Chan is a method, acquired through wordless transmission, of realising the profound unity that composes all phenomena that we observe, no matter how similar or dissimilar they appear to be. This characteristic unity of everything is expressed in all sentient beings and is called Buddha Nature, bodhi-mind or simply Mind. It is through the realisation of Mind that enlightenment is revealed. The founder of Ch’an in China was an Indian monk named Bodhidharma who arrived in Canton in 514 CE. His method was different from the practice of Buddhist meditation that had prevailed in China for the previous 400 years and his teachings were adopted by the Chinese. By the 7th century, Ch’an was the dominant method of meditation; Chan masters and their literature have inspired generations of practitioners to the present day.
If you are interested in the history of Chan, then visit our web pages on the subject for short and longer studies of this facinating subject. History of Chan
Chan and Zen
The word Chan, is pronounced with an elongated ah, ‘Chah-an’ and is a phoenetic pronunciation of the Sanskrit ’dhyana’, meaning meditation and the character used for this was 禪. Ch’an came to Japan in the 12th century when the Japanese monk Myōan Eisai brought the Linji School of Chan to Japan. The Japanese continued to use the same Chinese character but pronounced it as ‘zen’. This name is much better know in the west due to the spread of Japanese Buddhism after the Second World War when religious freedom on Mainland China was severely restricted. Happily, today the situation on the Mainland is rapidly easing where Ch’an is thriving once more. Taiwan, however, has led the way, served by monks who fled the Mainland in the 1940′s; one of these was Master Sheng-yen 聖嚴法師.