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Russian-Switzerland Pilgrimage Program to DDM

We arrived in the 8th of January to Fagushan Monastery (Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education) and stayed in Taiwan until the 23rd of January. Our Russian group consists of 7 people, six from Moscow and one from St. Petersburg. In addition, there was one person from Switzerland and he was already at the lay people’s quarters at the monastery when we had arrived. Therefore, our pilgrimage program can be called International Pilgrimage.

After this pilgrimage, I realized how many deeds were done and how much effort was put in this pilgrimage by monastics. We visited four monasteries (Fagushan, Nungchan, Zhaiming, Tiannan monasteries) where one can actually practice sitting meditation as well as chanting, and two educational institutes (Dharma Drum Degui Academy and Chunghwa Institute of Buddhist Studies). It was a great pleasure for me and for our group to meet with the abbots and directors of these precious places where people can deepen their knowledge of particular subjects, their understanding of life as well as their own compassion and wisdom. Here, teachers can help pupils to get the first and other two can be passed on by monastics.

This was my third visit to Fagushan monastery. Although I was the one who made arrangements for this pilgrimage arranged from Russia side, I was very touched and amazed by what we actually got in the end (again by virtue of monastics). The main thing that I wanted for our group to remember before we came was the possibility to get in touch with people who are sincerely and completely devoted to the practices in spiritual life. They know the ways to express their knowledge for other people as well as share with everyone the happiness of Dharma. One of the most notable meetings was the meeting with Venerable Guoxing Fashi who gave us a two- hour introduction to the main concept or the seal of Buddhism known as non-self. The amazing thing about that was the happiness of each and every one of the members in our international group, even a person who seldom smiles was very happy. After the meeting, everybody was talking a lot about what happened, it was hard to go sleep, but we had to because the next morning we attended morning service and went to another place, according to our tight schedule.

Visiting many places gives us the possibility to see with more or less the broad mind of what Fagushan is.

The first two visits to the monastery, I was volunteering and living only in the monastery’s rooms suitable for lay people, so I saw only the headquarters of Fagushan. “Knowledge of many things gives better understanding of one tiny thing”. Many of us saw or read some principles for life, famous people say or write something about life, but it rarely gives real aspiration to change yourself for a better one. The better life is a life filled with compassion, I understand it as caring about others, and a life filled with wisdom, I understand it as limitless knowledge of the present moment. These qualities of life can be easily found in people who practice (not only monastics), and Fagushan attracts such people.

We also attended several classes devoted to meditation, history of Chan, got tours about sophisticated architecture and structures like university DILA and Sangha University. In addition, we attended a two day retreat at the beautiful Tiannan monastery. In the end, I got the whole picture of the first two stages for the method which I wrongly understood, I got instructions on how enter and exit of sitting meditation and we got many instructions and many occasions for practicing chanting with monastics.
Fagushan touched my heart deeply, and I will do my best to pay back and pay forward as Fagushan did.

Written by: Ivan Kapalin (Moscow)
Editor:: Christine Huang (Canada)

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