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Today 24 Dharmacharinis will gather at Taraloka for a retreat on Tonglen. Led by Saddhanandi, and supported by Ratnavandana, Yashobodhi and Vajramudita.
It will be a week of intensive meditation practice, taking place mainly in silence, and dedicated as an offering to the world and to alleviating suffering.
The retreat will be based around Tonglen meditation which is a beautiful practice: open and spacious, combined with an authentic wisdom. It’s primary aim is to dissolve the polarising barriers we create between ourselves and others. It’s function is to reverse that habitual tendency to close down or turn away from experience – a tendency rooted in ignorance and self-clinging.
As Sangharakshita says, in a seminar on the Bodhicaryavatara,‘Ifyoureallyloveyourself,don’tloveyourself.Selflessness,orunselfishness,isthebestwaytohappinessforyou-fortheself.Wedon’tusuallyrealisethat,butthat’sourdelusion…withurgent expostulations and rather subtle arguments Santideva [author of the Bodhicaryavatara] is trying to talk us into being at least a little bit less selfish - into considering the sorrows and sufferings of others as our own, and being sensitive to them as we are to our own. In other words, he is trying to talk us into devoting ourselves - in the Bodhisattva spirit - to helping relieve the whole mass of human suffering without going too much into whether it’s your suffering, or my suffering, or anybody else’s suffering. There’s a big black cloud hanging over the whole human race, and it needs to be dispelled by the united efforts of us all.
In the light of these words, the retreat will start with a dedication ritual, sealing all the fruits of the meditation into the altruistic dimension of practice. In this way, the retreat will become a ritualised offering, in service to the world.
Then, entering into a space of silence and meditation, there will follow a daily programme of:
7am Double session of Meditation
11am Presentation on Tonglen, followed by a led meditation
4pm Varying from day-to-day, it will generally be a double session of meditation
8pm Puja: Verses chanted collectively, dedicated to the development of Bodhicitta
‘…even if for the moment we cannot actually help anyone in an external way, we should meditate on love and compassion constantly over the months and years until compassion is knit inseparably into the very fabric of our mind’.