It is Rinpoche’s wish that Gomde is a Retreat Centre, where we and future generations can pursue the goal: to go into study retreat, reflexive retreat, samadhi retreat (stay put, do not eat that much, do not worry so much, practice) or practice retreat.
What does it mean to go into retreat?
During Summer Camp 2012, Erik Pema Kunsang gave a teaching on what it means to go into retreat. Here is a summary:
It is very easy to be seduced by the distractions of everyday life. We are almost addicted to a busy and restless state of mind and a pleasant state of laziness. Distraction and laziness are disturbing emotions which are our drugs. We are in other words entertainment-sick „emotion-holics“.
Would it not be best to achieve stability in practice instead of being an entertainment-sick emotion-holic? When the thought comes to you, that you want out of Samsara, that you want to practice, then take action on it! Consider going into retreat. Determination is the most important factor when considering retreat. You have to decide to practice and engage the mind with the Dharma, otherwise retreat just becomes another platform for samsaric disturbances.
The retreat will be based on a sense of trust. The physical body, speech and mind will calm down and you will be free to recognize the natural state.It’s easy to talk about the natural state, but it is not easy to remain in the state. A quiet place where you do not have too many distractions and obligations, will enable you to get deeper into the study and practice.
By withdrawing from your busy life, you achieve a certain level of shamatha. The retreat place must be remote – such as Gomde. In the beginning, when you want to go into retreat, it is very important to set up the boundary and get away from everyday life. Amazing sublime experiences take place within this boundary.
Gomde creates a barrier between everyday activities outside and all the sublime qualities within the boundary. People who attend retreat here, choose Gomde because they want to withdraw from Samsara and ultimately achieve Enlightenment.
In a retreat situation there is nothing else to do than to practice. But the motivation and decision should be maintained, otherwise you will be distracted.
Milarepa’s example tells us to into retreat until he was freed. But enlightenment is more than liberation.
Sometimes you start a bit too early and are not really ready for retreat. Other times you will experience that thoughts are swarming with even greater force and you become even more restless than you were before. Then you’ll leave the retreat even more preoccupied with thoughts than before you came. Or the opposite happerns. You think retreat is all about shutting down consciousness, and you end up not getting anywhere – not even with your practice. Neither the swarming of thoughts or the shutting down is shamatha. Gomde is a Retreat Centre, where shamatha meditation is an antidote to restlessness and Vipassana an antidote to laziness.
In order to practice proper Shamatha and Vipassana you must practice in the most natural and effortless way.
It is very important to stress that you need instructions from a qualified teacher before entering into a long retreat. Shorter retreats can be done without any instruction from a teacher. Once you have your instructions, you’ll know how to handle emotions, sensory stimuli, internal and external distractions, moods and expectations. When you are in retreat, there will be no one to ask but yourself, so you should have received instructions before you begin the retreat. There are also many who benefit from bringing a dharma book. It can be a good teacher in retreat so you don’t feel alone.
In retreat you practice the dharma until the point where there is no longer anything that distracts you. When that happens – when you’ve reached a nondualistisk state of consciousness – there is no reason for further retreat. The retreat has become a state of mind you can take with you everywhere you go.