Report on the 24th Shokai Retreat

The 24th Shokai Retreat was held between 11th and 13th October.  The theme of this retreat was ‘What has been done for me by the Three Treasures’.  All the participants reflected upon this theme as homework, and joined the opening service on Friday evening. Sam K, who kicked off the meeting with great energy announced, “Let’s make the most of the great opportunity that this Retreat offers us….”

Kei S, who followed the late Hiroko’s advice and will undertake the introspection session at Shogyoji temple in Japan in December, gave a Vow of Sincere Practice.  During her vow, she said her encounter with Three Wheels for the last 5 years has been a gift. She was filled with gratitude towards her family, friends and her colleagues. She explained how it was the people around her that enabled her to feel love, compassion and warmth.  Hiroko san showed her how the Buddha dharma can live and help her life.  Hiroko showed her the path to see Amida’s light which she would like to follow for the rest of her life.

Reverend Sato gave a welcome greeting where he expressed how happy he was to have three new participants as well as a guest from Japan, Rie H.   He taught us that appreciating the Three Treasures is not enough. As the Prince Shotoku states, “Taking refuge in the Three Treasures” is very important so we need to be aware of how much we are supported by the Sanga, turn within oneself, and take refuge in Buddha.

We had two sessions to share our homework one in the evening of the first day, and the other in the morning of the second day.  Rina P who was the youngest, spoke her thoughts with tears remembering her recent introspection session at Shogyoji temple; “Even though I am the greediest being, I’m accepted by my parents and those around me as if they are Buddhas. My dharma teachers, who sat for hours listening and taking enormous responsibility and trust symbolised the Sanga for me”.  Renata read out her letter addressed to the late Hiroko, who Renata called ‘spiritual mother’. She expressed in the letter how much Hiroko meant to herself, which we all commonly felt.  It was clearly Hiroko-san that guided Renata to join the retreat. Furthermore, Rie H openly talked about her difficulties in her life, yet she found that these bad conditions were in fact blessings from the Buddha.  She was grateful about her re-encounter with Rev Sato and Hiroko 20 years ago at Three Wheels which changed her perspective enabling her to become who she is today.  Many dharma friends shared their homework and mentioned how grateful they were for the opportunity to come and listen to the dharma. The support, love and compassion that they received by the Three Treasures changed their perspective in their lives.

The morning session on the second day was new to the Shokai. Rev Sato introduced an extract of the book written by DT Suzuki, entitled ‘Infinite Light’.  The handout was read out by participants in turn and at the same time a Q&A was actively undertaken. Within the extract I felt these passages touched my heart; “it is this very conceit and delusion that causes the final downfall of the self-power.” And “One is first to struggle desperately with doubt and self-power but the denser the cloud of doubt the brighter the light then it reveals itself.”

After lunch, we all helped to relocate the furniture of Taya houses for the new family moving in.  After that a chanting lesson lead by Rev Kenshin Ishii, rehearsing for Otorikoshi London Eza was held.  We were taught that the most important point of chanting is to express gratitude. The Shoshinge (English translation by Rev Sato) was read out by Andrew W and many of us were moved by how beautiful the reading and the understanding of this chanting was. 

During the closing ceremony, we invited Prof Shimoda who gave a talk for London Eza to join us, and everyone shared their overall impressions of the retreat. A Firstcomer Amit K said that he learnt how important it was to simply entrust Amida rather than his intellectual thinking in order to grasp Buddhism. Each participant expressed their own ways in which they find the Three Treasures precious.  We promised to expose ourselves to the Sangha consistently, following and listening to the dharma and entrusting ourselves to Amida, taking refuge in the Buddha. When I shared my thoughts I expressed my apologies for failing to actively reflect on my present being, which we have always been taught is the most important doing.  My dharma friend pointed out to me that my homework was not good, he made me aware that I was resting on my Buddhism background. I then came to see myself as being very conceited and arrogant. I also found myself failing to prioritise listening to the dharma. I felt that the letter of Rennyo Shonin that was read out in the service that morning, was a message to teach me how my karma made me choose not to listen to the Dharma. I then became aware that I was blaming external conditions, again an example of neglecting to reflect on my current self. By pronouncing the Nembutsu with everyone after my confession in the Buddha hall, I felt very warm and peaceful and blessed to be embraced by the Three Treasures.


Kaori Punwani