Nyizergang Retreat Bhutan
2 April- 16 April, 2020
Annual Course, check for next dates if interested.
Total cost per person: $3,680
This price includes Simple Room at the Monastery possibly shared, transfers, simple food prepared by Buddhist Monks, visas, wire transfers, guides, administration.
Airfare not included
The following invitation is possible due to the recent establishment of the first-ever retreat house in Bhutan, a place that will enable westerners to receive instruction in Bhutanese Buddhism from monks affiliated with the Central Monk Body. This is the Buddhism that undergirds ‘the Happiest country in the world’ – the Land of the Thunder Dragon – where the official objective is to maximize Gross National Happiness not Gross National Product.
Until now, there has been no residential retreat centre in Bhutan that provided opportunities for foreigners to learn in-depth directly from the monk body, which has been the official source of Vajrayana teaching in Bhutan. Many visitors to Bhutan sense the spiritual vibrancy and depth of the culture and wish to learn more, but the current ‘spiritual tourism’ options do not come from
the heartbeat of the religious tradition. This new retreat house will provide a place to receive authentic instruction by senior monks. The content, level, and programming for the retreats will be shaped by the requests of groups and by their existing spiritual practices.
Nyizergang Monastery has been granted permission to experiment with innovative ways of teaching spirituality to both Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese. This is a significant development to opening up channels of training, education, and spirituality to others.
Nyizergang Monastery is a very unusual monastery, having a high level of lay involvement. Situated up a dirt road in the windswept slope above WangduePhodrang, a retreat house has recently been built to house western visitors. The retreats offered here will help generate funds for sustaining religious, educational, and cultural activities in the monastery. The monastery and the central monk body, as well as additional funding sources have contributed financially to the building of this facility. The proposed retreats are intended to help maintain and spread key teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism outside Bhutan as well as within.
Residential Retreat in Nyizergang Monastery
Vision: To engage participants from Bhutan and from around the world in a structured retreat program that will teach profound yet practical Bhutanese Buddhist techniques, as a way to foster dialogue and reconciliation with others. Participants will also learn how to use techniques to synchronize mind and body, and learn the art of healthy living from the Vajrayana tradition.1
1 Retreats will also realign the body, speech, and mind of participants. It is aimed to be a life-changing experience with long-lasting effects. Prostrations will be done to align the body and make it active and proactive. Then meditation and related practices are taught to stabilize the mind. The noble silence during the alternate days, and the mantras and chants, are meant to purify the speech. So at the close of the retreat, despite a full schedule, participants will feel more awakened on all levels.
Duration & Fee Structure:
10-day retreats but there will be flexibility to meet the needs of those who want to come to the Centre.
Nyizergang Monastery, the seat of Wogling Tradition, Wangduephodrang Bhutan
The Bhutanese Buddhist teachings were prepared for foreigners by His Holiness the 68th Je Khenpos. Participants will receive a program booklet that includes the detailed daily schedule; program on empowerment; program on authorization; program on teachings; program on a day-visit to neighboring monastery; and meal schedules.
The cost is $3,680 USD. This will cover room, food, fees for visas, wire transfers, guides, administration, and most importantly the offering to the monastery and to our monastic Buddhist teachers. The only other cost would be for any personal purchases and for airfare. Participants will be responsible to arrange their own flights into Kathmandu, Nepal. Erik Keeney will help to coordinate the flights from Kathmandu into Bhutan.
Dr. Kim Byrd-Rider teaching Bhutanese PT students in Bhutan Hospital, with Health Volunteers Overseas, 2014.
Nyizergang is one of the oldest Nyingma schools in Bhutan, and follows the Wogling Tradition. The tradition is derived from Teten (treasure discoverer) Wongpa Lingpa himself, the direct disciple of the great Nyigma master Surchen. Wogpa means Ówl. In Kom, where Surchen had visited, meditated in a cave, and had a small monastery, there is a big cliff with many owl nests, hence the name of his tradition. Later, Surchen’s disciple Wu Lingpa was given charge of the small monastery and its ensuing tradition. That’s why he came to be known as Wongpa Lingpa.
Wongpa Lingpa visited Bhutan at the beginning of the 13th century, and founded this monastery at Nyizergang. According to the old texts, during that time there were not many centres and monasteries in Bhutan. The main deity is Vajrakilaya.
During the 18th century, one great master who was a reincarnation of Teten Wu Lingpa again led the monastery at Nyizergang. During that time, it so happened that there were none in Bhutan who had the authorization on the Three Pitaka – the Kanjur (Buddhist scriptures). So he was invited by the Central Monk Body to Punakha to bestow the authorization. After bestowing the authorization, the central monk body bestowed upon him the rank of Eminence, like one of the five Eminences who are the highest ranking monks after His Holiness the Je Khempo of Bhutan. From that time to the current day, the Abbot of Nyizergang is highly revered and has a special place in the monastic hierarchy. A later reincarnation became the 67th Je Khenpo of Bhutan (the leader of the Central Monastic Body), and stayed on the Vajra throne for nearly 18 years.
Dr. Kim Byrd-Rider teaching Bhutanese PT students in Bhutan Hospital, with Health Volunteers Overseas, 2014. Dr. Kim went to a high-end hotel spa who donated these yoga mats to the inpatient students. They had never seen a yoga mat and were ecstatic. They began writing their names on them and had her sign them.
Overtime, Nyizergang expanded. Currently, the Nyizergang monastery and its abbot look after five monasteries. On site at the original monastery there are also 22 students.
A distinctive feature of Nyizergang is its extensive interaction with lay monks. At present there are 53 gomchens – who are lay monks – who support the monastery to perform its sacred duties, but also have families and other responsibilities. The Gomday (the sangha of lay practitioners) started during the time of Drogen Thinley Rabgay and continues to this day. For example, although other parts of the annual ritual performances for the main festival or Tshechue are done by monks, the masked dances and cultural activities are still shouldered by the gomchens. So just prior to the Festival, they come and practice at the monastery for several weeks.
In terms of meditation and rituals, Nyzerigang’s traditions are very similar to those of the Central Monk Body. So any foreigner coming to the retreat will learn traditional Bhutanese practices. But there is a difference in terms of deities and festivals. Apart from a few dances that are common across traditions, like the black hat dance with the drums, there are many unique dances that are only performed at Nyizergang monastery. Even during national programs, some of these dances from Nyizergang are displayed because they are unique. That is why it would be desirable for foreign pilgrims to attend the annual festival if possible, before their retreat.