Nuwan Perera

Day 1

Today was the beginning of our Dhamma immersion experience, and I am not sure what to expect. We did not follow the entire schedule because we took Das Sil at ten, so we skipped what will probably be the hardest part, waking up at five! After we took Das sil we had lunch, where the parents served us and worshipped us. However, I felt more relaxed when everyone else left so that we could start the program in earnest. When we are surrounded by noise and distraction our mind naturally follows, and as everyone else left the temple my mind became calmer and more focused. In our Dhamma talk we discussed Sutra, including one featuring a common character in Sutra tales the wealthy householder Anathapindika. In the discourse the Buddha gave to his lay supporter, he outlined the pleasures and pitfalls that come with living the sensual life of a lay person, and as with the majority of the Buddha’s teachings, they were completely applicable 2600 years later. In the evening, we visited the Cambodian temple where Ven. Wajirabuddhi lived before he came to GBV, and undoubtedly the main attraction was the Sima  (boundary) , where monks attain higher ordination. The layout is very specific, with 8 balls placed around the building (Sima Malaka  Sima  to mark the boundary. Although we did not go inside, we could see the vivid colors and materials that they had in the shrine room, and we also saw the beautiful architecture and decoration of the exterior.

Day 2

I had a very good sleep today, one of the best I have had in a long time. Despite sleeping on concrete with nothing more than a sleeping bag, I woke up at five well rested and ready for the day, which didn’t happen often, even on the days where I would emerge from slumber past noon! We meditated at 5.30, essentially in the dark, and I did not fall asleep, which admittedly surprised me. There is something supremely spiritual about meditating at the dawn of the day, before the natural bustle of the world awakens. This first morning meditation session was my favorite and most effective of the entire day. We later did Buddha Puja and meditated again, this time we focused on Vipassana Meditation, and learned the theory behind the practice, such as focusing on the different body parts and on the different aspects of those parts.  During the work session after lunch, we planted trees. It felt good to be on a spiritual retreat and still do physical work. We purified and exercised the mind, but we did not neglect our body which added to the overall effect of the retreat. After the work period we had our Dhamma session and Sutra discussion, where we talked about how to righteously gain wealth, once again very practical advice that will help us live a Buddhist life in today’s modern world. We visited the Vietnamese temple today, and it was extremely impressive. It looked like it came straight off the internet, with everything from impressive towering statues of the Bodhisattva of compassion in a lotus pond to even peacocks! Architecturally, it resembled Japanese temples. We learned that they place an enormous emphasis on respecting and remembering their elders, much as most cultures from Asia do. They had a room in the back of the shrine room just for pictures of their ancestors. After we came back we had soup and milkshakes, which made not eating after noon surprisingly easy.

Day 3

Today was my and Rajitha’s turn to prepare Buddha puja so we had to wake up earlier than the others, though even this early still was not that hard.  Justin helped us with the puja. Justin has been a great help and an invaluable presence during the retreat, both as a companion and a trove of Dhamma wisdom. He always takes time to explain anything we don’t understand and makes sure we know what to do so that we stay on the schedule. We meditated again in the morning, then we had the Buddha Puja. Then we did more Vipassana meditation, and walking meditation which we have been doing for the entirety of the retreat. We had the Buddha Puja for lunch, then had our work period. We moved a large tree that took a lot of effort, but luckily the monks helped us. Under those robes they are very strong! We had our Dhamma talk and Suttra discussion, and we learned what famous and wise scholars and philosophers had said about Buddhism, and I think it helped to see that some of the most intellectual members of even so called western society appreciated the scope and message of Buddhism. We visited the temple where I used to do Dhamma School before GBV. It brought back some memories, but they were also renovating, building a new shrine room and living quarters for the monk along with another Sima I have noticed that many of the temples are either expanding or renovating, which has shown me that the interest and support of Buddhists in this area is growing. When we came back we did the Attavisi Buddha Puja which we have done every night of the retreat. This is where we do a Buddha Puja, except for all 28 Buddhas that Gotama Buddha mentioned. It is an impressive experience to chant in front of 28 Buddha Statues, all the Buddha’s that there have been in the eon! We then went to sleep after our soup and milkshake, and it just like the other nights it was not hard to go sleep even though it was early because we had accomplished so much during the day.

Day 4

Today was the last day of the retreat, and I have mixed feelings about the end of the experience. On one hand it will be nice to actually sit on a couch again, and eat whatever I want whenever I want. However, not eating meat which I thought was going to be a real challenge never really bothered me. On the other hand, I will miss the peace of mind that the retreat brought me. The idea of waking up and knowing what you are going to do for every part of the day is very comforting. The absence of outside distraction and the guided focus lets us just reflect on ourselves, which is extremely rare in today’s world. I doubt there is a similar experience outside of the temple, and I understand the peace of mind that monks have their entire lives. We only followed 10 rules, but they have 227! Through this experience, I think I have realized that I don’t want to be a monk, at least right now, but it has definitely reinforced the respect I have for monks. We did this for four days, but they do this day after day, a lifetime of introspection and meditation that I can only imagine doing. Another benefit of this retreat was that when we chanted, we chanted first in Pali but then again in English. It helped us all understand what we were saying, so that phrases that we had said memorized since we were little gained a new meaning to us, the true meaning of the phrases that the Buddha preached. This retreat was something that I think every Buddhist child should go through, so that they get an up close and personal view of their religion as we did. After the retreat, the statement” I am Buddhist” took a whole new meaning, one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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