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Dharma Programs


Winter Retreat Essentials

"Immediately on my arrival I felt safe and cared for. This feeling endured throughout the retreat. We were fortunate to learn from teachings of Venerable Chodron, as well as each resident nun, in such a restful, gracious, and accepting atmosphere. All the teachings were helpful and very down-to-earth. What a benefit to be able to discuss and meditate on all those thorny life issues in such a safe and contemplative environment."

  Lori Batina

Winter Retreat Instructions (en Español)

Vajrasattva Purification Retreat
1-month Retreat: January 13, 2014 – February 10, 2014
3-month retreat: January 13, 2014 – April 14, 2014

Retreat application deadline: December 27 (Click here for application)

The Practice

Vajrasattva Purification Practice

Vajrasattva is the manifestation of the purity of body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas. The practice of Vajrasattva is especially effective for purifying negative karmic seeds created by the ten destructive actions, transgressions of precepts, vows, and commitments.

By helping us to be honest about our mistaken actions and purify them, this practice alleviates guilt, remorse, and feelings of unworthiness, and helps us go forward in our lives. It also purifies a tremendous amount of seeds of destructive karma that would otherwise ripen in suffering in the future. These seeds also obscure our minds, preventing us from understanding the Dharma. The retreat removes these obscurations enabling our Dharma practice to progress more smoothly, with fewer impediments.

The practice entails doing a sadhana (practice text) that includes refuge, bodhicitta, meditation on emptiness, visualization, mantra, Lamrim meditation, and dedication. The 3-month retreat is suitable for completing a ngondro commitment—111,111 recitations of the Vajrasattva's long mantra.

Ven. Chodron has given extensive teachings on the Vajrasattva practice. Click here for the large collection of audio and transcribed teachings on her website,

Click here to access the playlist of video teachings on the sadhana, given by senior Abbey residents for the 2011 Vajrasattva retreat.

Location & Time Frame

This is a group retreat held at Sravasti Abbey. All meditation sessions will take place in the Meditation Hall.

To create group cohesion and to keep everyone on track in his or her Dharma practice, all participants must arrive on time and may not leave until the retreat is concluded (unless there is an emergency).

Please arrive before 5 pm on the scheduled start date and remain until after lunch on the closing date.

Who May Attend

This retreat is for intermediate or advanced students; it is not for beginners. Retreatants should have a firm grounding in teachings on the gradual path to enlightenment (Lamrim), thought training (lojong), be able to keep noble silence, and be able to guide their own meditations. Participants must be in good physical and mental health.  Couples may not attend the Winter Retreat together.


The daily schedule includes 5 meditation sessions and one individual study session daily, beginning with wake up at 5 a.m. There is ample break time for reading, walking, and yoga, or other activities to keep the body supple for extended sitting. Three meals are served daily except new and full moon days when we take the 8 Mahayana precepts together.

Preparation & Resources

Many, many conditions must come together for you be to be able to do retreat. Now that you've made the commitment, you continue to create the causes and conditions by preparing internally as well as externally for the retreat experience.

Read the Visiting section and especially note Guidelines and What to Bring.

It is essential to make yourself familiar with how to do the the Vajrasattva meditation practices before the retreat begins. It would be beneficial to increase your sitting time as the retreat approaches. If you can set aside a day or two as full days of practice it will make the transition into the retreat schedule easier.

The value of your time in retreat is directly related to the level of your preparation beforehand.



Learning Lamrim—the gradual path to enlightenment—is another important preparation.

Please read some Lamrim books and think about and meditate on their contents. A Lamrim outline used in my previous retreats is in the Lamrim section, as are audio and transcripts of Lamrim teachings I’ve given. Various thought training teachings can also be found on this website.

In addition, you can get Guided Meditations on the Stage of the Path, in which I lead all the lamrim meditations. This was published by Snow Lion Publications. Please become familiar with these checking meditations; they will help you greatly during retreat.

In each session, after doing the visualization and recitation of mantra, you will do some Lamrim meditation. This is a powerful way to gain insight into the Buddha’s teachings, for purifying negative karma by doing Vajrasattva practice removes obstacles to gaining insight into the Lamrim topics.

As you gain familiarity with all these practices — Vajrasattva meditation and the lamrim topics — your understanding will deepen as your readiness for retreat grow


There is no charge, but each retreatant is responsible for helping to gather the dana (donations) so that the retreat can happen. In this way, everyone works together as a group and contributes to creating the conditions for the retreat to occur.

  • Dana for the 1-month retreat is $ 870
  • Dana for the 3-month retreat is $2730

(Read more about how gathering dana creates the conditions to do retreat under
Creating Merit" in a A Letter from Ven. Chodron.)

Your participation in gathering the dana to support the retreat shows that you are serious about doing the retreat.

One-half of the retreat dana is due upon acceptance of your application. The remaining dana is due January 3.

All amounts are in USD. Make checks payable to Sravasti Abbey, indicating indicating Winter Retreat on the memo line, and mail to:

Sravasti Abbey
PO Box 20644
Seattle WA 98102-1644

Sending the Dana by credit card is fine, but please add 3.3% to offset the processing fees that the bank charges. Note “Winter Retreat” (1-month or 3-month) in the comments box. If friends or family make dana offerings on your behalf, be sure that they tell us who they are supporting as well.

Retreat Registration

The registration form can be downloaded and filled out electronically (if you have Microsoft Word), then sent to the Abbey. Or you can print the form, fill it out and mail to:
Sravasti Abbey
Attn: Ven. Thubten Chodron
692 Country Lane
Newport, WA 99156

You will be notified of your acceptance as a retreat attendee.

If you have any questions, please contact us by email. If you would like to talk by phone, call the Abbey at (509) 447-5549.

The benefits for you and for all sentient beings of your doing retreat are incalculable. May positive conditions ripen for you to join us as we meditate this winter.

More information

Please read the other material on this website about the Winter Retreat (see below). You may also wish to look at the material about the previous Winter Retreats: Vajrasattva retreats (in ’05, ’06, & 11-12), Chenrezig retreat (in ’07), Medicine Buddha (in ’08), Manjushri (in '09), and Green Tara (in '10) on

Here are some links to photos of past Winter Retreats: Vajrasattva, Manjushri, Medicine Buddha, Chenrezig, and Green Tara. You'll find even more by scrolling through the titles in the Photo Gallery.

Important Information

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