The Importance of Doing Retreat
Lama Thubten Zopa
by Lama Zopa Rinpoche
"What is the importance of doing retreat? It is not simply
to be quiet, to have a break from one's family. Instead, there
are very crucial reasons, very urgent reasons.... "
One simple reason is happiness. The peace
and happiness of parents, for example, depend upon their children
having affection and compassion towards them. And the children's
peace and happiness depend upon their parents' affection and
compassion. The same is true for couples, partners, teacher
and students etc: each member's peace, happiness and success
depend upon the compassion and kindness of the other person.
And on a larger scale, the relationship between the leader
of a country and its population.
One has to know how to develop such qualities.
This is the first reason for doing retreat - to develop the
basic human qualities of affection and loving kindness. The
second reason is that it gives us the time for putting into
practice the teachings we have received. The third reason
relates to the busyness of our ordinary life: we are generally
so caught up in hallucinations, sense enjoyments and our various
obligations to others that retreat time is the only time we
have to relax. In a retreat situation, you are forced to come
to face with yourself, to see yourself in depth, to meet yourself.
Reciting powerful mantras and names of holy
beings even once can purify tremendous amounts of negativity.
Meditating on the path to enlightenment helps rid us of immediate
dangers, such as rebirth in the lower realms if death is imminent.
At the same time, such meditational practice can purify the
causes of this life's problems from difficult relationships,
through unmanageable diseases such as cancer and AIDS up to
dangers of untimely death. Because one creates a great deal
of merit through these practices, they become the cause of
success and harmony in this life, bringing good fortune in
business, wealth, good health and long life.
For all the above reasons, therefore, retreat
gives us more hope, strength and encouragement for this life.
In conclusion, retreat is important because it involves retreating
from ignorance, from the dissatisfied mind of attachment and
from the self-cherishing thought. This are the fundamental
forces from which one must retreat. Transforming the mind
into virtue, freeing oneself from suffering and its causes:
these are the essential meaning of Dharma practice.