TBN #419: Coming Out of Retreat
- TBN issue 419
- Coming Out of Retreat
- By Living Buddha Lian-Sheng, Sheng-Yen Lu
- Translated by Cheng Yew Chung. Edited by TBN
Before I went into retreat at Leaf
Lake, a disciple asked me, "Guru, when will you come out of retreat?"
For a moment I did not know what to say, choosing instead to remain
in silence. Here, let me quote you a gongan (a Zen story) entitled
"Go With The Flow" taken from The Transmission of Light.
Upon first meeting the Zen master Mazu, Zen master Damei experienced
great enlightenment and soon moved deep into the mountains, where
he stayed in seclusion.
One day, a travelling monk who had lost his way in the mountains
came upon Zen master Damei's cottage. He put his palms together
and respectfully asked, "Master, how long have you been living here?"
Damei said, "I've seen the mountain's green change to brown several
The monk then asked, "Where is the road down from the mountain?"
Damei said, "Go with the flow."
I shall elucidate on this gongan. Zen master Damei, who lived in
seclusion in the mountain, was aware that the mountain had changed
its colour from green to brown and from brown to green through the
years. Such is the cycle of spring, summer, autumn and winter, which
occurs endlessly through time. Day after day, month after month,
year after year, the sun rises and sets daily without fail.
As to the reply "go with the flow," Zen master Damei was saying
that as long as he followed the direction of the stream, the lost
monk would descend the mountain and find his way to the towns and
villages where people lived.
So, when my disciple asked me when I would emerge from my retreat,
my reply was, "Go with the flow." This means letting things happen
naturally. I realize that nature has its own course, as does my
life within its influence. I have since realized the ways of nature.
Hence, my study of Buddhism occurs naturally. So does my propagation
of the Dharma, my enlightenment, and my retreat. This natural course
of events is affected by karmic circumstances and thus may change
When my disciple asked me when I would come out of my retreat, my
reply was to let things happen naturally and go with the flow! Going
into retreat and coming out of retreat should be a natural thing.