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Buddhadharma : Summer 2010
21 summer 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly Send your queStionS by mail or to teacherS@thebuddhadharma.com Zenkei blanche hartman: I have no direct personal experience of long solo dharma retreats, as the Japa- nese Zen tradition in which I have trained puts great emphasis on training in close interaction within a group. I have spent many years practicing in a resi- dential sangha. I do, however, have two friends whom I deeply respect who have trained in other traditions in which solo retreats are highly valued and they have shared with me some of their experience. First, they chose to do a solo retreat (months, but not years) because their teachers recommended it. Second, they planned ahead with their teachers a daily schedule of meditation, meals, work, study, and devotional activities (prostra- tions, chanting, etc.) which they followed meticulously. Both are now mature and respected dharma teachers and they both continue to do solo retreats. As you suggest, motivation is a paramount con- sideration. I hope you continue to make choices in your life guided by your question, “How can we be of greatest benefit to sentient beings?” Each of us has different karmic tendencies and conditioning and cir- cumstances, so there is no “one size fits all” answer to your question of whether participating in everyday family and community life or practicing as a hermit yogi is of greater benefit. Also, one might find that the most appropriate response to this or similar questions may change at different times in one’s life. That is why it is helpful to make significant decisions in con- sultation with a teacher whom you respect and who knows you. If you have already made a commitment ask the teachers Zenkei Blanche hartman is former abbess of the san Francisco Zen Center Geshe tenZin WanGyal rinpoche is a lineage holder of the Bön Dzogchen tradition of Tibet narayan lieBenson Grady is a guiding teacher at Cambridge insight Meditation Center question: At what point is it appropriate to consider doing a three-year retreat or very long-term isolated meditation? How can we be of greatest benefit to sentient beings? Is it by participating in everyday family and community life or by practicing as a hermit yogi? (lEFT-RIgHT):barbaraWenger,maryellenmccourt,marylang