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Submitted by KimberlyBrown on Mon, 12/5/2011, 8:24am
Recently, I participated in the "closing" of a Kagyu Tibetan Retreat at Kagyu Thubten Choling monastery in upstate New York. These traditional Tibetan retreats last for three years, three weeks, and three days, during which retreatants are secluded from family and friends while they train in traditional meditation and yogic techniques and rituals. They are allowed to receive letters, but will have no other communication with the outside world, and for six months of the retreat they will be entirely silent.
A retreat "closes" when the retreatants are escorted to their retreat house by their teachers, lamas and sangha, with much ceremony, and the retreat is officially closed to the outside world. These retreatants had been preparing for their retreat for many months, travelling to Sherabling Monastery in India for special blessings and empowerments from Tai Situ Rinpoche, a high-ranking teacher in the Kagyu lineage. They moved into the New York monastery several months before the retreat, shaved their heads, began learning Tibetan, and also began wearing monastic robes.
Receiving Empowerments from Tai Situ Rinpoche
During the retreat, participants take temporary monastic vows of chastity, which they can relinquish when the retreat ends. Indeed, several married couples have been in retreat at the same time, (though not together; men and women reside in separate quarters), resuming their married life after it ends. In the Kagyu tradition, completion of a three year retreat fulfills the requirements to be a teacher in the lineage, and earns the right to the title of Lama. It's an educative training, much like a graduate degree program, and its curriculum mainly follows the instructions of Jamgon Kontrul.
Twelve people entered retreat last month at Kagyu Thubten Choling; their age ranges from 24 to 68, they are American, Peruvian, and Chinese, and most (perhaps all) hold university degrees. All were enthusiastic and excited. One of them is my dear friend, Zoe.
Closing a KTC Retreat in 2005
May they not be separated from bodhicitta,
But be fully committed to bodhisattva actions.
May they be accepted by the buddhas.
May they abandon all negative actions.
Many any obstacles in their path be removed and
May the intentions of all Dharma protectors
Bring happiness and prosperity to their training.
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