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Interview with Venerable Chang-Xiang,
Monastic Advisor of the 7-day Bilingual Retreat of Silent Illumination

As the Monastic Advisor during the 7-day bilingual Silent Illumination retreat at DDM World Center for Buddhist Education, New Taipei City, Venerable Chang-Xiang (常襄法師) supported Zarko Andricevic, Chan teacher and one of Western Dharma Heirs of DDM Founder Master Sheng Yen, to help all retreatants. According to his sharing, this bilingual retreat still brought him newly and unique reflections even after so many years of experiences as a supervisor of Chan retreats.

Editorial Team:
Would you like to share with us your observations or feelings as a Monastic Advisor of this 7-day retreat of silent illumination?

Venerable Chang-Xiang:
In the beginning of the retreat, there were quite a lot of practitioners having yet to stabilize themselves. This may be because some practitioners from abroad couldn’t find a chance to follow the complete learning path of Chan practice, thus resulting in insufficient foundation. Realizing that, our teacher Zarko chose firstly to focus on methods of relaxing body and mind in the first few days, and later expounded the methods of silent illumination.

As some were beginners, they were still in the process of conforming to specified requirements of diet and sleep in the Chan Hall. In this respect, monastics on patrol were reminded not to be too strict on improving the state of their sitting meditation, for it might bring the opposite results. In addition, most of the practitioners couldn’t help struggling with leg pains that they even gave up at once; the sessions were thus shortened to 35 minutes instead of the planned 40 minutes. It was hoped that the practice would not weaken their confidence.

The actual practice consequently reinforced that hard working is prerequisite before taking part in the retreat in Chan Hall; it would be too late to start Chan practice only after entering into the Chan Hall.

Editorial Team:
What are the biggest differences between this Chan practice and those before?

Venerable Chang-Xiang:
I had experiences leading Mandarin as well as English retreats; however, it was my first time leading a bilingual one. I was under a bit strain to repeat my words both in Mandarin and English, for it not only was more time-consuming but also affected the atmosphere at points.

Furthermore, the content of morning and evening services was a little bit different from that of the Dharma Drum Retreat Center in New York; another part that I need to put effort to adapt to. Without much supporting vocals in the Chan Hall made me feel a bit nervous.

Generally speaking, leading the bilingual retreat was an interesting experience to me.

Sometimes we need to make some efforts to bring about the favorable atmosphere, yet the additional session of translation impede the process; rewiring and repeating everything I said also dulled the atmosphere at the moment.

Mandarin is my native language after all; therefore, I intentionally took English first, this way I wouldn’t leave out anything from my English part.

This language switching part was very special to me.

Editorial Team:
During this retreat, was there anything that impressed you most?

Venerable Chang-Xiang:
With Zarko’s coming to lead this retreat, I was present throughout the whole process. I had thus closer observation of his words and deeds. His calmness and charisma impressed me a lot. As a Dharma Heir of Ven. Master Sheng Yen, he definitely lives up to his reputation, and further makes us keen to get closer to learn from him. What a teacher worthy of our praise!

Texts & Translation:
Elenda Huang
DDM Editorial Team

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Monastic Advisor of the 7-day Bilingual Retreat of Silent Illumination