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Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche by Gosha Heldtz

The Ultimate Retreat

by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

Ideally the ultimate retreat is to retreat from the past and the future, to always remain in the present. However our mind is so empowered and controlled by habit all the time. One characteristic of habit is not being able to sit still, not being able to remain in the present. This is because being in the present is so scary, so boring and unbearable for our deluded and spoiled mind. Little do we know that actually being in the present is so exciting and the most liberating from all kinds of pain, suffering and anxiety. We sentient beings like to be free from all these things, but we always end up diligently creating more and more causes and conditions to have this pain, suffering and anxiety.

Being in the present is so important in Buddhism. It is the core strategy of Buddhism to do whatever it takes to keep the mind present, to have ones mind from going astray. Every single method that exists in Buddhism is for that result. It could be from just a simple sitting meditation to the tantric methods of visualisation, ritual and mantra. Even elaborate practices including certain tantric dances, what is now popularly known as lama dancing.

With the myriad of methods, one is basically retreating oneself from mundane activities and hopefully from mundane thoughts for as long as possible. Traditionally in Tibet we try to retreat from the everyday for something like one week, three weeks, three months, six months, three years, nine years. Even today there are many people in Tibet who are actually in retreat for a lifetime. However retreat doesn’t have to be three months or three years. What we need is to have the discipline of retreat every day. Such discipline is to retreat from our mundane worldly activities and simply sit on a meditation cushion with oneself.

The idea is to avoid engaging oneself with things we usually end up engaging in, such as gossiping, chatting, internet browsing or newspaper reading. We have so many Buddhist methods to help us do this, from simply doing nothing which is actually the most difficult, to all the way up to two or three hours of rituals and practices. There is no reason why we can not refer to this as a retreat.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche by Gosha Heldtz