What is the importance of long-term retreat practice?

“It may be obvious that planes fly and boats don’t sink, but who is to say whether a person is enlightened or not?”–Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

As a follow-up to my previous post, I wanted to explore a related topic re retreat practice, which emerged in the comments and is also currently being discussed within the context of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association.

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Some challenges of living a contemplative life today

There are several topics that come up a lot for me of late, and they seem to bring up some discomfort and concern around how Buddhism is integrating into Western culture. The issues are:

1) The subject of dana and generosity, and how it has not very successfully been translated here; and

2) The issue of gender inequality and the general lack of (recognized as such) realized women teachers within the Buddhist institution — the same can be said for lack of racial diversity; as well as

3) The challenges for monasticism, particularly for women in the Theravada tradition.

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Why meditation, why intensive retreat practice

I left Burma an astonishing two months ago. I’ve had the intention to write for much of that time, but the appropriate theme didn’t emerge until now.

So, as I come back to this world – which I did because it was the right time, but not without a lot of questioning and reluctancy – I am struggling somewhat with reintegration after a long period of intensive practice. One foot is still in Asia as I currently have the intention to go back in several months for a slightly shorter stay; but rather than encourage a false dichotomy of here vs. there, I am also eager to learn from the practice we are all given in daily life. I’ve also come up against some confusion when I explain that I don’t intend to seek employment or my own place to live just yet and so thought perhaps it’s worth explaining why it is that I meditate.

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Minding the mind

So, I’ve escaped for a morning to Skype my sister on her birthday (just barely…roused her from sleep at 11 PM) and to do a little grocery shopping. It’s the beginning of week 9 here and it’s the first time I’ve left the center other than two short trips by foot to the village to buy fruit and cookies. Amazing how time flies when you’re doing virtually nothing.

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