17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.


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Véronique:Nyung nes are like a voyage for the body and mind. They go back and forth between comfort and discomfort. I had never done a retreat before. Of course the mind wanders, but since we're all together and we do the same practice throughout the retreat, we are attentive and present, even in the evening in the dormitories.”

Practicing nyung nes is immersing oneself in a transmission involving a princess who gave up her realm, a bodhisattva with a thousand arms, vows, days of silence and fasting, and meditation on compassion. Roughly fifty people came together this march in the Institute with Lama Nyigyam, who lead the annual two weeks of nyung nes with the strength and simplicity we know him for. In light of the large number of participants, this practice took place in the Institute for the first time.

Hinayana: The Foundational Vehicle

A nyung ne lasts two days and each morning practitioners take the eight sojong vows until sunrise the following morning. The retreat consists of eight nyung nes, which makes for a two-week retreat, but everyone participates according to his ability and circumstances.

Pascale: “Vows mean giving your word. It has weight. They create a structure for practice throughout the day.”

In the context of nyung nes, these vows consist of refraining from eight actions:

  • Four vows make up the heart of the commitment: not killing, not stealing, not lying, and giving up sexual misconduct, in other words chastity for the two days of the practice.
  • One vow is connected to careful attention: not consuming intoxicants such as alcohol. These substances cause us to lose our awareness and risk compromising the first four commitments.
  • The final two vows are said to be about observance; they unite positive conditions for practice: not dancing or singing, not sitting on elevated seats, not wearing jewels or perfume, and not eating at inappropriate hours, meaning we fast every other day in silence.

These commitments connected to awareness, are intended to strongly reduce karmically harmful actions and come from the first vehicle taught by the Buddha, the foundational vehicle.

Patricia : “Not speaking for a whole day allows me to see my expectations and to become aware of my need for communication.”

As Lama Nyigyam explains, the meaning of the word nyung ne is “to maintain a form of restraint.” We restrain the activities of body, speech, and mind. Since we don't eat every other day and we do prostrations during certain parts of the practice, this has the effect of purifying negativities accumulated in the body. Remaining silent reduces the negativities accumulated through speech, and we become aware of how much futile, harmful, divisive, or untrue speech we often use without realizing it. As the mind is training in one-pointed concentration, which dissipates distractions, non-virtuous acts of mind linked with covetousness and ill will do not occur.
But this is only one dimension of the practice. In fact, we take vows in order to become appropriate recipients for compassion.

Mahayana: The Practice of Compassion

Nyung nes are likewise a practice of the Great Vehicle. Once more Lama Nyigyam, “All beings have Buddha nature, but they have not yet actualized it. This is why they experience suffering. Actualizing enlightened qualities occurs on the basis of enlightened mind, which has two aspects: intention and application.” This intention is the result we are seeking: enlightenment for all beings, and the application is the path to achieve that. In our case, it is the application of nyung ne practice!

By meditating each day, we all train in compassion, based on our own experience:

Patricia: “Not drinking and not eating is interesting because it allows me to stay connected. When I think, 'I'm thirsty,' it connects me to being who are suffering. This allows me to look beyond myself. In fact, I observe my physical dependencies and I wonder what is really indispensable. I encounter my beliefs and my neuroses and I see how focused I am on myself.”

Thibault: “At first, I was afraid it would be too hard. Then I was pleased that I came and that I stayed. It allowed me to develop perseverance. Also, it opens me more toward others; I connect with the idea of enlightened mind.”

Alexandra: “It's the same as daily practice but longer and more extensive. I develop being relaxed, confidence, openness to wisdom and compassion. Everything is already there. We just have to turn our minds towards suffering and towards enlightenment.”

Michel: “I think about those who don't choose not to eat and not to drink.”

Patricia: “Practice shows me my lack of generosity. I become generous when I'm less focused on myself.”

But a third dimension permeates the practice: the Vajrayana.

Vajrayana: Chenrezig's Activity

Michel: “This practice allows me to develop faith, meaning conviction in being connected to Chenrezig. He is really there. I am cultivating this connection.”

Nyung nes are also a practice from the tantras focused on the meditation of Chenrezig and the recitation of of his mantra. He incarnates compassion, the root quality which gave rise to all Buddhas. Here, it means the thousand-armed aspect of Chenrezig. When we recite the mantra, explains Lama Nyigyam, it is important to keep in mind all of Chenrezig's qualities and to have confidence in his activity and to cultivate the desire to actualize the same qualities. If we recite with confidence and enthusiasm, free from distraction, the results will appear.

Cyril: “The recitation of the mantra and the visualization practice replace the muddled mind. Things become simpler. The silence and fasting bring us closer to our thoughts. I had a lot more attention on my thoughts. I can see them and let them go.”

Françoise (more than seventy years old): "The patience that comes from the visualization and mantra recitation offers another kind of nourishment. Purification is assured—I can confirm that age, however advanced, is not an obstacle.”

What About the Princess, Though?

This practice originated with Gelongma Palmo, whose life is a source of inspiration for many practitioners. She was originally a beautiful princess, but she managed to escaped a planned marriage at eight years old and renounced her kingdom for a life of study and meditation. She studies the different aspects of the Buddha's teaching, took monastic vows, and preserved a very pure ethic. Then, upon contracting leprosy and being rejected and expelled wherever she went, she received the transmission of thousand-armed Chenrezig meditation. She practiced ceaselessly, despite often facing difficult conditions. Although she went through periods of doubt and hardship, in the end, she healed and obtained the accomplishments of the practice.

Upon having a vision of Chenrezig, she made this remark, “Chenrezig, your compassion is quite weak. I have been practicing for twelve years of obstacles and asceticism, and it's only now, after twelve whole years, that you show yourself, that I may finally see you!”

He replied, “I was always close to you, from the very first day you began to practice. We have never been separated. But due to your obscurations, you could not see me.”

Gelongma Palmo

Béatrice: “The first word that comes to mind when talking about nyung nes is devotion. Compassion develops through devotion; even restrictions are no longer restrictions! We bring suffering to the path and perceive it as a means of liberation through devotion and attention for others.”

In March of next year, we begin again!

Puntso, Head of Dhagpo's Program

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