Prior to this volume, The World of Chan, I have published at least three books with similar themes: The Life of Chan, Holding a Flower and Smiling, and Chan and Enlightenment. These books are all about Chan practice, its methods and concepts, and have been enjoyed by many readers. This reflects the fact that Chan practice has gradually spread among Chinese as well as Western communities at home and abroad, which is deeply gratifying.
For example, in America meditation has become popular in recent times. Intellectuals and college students learn sitting meditation, and in many high schools sitting meditation is taught as part of the curriculum. American society has been stable, with the economy growing steadily, so some people have included Buddhist spiritual cultivation as a part of their goals in life in addition to their worldly life.
In Taiwan today, individuals from all walks of life value books about Chan practice, which I believe has something to do with our country's social structure and economic development. That's why I can continue to publish books, one after another, and I'm also very happy for our country.
This book is a collection of 29 articles, some of them three of four times longer than others. Most of them are edited transcripts of my lectures given both in the East and West, and previously published in either Humanity Magazine or Dharma Drum Monthly. I owe many thanks to my monastic and lay disciples who helped transcribe the recorded lectures. Without the transcripts, I couldn't have made the talks into a book.
That said, the language and structure of my talks don't nearly meet the requirements for a formal essay. Although I reviewed most of the transcripts that my disciples put so much effort into preparing, I still didn't manage to spend the time needed to polish them and add supplementary materials. This time, when I came to the United States on October 10, 1993, I brought with me to New York a big stack of transcripts collected by Dr. Liu Deru, Executive Editor of the Dharma Drum Publishing Corp. But they sat on the desk, as I simply didn't have time to get to them.
Not until December 12 did I finally resolve to read them and then to edit, revise, and supplement them article by article, sentence by sentence, and character by character. Often, it would take me four to five hours to edit an article of four or five thousand characters. As a result, almost 20 to 80 percent of the text has been rewritten. Only a few articles were kept in their original form, as the writing was smooth enough, though not quite like my essays.
Although not a connected series, the articles in this book are unified in their ideas and purpose. They can either be read sequentially or at random. As they were all given for various occasions in different places, each has its own character. However, some material may reappear once or twice, and we have kept them that way to maintain the integrity of each article.
This book promotes Chan teachings and practice methods in daily life through in-depth experience and simple, clear introductions. It aims to share the benefits of the Dharma with the public regardless of age, gender, occupation, or education. For regular meditators, this book provides basic sitting meditation techniques. Exceptionally busy people are advised to try and use the Chan cultivation methods in this book to harmonize themselves, and dissolve their attachment to "self." From relaxing the body and mind for as little as three minutes to attending to body and mind throughout daily life, these methods show the simplicity and practicality of expedient Chan methods.
Therefore, my hope is that this book enhances the efficacy of Chan to protect our spiritual, living, and natural environments, and to realize Dharma Drum Mountain's vision of uplifting the character of humanity and building a pure land on Earth.
This book records and encapsulates my life of sharing Chan Buddhism worldwide over the past decade. To read this book would be like joining me in my efforts to support, hear, and learn the Dharma over several years. In fact, aside from the experience of the actual venue, each talk, as revised, is clearer and more comprehensive than when it was first delivered. That's precisely why I wanted to take ten days out of my busy schedule to edit and revise them myself, working day and night, to take responsibility for my own words, an investment that has been well worth it.
Finally, I thank my virtuous friends around the world for giving me the opportunity to give these talks over the years, as well as You Guohui and Lu Guosheng, among other lay practitioners, for doing the transcribing. My thanks to Yao Guozhuang, an amazingly fast copyist and proofreader, who worked tirelessly over the past 10 days to complete a clean copy of this book. Dharma Drum Publishing Corp. Deputy Director Shramaneri Guozai, Editor-in-Chief Pan Guosong, Art Editor Xu Rongfa, and Series Editor Zhang Mingqi have all made a significant contribution to the publication of this book. My thanks to one and all.
〔Author's Note: I brought this manuscript back to Taipei in January 1994, and wrote the preface at Nung Chan Monastery on April 17〕