Charles Luk (1898-1978): A Belated Tribute By Richard Hunn (Upasaka Wen Shu) (Appeared in The Middle Way Journal of the Buddhist Society May 1980, Vol. 55 No.1 – Page 41)
With the passing of Charles Luk (Upasaka Ku K’uan Yu) shortly before Christmas of 1978, many in the West will miss a spiritual ‘pen-friend’ and guide, as well as translator, for the late Chinese Buddhist corresponded with many of his readers as a ‘back-up’ service to the practical instruction found in his fine renditions of Buddhist text-material.
A look at the long list of texts translated by the late Upasaka, whose ambition had been to ‘translate as many Chinese Buddhist texts as possible’ for the benefit of Western readers, will show that the Chinese author has left behind a rich legacy for all to share. The Ch’an and Zen Teaching series provided by the Chinese Upasaka still represents the only full account of Ch’an (Zen) as found in the five schools whose formative influence upon the later development of Ch’an was paramount. In this series, too, we have our only rendition of the ‘Fu Hai’ script relating to Hui Neng (Jap: Eno), which is longer and more complete than the Tun Huang version.
Additionally, the Late Upasaka will be remembered for his excellent translation of major Buddhists Sutras (Surangama Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra, Diamond & Heart Sutra), not to mention the rare sources of Taoist teaching found in his Secrets of Chinese Meditation, and Taoist Yoga. Upasaka Lu K’uan Yu also provided us with something rare, in his translation of Ch’an master Han Shan’s autobiography (c.f. Practical Buddhism).
Born in Canton in 1898, Upasaka Lu witnessed the tremendous forces of social change which have – for the time being, made Buddhism in China almost extinct. Fortunately, he took advantage of the teaching of Hsu Yun, the last great Ch’an master on the mainland of China, who passed away in October 1959, aged 119 years. Fearing for the fate of Buddhism in the East, Hsu Yun urged Upasaka Lu to undertake translations of Chinese Buddhist texts, lest the rich wisdom and experience of centuries be lost to the world.
Not satisfied to merely pass on ‘cultural history’, Upasaka Lu’s text translations yield us the practical, flexible principles of meditation practice, as carried out by Chinese Buddhists, which are applicable anywhere. Upasaka Lu dedicated the last twenty years of his life solely to this end. His world-wide correspondence certainly testified to the effectiveness of his work in this way. The ‘old-tiger’ of Hong Kong has left behind a loud roar!
'Licchavi Vimalakirti came to the foot of that tree and said to me, ’Reverend Sariputra, this is not the way to absorb yourself in contemplation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation so that neither body nor mind appear anywhere in the triple world. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest all ordinary behavior without forsaking cessation. You should absorb yourself in contemplation in such a way that you can manifest the nature of an ordinary person without abandoning your cultivated spiritual nature.' Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra