THOSAMLING Buddhist Nunnery & Institute Winter Retreat 2020

‘Shamatha, Vipashyana & the cultivation of genuine happiness’ A seven week course with Alma Ayon - teacher artist and longtime student of Alan Wallace.

What you will learn at this retreat

The retreat is aimed at developing a strong understanding and practice of Shamatha meditation deeply grounded within the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The course is therefore twofold: one side aims at developing a clear, concentrated mind through the gradual study and practice of Shamatha meditation. The complementing aim is exploring the practice of Shamatha within the Buddhist context, starting with an overview of the Buddha’s life and teachings and how Shamatha practice fits within the context of the three vehicles, the Four Noble truths, the three higher trainings and the six perfections. The lastpart of the retreat is dedicated to brief introduction to Dream Yoga and Dzogchen practice, and a whole overview of the path.

This seven week retreat gives the participants the opportunity to immerse in the full range of practices for cultivating Shamatha, while providing a wide scope of the practice within the Mahayana philosophical world which acts as a support for the practice. During the retreat we will cover the full range of Shamatha techniques and their application. The full seven weeks of the retreat provide ample time for individual practice. As it is one of the aims of the retreat to give the participants the tools and confidence to integrate the practice in their own life and be able to conduct their own personal retreats. As the retreat progresses we will dedicate more time for our own individual practice. At the end of the first two weeks of the retreat we will dedicate two days for self practice. After one month, four days of self practice, and near the end of the retreat we will have a full week of self-guided practice. Regardless of whether you are a long- time practitioner or absolute beginner, this approach will provide a comprehensive practice to take home.

Who can come?

The retreat is open for women and men and is structured to cater for both beginners and experienced students alike.

For how long?

The retreat is seven weeks long. We ask participants to join for the full length of the retreat. At the end of the seven weeks there is a pilgrimage to important Buddhist sites in the area you can join (February 23rd to March 3rd).

How is the course structured?

The retreat progresses gradually in order to slowly settle into the practice and allow for cultivation of an understanding of the meditation technique and philosophy.

Week 1: Settling in, slowing down and transitioning from daily life mode to retreat mode.

Week 2-3: Explore different Shamatha techniques, their benefits and progression stages and the differences between Shamatha and Vipashyana practices. To strengthen our understanding we will go through overview of the Buddha’s life and teachings and how Shamatha practice fits within the context of the three vehicles, the Four Noble truths, the three higher trainings, and the six perfections.

Week 4: Continue Shamatha as our main practice while exploring the Four Immeasurables and Bodhicitta.

Week 5: Continue Shamatha as our main practice while exploring the Four Applications of Mindfulness and Vipashyana as the next stages on the path.

Week 6: A brief introduction to Dream Yoga and Dzogchen practice and a whole overview of the path while making longer shamatha sessions.

Week 7: Preparing for the future; Going through how to set a daily practice and how to organize and prepare for a solitary Shamatha retreat.

The gradual structure of our retreat makes it ideal both for beginners new to the practice, and for experienced practitioners who would like to dive into a prolonged retreat to re-acquaint themselves with the practices in a quiet and supportive environment under the guidance of an experienced teacher.

What does a typical day involve?

The retreat schedule includes class and guided meditation sessions as well as individual practice sessions (Ghatikas). The Ghatikas are based on 24-minute sessions, which, as Kamalashila advised, is not too long or to short for most people. These 24-minute sessions are followed by a 6-minute break, which allows people to stay fresh throughout a full day of practice. As Alma Ayon explains: “I feel it is important that people not only learn a full range of Shamatha practices, but also develop confidence in making the practices their own so they can easily take what they learn into solitary retreat if they wish”.

To encourage this, the retreat with progress into more and more practice time. The final week of the retreat will be a full week of practitioners doing their own self-guided practice with only the discussion of written questions in the evening.

06:00 – 07:30 – 3 Ghatikas (in meditation hall, whilst walking, or in bedroom)

07:30 – 08:30 – Breakfast

08:30 – 09:30 – Class and guided meditation

10:00 – 11:30 – 3 Ghatikas

11:30 – 13:00 – Lunch

13:00 – 14:30 – Class and guided meditation

14:30 – 16:00 – 5 Ghatikas and optional yoga

16:00 – 17:00 – Three private 15-minute interviews with the teacher

17:00 – 18:30 – Dinner

18:30 – 20:00 – Guided meditation and discussion of written questions

Where do we stay?

For Women

Thosamling nunnery provides two options for accomodation. Either a private single bedroom with ensuite bathroom, or a private single bedroom with a shared bathroom. Prices vary depending on guest choice (see below).

Women costs

For Men

Thosamling nunnery provides two options for accomodation. Either a regular private single room with shared bathroom or a small private single room with shared bathroom. Prices vary depending on guest choice (see below).

mens costsA deposit of USD$75 is required to confirm your place in the retreat

The Pilgramage

To celebrate the completion of the retreat, offer the merit, and get a taste of the unique Buddhist heritage of Himachal Pradesh, Thosamling is offering a celebration of Losar (Tibetan New Year) followed by a five-day pilgrimage to local Buddhist sites in the area.

From February 23rd to March 3rd we will celebrate Losar (Tibetan New Year) and go on a ‘Lama Round’ to visit the spiritual teachers in the area and offer the accumulated merit of the retreat, for the blessing of the new year. We will visit local sites such as HH Dalai Lama’s temple in Mcloed Ganj, Gyuto monastery (home of HE. Karmapa), DGL Nunnery (home of Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo), and other sites in the area.

We will conclude the retreat and pilgrimage by spending three days in Tso Pema (Lotus Lake) where Guru Rinpoche meditated for three months, with its famous holy lake and impressive 123ft statue of Padmasambhava. The price of the pilgramage is $150 USD.

Where is Thosamling?

Thosamling nunnery is located in the Kangra Valley, a 20 minute drive from Dharamsala in the Himachal Pradesh state of North India. The valley has an average elevation of 2000ft. above sea level. Overnight buses leave daily from Delhi and take approximately 10 hours. By air, Thosamling is close to Gaggal Airport, from which we can organise a transfer service for guests.

What should I bring?

We recommend bringing comfortable warm clothes (shawl, trainers, sweatshirts, trackpants, thick socks, beanies, gloves, etc) for temperatures 10-12 degrees celcius in the day, to 5-10 degrees celcius at night. Please also bring a torch or headlight in cases of power outages, a raincoat for walks, a water bottle (we provide drinkable filtered water), alarm clock, flip-flops for the shower, as well as soaps, shampoos, and a towel. We provide meditation cushions, but you are welcome to bring your own. Thosamling also has a small supply store with items such as toilet paper, notebooks, pens, incense, soap, etc.