August 28, 2014

Essays by Chuan Zhi

ChuanZhiPortraitAug2012"The purpose of all spiritual traditions is to bring joy and beauty into our lives; to provide a refuge from our illusionary notion of mortality, and to bring freedom, individuation, and the awareness of our essential nature which is intrinsically immortal and universal.  A tall order?  Definitely.  But it's what we bring to it that makes it work."   -- Chuan Zhi

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Not This! Not This!

by Chuan Zhi

Published Aug 14, 2014

Not This! Not This!

For L.C. Fundamentally, the cause of suffering is because of our attached to, our desire for, people, places, things, thoughts, and opinions.  The Buddha's solution to the problem of suffering was detachment from all these things.  But breaking bonds can be extremely difficult.  The longer an attachment or desire has existed,... Read more

Perspectives on Zen

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jul 01, 2014

Perspectives on Zen

Inevitably, in the course of the life of a Zen Buddhist, someone will ask us “What is Zen”?  The simple answer is, of course, it’s the mystical branch of Chinese/ Japanese/ Korean/ Vietnamese (choose one) Buddhism.  When I’ve explained it this way I usually get blank stares, and for a... Read more

The Celibacy Question

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jan 03, 2014

An Interview with Chuan Zhi from Non Duality Magazine, 12/27/2013 Chuan Zhi: This is a good subject for public discussion – one that’s usually avoided. I wrote on a related subject recently that may address some of the questions/issues people have on the topic of sexual intimacy, and some of the... Read more

FAQ for PG

by Chuan Zhi

Published Dec 01, 2013

FAQ  for  PG

Preface: We have never offered an official Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page on this website, as the number and variety of questions we receive are too numerous and broad. Everyone has a different set of questions. The many writings available on this website will, however, answer the vast majority of... Read more

Applying the Hua Tou Method of Chan Practice to Archetypal Projections

by Chuan Zhi

Published Sep 28, 2013

Applying the  Hua Tou Method of Chan Practice to Archetypal Projections

Everyone who comes to Zen develops his or her own unique relationship with it.  That relationship is affected by a myriad of factors, from one’s native culture, to the culture of the Zen sect one embraces, be it Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. It’s also affected by the practices and philosophies... Read more

Destiny

by Chuan Zhi and Fa Jian

Published Jul 28, 2013

Destiny

Rev. Fa Jian (Dale Ryan) recently returned from Belize where he worked for 6 months to help impoverished communities get clean drinking water.  Through this inspiring interview with Dale, we learn about sanitation challenges faced by rural communities in Centeral America and  get a glimpse of Dharma in action.   An... Read more

Yearning to be Met

by Chuan Zhi

Published May 08, 2013

Yearning to be Met

'The human heart yearns for contact - above all it yearns for genuine dialogue. Dialogue is at the heart of being human. Without it, we are not fully formed - there is a yawning abyss inside. With it, we have the possibility of our uniqueness, and our most human qualities... Read more

Sidetracked by Institutionalized Zen

by Chuan Zhi

Published Feb 10, 2013

Sidetracked by Institutionalized Zen

I was approached recently by a man in his middle years who had spent much time sitting with various Zen groups around the country.   He had left one after another after being disillusioned with each.  In one, the head teacher was having an open affair with a student, to... Read more

Contemplating Consciousness

by Chuan Zhi

Published Sep 01, 2012

Contemplating Consciousness

Consciousness. We don't think about it, we don't act upon it. It's just there. We awaken in the morning and go to the bathroom and do those things, make coffee, eat a donut, take the dog out … and so goes our entire day. At the end, we take a... Read more

The Hua-Tou Practice

by Chuan Zhi

Published Oct 04, 2011

The Hua-Tou Practice

Zen’s hua-tou practice recently seems to be enjoying a renaissance among the small contingent of Zen Buddhists speckling the globe.  In part, this may be due to the growing awareness that this was Hsu Yun’s personal favorite Zen practice that he spent much of his life advocating.  One of the... Read more

Don’t Drink the Kool-aide: How to Avoid the Projection Trap

by Chuan Zhi

Published Sep 22, 2011

Don’t Drink the Kool-aide:  How to Avoid the Projection Trap

Introduction In 1912 the French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Brühl published a collection of works that gave us a new model with which to view the relationship between self and other. He offered new insights into many of the problems that are encountered by people in relationships of all kinds.  Carl Jung further... Read more

Suffering: the Gateway to Transformation

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jun 25, 2011

Suffering:  the Gateway to Transformation

My past essays have talked mostly about the wonders and beauties that we can behold through the practice of Zen, and how we can go about finding them for ourselves, but I have spent little time on its “flip side” – it’s “dark” side – suffering. We cannot find Zen without... Read more

Cracking the Fortress of Delusion

by Chuan Zhi

Published May 10, 2011

Cracking the Fortress of Delusion

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one." - Charles MacKay (Author of- Extraordinary Popular Delusions &The Madness of Crowds) Once upon a time a young turtle happened upon an old... Read more

Spotlight on Stuart Lachs

by Chuan Zhi

Published Mar 15, 2011

Spotlight on Stuart Lachs

Without doubt the most perceptive critical voice on modern western Zen/Chan, Stuart Lachs has again given us another in-depth look at an important characteristic of contemporary Zen Buddhism: hagiography. His voice comes out of decades of immersion in Zen Buddhism, giving him an inside view that few, if any, other... Read more

Encountering a Zenner can be a strange experience indeed . . .

by Chuan Zhi

Published Dec 02, 2010

Encountering a Zenner can be a strange experience indeed . . .

Zen people are strange. I've been told this many times, usually before I announce that I am a Zen person. My usual rhetorical thought has always been a humorous, well of course we are! My vocal response is, most often, silence. Having this come up in casual conversation today,... Read more

The Phantom Self

by Chuan Zhi

Published Mar 04, 2010

The Phantom Self

Anyone who has spent much time reading about Zen has encountered the term "Self" many times over. Some may even conclude that Zen is all about Self. They would not be wrong. While some people think that Zen is about sitting in lotus position, contemplating the space between the end... Read more

The Circle of Life and Death

by Chuan Zhi

Published Feb 19, 2010

The Circle of Life and Death

My first encounter with a Zen teacher happened when I was in my late twenties. Zen had been an interest of mine for nearly a decade before this chance encounter with a person of Zen. I had never thought seriously about actually DOING Zen, but I liked reading the philosophies... Read more

Silent Partners: Asceticism in Chan Buddhism

by Chuan Zhi

Published Aug 27, 2009

Silent Partners: Asceticism in Chan Buddhism

Asceticism has come to be characterized in contemporary culture as an extreme form of religious practice; in particular, as a retreat from society, and as an even more extreme form of self-denial. We may conjure up an image of a monk sitting on a dirt floor, ribs protruding, eyes sunken,... Read more

All for One

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jun 04, 2009

All for One

I. There are people whose hearts are dead. They puzzle at the world, wondering why things are as they are. They don't understand. They fail to see that the world is made of heart because only heart can see heart. The mind, alone, is senseless to the sensibilities of the heart.... Read more

Remembering Jonestown: a Homage to the Dead, a Prayer for the Living

by Chuan Zhi

Published Nov 25, 2008

Remembering Jonestown: a Homage to the Dead, a Prayer for the Living

What is it about us humans that we seek, with such ferocity, to belong to a group, to the extent that some of us will believe whatever we are told to believe for the sake of the group? We put our own identity aside in favor of the group's identity.... Read more

Forward Motion: Bring on the Sun!

by Chuan Zhi with special thanks to Drew Dixon

Published Nov 18, 2008

Forward Motion: Bring on the Sun!

How do we keep our spiritual life alive? How do we keep moving forward? Embrace life in all its beauty and ugliness: treat all things with equanimity, seeing what is real and not what is superimposed by our beliefs and opinions. Seek the unknown: approach fears with fierce resolve to... Read more

The Buddhism of Zen

by Chuan Zhi and Fa Gong

Published Jun 10, 2008

The Buddhism of Zen

As westerners brought up in different religious traditions and cultures, we won't ever have the same Buddhism as the Chinese, the Japanese, the Koreans, or the Vietnamese. Nor should we. Our psyches are shaped by western cultures, not eastern ones. A religion will invariably speak uniquely to each culture that... Read more

Science & Zen: A Closer Look

by Chuan Zhi

Published Feb 08, 2008

Science & Zen: A Closer Look

Are science and Zen incompatible? Not at all. Each simply leads the investigator to a different area of understanding. Is awareness simply the result of our neurons firing away? Sure, but that's not the point. The mystic will say that the perception of awareness is of a universal nature, not... Read more

Experience Chan!

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jul 09, 2007

Experience Chan!

Deep inside each of us lurks a presence that is our full human potential, but it remains hidden from us - an aspect of the unconscious. It hides because of our fear of it. Its aspect is wisdom, understanding  . . . compassion, yet it remains hidden. The question we... Read more

Do no Harm: The Sexuality of Spirituality

by Chuan Zhi

Published Oct 11, 2006

Do no Harm: The Sexuality of Spirituality

Anyone who cares to investigate advanced spiritual practices of the Buddhist traditions (and many others), or has delved into them directly, quickly comes to realize that the exalted spiritual states referred to, most often obliquely, actually entail considerable sexual experience. The difference being that this experience is an internal experience... Read more

Reinventing Ourselves

by Chuan Zhi

Published Apr 01, 2006

Reinventing Ourselves

How do we overcome fear and the terrible influence it has over us? We must have great courage - we must be prepared to make mistakes, to show failure, and to show our human vulnerabilities. We must be willing to be outcast by our social groups, friends and family. We... Read more

Undeniable Self, Deniable self

by Chuan Zhi

Published Oct 04, 2005

Undeniable Self, Deniable self

What is the nature of Self? In Chan, the answer is a spiritual one, dependent on self-reflection, and one that cannot come fully until we achieve a degree of spiritual awareness. In the secular domain, we can investigate Self in terms of what it is not - it is not... Read more

Chan's Trailhead: The Triple Refuge and the Precepts

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jan 25, 2005

Chan's Trailhead: The Triple Refuge and the Precepts

How do we begin with Zen? We don't start climbing Mt. Everest from the third base station. We start at the very bottom, climb a bit, set up camp, wait for a few days to let ourselves adjust to the altitude, then move on up again, slowly, step by step.... Read more

Making It Real: On Creating a Real Chan Practice From a Virtual Temple

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jan 10, 2005

Making It Real: On Creating a Real Chan Practice From a Virtual Temple

Chan is often discussed, considered, and pondered, but when it comes to figuring out how to live the life of a Chan Buddhist many people come to the conclusion that attending services, entering a monastery -- going somewhere -- is the only efficacious solution. Whenever a request for liturgy pops into... Read more

The Joy of Awakening

by Chuan Zhi

Published Nov 30, 2004

The Joy of Awakening

Buddhism is about the discovery of our own potential: it's about beauty, and about love. Buddhism embraces mankind's quest for knowledge in all its many manifestations: spiritual knowledge, scientific knowledge, knowledge of art and music, but most of all, knowledge of Self: knowledge of who we are as opposed to... Read more

Chan and the Eightfold Path

by Chuan Zhi

Published Nov 20, 2004

Chan and the Eightfold Path

In order to prepare ourselves for meditation, we must first begin to put our lives in order and act in accordance with what is right and good, both for us and for others. It is no simple task, for it requires that we act caringly instead of selfishly. It's not... Read more

Homeostasis and Zen

by Chuan Zhi

Published Oct 12, 2004

Homeostasis and Zen

When we allow ourselves to move far away from the center, we experience the pain and bitterness that the Buddha described in his First Noble Truth. The cause of that distress, he said, is attachment. A Zen practitioner can feel anger, sorrow, or physical pain just as he can experience... Read more

Family Members - By Birth and By Choice

by Chuan Zhi

Published Aug 18, 2004

Family Members - By Birth and By Choice

A true Buddhist isn't necessarily a person who attends Buddhist services and who observes Buddhist traditions... no more than these public acts define a true Christian or Muslim. Living out the life of the spirit, freeing ourselves from anger, lust, and ignorance are the private goals we need to set... Read more

Science and Spiritual Inquiry: Striking a Balance

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jun 15, 2004

Science and Spiritual Inquiry: Striking a Balance

The universe, governed by power and the law power obeys, conforms to a dualistic principal of yin and yang, eros and logos, shakti and Shiva. We cannot separate them. Only through spiritual labor can we succeed at reconciling and integrating the noumenal with the phenomenal, the mathematical formula with that... Read more

True Atonement

by Chuan Zhi

Published Dec 08, 2003

True Atonement

When we achieve true restorative balance within ourselves we are happy and content, and can live without regret, remorse or guilt. We are at peace. The enlightened approach is to always be vigilant, to guard against committing sins - those violations of our Buddhist Precepts. But when we slip and... Read more

Whatever Your Name: on religious tolerance and acts of terrorism

by Chuan Zhi

Published Sep 16, 2002

Whatever Your Name: on religious tolerance and acts of terrorism

Written in response to to the terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center on September 11, 2002. All world religions offer this spiritual solution to the problems that confront all humanity, this Path to salvation. Those who choose other hateful solutions have left their religion's Path. Yet, as we lament their... Read more

Ancient Wisdom: The Blue Lotus

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jul 17, 2001

Ancient Wisdom: The Blue Lotus

 Zen requires that we maintain our sense of awe and wonder, that pure curiosity about the things we see and experience, that search for meaning and significance that is so apparent in the works of ancient man. We cannot allow technology to dull our awe and jade our curiosity about... Read more

King of the Road: On Loneliness and Solitude

by Chuan Zhi

Published Feb 15, 2001

King of the Road: On Loneliness and Solitude

When we stop to analyze our daily lives, we discover how many of our activities are constructed to assuage a fear of being alone. We wait in lines at restaurants and take several hours to eat a meal that we could quickly have prepared at home. We go out to... Read more

Suffering: Zen and the Four Noble Truths

by Chuan Zhi

Published Aug 10, 2000

Suffering: Zen and the Four Noble Truths

Suffering is integral to the Zen path. It is, in fact, a prerequisite. Zen is not an easy path and we must be highly motivated in order to travel it. In physics as in Zen, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. No human being wants to suffer. All... Read more

Archetypal Integration

by Chuan Zhi

Published Nov 16, 1999

Archetypal Integration

In physics we talk about forces. Without forces, there would be no physics because nothing would happen. In fact, there would be nothing at all because it is forces that create things. A rock is held together by the strong and weak nuclear forces. It slides down the side of... Read more

Reincarnation

by Chuan Zhi

Published May 04, 1999

Reincarnation

When we recognize that the ego doesn't exist in any real sense but only as an artifice of the mind, there's nothing that needs explaining anymore and the notion of reincarnation is seen as nothing more than an intellectual game. The person, like the raindrop, merges into the sea of... Read more

Eating the Menu

by Chuan Zhi

Published Mar 04, 1999

Eating the Menu

Zen requires that we bring mindfulness into our lives. If we are experiencing fear, we delve into the nature and content of that fear, working to understand it, tearing it apart piece by piece until there is no more fear. Our Buddhist faith needs to be invoked. If we're feeling... Read more

A Conversation on Zen and God

by Chuan Zhi

Published Jan 05, 1999

A Conversation on Zen and God

Some Buddhists may say they believe in God, others may say otherwise, but the reality of God is independent of anything anyone may believe or disbelieve. Religions the world over testify to the universal urge for our mind to realize that which is greater than itself. How do we describe... Read more

Dangerous Zeal

by Chuan Zhi

Published Dec 08, 1998

Dangerous Zeal

In meditation we enter the realm of selflessness (or egolessness). When we meditate there is no urge or desire for meditation, there is only beautiful meditation. Problems occur only when we stop meditating to return to the ego’s realm of desires and opinions about what is and what is not... Read more

Snapping and Zeno's Paradox

by Chuan Zhi

Published Oct 15, 1998

Snapping and Zeno's Paradox

Religion always presents us with extraordinary paradoxes. Is the person's experience going to diverge and take him into infinity's stratosphere or is it going to converge to that nice, desirable finish line? Luck has a lot to do with limits: that sane boundary. Consider a fraction. We know that the... Read more

Articles by Chuan Zhi

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Prev Next

Not This! Not This!

August 14, 2014

The Celibacy Question

January 3, 2014

FAQ for PG

December 1, 2013

Destiny

July 28, 2013

The Hua-Tou Practice

October 4, 2011

The Phantom Self

March 4, 2010

All for One

June 4, 2009

The Buddhism of Zen

June 10, 2008

Experience Chan!

July 9, 2007

The Joy of Awakening

November 30, 2004

Homeostasis and Zen

October 12, 2004

True Atonement

December 8, 2003

Archetypal Integration

November 16, 1999

Reincarnation

May 4, 1999

Eating the Menu

March 4, 1999

Dangerous Zeal

December 8, 1998

Delving Into Dharma

July 13, 1998