Episode 5: From Vipassana to Chan Buddhism with Mark Gilenson

The Podcast format

I’m sitting down and having a chat with other meditators from around the world to talk about their practice, the lessons they have learned and what they want the world to know. From Zen, Christianity to Secular, all traditions have valuable insights and approaches to awareness, and in this podcast, we explore those with you.

From Vipassana to Chan Buddhism

For this episode of the podcast, I talk with Mark Gilenson.I’ve known Mark from our online community, where he helps out as a teacher in our team. Mark is a novice Chan Priest in the lineage of Master Hsu Yun in the Chan Buddhist tradition. We talk about his current practice and his past encountering meditation for the first time. From Vipassana practice to Chan Buddhism, the approach to meditation has slight differences that can prove significant for each person. Mark explains why he was drawn to Chan Buddhism and why exactly he chose for the lineage of Master Hsu Yun.

Mark Gilenson talks about Chan Buddhism and his experience with Vipassana

We talk about how Mark got into meditation. From his service in the military to break-ups… he got the suggestion from a friend in his orchestra to attend to a Vipassana retreat. After 6 days of hellish agony, suddenly there was a moment of realization. Herealizedd the sound of his thoughts are like a broken record and developed a sense of humor about it. Calmness and joyfulness followed in the last days of this retreat.
He continues to explain how he went from Vipassana to Thich Nhat Hanh. He practiced in a sitting group of his lineage for a while and at some point moved to a different lineage/school. Mark then got interested in Thrangu Rinpoche, a teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Ultimately he found the teachings of Zen (Chan) Master of Hsu Yun. He describes the teachings as non-sectarian, something that spoke to him personally.

What is Buddhism? What is the difference with meditation?

Meditation is not enough

“I’m not striving for being calm, I’m striving for the uprooting of suffering.
Meditation plays a significant role but it’s only part of my practice.
Making my whole life my practice is what I’m doing.”

You’ll hear that at a certain point, Mark emphasizes how meditation in itself is not enough for him. Not enough for what? Besides meditation, the path of someone who follows the Buddha entails much more than the sitting practice itself. The classical way of describing this path is using the Noble Eightfold Path. In the Noble Eightfold Path, there are different attributes for each practitioner to apply in their practice and daily life. The idea is that through these practices, the suffering of a person is completely uprooted and a life of pure happiness remains.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to know more about Mark and what he does, visit his website here: https://bodhibass.com/
To learn more about Chan Buddhism, listen or subscribe to Mark’s podcast here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ordinary-mind-meditation-podcast/id1433677569?mt=2

If you’d like to talk about this podcast or have some feedback or ideas, please let me know by joining our community here https://discord.gg/FKWFeYq .
Simply use @christiaan or send me a DM! I would love to hear from you.

With warm regards,


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