“Moment after moment after moment, not too fast and not too slow” – my homework after attending a Chan retreat with one of Master Sheng Yen’s Dharma heirs, Zarko Andricevic who travelled all the way from Croatia.
Attending Zarko retreat at DDM Melbourne was like taking a booster shot in my practice. It took me one step further, as with every Chan retreat that I have attended. Each retreat just builds on the previous retreat and I always leave with something valuable and precious.
I arrived at the retreat with no expectations at all but somehow I had a a feeling it would help me with my practice. Sure enough, when Zarko started the retreat by saying that he will teach us the “relaxation method”, I was pleasantly surprised and quietly overjoyed because this is precisely the method that I have been using for some time. As I also use this method to guide newcomers to our group meditation, it gave me great faith and confidence to continue what I have been doing. “Relax, slow down and relax!” He encouraged us to take on the relaxation method as our project and said that advanced practitioners should also try and start their sitting session with this method.
Although Zarko used very simple and plain English, he is very direct and precise, and clearly explains the Chan method as taught by Master Sheng Yen and the lineage Masters. Aside from showing us the method, the concept and the attitude of Chan practice, he also taught us how to deal with the physical and mental obstructions we face during meditation and pointed out that these obstructions are in reality the reflection of our self. They reflect through our grasping of good experiences and rejection of bad experiences during sitting.
Zarko explained that our world is constructed by language which describes reality but is not reality itself. However, we see our existence through language, ideas and thoughts and believe them to be reality in order to affirm our own existence. As such, we are afraid of silence. Yet it is precisely when we sit in silence that we can empty our mind’s torrents of thoughts, symbols, language and imagination, with no labeling, no description and no discrimination. In silent wisdom, there is no duality, one is free of vexations and sufferings. He further explained that our life is an interchange of suffering and happiness. Just because we have fixed ideas of happiness, we want this to last forever and suffer as a consequence.
Through his teaching, I can now understand how harmonising the body, breath and mind relate to the three Dharma seals of impermanence, no self and emptiness.
Zarko also touched on the Silent Illumination and Huatou methods. He said that the “Method of No Method” is a simple method but is also the most difficult because there is no method to use – only the practice of letting go.
“Precious” is a word that was repeated again and again by Zarko. He explained that if we have this sense of preciousness, we would be grateful for the causes and conditions that brought us to the retreat, and the good and bad experiences of all meditation sittings. By seeing every opportunity as precious and possessing gratitude within us, we will cherish favourable and unfavourable situations, be grateful for them and strive forward.
I was also deeply touched by Zarko’s vow to build the first Chan meditation centre in Croatia and coincidentally the first Europe. Like Master Sheng Yen, he started from having nothing and following over a decade of tireless effort, dedication and persistance, he has raised a sum to start construction, but still not enough to complete it. Despite the challenges, his vow burns bright like the Dharma light, and inspired me to carry on with my vow.
To me, this retreat is “precious” just like all the other retreats that I’ve attended and I am most grateful to Zarko, the organisers and participants of this retreat. Thank you DDM Melbourne!