About Laughing Cloud
Master Laughing Cloud (P.F. Martin) is a lay Dhyana Buddhist Master and author.
Growing up isolated in a small Southern Ontario town, Paul very early on immersed himself in the refuge of physics, mathematics and the organ works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
As a teenager, he made a vow to help humanity through science and mathematics.
By the time he had enrolled in the Honours Physics program at The University of Waterloo, (Canada’s M.I.T.) Paul became obsessed with a fundamental question framed within a sea of human suffering.
“How can mind be separate from Universe, stand apart and observe it when all that is sensed is itself a function inseparable from The Universe?”
This sincere and growing questioning created a great upheaval that consumed his whole being.
It was at this time that a book came into his life written by a Chinese Buddhist lay practitioner named Charles Luk entitled “Practical Buddhism”. Within its pages was the autobiography of Chan Master Han Shan Deiching.
So moved was he by this story that he began Chan (Zen) sitting meditation and vowed to realize The Way lived by this great master.
Early that summer he had a lucid dream of sitting before a modern Zen Master and being asked questions he could not answer.
In 1975 he became an arduous practitioner of koan system American Zen, which he practiced for 18 years, participating in over 50 seven day retreats (sesshins) as well as a great number of intensive retreats of lesser duration in both Canada and the U.S.
In 1983, after having results recognized by The Roshi, he was given the Buddhist name “Laughing Cloud”.
Four years later he helped lead sesshins in Toronto Canada with a more senior student to whom The Roshi had given Zen Transmission.
Paul supported himself and hired other Zen practitioners by building classic pipe organs for the interpretation of Bach’s keyboard works.
Without knowing it, he had created a portal to the Great Avatamsaka Sutra and thus started The Flower Ornament.
In Toronto, the senior teacher (Sensei) who had received Zen Transmission from The Roshi, became aware of Paul’s growing popularity and ability to create things he could not. This began a program of secret vilification of Paul to his friends who were fellow senior practitioners. Behind his back they were told that Paul had a violent temper and an enormous “ego” that was attached to the things he made and needed to be taught a lesson. These ambitious friends jockeying for position were more than eager to believe what they were told by their leader.
However, Paul considered his level of practice far short of what he vowed to realize. He was also the first to admit he had problems like everyone else. What differentiated Paul from his senior practitioner friends was that he had no time for basking in “having kensho” or attaining position and authority within an institution. He used his problems to fuel his sitting, walking and working meditation practice.
The biggest pitfall in any journey is to go a short distance, then tire of the exertion and begin to capitalize on the fact that you are indeed a tourist while not arriving at the destination. Thus position, image, airs of wisdom, mouthing the sayings of The Great Masters and effectively demonstrating koans in secret to teachers long on title but short on realization becomes the be-all and end-all of their practice. This leads to deeds that are not in accord with The Buddha’s Teaching, nor with acceptable human behaviour regardless of culture.
Paul clearly saw this happen with many senior Zen students once they were given recognition of attainment.
As his fellow senior practitioner friends became mysteriously distant, Paul and his family were subjected to the sexual predation of their 16 year old daughter by The Sensei himself, who Paul thought was his best friend.
The horror deepened with The Zen institution that Paul had devoted his life to, defending the predatory teacher by trying to silence anything Paul said. When they failed to do so, Paul was publically demoded from any leadership role at the Centre. All of this was done on advice from the “Mother Temple” in the U.S. The guiding force of these actions was the Sensei there who also received Transmission from The Roshi and inherited the central leadership of that teaching line.
This Transmitted Sensei stated that a Zen teacher can have problems and still be a Zen teacher. All he or she needs is psychological counselling by a certified psychologist.
Not only did this statement lead to questioning the validity of the Zen practice of its source (now we need to be referred to the psych industry), it was also O.K. for a teacher to be a certifiable psychopath and still guide people in trust to liberation from birth, death and, well……. psychopaths.
After personally challenging this mistaken notion to the Sensei in the U.S., and receiving an answer that drew into question the nature of that Sensei’s realization, Paul was clear that what was now being presented by this teaching line was not the teaching of the Buddha, nor was it the Zen practice he had devoted his life to realizing.
It was time to go.
Through a series of portentous events, he was drawn to Master Sheng-yen, a Chinese monk teaching in Queens, New York.
Upon seeing this master’s picture, Paul realized that this was the Master in his lucid dream 20 years earlier.
In one of the early retreats, Master Sheng-yen told Paul that he will not receive the Master’s teaching, but must take his teaching from The Buddha.
Thus began a continuum of wonderful, joyful, sometimes painful and always liberating series of disciple-master interactions that are priceless living approaches to authentic Dhyana (Zen) Buddhist Practice.
A decade later, after the first 49 day retreat Master Sheng-yen conducted in North America, Paul was told by the Master that his training was complete and was given nothing.
In 2004, after four years of solitary practice, Paul was offered Zen Transmission from Master Sheng-yen.
Paul turned down the great honour, asking the Master what it was he was going to transmit.
Master Sheng-yen replied, “It cannot be transmitted. Like other Chan Masters who are my friends, you can say you received Transmission from The 6th Patriarch of Chan Buddhism”.
That was the last interview Paul had with Master Sheng-yen.
In 2009, the Master died.
After attending his funeral service at The Chan Center in Queens, Paul vowed to spend another 4 years in solitary practice within the refuge of The Flower Ornament with Barbara, his wife of over 30 years.
The Great Way taught by Master Laughing Cloud is now open to all.
Master Laughing Cloud
Master Laughing Cloud (P.F. Martin) is a lay Dhyana Buddhist Master and director of The Flower Ornament.
Taking The Buddha’s Teaching
“Taking The Buddha’s Teaching” is an autobiographical account of a life journey along the Path of Buddhist Realization.
For anyone seriously yearning liberation from affliction, this book illuminates the truth that, no matter what obstacles are encountered, Dhyana Practice is Enlightenment.