By Master Zhong Hai
At the end of a silent meditation retreat at Triple Crane Monastery, we often hear that people experienced many kinds of benefits such as: increased flexibility, increased energy, a reduction in stress and anxiety, a feeling of being more connected to their own senses, more happiness, a discovery of their innate abilities, more insight, and an increase in wisdom. However, some may say these are only the superficial benefits of meditation. Are there greater benefits from a truly deep meditation?
A more meaningful meditation begins when brain function has “stopped”, or in other words, when the ego is gone. If we cannot enter the “brain non-function stage”, we are just sitting quietly and peacefully.
You may ask how one stops brain function? Is it even possible? It is possible and simple. The practice is called Huayen Chan Kuan. Chan is an ancient practice, originating in China in the 6th century. According to history, there were 300,000 to 400,000 great Chan practitioners in between the years of 618-1279 AD. Unfortunately, Chan Kuan practice almost disappeared with the Yun Dynasty (1279 AD). Only about 100 practitioners were successful in the following 800 years because of civil war.
A human brain is in a constant process of thinking as long as the person is awake, as the brain is simultaneously receiving external stimuli from all five senses. One special technique that can pause this thinking process is called inner body heat exercise, which includes two major groups of exercise.
The first group is referred to as “body adjustment techniques”. This group refers to a variety of cleansing/purifying exercises, such as yoga Asana, 8-reverse Gong Fu, Yoga dance, walking meditation, and other similar practices. The purpose of these exercises is to adjust the body and restore its systems back to their normal function.
The second group is called “life energy guiding techniques”. This group is composed of different methods of breath control. These exercises can make breathing smooth and efficient, so that the nervous system becomes calm and stabilized. This is beneficial to both physical and mental well-being. If one can properly use inner strength to activate internal organs, the “inner heat” will arise. This “inner heat” can initiate the cleansing process and improve health. When the inner heat is strong enough, to the level that the body moves spontaneously without conscious control, then it is possible to momentarily stop the brain thinking function. Once the body reaches this critical point, it is liberated from any conscious controlling, and the innate life energy explodes. The negative energies that have accumulated over the years are released gradually. This is the first reward of Huayen Chan Kuan.
The two distinct stages in Chan Kuan practice are: To-be-dynamic and To-be-static. The dynamic stage emphasizes body purification and cleansing through inner heat exercises. These techniques can spark the innate life energy.
In the to-be-static stage, energy is gradually accumulated and refined within the body, until “Pran” is formed. Pran is pure vital energy—the essence of life. This static phase is the real starting point of Huayen Chan Kuan meditation. Through this practice, one can gradually experience the true spirit and gain true wisdom. Ordinary life will be completely transformed, and one steps into the Dharma Realm.
We are so fortunate that our spiritual leader of the Great Huayen Monastery in Datong, Shanxi, China, Venerable Master HaiYun JiMeng, received this special Chan Kuan Practice from the Lard Lakulish Lineage (Mahayana Yogachara) in India in 2008. Master HaiYun is able to integrate this practice with traditional Chinese Chan practice based on his years of training and achievement. This unique Huayen Chan Kuan practice has become widely observed throughout the world, including here at the Triple Crane Monastery. We also offer Classical Hatha yoga classes, Chan Kuan workshops, and weekend retreats. These basic trainings will purify one’s body, speech, and mind. Henceforward, when one participates in a day of silent meditation, one may experience more of the deeper benefits of advanced practice.
Master Zhong Hai (also known as Winnie) has been practicing Mahayana Buddhism and Chan since 2001. She is the chief nun and instructor at the Triple Crane Monastery in Chelsea, MI. For more information on classes and retreats, please visit their website,www.huayenworld-use.org or give them a call at 734-757-8567.