Chan is the Chinese term for what later became known in Japan as Zen. It is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘dhyana’, which simply means meditation.

Chan is a profound yet ultimately simple practice that encourages the practitioner to directly encounter his or her “original nature”. It emphasises an alert stillness, an “Illuminating Silence”, which encourages clarity and openness, which in turn lead to the development of wisdom and deep compassion. A number of specific practices are used, chosen according to the practitioner’s abilities and personality.

Although it has a coherent underlying philosophy, Chan is not concerned with dogma, belief systems, hierarchies or achievements.

Chan is:

A special transmission outside the scriptures
No reliance on words or letters
Direct pointing to the heart of humanity
Seeing into one’s own nature.
— Master Bodhidharma

The Western Chan Fellowship


The Western Chan Fellowship is an association of lay (non-monastic) practitioners. The Fellowship is a spiritual community – a sangha to use the Buddhist term – based in the UK. It is registered as a charity in England and Wales, but also has contacts in Europe and the USA. The Fellowship’s Zen retreats are open equally to both Buddhists and non-Buddhists.