‘Emptiness is not nothingness and nothingness is not nothing’ – Master Guojun
Simplicity is beauty. Master Guojun’s Chan heart, Chan mind is both. Simplicity is by no means saying Master Guojun has created something lightweight, on the contrary. The depth contained within this book remains profound. He just somehow manages to replace dogma with compassion. A compassion which is permeable and porous. To say it was a delight to read is an understatement.
Each chapter reads like an invitation. Morality somehow shelved to be replaced by natural curiosity. A slowing down of the body occurs through his words. The self opens up…and breathes. His explanation of Huaton practice is like a gentle finger beckoning you forward to experience Chan for yourself. To awaken– a state which is practical, grounded, and ultimately natural. As Guojun says himself, ‘Chan is not about sitting on your cushion feeling blissed out, Chan happens in this world with all its heartache and pressures.’ To find out Guojun was undergoing some very real pressures while writing this beautiful piece of work only further serves the message. (I won’t say anymore, you’ll have to dive in and get a copy when it’s released Mar 8, 2016.)
I’ve had an interest in all things Chan and Zen for some years. This interest was sparked on a busy bus in Manchester UK. I was twenty – experiencing stress, poverty, depression, and deep dark anger. I carried my noisy three year old to the back of the bus. Plop went my bum onto the seat, only to realise my bottom had something extra beneath. It was a discarded Zen Koan card. It read, ‘The old Pond; A frog jumps in, sound of water.’ That card changed my life.
I had no idea what Zen, or the Chinese equivalent Chan, was. All I knew was the card. I carried it everywhere. When I attempted to sleep, cook, work, the words sang round and round. When my daughter, (very occasionally) slept, I would pull the card out. A riddle seemingly lent from heaven for me to solve. It had to mean something I would tell myself – it can’t just be words on a card. What an adventure those words sparked! To this day I cannot see a frog without smiling.
And so it is with Guojun’s wisdom – his book is being integrated into my everyday living. He has offered me so much to contemplate already, such as…
Happiness and pleasure – yes, on a deep belly level we all know they are not the same state of being. Yet, after reading, I’m left with the possibility that I can practice the way of what is at a deeper level. Something beyond the seeking; to step into the found.
Body and mind together – ‘that wherever the body is, the mind is there, whatever the body is doing, the mind is doing it too’ – Guojun. Much lip-service is given to the mind-within-body state. Guojun, with his friendliness and kindness, has coaxed me to re-experience what I think I already know.
Relaxing – that it’s not the same as being comfortable. Yes, reading this may leave you feeling uncomfortable – yet I promise you, the way Guojun describes this accepting surrender is liberating. Bursting with possibilities after possibility.
On faith – I’m encouraged to practice my Truth daily. To pay attention to my actions, my deeds, my small words, little breaths, tiny mind-murmurs, and teeny-weeny nerve tremors. To be precise. To live with mindful precision with where I am. Guojun’s attention to the moments of his own development and transformation leave you assured you can absorb and embody your own.
And lastly is the double question Guojun asks, which will rumble around my being for some time.
‘How many of you can die beautifully? Is this worth thinking about and preparing for?’ – Guojun
These twinned questions are now pinned above my laptop. A counterweight to life. A reminder that a life before death would be preferable, yet death is coming anyway, whether I feel I’ve lived it or not. Can I accept this inevitable transition into the unknown with grace? Can I breathe my last breath fully, knowing another will not arise? I’ll find out.
Also, with patience, I’ll gain greater clarity into the depth of this twofold question– after all, the second part asks us, ‘is this worth thinking about and preparing for?’ At the time of writing I believe yes it is… this may turn into no. Then more likely, if I get time before I kick the bucket, it will transform into – I don’t know.
After all, I still don’t know what a frog is.
Serenity. That’s what cushioned me when I closed Chan Heart, Chan Mind. Deep serenity. It left me calm, assured, and deeply smiling from an inner joyful place. Opening the book felt like a hello old friend, closing it felt like I’d dined with that old friend and we were now walking hand in hand by a river. Like I say, it is a beautiful book. When it arrives to buy next March 2016 I will be snapping up so I can carry it with me. To dip into. To remind myself, just as a good old friend would, that Chan Heart, Chan Mind is possible with devotion and kindness.
Big love to you lovely readers,
Alex Clarke – Editor and Founder
Chan Heart, Chan Mind is written by Master Guojun to be published next year (March 2016) by Wisdom publications.
‘Experience the heart and soul of Chinese Zen from the perspective of a young, dynamic, Western-educated teacher. Master Guojun offers an intimate, lyrical portrayal of life lived in the rich tradition of Chan, from his apprenticeship with a master Zen calligrapher to the lessons learned from building and running a major practice center. Through sparkling prose, Guojun lays out the essence of Chan and captures moving encounters with some of its greatest contemporary teachers, showing readers how to fold its insights into their own lives. Featuring the lyrical simplicity of Thich Nhat Hanh and the engaging storytelling of Ajahn Brahm, this book is further enhanced by the author’s own elegant calligraphy.’ – Wisdom Publications