This is a remarkable book. It is a depository of of exact and reliable knowledge regarding various meditative techniques that existed in China prior to the Communist Revolution of 1949. This book carries the following dedication penned by Charles Luk:
'To the memory of Carl Gustav Jung and Lobzang Jivaka whose encouragement has sustained my humble efforts to present to Western Buddhists the Dharma as taught in my country.'
There are seven chapters:
1. Self-cultivation as taught in the Surangama Sutra. 2. Self-cultivation according to the Ch'an (Zen) school. 3. Self-cultivation according to the Pure Land school. 4. Self-cultivation according to the T'ien T'ai (Tendai) school. 5. Self-cultivation according to the Taoist school. 6. Authentic experiments with Buddhist and Taoist methods of self-cultivation. 7. Physical and spiritual culture according to Chinese yoga.
The Surangama Sutra, as covered in chapter 1 conveys the story of how Buddha ordered Manjusri to examine 25 methods of meditation, and choose which one would best suit Ananda and those in the Dharma ending age - Charles Luk points out that this applies to ourselves. Manjusri chose the method favoured by Avalokitesvara, which he deemed the most effective for human beings. This method involves disengaging the organ of hearing from its object - sound - and then directing that organ into the stream of concentration. When 'sound' and 'stream-entry' have been successfully wiped-out, the illusion that is one-sided stillness, and disturbance disappears.
As is usual for much of Luk's work, the Dharma teachings of Ch'an master Xu Yun (1840-1959) are clearly presented. Luk also presents and describes the well known 'wu jia', or five schools of Ch'an and explains the difference between relative and absolute enlightenment. Ch'an masters strove only to realise full and absolute enlightenment, and in so doing cultivated the patient endurance of the uncreate.
The 6th chapter, in part, presents an English translation of Yin Shih Tsu's book entitled 'Yin Shih Tsu's Experimental Meditation for the Promotion of Health'. This offers a detailed explanation of the use of Daoist (Taoist) meditation and the author's experience of energy (qi) vibrations in various areas (cavities) of the body, and the resultant energy flow attained. The author also offers an intriguing description of the 'Pho-wa' (consciousness ejection) method of Buddhist tantra meditation that strives to open the Brahma aperture situated at the crown of the head. This is the area that consciousness leaves the body for re-birth in the Pure Land.
All the methods mentioned in this book ultimately reconcile at the source. Different methods suit different seekers, and Luk's insight and wisdom guide the reader logically through each method from beginner to enlightenment. In this age of false teaching motivated by greed, this book is crucial as part of the process of preserving authentic traditional knowledge.
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