Beginner's Mind: Simply Practicing and Practicing

Two Days Retreat with Guo Yuan Fashi.
Jakarta, Indonesia, 31 Oct - 1 Nov 2009

A lotus for you all, Buddha to be.

This is my first Chan retreat with Guo Yuan Fashi. When I welcomed and saw Guo Yuan Fashi coming into the retreat villa "Amitayus", all of a sudden, I felt a very deep impression of Fashi’s strong compassion that radiating from his face.

I got many benefits from the retreat even though the retreat was only two days. One of the impressive experiences was the bare-foot walking meditation on the grass field. It was a direct contact with the nature, step-by-step walking together in the harmony of the Sangha, while enjoying breathing and being aware of the surroundings. One day brother Agus lead us for walking meditation outdoor to the field.

The walking then got faster and faster, until suddenly there was a command “STOP” in a loud and clear voice. “Who is standing here?”… “Look!”… “Who is this?”… And then continued with direct contemplation practice: looking only for the sake of looking, hearing only for the sake of hearing, without adding any attributes and always accessing to the non-discriminating awareness, calm, obvious, and clear.

The most impressive experience in this retreat was the walking meditation carrying a bowl almost full of water (about 90% full). I tried full-heartedly to position myself as a dead-sentenced prisoner, who could only be freed if I could pass the challenge of carrying the bowl without spilling the water.

Initially, I had no confidence to go through the long route without spilling the water. But I forced my mind to focus and walked as slow as possible. But, after a few steps, I felt tension here and there. “Oh there’s something wrong”, I whispered. I felt this as a burden instead of a practice of maintaining continuous and balanced awareness.

So I relaxed again my body and mind. The practice then went more naturally, with less worry and tension. Next, another challenge emerged. That was the habitual energy of “hurrying”, always wanting to walk faster and no patient, as a result the water in the bowl swirled.

I stopped and let it still, then continued. And then another wandering thought appeared, that was the feeling of being left by other participants and of wanting to arrive to the destination as soon as possible. The steps became hasten, mind balance was distracted, and as the result the water burst out of the bowl. I paused again, while reminding myself to relax, to be mindful, and to be aware of the breath.

Another thing I learned from this exercise was that I need to hold the bowl with the right and comfortable position, and aware of the condition of my surroundings, the presence of other participants, and the surface conditions of uneven ground and steep steps. Although the mind focused, but the awareness needed to be wide opened including inner and outer self, and must be kept fresh and continuous. That was the lesson I learned in the exercise

Live Actively … Practice Diligently

Although I tried to position myself as a prisoner, but actually it wasn't the same. In all the way, I did not experience obstacles from the outside such as passing through the two armies at war, no beast around and no other provoking temptations like in the story. But actually, all obstacles come from within myself.

Reflecting on the experience of the practice into daily life, too often our mind is disturbed by the habits of wandering thoughts, dragging us out of this moment. I do not really "live" in the here and now. In analogy to the story above, I could have got the death penalty, "chopped... the end".

In terms of practice, there is no need to compete. Comparing my practice with other's, or even with my own practice in the past, is totally pointless. Only wasting the energy of mind and time. Simply practicing and practicing, and do it wholeheartedly.

When to reach the goal does not really matter. And again, faith in ourselves is the most important factor. Faith in ourselves to practice and realize Dharma. Similarly, it is important to have faith in the method taught by teacher.

Never give up to keep returning to the method when the mind is dragged by wandering thoughts. Lastly, it is necessary to have faith in the teacher, to keep our practice not going into the wrong direction and hence to continue forward.

In the retreat I got many benefits. Although at the beginning, the exercises seemed simple but actually this ‘mind training art’ was very deep if done full-heartedly.

GYFS is very skillful to use different methods as the upayakausalya to guide us observing ourselves and practicing the method directly.

I was grateful to join this Chan retreat and happy with all supporting situations and conditions. Thank you to Guo Yuan Fashi for the compassion, Chang Tuo Fashi, brother Jimmy, brother Agus, all Dharmajala volunteers for working hard organizing this retreat, and to all participants.

Deep Bow & Gratitude,

Rohana Huang

(translated by Djemi Lim)

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