RESOLVING ANXIETY - THE CHAN BUDDHIST WAY

Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre invited David Listen, currently a counselor at a non-profit organization in New York, to a monthly public talk on Saturday, March 20, 2021 on how to use Chan Buddhist practices and perspectives to deal with anxiety. More than 90 participants from different time zones worldwide joined the talk via Zoom and Facebook Live.

David started the talk by outlining the definition, symptoms, and causes of anxiety, after which he explained the principles and practical ways of resolving it using Chan.

First, he directly pointed out that anxiety is everywhere in our everyday life. From a Buddhist perspective, anxiety can be regarded as "Restlessness-and-Worry"(掉誨)among the Five Hindrances(五蓋)which are five negative metal states described as Sensory desire, Ill-will, Sloth-and-torpor, Restlessness-and-remorse, and Doubt. "Restlessness-and-remorse" is an agitated state of mind which arises due to an anxiety about the future. When we suffer from anxiety, there are many symptoms that we would experience physically and mentally. David mentioned that in his 20s he was seemingly constant feeling of anxiety and unease about everything, even acts such as cooking and talking to people.

Why do we experience anxiety? David further explained that according to the Buddha's teachings, anxiety is due to ignorance(無明)which refers to a lack of deep understanding and awareness about the reality of ourselves and the world. We mistakenly view impermanent things as permanent. Thus, when situations defy our expectations, we become anxious. Furthermore, we often view ourselves as being totally independent. We don't see the relationships and deep connections that we have with everything, and  this brings about a lot of suffering. One could say that this is the source of suffering.

How do we actually deal with anxiety? The principle to resolving anxiety through Chan Buddhism is through emptiness, as described in Buddhadharma. Every phenomenon is empty of permanence and self. Therefore, anxiety itself is impermanent. At any moment we drop our clinging, we will be free and at ease. In addition, David emphasized that everyone has the potential to be free from anxiety and awaken from ignorance, because such a capacity lies in everyone's Buddha nature. At the end of the talk, David shared a quote from Heart Sutra: "(Bodhisattvas) have no obstructions in their minds. Without obstructions, they have no fear(心無罣礙,無有恐怖)."

After the talk, Ven. Chang Wu, the Director of Dharma Drum Vancouver Centre, expressed her gratitude to David Listen for a comprehensive and thorough talk. She also encouraged everyone to join the One-day retreats, using Chan methods to resolve anxiety andcalm the body and mind.

Text & Photos: Dharma Drum Vancouver Center
Translation: Hsiao Chen-an
Editing: Angela Chang, Keith Brown