Winter Retreat & Retreat from Afar
Amitabha Buddha Retreat
Amitabha is the Buddha of Infinite Light, well loved in both the Tibetan and the Chinese Mahayana traditions.
The Amitabha practice helps to purify the mind, accumulate merit, cultivate concentration and wisdom, and create the conditions by which ordinary beings can be reborn into the pure land of Sukhavati, where everything is conducive for Dharma practice.
Preparation & Resources for the Amitabha Buddha Practice
It’s not too soon to think about joining the Abbey community for winter retreat—whether you come to the Abbey for the one-month Amitabha Buddha retreat (Feb 14 – Mar 14) or join the Retreat from Afar (Feb 14 – April 4.)
Now it’s time to prepare.
The value of your time in retreat is directly related to the level of your preparation beforehand.
It is essential to become familiar with how to do the meditation practices before the retreat begins. Please take the time to study these materials carefully.
In general, retreatants should
- Have a firm grounding in teachings on the stages of the path to enlightenment (lam rim) and thought training (lojong)
- Be able to keep noble silence
- Be able to guide yourself through the Amitabha Buddha sadhana
- Be in good physical and mental health.
It is 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.
Preparation & Resources
Many conditions must come together for you to be able to do retreat. You create these causes and conditions by preparing internally as well as externally for the retreat experience.
For the Amitabha retreat, prepare in this way:
- Download the Amitabha Buddha sadhana (practice outline) and do the meditation practice daily.
- Listen to Ven. Thubten Chodron’s teachings on the practice, given at a retreat in Russia.
- Watch Chodron’s commentary on the Amitabha chanting practice. Part 2
- Listen to the Amitabha Buddha chant from the Chinese tradition and listen Ven. Chodron’s commentary. (Please note that we now chant this much faster than the recording you will hear.)
- Read the Amitabha Sutra
Study these books to help you understand the Amitabha Meditation practice
- Thubten Yeshe, Lama.Introduction to Tantra. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1987.
- Chodron, Thubten. How to Free Your Mind: Tara the Liberator. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2003.
- Chodron, Thubten. Cultivating a Compassionate Heart: the Yoga Method of Chenrezig. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2006
Learning Lamrim—the stage of the path to awakening (gradual path)—is another important preparation.
In each meditation session you will do some Lamrim meditation. This is a powerful way to gain insight into the Buddha’s teachings. Please read some lam rim books and think about and meditate on their contents.
- Thubten Chodron. Guided Meditations on the Stages of the Path, Snow Lion Publications, 2007
- Listen to and read audio and transcribed teachings in the Lamrim section of thubtenchodron.org.
- Watch the Stages of the Path videos on the Sravasti Abbey YouTube Channel. Begin with the introduction series, and then search “stages of the path” for subsequent playlists.
Become familiar with the thought-training teachings, so you can work with issues as they come up in retreat:
- Jampa Tegchok, Geshe. Transforming Adversity into Joy and Courage: An Explanation of the Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2005
- Thubten Chodron, Don’t Believe Everything You Think, Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, 2012.
- Watch the Wisdom of the Kadam Masters series of short teachings
- Watch the Sharing the Dharma Day teachings on Don’t Believe Everything You Think.
As you gain familiarity with all these practices—Amitabha Buddha meditation, the lamrim topics, and thought-training teachings—your understanding will deepen as your readiness for retreat grows.
Learn About the Abbey
- Read the Visit section of the Abbey website thoroughly. Here you will find information on accommodation, food, and clothing as well as guidelines for living in community.
- Listen and start to learn the Abbey prayers and chants
Retreat photo by Gen Heywood.