To Everyone Who is Considering Attending the Winter Retreat
"Venerable’s teachings are changing my mind. I don’t know how I will ever repay her kindness, but I will start by committing to practice the path every day for the rest of my life."
To Everyone Who is Considering Attending the Winter Retreat (en Español)
Solitary Hero Yamantaka Retreat or Manjushri Retreat
Dear Dharma friends,
I send you my best greetings and Dharma wishes for your successful practice. This letter will explain a little about the Winter Retreat so that you can determine if you would like to participate and so that you can prepare for it.
What is the retreat?
The purpose of retreat is to integrate the teachings we have heard into our mindstream. In a retreat, the students do the meditation themselves, and the teacher is generally not present. Thus, the retreat participants will do the retreat together, while I will do my own private retreat in a cabin in the garden.
I will hold regular sessions with retreat participants. If anyone runs into serious trouble in the retreat, he or she may come to talk with me. Otherwise, I will be in silence.
We found that this system worked well in previous Winter Retreats. The group support keeps everyone on track and inspires everyone. A wonderful type of friendship develops when you retreat together. You give your loving support to each person in the group, and each person returns that to you. By coming to sessions on time and keeping the discipline of the retreat, you help yourself and show your concern for everyone else.
How do we prepare for the retreat?
I've prepared instructions for how to get ready for this retreat that include teachings, meditations, and a reading list. It is essential that you prepare your mind well before the retreat, so please study this material well.
Another way of preparing for the retreat is to help create the physical circumstances by which the retreat can occur. As a monastery, the Abbey depends on volunteers to help build and maintain the buildings and to set up before retreat. Please consider coming to the Abbey in the months preceding the retreat to offer service so the facilities will be ready.
The Abbey does not charge people to do retreat. Rather, each retreatant is responsible to gather a portion of the dana (donations given with generosity) that will be used for food, maintenance, electricity, heat, and other expenses incurred during the retreat. This process of everyone participating in making the retreat happen is important.
Building group energy starts with this; everyone is helping to gather the dana so everyone can be sponsored. Community feeling is important during the retreat, so we start building it before the retreat begins. Everyone is involved; everyone helps to the benefit of the whole group.
Every action, however small, that a person does with the intention of attending the retreat for the benefit of all sentient beings becomes Dharma. You accumulate merit by helping to gather the dana, construct the buildings, do the organizational work, etc. so that the retreat can occur.
That accumulation of merit enables your retreat to be successful. In other words, your having a successful retreat doesn’t depend on simply coming to the Abbey and meditating. It depends on creating a lot of merit before the retreat begins. The merit is created by helping to arrange the physical and financial conditions for the retreat to happen. When we have to make effort, we value the opportunity more.
You can invite your friends and family to join in the merit-making by inviting their support for your retreat. As they contribute toward the retreat dana, they benefit from their own generosity and create the causes to be supported in retreat in the future.
There are more specific details about retreat dana on the Retreat Instructions page.
How do we create an environment conducive for the retreat?