Students visit the Chan Meditation Center for the Dharma joy and wisdom
On September 17, 18 and 19, three separate classes of 16 students each and teachers from Voyages Preparatory High School visited the Chan Meditation Center in New York to learn about Chan Buddhism and meditation. The teacher led the students in his classes on readings of the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and wished to bring his classes to the Center as a part of their study of the book.
During the visits to the Center, Venerables Chang Ji, Chang Yu, and Chang Wen were present to give talks on Buddhism, Chan practice, and the historical Buddha, as well as instructions on seated postures, breathing exercises, movement meditations, and mindfulness games. Venerables Guo Chan and Guo Chuan were also present to greet the students and support the practice.
For many of the students, their visit to the Chan Center was their first direct experience in a Buddhist setting. In order to prepare the students for their visit, the teacher had led forms of meditation exercises in the classroom, through the use of calm music and visualizations. Many of them seemed surprised and a bit self-conscious about taking off their shoes as they entered the Center.
Upon entering the Chan Hall, students sat on the cushions which were set up in a circle. While most of the students were able to sit comfortably on the floor and some were even able to sit in full lotus, others seemed a bit uncomfortable and sat with their legs in front of them.
Students were given opportunities to ask questions about Buddhism and practice. They asked questions such as, what is the schedule for monastics? Why do they shave their heads? How do you do meditation?
During the third session of class visits, Venerable Chang Wen talked about the Buddha's dissatisfaction with his life as a prince and the roles that were demanded of him. He asked the students if they have ever wanted to experience lives that were true and authentic to themselves, rather than following the demands of society, popular culture, or peers.
Students were asked to observe their minds while they sat in silence during one particular meditation exercise. Some of the students remarked that their minds were active. The teacher especially seemed to be aware of his active mind and deeply moved by the experience.
On another occasion, Venerable Chang Ji led the students on a counting exercise where students were huddled in two groups. Each person was asked to count to 20 spontaneously without interruption as a team, amongst giggles and several tries.
To commemorate their visit, students received gifts, including a handmade bookmark, a photo of the Buddha statue at DDM Taiwan's Main Hall, and teachings by Master Sheng Yen. The teacher presented the staff at the Center with a card and artwork signed by the students.
(Report by: Lydia)