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Chan Master Zarko Andricevic Shares the Joy of Dharma at DDM Melbourne

DDM Melbourne Chapter was truly privileged to have Chan teacher Zarko Andricevic from Croatia to share the joy of Dharma through a series of activities, including a Beginner Chan Meditation workshop, two public Dharma talks and a five-day Chan Meditation retreat. Teacher Zarko is one of the five Western Dharma heirs of the late most Venerable Chan Master Sheng Yen, the founder of Dharma Drum Mountain.

Teacher Zarko led the Wisdom of Silence retreat at Janssen Spirituality Centre in Boronia. There were 21 participants, including the president of DDM Sydney, Agnes, and Father Nick, a Catholic priest who is also the chairperson of Maroondah (a suburb of Melbourne) Interfaith Network. We were also extremely blessed to have two venerable nuns, Guo Chan (果禪) Fashi and Chang Ji (常濟) Fashi, who were undertaking their works in Melbourne, to help organize and assist with all prayer services in this retreat.

Teacher Zarko, in the spirit of Master Sheng Yen’s legacy, shared with us the teachings of the Buddha, the origins and development of Chan Buddhism, and the essential principles and perspectives of Chan Meditation. His teaching, delivered in a humorous, inspiring and organized manner, was precise, simple and yet profound. He wisely provided us with a fresh and new perspective on the self, the mind and the nature of our relationships with others in the world. He kept reminding us to practice diligently, incorporate Buddhadharma into the practice, and extend the practice to our daily activities.

Teacher Zarko emphasized three principles throughout the retreat – right methods, concepts and attitudes. He also educated and enlightened the participants with some anecdotes and short stories. On dealing with external disturbance, he shared a story involving the Buddha. One day, when the Buddha and his disciple were taking a stroll in a village, they came across an angry Brahmin. The Brahmin was angrily and abusively scolding the Buddha, who was calm and listening to all the abuses patiently. After a while, the Brahmin was tired and stopped his nasty abuses. The Buddha then asked him, ‘Do you have friends?’ ‘Of course, I do,’ answered the Brahmin. The Buddha asked, ‘Do they visit you?’ ‘Of course, they do,’ answered the Brahmin. ‘Do they bring you a gift?’ ‘Of course, they do.’ The Buddha then asked, ‘If you refuse to take the gift, to whom does it belong?’

We are always troubled or upset because of others’ harsh remarks or words. However, these remarks are not able to hurt us if we do not allow ourselves to be hurt. We can choose not to accept the so called ‘gift’. The ‘gift’ thus is returned to the sender. Many a time, we get hurt because we allow ourselves to be hurt. If we know that these are just some external stuff which we do not have to accept, we will not be easily disturbed. Likewise, when we have wondering thoughts, we can just acknowledge the thoughts but not get attached to them. If we allow ourselves to indulge in those thoughts, we will not be able to live in the present moment.

Another teaching given by Teacher Zarko was drawn from Master Thich Nhat Hanh who once said, ‘if we have an argument or a bad time with someone, try to hug that person and think if the current problem will still be a problem 300 years later?’ If we have the right view, there is nothing we cannot let go of, and we will not cause trouble to ourselves and others. Life is impermanent. When we understand that, we know that whatever happens now will not last long. Likewise, our problems are not eternal, neither are our pain and suffering. When we have pain in our legs during sitting meditation, we have to remind ourselves that the pain will not last long, and we should focus on our method and practice diligently. Knowing that nothing is permanent, we will not develop attachments to things, and thus we can free ourselves from suffering.

We need to cultivate compassion when we practice. Being compassionate, we let go of self and thus we can care more for others. As Master Sheng Yen said, ‘With compassion, one will have no enemy.’ Being aware of impermanence will help us cultivate wisdom. Being compassionate, we take our practice one step further.

Time really flew and the five days passed very quickly. All the participants wished that they could have had more time and learnt more from Chan Teacher Zarko. Being moved, benefited and inspired, all participants extended their gratitude to Teacher Zarko, Guo Chan Fashi and Chang Ji Fashi, and the organizing committee.

We sincerely hope that Teacher Zarko can make another trip to Melbourne, and share with us his teaching and practice again in the near future.

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