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Personal Retreats at Dharmalaya Institute

Dharmalaya Institute supports experienced, dedicated meditation practitioners by hosting personal retreats in a beautiful natural setting conducive to practice (subject to availability and other conditions). Perched on a forested hillside in a remote area just above Bir, our campus provides not only a tranquil setting but also a healthy one, serving salubrious, plant-based (vegan) meals and providing accommodation in lovely earthen buildings designed specifically for meditaiton retreats.

Personal retreats at Dharmalaya Institute are open to trained practitioners who already have a well-developed personal practice and wish to do a commited retreat for at least two weeks.

If interested, read on for important information.

 

The Meaning of ‘Retreat’

There are many different types of retreats one can do, and while any of them might be good for a certain person in a certain context, there are certain types of retreats that Dharmalaya Institute exists to support, while others fall outside of the Institute’s mission. Specifically, for our purposes, a ‘retreat’ is a noble commitment to withdraw from engaging with the outside world and the mundane concerns of day-to-day life for a period of time in order to be present with one’s inner experience more fully — to get to know one’s own heart and mind, to train the mind in empowering ways, and gradually to replace old habits of body, speech, and mind with healthier and more supportive ones.

In other words, a ‘retreat’ isn’t just a time to take a break from the stress of modern life (that’s what vacations are for). Rather, a retreat is a time to focus on inner work, through meditation (and, for some practitioners, also yoga and other similar practices).

Dharmalaya Institute is nonsectarian and thus does not require retreat applicants to be practicing according to any one particular tradition. It does, however, require that all retreat applicants take the retreat commitment seriously, because Dharmalaya exists to serve as a place for deep learning and transformation, not a guest house. Our retreat accommodation space is very limited so we want to make sure that it is made available to the sincerest applicants. For that reason, personal retreats at Dharmalaya Institute are by application only, and we consider only those applications that meet the criteria outlined below.


Requirements for Personal Retreats

  • Prior retreat experience: Retreatant must have completed at least one retreat of at least ten days in duration that was guided by a qualified meditation/yoga teacher.
  • Long-term meditation practice: Retreatant must have been meditating daily (or almost daily) for at least the past one year.
  • Qualified teacher: Retreatant must have a qualified meditation teacher who can be contacted in case support is needed.
  • Emotional stability: Retreatant must be mentally and emotionally stable for at least the past year. (We are unable to host retreats for anyone currently/recently experiencing overhwhelming emotional challenges or mental instability, simply because sometimes retreats can stir up such challenges and unfortunately at present we do not have the necessary resources to provide qualified support if needed.)


Commitments

  • Time: Must be doing a meditation retreat for at least two weeks. (For shorter retreats, there are other places that would be better suited.)
  • Purpose: Must be doing a formal retreat with at least four hours of meditation/yoga practice per day, and not engaging in mundane, worldly activities.
  • Silence: Must remain in silence most (if not all) of the time, whether that be keeping strict silence throughout the retreat or, at a minimum, limiting communication to whatever may be required for meeting one’s basic needs during the retreat (no idle chit-chat or just hanging out). Tip: One should complete all travel arrangements and other communications before arriving at Dharmalaya Institute, so that those things won’t be a distraction during your retreat.
  • Presence: Must remain on the Dharmalaya Institute’s campus for the duration of the retreat (not going into town, visiting friends, eating at restaurants, etc.). If a retreatant were to leave the Dharmalaya campus, the Institute would consider the retreat concluded and the retreatant would be asked to leave in order to make room for others who wish to do serious retreat.
  • Service: All people residing at Dharmalaya Insitute (with the exception of people in strict retreat, not interacting with others at all) are expected to take on one or more karma yoga tasks to contribute to the smooth functioning of life on campus, such as helping with gardening, cooking, cleaning, etc. Special considerations are made for people in formal retreat (for example, doing a task that can be done alone and in silence, and in a short amount of time so as not to be disruptive to retreat commitments).
  • Conduct: All retreatants vow to maintain the traditional code of conduct for the duration of their retreat, which is summarized as follows:
    • Respect all life by practicing loving-kindness and gentleness, and avoiding causing harm to any living being (even insects — we don’t kill or harm anything here!).
    • Practice generosity and unselfishness by sharing and giving more than you take, and by refraining from taking anything that isn’t freely given.
    • Be honest, sensitive, and straightforward in all communication, and refrain from hurtful or deceptive speech.
    • Be celibate and keep modest conduct, out of respect for everyone around, including fellow retreatants and also the local villagers (this includes refraining from all forms of affection in public, including hugging, massages, etc., and also wearing clothes that cover at least the chest, shoulders, and knees whenever you leave your room).
    • Practise clear and steady mindfulness, refraining from indulging in intoxicating substances as well as intoxicating actions and ideas (meaning, in other words, abstaining from any substance, thought, or activity that has the potential to impair one’s judgment or lead to heedlessness).


Retreat Support Services

Should you require any particular kind of support for your retreat practice, please discuss your needs or wishes with us clearly beforehand, to clarify whether we can accommodate your request or not.

Some kinds of retreat support that we can provide if desired:

  • Providing meditation cushions, yoga mats, etc.
  • Delivering meals to your doorstep (if you are in strict retreat).
  • Providing certain ritual items and other supplies that meet our ecological guidelines (e.g. natural, no chemicals, no plastic packaging, no animal products), such as incense, toilet paper, fresh fruit for your altar, etc., which we can shop for at your expense and deliver to you.
  • You are welcome to borrow books from our library for the duration of your retreat.
  • Laundry: We can provide you with natural laundry soap and other items to help you wash your own clothes or, alternatively, we can take your clothes to be laundered in town (at your expense).

Some kinds of retreat support that we cannot provide:

  • We don’t have a qualified retreat master on campus and can’t provide qualified spiritual guidance (so you need to rely on your own teacher).
  • We can’t provide (and don’t allow) ritual items that don’t meet our ecological guidelines (e.g. anything with chemicals, plastic packaging, or animal products).
  • Whether or not we can provide basic practice guidance and/or basic emotional support depends on who is present on campus at any given time, so in general you should not count on it.


Accommodations

Dharmalaya Institute is in the process of building a hermitage in a secluded corner of our campus to provide the most conducive environment for long-term retreats. We expect the first of the hermitage’s lovely, earthen retreat cottages to be ready sometime in 2018, and more to follow in the next few years.

Meanwhile, we have one or two regular cottages that are sometimes (depending on the season) available for retreat practitioners. These cottages are often occupied by staff long-term interns during our busy seasons (generally March through June and mid-October through mid-December), so your best chances to find them available for meditation retreats are during the monsoon (roughly July through September) and winter (mid-December through late February or early March).

For those with very simple needs, we also have large and comfortable canvas tents (furnished with a mattress and proper bedding), which sometimes can be made available for private retreats (again, seasonally, and most reliably during winter or the late-September to mid-October period).

 

Food

Dharmalaya Institute serves healthy, balanced, hygiencally prepared, plant-based (strict vegetarian, vegan) meals that include as many organic and local ingredients as possible. We provide three meals per day, plus tea at 4:00pm for those who wish to take it. We also provide safe drinking water (processed through a four-stage filter that includes activated carbon filtration and UV treatment, meeting World Health Organization standards).

Most retreatants take their meals from the buffet during the group meal times (and we can give you an “I’m in silence” badge to wear so that others will understand that you’re in retreat). However, if you’re planning to be in strict retreat (no contact with others), we can arrange for meals to be delievered to your doorstep.

Some special dietary needs can be accommodated, while others can’t (at least not reliably), so please check with us beforehand about any special dietary needs.

Please note that, for reasons of compassion, ecology, and health, the entire Dharmalaya campus is committed to to a low-waste, vegan lifestyle, so no junk food or animal products are allowed anywhere on the campus. Please do not bring packaged snack foods with you. A retreat is a time to let go of our various addictions and indulgences, and to discover how much better we feel when we’ve been free of them for a while.

 

Costs

Retreats at the Dharmalaya Institute are by donation. For the first two weeks, there is a minimum food donation of Rs 4200, which is payable in advance upon arrival in order to enable us to buy food for you for those two weeks. Please note that this minimum donation only covers the cost of feeding you, and not the costs of staff wages, building and maintaining retreat accommodations and other facilities and services, so it would be very helpful and greatly appreciated if you would be so kind as to offer more than that bare minimum if you are able. Giving generously will help us make more retreat space available to more sincere practitioners like you, some of whom may have lesser financial resources.

For retreatants staying longer than two weeks, the rest of your retreat (after those first two weeks) would be on the traditional dana system, in which the practitioner freely gives an amount of her/his choosing that feels both generous and manageable. The traditional practice of dana is to look into your heart to find a win-win amount that feels appropriately generous and doesn’t cause hardship either to the giver or the receiver.

In most cases, retreatants make food donations in advance (so that we have money to shop for your food) and then make an additional donation of your choosing (e.g. for accommodation, staff, and general support of the Institute) at the end of your retreat.

 

Other Important Information about Staying at Dharmalaya Institute

Dharmalaya Institute is an ashram-style environment in a remote village area, which means life here is very different from what most people have experienced. Please read the important information on our Visitor Info page so you’ll have a clear sense of how we do things, what to expect, what’s expected of you, what to bring with you, and what not to bring with you.


Applying

After reading all of the information above, if you wish to apply to do a personal retreat at Dharmalaya Institute, you can do so by submitting the personal retreat application form here.