2013 Baolin Youth Camp Experience


Joining this camp was an amazing experience for me. A few months ago when shifus were organizing this camp, I did not notice that there was an age limit and it would have stopped me from even signing up, but this was one of the best mistakes I’ve made. This is because a few months ago, after signing up for this camp, I fell apart emotionally and was completely lost with the decisions in hand and most importantly forgot the reason why I was a Buddhist. This camp once again reminded me of a lot of things and gave me an opportunity to relieve my emotions.

As most of you know, I seem very quiet and shy and I also belong in a very loving Buddhist family, but in fact, I was a completely different girl in my childhood and never realized or appreciated what a fortunate family I had. Back then I was the girl that was very confident with everything. I received good grades and even had great leadership skills. Due to that fact, a lot of people complimented me and that was when I started to become a self-centered person. So when I realized what a horrible person I was turning into, I started to make myself think I wasn’t good enough, I started to try and change myself, but this resulted me to be a very insecure person, to the point I will avoid eye contacts and panic. Our family wasn’t close to what we are now either. I never opened myself up to my parents and told them nothing about me. Which now I think back, this would have made it so hard for them to understand their daughter. I think our relationship became much stronger now, at least I’m not as scared of my dad anymore, and we actually have great conversations!

A lot of these memories rushed back to me after camp and that was when I decided to try and tell my mum the reasons of why I acted like that. So that night, we had a deep conversation that lasted till 2am. Even though this made both of us feeling exhausted for the next couple of days, it was worth it. I felt so much lighter inside and was feeling very happy.

Buddhism changed my perspective on everything, thus changing my life and the relationship of my whole family. There’re still lots for me to learn and improve on, especially gaining my confidence once again. So thank you everyone, for reminding me all these precious memories and led me back on the right path again. THANK YOU!

2013 Chung Tai Pilgrimage

Joseph / 傳登

When Bao Lin shifu asked me whether I wanted to go for the pilgrimage to Chung Tai Shan, I was elated and felt especially privileged that Abbess had allowed me go to with the youth group. I must admit I had some reservations about going with a group of people with most of whom I had little past contact, and felt especially senior when told the youngest member was Bryan, 9. I soon found out on the second day of the pilgrimage in Taiwan, these reservations were unfounded.

The group was inclusive, even though I spoke little Chinese, and my grasp of the language was at best “half bucket” (半桶水). Everyone was friendly and accommodating, and conversed to me in English. Abbess was compassionate to explain things to me in English, after it was first explained in Chinese. I was most grateful.

The pilgrimage started with tour of some of Taiwan’s great many tourist sites. We averaged about 2 places a day, and managed to squeeze in a few shopping stops. These activities were fun. My favourite stop was the contemporary museum of arts. There were many interesting exhibits on display and one that I connected with was the Bamboo Forest. It was a complex mesh of black strings weaved and tensed conceptualising or simulating a real life bamboo under grove. I thought that was the most amazing piece of anything I’ve ever seen. It reminded me of the teaching – from the mind all phenomena arise. That feeling that I was there (even though it wasn’t a real bamboo grove) was the result of past experiences I had with my sense organs and the five skandhas.
We also visited Ling Quan where the Grand Master spent great many years practicing and meditating. It was a really calm, peaceful place with the rapid flowing brook in the background. This was truly a spiritual place. I felt this was one of the few places I could practice and leave all the care of the world behind at the foot of the mountain.

We visited a few Zen centres and were made very welcome. Everyone at every single monastery was happy to see us. It was like seeing a good friend after years of absence. Albeit a friend we haven’t met yet. It was like Bao Lin – we were treated for lack of a better word, as part of a family. Everyone went out of his or her way to ensure that we were comfortable and without wanting or needing. Their hospitality was practiced with joyful selflessness. If I have learned nothing else on this trip, this is something I want to aspire to.

Our entire journey was on a large tour bus. Our driver helped us tremendously and arranged entertainment (karaoke, movies and unexpected but hilarious jokes) for those stretches between stops. From Taipei to Chung Tai, I was thoroughly entertained. There were a few potential Australian Idols contestants, too, from all the fun sing-a-longs.

What was marvellous though were the innumerable dishes of delicious vegetarian food we partook – many of which were Taiwanese specialities. And I loved every single morsel. I felt like I have put on tons of weight, I am such glutton for yummy food!

The most indescribable experience was the arrival at Chung Tai Monastery at night. We could see the outline of the main building from afar on the freeway. There was a strange feeling of trepidation. The structure was certainly large enough, and impressive. I feared it would be a bit overwhelming for me.

When we arrived at Chung Tai, we were greeted by a few shifus who were in Bao Lin. It was great to see them again. But we had to rush to finish off dinner so that we could setup in the monastery’s dormitory. I mentioned that people went out of their way to help us – at Chung Tai it was no different. The kitchen and dining hall were opened just for us, and hot food waiting for our arrival at approximately 9 PM. We went and prepare the dormitory and slept through the night, ready for the days ahead. I couldn’t wait to explore the huge modern building complex, linked by labyrinth of walkways and stairwells.

Day two at Chung Tai. We were taken by shifu for a tour of Chung Tai. We started from the main entrance and the hall of the 4 heavenly kings, where the future Buddha Maitreya statue was sitting, smiling and greeting each visitor. Behind Maitreya, stood the Dharma Protector Wei To Bodhisattva and directly opposite the bodhisattva, Shakyamuni Buddha. The hall was fragranced by large pieces of sandalwood. I thought that’s probably what a Pure Land would feel like – permeated with great many fragrances of sandalwood and eaglewood, and the fragrances of many flowers. In the middle platform sits the Buddha. The hall was very well designed, everything seems to be well integrated and it looked like the four heavenly kings were holding up the building, as they are upholding the Dharma. Not one stair, wall, platform, altar looked out of place. Everything was symmetrical and harmonious. I was in awe of the Grand Master’s vision. We were taken up to the upper levels of the building and were shown the halls of Rocana, Vairocana and Shakyamuni Buddhas representing the Trikaya of Shakyamuni Buddha. Statue of each Buddha unique and representing different pronounced aspects. All situated in serene, contemplative, inspiring spaces within the monastery. There were other spaces and treasures in the upper “floors”, too. Words cannot describe the skills and inspirations that went into the design and building of this place. Truly a great example of “from the mind all phenomena arise”.

Abbess was kind enough to arrange a Dharma lecture. The Shifu gave a captivating lecture about the three poisons (anger, greed and ignorance). Everything you do where there is any level of dissatisfaction (or afflictions) is the result of the three poisons. He taught us by giving us contemporary examples. Introspection – apply the formula if you are unhappy and dissatisfied with anything. What caused the dissatisfaction in the first place? How do you resolve your dissatisfaction, and completely cut off ignorance (the inability to resolve your anger and greed). I admit the three poisons was a term at the back of my mind – I knew what they were but never applied the introspection formula. It is not just about recognition, but understanding. Understand why it occurred. It’s “I am now angry” and “why am I angry?” and not about “how can I be less angry in the future?” The future you cannot control, the past you cannot change and it’s all about the present. Be aware, deal with it and then move on. I am now actively applying this formula in my every day life. The introspection was imposing, but manageable and it got easier and easier.

Day three at Chung Tai. This was the day I was most looking forward to. The Eight Precepts ceremony. For 24 hours, we took and vowed to uphold the Eight Precepts – which allow us a small glimpse into the lives of the monastics. Grand Master presided over the precepts ceremony. When the Grand Master spook, he inspired awe in each and every one of the thousands of disciples in the hall. We were most fortunate to be given the opportunity to hear the Master speak, as a precept master. During the Eight Precepts period, the Dean of the Buddhist School re-iterated the points around the three poisons. We were fortunately to be given a preview to these lectures and therefore less distracted and just sat there and comprehended the lectures – rather than just being distracted with the thoughts of “What are these three poisons?”, “do I have them?” or “I am not affected by the three poisons!” and other ego-based thoughts.

Day four at Chung Tai. The end of the Eight Precepts and the Three Refuges and Five Precepts ceremony. I have attended some three refuges and five precepts ceremonies in the past. Never have I attended one with that many disciples and everyone was enthusiastic. I suspect based on the responses to the precepts questions “will you take and uphold this precept now and life after life?” for each precept, I felt that it was the same volume of group response for every single question, from that I could only surmise that majority of my dharma brothers took all precepts. The responses were absolutely heartening. So many people committed to advancing their practice. People were smiling after the ceremony, on an auspicious day, the first day of the year. Now this is what I call a New Year resolution! We then proceeded to a celebratory lunch hosted by the Grand Master. I could not fault the food. Many of Chung Tai’s disciples’ talented children performed. I was beginning to think – there is surely a great cluster of talents in this monastery alone, from academic excellence to artistic brilliance. This is common karma in action.

After lunch, we were shown the Pu Tai Elementary School. The facilities were modern and very well resourced. It looked like a very supportive and conducive environment to nurture and grow the leaders of tomorrow. If only I was schooled there, I think my outlook in life would even be better than what I have today.

Day five. Last day at Chung Tai and Taiwan. As we prepared to leave the monastery and Taiwan, I wish I could have stayed longer. But, that was just attachment – when you like a place. As we bade farewell to Chung Tai, I thought back to my first day. I got to know a few more people at Bao Lin, a formula I can use and practise for life and amazed by the talents, enthusiasm and respect shown by everyone. I hope all members of future pilgrimages will personally experience what I have experienced.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chung Tai, Abbess and Bao Lin, for which this experience would not have been possible.

With Mettā,
Joseph (傳登)

2013 English Sutra Study

Gino (English Sutra Study class)

What time is it?

What time is it? It’s the question of the moment, the ever present, always continuing moment. It’s always now. The time is now and it’s always the same time. It’s just that we don’t realise it, or that we forget… we forget that it’s now. We aren’t paying attention that it’s now. The mind is dwelling in the past or in the future, one concern after the other, one issue after the other, layer upon layer, deeper and deeper, always distracting us from the present moment.

To grasp the present moment, to live in the present moment is the awareness of the Buddha. That’s where the Bodhi mind is. It’s now. The awareness of now, in that moment… this moment… that’s where we lose our ego, that’s where we find our enlightenment. That’s where all things are reduced to… perfection.

In this (now) present moment, that is where our pure awareness is, that is where we are, but it is not always where our attention is. If we can rid our mind of all of the disruptive thoughts, all of the pressing concerns, all of the worries and fears… if we can cast aside the complexities of this samsaric world, this fraudulent existence that we are immersed in… we can see reality, we can comprehend ultimate reality and we find that… we find that reality is Śūnyatā, its empty. We find that our existence, our awareness is without condition… is unconditioned… and we attain the supreme enlightenment.

We attain the supreme enlightenment right now. We don’t attain it in the past; we don’t attain it in the future. We don’t achieve the Bodhi mind anywhere else except now.

If we can realise now, if we can…if I can release all of the grasping desires for this and that, all of my conceptual attachments… I can abide in the moment. That is the challenge.

But it is not a challenge demanding focused exertion. There is no effort required. The unconditioned Dharma needs nothing, is sustained by nothing, is reliant upon nothing, so it is in realising nothing that we succeed. We attain nothing, for there is nothing to be attained. In the present moment, our original mind, our perfect awareness opens like a flower across the field of our consciousness.

What time is it?

May we cultivate the field of our consciousness so the flower of supreme enlightenment may take root and blossom.

A Mi Tuo Fo.

2013 Three-day Meditation Retreat

Joseph Wong (English Sutra Study class)

A welcome reprieve from the demands of daily life, the Bao Lin three-day meditation retreat allowed one to simply just be. I especially appreciate the need for silence. The retreat afforded me a chance to leave everything behind for those three days, and just concentrate on the practice.

Travelling on the Path is never easy. It was never meant to be. There were times when my mind would fight against it. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. I am too tired. I am too full. I am too busy. All the excuses under the sun to justify why one couldn’t take time off to practice. A sign of a chaotic mind. Just having a chance to be involved in an intensive retreat gradually worn down that barrier for not wanting to practice.

The practice is everything, not just sitting or walking meditations. It is about being at all time, aware of the present moment. The breath counting, walking, lunch etc. It allowed me to be aware of what I was doing, rather than rattling off those words as a reaction to a question or situation. I have to concentrate, and be in the present.

We have all experienced the wandering mind while eating – and it is exhausting and time consuming. The ritual at the beginning of lunch allowed one’s mind to be focused. Along with chanting, the silent vows to: extinguish all evil, cultivate all good and liberate all sentient beings, I have also learned how to eat in silence and to communicate what I need without words at the formal meal.

Just being mindful taught me to finish the current task, and move onto the next one when done. “Multitasking” is never a good option. Without experiencing it first hand at the retreat, I wouldn’t have understood the importance and benefits of concentration.

The talks by the Abbess strengthened my resolve, and further enhanced my understanding of the bodhisattva path. She said “affliction is bodhi, defilement is enlightenment”. The state we are in today – our family, our job, our friends and even our enemies, is the result of our karmic beginning-less past. Take every and all opportunities to turn around bad things happening to you. Turn your enemies into friends. Bad situation into good. Living your life in a mindful way allows that to happen. Mindfulness allows one to have the wisdom, a powerful tool, to appraise the situation and give rise to compassion in one’s dealings with others. This message was barely grasped. Until that talk. Now, I try to apply it in my everyday life. I recognise that I may regress, but, what’s learning without making mistakes? Mindfulness is that introspection. Without that immersion, I would have never realised the benefits.

At the end of it, I felt physically exhausted but mentally refreshed. But I have learned so much in those short three days which I felt would have taken me months or years to get there. This, because I cleared my calendar, cast aside my preconception and immersed in a wonderful and rare experience.

All of these defined the objectives of why I was there. Why I am here, today. I thoroughly recommend anyone who is thinking of (or have doubts in) attending a retreat to give it a go. You won’t regret it.