Nyung Nä Retreat with Ven. Amy Miller

Hosted by Shantideva Meditation Center
Friday, January 12 to Monday, January 15, 2018
at Menla Retreat Center, Phoenicia, NY

PRE-REQUISITES: While it is best to have formally taken refuge in Buddhism to participate in the Nyung Nä practice, those with a sincere interest can join. It is also helpful to have some retreat experience before joining a Nyung Nä, so if you have not done retreat before, please contact Shantideva Meditation Center to discuss if this is the best option for you: email hidden; JavaScript is required.

It is not necessary to have taken an empowerment (2-day wang) of Thousand-Armed Chenrezig (the Buddha of Compassion) to participate, although the retreat can be experienced on a deeper level if you have.

PREREGISTRATION IS REQUIRED FOR THIS RETREAT. In addition, if you have never attended a Nyung Nä before, you will need to attend the introductory session on January 12 beginning at 7pm.

THE PRACTICE: Nyung Nä (or “abiding in the fast”) is a Vajrayana practice from the Kriya (“Action”) class of Tantra that anyone of faith can do. It is a powerful, quick and effective method to purify a great deal of negativities and at the same time collect a vast amount of merit. It is said that engaging in a Nyung Nä retreat is equivalent to doing up to three months of other kinds of retreats. Meditators of the past have been known to purify such diseases as leprosy through this practice. However, the principal purpose of the practice is the attainment of supreme enlightenment for the benefit of all living beings.

A single Nyung Nä takes two days and a morning to complete and requires taking the Eight Mahayana Precepts for two days. These precepts or vows are taken for a 24-hour period during which we avoid: (1) killing, (2) stealing, (3) sexual activity, (4) telling lies, (5) taking intoxicants, (6) singing, dancing or playing music, (7) wearing jewelry or ornaments, and (8) using high seats or beds. In addition, on the days when food is taken, only one meal is eaten, which is finished by noon. The following foods are avoided as they interfere with subtle winds in the body and thus, mantra recitation: onion, garlic, radish, meat, and alcohol. It is also highly encouraged to complete all outside activities and business prior to the retreat and to disengage from all technology. On January 14, we will be observing strict fasting so no food or drink is taken at all during 24 hours.

During each day of the retreat, one does three sessions of well-structured practice, approximately three hours in length. In each session, there is the practice of the sadhana (“method of accomplishment”) of Thousand-Armed Chenrezig. The sadhana involves meditating on bodhicitta (the aspiration to attain enlightenment in order to benefit all beings), visualizing Chenrezig, reciting prayers and mantras, and performing prostrations.

SCHEDULE: Participants arrive at the retreat site for check-in and registration between 3:00 and 5:00pm on Friday, January 12. Dinner is at 6pm — just before the introductory session of the Nyung Nä retreat at 7pm. The actual retreat begins before dawn the following morning (Saturday) when the Eight Mahayana Precepts are taken. Three sessions of the sadhana are practiced on the first day. Lunch is taken before midday, with some minor restrictions on the types of beverages one can have for the remainder of the day (further instruction will be given at the retreat). On the second day, Sunday, again just before dawn, participants once again take the Eight Mahayana Precepts as above with the additional vows of not eating, drinking, or speaking for twenty-four hours. Three sessions of the sadhana are practiced on this day as well. Although there is a vow to keep silence, participants can still continue to recite the prayers and mantras of the sadhana. If communication between participants is absolutely necessary, it must be done through written notes.

On the morning of the final day, Monday, participants do not take the Eight Mahayana Precepts, but do participate in a final session, during which there is a breaking of the fast begun the previous day. Breakfast is offered after the final session at approximately 10am.

FASTING ADVICE: The second day of the Nyung Nä (Saturday) is sometimes the most difficult part of the retreat, as the hunger, thirst, tiredness and exertion from doing prostrations can be challenging for some. However, these discomforts can be seen in a different light with a compassionate motivation and an understanding of the purpose of this type of retreat: it is through experiencing hardships that one is able to purify a great deal of negative karma. Furthermore, it is said that by experiencing these discomforts, one can develop a better understanding of the suffering of those less fortunate than us and develop greater compassion for all sentient beings and greater renunciation of samsara.

If you have medical conditions that do not allow you to fast, you can still participate in the Nyung Nä, but do not take the vows to refrain from eating food. So while you do not complete a traditional Nyung Nä, the practice is still highly beneficial.

THE PRACTICE OF PROSTRATIONS: On the subject of prostrations, those participating in a Nyung Nä retreat are encouraged to do full-length prostrations within the sessions, so getting accustomed to doing them prior to the retreat is suggested. Simpler prostrations (either the five-point prostration or merely folding one’s hands) are certainly an option for those who are restricted from doing full prostrations due to health concerns. You can find more information on them here and there are pdf and ebook versions as well.

Friday, January 12             
3:00 – 6:00pm   Arrival, check-in, and registration
6:00 – 7:00pm   Dinner
7:00 – 8:30pm   Orientation and introduction to Nyung Nä (required if this is your first Nyung Nä)

Saturday, January 13         
3:45am   Wake up
4:15 – 7:45am   Eight Mahayana Precepts and session 1
8:45 – 11:15am   Session 2
11:15am – 12:00pm   Lunch
3:00 – 6:00pm   Session 3
6:30 – 7:30pm   Q&A (optional)

Sunday, January 14  (Day of silence and no eating or drinking)
4:30am   Wake up
5:00 – 8:30am   Eight Mahayana Precepts and session 1
9:30 – 12:00pm    Session 2
2:00 – 2:45pm   Sutra reading (optional)
3:00 – 6:00pm   Session 3

Monday, January 15           
4.30am   Wake up
5:00 – 8:30am   Final session
9:00am   Breakfast
10:00 – 11:00am   Departure

WHAT TO BRING: We include this list of personal items that are useful for you to bring to help make your stay more comfortable. However, many of these items are optional.

● towel and washcloth

● mala (Buddhist prayer beads)

● dorje and bell (only if you have not taken an appropriate empowerment)

● mandala set (this can help with visualization, but is optional)

● offerings for the altar (You can bring snacks you enjoy to share with others. Please check that they do not contain eggs, radish, onion, garlic, or meat)

● alarm clock

● earplugs

● loose, layered clothing (jeans can be uncomfortable for sitting on a meditation cushion)

● personal toiletries (something to rub into sore muscles is helpful, or pain relievers)

● flashlight

● additional vitamins, “recharge” or Emergen-C electrolyte powders, etc. can be helpful

● medication*

● meditation cushion and mat or padding for prostrations or any yoga in the break times

● shawl or light blanket for morning and evening sessions

● Dharma reading material and/or journal for time between sessions

*Please let us know in advance if you have any medical conditions.

DANA (GENEROSITY): To allow the monastic teachers to continue their Dharma work, support from the students is appreciated. There will be an opportunity to offer katas and contribute at the end of the retreat.

OTHER HELPFUL ADVICE: It can be helpful to begin cleaning up your diet as much as possible in the week prior to the Nyung Nä. You will sometimes hear of people not feeling physically well when they do this retreat. This is mostly due to the toxins that are eliminated from their system during this purification practice. The more we can get the toxins out of our system prior to the practice, the easier it will be. Essentially, it can be helpful to cut out an excess of animal products, junk food, sugar, caffeine, etc. Also, familiarizing the body with full-length prostrations prior to the Nyung Nä is a great help.

Most importantly, start preparing your mind for retreat. One of the most fantastic things about this particular practice is that in just two short days we purify and accumulate so much. If we already start thinking about it, preparing the mind for a focused few days ahead, and rejoicing at this great opportunity, just this amount of intention prior to the retreat will make the result more powerful.