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Chan is . . .

The ultimate goal of Chan is the realization of one's true nature and the expression of this realization in our interactions with others. The goal is nothing less than the attainment of our full potential as buddhas—the embodiment of wisdom and compassion.

In this course we look at Chan from three perspectives: the teachings, the methods, and the lineage of the patriarchs, masters, and teachers.

The teachings (Lesson 1)
The teachings consist of the Dharma as taught by the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, as well as the words of the patriarchs and Chan masters that have come down through the traditions of Chan. Despite being a tradition of not relying on the scriptures, the Chan tradition has left an enormous body of literature about how Chan is and should be practiced.

The legacy (Lesson 2 and Lesson 8)
The legacy of Chan is the unbroken lineage of patriarchs, masters, teachers, and disciples that have kept the tradition as a dynamic and functioning school transmitting the Dharma since the time of Bodhidharma (Jap. Daruma), and, going further back, to the original founder, Shakyamuni Buddha. The perpetuation of the legacy of Chan is effected through Dharma transmission in which a teacher acknowledges a student's realization of Chan mind and confers on the student the authority to teach Chan and to be acknowledged as a descendant in the lineage of Chan.

The methods and practices (Lessons 3 - 7)
The methods of Chan are the various techniques for contemplating and investigating the workings of the mind in order to penetrate into its essential nature, which is that of a buddha. Among these methods, the most well known and widely practiced were, and are, the methods of gong'an (Jap. koan) and huatou (a derivative of gong'an), as well as the method of silent illumination (Jap. shikantaza). Both methods, while differing in style and approach, can be practiced as paths to enlightenment.