Retreat

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Retreat (Tib. tsam; Wyl. mtshams) — a period of intensive meditation practice, usually undertaken in a solitary environment, such as a dedicated retreat centre (Tib. drupdra; Wyl. sgrub grva) within a monastery.

The Three Kinds of Solitude

Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche explains:

Retreat requires the outer solitude of the physical environment, which basically means that we need to stay somewhere away from all the hustle and bustle of a busy town, somewhere that is quiet and peaceful.
Secondly there needs to be the inner solitude of one’s own body, meaning that we need to stay by ourselves. We do this in order to reduce the disturbing emotions of attachment and aversion, which are the main disturbing emotions, together with ignorance. Of course, we may stay in retreat with some of our dharma friends, but during the actual practice sessions (thün) we should be alone. In Ornament of Mahayana Sutras it says:
Just like the bracelets on a maiden’s wrist,
Many can clash together,
And even two will bang and make some noise,
So you should remain alone.
If a young lady has lots of bracelets on her wrist, then they will bang together and make a noise when she is sewing or grinding sandalwood paste. Even if she wears just two they will still clash together and make a noise. If she has only one it will not really make any noise. So you should stay alone.
The first two kinds of solitude—the outer solitude of the place and the inner solitude of one’s own body—are really just supports for the third kind of solitude, which is the secret solitude within one’s own mind. This is the most important of the three. Even if we stay in a remote place, if we are caught up in all kinds of thoughts and emotions within our minds, it does not really help us to be in an isolated location. Similarly, we might be alone, with the inner kind of solitude and isolation, but if our habits are so strong that we spend all our time thinking about our work and considering our own business affairs or daydreaming about the office, it does not help us to be in isolation and there is no benefit to being on our own. The most important of the three therefore is the secret solitude within the mind.[1]

Notes

  1. Lerab Ling, 5th December, 2006

Further Reading

  • Jikmé Lingpa, A Wondrous Ocean of Advice for the Practice of Retreat in Solitude, with commentary by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse's Collected Works (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 2010), Vol. 3, pages 445-486.
  • Zangpo, Ngawang. Jamgön Kongtrul's Retreat Manual, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1994

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