Reflection on the Seven-Day Silent Illumination Retreat

As a practitioner of Chan meditation, I’ve been fumbling about an appropriate method for nearly 10 years. Trying hard on the method of Huatou, I participated in a few 7-day Huatou retreats, yet ended up merely “reciting” the huatou so far, unable to give rise to any doubt sensation. Silent Illumination, on the other hand, seems intangible and difficult to pin down, even though I’ve already tried hard in 3 or 4 Silent Illumination retreats. I’ve been trying to find out the key problem and wonder whether “relaxing the body and mind” could be the critical issue.

“As each part of the body gradually gets relaxed, you can feel the subtle sensation of breathing. Just let yourself join the rhythm of breathing and enjoy your breathing.” It’s like a charm or spell in this “join the rhythm of breathing” instructed by Teacher Zarko Andricevic in his first Dharma talk, I started to experience the cool and refreshing inhalation of air through my nostrils. Yes, this is enjoying the breathing! Through the entire seating session, I kept on following the rhythm of breathing and found the body relaxed and the mind calm and still. Working on practicing relaxation with the same attitude, I surprisingly overcame my chronic insomnia during the retreat.

With clear explanation and brilliant metaphors, the Teacher gave us explicit instructions on using the method Silent Illumination. This concept of “[observing the entire body as a] totality” has always been elusive and intangible to me. Somehow, through expressions like “do not introduce yourself into it”, the feeling of “totality” seemed to reveal itself to me. In a personal interview, I asked the teacher whether I was applying the method correctly when in one seating session earlier that day, I was enjoying the sensation of ease in mind and lightness of body. He confirmed it and gave me further illustration on “totality” and unification of the self and the environment.

Just as pointed out by the Teacher “…It is the practice of bringing the mind into silence. That silence, relaxation and peace cultivated through practice bring us into a very clear, crystal clear state… We start to discover ourselves, other people and life around us.” Thank you so much, Teacher Zarko! Your marvelous teaching in the method of Silent Illumination is precisely the bright light of a lighthouse that illuminates the way for all the sailors on the ocean, and us practitioners on our spiritual journey. Thanks to our Vancouver Center for providing us with various teachings and approaches to help ourselves treading on the Bodhisattva Path.

(Shared by Rebecca Pai, Dharma Drum Vancouver Center)

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