DDM Global News

Half-day Chan retreat: Concentrating and Focusing on Every Present Moment

For the first time after a three-year gap, Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Centre Malaysia held an in-person half-day Chan retreat conducted in English on November 6, 2022. Joining the retreat were 18 participants and eight volunteers. They all cherished the rare opportunity for group practice in the serene, solemn atmosphere of the Buddha Hall.

The event began with the DDM Eight-Form Moving Meditation, which requires the practitioner to start off by feeling the changes in their movements, which leads to gradually developing a finer awareness of their arising thoughts while sitting in meditation. During the walking meditation session, Ven. Chang Ji guided participants to let go of their scattered thoughts about the past or future, and simply focus on the awareness of their steps with every passing moment.

In addition to sitting meditation, participants also practiced prostrating to the Buddha, in order to experience that the prostration practice is a way to express our gratitude toward the compassionate vows of the Buddha and the patriarchs to deliver all sentient beings. Moreover, this practice is an opportunity for us to learn the Buddhadharma and the methods of Chan practice applicable in our daily life. Furthermore, through prostrating, we can practice the method of "putting our mind where our body is".

During the exchange session toward the end, many shared that group practice indeed felt differently compared to practicing alone by oneself at home. The Buddha Hall, with its peaceful and quiet atmosphere, certainly helped them better maintain focus and rein in their mind. Some kept falling into drowsiness while sitting in meditation, so Ven. Chang Ji, the retreat coordinator, encouraged them to improve themselves by first adjusting their daily routine and sleeping schedule. One participant spoke candidly of his strong tendency of grasping and clinging, which became even more obvious and noticeable during the sitting, leaving him feeling perplexed without knowing how to deal with it. The Venerable first praised him for having such awareness and encouraged him to simply keep practicing "returning to the method". Another participant found himself becoming anxious, uneasy, and uncomfortable about the fact that the timetable for the sitting session had not been announced in advance, so the Venerable advised him to use sitting meditation to help himself practice how to live in the present, leaving irrelevant things behind and simply returning to the method itself.

As Ven. Chang Ji said, to engage in Chan practice is to constantly remind ourselves to return to the present moment, and to be the master of our own life, rather than constantly being carried away by external circumstances ---- that is, neither feeling regret about the past nor worrying about the future. Participants found the group practice most fulfilling and looked forward to the next period of group practice. Finally, the participants enjoyed a lunch that incorporated the practice of Chan in eating meditation, to wrap up the half-day retreat.

Text: Shu-ching Wang (王書卿)
Photos: Shun-tsai Fang (方順才)
Translation: Vicky Wei (韋徵儀)
Editing: Keith Brown, Chia-cheng Chang (張家誠)