Dear friends, students, and fellow meditators
In the precious lineage I inherited from my teachers, the practice of retreat is taught to be an indispensable component of the spiritual journey. This tradition can be traced back through the Tibetan saint Milarepa all the way to the Buddha, who left a life a wealth and privilege to meditate alone in the forests of ancient India.
As you may know, I have had four primary spiritual mentors: my father - Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Saljey Rinpoche, Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, and Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche. The wisdom and compassion these masters embodied was no accident, but rather the fruition of years and years of dedicated spiritual practice. My father, for example, spent decades practicing in solitude and was a tireless advocate for the practice of solitary retreat. Likewise, Saljey Rinpoche, my three-year retreat teacher, spent nearly half his life in retreat, while Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche was justly famous not only for his obvious realization, but also for the many years he spent meditating in retreat. Of my four teachers, only Kenting Tai Situ Rinpoche is still alive. Like my other three teachers, Situ Rinpoche has also upheld this important tradition. At this very moment, he is on retreat for ten months in northern India. Since it is such an integral part of the lineage these teachers have passed on to me, I feel that maintaining the tradition of retreat is one my greatest responsibilities in this life.
As you may know, I was appointed to the position of retreat master when I was still in my teens, right after I finished my first three-year retreat under the guidance of Saljey Rinpoche. At the time, I had a strong desire to stay in retreat for another seven years. Though I was able to complete a few more years of retreat, my teachers soon recommended that I spend some time studying Buddhist philosophy. Following their advice, I spent the next decade studying in a shedra (monastic college), staying in retreat for a few months here and there as my schedule allowed. Though this period of study was deeply meaningful, I never lost my desire to return to retreat. I promised myself that after ten years of teaching I would complete another three year retreat. Since this year marks the end of ten years spent teaching the Dharma around the world, I have decided to begin another three-year retreat next spring.
This period will be challenging in many ways, especially for those of you who are members of the Tergar Meditation Community and have been practicing the Joy of Living and Path of Liberation (formerly known as the Mahamudra levels) over the past few years. Yet the next few years will also provide us with a valuable opportunity to integrate the teachings we've already received, to deepen our practice, and to reaffirm our commitment to the bodhisattva ideal. Indeed, the spiritual path contains its ebbs and flows just like the rest of life: There are times filled with study and activity, others in which we focus on quiet reflection and integration, and periods where we take what we've learned and bring it into the world to benefit others.
The next few years will undoubtedly see less of the rapid development that we've been witnessing in the Tergar community recently, but that doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of opportunities to study and practice. For the past two years, I have given many hours of teachings straight to the video camera, which I jokingly refer to as "my best student" (it doesn't forget anything I say!). These video teachings will be the cornerstone of Tergar's programs in the coming years. We've already started running Joy of Living video retreats, in which a Tergar instructor facilitates a weeklong or weekend retreat using these videos, interspersed with periods of guided meditation and group discussion. So far, these retreats have been a great success. Since all we need to hold a Joy of Living retreat is a small group of interested people, these retreats can be offered anywhere in the world.
In addition to the Joy of Living format, for those who have received the appropriate teachings and transmissions we will also offer retreats and seminars on the foundational practices, or ngondro, on nature of mind practices like Mahamudra, and on other Path of Liberation topics. There will also be classes and retreats led by Khenpo Kunga and Acharya Lama Trinley in the West, Khenpo Gyurmé Wangchen and Lama Yati in Asia, as well as by the Tergar instructors: Cortland Dahl, Edwin Kelley, Myoshin Kelley, and Tim Olmsted (for the Western sangha) and Lama Sherab, Ani Miao Rong, and Ani Yeshé (for the Chinese sangha). In addition, many wonderful teachers have also agreed to come and teach the Tergar community, including my brother - Tsoknyi Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche, Tulku Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Matthieu Ricard, Dr. Richie Davidson, and Daniel and Tara Goleman.
The Tergar Meditation Community will also continue to hold practice retreats over the next few years. This year we experimented with a practice retreat format (with 6-8 hours of practice per day along with 1-2 hours of teaching) at St. John's University. This retreat was such a great success that we are hoping to offer a three or four week practice retreat every year, in addition to holding numerous seven to ten day retreats around the world. These retreats will be led by Tergar lamas and instructors and will also feature the video teachings that we've been busy producing the past few years. For those of you who have been following my teachings, I would highly recommend joining these retreats as your schedule permits. Not only are they a great chance to go deeply into practice and receive more teachings, they are also times for all of you to come together and practice as a community. Group practice of this nature is incredibly powerful and will ensure that our sangha grows through our connection to each other and a shared commitment to practice. Nothing will make me happier than to come out of retreat and hear that our new tradition of coming together for practice retreats has grown and flourished in my absence.
In the coming months, I'll write more about my plans for the years ahead and all the programs that will be available to the Tergar community. I also recorded a short video in which I talk a bit more about how I came to this decision and my own thoughts about retreat. If I didn't get a chance to see you this summer during my teaching tour, I hope that we meet again before I go on retreat. If not, I will keep you in my heart and in my prayers and will see you when I return.
Yours in the Dharma,
Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche