For the past three and a half years, Vajradhara Gonpa in NSW, Australia, has been consecrated as sacred ground for a three-year retreat. According to the classical scriptures, not only those who undertake the strict discipline of retreat, but also those who attend their needs, accumulate immense merit.

People who live in the west have all the comforts and commodities they need to make them happy in this life, but until now the true practice of Dharma has been unknown to them. — From H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche’s Retreat Advice.

Under the guidance of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and retreat master Steve Cline, 28 people made the commitment at the end of 2004 to practice determinedly for three years and three months, with little or no contact with the outside world, as they vowed to immerse themselves in the three aspects of Buddhist training: discipline, meditation, and wisdom. According to Ngulchu Thogme’s classic, The 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, “In seclusion disturbing emotions gradually decrease; without distraction, virtuous activities naturally increase. With clarity of mind, conviction in teaching arises. Cultivate seclusion–this is the practice of Bodhisattvas.”

The retreat concluded this April, with a 10-day drubchen, a large group practice, led by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and three Bhutanese lamas, Khenpo Sonam Tashi, Lama Sonam Puntsok, and Lama Urgyen. A large community of Australian practitioners participated in this event, and on the last day of the drubchen crowds of friends, relatives, local well-wishers, and reporters climbed the steep hill to the retreat center to celebrate with the retreatants.

At present some of the retreatants continue to practice at Vajradhara Gonpa, where the next three year retreat is scheduled to begin in January of 2009. More information can be found on the Siddhartha’s Intent web site.

Read media coverage of the end of the retreat published in the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age.