A group of 12 female and 14 male devotees from Mangala Vihara, attended a 9-day meditation retreat at the Brahma Vihara Arama (BVA) in Bali from 10-18 Dec 2011 under the guidance of Ven Raja. This is the 2nd time we are using BVA for the retreat, the 1st being in 2010. During the retreat, a typical day starts at 4.15am and ends at about 9.45pm. For much of the time, we do sitting or walking meditation individually or in a group. We also have group chanting and we observed the 8 precepts
Unlike the 2010 retreat, besides meditation and chanting, the daily activities include a 15 minute morning stretch exercise and a 2-hour workshop by Bhante Ven Raja in the afternoon. Bhante gave talks on various topics like Mindfulness; What is Meditation? Dos and Don’ts during Meditation; Right attitude towards meditation; Problems meditators encounter how to overcome them – just to name a few. The workshops include a Q&A session during which Bhante addressed issues and concerns surfaced by the meditators, many of whom are beginners. We even had a practical on ‘effort, mindfulness and concentration’ that we enjoyed and through which we understood these 3 concepts more clearly.
We had opportunities to practice dana (generosity) by offering a robe to the resident monk, Bhante Javana, sila (morality) by observing the 8 precepts and 5 precepts and bhavana (meditation). We also offered flowers to the Buddha on the last day of the retreat. We were privileged to be given a rare treat when the stupas were opened for our visit. The panoramic view of the monastery and its surroundings from the stupas was simply breathtaking.
During the feedback cum sharing session at the close of the retreat, participants shared how they had benefitted and gained a better understanding of what meditation is and how to go about practising it. Everyone agreed that the environment in BVA, with its good facilities, peaceful surroundings and closeness to nature, is very conducive for meditation. The highlight of our brief stay in Bali was the one-day Bali sightseeing / shopping tour at the end of our retreat. We visited Kintamani where we lunched at a restaurant overlooking the volcano, Mt. Batur, and Batur Lake, a crater lake; a Hindu Pura in Tampaksiring and watched sunset at Tanah Lot. On the day of our departure, we bought local fruits like durians, rambutans and mangosteens from a local fruit seller and feasted on them during our lunch break. We had been eyeing those fruits, especially the durians, on our way to BVA and were delighted when Bhante kindly allowed us to satisfy our cravings. We made a brief stopover at Ulu Danu Lake with its iconic twin temples on a lake in Bedugul, before proceeding to the airport.
On a personal note, this is my 2nd meditation retreat in BVA and I am very encouraged by what I have learned and achieved, even if it is just the beginning. I was pleasantly surprised at my ability to relax and meditate for 15-20 minutes while sitting or walking. This was a great accomplishment, considering the fact that I could not sleep and suffered all sorts of pains during my first retreat and was unable to concentrate during meditation.