Some experiences take a long time but cannot be longer in the memories that the time they took. Other experiences, though taking little time, impress so much that they can cause great changes after.
My weekend retreat experience with Dr. Allan Wallace was in the second category.
Rather than spend my weekend hanging out or logging in to Facebook and poke my nose into friends’ walls as usual, I used one weekend to participate in “Four Immeasurables Weekend Retreat” at Phuket International Academy Mind Centre. It was a good feeling and the best time for learning to be true with myself and learning a way to live well with others.
The retreat was conducted in the specifically designed meditation hall during 18 – 20 June 2010. Ordained as a Buddhist monk by the Dalai Lama and living as a fully ordained monk for 12 years, Dr. Allan Wallace showed up at the evening of the first day and began his teaching telling us how the 2 day retreat was going to look like and pointing out the universality and opening of Buddha’s dharma. We went through the story of Kalama Sutta (The Buddha’s Charter of Free Inquiry) that encourages people to not passively accept anything easily but, rather, constantly question and personally test to identify those truths. Buddha did not impose anyone to believe him and likewise I was required to practice enlightenment myself.
The major topic of the retreat: The “Four Immeasurables”, was about loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and impartiality:
Loving Kindness is unconditional love without attachment. By the mediation practice, this love was cultivated towards ourselves then our loved ones, friends, teachers, strangers, enemies, and finally towards all sentient beings.
Compassion is wanting others to be free from suffering without discrimination. It happens when you feel sorry for someone and really want to help. It is more than pity; it is taking action. Compassion helps uplift one’s mind to the thought that all sentient beings are the same. There is no ‘me’ and ‘others’ that will lead to heatedness or heated arguments.
Empathetic Joy is being happy with someone’s fortune or happiness. It refers to the potential of bliss and happiness of all sentient beings. There will be no jealousy when we see people’s achievements. It is an unselfish and very positive mental attitude which is beneficial for oneself and others.
Impartiality is not to distinguish between friends, enemies or strangers, but regards every sentient being as equal, with a true understanding regarding the principle of impermanence, the principle of not-self, and the reality of existence. One will not be happy or make it worse when others are suffering or are in trouble. We should also help prevent one from doing negative actions.
Imagine when you are in Shamatha, not focusing of sense of being, but in stability and clarity of the aspiration of Loving Kindness, Compassion, Empathetic Joy, & Impartiality, and then you are less self-centred and take in equally the joys and sorrows of all people, friends, loved ones, relatives, and those who we never met. When we keep in mind that we can all suffer under the same condition; it is the uncertainty, the nature no one can deny. Are we going to hurt others? Why don’t we just reach out our hand to help them up? What can bring us more pleasure when we see others’ happiness?
The teachings went along with guided meditations, and discussions regardless of whether we hold beliefs to any religion, regardless of whether there will be a next life. It is peace and happiness Dr. Alan said and we felt at that moment, a genuine happiness that is deeper and lasts longer than hedonic pleasure. Every person can also explore and experience more too.
Phuket International Academy Mind Centre will host two other retreats this year. One is a six-week training programme for instructors & those interested in “Cultivating Emotional Balance” on Jul 18 – Aug 24. Another is an eight-week residential retreat focused on the practice of “Shamatha” and the “Four Immeasurables” on Sep 16 – Nov 11. For more information, please look at the Mind Center section in Phuket International Academy website http://phuketinternationalacademy.com