On Retreat

On Retreat June 18, 2009
Photos from a retreat just over a year ago; Camp Child Montana.

I’m heading off to a friend’s cabin in the woods northeast of Missoula today, after some running around for Father’s day. I’ll spend six nights there, alone, meditating, reading a bit, writing (no computer, no cell phone).

I am long overdue for a ‘long’ retreat, which for me is anything over four or five days. I have found that that is about how long it takes for the mind to let go of the clutter of daily life and actually settle into the present. That shift, when it occurs, is amazing. I would love to spend more time there, ten days, two weeks, perhaps more. But for now this will do. The leash of life is not severed.

Speaking of which, I will be taking along a section of the Ugra Sutra, actually the Arya-ugra-pariprccha-nama-mahayana-sutra, or the Noble Mahayana Sutra entitled, “The Inquiry of Ugra.” It is a teaching devoted to the practices of the lay bodisattva and is one of the earliest known Mahayana texts. The earliest Chinese copy dates to 181 CE and it is believed to have been in existence orally for around 200 years.

Chapter four is called “The Filthy House.” Here even the layperson, or householder, is exhorted to abandon the house, to seek out solitude where he can free himself of the fetters of worldly existence, gain true bodhicitta, and then return to help all beings.

“Living at home” is declared to be the place of all painful things. It is the place where the roots of goodness that one has previously cultivated are impaired. Therefore it is called “living at home.”

I probably won’t quite reach the stage of “irreversible from the attainment of Buddhahood” anuttarasamyaksambodhi-niyama (Skt.), but I do plan to come back more focused, relaxed, joyful, and calm.

A question for you: if you consider yourself in the Mahayana, how deeply does the bodhisattva vow resonate in your daily life? (here’s the version from the Ugra Sutra):

The unrescued I will rescue.
The unliberated I will liberate.
The uncomforted I will comfort.
THose who have not et reached parinirvana
I will cause to attain parinirvana.

I know there was a time in my life when I took it very seriously. And I am very grateful for that period (about 5 years ago and again 2-3 years ago), and I think the practice and intention bore great fruits. Perhaps it’s time to reengage in that intention.

Anyhow – I’ve written too much. I should be off, meditating!

Best wishes to all. If you feel spontaneously happy some time in the next week, it could be me, kicking ass in the metta bhavana 🙂

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