An ideal “retreat centre” is situated in a valley where the sima pond and the newly completed complex sit, where the sights and sounds of nature abound. The teacher brings the retreat to you.
After a long absence, I have returned to my “family” in Taiping. You see, I used to be a Buddhist monk by the name of Dhammarakkhita. He used to be invited to share Dhamma and in particular vipassanā (insight) and mettā (loving-kindness) here in Malaysia.
Since I disrobed for personal reasons, I have been living in a wat (monastery) in Bangkok from where I would also share the Dhamma. Leading a very quiet lay life, I thought my old Dhamma friends had forgotten about me until one fine day I got an email from Sis Lim Lay Hoon asking me to conduct a ten-day retreat in SBS. Knowing how beautiful the place is and having great respect for Bhante Aggacitta as well as wanting to see my friends again, I immediately replied with a big YES!
I’m the guy who is guiding the yogis along their own personal path to freedom, not that I have reached that destination and come back; it is more that I have gone a long way, further than most but not as far as some, and so I can help those who are starting out.
I am extremely happy, not to mention privileged and honoured to be asked by Bhante himself to do him a favour and run the retreat while he takes time out for his own practice. Thank you Bhante and sādhu (well done)!
The Practice Proper
We started with forgiveness practice for about one day to open up any remorseful feelings or heavy emotions that may impede our progress during the retreat. Then we practised metta meditation for a day or two, just to settle in to the new environment and to develop some concentration and peace of mind.
After that I shared with them the teachings from Satipatthana Sutta, beginning with the six sections on mindfulness of the body (kāyānupassanā) including breathing, the movement of the abdomen and the four postures of sitting, standing, walking and lying.
Many people ask, “How can we use this practice in our daily life?” There’s part of the answer, right there in the sutta (discourse of the Buddha): mindfulness of physical actions and movements. Another part of the answer is to know your mind, to often ask yourself, “How do I feel?” Just acknowledge your emotional feeling now, not being dragged along by it, not fighting or rejecting it, but objectively knowing it as it is, and it will settle down and maybe even pass away, leaving the mind fresh, clear and calm. Try it for yourself!
I also explained how the remaining sections of mindfulness of the body (the thirty two parts of the body, the characteristics of the four elements and reflections on death) are used in vipassana meditation.
Having practised mindfulness of physical processes and, of course, being aware of the thinking and wandering mind for a few days, we moved on to include mindfulness of feelings (vedanānupassanā) and mindfulness of the mind (cittānupassanā).
In mindfulness of the mind, we focused on the main states of desire, aversion and confusion (lobha, dosa, moha). I asked the yogis to observe liking and disliking whenever they arose in the mind, as much as possible.
Then I explained about the “Five Friends” (usually known as the Five Hindrances), and so our practice evolved from the gross and easy-to-detect physical processes, to the more subtle and elusive mental and emotional states. I believe this is where the true practice lies — the ability to monitor the heart / mind. After all, that is where our decisions are made.
All of our speech, actions and thoughts arise from there. If we have the ability to know our mind in all situations and keep it in balance, calm and free from negativity, then we may live in peace and harmony with all living beings and learn more of life and become truly wise along the way. What a way to go!
As our retreat came to a close, the yogis were feeling satisfied with their new experiences, having learnt more about the technique of vipassana, about the Buddha Dhamma in general and most importantly about themselves.
I personally would like to thank everyone associated with this retreat for making it very successful and comfortable. Also, I would like to thank the yogis for putting in some heroic effort and for accepting me as their teacher.
May SBS continue to prosper and may all beings here live in peace and harmony and swiftly experience the ultimate peace of Nibbāna! (highest and ultimate goal of all Buddhist aspirations, i.e.-extinction of greed, hatred and delusion.