º Monastic Rainy Season Retreat at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling · Yarney º
The origin of the annual Rainy Season Retreat (Yarney) can be traced back to the time of the Buddha Śākyamuni. During the monsoon season, with its heavy rainfall, it was difficult for Lord Buddha and his Sangha to continue their daily practice of walking from village to village to collect alms. At this time of year, insects proliferate in the fields and forests and along the muddy paths. To protect these tiny beings from being crushed underfoot and to prevent the farmers’ crops from being trampled, the Buddha settled his followers in one place during this season, where they lived quietly and improved their listening, contemplation, and meditation skills. To this day, ordained Buddhists throughout the world engage in some form of Rainy Season Retreat.
The Yarney period is considered to be one of the most important ways to preserve the Vinaya (the rules and procedures that govern the Buddhist monastic community). The maintenance of the Vinaya depends on the triple practices of Yarney, Sojong (purification and restoration of vows), and Gakye (discharge from the retreat).
YARNEY AT KA-NYING SHEDRUB LING MONASTERY
Yarney is observed each year at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery starting on the full moon day of the 6th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar and concluding on the new moon day of the 8th month of the Tibetan lunar calendar. For 6 weeks, the assembly of monks is strictly confined to the monastery compound. This is a special time for reciting prayers and performing pūjās and rituals; strictly adhering to the Vinaya vows; intensively studying the Buddhist scriptures; and practicing listening, contemplating, and meditating.
On the first day, the retreat begins at dawn with a special puja during which the monks take specific Vinaya vows to be observed throughout the six weeks. Next, accompanied by horns and other sacred musical instruments, the monks circumambulate the monastery, then proceed in a single-file procession from the monastery grounds through the streets of Boudhanath to circumambulate the Great Boudhanath Stupa. After returning to the monastery, the grounds of the compound are consecrated, the gates are sealed with special mantras, and the retreat begins.
During the yearly Yarney retreat, the monks of Sangye Yeshe Shedra alternate between dharma discourse, composition, and debate. Last year, the monks each participated in dharma discourse. Next year, they will focus on writing and presenting their composed dharma essays. This year they are engaged in developing their debate skills.
Six weeks later, three days of special pūjās are performed to mark the conclusion of the retreat. Once again, the monastic assembly walks in a single-file procession to circumambulate the Great Boudhanath Stupa and then returns to the monastery. Lastly, the Gakye ritual releases the monks from the vows taken on the first day of Yarney.
Due to the lessening of distractions and the emphasis on practicing discipline, for those taking part in the Yarney there are many benefits. The main aspiration (as always) is for a positive transformation of one’s body, speech, and mind. During this period, there is the opportunity to bond with the other monastics, receive transmissions, gain merit and eliminate negativities by doing positive actions, increasing listening, contemplation, meditation skills, etc.
Although Yarney is thought of as a monastic activity, it can be practiced by anyone wherever they may be. The focus of practicing correct moral conduct is a form of Yarney.
May the virtue of anyone who rejoices in this auspicious activity be dedicated to the Enlightenment of all sentient beings.
If you are unable to make an offering but would like to be included in the Monastic Rainy Season Retreat (Yarney), please send your name(s) to firstname.lastname@example.org.