In the Footsteps of the Buddha

Where the Buddha's Story Meets Our Own
Catch up with practice sessions & resourcesDonate & support Home Retreats

Day 1    Day 2    Day 3    Day 4  

Day 5    Day 6    Day 7

What is a Home Retreat? (click to read)

Home Retreats can be tailored to your needs.

We provide:

  • Live Home Retreat events daily
  • Specially curated Dharma resources
  • A chance to catch up each day on the event sessions by video if you missed them – so you can do the retreat in your own time
  • Share your own inspiration and reflections on the private retreat Padlet space
  • A chance to connect with the retreat leader to ask questions about your practice

Whether you have the time to engage with a full-on, urban-retreat style week at home – or are super occupied already with kids or work and just want some useful structure to book-end your days with a little calm and inspiration: this is for you.

A Home Retreat from Rivendell Retreat Centre with Mandarava and Nagasiddhi

Seven days of interactive meditation practice and workshops with storytelling, puppets, art and magic!

On this online retreat, originally aired live from Rivendell Retreat Centre, we will be exploring – with a sense of imagination, adventure and play – the images, myths and symbols of the Buddha’s journey to Awakening. These mythic images from the Buddha’s own story also touch upon deeper, archetypal currents in our own lives. We will dwell imaginatively together on the major turning points in the life of the Buddha, and reflect on how they resonate with our own experience.

Rather than seeing the Buddha as a distant historical figure, we will explore how his story embodies the very real journey we all need to embark upon to live a fully human life.

Mandarava was ordained in 1997 and is a storyteller and puppet maker known for inspiring creativity in others and creating an atmosphere of magical depth. She is currently nearing the completion of her training in Somatic Experiencing.

Nagasiddhi regularly leads and supports retreats at Rivendell Retreat Centre and is also an artist and puppet maker. He is known for the sense of humour and creativity he brings to his Dharma teaching. In particular, he helps others make connections between the Dharma and their own lives by using stories and images from the ‘western’ tradition. His own artwork can be viewed at

🎧  Listen and subscribe to the ‘In the Footsteps of the Buddha at Rivendell’ – a podcast introducing this retreat.

📺  Watch Mandarava tell the Jataka tale of ‘The Brave Little Parrot’.

🎧  Listen to ‘Into the Dark Wood’: a podcast about art and making during pandemic, with Nagasiddhi.

All our classes are offered by donation. If you can, donate to allow others who can’t afford it to access these vital Dharma resources when they need them most. Thank you!

Suggested donation for the whole retreat: $125 / £125 / €125

Donate and support Dharma classes online

Our friends at Windhorse Publications are offering all participants a free copy of ‘Who is the Buddha?’ by Sangharakshita! You can download your eBook until May 7th 2021.

The image of the Buddha, cross-legged and meditating, appears increasingly in magazines and on television in the West. But who was the Buddha?

In ‘Who is the Buddha?’ Sangharakshita puts forward an image of the Buddha as a historical figure, as the pinnacle of human perfection, and as an archetype in the context of both time and eternity.

Here we see the Buddha as a historical figure, a warrior prince searching for the truth; in the context of the evolution of the human race, as the pinnacle of human perfection, and as an archetype, in the context of both time and eternity.

The most recent edition of this book is found in Volume 3 of The Complete Works of Sangharakshita, and is available in hardback, paperback and eBook formats.

Support Windhorse Publications and their amazing Buddhist books! 🙏🏼

Welcome to the retreat

Day 1: rites of passage

Over the course of the retreat we will be connecting with Gautama the Buddha’s life story and enquiring into its significance for our own lives.

We are offering three live practice sessions daily, including space to connect with others taking part. You’ll also find additional resources for the retreat throughout the week, including a series of short reflections on the theme of the day with questions for use in personal practice and shared conversation.

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 1 – ‘Rites of Passage’

The historical facts, as far as we can ascertain them, about the Buddha’s life actual life are important. However, a life is also a ‘story’ and can be viewed from many different perspectives and myth, symbol and image can also communicate a different kind of truth. This is the perspective from which we reflect upon the major turning points, or ‘Rites of Passage’, that led to Gautama’s awakening and to him becoming the Buddha.


  • What is truth?
  • Are there many truths or one truth?
  • How do we personally relate to myths and stories?

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Nagasiddhi introduces the retreat, its stories and themes, focussing on ‘Rites of Passage’ as an aspect of any great mythic tale.

Mandarava introduces us to the beautiful forest of puppets that will be the setting for many of the tales from this retreat, as she continues to set the scene within the context of the day’s theme. We meditate and seek connection to all other life by calling to them with the beautiful words of the Ratana Sutta

retreat resources

Day 2: the four sights

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 2 – ‘The Four Sights’

We will begin our exploration of the journey of Gautama to awakening by reflecting upon the period from his birth to his experiencing of ‘The Four Sights’. The first three sights being his realization of the reality of old age, sickness and death. The final sight is of a homeless wandering spiritual seeker which is the vision of the potential for a way to live with things as they are. Can we too move towards fully inhabiting the world with clarity and awareness without denial and the cutting off of painful aspects of our experience?

  • What is our response to old age, sickness, death and the ultimate unsatisfactoriness of much of life?
  • Who or what are our own ‘Fourth Sights’?
  • What aligns your life more to the values that the fourth sight holds for you? 

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Nagasiddhi and Mandarava bring in one of the great themes of the Buddha’s mythic story: ‘The Four Sights’ – old age, sickness, death, and the possibility of living free of the suffering associated with these natural elements of existence.

This session continues, in the most beautiful way, the exploration of ‘The Four Sights’. Join Mandarava with her puppets as she evokes in a very moving way the grief of the Buddha that sets him out on the path.


Day 3: the going forth

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 3 – ‘The Going Forth’

In response to the ‘The Four Sights’ Gautama decides to turn away from everything in his life and to embark himself on the homeless life of a spiritual seeker. This is the path away from apparent comfort, through fear, and ultimately to freedom. For some, this is a particularly challenging episode in the story and we will also explore our responses and possible reactions to it.


  • What do we want to move towards?
  • What holds us back?
  • How do we leave a situation that no longer serves us?

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Here Nagasiddhi and Mandarava turn to another key aspect of the mythic story of the Buddha: his decision to turn his back on his life, leave home and seek for the truth in the forest.

Mandarava picks up today’s theme from the story of the Buddha: ‘The Going Forth’. Using puppets, poetry and meditative space, she brings to life in an extraordinary way the heartache and heroism, the sun and the moon, of this key human experience.

Retreat resources

Day 4: The Giving up of Asceticism and the Rose Apple Tree

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 4 – ‘The Giving up of Asceticism and the Rose Apple Tree’

As a spiritual seeker Gautama took up various ascetic practices of the time with the hope of gaining freedom through punishing the body and mind. So severe were these practices that they nearly killed him. However, it was the re-emergence of an image from his childhood that led to a radical change in direction that ultimately led to his awakening. This part of the story highlights the need for all Dharma practitioners to constantly revaluate our practice and to value creativity, openness and receptivity over harshness, dogmatism and willfulness.


  • What is our ‘story’ and how much of it are we willing to let go of?
  • Do we give ourselves the basic physical and emotional self-care to practice?
  • What would this self-care involve?

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

Mistakes are a part of life – and the Buddha-to-be made them! Nagasiddhi and Mandarava pick up the theme of wrong turnings, spiritual cul de sacs, and general confusion in evoking Siddhartha’s mythic decision to abandon the path he was on, sit down under a tree, and just breathe…

Mandarava brings movingly to life a crucial moment when Gotama is on the receiving end of life-saving generosity and finds his sense of the path transformed, away from extremes to a middle way. Not too tight, not too loose…

retreat resources


Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 5 – ‘The Awakening’

Over the course of one full moon night in May the transformation occurred of Gautama becoming the Buddha. Any sense of a fixed self was seen through and replaced by a continuous flow of creative and free energy. This experience is ultimately beyond all cognitive understanding. Fortunately, we have a rich series of mythic images illustrating the experience of awakening that give us a map of how we may fully awaken ourselves and go beyond all greed, hatred and delusion.


  • Do we have a sense of the factors that have made our sense of identity, i.e., our life experience and family, ancestral and social conditioning? 
  • Do we have an experience of a fixed unchanging self, if so where is it, what does it look or sound like, etc?
  • Imagine how it would feel to let go of the stories and views that we define ourselves by.

in the footsteps of the buddha: Day 5 – Live PRACTICE

Having set out on his mythic journey, got lost, found his seat under the shelter of a rose-apple tree, the Buddha-in-waiting lets go into the great liberation of love and awareness that is ‘Awakening’. Nagasiddhi introduces us to the spirit of that “Enlightenment” and invites us into a space of practice where this is also attainable, breath by breath…

Mandarava picks up the great theme of the day and with her puppets brings out the relatable, funny aspects, as well as the profound. Mara’s army has never been so easy to understand, nor the figure of the Buddha better set up on his throne of freshly cut kusa grass to take the biggest leap imaginable.

retreat resources

Day 6: Stabilising the Insight

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 6 – ‘Stabilising the Insight’

We will explore the period directly after the Buddha’s awakening when he remains under the Bodhi Tree meditating for several weeks and later encounters the dragon king Muchalinda. It could be said that this is a period of ‘stabilising the insight’, a time of gratitude and an integration of all the Buddha’s energies.


  • What are we grateful for?
  • Who or what supports us in our practice?
  • Is there any part of ourselves left out of our Dharma practice?

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

What do you do when you’ve just made a breakthrough in perception and experience that kind of re-aligns your whole being? Nagasiddhi takes us into the mind and heart of the new Buddha as he explores this new territory – within, and with others he encounters setting out on the next stage of his journey into liberation.

Mandarava leads a beautiful reflective meditation, then with her puppets tells the story of the Buddha’s coming to terms with what’s happened to him: his awesome gratitude to the tree that gave him shelter, his generous response to the first person who wandered by, the rainbow cloud of his insight into the way things are…

Retreat resources

Day 7: The Decision to Teach

Daily Reflection (click to read)

Day 7 – ‘The Decision to Teach’

It is said that after his awakening the Buddha struggled to know whether it would be appropriate for him to communicate his experience or not. Fortunately for us, he did, and continued to do so for the rest of his life. Our final day will explore the truth of interconnectivity revealed by awakening that manifests in compassionate activity, or as said in the Zen tradition, “returning to the market place with hands that bless”.


  • What have we got to give?
  • What needs to be said?
  • What does the world need from us?

Re-watch the Live PRACTICE sessions

In this session we meet the Buddha still absorbing what’s happened to him but deciding (with a little bit of divine persuasion!) to set out to try and share the experience – and the possibility of its attainment – with others. Nagasiddhi is our guide to what happened next…

A chance for those attending the retreat live to ask Mandarava and Nagasiddhi questions that have come up in the course of a deep, rich engagement with such a lode of mythic material. Informing, inspiring and generally enlightening – this is a great insight into how working creatively with stories and our imagination can help us in the most profound ways.

Mandarava evokes the sense of loss that can come at the end of a retreat like this one – so steeped in meaning and beauty. Then, with her puppets and the help of the animals of the forest, she finishes the Buddha’s tale which carries clues to how we can move past grief and into the magic of connection and community on the basis of love and attendance to what matters most.

Retreat resources

Everything we offer is by donation – give today and help us keep it free for everyone!

We hope you find the Home Retreat helpful.
 As we all take care of each other through this extraordinary time we are committed to staying online with you for as long as it takes – and beyond.

If you can, donate and help us reach more people like you.

Thank you from our team and from the online community around the world!

May you be well!

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With deep thanks to the Rivendell team for their generosity in providing the resources for this course as well as leading live events each day.

Beautiful puppet photography by Tejasiddhi.
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