A Buddhist's Retreat by Tenzin Yingsal ('16)

            Feeling a sense of peacefulness and inner calm is how I felt. This past summer, I attended a three-day Buddhism retreat at the Garrison Institute in New York, about an hour train ride north of Grand Central. The retreat was “for university students of Tibetan, Himalayan, and Mongolian descent.” It was my second year attending, and my experience there went beyond my expectations. Actually, I did not know what to expect other than the tentative three-day curriculum sent to participants before our arrival.

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            When I arrived at the Institute, there were a couple of students already there and I was relieved to see some familiar faces from the previous year. The retreat started with meditation, a practice that was scheduled for all three days, and continued with a general overview of Tibetan Buddhism. Topics, such as: cultivating mindfulness, self-compassion, compassion towards others, the nature of human emotions, eight verses of mind training, and Buddhism’s encounter with neuroscience, were the focus of some of the lectures presented. Personally, one of my favorites was neuroscience because it is such an advanced, modern topic; therefore, it was interesting to learn neuroscience through the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. There were highly respected and amazing instructors that made the retreat a worthwhile experience. The instructors had their distinct backgrounds and styles of teaching that welcomed the students to engage in the lectures in an open and responsive way.

            The location in Garrison was very different from New York City and had relaxing effects on my mood, mind and feelings, allowing me to feel more peaceful. In front of the Institute, the Hudson River was running and there was nature all around to interact with, which I felt really good about, especially coming from a busy, noisy, rushing city.  

            Besides the engaging and informative lectures, I met students from many different states and countries who shared different views and thoughts that allowed me to learn from them. Towards the last day, after meeting other Tibetan students, I realized how significant it is to be able to communicate in the Tibetan language and appreciate the culture we have. I was motivated to improve my Tibetan speaking skills as well as to learn how to write Tibetan efficiently. I came to the United States when I was 11 and for the past eight years, I have not really spent time to improve my Tibetan since I have not really needed to use it. However, I always knew it was important to preserve the culture that my parents always encourage me to learn about. After attending the retreat and seeing many individuals who were fluent with speaking and writing Tibetan, I was definitely motivated to improve my own use of the language.

            My overall experience at the retreat was great and memorable. I am grateful for having the opportunity to listen to and learn from the respected and very talented instructors who generously spent their time with the students. It affects me greatly still, as I randomly think about what I learned at the retreat and apply it to my everyday life whether it has to do with compassion, harmlessness or patience. There are many interesting topics and lines to share from the retreat, but below is one of my favorites:

Values and Methods of Cultivating Awareness of Impermanence and Death

Four definite endings of impermanence:

Every birth ends in death

Every meeting ends in separation

Every rise ends in fall

Every accumulation ends in depletion