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Having participated in multiple larger retreats with the Tibetan Meditation Center in Frederick Maryland, I was fascinated to see how another center would run a large retreat like this. I was not disappointed in the least! This retreat was very seamless in all its aspects. Personally, I was well-informed, at least about the big stuff, from the time I originally registered to the time I departed, and I was able to get my questions answered rapidly.
My only question and / or concern is that this particular practice is a very potent one. It is not for everyone. Any kind of Wrathful (Compassion) Practice requires that the participants have spent a lot of time developing their own practice of loving-kindness and compassion. I would even go so far as to say that many practitioners would recommend stabilizing a solid practice of Bodhicitta before starting Vajrakilaya practice. Garchen Rinpoche really emphasized that loving kindness and compassion are vital before starting. I have also heard it from His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen, Drupon Thinley Ningpo and Khenpo Tsultrim Tenzin, among others.
Therefore, my question is this: whenever a potent practice like this one is going to be held, is there some way to screen participants? And another question is arising as well – do we want to have beginners participating in something like this? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I have had conversations with different individuals about this topic.
In this particular retreat, there were no (obvious) mental health issues. However, I have attended other Drupchens where issues have arisen. Therefore I wonder if somehow people were screened prior to registering for a retreat of this type. Personally I was not asked anything ahead of registering, so I suspect not. Now, the argument could be made that this retreat was private, and that it was not broadcast to many thousands of people, so you could say that only those individuals with the karma to be there attended. Sure. And you might say that if someone knew about someone’s prior mental health issues, perhaps they would have been requested to attend another teaching instead. I don’t know. I just bring this up as these practices definitely stir the psycho-spiritual cauldron as it were (and again, they are not for everyone). I am simply raising this question, and I wonder how other centers handle this potential issue. And in another post, I might mention a conversation I had with one of the teachers who mentioned that he was happy to have “crazy people” attending Dharma teachings. So it might be a complete non-issue (and it may just be my personal afflictions that cause me to project my neuroses onto the world…).
I’m not trying to suggest something either way here, I just want their to be a way to benefit people in case they attend a potent retreat and something major arises for them [subtext – if someone finds themselves in way over their head, what are they to do? If they do not have the background of solid Bodhicitta practice or the skills to emotionally self-regulate, then a team needs to be ready to assist them]. Maybe a mental health team could be ready ahead of time in the event of a crisis of self / no-self arises.
As I mentioned above, this retreat was very well-organized overall. It seemed there might be just a few individuals who were holding many of the “juggling bags” aloft, but if they were strained and stressed, I could not tell. 🙂 I was very impressed.
The translation was precise, approachable, well-organized and it seemed to be very appropriate to the audience. Questions were able to be asked, and the answers were given in an objective, intelligible manner. The translator showed her empathy at one or two points, reacting with beautiful tears to a story that Rinpoche told.
The food was entirely vegetarian. It was well-prepared, ample and it consisted of a balanced diet. Soy was not used in excess thank goodness, as it is one of the few foods my body has a challenging time digesting. I was very impressed with some of the dishes in fact – and I got inspired by the quinoa, garbonzo and pomegranate seed concoction! It was delicious!
So I am very happy I attended this brief retreat and if I get the chance to attend another such program with Garchen Rinpoche, I will sign right up.