The Six Steps
“Buddhist meditation is about watching the mind to see our tendencies toward reactivity and triggers for our habituated emotional patterns. Meditation allows us to see that we always have a choice, that each moment offers a choice.” – Tim Burkett, Minnesota Zen Meditation Center.
The Six Step Retreats philosophy is focused on helping people to benefit from their practice without feeling any stress about making progress like can happen sometimes with standard meditation programs. When these steps are followed for a short time, many practitioners often find they made progress without noticing it along the way.
1. Being Vegetarian
The six steps vegetarian style is close to vegan.
2. Chanting the Sutra of the Past Vows of the Earth Store Bodhisattva
This is the only sutra (book) that the six step retreats focuses on for the basic learning. Reading the sutra is a form of meditation and the participants will be able to follow along as it is read in Chinese to a drum beat and then will be able to read it as well in English. The focus is more on saying the words to try and reach a meditative state rather than focusing on the meaning.
3. Prostrating in accordance with the “Eighty-Eight Buddhas Repentance Ceremony”
This is an exercise where a eighty-eight buddhas names are recited and after each buddha the participants will bend down to the mat and come up. It is a good form of aerobic exercise but it is for demonstration and participants can either participate or watch depending on their interest. This is also a form of meditation that can enable meditative states quickly.
4. Releasing and feeding animals
This consists of either releasing fish or leaving food for the animals in the natural surroundings around the retreat site. This relaxing activity gives an idea about improving karma and also relates to the vegetarian concepts.
5. Conducting one good deed a day
This topic is covered in discussions and is related to improving karma.
6. Reciting the name of the Amitabha Buddha.
This is a third form of meditation which consists of following along with a repetitive chant of the Amitabha buddha’s name and can be quite relaxing.