What to Expect on a Buddhist Retreat
Advanced Buddhist Retreats
How Should I Prepare For My Course/Retreat?
Things to Bring To a Retreat:
The Centre Asks You NOT To Bring:
Buddhist Retreat Centres Have Basic Rules ( five precepts)
What Retreats can I Attend at Atisha Centre?
Retreats are a great way to initiate a personal exploration of Buddhism, and of yourself. The thousands of dharma centres and Buddhist monasteries that have sprung up in the West offer many kinds of retreats for Buddhist newbies.
Attending a "beginner" retreat is an ideal way to begin a personal experience of Buddhism outside of books. You'll be in the company of other beginners, and such matters as temple protocols or how to meditate will be explained. Most Buddhist centers that offer retreats will make it clear which retreats are appropriate for beginners and which require some prior experience.
Let's start with the negatives. Be warned that a lay Buddhist centre or monastery are not a spa, and your accommodation, while very confortable, is not luxurious. If having your own room is a deal-breaker, inquire if that is possible before you sign up. You will be sharing bathroom facilities with other retreaters. Further, you are expected to help with the chores (karma yoga) - cooking, dish washing, cleaning, etc. - while you stay here. ONe hour per day of Karma yoga is expected. A gong will be rung early in the morning to call you to teachings, a sunrise meditation or chanting service, so don't count on sleeping in.
Ritual is part of the Buddhist experience. Some beginners might find this puzzling or even uncomfortable. Please read about "Ritual and Buddhism" before ruling out Buddhist retreats because you might have to participate in a ritual.
On the plus side, if you are serious about taking the spiritual path, there is no better way to start than with a beginner Buddhist retreat. On retreat you can find a greater depth and intensity of spiritual practice than you are likely to have experienced before. You will be shown facets of reality, and of yourself, that may surprise you.
You may have read or heard about advanced meditation retreats, or retreats of several weeks to as long as three years. You might think you don't need to begin swimming in the shallow end of the pool and are ready to dive into the deep end. But if you have no prior experience with Buddhist retreats, you really should start with a beginner retreat. Indeed, many dharma centers won't let you sign up for an "intensive" retreat without prior experience.
There are two reasons for this. First, it's very likely the intensive retreat will be different from what you imagine. If you go into one unprepared, you could have a bad experience. Second, if you are absolutely miserable or stumbling around not understanding the forms and protocols, this can impact the retreat for everyone else.
A spiritual retreat is a personal adventure. It's a small commitment of time that impacts the rest of your life. It's a space in which to shut out the noise and distractions and come face-to-face with yourself. It can be the beginning of a new direction for you. If you are interested in Buddhism and want to be more than a "book store Buddhist," we recommend participating in a beginner-level retreat.
Once you have registered for the course/retreat and have carefully read the registration confirmation materials provided for you, there is nothing else you must do.
Though it is not necessary, some students like to do some preparatory reading. For Introductory Course students we suggest:
- Anything by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, though please note that some of His Holiness’ books are much more advanced than others. The Path to Enlightenment (previously titled Essence of Refined Gold) provides a good overview of the Buddhist path. (Snow Lion Publications)
- How To Meditate by Kathleen McDonald (Wisdom Publications)
- Wisdom Energy by Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications)
- for very quick and easy reading: any of the free distribution books by Lama Thubten Yeshe available in print or via download at Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive (www.lamayeshe.com): Essence of Tibetan Buddhism, Becoming Your Own Therapist, Make Your Mind an Ocean, and others
- Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand by Pabongka Rinpoche (Wisdom Publications)
- Spiritual Friends: Meditations by Monks and Nuns of the International Mahayana Institute (Wisdom Publications)
Each type of retreat has a particular purpose and will have different requirements. Specific things will be explained to you on booking, however in general please bring:
- Map to Atisha Centre
- Atisha Centre Contact Details.
- Recommended texts, if any
- Notepad and pen
- Toiletries - soap, shampoo, toothbrush, comb, etc.
- light rug for inside the gompa
- Warm clothing in general
- Insect repellent
Optional Things To Bring:
Generally the retreat organiser will advise on the appropriateness of the following
- Alarm clock
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Illegal Drugs (Non-Prescription Drugs)
- Tobacco Products (Atisha Centre has an Absolutely No Smoking policy.)
- Candles for personal use other than tea light candles for use in the gompa.
Do not kill.
Do not steal.
Do not indulge in sexual misconduct.
Do not make false speech.
Do not take intoxicants.
Buddhism is the most profound and wholesome education directed by the Buddha towards all people. Five precepts are the curriculum of Buddhist teaching, which are embraced in the moral code of Buddhism. By observing precepts, not only do you cultivate your moral strength, but you also perform the highest service to your fellow beings.
Please<< click here
>> to go to our calendar for information and booking details for retreats.