2004 Winter Retreat

Letter from the Editor

mb36-LetterFromEditorTo Our Readers The Invitation ceremony has concluded the three-month winter retreat in Deer Park Monastery. Members of the Fourfold Sangha are sitting on the beach with nowhere to go, nothing to do; enough to make us very happy. During the three months of the retreat, the Fourfold Sangha has practiced the happiness of arriving in the present moment, with nothing else to attain.

This is the cream of the teachings of Patriarch Linji, who lived in the ninth century in China. The Patriarch’s teachings were brought to Vietnam in two waves; one in the thirteenth century and one in the eighteenth century. From Vietnam they have been brought to Europe and North America by Thich Nhat Hanh, who is a descendant of the forty-second generation of the Linji line. The spirit of these teachings lives on in the Dharma Doors of Plum Village. You will be able to read in this issue a transcript of a Dharma talk given by Thay on the essence of the teachings of Patriarch Linji.

The Wednesday morning teachings offered by Thay during the retreat were on the Records of Master Linji. Thay gave additional teachings on Wednesday and Sunday mornings to the Fourfold Sangha. In addition, there was the uninterrupted practice of mindful walking and breathing, when we are sitting, standing, lying, working, and eating. The teachings have always been very practical and the Sangha has been able to put them into practice without delay. Thanks to this, everyone who has participated in the retreat has realized some healing and transformation. In this issue you will be able to read about some of the practical fruits of the practice of the Winter Retreat.

We know that Buddhism is a living reality and not an artifact to be preserved in a museum. The teachings that have come from Asia need to be integrated intothe Western way of life. It is encouraging, therefore, to see how local Sanghas in North America have been adapting traditional Buddhist ceremonies to fit the needs of the practitioners in their Sanghas. Two examples can be read about in this issue: the Father’s Day Ceremony and the ceremony for introducing to the Sangha and naming newborn children.

Sister True Virtue

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Fruits of the Winter Retreat

mb36-Fruits1 From January through March, the entire monastic Sangha gathered at Deer Park Monastery in Escondido, California, for the annual winter retreat.  Lay practitioners were invited to join them.  Every Friday, 100–150 lay friends arrived and departed, some staying for a week, some for a month or more. This flowing, ever-changing Sangha was held in stability by the practice of the monastics and a core group of lay folks who were able to stay for the whole retreat.

During the three months, Thich Nhat Hanh gave Dharma talks in English and Vietnamese, focusing on the teachings of our ancestor Linji, and on the sutra on The Full Awareness of Breathing.  Other activities included the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year, Tet, which included oracle readings from a centuries-old poem; ten days of the Linji Great Ordination Ceremony; two almsround processions at nearby parks; and a public talk by Thich Nhat Hanh.

The following offerings come from a few of the practitioners who were able to share in the life of the Sangha, as we walked, sat, and ate in mindfulness. From doing laundry and making soy milk, to walking with Thay to his garden, every aspect of the day was a rich field of practice.  May the peace and transformation of that time together benefit all beings.

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