Kagyu Changchub Chuling aspires in its Mission and Vision to create practice opportunities for community members at all stages and levels of practice. To this end, on April 4th of 2015, KCC began a three year long retreat at its retreat center near Goldendale, Washington. The retreat has admitted 11 meditators, total.
You can read a story about the 3 year retreat published recently in Northwest Dharma News.
What is a 3-year retreat?
This 3-year retreat is an advanced, fully-cloistered, intensive Tibetan Buddhist meditation training opportunity focused on Karma Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu practices.
Who is sponsoring this retreat?
The retreat is sponsored by Kagyu Changchub Chuling, a center for the study and practice of Tibetan Buddhism, founded in 1976 in Portland, Oregon, by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche. The center’s Resident Lama, Michael Conklin, is the retreat master. Lama Conklin finished leading a successful one-year retreat at Ser Cho Osel Ling in March of 2014. See photos and videos of KCC activities here.
Where will it take place?
Ser Chö Ösel Ling, KCC’s long-retreat center, is situated on 240 acres in Washington state, near the small town of Goldendale. The retreat center has two cloisters designed to host gender-separated long retreats for groups of 8 men and 8 women.
What does the retreat cost?
The cost for room, food, teachings and the amenities of daily life (laundry soap, snacks and so on) on retreat is $49,000 USD. Long-time KCC members receive a small discount.
KCC understands that this is a considerable sum of money. We also know that most candidates—however frugal—will spend that much, if not more, on living expenses over the same amount of time outside retreat. We have done our best to make the retreat affordable, while balancing retreat costs with fulfilling the needs of the practitioners at our urban center.
Possible additional expenses include:
• travel to India for the empowerments
• robes and dharma implements
• offerings to teachers
• health insurance, personal medicines and other personal needs during the 3 years of retreat
There are a small number of partial scholarships for three year retreats worldwide available from the Tsadra Foundation. For more information, visit their website at www.tsadra.org
For our 2013 one-year retreat, we were able to accept candidates with predictable monthly incomes from pensions or trust funds.
Who can apply?
Applicants should have at least a decade of Buddhist practice. Having completed Karma Kagyu Ngöndro is highly recommended, but not absolutely necessary. Some rudimentary ability to read Tibetan language is helpful since some practices will be done in Tibetan. (KCC offered a class to help candidates and others meet this language requirement in Summer of 2014.)
Diversity of all kinds is welcomed.
What is a day on retreat like?
Retreatants will rise at about 3 AM. They will practice mediation for about 12 hours a day, with breaks for meals and rest, and will retire most nights by 9 PM. Most often, there will be two group practice sessions a day, with the remainder done alone in one’s room.
Who is teaching the retreat?
The Retreat Master for this retreat is Lama Michael Conklin, KCC’s Resident Lama since 1993. Lama Michael will be assisted by Lama Tara Goforth from Victoria, BC. Lama Michael completed a 3-year retreat in the US in 1989, and Lama Tara has completed two 3-year retreats. Lama Tsang Tsing of Kagyu Dakshang Chuling of Eugene, Oregon, will also assist. Lama Tsang Tsing was the Retreat Master for Lama Michael’s retreat.
What practices will be done?
The retreat will contain practices drawn from the Karma Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu lineages, but the primary focus will be on the creation and completion stages of the Shangpa Kagyu.
What were the pre-requisites?
The typical candidate for this retreat will have 10 years of Tibetan Buddhist practice under the guidance of a qualified dharma teacher in the Karma or Shangpa Kagyu, or a related tradition. They will have completed the Karma Kagyu Ngöndro at least once; and will have had, or will get, the empowerments coordinated by KCC and offered by HE Gyaltsap Rinpoche in India before the retreat. Retreat candidates must have reasonably good health that will allow them to participate in all the practices and to finish the retreat without need for medical or dental care outside the retreat. Mental health is requisite.
All the teachings will be given in English, so basic fluency in English and some ability to read simple Tibetan will be useful. Retreatants should be able to use a Tibetan-English dictionary and should recognize and define about 200 common Tibetan dharma terms.
How were candidates vetted?
Prospective candidates for the retreat will meet with Lama Michael in person and/or by phone. During these meetings, Lama Michael will determine whether he feels the 3-year retreat is a good next step in the candidate’s spiritual path. Lama Michael may also meet with a retreatant’s dharma teacher, physician, etc.
What is expected in regards to retreat discipline?
The three-year retreat is slightly more than three consecutive years of fully cloistered practice. Retreatants will not come and go during the retreat, nor will visitors be allowed. It is an advanced practice opportunity for experienced students who value the possibilities inherent in such training.
There will be no cell phones, Internet, computer or e-readers in use by retreatants. Small audio recording devices will be permitted. Retreatants will wear Tibetan-style robes and will be required to maintain the five precepts.
If candidates have taken ordination before the retreat begins, they will continue to wear the robes of ordination. Most candidates will choose to shave their heads, but this is not mandatory.
All of these guidelines are meant to help create supportive conditions for deep practice. The retreat is an intentionally simplified environment, where renunciation is valued and expected.
Where will retreatants live during retreat?
Each retreatant will have a small, but carefully designed individual cabin or room, slightly larger than 100 square feet. The shared spaces in each cloister include a meditation hall, dining room, shower, laundry facilities and a bepkhang—a room used for advanced yogic practices. Each cloister has two or more handicapped accessible rooms.
The facility also includes a commercial style kitchen and teachers’ cabins, and plans are in place for building staff housing as well. Each compound is surrounded by a tall wooden fence.
Are there support staff for the retreat?
Yes, in additional to the teachers, the retreat has four paid staff. Full-time residential staff for the three-year retreat include a Rural Operations Manager, an Assistant Manager and two Cooks. KCC’s current retreat staff are all Buddhist practitioners, and when long retreats are in session, are considered retreatants, as well. If you are interested in being considered for a staff position at SCOL, please contact KCC Assistant President Linda Besant.