Change Yourself…Change The World.

The Chan Buddhist Monastery
October 11, 2008, 2:57 am
Filed under: Taiwan


This is originally a snippet of a reflection paper I did while attending Global College’s CRC Program. This post was not originally associated with this blog, but I have put it up here around the estimated date written. I thought readers would find these informational, educational, and entertaining.

A summarization of this reflection: During our program, we went to a five day meditation retreat at the Chan Buddhist Monastery in Taiwan. This is a reflection on my overall feelings after it was over. It is suggested to read this post first.

There are so many things to be addressed in this paper, but I’d rather focus now on what I came away with overall from my stay at Dharma Drum.

So essentially, it was really hard for me to be there that week because I felt like if I was actually living there as a nun, my rights and freedom would be taken away from me, my right to question and experience. If you’re doing the exact same thing every single day, how are you forwarding yourself? It was a really hard concept for me because I CAME specifically on this trip to have new experiences, all I want in my life is to continually have new experiences and grow as a person. But when I put myself in their shoes and imagine myself as a nun- if you’re doing the exact same thing every day, if you’re living your life by routine, if you’re not stimulating yourself by reading new books, seeing new things, having new conversations- where do you go from there? Where is the mental progression?

I think partly it stems from my culture and our idea of freedom and originality. The USA is ALL about freedom, freedom of speech and no censorship. Individuality is a huge concept in the West, and I see myself as a VERY individual kind of person, with my own thoughts and feelings and questions. I pride myself on my individuality and the things that separate me from other people; the things that make me feel unique. But I didn’t get this feeling of individuality at Dharma Drum- we got up when we were told to, we ate when we were told to, we had classes when we were told to, we talked when we were told to, we slept when we were told to- I felt like a slave to routine, and I felt increasingly angry as each day went on because I didn’t have that ‘free’ space to go off and eat my own meals, to be by myself, to write, to read and forward my own thinking. I felt so exhausted with the schedule the whole week that our ‘free times’ flew by like seconds and I didn’t have any individual time to myself. This was a BIG problem for me in the beginning. During the week I saw many times in Buddhism and in their culture how that individuality can be taken away, and that was a constant struggle for me.

But no matter how uncomfortable these things made me (and I thought it would’ve made me uncomfortable enough to have that only negative effect taken away from the experience), there were also positive ones. The sense of peace, of restfulness, of tranquility settled on me at certain times during the day where I felt at peace with everything, with myself, with the people around me, and my mind wasn’t battling back and forth with questions and statements and thoughts. I felt like I was just THERE, I could just be. And I feel like that is such an important aspect of not just Buddhism, but meditation, that aspect of just letting things be, of just being there. I started to see at Dharma Drum how easy it is to not think about the self, or to not really think a lot in general. There are a lot of problems that resonate with me in that, but transversely, Buddhism IS about no self. So although it was a very hard concept for me to take and understand, it was NOT about myself this week (just like in Chinese culture, it’s more of a communal setting than the individual’s). So I do have to appreciate that I did feel that and that I did take that away from the program. Dharma Drum was a very challenging few days for me, but like I stated previously, I came on this trip to experience as many things as possible. And the things I learned, the questions I asked, and the experiences I took away from Dharma Drum were the most satisfying things I’ve gotten out of this trip so far.

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