Inheriting Dharma Drum Mountain’s Lineage of Chan Buddhism –Forty-nine-day Silent Illumination Retreat

One hundred and forty participants completed the entire forty-nine day Silent Illumination retreat to deepen their experience of the “dharma of no-dharma” and to carry on Master Sheng Yen’s aspirations to propagate Chinese Buddhism.

Starting from July 22nd 2017, DDM continued to conduct the forty-nine-day Chan retreat which has taken great significance since Master Sheng Yen passing away ten years ago. The retreat included three intervals – two fourteen-day retreats and twenty-one-day retreat respectively. The enrollment was popular with approximately one hundred and fifty members taking part. Among these, one hundred and forty people completed the entire period of forty-nine day advanced practices.

Venerable Guo Xing, the current Managing Director of the DDM Chan Center shared his memory of Master Sheng Yen’s view that as a solid foundation for teacher training and talent development, DDM should hold the advanced thirty day, forty nine day and even three month Chan retreats every year. With the causes and conditions coming together this year the Sangha honored Master Sheng Yen’s aspiration to hold this retreat to propagate Chan in the hope practitioners have a breakthrough on their dharma practices.

During the retreat, participants - who wake up at 4.00 a.m. and go to sleep at 10 p.m. - fully experience simple and a regulated life for seven weeks. Each day they practiced the methods of sitting, walking meditation and prostration under Master Sheng Yen’s constant video guidance made from his host of forty-nine day Silent Illumination retreats in 2001.

Hu Lee Gui , who joined at the first interval shared what she acquired from the retreat -“it is so joyful and advantageous listening to Master Sheng Yen’s dharma talks”. She felt that the Master could always deeply penetrate into participants’ minds, bringing members a sobering wisdom. Hu further shared that other than the methods of Silent Illumination, Master Sheng Yen also explained the methods from the contemplation of ancient Buddhism to those of Mahayana Buddhism, all of which shared a common base yet differing points to start with. As she said, “even with the shorter period of two-week retreats, I have had a blissful experience and come to understand Mahayana as well as the Bodhidharma Chan Buddhism, with a new sense of faith.”

Supervising all participants through the whole period, Venerable Guo Xing held personal interviews with participants and shared his observations of the retreat. He stated that most people in contemporary society sustain their Chan practices for body- mind relaxation. However, the authentic Chan practice is far beyond that stage. The possibilities to make a breakthrough rely on constant and long term practices, so as to experience the Chan method more subtly and profoundly. He stated that “in sum, the forty-nine day retreat helped all participants improve their practices, but also provided an opportunity of education and self-growth for Sangha supporters to better observe and respond their body-mind reactions as well as apply Chan Methods as needed.

Venerable Guo Xing further shared that the DDM Chan Hall and Meditation Activity Department would be closely working on new approaches to deepen the understanding Chan practices and broaden the propagation of Chan in the future. The Meditation Activity Department would hold extensive classes and activities for the general public, helping people learn Buddhist teachings and build up the correct view of their practice to apply to their daily lives. To implement this, the Chan Hall aims to deepen practitioners’ experiences and realization of Chan methods.

Reporter: Xu Cui Gu, from Dharma Drum Monthly (法鼓雜誌, 許翠谷)
Translation: Elenda Huang (頤嵐達)
Editor: Christine Huang (Canada); DDM Australia Editing Team

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