Traditional three-year meditative retreat
For women with an inclination toward intensive practice, isolated dwellings are provided to facilitate traditional three-year meditative retreat. In recent years, more than 40 nuns residing at Nagi Gompa have successfully completed their three-year retreat; some have made this retreat more than once.
Three-year retreats began at Nagi approximately 60 years ago during Karsha Rinpoche’s day and were expanded under Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. An unusually large number of nuns — roughly two-thirds of nuns 30 years and older – complete the traditional three-year retreat, some more than once, and hold the title of “Retreat Lama.”
The Dzogchen preliminaries of ngondro, one each from the Chokling Tersar and the Nyingtik, and advanced practices of the three inner tantras (Maha, Anu and Ati) provide the retreat framework for practice of many sadhanas mainly from the Chokling Tersar. After completing retreat, the nuns then continue as their main practices Maha (the three roots of guru, yidam and dakini), Anu (inner energies) and Ati (dzogchen “great perfection” meditation).
Nuns were selected to begin the late spring 2015 retreat, but the retreat was cancelled due to the April 2015 earthquake. The three-year retreat building is so badly damaged that it is uninhabitable and must be torn down. Unfortunately, three-year retreats have been suspended until funds can be raised for construction of a new building.
Annual Rains Retreat (Yarney)
The Tibetan Buddhist tradition’s annual rains retreat for monastics takes place over six weeks. During Yarney, morning group-practice is expanded to include daily Trinley Nyingpo tsok. The late-afternoon group practice adds The Five Monlams, prayers to benefit the living and the dead: Amitabha Pure Land Aspiration by Karmapa Deshin Shegpa; Dedication chapter from the Bodhicaryavatara by Shantideva; Arya Maitreya’s King of Aspiration by Maitreya; Mahamudra Aspiration by Karmapa Rangjung Dorje; and Aspiration of Samantabhadra from the Gongpa Zangthal Tantra.
After breakfast and before late-afternoon group practice, normal daily classes are in session except for those nuns who completed their studies and are in meditation retreat. All nuns remain within the boundary of Nagi for the six weeks except under unusual circumstances.
Annual Practice of Nyungne
The 16-day Nyungne practice of the Mahayana tradition is attended annually by anywhere from 70-100 people from Kathmandu and other parts of Nepal. This famous Chenresig practice from Gelongma Palmo, practiced by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, begins at 4 a.m. and concludes daily around 7 p.m.
The rigorous purification and merit-making practice includes many daily prostrations and fasting from food and water, in silence, on alternate days. Those in the retreat maintain vows of pure body, speech and mind, which they renew throughout the retreat. Two sessions of prostrations to Chenresig and the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas purifies karmas of the body. Each day the liturgy guides practitioners to deeply contemplate the faults of samsara and to give rise to the supreme wish to help all beings reach liberation from samsara’s suffering and to meditate on this basis. Each session involves visualization of the Buddha of compassion, Chenresig in the thousand-arm form, and recitation of verses, prayers and mantra. In these ways, body, speech and mind are wholly engaged in purification and the accumulation of merit and wisdom.
Nyungne is a very special tradition at Nagi, a time when monastic and lay can practice together for many days at a time. The assembly concludes practice on Saga Dawa Duchen, which commemorates the Buddha’s enlightenment and parinirvana, and is led by Chokyi Nyima and Yangsi Rinpoche. A teaching and refuge are generally given on this important day.