The 3-month group Vajrasattva retreat at Tushita will now run every two years, rather than annually. Therefore, our group Vajrasattva retreat schedule looks like this:
2012: June 23 - September 25
2013: No group Vajrasattva retreat this year
2014: Late June to late September (exact dates to be confirmed later)
The Vajrasattva practice is said to be particularly powerful for purifying the impure energy of the mind and the negative actions of body and speech that arise from it. In all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Vajrasattva practice is one of the preliminary practices.
Sometimes our Dharma practice doesn't seem to bring good results. This is because our negative karma is creating obstacles. Doing this Vajrasattva practice can purify these negative mental imprints, thus removing the obstacles and suffering that result from our negative habits.
The Heruka Vajrasattva sadhana used during the retreat was composed by Lama Yeshe, founder of Tushita Meditation Centre. He once expressed the hope that all of his students would make the time to do this retreat at least once before they died.
PRE-REQUISITES TO JOIN THE RETREAT
In order to participate in this retreat, you MUST:
- Be a Buddhist. This means you must have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, committing yourself to follow the Buddhist path. It is absolutely necessary to have taken the refuge vow (during a formal refuge ceremony with a qualified lama) in order to be qualified to take the higher vows and Initiation required to do a tantric practice such as this Vajrasattva Retreat.
- Have taken the Vajrasattva Initiation, which will require taking the aspiring and engaging Bodhisattva Vow. Tushita will arrange for these Vows and Initiation to be given during the Orientation Week.
- Be in stable mental health with no recent history of mental illness. During the Orientation Week, all retreaters must have an interview with the Retreat Leader and/or Spiritual Programme Coordinator to check suitability.
- Have significant experience in the Lam Rim (the graduated path to enlightenment). This includes both study of Lam Rim topics AND Lam Rim retreat experience, such as several 10-day Lam Rim courses, a one-month Lam Rim retreat, or several individual Lam Rim retreats.
- Check with your teacher, if now is an appropriate time to do this retreat.
- Come with a strong determination to complete the entire retreat! Some people doing this retreat will have a commitment to complete 100,000 mantras or to do a three-month retreat, and others may have no commitments at all. The commitment will vary according to the Lama giving Initiation. In any case, please be aware that this retreat is not a holiday! It is hard and intensive work and one needs a firm motivation and determination to cope with the difficulties which inevitably arise.
- Have read all information on this website about the retreat, the Rules of Discipline and Keeping the Silence, and agree to follow the discipline of the retreat. If a person's behaviour becomes disruptive to the group, Tushita management has the right to ask them to leave.
Group Vajrasattva Retreat Dates
Using the 2012 course dates (23 June - 25 September) as a model, the following information is provided to give you an idea of how the retreat will operate the next time the retreat will run in 2014. Exact dates will be confirmed closer to the time.
Participants are required to arrive at Tushita no later than 23 June. The Orientation Week will take place 23 - 29 June and includes the following preparations for the retreat:
- Interview with the Retreat Leader and/or Spiritual Programme Coordinator
- Vajrasattva Initiation and instructions on the practice
- Preparation of the meditation room
- Opportunities to become acquainted with your fellow retreaters
The Vajrasattva practice will begin on the evening of 29th of June and end on the 25th of September with a fire puja.
Because this is a group retreat, your presence in the group and your support of your fellow retreaters is essential in making this a positive experience for everyone. Therefore, you must stay for the full three months, even if you complete your mantra commitment earlier.
Doing a Group Retreat
There are many advantages to doing Vajrasattva retreat as a group here at Tushita Meditation Centre:
- Because this retreat has taken place here annually for many decades, the area is very blessed and conducive to this particular practice.
- A special Vajrasattva Gompa was built specifically for hosting this retreat.
- The Vajrasattva Gompa, which is situated beside Lama Yeshe's Stupa, is home to a statue of Lama Yeshe in Heruka Vajrasattva aspect with consort.
- The Vajrasattva Gompa also has many hundreds of Vajrasattva clay images (tsa tsa's) beautifully lining the walls.
- McLeod Ganj is home to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and many other highly realised Lamas, meditators and practitioners.
- During the monsoon, the pine forests and changing views across the mountains above and the plains below provide a beautiful and peaceful environment in which to do retreat.
It is essential to remember that this is a group retreat. There might be personality clashes when living and practising so closely with others. A big part of this retreat is learning to be relaxed and give oneself and others the space and support to do the practice at a comfortable level for each person.
The Retreat Leader, Centre Director, and Spiritual Programme Coordinator will be available during the retreat if you need to discuss anything with them. There will also be other experienced Dharma students specifically designated as support people for the Vajrasattva Retreat. Although much of the retreat will be in silence, it does not mean you cannot seek out help and guidance when needed!
There is a Retreat Leader who guides all sessions for the first few weeks. Gradually the retreaters take turns leading the sessions themselves and the Retreat Leader is then available for questions, to help with any difficulties that may arise and to give personal support. As the retreat comes to an end, the Retreat Leader will guide the group through the final stages.
During the first and third months of the retreat, participants will keep silence from the last session at night until lunch the next day. Participants will keep strict silence for the whole of the second month of the retreat. Furthermore, we will request the Vajrasattva retreaters to please keep silence around others who are in silence.
To help the retreat be a deep experience with as few distractions as possible, all conversations are restricted to within the group, retreat leader, and office staff. Retreaters must not leave Tushita property for the duration of the retreat and will also not receive or send letters or e-mails during the retreat. (Emergency email can be marked "Urgent" and we can deliver it to you. All other emails and letters will be kept until the end of the retreat.)
On the advice of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, each day will begin with a 2-hour session of Combined Jorcho and Lama Choepa practice, with time for Vajrasattva mantra recitation. Then throughout the day there will be three 2-hour sessions of the Vajrasattva sadhana with mantra recitation. All sessions will include Prostrations to the 35 Confessional Buddhas and a Lam Rim meditation as a motivation. There are breaks for breakfast, lunch, dinner and for relaxing. Once per week there will be one of the following: a Dharma video, a question & answer session, OR a group discussion.
Eight Mahayana Precepts
We encourage retreatants to take the Eight Mahayana Precepts for the entire three months of the retreat, at a minimum for the second month of the retreat, when you keep strict silence as well. Please talk to the Retreat Leader and Spiritual Programme Coordinator during the orientation week if you feel you are not able to follow these recommendations.
It is a good idea to read at least some of these books before coming to the Vajrasattva retreat. You will get a better idea of what to expect and more awareness of why it's so beneficial to do this retreat. With the help of these books, you'll attain a firm understanding of how to get the most benefit from the retreat.
It is a requirement of the retreat that all prospective retreatants read The Tantric Path of Purification by Lama Yeshe (Wisdom Publications) before arriving for the retreat.
We also encourage you to read Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche's Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat (Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive).
Other suggested titles include:
- Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, The Door to Satisfaction, Wisdom Publications
- Lama Thubten Yeshe, Introduction to Tantra, Wisdom Publications
- Chogyam Trungpa, Journey Without a Goal, Shambhala
- Lama Tsong Khapa, Preparing for Tantra, Classics of Middle Asia
- Pabonka Rinpoche, Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. Wisdom Publications
There is a comprehensive Library here at Tushita, but you may also want to bring a few of your favourite books with you, particularly Lam Rim (Stages of the Path) and Lojong (Thought Transformation) texts.
You will be supplied with a sadhana and photo of Vajrasattva and a prayer book containing all of the prayers that you will need during the retreat.
WHAT TO EXPECT
The Vajrasattva retreat is held over the monsoon months. This is a time when we get a LOT of rain and mold is common. The days are often filled with white mist swirling around the trees surrounding the Centre, and the sun sometimes stays away for days on end. Thus it's an excellent time for doing retreat as there's little to do outside! But it can feel a little oppressive if you are not expecting it. The temperature is quite warm during this time, although the nights can be cool.
Read more here.
Food & Accommodation
Tushita offers simple vegetarian food - a blend of Western, Tibetan and Indian cuisine. We do use dairy products. Tushita cannot cater for any special diets! So please don't put us in the position to say no by asking.
Tushita's accommodation is fairly basic compared to the West. Please don't expect high quality luxury rooms - they don't exist here! But what we can offer is basic facilities that are quite adequate for retreating.
DISCIPLINE FOR THE VAJRASATTVA RETREAT
Whilst staying at Tushita during the retreat, please observe the Tushita code of conduct.
- Please be gentle in your behaviour and sensitive to fellow group retreaters.
- Retreaters must attend all sessions of the retreat unless sick. The Retreat Leader must be informed if you are sick and therefore unable to attend a session.
- Retreaters must come to all sessions on time.
- Do not do practices other than the Vajrsattva practice during session times.
- If the Retreat Leader or Centre Director feels it is necessary to call a meeting during the retreat to discuss retreat matters, it is compulsory for all retreaters to attend.
- It is not permitted to go down to McLeod Ganj, Dharamkot or other places outside your retreat boundaries during the retreat except in the case of an emergency. Please settle all travel arrangements, calls, emails etc. before the retreat begins.
- If couples wish to do this retreat, we require them to remain as separate from each other as possible. Retreat is an individual process and only by distancing oneself from one's partner can the maximum benefit be gained. So we ask you to not sit next to each other in the Gompa or spend time in each other's rooms.
Feedback from previous Vajrasattva retreaters
Pure Pleasure, Pure Pain - The Vajrasattva Retreat
Some say it's heaven, some say it's hell and many think it's both - the annual three month Vajrasattva retreat at Tushita is usually a stern test for all those who dare to do it. Here are a few views from some who finished the retreat in 1999...
"Tushita is a very good place, in a way magical, set in a beautiful forest with gorgeous views and filled with a healthy population of charming dogs, slugs, monkeys and honest people working to better themselves for the sake of all beings. We were well cared for by the staff who were generous with support and respect for what we were doing. With a sincere sensitivity, they gave us all the mental and physical space we needed, always dealing with details of practical affairs as they came up, and sympathetically staying clear out of our way when we were in the crunch of the difficult times of purification."
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. For me, I think this retreat was a back-to-basics experience - certainly not some mystical tantric experience - but really just working with very basic Lam Rim. What this retreat gave me was the opportunity to really look at my mind - what did I find? I found it is not fun to do this retreat - it is very painful. But it is in these moments of real pain, that we grow a little. We understand a little more. This is the cutting edge of our practice. So in hindsight, the darkest moments, the worst of times, are in fact, the best of times.
As His Holiness says "We have no choice but to get on the Path and move towards Buddhahood" Even if it takes 100,000 lives. The alternative is to remain a slave of our negative emotions of karma and delusion.
Despite it's difficulties, this retreat has been the best time of my life - no doubt. One main reason has been the incredible inspiration all the other Vajrasattva retreaters have been. It's been great sitting at the back of the Gompa, as I could spy on everyone when I'm distracted. I see everyone trying so hard, working so hard, it's wonderful. They have been my dearest friends, my support, my mirror and my guru - it doesn't get any better than this!"
Registration for the 2014 retreat will open towards the end of 2013. More details will be available closer to the time.
Hope to see you in 2014!