Daily Life During Retreats
March, October, and December
During our three one-month monastic retreats in March, October, and December our schedule differs slightly than our normal daily routine. While these retreats are for training of the Monastic Sangha, our lay-friends are welcome to attend any day if they wish to experience life of a monastic.
Our day begins at 4:45 AM when we hear the Waking-up Bell. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays we listen to Dharma Talks and have tea meditation at 5:30 AM. At the same time on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, we have morning sitting meditation and chanting of the Shurangama Mantra.
At 7:00AM, we have our exercise for sustaining the life of the heart- Qi Gong (Khí Công Tâm Pháp) Stick exercise. After Qi Gong, the Sangha meets in the dining hall for the first meal of the day at 8:00AM.
At 9:00AM, we begin Working Meditation and 11:45 AM is formal lunch. This is when the Monastic Sangha practices the Alms Round for food, as was done in the Buddha’s time. This practice is to build the spiritual merit of the lay followers, while teaching humility and thankfulness of receiving food to the Monastic Sangha. After the Sangha has filled their alms bowls with food, and everyone has returned to their seats, verses and prayers are chanted to offer the food to the Buddha. After the offering to the Buddha, a small portion of food is taken and mantras are chanted to multiply the offering into mountains of food, this is then offered to the Great Garuda Bird, Hungry Spirits, and the Yaksha Mother. The meal is then eaten in meditative silence to reflect that we are fortunate to receive this food, and to eat in moderation.
After our meal, we have a period of Noble Silence and rest at 1:00 PM. This gives us a chance to reflect on our day so far, and to give a little free time for personal study as well. At 2:30 PM we convene in the Meditation Hall for sitting meditation and the traditional chanting of the Luong Hoang Sam Repentance Liturgy.
When the chanting is finished, a member of the Monastic Sangha performs the formal offering of food and water to the Hungry Spirits, Wandering Spirits, and all beings without form. This includes chanting mantras to multiply the offerings and free those spirits from any karmic obstacles and bonds that may keep them in their current circumstances. This is done at 4:30 PM.
At 5:30 PM we have walking meditation, and 7:30 PM, the Monastic Sangha convenes once again in the Meditation Hall for sitting meditation and chanting the Lotus Sutra. Novices and Aspirants- beginners on the monastic path- however, will meet with the Master Abbess at this time. On Tuesdays the Novices and Aspirants will have Chanting Class; Wednesdays are Mindful Manners Class; and Thursdays are Basic Buddhism Class; lastly, Sunday and Monday nights (7:30 PM) are generally time for personal practice.
Once chanting or classes have finished, a period of Noble Silence begins, this is usually around 9:30 PM, and is followed by lights out at 10:00 PM.