Ven. Thích Thiện Sơn at Chùa Phật Huệ in Frankfurt AM
Several years ago, we had the tremendous honor of hosting Venerable Thích Thiện Sơn at UCLA. Ven Thiện Sơn is the abbot of Chùa Phật Huệ, the major Vietnamese temple in Frankfurt AM. He is an accomplished meditation master, also fluent in German, Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese. (He spoke to us in Chinese through an interpreter.) Unfortunately, we did a horrible publicity job, and for such an eminent speaker, we were only able to attract about fifteen students.
On the bright side, even for the very unenlightened group of Buddhist youth that we were, he was able to pass along at least one meditation teaching that I will never forget.
One of the students asked Ven Thiện Sơn if he could teach her the basics of meditation. After asking some questions about her attitude, he reckoned that some of us weren’t ready for the rigors of formal sitting meditation. There were other simpler practices that one can use as a foundation for sitting meditation. For one, breathing exercises are very useful.
Try breathing in deeply, he said. Breathe into all the areas where there is stress or tension and think, “Relax!” Now breathe out deeply. Breathe out all the stress and tension in your body and think, “Release!” It’s that simple. Breathe in, relax — breathe out, release.
The benefit of this practice is that not only is it both simple and effective, it’s also completely portable. You can do it while walking to class. Breathe in, relax. Breathe out, release. You can do it while taking an exam. Breathe in, relax. Breathe out, release. You can do it while reading a blog. Breathe in, relax. Breathe out, release. You can even do it on the toilet. Breathe in, relax. Breathe out, release!
At this point I remember how the interpreter for Ven Thiện Sơn was laughing so hard, she couldn’t immediately translate the punchline for us.
Needless to say, this teaching was quite effective. Not only did Ven Thiện Sơn teach us a beneficial practice, he did so in a way that we would never forget it! Cảm ơn Thầy nhiều!