Here at Quan Am Nam Hai, we follow a traditional monastic schedule. We wake at 4:45 AM and prepare for the first service with the community which is Morning Sitting Meditation and Chanting the Shurangama Mantra at 5:30 AM. On Wednesday and Saturday, at 5:30 AM we have Tea Meditation and listen to the recordings of the Grand Master’s Dharma Talks. After our morning service, we have a daily Sustaining Life of the Heart exercise- Qi Gong (Khí Công Tâm Pháp) Stick Exercise period at 7:00 AM; this is followed by the first meal of the day at 8:00 AM. At 9:00 AM we begin our Mindful Work period. During this time the community works together on various projects and tasks around the Monastery. Working together in mindfulness we strengthen our practice and sense of community at the Monastery. The work done can be anything from cleaning, gardening, helping keep up the buildings, various projects, and even office work. All work done here is done with mindfulness and compassion; when we offer our time and energy to the community, we can strengthen our own happiness and creativity, while strengthening our practice and the atmosphere of peace for all those who visit. There is a Zen saying that “A day without work is a day without food.” We take this to mean that working and taking care of our Monastery is just as important as the meals we receive during the day.
After the work period, we have our formal meal at 12:00 PM. During the meal, the Monastic Sangha practices the Alms Round. With Begging Bowl in hand, the Sangha walks in a meditative style to fill their bowls with food. This practice reflects the Alms Round practiced during the time of the Buddha. The monks during that time were given Begging Bowls to receive alms- gifts of food- from lay followers. This was to help lay followers to build spiritual merit, and for the monks to be grateful for the food they received. When everyone returns to the tables with full bowls, prayers and verses are chanted to offer the food first to the Buddha, then to our spiritual teachers and ancestors. Then, we take a small portion of the food, and chant a different verse to share with, and to multiply that food to offer to all beings who are not able to receive food under their conditions. These conditions can include those of the Garuda Bird, Hungry Spirits, Homeless Spirits, and the Yaksha Mother. This is to satisfy their hunger with the Bodhisattva’s nectar of Compassion. It should be noted that during all meals, we eat in mindfulness; knowing that we are fortunate to have this food today, that is has come from not only the earth, but the hard work of others as well. When we eat we should practice mindfulness and compassion with every bite so that we are worthy to receive the food; and learn to eat in moderation; and that we vow to eat this food as medicine to sustain our lives while walking on the Buddha’s path- to nourish compassion and understanding on the path of helping others. Our wish is to share our food and compassion with all beings throughout the world- may they be free from hunger and suffering.
A period of rest and Noble Silence is at 1:00 PM. During this time the peaceful quiet of the Monastery can help one recharge and stay mindful of the day’s Sangha activities. After this rest period, depending on the needs of the Monastery, we have time for personal study, chanting the Amitabha Sutra, or returning to mindful work around the grounds. At 4:30 PM, a member of the Monastic Sangha performs a formal offering of food and water to beings- Wandering Spirits, Hungry Spirits, and all beings living or not. During this offering, mantras are chanted to multiply the offerings to the beings, so that their hunger and thirst can be satisfied, and they are aided in finding their liberation.
At 7:30 PM, the Sangha meets in the Meditation Hall for sitting meditation and chanting the Lotus Sutra. Except, Tuesday and Thursday evenings we have Mindful Manners, Chanting Practice and Basics of Buddhism classes for novices given by the resident Dharma Master. After classes or chanting, our period of Noble Silence begins, this is normally around 9:30 PM, with lights-out at 10:00 PM. Our time for personal practice begins Sunday evening (7:30 PM), and continues until 9:00 AM on Monday, though additional time is given Monday evening. After that, the Sangha returns to the normal daily schedule.