(Helpful Info & Terminology: This is part of a series of blog posts written during my recent retreat stay at Deer Park Monastery, located in southern California, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh. Due to not having had Internet access I will be posting two days worth of my writing each day from while I was there on retreat.
Laypeople: Also called lay friends or laymen and laywomen, are all of us who come here to practice but are not monks or nuns.
Monastics: The collective group of both monks and nuns.
Clarity Hamlet: Where the nuns, also called Sisters, reside. Laywomen stay here as well.
Solidity Hamlet: Where the monks, also called Brothers, reside. Laymen and couples/families stay here as well. (Clarity and Solidity are just a short 10-15 minute walk in distance from each other).
Thay: Refers to Thich Nhat Hanh, meaning teacher in Vietnamese)
Wednesday February 3rd, 2016
This morning, while waiting for breakfast in the big dining hall, I wrote this in my journal:
“Never having understood why the main alters in both small dharma halls in Clarity and Solidity adorn the statue of the Buddha so lavishly with plates of fruit and immaculate arrangements, when our teachings speak to the Buddha not being a God or someone to worship, I took to searching for my own meaning this morning as I sat in Solidity’s small hall, well before our period of sitting would begin. As I gazed upon the Buddha’s beautiful countenance, flanked by oil lamps, blooming orchids, stacks of earth cakes, and an assortment of plants, a couple of possibilities arose. Since we’re often told that in bowing to the Buddha we are bowing not to a lifeless statue or form we are beholden to but to our own Buddha nature, the capacity residing within all of us to awaken, I thought about how the adornment could represent the offering of care and attention we’d want to provide ourselves, in order to help nourish and support our own practice. The other idea I came up with is that in our own embodiment of serenity and solidity, both on and off the cushion, the fruits of our practice energy will manifest beautifully all around us.”
I don’t think it needs to be one or the other. I think it’s both things at the same time.
I like assigning my own meaning to certain things I don’t otherwise connect with or fully understand in this practice. I prefer it over being given some kind of “official” answer so that I’m able to engage with it on a more personal level. Finding my own experience with something, verses adopting someone else’s understanding, is much more appealing to me – it’s also what the Buddha highly encourages us to do as well, so I think I’m on the right path here :)