In this annual retreat we focus on two preliminary practices, accumulating merit (or positive energy), by making mandala offerings, and receiving powerful blessings by engaging in the Guru Yoga practice of Je Tsongkhapa. The retreat involves both prayers and the physical (and mental) practice making mandalas like those shown in the picture to the left.
Am I welcome?
Yes. Guru Yoga and Mandala retreat is open to everyone regardless of background or experience. The more, the merrier. It is a very positive experience.
How does this retreat relate to my life?
“Most people usually seek happiness from external material things, but these can never bring true happiness. From beginningless time, we have all tried to find happiness by improving material things and external conditions, but instead of making people happy, improving external conditions has only increased the suffering, dissatisfaction, fear, and danger in the world. We can see this very clearly. From our side, therefore, we need to seek happiness from a different source.
The determination to extract the meaning of our human life by
engaging in a spiritual path must come from within, and will arise when
we realize that following the ordinary paths of a worldly life will
never bring true happiness but always suffering and dissatisfaction.
When we understand that by following the spiritual path we can attain a
deep and lasting happiness, we will make the decision, ‘I must make my
human life meaningful by following the spiritual path.’ Having decided
to follow the spiritual path our thoughts will naturally turn to relying
upon a qualified Spiritual Teacher who can guide us on this path. Guru
yoga is relying with strong faith on such a Spiritual Guide."
~ Geshe Kelsang Gyatso
What is a guru?
‘Guru’ is a Sanskrit word meaning spiritual guide. A spiritual guide is any spiritual teacher who sincerely leads us into correct spiritual paths by giving correct instructions and by embodying the teachings in their daily activities.
What is Guru Yoga?
Guru Yoga is a special way of relating to our own spiritual teacher
where we regard them as an enlightened being. Guru yoga is a special and
powerful method that enables us to receive the blessings of all the
Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and holy beings.
In this retreat we visualize our Guru as Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka (see picture)
What if I don’t have a spiritual guide?
That’s ok. By coming to the retreat you will be creating the cause to meet a qualified Spiritual Guide in the future. Geshe-la says:
“Our mind is like a field, our Spiritual Guides instructions are like seeds sown in that field, and our faith in our Spiritual Guide is like water that germinates these seeds. If these three come together we will quickly and easily harvest a rich crop of Dharma realizations. If we do not have these conditions at the moment we should pray that we will find them in the future.”
What are blessings?
A blessing is a transformation of our mind from a negative state to a positive state, from an unhappy state to a happy state, or from a state of weakness to a state of strength through the inspiration of holy beings such as our spiritual guide, buddhas, and bodhisattvas. Geshe-la says:
“From our own side it is difficult to cultivate and maintain a peaceful and positive mind. We know this from our own experience; although no-one wants to have negative minds, they arise without choice. In reality, the only way to develop a positive, peaceful, and calm mind is to receive blessings from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Of course, Buddhas do not bless only the minds of Buddhists, but the minds of everyone - non-Buddhists, religious people, non-religious people, even animals. For example, through receiving blessings even animals can sometimes develop positive and peaceful minds, and at that time experience some happiness.
Our friends and relatives cannot help us to develop a peaceful and
calm mind, and can sometimes even act as a cause for us to develop
negative minds. However, if we check carefully within our own experience
we can see that sometimes, for no particular reason, we naturally
develop a calm and peaceful mind. Where does this experience come from? I
can say that it is definitely the result of receiving Buddha's
blessings at that time. In this way we can understand that our happiness
depends upon a positive mind, and this depends upon receiving Buddha’s
blessings. There is no other source from which we can develop a positive
Therefore receiving blessings is important both for those who seek Dharma realizations and for those who seek ordinary happiness. Without receiving blessings it is difficult to develop even a temporary peaceful mind, and even if occasionally we do develop a calm mind through our own effort, this will last for only a minute or two before it changes. Developing a calm and peaceful mind for any length of time totally depends upon receiving blessings from Buddhas."
What is merit?
Merit is the good fortune created by virtuous actions. It is the potential power to increase our good qualities and produce happiness. One of the main purposes of engaging in the practice of making mandala offerings is to create abundant merit that will enable us to effortlessly develop good qualities and fulfill our spiritual aspirations.
What is a mandala offering?
A mandala offering is offering of the entire universe visualized as a Pure Land, with all its inhabitants as pure beings. We offer to all buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other holy beings. When we offer the mandala we imagine we are offering the entire universe in our hands, but our hands do not become larger and the universe does not become smaller. If we find this difficult to understand, we can think about how large images can be reflected in a small mirror or how whole cities can be shown on a television screen. Geshe-la says:
“Making mandala offerings is the best method to free us from future poverty and to enable us to obtain future rebirth in a Pure Land. Buddha Vajradhara made a guarantee that practitioners who sincerely make mandala offerings would never suffer from future poverty. Kadampa Geshes also said that if we want to be wealthy in the future, then we should stop ordinary business and make mandala offerings. We need to remind ourself of this many times because at first we may have doubts about this practice and lack confidence and determination. Through familiarity our faith and conviction will grow, and our determination to practise this will increase. Eventually we will feel that we are actually making a huge and generous offering to all the holy beings. From such a profound and special practice of giving we will of course receive wealth. Making mandala offerings is also a very powerful method to increase our merit, and to develop pure concentration."
The importance of faith
Faith is the root of all virtuous qualities and spiritual realizations and prevents us from perceiving faults in people or things that are pure or holy. The object of faith is any object that is regarded as holy or pure such as enlightened beings, spiritual teachings, spiritual realizations, and spiritual teachers and friends. Faith is like pure eyes that enable us to see a pure and perfect world beyond the suffering world of samsara. Geshe-la says:
“With faith our mind becomes completely pure, free from negative conceptions. Our negative thoughts and delusions will disappear, at least temporarily, and become unmanifest. With such a pure mind we will never experience any problems, and we can easily attain every Dharma realization of both Sutra and Tantra. So faith is a very important quality to develop."
Sit back and relax – don’t worry about understanding it
A basic understanding of Buddhist teachings and meditation will be helpful during this retreat. However the main thing is to keep an open mind. Just relax and enjoy the experience even if you understand very little of the meaning.Through doing the practice, the meaning starts to come alive.