The one-month Vajrasattva retreat has ended, while the three-month retreat goes on. Ven. Chodron asked the one-month retreatants, before they left, to briefly share their experiences and insights. Of course these few words can give only the faintest glimpse of their rich experiences. We rejoice in their opportunity and merit!
We hope that each of you reading this will one day, too, have a chance to join us for retreat. To inspire you, take a look at the retreat photos and watch the teachings: Ven. Chodron responding to questions about the Vajrasattva practice and Ven. Sangye Khadro teaching on “The 37 Practices of Bodhisattvas.”
One of the retreatants read this message to the whole community on the morning they left.
Sometimes we think that refuge is somewhere else,
that the Buddha, Dharma, Sangha is a place somewhere up in the sky,
or something that happened 2500 years ago.
Sravasti Abbey is not just a place to get away from it all.
It’s a place of refuge—
Sangha to help, to practice with;
a master teacher who teaches us the Dharma.
It’s a place to stay.
A perfect place.
A safe place.
A kind place where calmness abides.
Refuge in the Here and Now.
Ven. Tenzin Pellha
It’s been a journey. The first few weeks were still through a relatively calm landscape—level Dutch country lanes—which I passed often distractedly, but in the inspiring presence of Vajrasttva. I was still feeling confident that I was doing what I needed to do.And then … the Rocky Mountains. Grief and real sadness over the loss of something precious was the fuel for my self-cherishing mind to stir up strongly, which in turn gave rise to all the pain that self-pity inflicts.
Through this, I am really becoming aware of how I have this amazing freedom to choose—not to let the experience of mental pain be the cause for afflictions to arise and create more suffering for myself and others—simply by applying the mind training and guarding my mind vigilantly. That’s one of the most precious jewels I will take with me from this worthwhile trip, with deep gratitude for the Buddhas, Venerable Chodron, everyone at the Abbey, and my fellow retreatants who have made it possible.
Venerable Chodron’s explanation of the difference between karmic results and afflictions cleared up the doubtful thinking, “I don’t feel any different. It must not be working!” It took a while for me to first reflect on negative actions and then let Vajrasattva purify them during mantra recitation. Once I did that, I had a deep sense of joy by the end of the sessions. (See the teaching.) The loveliest part of the retreat for me was the Bodhisattva Vows ceremony.
This retreat has been a culmination of grand aspirations for my practice: 1) To complete the Vajrasattva ngondro practice, which I started nineteen months ago. 2) To come back to Sravasti Abbey for a month-long retreat. The effort I put into realizing these aspirations has helped me build faith in my practice. My next aspiration is growing into the Bodhisattva Precepts I just received. I also learned it is possible to keep a happy mind!
Amy De Lorimier
Doing the one-month retreat at the Abbey has been one of the most powerful practices of my life and the most virtuous activities in samsara. I aspire to do the whole three-month retreat in the future.
Mary Louise Lorang
Cleaning out leads to forgiving others and softening a hard heart. I see that my projections onto others shapes how I treat them compounding the harm. When I had pain about not knowing how to treat others, it became twisted into reactive ___ when the other person actually did nothing wrong. I deeply regret subjecting others to a mean mind formed on illusions.
I spent many hours combing the hard-to-see lice of my afflictions and negativities out of the crazy, untamed, and knotted hair of my self-centered mind. Some of these pesky lice—namely attachment to praise and aversion to criticism—kept coming back and I thankfully found one of the sources of this bug—a negative childhood event.
It was quite a fruitful month that was like the full moon illuminating the dark confusion of the night, providing great clarity in the direction I aspire to take my practice under the kind and wise guidance of Venerable Thubten Chodron.
I earnestly rejoice in this precious opportunity to do retreat with the most kind monastic sangha at the Abbey, in some of the most conducive circumstances, which served as a safe, secure container for doing what can be a tough, emotional practice. I am very grateful.
Much gratitude. It’s been a fortunate experience to be here for a lot of reasons. To have the time to look at my mind in such a setting has been special. To have a place like Sravasti Abbey to have a retreat, we are incredibly fortunate. To be able to practice with monastics on a daily basis, it’s been inspiring. To have a teacher like Venerable Chodron guiding us, we are so fortunate.
For me, this time in retreat has been a joyous experience in deconstructing my “never good enough” story about myself and letting the love, compassion and unconditional acceptance of all the Buddhas come alive as my refuge. Full of moments of joy, quiet peace, and purpose. Yes, there has also been dullness, the pain of afflictions, some tears, and TONS of monkey mind, but thanks to the teachings, I’ve seen them as merely the “come, come, go, go” of samsara—moments to be worked with, but nothing to reify.
An astonishing example of a conducive environment for practice: a beautiful environment that vibrates with Dharma, transformative teachings from Venerable Chodron that are supported by an exalted lineage all the way back to Shakyamuni Buddha, and fellow retreatants that embody great kindness and devotion to the Dharma. I dedicate my merit so that everyone who wishes for such a precious retreat opportunity will find it quickly, quickly!
A great success! Difficult and painful at times, but I’m learning how to turn the suffering of attachment into compassion for myself and others in my past.
This retreat has allowed me to deeply reflect on samsara—how all of us really just want to be happy and free from suffering, but are mostly just bumbling around in the darkness of ignorance. But through moments of clear-minded insights I saw how truly precious and temporary it all is. The peace of mind, if not clouded by the self-centered thought but filled with reverence and compassion, gives me great inspiration and determination to make practicing the Dharma the focus in my life so that I can truly be of greatest benefit to others.
What a fantastic way to start the new year—practicing the Dharma, making new friends, feeling the immense support and care from the monastic community, receiving teachings from Venerable Chodron and taking in the scenic beauty of the land. A heartfelt thank you to all the Abbey donors who make retreats possible.
It was definitely a struggle, but I am so glad I did it. I had everything I needed here—safety, silence, a community of serious retreatants, and the resonant teachings of Venerable Chodron—to allow me to do some difficult work. I am so grateful.
Venerable Tenzin Gache
I feel so fortunate to have been able to participate in this retreat with all its conducive conditions, especially being able to engage with like minded folks actually enacting their vow to liberate the world.
Each day I had so many opportunities to rejoice as everyone showed up on time to each meditation session, lived harmoniously together, held noble silence, offered service, received almost daily teachings from our precious teacher, and inspirational morning motivations from the sangha, etc. At meal times, as I waited for my toast to pop or the microwave to stop, I again had the opportunity to rejoice—again and again—as I read the names and looked at the pictures posted on the wall in the dining room of the Retreat from Afar participants! How powerful!