Deer Park Retreat 2004, Day 7

2/26/04
8:33 AM

It’s raining again today. And I don’t mind. 🙂

Thay’s dharma talks yesterday were excellent; much better than the one at UC Irvine last Sunday. The first one was in Vietnamese. Stephanie’s earphones [for translation] didn’t work, so a monk brought her a pair they loan out, but they were out of extension cords & hers didn’t reach. So I traded her, since mine had a longer cord. Thay talked about Lin Chi, the founder of Rinzai Zen. It really was a koan lecture, though they don’t use that vocabulary here.

After breakfast, we went back for the afternoon talk. I met Thay & his entourage on the road. I was walking with 3 Vietnamese women. We all stopped & bowed to him, & he bowed back. Then he smiled at us, the way one smiles at long lost family. I could feel the aura of compassion emanating from him, like the soft touch of a butterfly’s wing. We waited for him to turn up toward the meditation hall (“Ocean of Peace” meditation hall) then followed him up. I felt as though I had received an unexpected blessing, like seeing a patch of blue sky after days of storm, or hearing the sudden laughter of a child.

Thay’s second talk was in English, & was about compassion. He said that the Buddha would say, “Dear friend, you have suffered so much. You deserve compassion.” They he reminded us, “The Buddha isn’t up there on the altar. He is within you.” He also reminded us, in his gentle way, that President Bush is a Buddha-to-be. It was a very powerful talk, & my tears nearly came on 2 occasions

After that, we walked. For years, I’ve seen pictures of Thay leading people along quiet, country roads. And now here I was, in a throng of silent seekers, following Thay along a quiet, country road. We rested at his house, & Sister Chan Kong led us in some songs. Other songs came up spontaneously. The sun shone, & we had a lovely time

We had a formal lunch in the meditation hall, all 500 or so of us. Very interesting.

For our dharma discussion, we went down the hill to Clarity Hamlet where the nuns live. It was our room, a few other lay people, & some nuns. One was a Tibetan nun here on retreat. With 5 min. remaining, Sister Annabelle forced me to share something. So I talked about how my roommates, all of whom were present, were helping me reconnect with my gender. Afterwards, the Tibetan nun came up to me to tell me she had never liked other women until she was in her late 30’s, the age I am now. I asked her about her being here, & she said she respected Thay & was curious about Zen. Her order thought it a bit off, but let her go.

Trish & I had a great talk on the way back, all about women & how we relate to them & to men.

After dinner, the 5 of us had tea & conversation. At first it was Christine, Stephanie & me, then Trish & finally Katy joined us as they came home. We exchanged contact information with every good intention of staying in touch.

The rain soaked our shoes last night, & I didn’t have another pair. Stephanie loaned me some clogs, which was very generous. I’ve been letting Katy borrow my hairbrush. What a cool bunch we are.

Here is our schedule on a typical day, with the caveat that few days are typical:

5:00 Wake up bell

6:00 Sitting Meditation in large hall (90 min.)

8:00 Breakfast – silent

9:00 Work meditation (about 60 min.)

11:30 Walking meditation (60 min.)

12:30 Lunch – silent

3:00 Dharma discussion (90 min.)

6:00 Dinner – silent

8:00 Sitting meditation (90 min.)

9:30 Noble silence

10:30 Lights out

On Wednesday

5:00 Wake up bell

6:30 Thay’s Vietnamese talk (90 min.)

8:00 Breakfast – silent

9:30 Thay’s English talk (90 min.)

11:30 Walking meditation with Thay

12:30 Formal lunch (2 hrs.)

3:30 Dharma discussion

6:00 Dinner – silent

Most meals take 30-45 minutes, including washing up. Each person washes his or her own dishes & utensils by hand, then they get run through a commercial dishwasher. I actually really like the practice

The long-term retreatants have chores that are the same each day. Trish, for example, is on the soy milk production team. We one-to-two week types are on a rotation as follows, by room assignment

  • Clean up breakfast
  • Clean up lunch
  • Clean up dinner
  • Chop vegetables

Chopping vegetables includes washing them, as I discovered the other day. Cleaning up after meals can be drying dishes & setting them back out on the buffet line, scrubbing pots & pans, washing out cans for recycling, even cleaning the bathrooms.

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