Passing on the Lamp of Wisdom Retreat - Reflection

Passing on the Lamp of Wisdom Retreat - Reflection

                                                                  Sammi Wang

On February 16th, 2014, I attended the one-day retreat "Passing on the Lamp of Wisdom".   This event is to commemorate the Teachings of Chan Master Sheng Yen.  However, it was a very special event for me since my own light of wisdom and compassion was set alight during the main ceremony.

Guo Sheng Fashi led the retreat. We started with the Eight-Form Moving Meditation, sitting meditation, and then walking meditation, Fashi showed us how to massage our body thoroughly after the sitting meditation, and we also learned how to rest lying down, which people really enjoyed.   There were also videos of Shifu’s talks.

In one of the video, Shifu talked about benefiting all beings with Buddhadharma using wisdom and compassion.    I was very moved by Shifu's determination despite the challenges and difficulties he faced. His vow has helped guided him.

After watching the video, I started to ask myself how I can contribute to spreading this wisdom and compassion in my everyday life.  Do I start asking my friends and family to come to our  center?  I have always respected everyone's spirituality and don't want to let my enthusiasm overwhelm them.  I thought: maybe there is a different technique I can use in my approach that would allow people to feel grateful rather than pressured.

At the end of the retreat, however, I still hadn't figured out how to do this. I decided to ask Guo Sheng Fashi for help.  I asked if I can spread this wisdom and compassion without being seen as forceful.  I think she sensed that I was very eager to jump in and find a masterful strategy.  In the most compassionate way, she advised me to start by doing something small.  She said: "First focus on yourself....from there, you can influence your family, then your friends and the community, maybe eventually the whole world. But you must start with yourself." For example, she said, when you have an argument with your spouse, your normal tendency may be to get upset and argue back.  Instead, you can use your wisdom and compassion to not get pulled into an argument. Instead, say nothing.  Later on, you may be able to begin to get curious about your spouse.  What thing has caused them to be (legitimately) upset?

Your children are no different. Your natural tendency may tell your children that he or she can't do something. Instead, you can direct them on what you want them to do. For example, you can serve healthy food that you want your children to eat instead of saying "No, you can't eat that!".  The result is the same, but the approach is very different.  She went on to say that if you must say "no" to your children, it is very important to explain your values and the reasons.

Finally, she observed that when you are making a dessert for dinner, perhaps you can make an extra one to give to someone. It might make their day.

I was very relieved to hear Guo Sheng Fashi suggest that I seek to benefit all beings by starting small.  From this conversation, I learned that spreading the Buddhadharma doesn't have to be grand and big.  I can spread it right now by simply giving a smile, expressing genuine care for others, being respectful, not arguing back, listening, picking up the trash, or whatever else is needed.

After the retreat, I smile at the clerk whenever I am grocery shopping.  I also try to be kind and not difficult when I am getting my coffee or at a restaurant.   I have been surprised by the smiles and the kindness I get in return. It has been a very rewarding feeling! When I listen to what my daughter is telling me rather than ignoring her while thinking about asking her to do homework or just thinking about what is for dinner, I felt a connection with her and she was really happy when she sensed she actually had my attention.  Finally, when I approach a family member without any pre-judgment about them, wisdom and compassion rise within me and I am much more aware what I can offer them.

It is magical when you are being kind and compassionate and have no agenda. Somehow, you get a nice surprise in return.  It feels joyous and beyond blissful! The feeling is very different from when I am being nice in order to get something in return.

However, sometimes I don't feel like being kind, offering a smile, or picking up other people's trash.   It frustrates me to think that I can still be so unkind, impatient, and self centered.   I just need to remember to be compassionate to myself and not start judging myself. It helps to remember my lamp of wisdom and compassion was only recently lighted and that I want to seek to not think too big... just think small...