Commencing from February 10th, 2020, monastic members of Ling Jiou Mountain (LJM) entered the annual spring term monastic retreat. Although the epidemic hit, we are still able to gather in the Chan Hall. For this, we’re extremely grateful for the blessing from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. My best wishes to all the participants to stay healthy and enjoy the nectar of Dharma.
Let’s begin with the prayer,
“The unsurpassable profound wondrous Dharma,
So rare to encounter through countless eons,
Now that I have the chance to receive it through hearing and studying,
May I realize the true meaning of the Tathagatha's teaching.”
This stanza was written by Empress Wu after she received Dharmic teachings. It tells us to cherish the preciousness of Buddhadharma. What’s precious about it? Dharma is the path. Dharma is clarity.
In order to attain nirvana that is unarising nor unceasing, we must understand "Dharma". What is nirvana? It is our very own mind. But why hasn't our mind attained nirvana? It is because we haven't realized the nature of our mind, or its original face clearly.
When Buddha Shakyamuni picked up the flower and smiled. He revealed the treasury of the true Dharma eye, which is to realize the original face of the mind directly. Every one of us possesses the mind of the Buddha. What is the mind of the Buddha? It is unarising, unceasing, free from phenomena. It is the wondrous mind of nirvana, the ultimate reality of notion is notionlessness. There are no notions to obtain. There's not a notion to adapt or to reject.
As the retreat begins, we’re combating none other but oneself. It is a one-man army to fight with a troop of tens of thousands. Delusions and attachments are our enemies. They keep pressuring us so we lose focus. Hence, we must fight to regain our concentration. Do not doze off or let it slip. Do not give it a chance to do any tricks. Do not let the three poisons (greed, aversion, and ignorance) come out.
When we enter the Chan Hall, we must be clear about what we're doing. It is not a formality of just coming in here. Don't tag along with delusions, cling on to attachments, slip into drowsiness or sleepiness. Then, we let our minds wander, be a tour, have fun everywhere, and to think about daily matters. These are a waste of time.
We need to detach our minds from all the activities. Pull it back to the Four-step Technique of LJM's Peace Meditation. Let's tie our unsettling monkey mind with these four steps. As it gets habituated with the process, not only would we get to like it, we'd experience clarity better. This is what a retreat is all about.