Recognize the Buddha nature in the present— Wrap up of the LJM Spring Meditation Retreat 2022
The Ling Jiou Mountain 49-Day Spring Meditation Retreat 2022 reached a meritorious closing on April 9. The LJM Founding Abbot, Dharma Master Hsin Tao, presided over the program and optimized all random opportunities throughout the retreat to expound the teachings of Buddha and unveiled the truth that ‘You are meditating when you walk. You are meditating when you sit. Resting in your Buddha nature, you are well and safe no matter if you talk or move’.
Throughout the entire duration of the 49-day retreat, all practitioners - monastics and the laity alike- stayed away from all external contacts and possible distractions to practice full concentration on spiritual advancement in a setting provided by the uniquely blessed magnetic field of the LJM Wusheng Monastery surrounded by mountains and facing open seascapes. Every participant was well aware that the retreat offered an unparalleled interface for access to the Master and Buddha’s teachings. They seized every opportunity to practice and all experienced the retreat to the fullest.
Learning from the Universe while meditating between the Earth and Sky
Meditation can be practiced beyond sitting sessions. It can be implemented in every moment of our daily life. During the retreat, Master Hsin Tao took the participants to the woods and turned the natural surroundings into a grand meditation hall for practice and Dharma teaching, for access to the inherent nature of Buddhahood. Beams of sunray came through the foliage and cast wavering shadows with gentle breezes rustling through treetops, and there was the sound of birds and bugs interspersed with howlers of mountain creatures. The diversified symbiosis is thus no longer a buzzword, but a beautiful artwork best captured in the classic Buddhist scripture of the Avatamsaka Sutra.
In the Nature Hall of Meditation, natural growths lend themselves well as teachers par excellence. Master Hsin Tao led the class to the big trees flanking passageways up the mountain and said, ‘Look how beautiful the roots of the trees are! The roots of our awareness, likewise, need to be stable and solid.’
In the sitting sessions of meditation, Master Hsin Tao led the practice by zooming in on exploring the nature of the mind by asking the participants questions like ‘What has been your takeaway thus far? The process leads to the awareness of our inherent Buddhahood, which concurrently exists with the Universe. Despite the concurrence, they don’t interfere with each other. The inherent awareness remains as it is. It is formless, lucid and clear.’
The Master went on, ‘The natural classroom is a reflection of symbiosis. The birds feed on the trees’ seeds. They also catch pests for food so that the trees may survive. The trees may die without the existence of the birds. More trees will grow, however, if the seeds fall to the ground. Here comes the interdependence of everything. All sentient beings and life forms are from the Memory Matrix, without which the forms could not develop and the ecology would be imbalanced. Trees do not grow flowers, and there would be no diversified symbiosis to speak of.
Master Hsin Tao would desire to see his disciples reach Nirvana that is neither arising nor ceasing. ‘Here to learn the way of Buddha is to learn about formlessness, to learn about non-karma-creating. As every phenomena is the creation of our mind, the essence of attaining enlightenment is no more creation of karma. Here we strive to recognize the inherent Buddha nature, the nature of no afflictions. The mind which clings to phenomena leads to samsara. The mind which detaches from phenomena leads to Nirvana.’
Regaining your Buddha nature with the invaluable meditation practice
The Spring Retreat 2022 was a great opportunity for the monastics to register advancement in spirituality under the tutelage of the Venerable Master. The laity who participated at the retreat, meanwhile, also worked hard to explore the teachings. Master Hsin Tao reminded the laity of the precious opportunity to join the 49-day retreat thanks to the support of their family and coworkers. He urged that ‘We are all suffering in the samsara. The suffering differs because of individual creation of different karma, which also presents us with different appearances (this life). The meditation practice is to help all of you to regain and recognize your inborn nature, the Buddha nature.’ The Master kept his reminder to the participants that ‘The ultimate goal of the retreat is to find our Buddha nature, to get familiar with and observe our inner spirituality.’
People differ in their karmas with their respective dispositions and capacities. Everyone, however, gets their fair share of positive takeaway from the Master’s teaching. HSIAO Tsung-Yu, a female follower who signed up to participate in the online version of the Spring Retreat 2022, shared how she initially had difficulty sleeping at the beginning of the retreat and she was not in any good shape to focus and learn due to the consequent brain fog. After struggling in vain for a while, she decided to ignore the issue by sticking to the curriculum to the best of her ability. Lo and behold, she got rid of the brain fog and remained lucid in the sitting sessions as well as with her awareness. In hindsight, it dawned on her that desiring something would become a hindrance itself. She concluded by reinforcing the realization that the focus ought to be on gaining familiarity with the immortal spirituality rather than on finding the comfort zone for the mortal physique.
Fellow practitioner Jian Yuan, on the other hand, signed up to the reality version of the Spring Retreat 2022. He offered some words of encouragement that the physical pain for meditation beginners is practically the devil’s advocate that cannot be shunned. His first encounter with meditation was full of pains and aches all over, and the shock realization prompted him to start preparing himself three months ahead of his second effort to partake in a meditation retreat. Half jokingly he said that it’s like purchasing something on credit with payback in installments. Pains and aches are signals that the circulation of blood and bodily fluid in our arteries and veins are not smooth, he shared the view at the end of the retreat, adding that practicing meditation helps to improve the circulation and metabolism. The pain passes when the circulation and metabolism get improved, said Jian Yuan, adding that he took the pain as evidence that ‘I am alive.’
The advanced retreats for all Four Buddhist Groups are always important periods of time when followers seize the occasion to train body, mind, and spirit for advancement in meditation practice. Moreover, the retreats materialize the LJM core value of ‘Compassion & Chan Meditation’. With the Spring Retreat 2022 successfully and meritoriously concluded and all participants harvested bountifully to their hearts’ content, Master Hsin Tao urged everyone to continue the practice by turning it into an integral part of daily life, observing all the time to recognize the inner nature and remain mindful.