Yogi Chen's "The Lighthouse in the Ocean of Chan" was translated decades ago by Dr. Fa-Yen Kog (顧法嚴 / 顾法严 Ku, Fa-yen / Gu Fayan, 1917-?). Then Ken Ireland undertook upon himself to prepare the English translation of Dr. Kog for republication, the text of the printed editions was poor. A decision was made by him to transcribe that text into a digital format. In 1989-90 that work was undertaken by Ken and his friends, Michael Gallagher, Jim Kestler, Philip Gonder and Terry Regan. This project took nearly nine months with revisions, comparing the computer file with the text of this first translation. For the next five years, Ken read and revised the English translation with the intention of providing a more readable book, a book that he sensed pointed to something missing in today's Chan teachings in the West. Ken has no Chinese language training and no access to the original Chinese text. His revisions contained substantial inaccuracies and misstatements. That is clear to him now that he has read Dr. Lin's clear translation of the Chinese text. In this process, it is very interesting for him to realize that he tried to make the text itself into something to hold onto. As Dr. Lin says later in this preface, there is nothing to hold onto in Chan, not even words. But far better to get words closer to the original expressions of all the parties involved. Ken took the text and without his even realizing it, in his enthusiasm for Yogi Chen's words to reach a wider audience, he was subtly overlaying it with his own subjective understandings and misunderstandings. Ironically, the stated intention was to make Yogi Chen's intention more clear by making the English easier to read.
Ken and his friends' dedication to this project motivated my interest in reviewing the translation. Originally, I wished simply to review the whole book and make changes here and there via the computer. However, Ken's version is not acceptable to me, and hence I have translated the whole book anew. Of course, it has been helpful to have one version at hand to work on. Whenever I am not preoccupied with other Dharma activities, I picked up this book and worked on it. In this manner it has taken me more than three years to finish this project.
After reading the first draft of my translation, Ken wrote to me, "It may have been our dedication that motivated your new translation, Dr. Lin, and it was also clearly necessary so that we could stand closer to the Chan teaching of our great teacher, Master C. M. Chen. In the puzzles, you know that the true teacher uses anything at hand to instruct, sticks, blows and twisting noses. I claim no realization. But I will attest to the ongoing inspiration of our teacher to use even this retranslating as a finger pointing to MU [Wu 悟]. Many thanks. Mostly I write to acknowledge your work, and my own, and the continual work to realize MU that is the context for any work we may try to do."
Both the original book in Chinese and this translation are difficult to comprehend. Nevertheless, I still do this translation for the few who would appreciate it.
Some koans as presented in Yogi Chen's original book 禪海塔燈 may be different from other known versions. In order to appreciate Yogi Chen's teachings, his version is strictly preserved in the translation. In this book I have used square brackets to indicate remarks that are added by me.
As to the translation of the term Gong An, I would prefer to use its Pin Yin instead of the well-known "koan" which is of Japanese origin. However, in case of its plural form, "koans" seems to be simpler. Consequently, I settled with the choice of using "koan." The word Tao is already a common word in English, hence only where it is part of a name that its correct Pin Yin, Dao, is used instead.
In the future, if anyone would like to correct the English of my translation, please consider the resulting version as that of your own translation but not mine. The wordings should not be touched even if it seems poor English. One word changed may render a koan misleading.
Chan provides nothing for anyone to hold onto; and Chan does not speak out the points. Those having comprehended simply respond automatically to help the learner. The learner matures through endeavoring to evolve from the puzzles. All the displays in the koans are remote from attainment.
Chapter Nine was the last chapter translated. Near the end of that chapter Yogi Chen mentioned that, as he wrote up to the end of that chapter which essentially finished the book because the next chapter was only advice to practitioners, there was an earthquake that did not do any damage and therefore could be understood as signifying the rejoicing of the earth god. Chapter Nine was completely translated in the evening of August 11. I was anticipating some signs because this is such an important work. In the morning of August 12, an earthquake did occur south of the San Francisco Bay area and only very minor damages were reported. I sensed the earthquake only for two seconds. I believe that this is also a sign of the rejoicing of the earth god.
In the evening of August 18, I translated the four pages that are at the beginning of the Chinese original book. They contain the calligraphy of the words as seen by Yogi Chen in the light of Samadhi, an image of Ma Zu, dedication and a poem of gratitude to Ma Zu. Early in the morning of August 19, the following dreams occurred: In a school house, my right hand was straight up and in the air there was a lion cub biting tightly my right thumb. This scene means "lion cub bites right at the essential teachings of the mother" because in Chinese it could be understood as Shi Er Yao Zhong Mu Zhi. The lion cub was in the space signifying that it was done within Sunyata, the Blank Essence. It is a sign of approval for my translation of this work. [This dream reminds me of a similar dream years ago, therein my right hand was bitten by a pig, and Yogi Chen taught that it was a sign of approval from Vajra Yogini for the Vajra Yogini Sadhana I had composed.] Then the following Chinese words came to mind: Gong Jiao Li Zheng Yi meaning to decline doctrinal disputes because Chan is free from the confine of conceptual tools. Then I was distributing many sheets of Green Tara's mantra amulet which represents the salvation activities of all twenty-one Taras. This scene signifies that many copies of this translation will be distributed to many kinds of people and help them toward liberation, and that the distribution is based on the compassion of mother-like Taras. I am grateful and happy to have received all these wonderful signs and omens.
Yogi Chen's A Short Course of Chan Practice is added as the appendix to this book. Yogi Chen's other works in English on Chan were published as booklets decades ago. They will be reprinted in the coming revised version of A Systematized Collection of Chenian Booklets Nos. 1-100. Here they are listed below for references:
No. 88 Chan and Shiva's 112 Meditative Ways
No. 90 The Essentials of Chan School
No. 91 Chan Poems
No. 92 Offspring Chan
The Chinese names have been systematically replaced by their Pin Yin transliteration with help from Zhi Feng Chen, Zhi Wei Chen and Qiu Jing Du. Thanks to Su Hua Yao for printing out drafts for my uses. Stanley Lam volunteered to format this book. Thanks to him for his efforts and enthusiasm.
Ken Ireland's original intention was to dedicate this work to:
Michael E. Gallagher
Houn Tokuzan (Ordained Dharma Name)
January 28, 1947 - September 7, 1993
In addition, may all sentient beings share the merits.