Ch’an Philosophy

In the Tao Te Ching it states “ He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak.”. This is not an idle statement. To me it means words are inadequate and sometimes redundant and fail to hit the mark. Inadequate in the sense that most of the so called secret knowledge is quite simple yet very complex in its depth. There are layers of meaning and to use any one word narrows the scope of the meaning. Redundant in the fact that “There is nothing new under the sun.” , that everything has already been said before by someone at sometime. This has left me for years trying to figure out how to go about writing such an essay as I am undertaking at this time. The answer finally came to me that I should just write it and let the chips fall as they may, that this would be the best way to tackle the problem.

So on that note I will keep the writing as simple and concise as I can. Letting the exercises I am providing speak for themselves on the basis that understanding comes from the experience of practicing them not necessarily in the work that leads up to them. I will provide the knowledge for a basic understanding of the why the exercises should be practiced and what can be gained from such practice as well as an in depth description as to how the exercises should be practiced. Then leave it up to the reader to do the practice and gain a deeper understanding from the experience of the practice itself. Wisdom comes from experience not from intellectualization. To learn by reading alone is like listening with ones ears covered.

Ch’an means meditation it is not necessary to read Buddhist or Taoist scriptures to learn and understand it though they do help to a certain degree. For they are records of the past masters who tried to share their knowledge and experience in writing for future generations to learn from. Ch’an is distinctively Chinese and is a mixture of Indian Buddhism and Taoism that together form a unique system of practice. Meditation and Chi kung combine creating a different form of meditative yoga than that had existed in India previous to Ch’an’s development. Physically health and longevity is the goal, mentally and spiritually enlightenment is the goal. Ch’an yoga treats the body, mind and spirit as a whole and trains them in togetherness creating a harmonious oneness within the individual.

Once one learns of oneself they learn of others for they see themselves in others and others in themselves creating a unity amongst human beings as well. I will not go into the history of Ch’an for I want to speak about what it is and means to me not what it once was. The present moment is what is important not the past or the future for the past is already gone and the future has yet to appear. It is what Ch’an is at the moment it is experienced that the greatest benefits are realized. It changes with each individual it touches for reality is relative to the individuals perspective at any one particular moment and Ch’an teaches us to experience and realize each and every moment. In the beginning I only practiced when I sat to do meditation now every moment is meditation to me so I barely sit at all.

The first thing one asks themselves when they begin to practice meditation is “ Who am I?”. This is a very important question because it is the query into our original nature or true nature. The nature before we were born the nature of our lives and our nature after death. Each person has to discover this answer for themselves through experience. If I was asked the question “who are you?” I would reply simply empty mindful awareness that is my original nature it is also enlightenment. The words mean much my original nature is emptiness, a focused natural emptiness that is pure awareness. When I empty my mind of ego a self still exists but this self is just perception, perception perceiving itself. I view my mind as an outsider third party if you will yet I am supposed to be inside my mind.

What is mind though there is an old saying when a Ch’an master was asked “What is Ch’an?” The master replied “ Ch’an is the mind.” When asked “ What is the mind?” He replied “ The embodiment of Ch’an.” Awareness can view the mind and its interactions indifferently. This is true non attachment. Non attachment is the main way to avoid pain and suffering, it is what is meant by nothingness. If there is no ego and no self then what can be hurt ? What can suffer? This does not mean I have no mind or body. I breath, my heart beats if you cut me I will bleed. I do not attach myself to emotional pain and suffering though. Physical pain can also be handled easier with this understanding for you do not dwell on the pain it is embraced then let go.

In Ch’an mindfulness and mindlessness are trained together as one concept. Mindfulness is having awareness focused on the present, being in the now. Where memories of the past can be contemplated and the present moment can be lived to the fullest. Sometimes mindfulness is just related to focus or memory in truth though both definitions can be applied at the same time. Mindlessness is the focused and empty potential state of the mind. When practiced together, mindfulness and mindlessness create the perfect mind state for meditation.

The analogy to be businesslike in mind and mindless in business describes this mind state aptly, where business is the everyday affairs we live through. Being focused and aware of the task you are doing while maintaining non attachment to the task allows one to be present without dwelling on other tasks already accomplished or to be accomplished in the future. Non attachment is the detachment or release of feelings and emotions toward the task at hand as well as to life in general. It is the removal of the ego leaving only the original nature or true self to remain.

The human being is already perfect one needs only to realize they are perfect this is naturalness. Letting things be as they are. We need not change ourselves only our perspective. All duality surrenders to oneness, a wholeness that is as it was intended to be. We came from nothingness and will return to nothingness in between we are oneness being, naturally. When practicing sitting at peace many things are happening at once. One is counting the breaths, expanding the consciousness by expanding the peripheral vision, using deep abdominal breathing and practicing empty mindful awareness. The secret is to be aware of everything but not paying attention to any one particular thing.

Over time one learns to follow instead of lead or more precise to lead by following. This act of doing through non doing is called effortlessness. Effortlessness allows one to deal with the constant changes in life in a purposeful and correct way. It provides balance and releases the mental and physical tension within the body allowing a efficient flow of internal energy to ensue. With effortlessness also comes tranquility and inner peace. Any true form of meditation will have all these concepts present being practiced at one time. This togetherness will bring eventually all the detached elements being practiced into a unified whole and they will become natural so that all that remains is the practice of empty mindful awareness itself without even being aware that it is happening.

Once this is accomplished over time everything you do becomes meditation. A walk in the park, drinking tea or doing chores all is accomplished in an effortless manner enjoying the moment and gaining from the awareness of being present in that particular moment. Sitting itself then becomes more of a breathing exercise used to develop and circulate the internal energy for meditation is now a 24/7 process of living. So as you can see sitting is never abandoned it simply takes on another role for the practitioner. Some still feel the need to sit even after it has become a natural process to them for the sake of meditation itself this is okay too for it is nice to set aside time to do something that has become a comfortable part of your daily routine. For myself though and many others the meditative mind set becomes a switch that can be turned off and on at will and this state of mind is still used while training the breath and internal energy anyway this better suites the scheduling of the day.

Chi kung means breath work and the breath and internal energy are linked together so by training the breath we learn to build up, store and circulate the internal energy. Yoga is chi kung. Ch’an Yoga would then be meditative breath work. It can be practiced either laying, sitting or standing. In stillness and in motion and/ or any combination of the above. Whether practicing static or moving forms the same meditative mind set is used in order to always keep the art efficient and effective. Since sitting is a form of static energy work along with the meditation exercises provided I will offer moving chi kung exercises to create a balanced harmony in this writing. Any motion timed with the breath using meditation could be considered energy work again in time once it all becomes natural forms are not really needed any more that is the whole purpose striving for naturalness in our daily affairs by at first breaking everything down to the basic components then building ourselves up again effortlessly.

Enlightenment shouldn’t be a goal but something we enjoy during our daily affairs. It is not something special reserved only for the elite or the guru’s of the world. It is something within each and every one of us. As Buddha said everything has a Buddha nature. All we have to do is realize our own. It must be something natural or how could a dog have it just by being a dog? It is something down to earth, something that grounds you not something that makes you soar to heaven. Heaven and hell are here and now. It all depends on our frame of mind at any particular moment in which place we reside at that moment. Enlightenment does not make you someone special it just makes you you in the truest sense. So this essay and the exercises provided are meant to help you make your ordinary life special instead by offering a few health and longevity exercises that only take a short while out of your day. That will help make life natural and effortless so you can make the most of it until a ripe old age.

Ch’an yoga incorporates Taoist Alchemy. The two are trained together and being so similar in approach and striving for the same goal both Buddhist’s and Taoist’s used this method of training over the years. Ch’an is meditation and Internal Alchemy is the building, storing and circulation of internal energy in order to nourish, energize and train the spirit. It all comes from the Shaolin Temple anyway so names that have been incorporated over the years and practitioners of different faiths and philosophies have come together under the training of the Yi Jin Jing( Muscle/ Tendon Changing Classics) and the Xi Sui Jing ( Brain/ marrow washing Classic). So even though I will refer to the meditation exercises as Taoist Alchemy it is still originally Ch’an Yoga but Ch’an is more Taoist than Buddhist anyway. I will in this work post the meditations as Taoist alchemy but I will also include the Yi Jin Jing and Lohan Embracing Heaven and Earth to add the chi kung exercises that go with the meditation exercises to make a complete system.

Ch’an Yoga is the style that is trained and Taoist Alchemy is the method of cultivation for they brought the original system to higher levels and kept the knowledge until the modern era. Sometimes I think about adding the history but it is irrelevant all that is important is the exercises themselves and the training of them now. So I start this work with Ch’an Yoga introducing the Yi Jin Jing and the second part as Taoist Alchemy introducing the Xi Sui Jing. One of the chi kung ( energy work) exercises is hard style one is soft style I introduce the two for balance. The Yin and Yang are then balanced, the Five Elements are satisfied ( cause and effect) and the Bagua ( 8 trigrams) continue in there constant change. Change is what we effortlessly follow and these exercises help in that task so life is harmonious. Peace and harmony is what we strive for and we can train ourselves to be in tune with the Tao so we can experience them directly.

The Yi Jin Jing or Muscle/Tendon Changing Classics Deals with the strengthening of the tendons and ligaments. It is a form of exercise that incorporates both meditation and breath work. Breath work or chi kung uses deep abdominal breathing and stretching movements that are trained in unison. The movements are timed with the meditative breathing blending at first the basic meditation then later on include the advanced circulation meditation. The basic meditation chi breathing trains mental expansion and awareness as well as builds and stores the chi.

Chi is energy it is the energy that gives life to everything that is alive and sentient. It also exists in everything even innate objects. The Chinese believe there are three chi’s that effect or lives as human beings. These three forces or Heavenly, Earthly and Humanly chi. Heavenly chi is the chi that exists and comes from the heavens or the universe it is the energy that comes from space and it effects our lives in a positive way. Earthly chi is energy that comes from our planet and everything that makes the earth a whole it is also positive energy.

Heavenly chi is yang and Earthly chi is yin. Yin and yang are the forces that interact as bi polar opposites in the Tao which is everything it is nature because it formed nature. Tao is not God but it is creation.
Humanly chi is the energy that gives us life it is made up of three parts they are called the three treasures. The three treasures are jing, chi and shen. Jing is the essence of our life and was present from conception and exist in the lower dan tian or lower elixir field which resides approximately three inches below the navel and about two inches inward. Chi is the vital force that gives us life it resides in the middle elixir field which is located at the solar plexus. The Shen is the spirit it resides at the placement of the third eye and about three inches into the brain near the pineal gland.

Chi breathing builds up and stores the chi in the lower elixir field and mixes it with the jing this is the process of mixing water and fire. The next meditation the lesser heavenly circle circulates this chi around the body by going from the lower elixir field up the back over the head and down the front of the body back to the lower elixir field. This follows the natural circulation of the chi in the body but nourish the vessels and meridians along the path way. I will explain in more detail in the explanation of the exercise. The Muscle Change Classics/ Greater Heavenly Circle is a chi kung form that leads this chi to the tendons and ligaments also nourishing the muscles at the same time. It is considered a hard form for it does work on building physical strength and health. These three exercises complete the Yi Jin Jing.

The Xi Sui Jing was developed to mix and circulate chi in order to nourish the shen or spirit then experience the absence of self which is pure awareness. The jing is nourished as well and mixed with the chi this is water mixing with fire. This blending is sent out through different pathways to every part of the body from the marrow of the bones to the internal organs to the skin so everything is cleansed by this mixture of chi as well as energizing the shen. It is the advanced form of meditations that are really sitting chi kung exercises. At the end of practicing these exercises which will be explained in more detail later in the book I will introduce a soft version of the greater heavenly circle, this exercise blends breathing with movements and stretching leading the chi around the path of the greater heavenly circle and blends the developed Humanly chi with the Earthly and Heavenly chi.

I want to talk briefly about water and fire chi. Water chi is yin it is the chi that is stored in the lower elixir field the fire chi is yang and resides in the middle elixir field. The refinement and circulation of the blending and interactions of these two types of chi is all about balance. You do not want excessive fire or yang chi nor do you want excessive water or yin chi. The balancing of these to types of chi promotes health end longevity and eventually when you use the to nourish the shen enlightenment for your consciousness is balanced and you have control of your emotions and feelings which cause stress, worry and suffering in your life. Everything is about balance of the yin and yang, trying to follow the Tao effortlessly (wu wei) to guide you through the karma of cause and effect which is the five elements and then you can from doing by non doing using non attachment merge with the Tao and move with the changes as one with them.

The Tao is the natural law or way of the universe. Yin and yang are the complementary bi polar opposites that interact with everything in the universe they speak of balance and harmony. There is dark and light, man and woman, production and destruction and a myriad other opposites that form a whole. These interactions are shown and explained by the five elements which teach the karmic law of cause and effect. The bagua or constant change that drives the interactions of cause and effect and keeps everything in creation changing so everything is transient. Since everything is transient it is important to be aware of the moment for there are only so many of them and they may end at any time. The Yi Jin Jing and the Xi Sui Jing teach one how to follow the process of continual change and guide them through the karmic law of cause and effect. By using the concept of yin and yang understanding and training oneself how to create balance bodily, mentally and spiritually a oneness is achieved. Under lying all these forces is the vital force chi which gives life to everything and drives the universe through its cycles. By training chi kung and meditation the chi can be stored and circulated throughout the entire body. Satisfying the concept of yin and yang and gaining understanding of self through experience thus eventually blending with the Tao.

These exercises also strengthen the immune system. I personally have not caught a cold or flu in about fifteen years. It did take about five years of dedicated practice to get to that point but it shows that these exercises contribute to the health of the individual. You gain a relaxed strength that does not need the use of muscles the strength comes from the tendons, ligaments and bones. Muscles are still trained but are more for protection of the organs, tendons/ ligaments and bones. Bodily health is noticed quite quick in the training within days you will feel noticeable results that will continue to grow the longer you train. Longer does not mean more training in one day but training over the months and years.

Mentally it balances the emotions and thus helps one control their feelings. Learning to deal with ones emotions and feelings leads one to an understanding of inner peace. With this inner peace stress is reduced for you are learning to follow the changes in your life. The past is behind us we can bring up memories remembering events both good and bad from the past. These memories can now be viewed through the mind of inner peace that follows change and has non attachment toward the memories whether good or bad. The future is unknown we learn to not worry and accept what happens as it happens in the moment whether good or bad we use this mind of inner peace and its ability to detach the emotions and feeling from the event as it happens. If you do have a moment of loss where your emotions and feelings overcome you simply embrace them then let them go. Like clouds passing in the sky just watch them drift by if you become attached to one of them accept and embrace that attachment then let it go and turn back to non attachment. You can still experience joy and sorrow you just balance your emotions and feelings toward the experience.

Spiritually from a healthy body and balanced mind there is no stress so your consciousness can be free to experience life as pure natural awareness. Your spirit is nourished and trained to be involved in every process of the body and life’s interactions. It can be free to experience life and nature without the ego or self. Immersing itself in the oneness of everything. With empty mindful awareness the original nature of the self can be free of it’s bondage for periods of time allowing it to experience the nothingness and embrace the oneness of everything. This blending of body, mind and spirit being oneness and experiencing oneness and nothingness makes one stronger and braver in life for you are understanding the nature of nature. The shen guides the chi through the chi’s circulation, it guides the emotions thus the feeling and it guides every movement and process within the body. A healthy and vital body, a balanced mind that is focused aware and a spirit that is strong and brave. It is the answer to most mental and physical ailments. Practice of the Yi Jin Jing and the Xi Sui Jing provide these benefits.


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