“Resetting the Heart for a Fresh Start” - Hsi Lai Temple’s One-Day English Retreat

Fo Guang Shan Hsi Lai Temple held a one-day English retreat, January 20th, to help calm and reset the hearts and minds of 50 participants for the new year. Like pressing the reset button on a computer, they engaged in a day full of activities, meditation, classes, and sutra calligraphy to rediscover inner peace amidst the turmoil of life.

Due to overwhelming registrations, most opportunities were reserved for first-time participants. Teresa Anaya, attending for the first time, had a connection to the temple dating back over a decade ago when she accompanied her son in the "Buddha’s Light Sharing Love in Winter" event in which numerous scholarships were distributed. Since then, she has harbored a wish to return to this tranquil sanctuary. Now, with her son serving in the army, she finally has fulfilled her long-held desire. Patricia Nathali, attending for the fifth time, has consistently benefited and highly recommended the experience to her friend Cenny Kuesal.

The program, guided by Ven. Hui Cheng began with everyone sitting upright and experiencing the start of the day with a focused mind. To first-timers, Abbot of Hsi Lai Temple, Ven. Hui Dong taught Buddhist practices encompassing a variety of methods with meditation being just one aspect. Drawing inspiration from Buddha's enlightenment on the Diamond Throne, Ven. Hui Dong encouraged attendees to view life from a different perspective–one of truthfulness. While ordinary individuals are engrossed in the daily grind with their minds like monkeys jumping from one thing to another, enlightened individuals perceive life and things as they truly are.

This retreat emphasized training one’s mind to focus on daily life. Ven. Hui Cheng taught meditation and Buddhist principles, while Ven. Zhi You led sutra calligraphy. Even morning exercises and lunch were centered around mindfulness. During group discussions, a participant shared how she enjoyed the relaxed writing pace during the first calligraphy session. However, the second time around, she began feeling rushed and pressured. So, she stopped. Reminded herself: if I don’t experience the true joy of relaxation, what is the meaning of sutra calligraphy? Immediately centered and refocused, she entered into a state of joyfulness.

Melissa Lai missed the last one-day retreat—due to late registration—but not this time! She thanked her mother, Zheng Honglin, secretary of the BLIA LA Chapter Elder Advisor committee, for keeping a watchful eye on the temple’s online announcements and promptly registering her. Melissa expressed great satisfaction and pledged to attend again. Ven. Hui Cheng expressed deep joy in seeing many participants return to the temple after attending the one-day practice to engage in Buddhist classes, participate in various BLIA events within the community, and volunteer at the temple—continuing their joyful journey on the Buddhist path.

(Photos by Jonathan Thang)