Saturday, April 02, 2005


note : this post has been editted and i apologize for the rampant errors. no time to proofread mah. There should be less errors now. Eheheh. Komendasai!

Last week, I was innocently pulled into an event what was probably the best thing yet occuring to me in this land of Billabong and Roxy.

I first got a call from Lee Yoong, asking me to join her to a retreat organized by the Buddhist society of UNSW at Hwa Tsang Monastery for three days during the Easter holidays. I didnt give her my word at first, as three days was quite intimidating. Hahaa. Staying over for nights is not exactly my thing. And to live a life as a monk?Me?? But to make long story short, I finally agreed to follow Lee Yoong, Hui Hoong, Sheng Chieh and Han Wei to something that I first took with an air of uncertainty.

We arrived at the monastery after taking a bus and a train. The beautiful place immediately made my feel more at ease. It was peaceful, disturbed only by the flock of lorikeets feeding on a tree. We were then told about the theme of the retreat, which was Compassion and Forgiveness and were briefed shortly about the place. Basically we had to all shut the hell up when we were there, or being 'mindful' as they called it. Then, we were served with lunch.They were simple vegetarian diets, but no words can describe how satisfyting they were. And the best part was, undoubtedly, indisputably, the main course, which is this!


Cut chillies in light soy sauce, ahhh ambrosia! Just like the one I always had at home. It would be even nicer if chopped garlics are added in, but I am asking too much, am I? Of couse, we did something else doing the retreat, not only eat. Every night, after the evening chanting, we had to get our butts to the beds, which were nothing but platforms made of wood at 9.00pm! Then we had to wake up at 4.00a.m and got ready for the morning chanting and meditation. Speaking about meditation, I slept throught all the sessions. How can I help it? During meditation, we were instructed to set aside all thoughts, sit in a comfortable position (they provided cushion and blanket, as it was cold) and concentrate on our breathing. Hahaha, it was impossible for me, especially when I was just out of my bed. But the consolation was breakfast! Usually it's stir-fried noodles and porridge. Yummy! We normally went for second to third helping. Then, other activities took place such as Dharma talk and discussion. The medium used in this monastery everyday is actually mandarin, but our Sifu (yes, i also thought it sounded like in kungfu films) who is a nun from Malacca, spoke to us in English. Other activities included working bee and cleaning up the temple, but they always had rewards! Lunch and dinner! As usual, we would not leave the dining area before going for a second or third helping. On the last day, we woke up as as early as usual and went for the morning chanting and meditation. That day was quite an important day for the monastey as they will be carrying out the ritual for Kuan Yin's (aka. Goddness of Mercy aka. Boddhisattva Avalokiteshvara) birthday! We helped to arrange the table and to prepare for the occasion. Around 10am, the quiet monastery was transformed to a marketplace, as visitors all poured in. Then, the special chanting session began! I swear it took about two hours, and I really couldnt believe it that I actually managed to go through it. Moreover, all the chantings were in Mandarin and all I did was reciting from the book, without knowing what it all meant. However, some parts were translated.

After the long chanting, of course all prayers were rewarded with good food. Then, we all gathered outside the Abbot's residence for his speech. He had also spoken to us prevoiusly on Compassion and Forgiveness. I totally look up to this wise and witty monk. His speech was all carefully worded, and the messages that were sent across truly signified his wisdom. After the parting speech, we left the place with heavy heart, and we promised we would go there again if given the oppurtunity.

So do I really learn to live a simple and peaceful life as monks do after the camp? Hmmn. Lets see..I ate voraciously, more than the amount to just keep me satiated and I slept during meditation. So I would be lying if I said yes. However, the experience, the teachings that I have picked up, the new people I have met, and not to mention the heavenly food were something very precious and I am immensely grateful to be given this oppurtunity.


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