December 20, 2020


Since the initial online Taking the Refuge auspicious ceremony on September 6th, 2020, more Chan practitioners from our Sunday Meditation Group Sessions wanted to do the same, to “coming home.”

On a delightful day of December 20th, 2020, a group of fifteen (15) fellow Chan practitioners from Ireland, Russia, Spain, and United Kingdom, took refuge in the Three Jewels, witnessed by their fellow meditators around the globe.

Here are some of their heartfelt sharing and words, to “share the precious forward”:

Richard from Ireland:
I greatly appreciate DDM [Dharma Drum Mountain] facilitating the ceremony and Venerable Guo Yuan for guiding us through the process.

I felt connected and a warmth feeling while taking refuge. I’m glad to have a path with clear direction and to have formally committed to the path. It feels like I’ve solidified my practice. Now I’m looking forward to learning more about Chan and practicing with a new found commitment.

I’m very glad and lucky to have met Sr. Jinho. She has provided a great help to me and inspiration to commit to the path in a formal way.

Stefanie from United Kingdom:
Thank you very much for the very meaningful ceremony on the 20th. It truly felt like returning home and doing it together with the group and Sister Jinho offered a lot of sense of support and connection.

To me it felt like returning to the essence and making a commitment to and remembering what is truthfully. It felt ancient in some way, especially with Venerable Gun Yuan giving the precepts and the symbol of the lineage. At the same time, it felt so knitted in into our recent time: doing it at home, with my Dharma Sister Emer in one room and with the means of technology of this century. I will always remember this day. In deep gratitude to Venerable Guo Yuan, Venerable Sister Jinho, DDM and the whole group.

Cheng-Hao from United Kingdom:
I sincerely hope someday, I will be able to visit 法鼓山 [Dharma Drum Mountain] and 东初禅寺 [Chan Meditation Center in New York]. Sheng Yen shifu's influence is so vividly present through the work you are all doing. I wonder what he would do and say facing this worldly chaos, maybe asking us to An-Xin, settle the heart, and settle the heart and mind for the others.

My sincere gratitude.

Thomas from Ireland:
Warm greetings. Yesterday was for me a very busy day so hence the short reply to your question. I believe it though to be a true answer as I did feel it right and completely natural to be among friends and to take the refuges and precepts with the thirteen others. I felt very honoured to be part of this warm ceremony with Ven. Guo Yuan and to hear his Dharma talk. I liked him very much and although I found his exercises before sitting a challenge, the practice was like a breath of fresh air.

I did think twice before taking this step as it should not be taken lightly.

I came to the group from very much practicing on my own having been introduced to meditation through the Christian tradition (at first using the Aramaic mantra of Ma-Ra-Na-Tha and then I was with a group which was taught along the mindfulness lines and used the breath as the object and used other wisdom traditions in the teaching). Something I heard in 2012 (through my own very intense fog! ) is from St Paul to Ephesians: 

"He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by the one Spirit." 

Since joining the group and experiencing through your teaching Sr Jinho and through being part of a Sangha I have become completely convinced that the practice of Silent Illumination is the right, most complete and skillful way to realise one's true nature. 

Although I was still a little anxious about the wording "having become a Buddhist" and "will never renounce this faith" as I was perhaps seeing this through Catholic eyes (we would have to say at Mass "I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”) but I believe in the refuges and precepts and I don’t believe I am renouncing any other wisdom tradition in this process, and as for renouncing Buddhism? To stop the practice? To declare to others that Silent Illumination doesn't work or it is not needed? I don't think there is any problem here! 

But like others I have a healthy aversion to having to say I am something (label concept!) or vowing to something. 

I was greatly helped by these sentences from "Small Boat, Great Mountain" by Amaro Bhikkhu which I read some time ago. 

"One of the great challenges of spiritual practice is to create the conventions, pick them up, and use them without confusion. We can recite the Buddha's name, bow, chant, follow techniques and routines, pick up all the attributes of being Buddhist, and then, without any hypocrisy, also recognize that everything is totally empty. There is no Buddhist! This is something Ajahn Chah focused on a great deal over the years: if you think you are a Buddhist, you are really lost. He would sometimes be sitting up on the Dharma seat, giving a talk to the whole assembly of monastics and lay people, and say, "There are no monks or nuns here, there are no lay people, no women or men-these are all merely empty conventions that we create."

In the end I sat with it and it all sat with me.
When you mentioned "coming home" on the night I thought of these words which I believe go back to the beginning of the Chan tradition.

"Like birds in the evening
May meet here or there,
So too from birth to birth
One embraces one's kin"

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

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