Master Guojum is a guiding teacher of the Chan Community Canada and was the abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York. He is currently the abbot of Mahabodhi Temple in Singapore.
In his book Chan Heart, Chan Mind: A Meditation on Serenity and Growth he pays homage to his ordination master, Songnian – a teacher who was also credited for his intricate and expert use of calligraphy.
Chan Heart, Chan Mind opens with the author recounting his early experiences with Songnian both as an artist as well as a teacher.
Within the book he shares stories of his many one-one-one lessons in writing held at the Mahabodhi Monastery at the age of twenty-one and whilst his teacher was in his mid-eighties.
One of these lessons involved learning how to make ink for writing using traditional methods.
Later on this developed into him being taught techniques for washing and drying brushes and for cutting the delicate rice paper that was used at the time to draw on.
Guojun then moves on to consider the core concepts of Japanese Zen. These include a light examination of key components such as hautou practice
In addition he also approaches important spiritual issues that are at the forefront of the Western mind; including those of competition, self-awareness and the mind-body connection.
Later on in the book the conversation opens up still further as the author draws upon specific experiences in his own life as openers to wider discussions on the essence of the Chan Mind.
The book closes in the same way that it opens with the account returning to Songnian and his desire to see the Mahabodhi Monastry rebuilt before he passed on.
As it turned out this project – which the author played a central role in bringing about, brought with it many personal and philosophical challenges.
The way is forever one of trial and tribulation.
Our Review of ‘Chan Heart Chan Mind’ by Master Guojun
Anyone who has been caught up in the events surrounding the author or who has been connected to his work and teaching will enjoy this light-hearted and personal perspective on Chan.
It is not a book that features heavily on the dissemination of Buddhist ideas but is a warm reflection around the perspective by someone who is well-versed in its ways.
It is an enjoyable, essentially rewarding and engaging read which refers to a sanguine lifestyle and spiritual philosophy that underpins it.