4 Reasons why I like to hold the ‘Please Remain Silent’ sign
One of the best things about the Summer Retreat for those who have attended more than once was to get the chance to volunteer for various roles to help with the smooth running of the retreat. In addition to taking part in all the sessions and the learning committee this year, one of the interesting roles I had was to walk around with the ‘Please Remain Silent’ sign to remind everyone to maintain their silence before and during meal times (video clip) and dharma classes throughout the five days.
Some shy away from this role because if not done properly, could offend the attendees and make them feel annoyed, as no one likes to be told to shush up. I hope I haven’t offended too many people in the process. However, being asked to do this again in my third year of attending the retreat hopefully means that I’ve fulfilled the role to some extent.
Fig 1: My sister, Thanh Mỹ (centre) and me (left) holding the ‘Xin Giữ Thanh Tịnh’ sign during meal time.
For those who have wondered why I hold the sign or for those wanting to volunteer for this role in the future, here are 4 reasons why I hold the ‘Please Remain Silent’ sign with such as passion and enthusiasm.
1. To help the attendees to mind their thoughts, actions and especially their speeches to avoid potentially creating negative karma. In the 10 Good Deeds taught by the Buddha, four of them pertain to speech. I think it’s because it’s very easy to create negative karma through our speech if we’re not careful. I recognize that it can be very hard to control our speech sometimes, but that’s exactly one of the reasons for attending the retreat – to help us to be more aware and control our speech to avoid creating negative karma.
2. To help attendees to feel that they can attend to learn and practice the dharma without being distracted by listening to useless chatter. I know many attendees are there to practice being mindful and controlling their speech, but may find it difficult to tell the people around them to be quiet. With the help of the ‘remain silent’ sign, they can be mindful during their meals and listening to the dharma without worrying about being distracted by useless chatter.
3. To have something visual to remind attendees who know they need to reduce their habit of small talk but find it hard to do so on their own. I recognize that when people talk when they’re not supposed to, a lot of the times, it’s not because they deliberately want to disobey instructions, but it’s because talking is such an ingrained habit that they sometimes forget to control it. Having someone walk around with a visual sign helps them to come back to the present moment and appreciate the meals and the dharma lesson more.
Fig 2: The ‘Xin Giữ Thanh Tịnh’ sign with the picture of a little monk
4. To help the organisers more efficiently run the retreat, as announcements can be heard more clearly and instructions can be followed more effectively. Organising a massive event like this takes a huge amount of time and effort by many people every year. Things will run much more smoothly if people keep silent during meal times, which is when important announcements are made about the daily schedule. When everyone can hear the announcements, they will know what they need to do without confusion.
Fig 3: Me ensuring everyone remains silent during their meal time.
Thank you to those who have given me your positive feedback. I hope I will continue to have the opportunity to serve you in future Summer Retreats. To those who will step into one of these roles in the future, I hope the reasons above will help you in some ways to more confidently carry out the task.
Đh.Thanh Kim (Joyce Mỹ-Tuyến Nguyễn) Pháp Bảo Temple, Sydney