Our Three-year Retreats
This retreat was designed in 1989 by Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche for the Shambhala Buddhist community. Because he understood that the view of Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was to create an enlightened society, Thrangu Rinpoche wanted this retreat to be divided into segments that would allow practitioners to maintain relationships with family and careers.
In 2004, with the blessing of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Thrangu Rinpoche, the decision was made to open up the retreat modules so that practitioners who were unable to attend the entire retreat could do one or more sections of it. This has proven to be a great success as people in our community discover the hidden treasure of Söpa Chöling.
Here is how the three-year retreat proceeds:
1. Mahamudra retreat
The first three months of this retreat are dedicated to guru yoga sadhanas of Gampopa, Milarepa, and Marpa (which require abhishekas). These are followed by three months of silent group retreat in which we practice mahamudra investigations, using the text by the 9th Karmapa, Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, and a commentary by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. This retreat is a rare and powerful opportunity to discover and practice vipashyana mahamudra.
2. Könchok Chidü retreat
Könchok Chidü, meaning "Embodiment of the Three Jewels," is a sadhana of Guru Rinpoche, with a commentary by Jamgön Kongtrol Lodrö Thayé. It includes outer, inner, secret, and long-life practice as well as an amending fire offering and feast practice. His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche bestowed this abhisheka on our community in 1987.
3. Inner Vajrayogini retreat
This retreat is an excellent bridge between Vajrayogini practice and the Six Dharmas. It uses the same sadhana text as in our previous practice, but the commentary we follow is by Pawo Tsug-lak Trengwa, which offers a series of five recitations that progressively train in chandali and mahamudra. It includes drupchen and fire offering practices.
4. Chakrasamvara retreat
The sadhana text used in this practice is the same as the one used by other practitioners in our sangha, but the visualizations are different. We follow a commentary written by Karma Chagme, a ten-chapter practice manual for the outer, inner, secret, and very secret practice, which includes a drupchen and fire offering. Many people who completed the Chakrasamvara practice before coming into this retreat found this new commentary extremely beneficial. The retreat is also open to those who have received the abhisheka but have not done the practice.
5. Six Dharmas of Naropa retreat
The six dharmas are the practices of chandali, illusory form, dream, luminosity, bardo, and phowa. Together they represent the completion stage of Vajrayogini-Chakrasamvara practice and are methods for transforming all states of mind into the wisdom of mahamudra. At Söpa Chöling we have an ideal facility for these practices, with guided instructions for group and individual training. In particula,r each retreat has included older practitioners, many in their sixties, who have found this retreat most workable and beneficial.
6. Jinasagara retreat
Jinasagara (Tib: Gyalwa Gyatso), red Avalokiteshvara with consort, is a very important yidam practice in the Kagyü lineage, and like Guhyasamaja, it is of the father lineage—an emphasis on the upaya of compassion, completely transforming aggression.
The lineage comes from Rechungpa who received it from two sources. First he was asked by Milarepa to go to India and receive these teachings on the nine dharmas of the formless dakinis from Tiphupa.
Padmasambhava also gave instructions on Jinasagara to King Trisong Detsen and Yeshe Tsogyal. They were concealed as a terma that was later transmitted to Rechungpa by the terton Nyan Rolpa. Rechungpa’s lineage was transmitted to the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, and the practice of Jinasagara remains a heart practice of the Karmapas.
The practice in retreat is similar to Chakrasamvara in that it has outer, inner, secret, and very secret aspects; a drupchen and fire puja are included.
7. Krishnachola drupchen
The lineage of instruction for the wisdom protector Krishnachola (Tib: Pernakchen) and his consort Mahakali comes from Guru Rinpoche who taught it to Trisong Detsen’s brother who was a ngakpa. The instructions were passed down through thirteen generations to Karma Pakshi, who then promulgated the practice. Throughout retreat, a group daily practice to Vajra Krishnachola is done, and this culminates in a two-month drupchen at the conclusion of the retreat.
Other Practices and Trainings Included in the Retreat
Adjacent to the retreat building is a beautiful fire offering shrine room that overlooks the sea. Amending fire offerings are included in Könchok Chidü, Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, and Jinasagara retreats.
Werma and Padmasambhava feast practices are also included throughout the retreats, as well as Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, Könchok Chidü, and Jinasagara (the latter 10th day feasts are specific to those retreats).
Sadhana of Mahamudra
We follow the custom of performing the sadhana on full and new moon days, and a Sadhana of Mahamudra feast is offered at the conclusion of each retreat.
Rain of Wisdom
Normally within the retreat there will be at least one full day of reading the Rain of Wisdom, with the Milarepa sadhana.
On a daily basis, we perform a smoke offering to the six guests, including bardo beings and our karmic creditors.
The wisdom protector practice is done by the group daily, chanted in the traditional melodies. For most of the retreat, this is the only group gathering of the day, since all the other practices are done mainly in your rooms.
Monthly Vajrakrishnachola feast
In some of the retreats, a 29th day feast practice to the protector is performed.
All retreatants will receive extensive training in torma making, and will make permanent tormas out of clay for each practice as well as fresh tormas for offerings.
We train in the use of cymbals and drum, conches and the long horns (radung). Gyaling (trumpet) and kangling (thigh bone trumpet) trainings are available for those who are motivated to learn.