The following explanation, given by Geshe Kelsang in 1993, applies to the Preliminary Guide Retreats. These retreats are held every year at the center. They are usually a week in length, four sessions a day, and allow people to gain deeper experience of a particular practice. They are an integral part of the Teacher Training Program (TTP), but are also open to everyone. You may attend any number of sessions.
Buddha taught many different meditations. The realizations attained through these meditations are the path to liberation. Liberation from suffering therefore depends upon making progress in meditation, and progress in meditation depends upon engaging sincerely in preliminary practices. Buddha taught four principal preliminary practices. These are normally called the ‘four great guides’ because they are the methods by which we are guided into the actual path to liberation. Meditation itself is like the main body, and the four great guides are like four limbs; just as without limbs our body cannot move and function, so without preliminary practices meditation alone cannot work.
During this retreat we will spend time developing the powerful mind of refuge, our actual protection from pain and problems. Through the practice of refuge, relying on the three jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, we gradually build stable, peaceful and joyful minds that give us the confidence and strength to make authentic spiritual progress.
Guru Yoga and Mandala offering retreat combines two of the four great preliminary guides that we need to practice if we want to gain mahamudra realizations – the quick path to enlightenment. We all wish for spiritual realisations, but these depend upon creating certain inner conditions such as purifying negativity, accumulating merit, and receiving blessings.
In this retreat we focus on the preliminary practices of accumulating merit and receiving blessings. Making mandala offerings is the gateway to accumulating the collection of merit and attaining an enlightened pure land and Guru yoga is the gateway to receiving powerful blessings of all the Buddhas of the ten directions through our Spiritual Guide. There will be four sessions a day, except when there are tsog offering Pujas, and the practice is accomplished within the sadhana Offering to the Spiritual Guide.
“Through the power of recitation and visualization, and through receiving Vajrasattva’s blessings, we will gradually purify our mind and our actions. In this way we can improve our qualities as a human being, and eventually become a special holy being.” Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche, Teachings on Vajrasattva, 1993
This retreat is a powerful method for purifying our negative karma. Each session includes prayer and time for silent meditation. By deepening our reliance on Buddha Vajrasattva in this retreat, we will cleanse our mind of delusions, negativities, and obstacles holding us back from reaching our full inner potential.