Zen Student

When I go to a retreat, I usually work on a question that is inspired by the first Dharma talk of that retreat.

For this retreat, I was fortunate enough to learn from Alma Potter JDPSN about her experience with the practice. One word from her talk really hit my mind—surrender. Alma said that, when we are assigned a duty at temple or in the practice, we just do it with a "surrender" mind. “Yes! I try!” Alma demonstrated this surrender mind with an enthusiastic shout.

That shout hit me. Immediately two questions arose in my mind: “What is true surrendering? And how do we use surrendering in our practice?” This became my questions for the retreat.

I reflected that, in our everyday life, we indeed surrender to so many things. We surrender to pleasure; we surrender to laziness; and in my case, I surrender to Netflix a lot. But we seldom prioritze surrendering to the practice or actions that can help all beings.

After listening to Alma’s talk, I decided to try attaining this “surrender” mind in this retreat.

My first surrendering experience came during the Great Dharani special chanting session. In this session, we chant Great Dharani continuously, and some students bow at the same time for a stronger practice.

I have wanted to bow during special chanting for a long time because I always think a lot, and bowing helps to reduce my thinking. But I am used to surrendering to laziness. Come on... special chanting starts after the lunch break. It's one of the most comfortable times in our daily retreat schedule, and I already enjoy the chanting energy very much.

One day during special chanting, I saw hard-working Dharma brothers and sisters stand up and bow as usual. My mind started to struggle: to bow or not to bow?

Then suddenly Alma’s shout came to mind: “Surrender!” At the moment, I immediately stood up without any thinking. I told myself, “Yes! I try!”. And I started to bow and bow...

After some time, I noticed that the bowing students stopped gradually and sat back on their cushions because they had hit their daily bowing targets. They must have been counting their bows with counters or beads. I, on the other hand, didn’t have any counting devices and wondered what I should do.

Alma's shout came again: “Surrender!” "Yes! I try!" This time, I decided to surrender to the bell. I bowed and bowed until the end when I heard the bell.

By the time the bell rang, we finished special chanting, and my body was completely exhausted. But my mind was so clear and refreshed. This was a great experience of using “surrender” in the practice.