Sep 13

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Teaching by Chang Xiang Fashi at the Dharma Drum Retreat Center


You Want to Get Liberated, But You Don’t Want to Change

By Chang Xiang Fashi

Dharma Talk given on March 26, 2015 at DDRC’s Thursday Evening Meditation Group

audio version

So on Thursday evenings, apart from the meditation, we also hold a Dharma Talk, so that we can talk about theories and methods – about how to really practice, and some problems you may be having.

Today, I want to talk about a certain concept. Have any of you seen the movie trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron?

It’s a new movie – you can see it in theatres in May – but now you can only see the trailer. Actually, before I became a monk, I loved watching movies. Now, I couldn’t really see the full movie, but I can at least see the trailer – and it’s legal, because you can find it on YouTube.

And in that trailer, there’s a line that’s very interesting – it says:

“You want to protect the world, but you don’t want to change.”

Anyone have any impressions?

This phrase reminds me of when we practice, because usually, we don’t really want to change ourselves. In Chinese, the word for practice, xiū xíng, consists of two characters:

  1. The first character means ‘to adjust or modify’
  2. The second means ‘behavior’

So xiū xíng means ‘to adjust your behavior,’ or ‘to modify your behavior.’

This is why, during our retreats, we usually teach people to do Five Harmonizations, which are to:

  1. Harmonize the Diet
  2. Harmonize the Sleep
  3. Harmonize the Body
  4. Harmonize the Breath
  5. Harmonize the Mind

The purpose of these Five Harmonizations is to make our body and mind suitable for practice, suitable for meditation.

And you have to understand these Five Harmonizations sequentially, and as being interconnected:

If you couldn’t harmonize your diet and sleep,
you couldn’t harmonize your body.If you couldn’t harmonize your body,
you couldn’t harmonize your breath.If you couldn’t harmonize your breath,
you couldn’t harmonize your mind.

So we have to adjust ourselves step-by-step, and today, I first want to talk about harmonizing our diet.

What It Means to Harmonize Your Diet

To harmonize your diet is to know how to eat properly.

I come from Taiwan, and I think many people know that in Taiwan, there are lots of delicious foods. So Taiwanese people love to eat, and they know how to make good food.

I like delicious food too, but when I came here as a monk, I was put in charge of the kitchen; so it’s my duty to serve people healthy food, and to harmonize their diet, because the food we serve here at the monastery is what the practitioners have to eat – they don’t have much choice.

There are certain principles we have to follow in the kitchen. We couldn’t serve hamburgers and French fries every meal – that would make practitioners sick. So we have to serve a healthy diet, and we have to make the nutrition balanced, because that’s very important during a retreat: if you can’t eat good food, or enough food, that would generate many problems.

The four principles we have to follow in the kitchen are clear – the food must be:

  1. Nutritious
  2. Healthy
  3. Hygienic
  4. Reasonably Priced

Those are the four principles we have to follow when we serve food.

You can notice there’s no ‘Delicious’ principle there. Making the food delicious is not our first priority. That’s not even in the four principles, even though most people like delicious food, and most of the time that’s the first reason why they eat a particular meal.

When you go out to eat, the first concern is: “Does this restaurant’s food taste good?” For the majority of people, taste is what matters most.

But people come here to the monastery to practice – we don’t want them to expect too much from the food; although, our chefs are very good at cooking food, so most of the time our food is delicious.

But that’s not what is most important.



This is an amazing retreat center started by the Late Master Sheng Yen in the USA.  His legacy is carried on.

The Dharma Drum Retreat Center is located off of Rt. 52 in Pine Bush, NY at 184 Quannacut Road. If you or your group would like to visit our retreat center, please call (845) 744-8114 or email us at [email protected] to request an appointment.

Please note that visits are not allowed when a retreat is in session.



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