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back at the monastery (day 1)

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It feels right to be back. 8 pm and we’re seated in the meditation hall. Rows of black cushions. Windows open towards meadow and woods, the scent of hay, evening air replacing afternoon heat. Silence descends. Three strikes on the gong. Meditation.

All so familiar, yet fresh and refreshing in the moment. There’s something about sitting in a place where many have done the same for the last nine years, day in and day out. Incense lightly in the air. Stone Buddha sits upright. A solitary candle. By 10 o’clock the front doors are locked and lights dimmed: Noble Silence begins.  

This custom of breaking-fast goes back to Christian monasteries in medieval times, when silence also lasted from evening prayer till the morning chant of “Lord, open my lips to proclaim your glory.” We don’t use those words, but the sentiments are similar. The wake-up bell will ring at 4:20 (an hour later because we’re hosting a retreat), introducing 90 minutes of mediation, morning chanting, and 45 minutes of temple cleaning, including toilets (always a favourite), walkways, trash, laundry, kitchen chores, and assorted other tasks.

I cherish communal silence made by 25 people not talking. Time to shut down the laptop and enter my own silence, away from chattering. Forgive me for not editing these notes. May you be at ease.

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6 responses »

  1. Nice post, really conveys the feeling of the retreat.

    Reply
  2. Sounds so peaceful and serene, even the chores seem meaningful…

    Reply
  3. found these….

    picture postcards written from Great Vow Monastery

    sit down
    be at home

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Reply
    • dear daishin…
      I was most surprised by the similarities in the
      “hours” and rhythms of monasteries in the East and in the West…
      as if there is timelessness in/to time and spacelessness in/to space
      it is amazing!

      Knowing that you are speaking Buddhist…
      and that you are describing the experience of a Buddhist monastery…

      and yet listening with the ear of my heart
      to my heart it sounds like a Christian monk
      in celebration of Jesus Christ…

      I practice the “very young person” theology…
      God supersized qualities of His Son, Jesus Christ
      and then named those qualities — religions.
      When I listen to people with the ear of my heart
      I quite often will hear those qualities of Jesus
      rising in their hearts. I can’t make such a moment happen…
      nor can I even anticipate it…

      So it happened in your tour of your monastery..
      it is as if God took the Compassion of Jesus Christ, supersized it and then placed it in the hearts of Buddhists.

      I am delighted when suddenly a Buddhists reminds me of Jesus…
      Through your presentation… walking through the monastery…
      around every corner would be yet another sudden reminder of Jesus…
      Such a moment just happens
      It isn’t something I can make happen,
      it isn’t a metaphor extended …
      going beyond my own words and my own images…
      just happens suddenly,
      like a passing fragrance…

      or in the breaking of the bread
      on the road to Emmaus….

      Thank you so much for having done this video some years ago…
      it is such a help for monastics to ‘ring’ with the dailyness…

      Reply

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