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WHY RETREAT?

MAY I BE THE MEDICINE AND THE PHYSICIAN FOR THE SICK,
MAY I BE THEIR NURSE UNTIL THEIR ILLNESS NEVER RECURS.
WITH SHOWERS OF FOOD AND DRINK, MAY I OVERCOME THE AFFLICTIONS OF HUNGER AND THIRST.
MAY I BECOME FOOD AND DRINK IN TIMES OF FAMINE.
MAY I BE A PROTECTOR TO THOSE WITHOUT PROTECTION,
A GUIDE FOR TRAVELLERS
AND A BOAT, A BRIDGE, A PASSAGE
FOR THOSE DESIRING THE FURTHER SHORE.
MAY I BE A LAMP FOR THOSE WHO SEEK LIGHT,
A BED FOR THOSE WHO SEEK REST,
AND MAY I BE A SERVANT FOR ALL SENTIENT BEINGS WHO DESIRE A SERVANT.

FOR AS LONG AS SPACE ENDURES,
AND FOR AS LONG AS LIVING BEINGS REMAIN,
UNTIL THEN MAY I TOO ABIDE,
TO DISPEL THE MISERY OF THE WORLD.


 

- Shantideva

I have chosen the verses above because they embody the yearning to help others that is the most authentic motivation for entering retreat: the aspiration to become enlightened in order to free all beings of suffering and its causes.
Whether I become enlightened or not in this life, I don´t know, but I have complete confidence that, with a foundation in ethics and the aspiration to be of service to others, devoting this life to  purify my own mind, subdue my  mental afflictions and to cultivate in the greatest possible depth emotional balance and clarity, can only be of benefit. I believe the exploration of human consciousness and the realization of its greatest potential are key to help us find a way out of the chaos in which  currently find ourselves.

“But when we hear the Tibetan word for “to meditate” – gom – it translates as “to familiarize”, it really throws us. So, what is meditation? What do we need to familiarize ourselves with? The Buddha’s answer is twofold: we need to utterly familiarize our minds with, bring our minds into sync with, virtue and reality.
And why would we need to do that? Because right now, according to the Buddhist take on the world, our minds are more familiar with the opposite: attachment, anger, jealousy and the other neuroses – just look at the suffering all around us: in our own selves, in our relationships, in the world. It is these unhappy states of mind that cause us to be out of sync with reality and goodness, which, in turn, cause us to harm others.”

- Robina Courtin

 


WHAT DOES A YOGI DO FOR THE WORLD?
"Although we all want happiness,
We ignorantly destroy it, like an enemy.
Although we want no misery,
We rush to create its cause."

-Shantideva
 
We all wish to be happy, well and safe, but in our society as it is today, dominated by widespread materialistic views, we try to fulfil  this innermost longing by searching for sources of happiness in the external world, and this is very clearly not doing the job.
In this current world view, consumerism and the pursue of hedonic pleasure (the acquisition of wealth, possessions, power and  fame), are presented as sources of happiness, but they only  lead to anxiety, dissatisfaction, depression, violence, greed and other harmful states of mind... And eventually to our own destruction through that of our planet. 

Not only the focus of our attention is in the wrong place, but our attention itself is scattered. Another manifestation of this outward focus, our chronic absorption with media and entertainment, contributes to  increased absent mindedness and further outer and inner disorientation. As a result of all this, we are becoming from our hearts and minds, oblivious of our true nature, our true needs,  and of our potential for living with greater harmony and meaning.
With all our sophisticated technological advances, we  are still unaware of the authentic, sustainable sources of happiness, pursuing its counterfeit instead, and we remain  catastrophically unaware of what truly causes our suffering, therefore  we´re unable to neither imagine nor develop realistic, efficient and sustainable solutions for it.
 

This is a time in which we urgently need to look for more skilful ways to shift the paradigm in which we find ourselves, one that very clearly does not serve our greater good, and the timeless wisdom of the contemplative, mystic traditions, might offer just that.

Central to these traditions is the concept  that the mind is the source of our negativity and suffering,  that the chaotic world that we experience is  both a mirror and an expression of  our inner chaos, turmoil and inbalance. Buddhist contemplatives have developed sophisticated methods  by which to know the mind and the nature of consciousness, and by which to purify, balance and heal it.


"In such spiritual traditions, only true inner peace within the hearts of people can bring about true outer peace in the world, because if individuals are plagued by inner conflicts, doubts, fears, and insecurities, they will tend to project them outwardly onto others, blaming others for their problems, without even realizing what they are doing. It is thus necessary for all of us as individuals to 'wake up' and become increasingly conscious of our own thoughts and feelings, and how these are creating certain results or consequences in the world, so that we may each become increasingly responsible for the type of world that we are creating--including whether this world is a peaceful one or not."
- Linda Grof & Paul Smoker
(Spirituality, religion, culture and peace: exploring the foundations for inner-outer peace in the 21st century).
                                                      

 

In  very much the same way that medical students prepare themselves for years before being able to help patients, aspiring yogis retreat for years before being able to visibly and outwardly help their fellow sentient beings, moved by deep altruism.

Knowing that positive change in the outer world can only occur through the radical transformation of one´s mind, they take the deep responsibility and  commitment of attaining this themselves, of embodying the change they wish to see and catalyze in the world, so that they can inspire and support others in the same quest in the future.

In order to do that, they step out of ordinary life and retreat in silence, solitude and simplicity. Away from the influences and distractions of modern, materialistic life, they apply all their efforts to the practice of meditation.
Through the methodical, rigorous use of contemplative practices tested for millennia, they examine to what extent it´s possible to cultivate and sustain specific qualities of the mind: highly focused attention, serenity, emotional resilience and authentic emotional balance.

With a foundation in ethical conduct, they investigate to what degree wholesome emotions and attitudes, like patience, loving kindness, compassion and equanimity,  can be developed and sustained. They investigate the conditions and methods that lead to the arising and maintenance of virtuous mental states and virtuous actions of body, speech and mind, and to what measure we can free ourselves of mental afflictions and the suffering they cause to ourselves and others through specific meditative practices.

Through their  lifestyle, they explore  the benefits of living a life of material simplicity for oneself and the environment, learning what is truly  needed to be well, healthy and content.


On the basis of the findings acquired through their direct exploration of the human mind, they are in a position in which they can critically examine limiting conventions, unquestioned assumptions and dogma about human nature and the nature of consciousness, about our way of life, about what makes us happy and what makes us suffer. They might be able to deliver authentic, functional, even revolutionary responses to the big questions:
What does it mean to be human? What is our true potential and how can we achieve it? What does it  mean to live a meaningful life? What is the nature of the human mind, of consciousness, of reality? What are the true causes of happiness and suffering?
Their insights might inform the re-envisioning of our society and lifestyle that I believe are urgently required to in order to cultivate the wisdom, harmony and peace needed for the flourishing of the planet.


"This is not  a path of escapism but of immersion to a more authentic way of being and acting in the world so that we may be come agents of healing.
We are not retreating from outer service, we are engaging in very deep inner service".

- B. Alan Wallace

"You can spend an eternity looking elsewhere for truth and love, intelligence and goodwill, imploring God and man -- all in vain. You must begin in yourself, with yourself -- this is the inexorable law. You cannot change the image without changing the face. First realise that your world is only a reflection of yourself and stop finding fault with the reflection. Attend to yourself, set yourself right -- mentally and emotionally. The physical will follow automatically. You talk so much of reforms: economic, social, political. Leave alone the reforms and mind the reformer. What kind of world can a man create who is stupid, greedy, heartless?"
- Nisargadatta Maharaj
 
“What do you think, Kalamas? When nongreed, nonhatred, and nondelusion arise in a person, is it for his welfare or harm?”—“For his welfare, venerable sir.”—“Kalamas, a person who is without greed, without hatred, without delusion, not overpowered by greed, hatred, and delusion, his thoughts not controlled by them, will abstain from the destruction of life, from taking what is not given, from sexual misconduct, and from false speech; he will also prompt others to do likewise. Will that conduce to his welfare and happiness for a long time?”—“Yes, venerable sir.”
-The Buddha