RIP Chan Master John Crook

 I first encountered the buddhadharma by accident following a Radio 4 programme entitled ‘A Place of Silence’ so typical for R4 to make a radio programme about silence!  Thankfully I noted the contact details and some years later found myself in a dark farmhouse in the middle of Wales.  The leader seemed a strange old bird with his talk of a freedom through absence of chatter and I hated the first couple of days.  ‘Who am I?’ what’s that about?  On the third day I woke up with the thought that this was it, something rediscovered and I got stuck in to hours of meditation and self enquiry with gusto.

Following that I went on many retreats, became a retreat cook, discovered our dear Rinpoche and followed a dharma path.   Now 12 years later that ‘strange old bird’ has died and I feel devastated.

Some of you will have known John Crook through personal meetings or through his books, professionally he was a socioecologist at Bristol University and  travelled  extensively in the Himalyan Kingdom of Ladakh, noting the ways of villagers and meeting lamas.  I can highly recommend ‘The Yogins of Ladakh’, travelogue, dharma teaching and self revelation.

John’s introduction to Buddhism was through the Chinese Chan tradition of Zen Buddhism and he studied under his main teacher Master Sheng Yen for many years, becoming his first European dharma heir.  John saw similarities with the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition and found a Tibetan Dzogchen teacher in Wales.

He devised the Western Zen Retreat in the 1980’s, bought a remote farmhouse, ‘Maenllwyd’ (Welsh – ‘grey stones’) and created the Western Chan Fellowship which has introduced many to the buddhadharma.  These retreats were and continue to be ‘a simple monastic retreat’ devised to face ‘the major paradox – who am I?’

I consider myself very fortunate to have met and practiced with John and miss him very much.

As an introduction to John and especially for those studying the Heart Sutra I can heartily recommend this teaching he gave in 2007.  Click here; The Sutra of Complete Enlightenment.  

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