Shi-fu started his talk by telling two famous stories about the early lineage masters in the Chinese Chan tradition. The first story was an exchange between the second lineage master, Huike, and the first lineage master, Bodhidharma, on calming the mind. Huike said to Bodhidharma that his mind was not calm, and asked for a method to calm it. Bodhidharma answer that if Huike would show him his mind, Bodhidharma would help him. Huike looked for his mind, and then said that he could not find it. Bodhidharma responded, "Then I have calmed your mind already." This is how Huike was enlightened. 

The second story was an exchange between the fourth lineage master, Daoxin, and his master, the third lineage master Sengcan, on how to attain liberation. Daoxin asked, "What is the method for liberation?" Sengcan looked at Daoxin for some time and then asked, "Who is binding you?" Daoxin said, "No one is binding me." Sengcan said, "Since no noe os binding you, aren't you liberated?" This is how Daoxin was enlightened. 

Shi-fu pointed out that these two stories summarized the causes of our suffering and how suffering can be extinguished. The first story shows us that contradictions and struggle within ourselves create tremendous suffering in our lives. Once we realize that all such contradictions within ourselves are nothing but emotional afflictions and thoughts, outside which there is no permanent mind to speak of, we can be liberated from suffering. The second story shows us that the environment by itself does not make us suffer, but because we cannot master our own minds we allow the environment to influence and bother us. As a result, we feel that we are bound by the environment and thus not free. Once we realize that the environment need not bother us, we are liberated. 

Master Sheng-yen then discussed the goals and methods of practice in Chan. The goal of practice is to eliminate contradictions and struggles within oneself and conflict between the self and the environment. Before introducing the two main methods of Chan practice, hua-tou and silent illumination, Master Sheng-yen pointed out that, in order to use a method of practice effectively, it is important to relax the body and mind and clear the mind of wandering and scattered thoughts. 

After describing each of the two methods briefly, Shi-fu invited the audience to try practicing either one of the methods. Everyone followed the instructions closely, and after applying the methods for five minutes the audience reported that they enjoyed the meditation. Shi-fu pointed out that while it was relatively easy to describe the methods, liberation usually requires a long period of diligent practice. It is also important to seek the guidance of a teacher. 

Finally, Shi-fu discussed three levels of the fruits of practice. First, one becomes free from the small self and will no longer experience internal contradictions and struggles within. The second level is the unified self. One becomes unified with the environment and no longer discriminates among the elements in the environment. Both of these are joyful experiences, and as one attains the unified self one is filled with love but can also become prideful. Therefore, one must transcend the unified self and move on to the third stage, no-self, where one puts down all self-centered thoughts. 

At the end of the talk, Shi-fu opened the floor for questions. Participants eagerly sought explanation of the difference between liberation and enlightenment, guidance on how to find a good teacher and how to decide which method to use, as well as clarification on certain concepts taught by ancient Chan masters. Many participants were delighted to find out that there is a Chan retreat center in the Catskills and inquired about the activities in Pine Bush and at the Chan Center in Elmhurst. 

We are grateful to Dr. Huntington and Hartwick College for organizing and hosting this meaningful event. Also many thanks to George Devine who volunteered to do the driving.

My trip to Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY was one in which I will always remember. I drove Guo-Yuan Fa Shi, Rebecca, and Master Sheng-Yen by van from Dharma Drum Retreat Center to Hartwick College for a Dharma talk.

When we arrived we were welcomed for dinner with several College staff. During Shi-fu's lecture the audience was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Shi-fu sprinkled bits of humor in his talk which delighted his listeners, in Rebecca Li's very lively translation.

The event was recorded and videotaped and may possibly be seen sometime in the future on public TV.

When we arrived back at the Dharma Drum Center at 12:15 A.M., Shi-fu looked at the van's clock, then looked at me and gave me the "thumbs up" sign, which I returned with a great smile. Driving Shi-fu was a wonderful experience for this new student. I took Refuge last night. A new life for me has begun.

George Devine (Chang He)

Year 2000 DDMBA Fund Raiser Convention

On Oct. 27 over 160 people from 12 states and Toronto, Canada, came to the Dharma Drum Retreat Center for the "Year 2000 DDMBA Fund Raiser Convention." All of the participants help raise funds for the many activities of the Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association. Highlights of the two and a half day event included a speech by Master Sheng-yen to give encouragement and to strengthen and awaken people's clouded minds. Dr. Yeung-Pei conducted workshops on "Five, Fourfold Attitudes and Actions" and "Say Kind Words, Do Kind Things." Guo-yuan Fa Shi led a "Water Bowl Walking Meditation." In this meditation, participants each carried an empty bowl from the meditation hall to the pond where they filled them about 90% full. They carried the bowls of water back with careful concentration, and placed them on the alter in the meditation hall in offering to the Buddha. Participants also engaged in a "Smiling Exercise." Recognizing how difficult it is for 160 people to live together without conflict, the fundraisers were asked to try to smile at all times, as an aid to maintaining a compassionate and un-self centered attitude. This was quite successful. The event came to a perfect ending with "Gratitude Prostration" and "Transmission of the Lamp of Mind" ceremonies.

Huatou Retreat and Dharma Transmission

From Nov. 25th to Dec. 2nd Master Sheng-yen conducted a huatou retreat at the Dharma Drum Meditation Center. There were fifty-two participants, including retreatants from Poland, Canada, Luxemburg, Switzerland, the UK and Indonesia. This was the first retreat in the newly renovated Chan Hall. At the end of the retreat Shih-fu conducted a Dharma transmission ceremony for two long time disciples, Simon Child who is part of the Western Chan Fellowship in the UK, and Max Kalin who is head of the Dharma Drum group in Switzerland. This transmission allows these two practitioners to teach Chan independently.

Public Lecture by venerable Thich Thanh-Tu at Chan Meditation Center

On November 1st, Venerable Thich Thanh-Tu and 10 of his disciples visited Master Sheng-yen at Chan Meditation Center and held a public lecture. There were one hundred audience who listened to his profound teaching. Venerable Thich Thanh-Tu is a living legend among the Buddhists of Vietnam. The Master has seven monasteries across Vietnam, as well as chapters through out Australia, USA, Canada and Europe. He has over seven hundred left-home disciples. His lineage is called Bamboo Forest teaching.

His public lecture outflowed with profound teaching based on the second and the sixth patriarch of the Chan tradition. He introduced practice methods which emphasize the principle of how to calm one's mind, and the non-duality concept of the sixth patriach. In closing, the Master compassionately encouraged everyone to practice diligently, and eventually, all can reach the ultimate path.

The aboot of Chan Meditation Center -- Guo-yuan Fa Shi, expressed sincere thanks to Venerable Thich Thanh-Tu for providing us with such a comprehensive teaching.


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Dharma Drum Mountain