three year retreat experiences?

Cmjd3055
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three year retreat experiences?

Post by Cmjd3055 » Mon Nov 19, 2018 8:00 pm

I’m wondering if anyone here has completed a three year retreat, or is close with someone who has, and would be willing to share their experiences. I’m not looking for details about practices, but rather I’m curious about how people would say the experience has affected them. How are their lives different after retreat? Do they have any regrets? Would they have prepared differently or chosen a different retreat center?

I’ve looked online but have only found a couple accounts, and I don’t know anyone in my personal life other than my Lama who has completed one. I’ve asked him, but he only says it was the best time of his life.

Yeti
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Yeti » Fri Nov 23, 2018 11:41 am

I only completed 1/2 of the Nyingma 3yr.

I just remember Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche returning to teach us about 20 months in. As we were offering Sang as he drove in, all glad to see him,,, and as he drove past he was just starring in the sky with a semi wrathful look on his face... the hairs stood up on the back of my neck... and I thought "FUUUCKKKKK... I haven't been practising Dharma at all... it's all been spiritual materialism. :oops:
"When a Dzogchen Yogi hears Shakyamuni Buddha turning the Wheel of the Dharma of the Four Noble Truths he hears Samathabhadra proclaiming the most profound Dzogpachenpo." - Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

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conebeckham
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by conebeckham » Fri Nov 23, 2018 7:37 pm

I have many friends who have done three year retreats-Tibetans and Westerners, both.
Most people will not talk of "Experiences" openly. In my opinion, any responses you do get will vary widely--each person has a unique experience. what is it you want to know, more specifically? How hard it was to be isolated? How people manage to get along when locked in a compound with others and no outside contact--including no media, no computers, iPhones, etc.? How practice is structured? Whether they think it was "worth it?" I've discussed some of these issues, and can tell you generally what people say....

Amongst my Tibetan friends, Lamas and such, they of course have a different experience than Westerners due, generally, because they are far better prepared.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

yagmort
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by yagmort » Sat Nov 24, 2018 5:54 pm

though not OP i'd like to listen answers to all those questions Cone.

adding up to that: how difficult is it to sleep little and to sleep in an upright position? how big is it of a problem to maintain knee and back health and flexibilty if you sit cross legged for hours a day?

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Kelwin
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Kelwin » Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:03 pm

From what I've been hearing, many people only made it halfway through. Both Kagyu and Nyingma retreats, and under many different teachers. For some, they realised that they weren't ready for this at all. Others have completely abandoned Buddhism and decided to be productive members of society instead. But almost everyone I talked to seems to agree that the hardest part is not the practices or anything related to the dharma, but the simple fact that you're stuck in a small place with people you didn't choose as family.

For me it's all just second-hand stories. I'd love to hear more from someone like you Cone. If someone reading this all is considering doing a 3 year retreat, what do you think they should really be aware of?
'I will not take your feelings seriously, and neither will you' -Lama Lena

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu Nov 29, 2018 3:14 pm

Kelwin wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:03 pm
Others have completely abandoned Buddhism and decided to be productive members of society instead.
People in three year retreat are the most productive members of society, IMO.

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conebeckham
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by conebeckham » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:01 pm

Kelwin wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 1:03 pm
From what I've been hearing, many people only made it halfway through. Both Kagyu and Nyingma retreats, and under many different teachers. For some, they realised that they weren't ready for this at all. Others have completely abandoned Buddhism and decided to be productive members of society instead. But almost everyone I talked to seems to agree that the hardest part is not the practices or anything related to the dharma, but the simple fact that you're stuck in a small place with people you didn't choose as family.

For me it's all just second-hand stories. I'd love to hear more from someone like you Cone. If someone reading this all is considering doing a 3 year retreat, what do you think they should really be aware of?
You've outlined one of the biggest issues, yes.

From the POV of practice, it depends on who you're practicing with--what center, what tradition--but until recently the majority of Kagyu Drupdras in the West required a working knowledge of Tibetan. Some Nyingma centers, too, I think. This is changing. Still, it's best to know some Tibetan.

Sleep deprivation is a thing. Also, most retreats require a great degree of "stripped down living." No contact with outside, or very little. I visited friends, from the other side of a high fence, a few times. My friends tell me those were precious moments.

One friend told me the story of doing Tsogle Rinchen Trengwa near the end of retreat, and being outside doing the jinsek in freezing weather for many hours, and having to return to his cabin, wrap himself and his space heater in blankets....the Northern California winters can get pretty cold.

Sheer Boredom is a thing. You can experience a taste of this if you do shorter retreats and maintain a strict schedule. Do a week, with four sessions a day, no internet, TV, music, etc., and minimize contact with others. Imagine that, over more than 3 years.

These are just a few comments. And I'll say nothing of the "high points"--most people have some experience, or "nyam," at the very least. I know a few who I feel have greatly benefitted themselves, and others, as a result. But best not to talk too much about all that.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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weitsicht
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by weitsicht » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:24 pm

Retreat is like life. You just know what it's like for you if you do it.
And you face whatever is occurring. But maybe you have less patterns to cope or evade the occurrences when in retreat, hence the strong experiences. However, if serious effort is made (or if the occurrence is big enough), you can see the same occurrences and have a look at them also outside the retreat setup. Cone, you mention the boredom. It came up in November 2017 and I spent one and a half month with this sticky boredom, whilst everyday life happened around me. Just as an example.

And the experience(s) of the first retreat don't guarantee at all that this is how the next retreat is going to be like.

A friend accounted of a friend of his. Before the retreat she was a cheerful and open-hearted woman and she totally changed in that way and abandoned these traits, pitifully in the eyes of my friend. But who can judge for what it is good or bad!?

Kelwin mentioned the people you are in retreat with... I think the whole setup loads up lots of energy and hidden projections. Not that we choose our family either... Another thing is a solitary retreat. The only one to project on is yourself, that can be much more shifting/dangerous for the psyche.

My teacher's teacher, CR Lama, wasn't so much in favour of long retreats. He didn't discourage them but he didn't advise for them either. He said that remaining in the sheer present awareness various times a day and transferring the effect of that into post-meditation (this is not a quote) is the most valuable practise. But that is the Dzogchen (Mahamudra) view so maybe not quite apt for this forum, sorry if seen that way. I have a strong personal tendency to just abandon this whole everyday crap and focus on practise only. And everytime this thought comes up I have to remind myself how valuable it is to move in and out: duality, nonduality, nonnonduality, dualnonduality, switch, switch, both at the same time? Neither? Whatever.
Ho! All the possible appearances and existences of samsara and nirvana have the same source, yet two paths and two results arise as the magical display of awareness and unawareness.
HO NANG SRI KHOR DAE THAMCHE KUN ZHI CHIG LAM NYI DRAE BU NYI RIG DANG MA RIG CHOM THRUL TE

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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by pemachophel » Fri Nov 30, 2018 4:54 pm

CMJD3055,

Why do you want to do a three-year retreat?
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ

Cmjd3055
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Cmjd3055 » Sat Dec 01, 2018 1:55 am

I’m in no way certain that I do! That’s part of why I was asking about others experiences. Also just to be clear again, I’m not asking about anyone’s spiritual experiences or insights, rather the practicalities, challenges, obstacles and what not.

Thanks to everyone who has already commented so far!

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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Dec 01, 2018 3:30 am

As I understand it, what is needed is a sense of spiritual or religious vocation. It's what Christians refer to as 'a calling' although obviously it's different for Buddhists. But it's the same in respect of requiring a real motivation to set aside or even abandon the worldly life and its attachments. I personally don't have such a motivation, but I certainly respect those who do, as it must require quite a strong sense of devotion.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by pemachophel » Mon Dec 03, 2018 8:57 pm

I think clarifying what you think you will get out of a three-year retreat is hugely important in helping you decide if such a retreat is right for you.
Pema Chophel པདྨ་ཆོས་འཕེལ

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:58 am

conebeckham wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:01 pm
Do a week, with four sessions a day, no internet, TV, music, etc., and minimize contact with others. Imagine that, over more than 3 years.
Does this mean that there are no days off or something like a "weekend" structure in a three-year retreat?

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heart
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by heart » Tue Dec 04, 2018 9:35 am

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:58 am
conebeckham wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:01 pm
Do a week, with four sessions a day, no internet, TV, music, etc., and minimize contact with others. Imagine that, over more than 3 years.
Does this mean that there are no days off or something like a "weekend" structure in a three-year retreat?
Of course not. :smile:

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)

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conebeckham
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by conebeckham » Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:11 pm

Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:58 am
conebeckham wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:01 pm
Do a week, with four sessions a day, no internet, TV, music, etc., and minimize contact with others. Imagine that, over more than 3 years.
Does this mean that there are no days off or something like a "weekend" structure in a three-year retreat?
I understand that there were "rest days" on occasion, when the demands were relaxed a bit..depending largely on the "main practice" at that time--i.e., Dream or Clear Light practice, etc....but for us, such days would still appear to be cram-packed with formal practice sessions, etc.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Thomas Amundsen
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Tue Dec 04, 2018 8:19 pm

conebeckham wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:11 pm
Thomas Amundsen wrote:
Tue Dec 04, 2018 6:58 am
conebeckham wrote:
Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:01 pm
Do a week, with four sessions a day, no internet, TV, music, etc., and minimize contact with others. Imagine that, over more than 3 years.
Does this mean that there are no days off or something like a "weekend" structure in a three-year retreat?
I understand that there were "rest days" on occasion, when the demands were relaxed a bit..depending largely on the "main practice" at that time--i.e., Dream or Clear Light practice, etc....but for us, such days would still appear to be cram-packed with formal practice sessions, etc.
Sounds very intense indeed.

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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Fri Dec 07, 2018 2:26 am

Should such retreat be done at least once in a lifetime? 😶

Does age matters? If i do it young, adult or old?

Does practice maturity matters for it?
what are you doing

yagmort
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by yagmort » Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:35 pm

Javier, certain lineages have 3 year retreat as a part of formal training, where almost every practitioner has finished at least one.

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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by javier.espinoza.t » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:08 pm

yagmort wrote:
Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:35 pm
Javier, certain lineages have 3 year retreat as a part of formal training, where almost every practitioner has finished at least one.
I understand then that is part of monastic curriculum, is it?

But ¿what is it for?

I'm sorry if my questions are of newbie, I'm not much familiar to traditions
what are you doing

yagmort
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Re: three year retreat experiences?

Post by yagmort » Fri Dec 07, 2018 3:38 pm

Javier, this i don't know as well)

But i don't think it is part of monastic curriculum, as back then (11 century) there were no monastic establishment in kagyu and majority of practitioners were there for a sincere path to liberation, not because there are too many children in a family so out of 5 one should be a monk even if he is just a kid yet and don't give a damn to either sansara or liberation)

early kagyu were all repas and basically retreat yogis: Mila Repa, Ngamdzong Repa, Tsagpa Gyare(pa), Ling repa, Sumpa Repa etc. their life were inseparable form practice and they did spent many years in retreats. from what i understand they didn't set it to be exactly 3 years and 3 months retreat but they stayed as long as they wanted to or until signs of realizations occur. later on Gambopa introduced monkhood from his kadampa roots into kagyu tradition, so it became a monastic institution and i would guess later on 3 year retreat became a tribute to those days of old. it is said that 3 years and 3 months retreat was formally instituted in the nineteenth century by Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

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