German visitors participate in LJM Spring Meditation Retreat


The Ling Jiou Mountain Spring Meditation Retreat (春安居閉關) is an annual event that attracts participants from all over the world. This time around there came some forty visitors from Germany to reach the LJM Wu Sheng Monastery (靈鷲山無生道場) in an effort to retrieve their long lost original heart by following curricular items prescribed for their daily meditative practice.

The air of early morning was still chilly and brisk in spring, but participants of the Spring Meditation Retreat had by then already completed their morning tasks and assignment,  including the practice of a session of sitting meditation. They now sat quietly in rows of long tables, enjoying a simple vegetarian breakfast. In order that all participating lay Buddhists from foreign destinations could better immerse in the ubiquity of “Chan”, there on the tables were strategically placed tent-cards with Chinese-English bilingual quotes about the “Presence of Food in the Five Senses”. Just a few short but snappy quotes from Buddhist scriptures put “Chan” in our food, and the practice of meditation along with it. Every motion and movement when we eat and drink, each bite and swallow, can help direct our attention to reflect on our inner self. Upon finishing the breakfast, those on duty to clean the dishes set forth to get busy and go about their duties.

Chan master Baizhang Huaihai (百丈懷海禪師) of the Tang Dynasty first laid down the sect’s rules and stipulations to govern its practice in a monastery. Of the ground rules, most people would be familiar with the one that states “No labor on any given day, no food for that given day”. For Buddhists, “Going out to the Slopes (出坡)” refers to duties and assignment carried out in services of others, while at LJM meditation retreats it translates “kitchen chores from dish washing to floor mopping and clean up”. Foreign participants performed their duties in peaceful joy, even though the water was obviously cold to the touch. To experience the joy of rendering services to others in the simplest daily chores is an effective lesson to illustrate that even seemingly minute and trivial act of benevolence can benefit sentient beings if it comes from the heart.

The meditative method in the curriculum was one of the methods in motion. With steady, controlled, deep breathing of inhalation and exhalation and relaxed, slow stretching of the limbs and body movement, we not only regulate our circulation system, but train our attention to focus. The practice of wrist-turning requires delicate turning of the wrist, while the fingers straighten and stretch out like lotus petals unfold, then backtrack and reverse the sequence of motion. The exercise may appear to be simple in action, but contain multiple layers of meaning. The participants follow the demonstration by monastic masters and learn to appreciate in their respective ways the beauty of meditation in motion. Practices of meditation in sitting and in motion alternate, with corresponding routine set of physical workout before and after the meditative sessions, everyday.

Standing outside the Grand Hall of Yuan Tung (圓通大殿), a panoramic view reveals surrounding hills with trees and bushes budding in spring. When the look is cast downward, you see the seascape with wave-riding sails. When the night approaches, a veil of fog covers everything and the view becomes hazy and enshrouded. People of the secular world find themselves in a similar situation, in that we are always busy day-in and day-out. Better technologies and more information at our disposal only overwhelm our senses with clutters and noises. They become numb over time, and we have hard time collecting our composure. Let us listen up to what Dharma Master Hsin Tao (心道法師) says to ultimately help us free ourselves from whatever that holds us back and to see clearly the way ahead.

On this particular evening, Dharma Master Hsin Tao explained in simple words to participants from home and abroad how to shatter ignorance. He referred to the five poisons for the heart and mind in Buddhism - greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and suspicion - as the five “poltergeists” which confuse us to the extent that we have mixed feelings about them. But to finally get rid of all five of them, we need to eradicate hindrances to our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. And with our mindful focus we see and hear everything to finally overcome whatever that blocks our heart. Once the disorderly ignorance becomes our capacity of comprehension and the ability to let go, we are no longer bothered by the 5 poltergeists, and the ease and comfort of freedom will be ours henceforth. Put succinctly, the inward-looking of a meditative practice is almost like to sweep away all the debris and clutters with a big broom of “emptiness” to let in the illumination for the heart and mind. The teachings of Dharma Master Hsin Tao were like nocturnal light for the way ahead, enabling the participants to navigate and charter their sail to cross over to the yonder shore.

Faced with a fast-changing world, people gradually realize that impermanence is a continuum, and their undivided attention for the pursuit of economic abundance and prestigious status began to shift towards a search for true inner peace. Meditation has thus become one of the paths through which peace of mind and tranquility of heart can be achieved. The German visitors flew over to the Ling Jiou Mountain to participate in the LJM Spring Meditation Retreat for a mindful and soulful metabolism via physical practice and soul-searching to purify the inner selves. When they once again stand on the porch of the grand hall, the wind rustles through the foliage and birds and bugs can still be heard, while the tidal waves crash against the rocks at the seashore. There are sights and sounds, but they perceive stillness and silence. That is the emptiness of the universe that resides in the heart, of which Dharma Master Hsin Tao spoke.

More Related:
Commencement of the LJM Chan Meditation Retreat of Spring 2019

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