I am finally able to comprehensively understand this Silent Illumination practice

I am finally able to comprehensively understand this Silent Illumination practice

First of all, I want to thank all the monastics, the retreat teacher, Zarko Andricevic, and all of the volunteers for the opportunity to join this 7-day Silent Illumination retreat as well as for their guidance and assistance.

This was my first event with DDM and my first time coming to a DDM Monastery. Even though I had heard of some DDM retreats from several years ago, when I was still in Indonesia, I never joined any of them and never got in touch with DDM. 2-3 months ago, I had joined the 7-day Chan meditation retreat for the first time in another Chan Monastery in Taiwan and lived there for 4 weeks. Therefore, during this retreat, the DDM style just felt so different. However, I think the most important thing to learn is about the core of the teaching and not the style.

Silent Illumination practice is not something new for me. During 2011-2015, I joined several intensive silent meditation retreats for 4 to 10 days in Indonesia, using the concept led by a Catholic Priest (see Author Note). Based on his story, he learned of the ‘Silent Illumination’ practices from a Buddhist Monastery and lived there for a month. However, I was not able to fully understand the practice during those years, either because the level of teaching from this Catholic Priest was not deep enough or because those terminologies such as impermanence, self, no-self, true-nature, were so alien for me and the majority of other participants during those times. However, during this DDM retreat, I think I have finally grasped the fundamentals of this practice, like the how-why-what when the body and mind react during or after the practice and how to respond when something unusual happened because of the practice.

I got an insight during the second or third day that this retreat was going to be my “closing chapter” of “my first book”. At first, I did not understand what kind of ‘closing book’ this insight was about. But then, day-after-day, during the retreat my mind became clearer, especially during and after the Dharma Talks, I drew conclusions that this ‘closing chapter’ was more about the comprehensive understanding of this practice that I will go through during the retreat. This retreat has truly connected all of my scattered understandings and experiences I had been collected during these 7 years.

I was also really amazed with the fact that there were 130++ participants, everything was running smoothly and in silence. I had never experienced this kind of quality of silence before. It is amazing that 130++ participants were really able to keep silent during the 7 days of the retreat. However, this was also the first time where I discovered how difficult it was to enter a meditative state during an intensive meditation retreat. It actually feels like a contradiction.

For the first time, the serene atmosphere was perfect for me. But, on the other hand, this mind was very happy to be wandering around. I don’t know why, but I think one of the reasons was because my brain was thinking too much during the retreat. I was automatically busy connecting all the facts and experiences I had been through during these last 7 years. I also honestly really enjoyed the translation process from English to Mandarin and vice versa. It may have caused my brain to become too active during the retreat. I also loved the yoga exercises. These combinations may make my body and mind happily active. However, I think it is really common that when you expect A, it becomes B. When you expect B, it becomes A. When you never expect it will become C or D or E, it becomes exactly C-D-E plus an additional F-G.

Lastly, I have one suggestion for this bilingual retreat. It would be nice if during check-in, there is at least one available English speaker to stand-by in the registration booths. When I came to check-in, I asked if there is an English speaker to talk to, but there was no English speaker available at that time. I can communicate in Mandarin, but English is easier for me. More importantly, what about the other participants who are not able to communicate in Mandarin at all? It may bring confusion to them during the check-in process. Anyway, other than this, for me, everything in this retreat was incredibly good and very well managed.

Once again, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to experience this amazing journey and I am looking forward to join this retreat next year.

Writtern by: Meriske, Indonesia

Author Notes

About ‘the concept led by a Catholic Priest’:

The Catholic Priest I have learned from never called his teaching as ‘silent illumination’. However, when I first read the definition of DDM silent illumination retreat in Indonesia in between 2011-2015 (DDM had some silent illumination retreats during those years in Indonesia), I just felt like the definition of the practices were similar to the one led by the Catholic Priest.

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