Instructions for a Retreat on Compassion

These instructions can be used for a 3 day, 3 week, or even 3 months retreat. We will be taking the 3 months of the worst part of winter to go through these teachings.

At the very least, students can take the Friday morning that would normally be reserved for lectures and use that time each week in order to meditate, contemplate, and make notes about your thoughts on the issues in the lecture notes. Otherwise, we can take 2 mornings per week, or every morning during the weekdays, or 1 day each weekend or any other division allowing 1 1/2 to 2 hours for time to meditate and then read, contemplate, and make notes of our impressions about the various aspects of this retreat.

I recommend that you divide the retreat into 3 parts. The first part should focus on contemplating and developing Equanimity. The second part should focus on Gratitude and Loving Kindness. The third part should focus on developing Compassion and moving from Aspiring for Compassionate Action to actually Engaging in Compassionate Action.

During each session, it would be good to think about why you are doing this practice. Even personal Liberation cannot be completely achieved if we do not understand our interconnection with others. Because of this, even on a personal level, we cannot achieve Buddhahood or our own freedom from suffering without developing Loving-kindness, and Compassion as part of our accomplishment.

If we also wish to benefit others, then we need to understand suffering and its causes as they relate to others and therefore we need to develop the skills to understand the world from others points of view. For this we need all aspects of a compassionate mind in order to then skillfully help those in need.

Follow this by 10 to 20 minutes of Calm-Awareness (shamata) meditation and then read either the lecture notes or some other Buddhist text on the topic of this portion of the retreat. At that point, one can take notes or stop to think about how these notes and teachings apply to your own Equanimity, Gratitude, Loving-Kindness, Aspiring and Engaging Compassion, and Generosity. As the time progresses, you should be able to come to some understanding and conclusion about the role of these qualities in your own life.

Remember that we all have BuddhaNature, a basic knowledge and skillfulness, and that because of impermanence and the gap between one thought or activity and another (the Bardo), we always have the possibility of change and improvement. Sometimes change takes time, but with persistence and patience, results will eventually show. The key is to start small and expand and, above all, keep working on it.




About larryreside

Technical Administrator for the Westport Lions Club Website and Instructor @ the Peaceful Garden Meditation Group - A Group that studies and practices Buddhist Psychology and Meditation in the Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
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