What is retreat?
The Tibetan word for retreat is ‘tsam’, which means ‘stop’ or ‘make a break’. This indicates we must stop, or make a break from, our normal activities and concentrate on a particular spiritual practice. The most important thing to stop during retreat is our distractions—to stop our busy mind.
At Serlingpa Center, we offer a variety of retreats to give the practitioner an opportunity to ‘take a break’ from normal activities and a distracted mind.
These retreats are offered throughout the year at the center and provide an opportunity to gain retreat experience in a quiet, peaceful environment. These retreats are generally guided and often have lunch provided on site.
What are the Four Preliminary Guide Retreats?
• Stages of the Path (Lamrim) Retreat
• Refuge Retreat
• Guru Yoga Mandala Offering Retreat
• Vajrasattva Purification Retreat
The following explanation, given by Geshe Kelsang in 1993, applies to the Four Preliminary Guide Retreats. These retreats are held every year at the center. They are usually a week in length, four sessions a day, and allow people to gain deeper experience of a particular practice. They are an integral part of the Teacher Training Program (TTP), but are also open to everyone. You may attend any number of sessions.
Buddha taught many different meditations. The realizations attained through these meditations are the path to liberation. Liberation from suffering therefore depends upon making progress in meditation, and progress in meditation depends upon engaging sincerely in preliminary practices. Buddha taught four principal preliminary practices. These are normally called the ‘four great guides’ because they are the methods by which we are guided into the actual path to liberation. Meditation itself is like the main body, and the four great guides are like four limbs; just as without limbs our body cannot move and function, so without preliminary practices meditation alone cannot work.