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Being A Member of RHACS
(Below is a short history of RHACS and an explanation of how an individual can become a member.)
The Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study has an interesting history. Its creative spark began with master Xu Yun (1840-1959) asking his lay disciple Charles Luk (1898-1978) to translate important Chinese Buddhist texts into English. Charles Luk (Upasaka Lu Kuan Yu) concentrated upon this task from the 1950’s onward, whilst living in exile in Hong Kong due to the tumultuous events occurring on the Chinese mainland. His translation work began with master Xu Yun’s biography which was smuggled out of China at different times during the 1950’s, hidden amongst the pages of Confucian Classics. Prior to the 1950’s, however, Charles Luk had come to the West to encourage the study of Chinese Buddhism. As early as 1935 Charles Luk met Christmas Humphreys – the founder of the Buddhist Society in London – to state his case. He pointed out, quite rightly, that the West had been concentrating far too much upon the study of Japanese Buddhism, and as a consequence either completely ignored Chinese Buddhism, or else interpreted the history of Chinese Buddhism through the rubric of Japanese cultural understanding. However, at that time Christmas Humphreys made it clear that he preferred Japanese Zen Buddhism over that of the far older Chinese Ch’an Buddhist tradition.
Despite the set-back of not finding official interest in Chinese Buddhism in the West, master Xu Yun told Charles Luk that he was convinced that the time was right for Chinese Buddhism to spread through the grass roots of Western society, from one individual to another, with no need for official recognition. This background served as the foundation for Charles Luk’s translation work. Printed books of expertly rendered Chinese Buddhist texts into English could be passed from hand to hand in the West, and used as primers for the study of Ch’an Buddhism – which requires a strong self-discipline and correct technique. Master Xu Yun advised Charles Luk to use the Ch’an tradition of letter writing (linked to Tang master Da Hui) as a means of directly instructing those who came into contact with his translations around the world. Although master Xu Yun had inherited all Ch’an lineages, and did not discriminate between them, he advised that Charles Luk should teach from all schools of Ch’an, with a particular emphasis upon the Cao Dong (Jap: ‘Soto’) tradition, as he felt that this lineage, coupled with the study of the Vimalakirti, Surangama, Complete Enlightenment, Altar, Heart, and Diamond Sutras, would serve to plant the Ch’an Dharma banner firmly in the spiritual soil of the West.
Charles Luk kept a world-wide correspondence and taught many hundreds of individuals through the letter writing tradition. He encouraged self-sufficiency in Ch’an training and advised Western students to ‘lay it all down’, and begin training exactly where they happened to be. This was because many people became attached to images of the ‘mystic East’ in their minds that served as barriers to actual and real spiritual development. Some of the people he instructed by letter became friends and formal disciples – Richard Hunn (1949-2006) was one such student. As Charles got older, he withdrew from public life, but continued to instruct a select few, whilst still working upon the translation project. Richard Hunn, in the 1970’s, visited Charles Luk in Hong Kong and it was during one of these visits around 1976 that he was formally asked by Charles to take-over the translation project, and keep master Xu Yun’s vision alive in the West. At this time, Richard was writing for the Middle Way – the Journal of the Buddhist Society London – producing book reviews. It is in this Journal that Richard wrote the obituary for his teacher – Charles Luk.
In the UK, Richard Hunn had founded the Norwich Ch’an Association with the agreement of Charles Luk, who occasionally advised Chinese students to travel from Asia to train with him. The NCA existed for many years until around the early 1990’s when Richard Hunn left the UK for good and emigrated to live in Kyoto, Japan. In 2004, during his last visit to the UK, Richard Hunn founded the Chinese Ch’an Buddhism Association UK – which was intended to emphasis the Chinese Ch’an tradition. This initially centred around the ‘Ch’an Forum’, an internet based entity whose primary task was to present the teachings of master Xu Yun free at the point of use, with the long term idea of creating ‘new’ translations in English of Chinese Buddhist source materials. When Richard died in 2006, the CCBA-UK was re-named in his memory as the ‘Richard Hunn Association for Ch’an Study’. Today, the project initiated by master Xu Yun is as strong as ever and is assisted many unseen hands behind the scenes. Membership of RHACS may be defined in the following terms:
1) Anyone holding a valid account on the Ch’an Forum.
2) Anyone who routinely attends RHACS meditation retreats.
3) Anyone who has received Ch’an instruction through RHACS.
4) Anyone granted honorary membership for services rendered.
5) Anyone who feels a genuine karmic link to RHACS.
RHACS is a founding member of the International Ch'an Buddhism Institute (ICBI).
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