Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Individual and Group Practice: Master Sheng Yen
“What is the difference between individual practice and group practice?
Mainland Chan practitioners of the past had a saying, “Going to sleep in a large temple is better than practicing alone in a small temple.” That is to say, practicing all by your self is not easy. Because working alone, you will lack the stimulus of the group. Although you know you should work hard, you do not have the power and advantages that only group practice can provide.”
“…I want to remind everyone again, group practice has more significance and benefit than individual meditation. To maximize group practice’s effectiveness, Chan hall rules must be firmly established. There should be no coming late, leaving early, or wandering aimlessly. Ask for the same strictness that would be found during a 7-day retreat. Elevate the standards in a way that will benefit diligent participants. During group practice the timekeeper and supervisor should strictly enforce the rules. As soon as people enter the Chan hall, they should feel a difference. If compliance with the rules is not requested, the influence on hard-working practitioners will resemble cooking a pot of rice porridge. The original rice may have gradually started to boil, but after a while you throw some lotus seeds in, and the boiling pot stops boiling. After a while you throw in some peanuts. And so it goes until at the end the pot has parts that are still underdone and parts that are cooked to a mush. Request of late arrivers that they not enter the Chan hall.
Tread lightly and make no noises. Avoid even the sound made by the friction of your garments. Why request all this? The reason is to foster the meditation atmosphere. Because once that atmosphere is disturbed, the feeling changes completely.”
“Group practice does more than just furnish a good atmosphere. At the same time, each person has her own mental power, a kind of serene, pure energy that will reinforce that of others. If there are 50 people, then the mental energies of 50 will interact and reinforce each other. In the process of group practice, you should be able to experience the purification of your mind and body as well as the benefits that the Dharma confers on human life.”