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Dharma Gathering for English Speakers

A Dharma Gathering for English speakers was held on Friday, December 18, 2009 at CMC and was attended by approximately 30 people. The evening’s program included a vegetarian supper, music by Japanese flutist Kaoru Watanabe, and a dharma talk presented by Venerable Guo Xing, Abbot of CMC and DDRC.

Venerable encouraged the audience to continue in their practice by interacting with DDM teachers and becoming more self-reliant. Newly translated books by Master Sheng Yen will soon be made available.

Venerable emphasized the importance of Chan practice in daily life, and not only on our cushions. Every moment is an opportunity to practice Chan. With 86,400 seconds in a day, three finger snaps in each second, and in every finger snap, 900 thoughts, that amounts to many opportunities to practice.

Venerable advised us to not try to break out of our bad, negative or unwanted habitual karmic tendencies since this takes up a lot of energy. Rather, we should observe and contemplate on these habits or tendencies when they arise in our minds, and instead of acting on, rejecting or getting angry at them, acknowledge and even enjoy or appreciate them.

An example Venerable gave was that of a retreatant who wanted to quit smoking. On the first day of the retreat, the retreatant was resolute but by the end of the retreat, he was in tears because the desire to smoke was so strong. Instead of trying to fight the urge to smoke, which would drain his energy, Venerable told the retreatant to treat the urge to smoke like a wandering thought, to watch it, even enjoy it, and let it go.

An analogy to this practice is that of a swimmer caught in a whirlpool. Instead of fighting against the current of the whirlpool, which would drain the swimmer’s energy, the swimmer should give into the flow of the water and allow the body to sink to the bottom. Once at the bottom, the swimmer is able to swim freely away from the force of the whirlpool.

Venerable said that the best way to decrease negative habits is to form good habits. Forming good habits is the best antidote for getting rid of negative habits. We can do this by doing positive things consistently and continuously, in short intervals at a time, starting with as little as 5 minutes a day, and gradually increasing the length of time.

After the talk, Venerable invited the audience to ask questions. Dharma teachers in training, Dr. Rikki Asher and Bill Wright shared their stories and experiences about training and practice. Dr. Asher told a story about how the DTT study of the Shurangama Sutra helped her in her use of expedient means to teach her students and Bill Wright shared how repetition helps him in his practice. The evening ended with distribution of gifts to the audience.

(by Chang Jie)

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