‘Chan Heart, Chan Mind: meditation on serenity and growth’ byis partially autobiographical and mostly words of wisdom on which to reflect. It does not contain meditation instructions, nor does it give a cohesive introduction to or comprehensive overview of Chinese Buddhism. Rather it is snippets from various talks given by Master Goujin, and as such it gives you a good sense of the warmth and directness of his character.
I loved the stories from his life, especially the beginning where he describes making ink for his calligraphy master. It made a very engaging beginning to the book and provided a lively learning experience that Master Goujin could then use to teach us. I would have liked more of this approach. Beside it, the admonishments to be this (e.g. calm) or do that (e.g. help others) felt a little lack lustre, not in meaning, but in delivery.
I very much appreciated the quality of the English; it was great to have Chinese Buddhism presented without the language barrier I’ve experienced in previous brushes with the tradition. It’s easy when hearing profound truths spoken through a non-native speaker to get a simplistic or limited view, but here, though presented simply, it is not simplistic; Master Goujin clearly speaks with the same depth of understanding as the Tibetan and Zen Buddhist masters.
Overall, it’s a pleasant read with no earth-shattering revelations for this reader, but plenty of reinforcement of core Buddhist beliefs that unite all its traditions. The non-narrative aspects of the book would be good to dip into at bedtime, to give you something to rest your mind on as you fall asleep.