Chan Practice

Contemplative Analysis to Emptiness

Contemplative Analysis to Emptiness-MasterHsinTao

Here at Stift Reichersberg in Austria, we held a 7-day Chan practice retreat. While most of the participants have much experience in meditation, this was their first time trying the Peace Meditation of Ling Jiou Mountain. On the first day of teaching, I began with a hua tou (literal meaning: head of speech, a subject of meditation): “Where are we going with Chan practice?”

Chan practice is to rediscover ourselves, the origin. What is our nature? It was already there before this body came to formation through our parents. No phenomenon takes place in prior. Our nature is notionless – which is emptiness. In other words, emptiness is devoid of “being anything”. If we are to “be”, that is no longer our nature.

Through Chan practice, we learn to be free from phenomena and delusions. By not pursuing covetousness or idols, we are not controlled by phenomena. Once we’ve realized emptiness, no more discrimination will remain. Just as the Buddha teaches in the Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge (Heart Sutra), 

“Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form.

Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness.” Contemplative Analysis to Emptiness-MasterHsinTaoIf we wish to be enlightened, cutting through is required. By cutting through notions, we’d discover our luminous nature. It is untainted, pure in unity. We are like rough ores before any Dharma practices. However, the inner gold can be extracted after impurities are removed – just like how the defilements are eradicated through Dharma practice. With the ceasing of afflictions, our pure spirituality comes to light. Be attentive and examine with clarity, our habitual intellectual thinking can be refined. Emptiness will be rediscovered eventually.

 Emptiness was never invented artificially. However, through awareness, examination, and understanding, we can enter emptiness. Chan practice can initiate the stages of stabilization, purification, and then sacredness. In the end, lights of emptiness will shine through. Hence, Chan practice takes our mind back home – to the home of emptiness that is vast and unlimited.”