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A moment that changed my world – A Report on the 19th Shokai Retreat

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Namu-Amida-Butsu

Our 19th Shokai Retreat was held between the 21st – 23rd April 2017. The Theme of this Shokai was A Moment That Changed My World and a total of 19 participants including the residents of the Three Wheels, who joined us for the retreat. We were particularly pleased that Jon Brown and his wife Rachel were also able to join us for part of the retreat, on their way back to their home in America.

Whenever we come to Three Wheels to attend Shokai we are reminded that we are only able to do so thanks to the support of Japanese members, Goinge-Sama and Shogyo-ji.

For the main part of our spiritual preparation for the Shokai we were asked by Rev. Sato and Rev. Ishii to reflect carefully on the theme “A Moment That Changed My World.” To enable us to look at our selves as we are right now, always keeping our awareness in the present, also how we feel about and see it now. We then shared our reflections with each other during a serious of meetings throughout the Shokai. This created a wonderful atmosphere of joy and thankfulness, and we all gained much from the insights that we shared. After the conclusion of the retreat we were able to bring the feeling of joy and gratitude that we all felt, and share it with the participants of the 132nd London Ezra meeting, which followed immediately after the close of the retreat on Sunday afternoon.

The Shokai retreat opened on Friday evening with the traditional ‘Vow of Sincere Practice’ given by Sally in which she shared much insight, which helped greatly to bring the theme of the Shokai into focus for all of us. Following Sally’s vow, Rev. Sato welcomed everyone to this Shokai with a Dharma-talk which touched on many important points, particularly the fragility and fleetingness of life and how we need to realise the importance of being mindful and aware of the unconditional love of Amida Buddha which saves us.

Following our evening meal we all met again in the Buddha-room, and some of us shared our reflection on “A Moment That Changed My World” this was a very moving and insightful experience, it is always a privilege to hear and share the experiences of Dharma-friends.

Saturday was a full and busy day, it is also the only full day of the retreat and as such Dharma-friends have the great opportunity to really experience the third of the Buddha’s ‘Three Jewels,’ this really did happen, bringing a special quality to all our activities. The day started with an early morning work session (sagyo) at 6.30am. This was followed by a Zazen session (seated meditation) that put us all in a positive frame of mind for the morning service, and the rest of the day.
After breakfast Rev.Ishii gave a talk on “A Moment That Changed my World” it was very inspiring as he allowed us to share his experience of participation in an inter-faith meeting in Myanmar, between Anglicans and Buddhists, and although over 60 people took part, there were no local Buddhists and Christians. Rev. Ishii also relayed an impression of the recent Spring School at Three Wheels. In particular a letter written by Miss Tomo Watanabe aged 12.
Her letter revealed how, based on the sutra of ‘The importance of what has been done for us by our Parents’ her view of her parents and siblings had moved from one of resentment, to one of gratitude and thankfulness. Following lunch we all took part in Sagyo (Work Practice) in the gardens, which brought us all together working in an atmosphere of harmony, much was achieved
The final activity of the day was writing our impressions of the retreat which ended around 10pm.

Sunday morning was spent reflecting on what we had achieved during the retreat and we each shared our gratitude for the time we had spent together listening to the Buddha-Dharma and each other during our shared journey of “A Moment That Changed My World”. The 19th Shokai was a wonderful experience for all participants.

Immediately after the closing service we had to suddenly switch gears and quickly complete all the remaining preparations for that afternoon’s London Eza.

Sam K.