Retreat While Walking or Travelling

Retreat While Walking or Travelling

Date of Advice:
February 2017
Date Posted:
May 2018

A student was taking time off after serving at a center for ten years and was planning to do a walking retreat for several months. Rinpoche offered this advice.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Thaksang Monastery, Bhutan , May 2016. Photo: Lobsang Sherab.

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you for your kind letter, I am sorry for the delay.

Yes, doing 200,000 Vajrasattva mantras as you walk is very good. You can do this as if you are making pilgrimage, and at the same time you can do a sort of retreat, like Vajrasattva, while you are walking. Also you can do things like refuge or reciting OM MANI PADME HUM and so forth.

Many years ago, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave Chenrezig initiation and the commitment was 600,000 recitations of OM MANI PADME HUM. I met a very learned, expert monk in philosophy who had taken the initiation. He was making pilgrimage in Nepal and at the same time reciting OM MANI PADME HUM, the commitment he had received from His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He did this while he was travelling. Of course he was very busy at his monastery, reading texts, teaching and educating others, and learning himself. So he did the commitment immediately like this, with pilgrimage in Nepal.

It’s incredible to use the time like this. It’s so profitable and meaningful, instead of complaining, “I can’t get it done. I don’t have time, blah, blah,” but at the same time having so much time for gossiping and many other things, like eating, drinking and so forth.

Also during the walk or pilgrimage or while travelling, you can, for example, do lamrim meditation. It’s not always necessary to be in a room, sitting on a cushion and closing your eyes. You don’t always need to do that.

You can follow the lamrim outline on guru devotion for however many months you are travelling. Meditate on guru devotion by following the outline, to develop from your side the realization that sees the guru as all the buddhas—one guru as all the buddhas and one buddha as all the gurus—until you are able to realize this from your side, without effort, stable.

Whenever you have this stable realization for weeks, months and years, for your whole life, then come all the realizations up to omniscience, including the three principal aspects of the path (the foundation) and tantra (the two stages) up to the omniscient mind. Then you can even achieve enlightenment in one life. You can achieve enlightenment quickly, in a brief lifetime of this degenerate time, like Gyalwa Ensapa, Chökyi Dorje, Milarepa and many others.

When you are travelling, you can meditate on lamrim for one week, one month or whatever length of time you have. You can go through the outlines of the lamrim, for example, meditating on renunciation. Do this to get the realization that sees the whole entire samsara is in the nature of suffering, like being in the center of a fire or in a prison, or as if your naked body is sitting in a thorn bush. You see that it’s only in the nature of unbelievable suffering. Again do that for however long it takes to have the realization—weeks, months or years—until it is stable.

Or meditate on bodhicitta, again like that. On the basis of renunciation, meditate on bodhicitta. Think how you feel yourself being in samsara, that it’s most unbearable, and like you, there are numberless other sentient beings in samsara, so it is most unbearable, unbearable, unbearable. That is great compassion, wanting to free them from the oceans of samsara suffering. That is the basis of the realization of compassion and bodhicitta, wanting to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings. Meditate on this until it comes without effort, naturally; until it comes continually, day and night.

Also meditate on emptiness, using different techniques of emptiness and mindfulness and dependent arising—subtle dependent arising and dependent arising according to Madhyamaka Prasangika view. For example, the I exists in mere name, so practice mindfulness of that. Also practice mindfulness of action and object, which exist in mere name. Then that becomes a meditation on emptiness only, shunyata. Your understanding of shunyata and dependent arising then becomes oneness. That’s excellent, incredible.

In this way, however many months or years of travelling you do, it becomes the antidote to samsara and the root of samsara, ignorance. It directly cuts ignorance. This mindfulness is an extremely profound meditation.

Then with bodhichitta—if you are doing everything with your body, speech and mind with bodhicitta, then wow, wow, wow! You collect unbelievable merit, more than skies of merit every time you do that. Wow, wow, wow! This is without talking about tantric practice.

Thank you very much. This is to give you an idea.

Thank you very much for your service and for dedicating your life to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Yeshe and all the gurus, to fulfill their wishes. That is also service to the teachings of the Buddha, from where all the sentient beings receive all the happiness up to enlightenment. That is the ultimate goal, to bring the numberless sentient beings to enlightenment.

You receive all your past, present and future happiness including enlightenment from sentient beings. They are the most kind, most dear, most precious, wish-fulfilling ones and they have been your mother and kind in four ways from beginningless rebirth. [Your mother] gave you your body, particularly this human body, which allows you to practice Dharma; she protected your life from hundreds of dangers every day; she bore so much hardship every day, day and night, and she gave you an education. From beginningless rebirth every sentient being has been kind to you.

Serving sentient beings is the ultimate thing, in order to free them from the oceans of samsara suffering and bring them to peerless happiness, buddhahood—the cessation of all the obscurations and completion of all the realizations. That is the main purpose of life and what life is for, every single breath. In that way every second of your life is most meaningful, most beneficial, most happy.

Thank you very much.

Sometimes this can be better than sitting meditation, when you fall asleep, and then you become like a pig or a bear in hibernation.

With much love and prayers ...