A journey of a Ten-day Retreat


The longest retreat I have ever attended was only seven days. The latest one was five days in the year 2022 which gave me a feeling of loss; somehow something was missing. To avoid the weary feeling of gaining and losing I decided to register for the Ten days retreat and gladly I fulfilled my wish.

1. A great teacher from afar came to teach Samatha and Vipassana method (aka Calming and Contemplation method).

The Dharma Drum Mountain LA was honored to invite Venerable Guo Guang as the Chan Hall Leading Monastic for this retreat, accompanied by Ven, Chang Hwa the director of DDM Chan Meditation New York to support the English translation. Venerable Guo Guang had finished her six year solitary retreat from 2013 thru 2019, Her practice is equal emphasis on both principles and actualizations. In this retreat her core teaching would be Calming and Contemplation method. Venerable has been my inspiration for years. In her many Dharma talks she always prompts me to look inward and see whether I was walking on the right path according to the principle with the right view and so on.
In the past 10 days, Venerable has gradually developed the meditation method from subtleness to depth with detailed orientation in every link, constantly drawing inferences from one another. Hoping that the practitioners will be able to practice and mature in the method then combine it with real life, give full play to the wisdom of Buddhism, improve interpersonal relationships, and be free from suffering.

2. Initiate the Bodhicitta, uphold the Four Great Vows and grasp the method.

The most important thing prior to practice is to initiate the Bodhichitta, set foot on self and altruism while upholding the method, and work diligently. Before every sitting, when you bow to the cushion, you must first make the Four Great Vows.

3. Studying the Four Foundations of Mindfulness is a must. Get to know the body and mind in order to penetrate the true reality of all phenomena.

Vow to practice meditation diligently, and cultivate the Four Foundation of mindfulness. For, only through penetrating our body, sensation, mind and Dharma can we truly perceive the true reality beyond all phenomena.

4. Cultivate Samatha and Vipassana for Samadhi (Concentration) which will lead us to Prajnaparamita (wisdom). First, collect your mind and pinpoint on your philtrum.

The purpose of cultivating Samatha and Vipassana is to attain Samadhi and Prajna (concentration and wisdom). It has to do with not only the Three Studies (precept, samadhi and wisdom) but also connects to the cultivation of Right Mindfulness in the Eightfold Path. With Right Mindfulness one can achieve Samadhi which as a result will bring about wisdom.
Right View and Right Mindfulness are the most important concepts for Buddhists, especially the core teaching of Dependent Origination, selflessness and emptiness. To practice Samatha and Vipassana, first collect our mind and pinpoint on the philtrum. Focus on breathings going in and out as we nurture concentration. With the stability of our mind awareness will arise. At this time we will allocate thirty percent (30%) concentration on the philtrum while seventy percent (70%) on the sensation of the whole body.

5. Extend outward from the philtrum to the area of breathings and gradually bring in the Silent Illumination method.

Continue the focus of thirty percent (30%) around the breathing area and seventy percent (70%) on sensation of the whole body and gradually connect to the practice of Silent Illumination; a method that can extend our awareness to our whole body and/or the whole external environment.

6. With a humorous story reiterating the purpose of Zen practice emphasizing the importance of the method taught in the Samatha and Vipassana method.

In the Agama Sutra, the Buddha taught the handsome prince Nanda, who missed his beautiful princess that although through the merits of becoming a monk, he can enjoy the blessings of heavenly beauties in the future. But after he consumes all the blessings of the heavenly realm, he will eventually fall into hell. Only until he practices hard and transcends the Three Realms can he truly be liberated. After being taught, Nanda practiced the method of concentration whatever he did and wherever he went. The Buddha praised Nanda and encouraged his disciples to learn from him. The Buddha also prophesied that in 10 years Nanda would achieve the ultimate liberation. With such diligence it still takes Nanda 10 years to achieve liberation, we practitioners should emulate Nanda without slacking off.

7. Actualizing Samatha and Vipassana method in daily life.

With the development of awareness we can nurture the penetration of understanding people and things clearly. While we learn and practice the method inside the Chan hall It is more significant that we ponder how to consolidate the method into our daily lives. Moreover, as we develop awareness through diligent meditation, we become more aware of the true reality behind emotions. As a result, whenever we interact with people around us, compassion and empathy will arise. By practicing this way we can avoid being a selfish dummy who enjoys the joy of chan without caring for others.

In this retreat I saw my inadequacies, however, it was still a fruitful and successful journey. The practice that I have been always using; “bring the mind together with the sensation of the body,” have integrated with the Samatha and Vipassana method to a deeper comprehension. I have reorganized a map to the next journey for my continuous practice in the future. As Venerable Guo Guang encouraged, bring home and practice the method until you master it then come back to the meditation hall next year for a more profound learning. In this way, we can fulfill DDM’s goal of “uplifting the quality of human character and build a pureland on earth.”

Taking notes during the retreat was strictly prohibited. We were supposed to listen wholeheartedly and practice the method on the spot. The above sharing is based on my fragment of memory and certainly isn’t complete. Master Shengyen described the sharing of Chan experience as likewise a blind man touching an elephant or counting other people's treasures. We cordially invite all of you to explore the experience of Chan!

Gloria W. with palms joined



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