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Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus

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Hi everyone. I've decided to really try going all-on on this enlightenment business for a while. I was already planning on leaving my job at the end of next month for grad school, but it's looking like that's not going to happen, so I'm thinking it would be a good use of my time to go on a retreat instead. Get to stream entry and whatever else I can.

From what I've found so far I'm leaning towards checking out MBMC, but the wiki on here says it's not recommended due to changing availability of teachers.

I'm planning on committing to a period of one to three months, possibly staying on longer if it is an option and still sounds like a good idea at that point. I've done a ten day retreat in the past, definitely think a month or more is feasible for me, and I've had a very strong daily practice for the past 8 or 9 months.

It seems like Asian centers make the most sense financially for longer stays. If anyone has some recommendations or experiences they could share I'd greatly appreciate it.

Please reflect on this:

1. Burma.
   A. Panditarama.

This is highest standard by which a yogi will practice with extreme intensity under (sometimes overwhelming) supervision. If you can bite your lip, submit to the technique without deviation, be vigilant about not getting caught in the content of mental chattering, you will be supported and guided to Stream Entry by the teachers here. Pros: Insipiration of monks and yogis all intent of enlightenment surrounding you. Cons: Strict policing your daily practice, eg. no relaxing or lying down during daytime. From morning till night, apply the Vipassana technique or you will be asked to leave.

  B. Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha.

Similar support system and guidance by teachers who want you to succeed. But are uncompromising in their strictness and seriousness about the very real results of precise, energetic practice. Bonus here is: Air conditioned meditation hall. Downside: Prison-like environment.

2. Nepal

  - Panditarama Lumbini

Venerable Saydaw Vivekananda is a western monk. Very kind and supportive of yogis desire for enlightenment. He is desciple of U Pandita. Highly reccommend here. Similar situation as Panditarama in Burma, but located near place of Buddha's birth. Could give cause and condition for inspiration. 

3. USA

- Tathagata Meditation Center (San Jose)

Again in U Pandita's tradition, Sayadaw U Thuzana is very supportive and highly attained teacher. The conditions here are very good being located in the West. This September begins a 30 day retreat you may want to join.

The Mahasi Vipassana technique is not for those of faint heart. The system is very demanding and rigorous. The tradtional teaching requires a yogi to adhere strictly to the precepts and practice without rest from morning to night. If you apply balanced effort coupled with empowered confidence (as desrcibed in Daniel Ingrams MTCB chapter of the 5 faculties) you will be successful in as little as 1 month (average) of constant and continous practice in a serious and respectful mental state. The tradtional way to teach this technique is life-changing and produces REAL results. The trick is to understand the balancing of effort and expectations. Do not expect any results. We can only be aware of what is occuring in THE PRESENT MOMENT. How clearly can you precieve this moment, how many times a second can you precieve the frame-rate of sense stimuli? Innocent curiosity of this present moment can take you all the way.

May you experience the taste of freedom as soon as possible,

Boundless goodness and love,

Thomas

RE: Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus
Answer
7/17/17 11:02 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Wonderful, thank you for the recommendations and descriptions and words of encouragment!

Is the Panditarama you mentioned the Panditarama Forest Meditation Center (http://www.saddhamma.org/html/panditarama.shtml)? If so I sent an application to them earlier today. If it's not the same thing could you please provide contact info?

I came across the others you mentioned in my searches today. All are ones I was considering and the information is very useful.

Yogis are asked to arrive at the main Panditarama center in Yangon (Shwe Taung Gon) first, then request permission to relocate to the forest center if allowed. Email or call the main center to receive a sponsorship letter. : +951 535 448, com2panditarama@gmail.com

I recommend being patient in expecting a reply. It is very hot there now. November- Janurary is slightly more tolerable temp wise for caucation north-american bodies. You can relfect also on the option to initially go there on a 28 day tourist visa. Experience the place first hand prior to a 70 day retreat commitment. Please prepare for the most challenging experience of your life.

http://www.watrampoeng.net/watrampoeng/
Half way through the 28 day course I asked if it was possible to stay longer and they said: (paraphrasing from weak memory) that it might be arrangeable, depending on how practice goes.

RE: Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus
Answer
7/19/17 9:48 AM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Panditarama got back to me. They asked me which of the two centers I wanted to practice at, Yangon or forest center. Would you recommend on over the other?

The Mahasi approach of practicing dry insight for ~16 hours a day is unnecessarily grueling and stressful. You would be better off developing jhana before attempting insight practices, per the Buddha's instructions in the Pali Nikayas. Jhana brightens and clarifies the mind, which "primes" the mind for insight and makes it possible to attain stream entry with minimal effort. You will also experience bliss and relaxation whenever you want.

Pa Auk Forest Monastery in Burma (http://www.paaukforestmonastery.org/) is the most popular in Asia for jhana-focused practice and instruction. If you'd like to know more about developing concentration as a preparation for insight, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01INMZKAQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1) and Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington (https://www.amazon.com/Right-Concentration-Practical-Guide-Jhanas-ebook/dp/B017JJOXQ6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RY27FV9GK0DH6825880R) are solid guides. Let me know if you have any questions, and best of luck to you. 

RE: Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus
Answer
7/19/17 1:48 PM as a reply to Matthew.
I appreciate the alternative perspective and in other circumstances I'd probably agree with you. I'm familiar with both of those guides and own TMI. TMI is my go-to recommendation for people interested in starting a practice.

However my situation is that I crossed the A&P on a retreat quite a long time ago, and have been struggling with (what I'm 99% certain are) dark night symptoms ever since. Like, extremely, extremely bad dark night symptoms, symptoms that I have tried treating with everything I possibly could, from therapy and prescription meds to dedicated concentration/jhana practice. So far the only relief I've found is when I'm able to practice enough vipassana that I more or less stay in EQ. Thus my motivation is to get stream entry as quickly and efficiently as possible. While the Mahasi stuff may or may not be unnecessarily taxing, I'm very confident that if I can make it a month I will reach this goal. In fact since I've managed to get to EQ off-retreat, I'd be surprised if it took more than 10 days to get stream entry in that setting.

My current plan is to commit to a month of the hardcore Mahasi stuff, then relax a bit, then maybe head to a place in the same vein of Pa Auk for a longer period of time and work on jhana and other aspects of the practice.

Your approach totally makes sense. The advice I gave above was aimed at beginners. If you're already hitting EQ, sticking with the intensive Mahasi practice should lead to stream-entry. I second what Thomas said: "The trick is to understand the balancing of effort and expectations. Do not expect any results. We can only be aware of what is occuring in THE PRESENT MOMENT. How clearly can you precieve this moment, how many times a second can you precieve the frame-rate of sense stimuli? Innocent curiosity of this present moment can take you all the way." 

Dear Rob,

The forest center is more spacious and the air is cleaner due to the trees. Definitely recommend there over the city center which is literally right down town and smoggy.  

Bring some vitamins, a good sitting cushion, basic first aid, bug bite lotion, a good water bottle, (drink lots of water-very hot climate), electrolyte/ emergence-C rehydration powder, a journal book, instant coffee mix (if you like coffee), you will only need sandals, too hot for shoes, a small umbrella and read U pandita's book "In this very life". If you haven't already.

You got this brother, I'm happy for you. This will be a truly great experience. And please report on your trip when you get back.

Sincerely,

Thomas

RE: Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus
Answer
7/21/17 2:24 PM as a reply to Thomas Jackson-Brown.
Glad to hear you say that because I already told them forest center, speculating it would likely be cleaner and quieter.

I have my sponsorship letter and I have begun making preparations. There is a tiny, tiny chance I won't end up going if by some miracle I get off this wait list for med school at the last minute, but barring that I will be at the Panditarama Forest Center by the beginning of September.

Thanks again for all your advice and encouragement. I haven't read "In This Very Life" before but just started reading it per your recommendation.

Thanks also to everyone else on this forum! A year ago I wouldn't have imagined I'd be doing anything like this, wouldn't even have known it was a possibility otherwise. I'm very excited and will be sure to report back here afterward.

RE: Seeking Recommendations on Longer Retreats, One to Three Months Plus
Answer
8/21/17 11:28 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew Horn:
The Mahasi approach of practicing dry insight for ~16 hours a day is unnecessarily grueling and stressful. You would be better off developing jhana before attempting insight practices, per the Buddha's instructions in the Pali Nikayas. Jhana brightens and clarifies the mind, which "primes" the mind for insight and makes it possible to attain stream entry with minimal effort. You will also experience bliss and relaxation whenever you want.

Pa Auk Forest Monastery in Burma (http://www.paaukforestmonastery.org/) is the most popular in Asia for jhana-focused practice and instruction. If you'd like to know more about developing concentration as a preparation for insight, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01INMZKAQ/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1) and Right Concentration by Leigh Brasington (https://www.amazon.com/Right-Concentration-Practical-Guide-Jhanas-ebook/dp/B017JJOXQ6/ref=pd_sim_351_2?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=RY27FV9GK0DH6825880R) are solid guides. Let me know if you have any questions, and best of luck to you. 


Matt,
Have you been to Pa Auk? If so, how does their instuction compare to Culadasa? Are they in the belief of the hard jhana philosophy or soft jhanas a la Leigh Brasington?