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At One With Nature (10/27~11/8 in DDM Melbourne)

We were very blessed and honoured to have Chang Seng Fa Shi who flew from Taiwan to give a series of talks and to conduct a single day retreat in Melbourne. Although Fa Shi came straight after her Indian Pilgrimage, she showed no sign of fatigue. Her natural serenity and composure won lots of admiration and envy among the attendants. As I was asked to write a report on the one day retreat, I shall put my focus only on that mind opening day.

Before the retreat, we were all worried about the weather, which is one of the most unpredictable elements of Melbourne life. There were wind and rain prior to the retreat day but when the day came, it turned out to be glorious, mild and sunny. Fa Shi attracted quite a crowd. The hall was all packed with people from the East and West, and, of Buddhists and non-Buddhists.

The day began with the “Eight Form Moving Chan” in the backyard. Fa Shi explained clearly how it should be done. The emphasis is on being ‘focus’ and ‘relax’ during the movement. Fa Shi’s demonstration was so good that we all said, “This is the first time we were taught that it should be done in such a relaxing manner”. After the Moving Chan, we went back to the meditation hall to do the sitting meditation. It was such a joy – for the first time my legs were not painful, and I was not perturbed by the noise and restlessness in front of me.

In the afternoon, Fa Shi took us to a park. She told us to find a spot to meditate and then draw anything that we found interesting. That was a hard task! I had never known how to draw, and neither had I got any artistic bone in me!

The park was divided into two parts. On the right, it is a playground with swings, monkey bars, merry-go-round etc. There were lots of people there and naturally lots of noise too. The left side of the park is shaped like a bowl, with the middle part lying at a much lower level then the surrounding area. In “the bowl”, it was all covered with green grass. There were trees on the higher edge that was facing us. Inside the bowl, there was no one and it was quiet. I opted for that spot.

I could not sit comfortably because it was very exposed. Initially, it was nice and warm but it got hotter and hotter as time went by. Being in a “grass bowl” on a fine day, I got hit by hay fever with no warning. I then decided to draw without meditating so that I could complete my task quickly. The trees were dense and layered, the sky was very blue with white clouds, and the noise was faint and far away. It was beautifully serene. When it got too hot, I retreated to the extensive shade under the tree but it was not quite so peaceful.

“How do you contain the noise and the quietness at the same time?” “Aren’t they mutually exclusive? You have to be a bit schizophrenic to feel both at the same time,” I thought, looking at the people and their walking/ running around, with a sign. Suddenly, a boy ran into the bowl dragging a red kite behind him, a man and another boy ran after him and 2 dogs tailed at the end of the line. They laughed, yelled, and the dogs chased and barked. They created quite a commotion. Strangely, I did not feel disturbed. Suddenly I was grabbed by this picture. It was such a happy and lively scene that it dawned on me that noise and quietness COULD co-exist simultaneously! It became something unique. “It is not left or right, noise or silence, and it is something new!” “There is no contradiction and surely no conflict! Why is it so?” I couldn’t help asking myself.

It is the “me” that is at work, and the “self” that is making the distinction and creating preference and contradictions. When I viewed the situation from afar, i.e. with an open mind, I saw a brand new scene. It was what happened inside me that mattered. When my mind is open I am more receptive to changes and to things that I normally would label as “not good or negative”. How can I be more “open- minded”? (I think even that thought denotes a “skewed” undertone, but, at this point it is better than being “biased” or having an internal conflict.) That comes down to the practice of letting go, mindfulness and meditation. The ability to meditate (especially in sitting position) comfortably and to extend it to a healthy life long practice relies on the proper posture during meditation as well as the pre and post meditation exercises. Suddenly everything seems to fall into proper places. The morning exercise, the sitting meditation, the field meditation and the drawing are all inter-related. They are all one!

I am sure we can get a lot of information and teaching out of reading books or watching videos. However, it is so much more beneficial to have the guidance from the actual presence of a Dharma Teacher. He/ she can straight away pin point and correct the errors (which we might not even notice ourselves). We can also see, by his/her example, how to carry out our practices. This thought was shared by many who attended the one day retreat. The same sentiment was also resonated among those that attended the Dai Bai Chan Practice (conducted by Fa Shi). May be, at this point, it is just a “collective fantasy” to wish for a Fa Shi to stay for longer (eg a few months) at each visit or, even a bigger fantasy, to stay permanently in Melbourne.

In the past week, we have learned so much from Fa Shi, and we are truly, forever grateful. We hope Fa Shi will come back to Melbourne again to teach us more. I know this thought contains a touch of the negative element of ‘greed’ and ‘attachment’. After all we are not yet enlightened and there is so much more to learn and to practice.  _/\_
Written by Ellen Lam (林麗碧)



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