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DDM Australia organizes Meditation Camp- a tiny taste of monkhood

When 4 visiting Venerables came from Taiwan to Sydney in July 2009, DDM Australia took the opportunity to organize a weekend meditation camp for over 25 of its members and friends at the Baden-Powell Scout Camp. Ven. Guo Guang, Vice- Dean of DDM Sangha University conducted the sessions with assistance from Ven. Guo Chi, Ven.Chang Xiang and Ven. Chang Xu.

During the introduction session, Ven. Guo Guang mentioned that she was used to teaching monks and nuns and would therefore quite possibly treat the participants like members of the Sangha as well except for one big difference… the schedule for the camp was definitely much more lenient and lighter than at Sangha University. At the camp, participants only had to wake up at 6.30am whereas at the University, everyone would be awake by 4.30am! She hoped that all participants would gain a better appreciation of monastic life as they went through the programme for the 3 days.

Early mornings saw all participants braving the cold to learn and perform the 8 Form Moving Meditation followed by morning chant and breakfast. We were very fortunate in that we had the opportunity to receive Dharma lessons not only from Ven. Guo Guang but also from Ven. Master Sheng Yen himself through a series of DVDs that Ven. Guo Guang had brought with her from Taiwan.

We were guided through the basics of not only sitting meditation but were also taught walking meditation and exercises and self-massage techniques for pre- and post-meditation. These were extremely useful particularly for the many beginners who were not used to sitting for an extended period of time and were suffering from cramps and sore ankles, knees and feet!

Apart from the meditation sessions proper and the Dharma talks, the organizers cleverly threw in various activities which were not only interesting and challenging but also served to drive home the message of the importance of concentration and practice. The activities included Chan Orange meditation, Dragon Wash as well as the Water Bowl Challenge.

When we were each given a bowl filled to the brim full of water and told to carry it without spilling any from the dining area to the Chan hall, it felt like an impossible task. However, with intense concentration and discipline, most of us were able to complete the task, much to our own surprise!

One of the most profound effects of the sitting sessions came about after a Dharma talk from Ven. Master Sheng Yen. Throughout the camp, Ven. Guo Guang tried to moderate the length of the sittings starting with brief 10-15 minute sessions and then slowly moving it to slightly longer sessions lasting up to 20-25 minutes.

On the last day, Ven. Master Sheng Yen through his Dharma talk urged all participants to be steadfast and committed to the sitting, explaining what to do when the mind became distracted and the body begins to feel strained. He urged everyone to be aware of the distraction and the pain and then to withstand and see it through. After the talk, Ven. Guo Guang also encouraged all participants not to give up and try for a longer sitting. Both were so motivating that at the last session, everyone managed to sit for at least 50 minutes fairly easily!

The final session was for feedback and a chance to share and talk as everyone had been practicing noble silence for 3 days. Most felt that the camp had been very useful and the lessons learnt would be helpful when they left. Of special mention was the delicious food that had been provided all by the DDM youths who had done a wonderful job of preparing such creative and mouthwatering dishes that everyone always looked forward to mealtimes!

The organizers were congratulated on a very successful camp and most were definitely keen to participate in any future camps conducted by DDM Australia. At the close, 6 people came forward to take the Three Refuges which was a great conclusion for the camp.

On behalf of the participants, I would like to thank all the Venerables and especially also to Ven. Master Sheng Yen for their priceless Dharma teachings and guidance as well as DDM team for the wonderful organization of this camp. Truly it was a beneficial experience for most of us and thank you for the tiny taste of monkhood you have given us.

(by DDM Australia)

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