Memories with DDM & sharing on mindfulness

Memories with DDM & sharing on mindfulness,

Part One: Memories with Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM)

Hugo is a psycholocial counsellor from Mainland China to study Counselling at NTNU. He was introduced by a western freind to come to International Meditation Group (IMG) to practice Chan Meditation and to get more connections with DDM. He had something to share on his experience during the past few years.

My connectedness with DDM dated back to the time when I was studying for my master degree in National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). At that time I was the first student from mainland China to pursue for a degree in our department. I opened myself to both the western and traditional culture in Taiwan. One day, our teacher and classmate were discussing an upcoming international conference on mindfulness and Chan Meditation on DDM. I had a little understanding about these concepts, but I was not very clear about them. So, I went to DDM in the New Taipei City following my teacher, who became my advisor for my master thesis on mindfulness later.

Yet, I had close contact with DDM through a western friend. There were several foreigners in our department at that time. He was one of them. Someday, we sat down and chat with each other about cultural issues. What I found was that this man seemed to be quite familiar with Buddhism and was fully committed to his faith. I asked him where he learned about Buddhism. He took me to a place in the downtown where teachers from DDM would like to give lectures and offer studying opportunists for the people in the city.

From that time on, I began my study and practice on Chan Meditation in a systematic way. Almost every Saturday, I went to the above place, starting from the basic Sitting Meditation and then, followed by the Walking Meditation. I had a stiff body and usually felt exhausted after sitting for a short period of time. During or after the Sitting Meditation, I would be provided with one-on-one consultation, just as the time when students in the primary school would do if they fell behind in the school study. After the whole morning’s practice, it was time for eating, of course, in vegetarian style. We would spend the rest of the daytime discussing Buddhism and Chan meditation, enjoying the afternoon tea at the same time usually.

From time to time, there were one-day or two-day retreats for Chan Meditation, which were held on DDM. For me, it was more like going on a vacation from Taipei City to DDM in New Taipei City. As the car moving forward near the Pacific Ocean, you might see some European-style hut which is quite suitable for wedding parties. Some people would describe the sound of the waves patting the rocks as it feels like that the eardrum is kissed and might even get pregnant. I was also intoxicated by that kind of patting sound.

Up to now, I have attended another two special retreats for Chan Meditation on DDM. One was a five-day retreat held by two teachers, who were originally from Malaysia and Singapore and had been studying on DDM for many years. This one was delivered in both Chinese and English. Again, I found that the western students were quite devoted to the practice, which impressed me a lot. The other one was a seven-day retreat held by a teacher who had been practicing Chan Meditation for a long time on DDM. I remembered I felt quite peaceful inside my heart when I met with the teacher, while washing clothes.

If asked about my impression on DDM, I would say it refreshed all my senses of vision, smell, taste and touch. On DDM, my eyes would see things in a peaceful and plain way. My nose smelled the most natural of forests and grasses. I remembered in the male’s rest area, the smell of soap would come to my nose, reminding me of the time when I was at a young age and touching wet clothes drying up in a line, with the sun shines on them. Some people say that the sense of smell could remind you of the early past. I agree with that.

Well, I would like to share more about the food on DDM. It is said to be hard for vegetarian foods to keep attracting a person's stomach. Yet, it could be both simple and difficult. By being simple, I mean all the ingredients to prepare the vegetarian foods are quite basic and easy to find in the world. However it is very difficult for the vegetarian chef to know exactly what the body mostly needs. Sometimes, a piece of ginger or tomato, are just enough to make a difference. There were several times when I did cry, eating the vegetarian food on DDM. Embarrassed, but I was deeply moved by the dignity of ingredients, as they just entered the stomach, slowly walked to the end of my limbs and skin. In the period of retreats for Chan Meditation, it was even unforgettable to eat the food. Once there was a retreat when many western people attended and then, the western style vegetarian food was provided. It was hard to imagine that unless I had seen the food by myself.

Since the ingredients turn into food and enter to our stomach, I consider it to be a call for me to understand their past and future. I used to work as a volunteer on DDM, either to help cooking in the kitchen, or to help clean the toilets in the buildings. These two jobs happened to be related to the process of the ingredients going into and out of the body. Moreover, I would like to know how the ingredients turned into food. So, on the way back to the downtown Taipei City, I would follow my friends and stopped near a piece of farmland, to see how a teacher carried out Nature Farming at this age of modernization. The teacher would like to help the crops grow in a way that with no pesticide and as little human assistance as possible. The vegetable and fruit were very strong once they grew up, which could even survive the Typhoon while others could not.

How time flies! I left DDM and Taiwan after I got my master degree. The western friend was absent since the first time he led me to the place for Chan Meditation. And the place I used to go was moved from a room on the 8th floor of a building to another house near a metro station at Taipei City.

However, it is a fact that I have obstacles ahead on my way to practice Chan Meditation. With more and more electronic books at hand, I read less and less, which reminds me of the big trees standing outside the library on DDM. In the summer of 2017, my friend on DDM helped me register for the 49-day retreat (the last one was held almost 10 years ago), yet I failed to make the arrangement in the end.

Recently, my friend asked me to share my past experiences with DDM. Looking back to those days with my Chan friends, I felt that it is important to keep sensitive to the change from both inside and outside. With the change of time, space, and people, I also realize that I am more and more connected to the real world. One day, I visited Jing'an Temple in Shanghai City, where Master Sheng-Yen, the founder of DDM, used to study Buddhism. Thinking about him studying by himself in the temple, I guess everyman should find his own way of growing up in this world, no matter in his own personal life or his work area.

Written By Hugo Su
Photos : John Wu (吳俊宏)

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