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 AND NAGI NUNNERY
Yarney is observed each year at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery and at Nagi Nunnery 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 (July 21st to October 2nd, 2024). For six weeks, the assembly of monks is strictly confined to the monastery compound and the assembly of nuns is strictly confined to the nunnery 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 pūjā during which the monks and nuns 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. At Nagi Nunnery, also accompanied by horns and other sacred musical instruments, the nuns circumambulate the main temple. After returning to the monastery and nunnery, the grounds of the compounds are consecrated, the gates are sealed with special mantras, and the retreat begins.
During the Yarney retreat, the Shedra monks alternate between composition, dharma discourse, and debate. Last year the monks focused on writing and presenting their composed dharma essays. This year they will participate in dharma discourse. Next year they will focus on developing their debate skills.
Also at this time, the young monks and nuns studying up to class 8, continue with their studies and participate in much-enjoyed weekly quizzes that test their knowledge of monastic and secular subjects.
At the conclusion of the Yarney period, three days of special pūjās are performed at the monastery and nunnery. Once again, the monks circumambulate the Great Boudhanath Stupa and the nuns circumambulate the main temple. Lastly, the Gakye ritual releases the monks and nuns 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 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, accumulate merit, eliminate negativities by doing positive actions, and increase listening, contemplation, and meditation skills.
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) that is observed from July 21st to October 2nd, 2024 by the monks at Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery and the nuns at Nagi Nunnery, please send your name(s) to email@example.com.