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"I'm a vegetarian but I eat Roadkill"; "Does a dog have Buddha-nature?" and other Chan/Zen koans


In the winter of 2002-3 I stayed, studied and taught English to Buddhist monks at the Bailin Chan temple in Hebei Province, China. Having suffered excruciatingly painful sciatica for a couple of years (my doctor cheerfully informed me that I would probably suffer in pain for the rest of my life -lovely chap!) desperation and despair were beginning to set in. Acupuncture and the Alexander technique and lots of wild food alleviated the pain with regular treatment, feasting and practice, yet they failed to get to the root problem. Arriving at the Bailin temple dosed up to the eye balls with pain killers, my discomfort was obvious to others. One of the head monks told me not to worry, all I need do was to recite the Buddha's name, Na Mo A Mi Tuo Fo (Amitabha in Sanskrit or Om Mi To Fo in Chinese), palms together in prayer position, whilst walking around the stupa - three times anticlockwise and three times clockwise. With my cynical Western mind - the very antithesis of Buddhist mindfulness I considered the monk's instructions. There seemed to me nothing to be lost and potentially a lot to be gained from such a simple exercise. Although, it is probably true that a lack of positive results (which I expected) would have reinforced my cynicism. I had studied religion at university for three years and was sick to death of theory. Here was Buddhist practice. The moment was now. Namo Ami Tuo Fo, Namo Ami Tuo Fo, Namo Ami Toufo, Namo Ami Tuo Fo, Namo Ami Tuo Fo, Namo Ami Toufo. The pain stopped instantly on completion of my circumambulation and has not returned since.

Whilst reading about my consumption of roadkill on a Buddhist discussion forum, I was delighted to find that the translation of Venerable Master Jing Hui's ?The Gates of Chan Buddhism ? has been published on the web. I had the honour to work on the final translation of this book. It took three months of sweat and tears (never did quite finish it). I hope you will read it and benefit from it as much I have. Click below to read:

The Gates of Chan Buddhism by Venerable Master Jing Hui

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