From December 30 to 31 of 2016, the Young Adult Division (YAD) of Buddha’s Light International Association (BLIA) held its annual Winter Retreat at the Fo Guang Shan (FGS) temple in Mississauga. With 32 participants ranging from 13 years to over 30 years old, the BLIA-YAD group had diversity in life experiences and needs, while all members had common goals of being part of a Buddhist community.
This type of retreat is important for youth and young adults as we do not often have the chance to engage in meaningful conversation about the Dharma and Buddhism with like-minded individuals. The retreat fostered a warm and inviting culture where youth and young adults from different life experiences could learn from one another and feel comfortable having deeper conversations about the impact of Dharma on their lives.
As a first time attendee of the winter retreat, I was looking forward to meeting a group of like-minded young adults interested in understanding the Dharma and applying Buddhism to better themselves and their communities. The retreat offered participation in a variety of Buddhist practices, such as meditation, sutra calligraphy, and chanting, as well as talks by the abbess and BLIA leadership. There was also an opportunity to learn more about BLIA-YAD’s work as a youth group and their presence in the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist community.
I felt our group was motivated to build a young Buddhist community on its own terms, which was made clear with collective goal setting and resolutions focussed on improving youth engagement through social media, developing Dharma discussion groups, and building a mentorship program. There was an energy and passion among all members towards understanding Dharma and applying it in very practical ways towards personal growth and the creation of a positive impact in the local community. In large group discussions, we shared strategies on how Buddhist practices help us manage our emotions, alleviate stress, and remain grounded.
I enjoyed learning about the different reasons for youth and young adults to join FGS, the ways they applied Buddhist practice in their daily lives, and how they hope to contribute to the temple. During the retreat, I had two experiences that deepened my relationship with the Dharma and Buddhism.
The first was through participating in a meditation class where we practiced walking and sitting meditation. While I have meditated in the past, I struggled with maintaining a regular meditation schedule for many different reasons. Calming our minds and being our authentic selves in the present moment can be very challenging. In this class, I learned how concentration and self-awareness can be practiced through meditative movement, such as walking, whether it be slow or quick. I feel inspired to cultivate my regular practice through adopting different methods of meditation.
The second experience was through participating in a “Heart-to-Heart” session with abbess, Venerable Yung Ku. In this talk, she invited us to reflect on the significance of our decision to spend our past two days at the temple and asked us how we may have spent our time otherwise. In the topic of new year’s resolutions, she asked us what strategies we had for keeping our resolutions and what it may mean to fulfill or not fulfill them. In particular, she said, “We make our habits, and over time, our habits make us.” With this wisdom, I contemplated deeply on how the habits I am currently practicing today will predict the kind of person I will become in the future. To be more intentional with building my future character, I have been critically reflecting upon both the habits that can help and hinder me in being a compassionate, generous, thoughtful, and equanimous individual. I look forward to bringing this reflective practice into my daily life.
I am very grateful for all the efforts of the FGS community in making this retreat possible. From organizing the activities to creating nurturing meals, I feel very blessed that so many members of the temple came together to create this wonderful opportunity for youth and young adults. I look forward to nurturing my own Buddhist practice while positively contributing to the greater Buddhist community.
With joined palms,