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Friday, March 27, 2015
“Leave all previous instructions and experiences outside the Chan Hall” with these words the Retreat Master, Venerable Chang Hui, encouraged the retreatants to come to the retreat with a fresh and open mind uncluttered by what we have heard or experienced before. I began the 7-day retreat with the mind of a newly born baby, at least I tried to do so. This will be my fourth Huatou retreat and I was looking forward to enhance my practice, which often felt a bit disorganized. Sometimes I yearned for the simplicity and linear approach of observing one’s breath. But I was determined to stay with Huatou despite my difficulties.
Dharma Drum Mountain frequently hosts week-long meditation retreats in Chinese, and occasionally hosts similar retreats in English. I am grateful to have benefited from the special opportunity to participate in a seven-day retreat at Dharma Drum Mountain this July.
“Wow, this place is so clean!” A lady said as she walked past. A smile came over my face at the comment and immediately thought of all the hard work volunteers put in to make sure our new center was clean and inviting. It was Sunday, the 18th of May and DDMBASF was having its first open house in our new Fremont center. It was Open House- Open Arms- for the local community.
To experience true relaxation and freedom of body and mind, I entered the Chan hall of Dharma Drum Vancouver Center (DDVC) on the evening of April 18 for a fundamental seven-day retreat. Even though having participated in meditation retreats of both silent illumination and huatou practices, what I was seeking in this retreat is the true relaxation and calm, as I know that Chan meditation practice guided by Ven. Chang Wu, Chief Director of DDVC, will help the retreatants relax their body and mind and the bliss of meditation.
Although there are only several hundred words in the Heart Sutra, whenever I am confused or feeling helpless, transcribing the sutra helps me settle my mind and complete my tasks at hand. Hence I wanted to further understand the Heart Sutra. It just happened that there was a class about this which has further helped me my understanding of this classic sutra.
(1) In our busy daily lives, it can be difficult to find the time to slow down, even for five minutes. Every day breezes by and we do not pay attention to all the beauties around us. On Sunday February 2, 2014 I attended the tea Chan for the Lunar New Year. I also had the pleasure to perform during this event, along with many others. As usual, I was feeling nervous and shaky, as most people feel right before a big event.
In a foggy morning on January 18th, 2014, participants one after the other arrived at the Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center to attend the one-day Chan in Daily Life workshop guided by Abbot Venerable Guo Xing.
At the beginning of 2014, Dharma Drum Mountain Vancouver Center invited Venerable Guo Xing, Abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center, to lead a 2-day non-residential retreat. What a wonderful blessing to start the new year. In this retreat, we applied the method of “reciting the Buddha’s name.” This method was first introduced to us last year and was greatly appreciated by the participants.This year, we were fortunate to have Ven. Guo Xing back and lead another retreat with this simple but effective Chan practice method. The Venerable said that our six sense organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, thoughts) are like six animals that constantly want to run out and to contact the external six sense fields (form, sound, smell, taste, touch, and thought).The way to keep the animals inside is to tie them with a rope. Likewise, the method is like the rope to keep our six sense organs still, and in this two-day retreat the method of reciting the Buddha’s name is the rope. Recitation of the Buddha’s name is not only a pure land method, but also a Chan meditation practice.
“We will be chanting ‘A’ ‘Mi’ ‘To’ ‘Fo’ four syllables throughout the day with our mouth, our feet and our body. As well, every cell in our body will be chanting.”
Venerable Guo Xing’s opening remarks continued…
Sometimes I forget, as Buddhist, why I do meditation. Sometimes I just want to shut myself off from the world and to achieve a moment of peace. Sitting meditation is particular good for this and I am grateful for it. But there is more to it than that.
Abbot Venerable Guo Xing explained that our thoughts, what we hear, see, smell and touch are forms that are continuously arising and perishing. Then, what is that which is non-arising and non-perishing? In other words, what is wu? “Wu” is like a GPS, it allows us to find the non-arising and non-perishing mind.