Youth of Rotary International Exchange experience Meditation at Zhai Ming Monastery

“Wearing the ceremonial robe makes me look like Harry Potter!”
”Why should we observe noble silence when we eat at the monastery?”

On July 20 and 21 2015, twenty three youth of the Rotary International 3520 exchange program from twelve countries in Europe and India attended a Dharma camp in Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education and Zhai Ming Monastery which left unforgettable memories to many.

On the first day of the camp, they were taken on a tour of the DDM campus and introduced to some fundamental teachings of Buddhism as well as the vision of Dharma Drum Mountain. A part from learning the way to show respect to the Buddha and greet people they meet at a Buddhist monastery, they also wore the ceremonial robes which they had never seen before.

Upon arrival at Zhai Ming Monastery in warm morning sunshine on 21 July, the participants were welcomed by the monastery director, Venerable Guo Zhou who shared with them the concept that if you truly love yourself, you would share your loving kindness to others. This concept inspired the youth to start the circle of benevolence by practicing it themselves in order to make the world a safer and more peaceful place. By so doing, they will also experience the positive effects of such wholesome actions. In their visit to the monastery they also gained a better understanding of traditional architecture.

Venerable Chang Zhong later led the students through the experience of meditation in motion and sitting -”turn your head to the left slowly and turn to the right slowly, don’t be too fast, let the body relax.” The Venerable then introduced the various tools and sitting postures of meditation, before leading them to experience a complete session of sitting meditation.

At Zhai Ming Monastery, they also experienced the different culture of sharing a meal in noble silence. Many students enjoyed the meditation session and the water bowl holding meditation the most. Gregoire Lambert, a senior high school student from France, was interested in meditation and hoped to find a place to practice when he returns. One of the participants stated that they ”felt a little restless at first, but I was calmer after meditation. I was focused and relaxed without falling asleep.”

In the calligraphy class, Venerable Chang Qing taught everybody to write the clerical script. She said that the key to writing is to move the mind, knowing very clearly the shape of the character before actually writing it. Like meditation, practice makes perfect and she encouraged the youth to practice their awareness and relaxation skills when writing calligraphy. As it was their first time using a calligraphy brush to write their blessing, everybody focused their full attention and created many pieces of unique artwork which they then transformed into gifts by wrapping them into organic bags.

In the evening, the youth put on Buddhist ceremonial robes and made their way into the Buddha Hall in an orderly file for the evening service. The solemn atmosphere made a few of them recall hymns in church. Emilia Brinkman from Germany thought that although Buddhist chanting and Catholic hymns sound different, the spirit is the same.

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