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Buddhadharma : Win 2012
38 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY WINTER 2 0 1 2 You Are Already Enlightened GUO GU (Jimmy Yu) received inka from the late Chan Master Sheng Yen in 1995 and served as his assistant and translator until Sheng Yen’s death in 2009. He is the Sheng Yen Assistant Professor of Chinese Buddhism at Florida State University and the founder of the Tallahassee Chan Group. His new ebook is The Essence of Chan. S ilent illumination is a Buddhist prac- tice that can be traced back not only to Huineng (638–713), the sixth patriarch of Chan, and other Chinese masters but also to the early teachings of the Bud- dha. In the Chan tradition, silent illumination is referred to as mozhao, from the Chinese char- acters mo (silent) and zhao (illumination). It’s a term that was first used by a critic of the practice, Dahui Zonggao (1089–1163), an advocate of the method of “observing critical phrase” (huatou in Chinese; wato in Japanese). Hongzhi Zhengjue (1091–1157), the Chinese master most often associated with the practice of silent illumina- tion, liked the term and adopted it. In the West, silent illumination is usually pre- sented through the lens of Soto Zen practice as shikantaza, a term coined by Dogen Zenji to describe the embodiment of awakening. How- ever, shikantaza is not a distinct category of prac- tice, and while it is a part of silent illumination, it cannot encompass it. Silent illumination is the simultaneous practice of stillness and clarity, or quiescence and lumi- nosity. It is similar to the practice of shamatha and vipashyana, as long as we don’t consider these sequential to each other, first practicing shamatha and then practicing vipashyana. In silence there is illumination; in stillness, clarity is ever present. We Are Already Enlightened The Chan tradition does not usually refer to steps or stages. Its central teaching is that we are intrinsically awake; our mind is originally without abiding, fixations, and vexations, and its nature is without divisions and stages. This is the basis of the Chan view of sudden enlighten- ment. If our mind’s nature were not already free, that would imply we could become enlightened only after we practiced, which is not so. If it’s possible to gain enlightenment, then it’s possible to lose it as well. Guo Gu, a longtime student of the late Master Sheng Yen, presents an experiential look at the Chan practice of silent illumination. (OPPOSITE)©BRITISHMUSEUM (Opposite) Seated Luohan, Chinese, 907–1125 CHIHONISHIDA