|Richard Hunn Association for Ch'an Study (UK)||
Richard Hunn (1949-2006) lived in Kyoto, Japan, from 1991 until his passing in 2006 (aged 57). He taught English Literature and English Language at Kyoto University and its environs. He chose Kyoto due to its hallowed antiquity and to study at its many (ancient) Zen Buddhis Temples. Indeed, many such temples in this area still upheld the Chinese Ch'an tradition with others practicing archaic Chinese martial arts. In many ways, this activity happened within a cultural bubble due to the strength of the surrounding (indigenous) Japanese culture. Indeed, Richard met a number of very advanced Japanese Masters who were permanently 'excluded' from ALL Japanese institutions and funding bodies as a 'punishment' for choosing to dedicate their lives to the studying of 'Chinese' cultural arts (unsullied by Japanese influence). The stories of this are many and varied, with this 'exclusion' even applied to Japanese Masters who still practiced 'Old' styles of Japanese swordsmanship that did not conform to the strictures of modern Kendo! After reading Brian Victoria's book entitled 'Zen At War' - Richard Hunn explained to me that Chinese Ch'an (outside of China) - as a distinct spiritual path - is being systematically obliterated by the aggressive policies demanded by the Japanese government. This is why Richard Hunn originally named the simple 'Ch'an Forum' we established in 2004 the 'Chinese Ch'an Buddhism Association' - a title I fully endorsed. This existed between 2004-2006. However, out of respect for my teacher I took the decision to re-name his project the 'Richard Hunn Association for Ch'an Study' in late 2006. This coincided with me developing closer ties with Mainland China and receiving encouragement to continues Richard work. Although my work has been published in The Middle Way, I am not a supporter of The Buddhist Society due to its historical anti-China attitudes and the fact that a Mainland Chinese friend of mine was discriminated against when visiting The Buddhist Society in London.
Photographs of Richard Hunn (1949-2006) - Taken During His Life in Kyoto (Japan) - 1991-2006 - Supplied by Taeko Watani (His Widow)
Some are fettered
By renouncing things;
Others by these same things
Gain unsurpassable enlightenment.
In times of uncertainty many people are as inwardly unsure as their outer circumstances are changeable and unpredictable. Although we may all practice our various Buddhist methods, there comes a time when ideology must be superseded by enhanced loving-kindness and compassion. This must be boundless and permanently permeate the ten directions. Genuine human love has no objective, but is a continuous wave of healing energy that permeates from the deepest aspects of each individual mind and body. My view is that this is an expression of the cosmos operating through each individual life-form. The Ch’an method is necessarily harsh as it operates through a broader type of compassionate concern, and those who have approached for instruction over the years receive primarily a reflection of their own minds at the point of contact. This is to be expected and not feared. However, with regards to fear and anxiety, it is probably more conducive to healing if loving-kindness and compassion replaces this reflection process – after-all, it all manifests from the empty mind ground. If I state that ‘I Love You All’ without exception, it means that loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom emanate continuously from the empty mind ground through the mind and body I currently occupy. This process will continue when this mind and body fall away and this manifestation ceases. Unconditional love does not care for differences of opinion – we may agree or disagree on our definitions of life – as the universe keeps broadcasting its message of holistic healing, cooperation and transcendence.
Shuffling off the mortal coil, within the context of Chinese Ch’an Buddhist practice, is often associated with the male or female practitioner leaving the body whilst sat in the cross-legged, upright meditation position. Breathing slowly reduces until it can no longer be discerned, and the bodily processes come to a gentle halt. Chinese Ch’an literature is replete with recorded stories of men, women and children dying whilst standing, sitting or lying down, whilst retaining a particular posture. Some enlightened peasants have also passed away at a whim whilst working in the fields without a moment’s hesitation. Such an activity is inherently associated with the attainment of enlightenment and is still fairly common, even within Mainland China today. This is known as the practice of ‘Seated Transformation’ (坐化 - Zuo Hua), and is common in both advanced Buddhist and Daoist practice. By the time Richard Hunn passed away on October 1st, 2006, his body had been substantially weakened through months of spreading cancer and the effects of various radiation treatments – but he stated to me that he was going to die whilst ‘sitting up’, and that was that. As matters transpired, Richard Hunn passed away whilst sat-up in a Kyoto-hospital bed – and as his life-processes dissipated, he asked to go to the bookshop and buy some Wordsworth... I have researched both ancient and modern cases of ‘Zuo Hua’ in China and studied the photographs and eye-witness reports. The 6th Patriarch of Ch’an - ‘Hui Neng’ (坐化) - died in 713 CE and his body still sits upright in meditation, as does the body of Master Han Shan (憨山) who died in 1623 CE. There are many more – Daoist and Buddhist – scattered throughout the temples of China, and added to this are the hundreds and thousands of other ‘ordinary’ people who passed away sat-upright in-front of witlessness (often with written and photographic evidence). In my own seated practice, I understand that although the spine can be kept ‘buoyant’ whilst still consciously aware, the head inevitably drops forward when the sleep process is triggered, or the death process manifests. Many modern seated deaths end with the upper-body leaning (naturally) forward as the muscles completely relax. I am told that the alignment of the bones is the answer – (as in the advanced practice of Taijiquan). If the bones are aligned properly whilst seated, then the posture (I.e. ‘bones’) will be self-sustaining when all muscle-tension and control dissipates at the point of death. Elongating the vertebrae of the neck whilst pulling the chin slightly in should prevent the head from drooping at the point of death. Should my partner – Gee – be present when I experience ‘Zuo Hua’, I have requested that she photograph and film the experience for the progression of scientific understanding.