September 6, 2020


Since March this year, the Sunday Online Meditation Group Session led by Venerable Guo Yuan, Abbot of Dharma Drum Retreat Center in Pine Bush, New York, has introduced Chan meditation to participants joining online from Canada, Estonia, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Poland, Russia, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and other countries worldwide.

However, the session on September 6th, 2020 was more than just a regular Sunday practice. It was also the blissful day that two Chan students– Robin from the United Kingdom and Dima from Russia– took refuge in the Three Jewels online. The refuge ceremony was led by Venerable Guo Yuan and was witnessed and blessed by many members of the monastery, as well as all the Dharma brothers and sisters.

Venerable Guo Yuan described taking refuge as “coming back to our home, our spiritual home, under (the) guidance and blessings of the Three Jewels.” The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha are referred to as the Three Jewels due to their invaluable spiritual values. Shakyamuni Buddha was the historical Buddha who found the way to ultimate liberation with the aim of transcending suffering. Dharma is what the Buddha shared with us through his teachings. The community of the monastics that passes down the teaching up until now is referred as the Sangha. We take refuge in the Three Jewels so that we can return to the spiritual home under the guidance of the Three Jewels and we continue with the practice.

Robin from the United Kingdom:
“Together with a fellow dharma friend, I recently took refuge in the three jewels (online hosted by) the DDM SF chapter. Being based in the UK, I feel very fortunate to have been part of the Centre’s first online refuge ceremony.

In addition to practising with my teacher here in the UK, I have been attending the Centre’s online meditation since the earlier days of the pandemic. During these months, my connection with Ch’an Buddhism deepened. I was therefore very excited to learn that taking refuge online was indeed possible.

What strange times we live in! And yet, the Dharma has flourished in new and wonderful ways, connecting practitioners from all over the world.

Venerable Guo Yuan led the ceremony with patience and humor. He described taking refuge as “coming home in the Buddha.” These words strongly resonated with me when I repeated the vows and precepts (and still do so today). I felt a sense of gratitude and also relief as if some baggage had fallen off. While the journey continues and the work still lies ahead, I feel that the direction of travel has now become clearer.

Many members of the Sangha stayed on after the regular Sunday meditation to witness the ceremony. We all shared a joyous celebratory moment afterwards. For this, I am very grateful. It was a truly special and humbling experience.”

Dima, from Russia:
“The first time I heard about Chan teaching was a YouTube video with Master Sheng Yen. It was like: “Oh! Here is the teacher I was looking for!” And I became sad when I knew that he had already passed away. I encountered Chan teaching directly in 2019 during Guo Xing Fashi’s visit to Russia. I did not have an opportunity to stay for a seven-day retreat, but this meeting made a great impression on me. By that time I’ve already practiced in Tibetan tradition for a while but I felt an inner predisposition to Chan. Since spring 2020, thanks to the pandemic, I have found online meditation practices guided by Jinho Fashi and since then I have been regularly practicing with her.

I wanted to take refuge in the Chan tradition, and I thought to do that during the next visit of one of the teachers to Russia, but I did not even think that it would be possible to do this online. Several days ago, I was about to go to bed when I suddenly received a message from Jinho Fashi. She encouraged me to join the refuge ceremony right now. It was like a bolt from the blue and I did not expect it at all. The ceremony was excellent thanks to Honorable Guo Yuan Fashi. It seems to me that the way this sudden ceremony of taking refuge happened to me was quite in the spirit of Chan. I am very happy to be a part of the DDM family and it was great to have that opportunity.”

For more information or to apply for the next Taking Refuge Online, please visit here.

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