Monastic Summer Retreats :
Benefiting Others on the Basis of Diligent Practice

Late Master Sheng Yen once said, “Without sufficient and profound practice, the assistance one could offer is limited; however hard one may try, it would hardly bring about the ultimate and perfect result. This past June, DDM Sangha held the Vassa, monastic rain retreat, in the Grand Buddha Hall of Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education. More than two hundred monastics from DDM branches from local and aboard gathered together for the one-month retreat. It was not only to abide by the practice established by the Buddha, but to follow the admonition from late Master Sheng Yen to his disciples that one has to constantly deepen his understanding and realization of the Dharma.

During the Seven-Day Amitabha Buddha Recitation Retreat, the second stage of the Vassa this year, Ven. Chang Sheng (常乘法師), the Monastic Advisor and the Disciplinary Monk, led the Sangha to recite Amitabha Buddha’s name in motion. (Photography by Wang Yufa)

This year, the Vassa was consisted of three consecutive retreats: Five-Day Relaxation Retreat, Seven-Day Amitabha Buddha Recitation Retreat and Fourteen-Day Intensive Retreat. The Five-Day and Seven-Day retreats were conducted with the video recordings of late Master Sheng Yen’s Dharma Talks, guiding the monastics to recollect the mind gradually through methods such as repentance, prostration, meditation and Buddha name recitation, hoping to deepen their right understanding, right view, right belief and right actions. Ven. Chi Chern, one of Master Sheng Yen’s Dharma heirs, was invited to lead the Fourteen-Day intensive retreat. He continued with the unfinished Dharma talks from last year on the Song of Enlightenment by Master Yong Jia. Moreover, he categorized the sixty plus poems in the Song of Enlightenment into five groups, including Chan practitioner, Chan mind, Chan state, principle of Chan and non-Chan practices, helping the Sangha to better comprehend the rich content expounded in the work.

On the one hand, Ven. Chi Chern emphasized that Mahayana Buddhism focuses especially on “benefiting others.” On the other hand, however, it is only through the incremental understanding of and benefit from the Buddhadharma based on one’s diligent practice day after day that pure liberation – “benefiting the self” – could really take root, which in turn could then be transformed into compassion – “benefiting others.” From there, harmony of the human society could be reached and the Buddha’s original intention of benefiting oneself in benefiting others could also be actualized. Therefore, the last day of Vassa is also called “Joyful Day for the Buddha.”

Texts: Dharma Drum Monthly (法鼓雜誌)
Photos: Wang, Yu-Fa (王育發)
Translation: Frances Liu (劉演珮)
Editing: Elenda Huang, Echo Shao (邵慧怡), John Wu (吳俊宏)

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Benefiting Others on the Basis of Diligent Practice