Chan is the Chinese term for what became known in Japan as Zen. It is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyana, which means meditation.
Chan is a profound yet ultimately simple practice that encourages the practitioner to directly encounter his or her "original nature". It emphasises an alert stillness, an "Illuminating Silence", which encourages clarity and openness, which in turn leads to the development of wisdom and deep compassion.
A number of specific practices are used, chosen according to the individual's abilities and propensities. Chan is not concerned with dogma, belief systems, hierarchies or achievements.
As Master Bodhidharma put it, Chan is:
A special transmission outside the scriptures. No reliance on words or letters. Direct pointing to the heart of humanity. Seeing into ones own nature.
We were recently informed that the group’s venue (Shekinashram) will no longer be able to host the Glastonbury Chan Group as of the beginning of September this year. This means that our last meeting at this location was on the 27th August.
As so often happens in life, causes and conditions coincide to bring about unexpected change. I first started hosting a Zen meditation group in Glastonbury around 25 years ago. In 1999, I was appointed as an official Group Leader for the Western Chan Fellowship by Master John Crook (Ch’uang Teng Chien Chi), Master Sheng Yen’s first Western Dharma heir. The Glastonbury Chan Group has run continuously since that time; for the past 13 or 14 years we have met every Monday at the Shekinashram.
The location of the group has played a big part in its character: the fact that the venue was also a B&B meant that most weeks we had visiting participants, many of whom had never experienced Chan buddhism before. This kept numbers up and more importantly kept the group open and the discussion periods especially lively. It is unlikely that any replacement venue we might find would replicate these conditions, or indeed be affordable since we rely on voluntary donations to raise the money to pay for room hire (the Ashram’s rates were extremely reasonable). Equally, the number of regular participants has dwindled quite sharply of late, largely due to the fact that quite a few of them have moved away from the area.
All this has coincided with the fact that, after the best part of a quarter of a century, I am finding the energy necessary to continue holding a weekly group harder to maintain with the verve and dedication that it deserves, and feel the need to take a break from this commitment. I was in my late thirties when I started: now in my mid-sixties, I feel it is time to step down, at least for the present. I hope to organise occasional practice days / one-day retreats, possibly on a seasonal basis. Should you wish to communicate with me, feel free to email me. The website and email list will continue to be operated, so that our sangha can keep in touch, at least virtually.
For now, it remains for me to offer a very deep bow to all of you who have supported and contributed to the Glastonbury Chan Group over the years. For myself, it has added immeasurably to the quality of my own practice, and it is not without a tear of regret that I let this go: but all things pass.
With deep bows and gratitude,
For more information or enquiries, please email: Ned Reiter, or telephone him on 01458 833663.
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