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Affinity lasted for eighteen years -
Seeking the truth of Dharma from thousands of miles away

As part of his significant initiatives to spread Chinese Buddhism to the world, Master Sheng Yen, the founder of Dharma Drum Mountain, led Chan practices in person at the Wujimen Martial Arts School in Russia in 1998 and 2003.

Over the past two decades, in memory of Master Sheng Yen’s grace, the practitioners of Wujimen School have keep practicing Chan and translating the Master’s books. This dedication continued when, with earnest gratitude for the Dharma, Ivan Kapalin, the disciple of the founder of Wujimen, led a pilgrimage of seven members of the Wujimen School and with one Swiss dharma friend to the World Center of Dharma Drum Mountain and the branching monasteries in Northern Taiwan, during the period of January 9th to January 23th, 2018.

In this time, the group experienced monastic life such as the morning and evening services, the pilgrimage prostration to the Lotus Bell, dharma assemblies, practices of rituals, Tea Chan, working meditation and a two-day intensive Chan retreat. The group also visited and worshiped in Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture and Nung Chan Monastery in Beitou to experience the original sources, richness of doctrine and the methods of practicing Chinese Buddhism.

During the visit, members were eager to investigate the issues of Chan practice in great detail and practiced etiquettes of rituals with single-minded concentration. The group was also highly interested in activities such as working meditation, dharma instrument practices as well as participating in various dharma assemblies. Venerable Chang-Qi, Venerable Chang-Xiang and Venerable Chang-Xun, who co-led the courses and discussions all felt touched with the group’s earnest eagerness on seeking the truth from the Dharma.

In the early morning pitch-darkness at 5.00 a.m. on January 11th the group, led by Venerables Chang-Ji, Yan-Deng, and Yan-Zhen took their first outdoor pilgrimage prostration, with one prostration at each step all the way from their quarters to the Lotus Bell. Both Alexander Isakaev and Andrey Arkhufik shared that they felt blissful with the pacification of body and mind.

In the morning sun-shine of January 12th the group enjoyed the tranquil environment of Water-Moon and Nung Chan Monasteries. The group expressed a great interest and curiosity on the origins and documented development of DDM asking questions such as what was the Nung Chan Monastery like in the beginning and where was the spot Master Sheng Yen used to lead Chan practices?

Under the tour-guidance of Professor Chang Li-Wen from Fu-Jen Catholic University, the group had insightful tours of the Farmhouse Museum and learnt of the journey of pioneering hardship, all the way from the origin of Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, Nung Chan Monastery to Dharma Drum Mountain today.

Venerable Guo-Yi, Director of Nung Chan Monastery paid her solicitude to the group while members took the opportunity to ask for advice on their daily practices. Alexey Serebrov, a practitioner from St. Petersburg, asked what he should do in sitting meditation when he was fatigued after work and not able to concentrate. Venerable Guo-Yi encouraged him, advising that “practice lies in every movement of daily life, such as walking, standing, sitting and sleeping. In being aware of your fatigue you are practicing being aware of the state of the shattered mind. Just remember, with any condition always bring yourself back to the method and the present moment.”

Right after the tour to Nung Chan Monastery on January 12th all group members made a sincere visit to Venerable Jian-Xin. Led by DDM Vice Abbot Venerable Guo Xiang, they further worshiped the Buddha, Bodhidharma, the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, Ancient Chan Masters such as Master Ling-Yuan and Master Dongchu as well as Master Sheng Yen in the Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture. In this visit, the group acknowledged all masters from the enduring dharma lineages and expressed their gratitude for the origins of Chan practice.

By explaining the maxim that Chan practice is not only about sitting meditation, Venerable Guo Xiang commented that ever since Master Dongchu established Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Culture, DDM has long initiated endeavors to uplift the educational quality of Buddhist Culture, hold Buddha’s name recitation assemblies and Chan practices as well as assist disadvantaged groups, such as offering relief for winter, provide recitation services for the dying, and pay home visits to the elderly. These endeavors reveal that Chinese Buddhism takes altruism as its core spirit and applies this in practices with multiple expedient approaches for the general public.

Ivan Kapalin was a volunteer for the 49-day Chan Retreat in 2017 and as the interpreter for this pilgrimage trip; he stated that DDM is like home to him. Experiencing the monastic lifestyle, he stated appreciation for the Venerable’s teaching to penetrate the Dharma teachings into our personal practices in daily life, which made him personally revived, refreshed, relaxed and feeling warm. Alexey Serebrov, who quitted smoking and drinking after practicing Chan three years ago, took his vows to diligently spread the strength of inner pacification acquired from DDM, and help more people in Russia to discover their true happiness and enjoy freedom from vexations.

At 9.00am on January 21st all group members attended the DDM annual year-end gathering of appreciation, and experienced the way DDM followers showed their gratitude. From 7.00pm., through the Light the Lantern Assembly to symbolize brightness and dharma lineage, they participated in the last gathering, then ended this pilgrimage trip surrounded by consecutive recitation of the Buddha’s name.

Texts: Melody Lin (林何臻)
from Dharma Drum Monthly (法鼓雜誌),
Translation: Elenda Huang (頤嵐達)
Editor: DDM Australian Editing Team

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