Practical Takeaways From My Second Summer Retreat
This is the second time I attended the retreat with my partner Thank Kim and in both occasions we gained a great deal of practical benefits for our daily lives. I learnt a lot about the dharma and saw the immense sacrifices and dedication by so many people behind the scenes to make the event a success. I learnt that the retreat isn’t just for elderly people, but for people of all ages. The purpose is to help everyone to learn and practice the dharma at the retreat and beyond to help them realise their true nature, to live a happier life and to bring happiness to all sentient beings.
Picture 1: Thanh Kim (left) and Thanh Nguyen (right).
Reflecting on the Summer Retreat, here’s a recount of the events from my perspective.
It was a beautiful Tuesday morning on the 29th of December, 2015 when we (my partner, her sister and I) arrived at the North Narrabeen Sports Centre. It was around 8AM and the place was buzzing with excitement of people gathering around copious pages of over 500 names trying to find their room. This beautiful weather and unwavering enthusiasm perfectly set the scene for the 5-day Summer Retreat.
The opening ceremony was well coordinated, beginning with the line of Buddhist flag bearers, followed by all the bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns). During the ceremony, the two dragons in front of the stage provided a flashing display of fireworks to welcome all the bhikkhus, bhikkunis and students alike to the retreat.
Picture 2: Procession to the opening ceremony.
Over the next five days, we had 5 lectures on different dharma topics, including (1) karma, (2) reincarnation, (3) the ten good deeds, (4) four all-embracing virtues and (5) six points of harmony. These lectures spread out between Q&A sessions and walking, sitting and chanting meditations. My favourite topic was the four all-embracing virtues, which I found very relevant for my daily life. For those new to the dharma, these are four ways of leading human beings to emancipation. They include:
(Definitions extracted from BUDDHIST DICTIONARY at Quang Duc Homepage
Picture 3: A dharma class on the four all-embracing virtues.
I have learnt to hold these four virtues as guiding principles to leading a satisfying and fulfilling life. These are virtues I would encourage others to also embrace in their everyday life.
Compared to last year, I love the added practical meditation class and extended Q&A sessions. We got to take part in a guided meditation session by the river enjoying the cool afternoon breeze and tranquil atmosphere while mindfully watching our breath. During the Q&A sessions, students always raised interesting, thought-provoking and relevant dharma questions. Since the questions were anonymous, it encouraged more people to submit their queries.
Picture 4: the outdoor meditation class
We also enjoyed the spectacular lotus flower human formation on the third evening to provide an offering to the Amitabha Buddha where everyone stood next to each other in the shape of a lotus flower and each holding a candle, which beautifully lit up the night. It looked absolutely splendid on the drone video shot from above.
Last but not least, the meals were magnificently catered for. We had 3 delicious meals each day and there were always more available for people to enjoy.
Overall, a well organised and catered for retreat with very relevant dharma classes. I am very grateful for the effort and dedication by all those involved. I also deeply appreciate the opportunity to take part in a meaningful learning event. Thank you.
Picture 7: Me (on the left) receiving an award for top 10 exam results during the closing ceremony