2008 seven-day intensive Amitabha recitation retreat

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Hong Yew Chye

The 2008 seven-day annual amitabha recitation retreat was held from 15th to 23rd of November 2008. The aims of the retreat are to:
1. place equal emphasis on the theory and practice in cultivation for Buddhahood.
2. provide an intensive course of Amitabha name recitation.
3. impart the right concept and method of Amitabha name recitation.
A total of 160 participants attended this year’s retreat.

On the eve of the retreat, after all the participants had checked in, Ven. Zhen Xin gave a briefing on the rules to be observed and the schedule for the seven days. At 7 p.m., a cleansing ceremony was held.The presiding monk and abbot of Than Hsiang temple, Ven. Wei Wu introduced the Sangha members. The sangha members in attendance included: Ven. Zhen Ru, Ven. Zhen Chan, Ven. Zhen Shiang, Ven. Zhen Xin, Ven. Zhen Yuan, Ven.Mun, Ven.Gong I, Ven.Yong Wah, Ven Ru Chuan, Ven. Sian Li, Ven Ching Ping, Ven. Guo Zi, Ven. Hui Tao, Ven. Hui Se, Ven.Hui Peng and Ven. Nutwadee.

The presiding monk urged every preceptor to reflect on the purpose of life and its ultimate destination. Mindfulness and the ability to keep the mind in focus during the recitation retreat is of utmost important and he hoped that the participants , through the synergy of group cultivation , would overcome obstacles which one would not be able to succeed individually. He reminded the participants to observe the rules, regulation and the schedule for the harmony and convenience of all concerned.

Ven Zhen Chan explained the fundamentals of code of conduct. He drew a comparison between the foundation of a building and the observance of Buddhist etiquette, the rules governing acceptable social behaviour from Buddhist point of view. The importance of right etiquette that reflects a person’s level of cultivation cannot be overemphasized as the following event shows. Sariputra, before he became the Buddha’s follower, was impressed profoundly by the conduct of Assaji, a mendicant monk, who conducted himself with such propriety. After Assaji told him of Buddha’s teachings, he became the disciple of the Buddha.

The daily routine of the retreat requires a certain degree of discipline and regular observation of rules and regulations. Participants should clear their mind as far as possible of “all matters of their secular life “and learn to live a life of non-attachment.

One should get up by 5am after hearing the sound of the hitting of the wooden board which signifies a wake up call. After the morning wash, at 5.30am began the lighting of the 1st joss stick representing the commencement of morning service, this was then followed by breakfast and the general cleaning up of the quarters.

At 8 a.m., the presiding monk gave instruction on the eight precepts. Subsequently, the lighting of the 2nd joss stick marked the beginning of the Buddha name recitation while circumambulating the Budhha statue. For the remaining session, the recitation alternated between walking recitation and sitting recitation in tandem with the sounding of the gong and drum.

At 7 p.m., the presiding monk will conduct a dharma lecture for the day. Participants were reminded that rebirth continues in perpetuity and one should treasure and make good use of the human form acquired to reflect on impermanence and to strive hard for rebirth in the pureland in order to gain liberation. Recitation resumed after the lecture and the final event of the day known as “pau sian” where one runs around the Buddha statue for a while before the transference of merits to all sentient beings that marked the end of the day’s activity. By 10 p.m., the participants retired to their sleeping quarters. In the remaining 6 days, the participants would undergo the same recitation programme.

The holding of an event of such a scale such as the seven-day recitation retreat ,involving hundred of participants require the unstinting support and cooperation of ardent devotees and volunteers without whom the event would probably not see the light of the day . From the planning stage through the actual execution until the completion, the bodhissatva staff and volunteers’ contributions were very much appreciated.

As for the participants, many expressed their thanks and gratitude to the organizers for giving them an opportunity to experience “pureland” for seven days.
Finally, many participants also took the opportunity to request for the induction of the three refuge and the 5 precepts after the retreat.

See you again next year.