Please note that due to health concerns, our 2020 retreats have been postponed.
Mon, May 4 – Sat, May 16
First Year Ngondro Retreat
Mon, May 18 – Sat, May 30
Second and Third Year Ngondro Retreat
Sat, Aug. 15 – Fri, Aug. 28
The Beauty of Merit & Wisdom: 14-Day Retreat
The 7 Branch Offerings are an essential and effective set of practices contained within many texts and pujas of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. They are perhaps the most expedient way to generate merit, one of the two accumulations that are necessary to progress towards enlightenment.
The 7 Branch Offerings are:
- Prostration, a gesture of respect which antidotes pride and cultivates humility
- Offering, which cultivates generosity and merit and antidotes attachment
- Confession, which has the effect of cleansing negativity and cultivating purity of mind
- Rejoicing, which antidotes jealousy and cultivates selfless joy
- Imploring the Buddhas to Turn the Wheel of Dharma, which antidotes ignorance
- Requesting the Buddhas not to Enter Nirvana, which antidotes wrong views
- Dedication, which seals the merit of these practices and offers them to all beings
By aligning one’s mind and intentions in a strongly positive way as you perform these traditional actions, you follow in the footsteps of many great masters. A quality of openness and happiness naturally results from doing these practices.
Lama Palzang and faculty will orient and lead retreatants in performing these practices, which include traditional-style water bowl and mandala offerings. You will receive instruction and then activate your intentions through the form of these practices in group sessions. This portion of the retreat is approximately ¼ instruction and ¾ practice, and includes some relaxation practices to help the body and mind settle, as well as time for individual reflection and practice. It consists mainly of the main practice of the 7 Branch Offerings, which will involve prostrations, making offerings, chanting, and visualization practices.
Practice materials will include: Pranidhanaraja, Lama Mipham’s Practice of Shakyamuni, Chapters 1, 2, 3, and 10 from Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara,and mantras including Vajrasattva, Vajra Guru, and the offering cloud dharani from Patrul Rinpoche’s Ritual for the Bodhisattva Vow.
Dean and instructor Pema Gellek will present material from the sutras, focusing on the Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra. Both of these timeless and beloved Mahayana texts are of the Prajnaparamita genre which expound on transcendent wisdom. Wisdom is the second accumulation necessary for the Buddhist path. Together with merit, we have the two wings needed to fly, to go beyond our present limitations of the ordinary mind. In addition to reading them together in English and speaking about their key points, we will also practice reciting these sutras in the traditional Tibetan style.
Furthermore, the two key prayers that are chanted each year at the World Peace Ceremony (Monlam Chenmo) in Bodh Gaya, India are the Pranidhanaraja and the Manjushrinamasamghiti. The Pranidhanaraja corresponds to merit and the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, while the Manjushrinamasamghiti corresponds to wisdom and the bodhisattva Manjushri. We will begin to become familiar with activating these essential and highly significant prayers by reciting them in Tibetan. We can dedicate merit like Samantabhadra and Manjushri, aspiring to full enlightenment for all beings through powerful, activated goodness and perfected understanding.
How do we approach merit and wisdom? With a mind of caring. Not only can we engage them through time-honored traditional practices that point powerfully towards the transcendent, but we can also carry them into our lives in grounded and practical ways that are no less transformative. Caring is the day to day practice, view, or attitude that can help keep the spirit of merit and inquiry alive. Drawing from Rinpoche’s recent publication Caring, we will explore how this quality allows us to be fully engaged, fully present.
During the final days of the retreat, you will engage in an intensive Nyung Nay practice which includes prayers to Avalokitesvara and prostrations while fasting, in silence, and undertaking day-long vows that last until dawn the following day. In keeping with the theme of purification, we encourage participants to wear white during this part of the retreat, which lasts for two days.
This retreat is an unparalleled opportunity to focus on and amplify all that is positive in a substantive, hands-on approach, and to dedicate all the generated merit to the benefit of all beings. You will come away with more understanding of traditional offerings and how this form of practice can be integrated into your life, and able to participate in a stream of activity that is joyous, affirming, and connects you with the sacred path of the enlightened ones.
With oceans of sounds and rivers of melody,
With oceans of inexhaustible praise,
I celebrate the qualities of all the Victorious Ones,
And praise those gone to bliss.
–Pranidanaraja, King of Aspiration Prayers
Work Practice: As part of our retreats, we have a 1.25 hour afternoon session during weekdays in which retreatants participate in simple cleaning tasks which are conducive to cultivating mindfulness. This act of service and generosity can also help integrate practice into daily life.
Prerequisites: Those who have some previous experience with Tibetan Buddhism or Nyingma Mandala Organization programs will be most able to benefit from this retreat. We practice in the Nyingma tradition, however the 7 Branch Offerings are not specific to this tradition only, as you can practice with Padmasambhava or the Buddha as your focus.
Cost: $2,500 includes a 13-night stay in a private room, all instruction and practice sessions, self-serve breakfast, delicious vegetarian lunches Monday – Saturday, tasty vegetarian dinners Monday – Friday, free access to Sunday programs, access to weekday evening classes as appropriate, and an optional early morning practice session. Spaces are limited — please contact us to reserve a room. At this time, online registration is not available for residential participation.
The non-residential cost of this retreat is $1,625 and includes instruction, practice sessions, and vegetarian lunches. For commuters, the retreat begins each day at 10 am and ends at 5pm, from Mondays through Saturdays. Online registration is available for non-residential participation.
Application: We ask that all retreatants, students, and visitors fill out a short questionnaire to confirm their health and recent travel status. We wish to protect your well-being and ask that anyone who feels sick not participate. All newcomers who have never been to a program here (or at an international Nyingma Institute) before also should fill out a short Retreat Application. Please contact us for the form.
Registration: You can register online for non-residential. Please contact us if you are interested in residential participation. The deadline for registering for this retreat is 2 weeks in advance: August 1, 2020.
Contact: If you have any questions, please contact (510) 809-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org We check emails more frequently than our phone. For calls, please leave a voicemail and we will get back to you. Thank you!