Academics in Action

Buddhist Temple Retreat Offers Escape
From Hassles of Everyday life

by Joe Evans `15

IF YOU ARE WILLING TO GIVE UP MAKE-UP, TV, AND YOUR IPHONE FOR SEVEN DAYS, you may be ready for the Buddhist temple retreat. Led by Professor of Philosophy Paul Kjellberg, the week-long retreat offered during JanTerm takes place at the Hsi Lai Buddhist Temple in Hacienda Heights, CA, less than 10 miles from the Whittier College campus. During the week, nearly 50 students, dressed in traditional cream-colored robes, participate in spiritual lectures and discussions, as well as  a series of daily rituals that range from chanting to tai chi to deep meditations, all designed to bring out a sense of simplicity, or as Kjellberg says, “living in the moment.”

Out of all the activities that take place at the retreat, not one brings out that sense of simplicity more than the vow of silence. During a two-day period, students refrain from talking, even during mealtimes. To help create an environment of simplicity and focus, the students are completely removed from any sort of electronics or media. That means no phones, televisions or computers. 

“Without all of these distractions, you find that there is actually a lot of time in the day,” said Kjellberg.

When meals are given, students learn gestures to help them communicate nonverbally. There are specific signals, such as placing your bowl on a certain part of the table to indicate whether or not one wants more food.  

“I felt more in touch with my thoughts when I quieted myself,” said one of the participants. “I gained a fuller understanding and appreciation of philosophy.”

“[The Buddhist retreat teaches students] that many of the things we take for granted as necessities are really optional,” said Kjellberg. “This course uses silence to filter out what is and isn’t important.” 

The Buddhist temple retreat really does offer students an in-depth experience of the day to day life of a Buddhist monk, as well as an opportunity to enjoy some peace and quiet away from the hassles of daily life.