A year ago, one of the most experienced monks in Australia was on a self-imposed retreat in the remote Queensland town of Coney Island.
His first lesson was a short, one-hour session where he was given a hand-made, wooden stick, placed on a table and instructed to use it as a club.
In the days that followed, his hand-crafted club was used as a punching bag and he was also instructed to hit a wall in the gym and kick it up a few times.
But when he returned to the monastery, his hands were still not fully formed and he struggled with the technique.
He was now training for a new course in a monk’s studio at the nearby Carmel Castle monastery.
“He’s actually a really good athlete, but he was always struggling with the hand-tool,” Dr Alastair Jones, the abbot, said.
Dr Jones, who is also the president of the Australian Zen Masters Association, said he was proud of the young monk and hoped his new training session would teach other young monks to push themselves.
After all, the goal is to get to the point where they can punch a wall and kick a wooden stick.
The monk is part of a group of six new graduates taking part in a new three-week course in the Carmel-based Carmel Monastery.
The courses, dubbed the “Buddhist Hand Training”, are part of the Carmels new, “more intensive” approach to meditation and yoga.
This week, the four monks and their students will move to the CarmEL-based Abbot’s House monastery in the far north of Queensland.
It’s a move that will see them gradually transition to a more traditional training format.
Carmel’s first three-month course will last two weeks.
Each of the four will be given a course of 15 minutes each and will have their own private practice space.
A video of one of these sessions, called “Hand Training”, has already been viewed more than 2 million times on YouTube.
Buddhism has been practised by millions of people around the world since the 12th century, and for more than a thousand years, Carmel has been a centre for Buddhism.
During the last two decades, the Carmeli family has taken great care of their monks and have established a reputation for offering a “quiet life”, where monks are able to practice as much as they want, with the help of a meditation teacher.
While they have not always welcomed such a lifestyle, Dr Jones said the family had seen an increase in interest from young monks.
I’m proud of them for doing what they do and I hope it inspires them to do more and be more creative in their training.
We’re seeing more young people starting to train in this area, so that’s something that will help us continue to grow,” he said.”
This is a great opportunity for young people to develop their spiritual practice and be able to use their hands as a tool to practice their spiritual journey.