Shokai Retreats take place at Three Wheels twice a year, in spring and autumn. Each retreat includes morning and evening services to the Buddha, talks, meditation, group meetings, work-practice in the gardens, and lessons in sutra-chanting.
The term ‘Shokai’ consists of two parts, ‘sho’ meaning ‘letting flow’ and ‘kai’ meaning ‘opening’. Shokai retreats are therefore an opportunity to identify spiritual obstacles and challenges, and refresh our practice in the spirit of Rennyo Shonin’s famous instruction: “Constantly dredge out the channel of Faith and let the water of Amida’s Dharma flow freely”.
Unlike retreats in many other traditions, Shokai retreats do not emphasise silence, with the exception of during specific meditation periods, and focus rather on inter-personal encounter as a way of deepening faith-experience. Therefore, according to Rennyo-shonin’s instruction “Just say something”, participants share their thoughts and feelings, just as they are, within a reflective group environment.
“the act of speaking and listening to others can conflict with or negate one’s own self-centred world and as such requires courage, the courage to be willing to change … Other people operate as mirrors that illuminate us. When the ramparts and walls of the stronghold of our selfish consciousness collapse following this self-awakening, we open ourselves to the light that can now come in and fill our existence.” – Rev. K. T. Sato
For some people, sharing thoughts or feelings during this type of retreat can take a little getting used to, so it is recommended, though not compulsory, that prospective Shokai participants attend other Three Wheels meetings first so as to get a feel for the community.