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How to Plan Your Personal Retreat, Part One

In “How to Plan Your Personal Retreat,” recorded on October 12, 2020, Drupla Sonam Tsering, who has completed three three-year retreats, gives practical advice on questions including: How do we choose where to go for retreat? What are suggestions on retreat for someone with commitments like family or children? What are the advantages and disadvantages of solitary retreat? When should we do retreat at home?

Drupla begins with “In Praise of Manjushri,” known as Gang gi lodröma in Tibetan, and with the idea of our human potential. The word “human” in Tibetan means “great potential.” How do we realize our potential? By gathering merit through stable discipline, virtuous practices, and aspirations. When these three come together, merit accumulation takes place. This is very precious, bringing temporary happiness in the short term, liberation in the long term. Retreat is a special opportunity to actualize the accumulation of merit.

“In order to attain the state of awakening, we have to practice the Dharma in a genuine way,” Drupla Sonam says. He offers advice on what makes an ideal or appropriate retreat place, the advantages of group and of solitary retreat practice, including the number of sessions per day (in a traditional retreat, it’s four sessions a day). “It’s all about finding a balance that works for you,” he observes. The main aim of Phakchok Rinpoche is that his students benefit from teachings, and some signs of benefit are that renunciation deepens, bodhicitta increases, conceptual thinking diminishes, and emptiness becomes clearer. “The word ‘Dharma’ means ‘transformation.’ So we should be looking for this kind of transformation to take place in ourselves,” Drupla concludes.


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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.