Master Sheng-yen is a dharma descendant of the founders of Buddhism in China. He left home at age thirteen to become a monk. He is resident teacher at the Ch'an Meditation Center in New York and serves as the abbot of two monasteries in Taipei. Ch'an, understood as spiritual practice, is a school of Buddhism developed in China during the third century. It teaches that life's purpose is enlightenment and the letting-go of the self. Or as Sheng-yen puts it: "Ch'an is wondrous, subtle, and inexplicable wisdom."

The author recounts the interesting story of his training in this form of Buddhism in China, six years of solitary retreat in Taiwan, and study of Buddhist literature at Rissho University in Tokyo. Shen-yen discusses some of the essentials of Ch'an Buddhism including ways to develop wisdom during sitting meditation and the practice of compassionate contemplation. He also ponders the meaning of introspection, accepting karmic retribution, adapting to favorable conditions, and the process of "no seeking."