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One Day English Retreat at DDMBASF

First of all, I would like to thank Ms. Fei-Wen Shen and Mr. Chih-Lung Shih very much for letting me stay at their cozy home the night before the retreat. Without their generosity, I could not have had the opportunity to attend this inspiring event.

At 9 am on October 24, 2009, I was sitting on the mat expecting the first meditation session to begin. However, it was quite a surprise for me to hear Mr. Gilbert Gutierrez, the instructor of the retreat, saying “Let’s go back to the basics. Let’s think about what “Chan” is to you. Why would you want to spend hours sitting on the mat?” When I was asked to go back to the basics, I felt these questions were so simple and yet so hard to answer. All I knew was to apply methods to practice without knowing why I practiced. Many of the participants enthusiastically shared and defined what they thought “Chan” was while I kept asking myself the same question: Exactly what is “Chan”?

It was not until later on that day did I figure out an answer of my own—“Chan” is a state of mind that I feel serene without any wandering thoughts. As a novice practitioner, in order to reach such a state of mind, it may take me hours of sitting meditation before I am able to experience a moment of serenity. As soon as I came up with this answer, another question was raised in my mind: Exactly why is so difficult to reach this state of mind?

Around 3 or 4 pm, Mr. Gutierrez took us outside. After a brief walking meditation session, we were asked to spread out to find a spot to sort out what we had learned or felt for the day. It was a fine afternoon with a clear sky, a capful of wind, and a ray of sunshine. I could not help but start to appreciate the blue sky, enjoy the breezes, hear the rustling of leaves, and even feel the warmth of sunshine. All of the sudden I had an answer to my previous question: as long as I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch or feel, in other words, as long as I have any of the sensory device, my mind gets distracted easily.

Therefore, it is indeed difficult to reach a state of serenity without wandering thoughts. Moreover, I later realized that my little finding does correspond to the Heart Sutra where it says “There are no eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, or mind;; no form, sound, smell, taste, touch, mind-object, or eye realm, until we come to no realm of consciousness.”

In short, this one-day English retreat was a very inspiring experience to me for that I was able to go back to rediscover the basics of Buddhist practices, and to rethink about the foundation of a Buddhist sutra, the Heart Sutra. I look forward to attending such a retreat in the near future.

(by Shu-Ting Lai)

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