Why Meditation Retreat Is Important For Sadhaks
December 29, 2019
Many of you must have heard about the term retreat. All types of retreats like yoga, health, poetry, sky-watching, story-telling and team-work retreats have become increasingly popular in the western world and is also catching up fast in fashion in the developing countries too specially in the corporates. Today we will discuss about the meditation or the dhyana retreat and what is its importance in the sadhana or practice.
What are meditation retreats?
Meditation Retreats are those period in our life when we set aside all our pre-occupation, job and entertainment and whole-heartedly undergo intensive meditation according to the schedule of retreat. Usually such retreat have very strict environment when the contact from external world is entirely cut-off in form of TV, internet, mobile phones and news-papers. Very often the retreats are silent retreat where there is limited or absolutely no contact with co-meditators via speaking and sign language. Also the schedule in such retreats are also very intensive where the no time is wasted idly and each second of the retreat is spent in meditation. Also such retreats also envisage devoted study of the practice texts like Bhagwad Geeta, Upanishads, Patanjali Yoga sutra, Dhammapada, Sutta from Sutta Pitaka or Abhidhamma reading according to one’s tradition.
Apart from this, the food in such retreats are very simple and often in advanced practices controlling food is also second most important thing. Especially in a yogic retreat often fastings are done where fruit or milk diet is only taken. This is because the relation of food and mind is very important and any serious sadhak needs to control his/her diet.
Usually the retreat duration ranges from few days like one day or two day or four -five days. However the retreat can also range from one month to even years. Usually advanced sadhaks have retreat for even years like 3 years to 5 years. You can find the monks in every dharmic tradition like tantra sadhaks, tibetan buddhist monks, vedanta sadhaks undergo such strenuous retreat.
How retreat helps in sadhana?
- The retreat helps the sadhak to cut off from the external world which is the most important obstruction in the sadhana. No TV, internet means absolutely no distraction which is ever-present in the present world of social media. The sadhak is able to devote his/her complete attention inside oneself and contemplate on the reality of world. All this helps in making the mind introvert and able to see the functioning of the mind and its response to the controlled outer world.
- The retreat environment is very controlled and strict discipline is maintained. The day schedule from early morning to the night is absolutely set first hand and strictly enforced. All this helps the sadhak specially in the beginners stage when the mind is prone to more fluctuation and there is more chances of deviating. The retreat environment gives no time for idling and gossiping and the mind is absolutely bound on the aspects of the sadhana.
- The gooal of the sadhana is to increase the intensity of practice. The sadhana takes the top priority and the whole hearted devotion is expected to the sadhana. As a result of the strict and intensive nature of retreats, the sadhak is able to advance on the path of sadhana very fast. Often it is noticed that the deep experiences of dhyana are experienced only in the retreat. As the retreat progresses and the mind becomes still and the false sense of ego start breaking and the the true reality of the existence starts unfolding.
- The retreats and its experiences gives us the motivation to devote our life for the purpose of fulfilling the ultimate aim of human birth. Often our life is so much caught up in the daily life that we forget our ultimate aim and lose our path. The retreat helps the person to gauge the difference between the daily life and the retreat life. The stillness and higher consciousness experienced in the retreat acts as a motivation for the sadhak to understand the falseness of the daily worldly life and always inspire the practitioner to utilize the time effectively in one’s life.
- For the first time sadhaks, the experience of retreat can be an eye opener. The novice sadhaks are able to get the glimpse of the stillness and peacefulness of sadhana. All this helps the practitioners to motivate himself to undergo even longer retreat. Usually the first time sadhaks get the view of totally another kind of life which the recluse live which is very different from the worldly life were everyone is running after amassing more wealth and power.
- Another very important role played by the retreats is that it brings the text and the experience closer. Usually people often have impression that the religious books are too bookish and not for the common people and these are the things which cannot be practiced in daily life. However when one goes through the retreat one understands the truth written in the scriptures. So basically the retreats bring about the description written in the texts to the personal experiences. Hence the retreats brings about soul in the tradition. The tradition is lived and continue due to practice of the sadhaks.
- From the worldly experience, the retreats give the boost to the unattachment (vairagya). The vairagya experienced during the sadhana helps the sadhak to face the turbulence of the samsara with greater vairagya. Hence it is recommended that the grishatha (family people) too should undergo at least one retreat in a year apart from the continuous sadhana.