Namo Duc Bon Su But Shakyamuni,
Dear Respected Thay, Dear Beloved Community,
My name is Krystee Duong and I am a pre-aspirant at Magnolia Grove Monastery in Mississippi. I am very fortunate to be part of The U.S. Monastics Tour. I am at Magnolia Grove Monastery for the second tour, and I was invited for the third segment of the tour to Deer Park Monastery with the Magnolia Grove Sangha this year. This was my first experience with the three monastery centers. I experienced the two retreats, “The Buddha, The Scientist” and the Vietnamese Retreat, “Hội Vui.” Almost all of the monastics participated in the U.S. Tour.
When the sangha practices together, and goes as a river, there is so much collective energy that I especially gain from it. The presence of the entire monastic sangha has nourished my practice and watered my bodhicitta seed. I attended two retreats that had many lay friends present. I am so happy to be at Deer Park for this trip as it is the perfect environment for the practice. There are many hills and trails for hiking, which I enjoy during my free time. I practiced walking meditation up and down the hill everyday with mindful steps and being at peace in every step.
During walking meditation with the whole sangha, everyone walked so joyfully and mindfully, the whole sangha generated collective energy. I can feel the whole environment around me; perhaps all living beings can also enjoy it with us, especially the spiders, squirrels, lizards, rabbits, and many other small insects. The environment helped me so much, providing the opportunity to practice more deeply during my pre-aspirant stage. I am so grateful to the sangha for allowing me to come along with monastics. I really treasure this time and vowed to myself to practice wholeheartedly.
I spent my time wisely while I was at Deer Park Monastery. When I walked around, I saw many brothers and sisters walking, their dharma body just nourished me so much. I really love the dharma chanting before the dharma talk. The voice of the monastics chanting with the melody just touched my heart deeply; the meaning of sutra is manifesting inside me.
I sometimes cried while touching my heart and tears just dropped down my face. It’s just the voice of the Buddha calling me back to the present moment. I also met my friends at the retreats who gave me even more energy to practice through their supportive friendship. We practiced together and shared our practice during tea time.
Sitting quietly drinking tea is also one of the practices I enjoy. I sometimes just sit on the rock up the hill alone doing nothing. Thầy said, “sitting is doing something.” Not everyone can just sit. We all have habits of doing something and keeping ourselves busy. We have a hard time just sitting and doing nothing. I have more time for myself to contemplate deeper in space and time during this U.S. Tour.
The best time I enjoyed was eating meditation. I can’t even imagine – hundreds of people in attendance and everyone is practicing eating meditation together! We enjoyed our meals and practiced deep looking and gratitude for our food. The energy of the whole sangha eating in silence generated peace and joy. I cannot find anywhere else with this silent energy while eating. We usually have conversations or watch television while eating. We never pay attention to our food or what we eat and here is the chance to practice together happily and joyfully. This is a wonderful trip experienced with the sangha during my pre-aspirant stage.
– Krystee Duong, pre-aspirant at Magnolia Grove Monastery