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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vijayamala and Vessantara begin three-year retreat

Last month FWBO News posted a piece by Vessantara outlining his plans and preparations for the three-year retreat he is beginning with his partner Vijayamala. They have now arrived, and we’re pleased to reproduce this update from Vijayamala herself.

She says -

“So here we are deposited with various retreat supplies in the foothills of France’s Massif Central mountains, on the brink of a 3-years-or-so retreat. It's actually a stunning location. I already knew we were on a beautiful hillside, quite far up (!), but doing a little bit of exploring soon revealed just what it meant to be where we are. We’re in undulating country, part of a massive plateau and if you go a couple of kilometres south or east this quickly falls away into deep deep gorges with a wide river looping through vast stretches of forested wilderness only accessible to the buzzards and kites. It's so quiet! It was good to look around a little. I won't see all this during the retreat of course, but it makes a difference to know what I am meditating on! We also climbed the Puy de Dome, not far from here, which is a stand-alone mountain from which you get 360 degree panoramic views. Again a very good place to get a sense of the mandala of beings stretching so far out all around.

“Everything here is very deeply green and lush, quite a tonic after all the last-minute preparations for leaving, which seemed to go on for months and quite different from the harsh weather conditions of the winter here (and to some extent spring and autumn too). There are preparations to do here too: weather proofing and painting the circus wagons in which we’ll be living, getting in supplies, finishing off bits of work, but it's all much simpler somehow and it feels wonderful to know I don't have to go anywhere for a very long time.

“My retreat program is shaping up. It's a real luxury to have so long, although when I look at what I want to engage with it doesn't seem very long at all!

“I will spend the first while focusing on the human condition; using the Four Reminders (the preciousness of human life, impermanence, conditioned co-production, and the sufferings of samsara) and also Bodhichitta. It's easy to reel off lists, but I want to spend real substantial time exploring these things in my actual experience, turning every stone to see what blocks my acceptance of these rather obvious truths. I started this process on the pre-retreat earlier this year and could take all of the next three years to scratch the surface, but I suspect there will come a time when it feels right to move on.

“I would also like have a good chunk of time, at least six months, focusing on metta and Bodhicitta. I'll probably keep it quite simple, using breathing alongside metta as a connection to life and also doing tonglen ‘exchange’ practice. Let's see if that can make any dent at all in my deep self-centredness - I hope so. At least I know that that way lies freedom!

“Then, if the time feels right, I will then enter a phase of focusing more fully on sadhana practice. What a chance to live so completely in a world flavoured by an enlightened perspective - again let's see what rubs off...

“It's all so much of an exploration. 3 years seems like a drop in the ocean, given that I have been attempting to practice now for nearly 30. Who knows what I will learn, maybe just a lot more things not to do, but I am ready for the adventure…

“We close the doors on August 5th and start retreat on the 11th (a Padmasambhava day), Probably by the time you read this. So it only remains to wish you all joy, health and wisdom over the next few years and in due course I look forward to finding out what trajectories some of your lives have taken over that time.


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