Astus, wrote that there is "no chan practice". Sure, the slogan of "no method of no school" is a famous one but it is a little idealistic because chan practicioners through the years obviously developed a set of particular methods of meditation which are still carried on.
I am not so sure about validity of Ven. Huifengs argument that "higher stages rely on the lower ones, and the higher ones cannot be attained without the lower ones". It is a a statement repeated in many scriptures but I'm not sure if it apllies to literally every aspect of the path. I am not very big on books but Korean masters generally considered this "backward compatibility" to apply to morality, bodhicitta and giving importance to the works of karma. When it came to meditation they were very clear: seon is just one method. This is how Gyeongheo, Taego, Seosan Daesa and many others viewed it.
Enlighten me if I'm wrong but In Japan and Korea where seon/zen schools thrived, chan meditation became pretty cristalized and easily distinguishible from other methods. It's hard to blame it all on Japanese influences in Korea because it seemed to be the same also 500 years before Japanese rule. I think that it's safe to say that in Korean seon (both huatou and silent illumination) and in Japanese zen the gradual dhyana meditation is not taught. They don't use dhyanas or other methods as expedients - they have their indigineous teachings which are taught to everybody. Isn't this what it looks like in reality?
From this point of view saying that any method can be called chan or anything preliminary to chan is also chan is putting too fine a point on the question asked.
BuddhaSoup wrote:from what i have learned, there is a fine line between chan meditation and theravada jhana, in both direct experience of each and reading others experiences i find that they share more in common than they have differences. even shikantaza is nearly identical with some interpretations of theravada vipassana training. i'm sure this is hugely and hotly debated so maybe we should pretend i never said that, but i've read instructions for each that are almost identical. heck, i've read instructions on reaching jhana that are nearly identical with zazen instructions!
I once sat a 4 week zen retreat where I read Ajahn Sumedho's book. For me it spoke about exactly the same thing. Other people read it too and said it too. But when I think about traditional sense of dhyana meditation I think of developing concentraction only and going through the sequence of stages. I've never heard about it in zen.