I am not a “Chan Master”

Master Chi ChernI am not a “Chan Master”.  In Chan literatures, “karmic roots” is often used in describing a person. Mine are not “sharp” because my everyday life is not very simple and it lacks the style or characteristics of a “Chan Master”.  Somehow, due to causes and conditions, I was led to the work of teaching Chan in the Dharma.

Although this work requires a lifestyle that is not so much that of a “Chan Master” as people would often imagine, I do enjoy teaching.  Benefiting from Chan practice, I can be relaxed and content since I do not need to pursue what many people struggle to pursue.  I only need to deal with my own habitual tendencies, those from which I have not yet freed myself.  Of course I sometimes experience unpleasant emotions (we call them “vexations”), but I know how to handle them with more ease.  On occasions when I do not seem to handle situations well, it is easier for me to reflect and then let go.  Because my work does not involve worldly fame and gain, there are fewer conflicts in my relationships with others.

The fact that I am a monk offers some convenience, and it also presents certain inconveniences or challenges.  I think I know my role and place in my work; therefore, adopting and adjusting to situations with the right attitude and doing what seems “right” or proper helps me to experience negative emotions less frequently when interacting with others.  Keeping sound and harmonious relationships with people brings more joy to others and minimizes harm to others and myself.

Perhaps I am not very good at “self-improvement”.  For a long time, it seems I have been seen as someone who is “peaceful and stable”, or in a sense, someone who does not demonstrate obvious changes or “growth”.  I remember when Shifu (Venerable Master Sheng Yen) was still alive.  From time to time, when we would discuss my practice, he would seem to be disappointed in my progress.  Perhaps my personality is a bit like that—not very vigorous and demanding of myself.  Nonetheless, there has been progress in my teaching.  On the one hand, I draw from the experiences of the students to expand my knowledge of them so that I can help them more directly and specifically in their practice.  On the other, I pay close attention and observe people and situations in everyday life.  I incorporate these experiences into Chan practice by allowing these observations and reflections to manifest in daily living, and then I am able to share the insights with others.  Through years of teaching experience, this skill has become well developed and more and more established in my teachings and of benefit to students.

Encountering the Buddhadharma and Chan practice has been a blessing which has led me into a boundless space.  The path has rather been smooth for me.  I feel joy, and my heart is filled with gratitude.

(Published in Chinese on Oriental Daily News 東方新聞, 2013/06/28)

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