Three year retreat across all traditions

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Three year retreat across all traditions

Post by Nicholas2727 »


I have been learning more about Tibetan Buddhism and have come across the three year retreats a few times, although they are usually always mentioned with the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions. Do the other three traditions (Jonang, Sakya and Gelug) also do these retreats?

Also, is the three year retreat a requirement for monastics or is it seen as an honorable act done by many monastics?

I am not asking this as someone interested in going to a three year retreat, just wanting to learn more about the importance and significance of them!
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Re: Three year retreat across all traditions

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

A retreat is any period of time devoted entirely to practice.
Practice in this case refers to meditation and ritual practices, study, and disciplines.
A person could do a three day retreat just on their own, as long as it was structured. For anything longer than that there would/could/should be a teacher or retreat master who is monitoring to some degree, the person doing the retreat. I have a friend who is a lama, who used to be the head of a monastery in Sikkim, who travels and has monks on solitary retreats in various places in Asia, and he visits them or they talk on the phone. But, it is also common for a group of people to enter a retreat, such as a three year retreat, together. Not that they are constantly together, but live as a monastic group. But each dies his or her own individual practice in some kind of... perhaps, the monastic equivalent of an office cubicle, for their own solitary meditation and practice. Western students would not only learn rituals and receive teachings, but might also be required to learn to read (and speak) Tibetan.

A three year retreat is, I think routinely required if one wishes to become a lama.
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Re: Three year retreat across all traditions

Post by practitioner »

Speaking from my experience in the Kagyu school, 3-year retreat is generally seen as a base requirement to become a lama. Though permission to teach is not guaranteed and is still granted by one's guru, not by merely completing a retreat.

Lay and monastic practitioners do 3-year retreat (with lay practitioners essentially taking monastic vows for the duration of the retreat). Completing ngondro and being able to read Tibetan are common prerequisites.

Many monastics never do a 3-year retreat and it is certainly not seen as a requirement. There is definitely a level of respect however afforded those (lay and monastic) who have completed one.

Just my observations.
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Re: Three year retreat across all traditions

Post by zerwe »

Three year retreats are a practice in the Gelug as well, but I am not sure
of how or if they differ in structure when compared to the Kagyu format that
we often hear about.
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Re: Three year retreat across all traditions

Post by conebeckham »

Retreat is essential in all Vajrayana traditions, and all Tibetan lineages have retreats. In the Sakya, LamDre is is certainly practiced in retreat, as well as in daily life, as is Naro Khachoma. Many Sakyapas do shorter retreats specific to various practices as well. The completion stage practices of LamDre and Naro Khacho are part of the retreat as well.

Gelukpas often do retreat on one specific yidam--or a combo of the three main yidams in Tsongkhapa's system--Guhyasamaja, Cakrasamvara and VajraBhairava. There are associated Completion Stage practices related to these sadhanas as well.

Nyingmapas often do retreat on a terma cycle-for instance, Longchen Nyingthik or Dudjom Tersar--and practice the various deity yogas and Completion Stages (Incl. Trekcho and Togal Dzogchen) in an organized manner.

Kagyupas practice the yidam deities --usually Vajravarahi, Cakrasamvara, and others, depending on lineage--and the completion stages of the Six Yogas traditions and Mahamudra.

In addition, there are a lot of ancillary practices done on a daily, monthly and yearly basis.

"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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