Excitement exuded as 28 participants lined up to check in at Hsi Lai Temple on April 16th to attend the first in-person One-Day English Buddhist Retreat since the COVID-19 pandemic started. Once again, students had the opportunity to physically participate in sitting and walking meditation, to learn, to reflect, and to exchange Buddhist experiences with one another and their teachers through group discussions.
Following the third online retreat theme, “Calm the Mind: Understand the World,” this in-person retreat takes on the theme, “Humanistic Chan: Understanding Our Experiences.” Venerable Hui Cheng, from the Department of Social Education and Outreach, taught students how to increase awareness in their daily lives. Through the five aggregates, students learned how to face their emotional challenges and find inner peace using the Buddha’s teachings. Ven. Hui Cheng shared a picture of a delicious-looking piece of chocolate cake that all were familiar with and used it as a starting point to ask questions. The students described the shape, color, taste, texture, and feel. Venerable led the students to further understand what the "five aggregates" are in Buddhism. Upon deep dive, they are composed of the form dharmas and mind dharmas – sensation, perception, volition, and consciousness. This understanding sees that the five aggregates are absent of a permanent “I”. Once the five aggregates disperse, where is the “I”? Where are the emotional defilements? Meditation is not just about sitting, it is about cultivating and finding one’s inner peace which helps one to deal with the unpleasant things in life.
During Q&A, Ven. Abbot Hui Dong pointed out that many of the conflicts in communication with family and friends came from a lack of patience. Rather than letting our emotions get all worked up, it is important that we put ourselves in others’ shoes, truly understand each other, listen to each other, and look at problems from others’ perspectives. Abbot encouraged us to practice the Three Acts of Goodness: do good deeds, speak good words, and think good thoughts. Buddhism is not only about knowledge, learning, or theory; rather, it is about practicing in daily life.
After completing the retreat, Kyle Miller shared how happy he was to be able to participate in the in-person retreat at Hsi Lai Temple. During the walking meditation, not only did he experience the relaxation of his mind and body, but he had the opportunity to reflect on his inner self while observing silence. Rachael Oleary expressed her wish to return to the temple, in the future, as a volunteer to serve the community and to continue participating in the cultivation activities.
The next One-Day Retreat, themed “From Inner Peace to World Peace,” on June 26th will provide the opportunity—-both online and in-person—to work, learn, and practice together as a community. The focus will be on developing altruism and expanding our capacity for assisting all beings. After reflecting inward, we can look outward and extend a compassionate hand to make this world a better place. Register online now.