The Essence of Chan

The Essence of Chan

A Practical Guide to Life and Practice according to the Teachings of Bodhidharma
By Guo Gu
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Shambhala Publications
ISBN: 9780834828438

Legend has it that more than a thousand years ago, an Indian Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma arrived in China. His approach to teaching was unlike that of any of the Buddhist practitioners who had come to China before him. Bodhidharma confounded and infuriated the emperor with cryptic dialogues before traveling the country and eventually settling into a cave behind Mount Song, where he meditated for nine years, waiting to transmit his teachings to the right person. He would later be credited as the founder of Chan Buddhism.

Bodhidharma had such an impact on Chinese Buddhism because of the directness of his teaching. We are intrinsically free from vexations and afflictions, he taught, and our true nature is already perfect and undefiled.

Two Entries and Four Practices is one of the few texts that Bodhidharma composed. This short scripture contains the marrow, or essence, of all his teachings. Chan teacher Guo Gu offers a translation of this significant text, as well as an elaboration on the teachings on life and practice that it presents, which reflect the essence of Chan itself.

News & Reviews

"Here is an extraordinarily clear and profound explication of Bodhidharma’s important Chan text. Writing in ordinary language without being ‘dharma lite,’ Guo Gu—a long-term, devoted student of the late, great, Chan Master Sheng Yen—displays the same rare ability to weave doctrine and practice together beautifully. The outcome is a nonsectarian guide of immense practical help for all Dharma practitioners." —Larry Rosenberg, author of Breath by Breath and Living in the Light of Death

"Guo Gu brilliantly synthesizes a deep-thinking inquiry with a lifetime of meditation training under the guidance of Chan Master Sheng Yen. One of the many virtues of this book is how seamlessly he illuminates the profound teachings of Chan in a practical and accessible way, such as explaining how to face and accept difficulties, as well as find ways to transform those difficulties into opportunities. We highly recommend this gem for anyone interested in exploring the mysteries and fruit of Chan practice. Master Sheng Yen’s wisdom shines through Guo Gu’s words. It is truly wonderful that Guo Gu is beginning to transmit these precious teachings." —Narayan and Michael Liebenson Grady, guiding teachers at Cambridge Insight Meditation Center

"A clear introduction to Chan (Chinese Zen Buddhism), in both theory and practice, written for today by someone who knows. In the book, the author Guo Gu translates a brief text attributed to Chan’s first patriarch, Bodhidharma, then provides insightful comments and practical applications. Very few books on Zen in English illumine the real subject at hand as well as this one does. Guo Gu has proved himself a worthy successor to Sheng Yen." —Jeff Shore; Professor, Hanazono University, Kyoto; author of Zen Classics for the Modern World

Reader Reviews