題破山寺後禪院

常 建

清晨入古寺  初日照高林
曲徑通幽處  禪房花木深

山光悅鳥性  潭影空人心
萬籟此俱寂  惟餘鐘磬音

Meditation hall behind Broken Hill Temple

Chang Jian (Tang Dynasty)

In the clear morning I enter the old temple
When the first sunlight touches the tall trees
But it is still dark where I walk
To the meditation hall deep in flowers and wood.

The mountain light is bright with the joy of birds
The pool reflects my empty of mind
And everything is stilled
By the chime of the temple bell.


Meditation retreats are an essential part of Buddhist life, whether in Tang China, Heian Japan (a millennium ago) or modern Singapore. All such retreats follow the practice and rules laid down by Lord Buddha who himself went for long retreats every year. An ideal place would be a forest clearing, a mountain cave or the quiet corner of a temple.

I used to take part in group meditation retreats held in holiday chalets near the sea. But today, all I need is a quiet, undisturbed room in my house or anywhere in the city.

Men, driven by fear, go for refuge in the mountains and forests, the grooves and sacred shrines, says Lord Buddha. But these places are not safe refuge for they do not free a man from suffering.

He who goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha, goes to a safe refuge, and with clear understanding, sees the Four Holy Truths: the existence of Sorrow, the Cause of Sorrow, the End of Sorrow, and the noble Eightfold Path which leads to the end of sorrow.

This is a safe refuge, this is the best refuge. If a man goes to this refuge, he is free from all sorrow.

(Dhammapada 188-190)

– Francis Chin

Contents

First sunlight touches the tall trees