“Yarney” - Annual Rainy Season Retreat
2500 years ago, Buddha Shakyamuni, implemented the annual Rainy Season Retreat (Vassa in Pali) for the benefit of his followers and for the greater benefit of all sentient beings.
Due to the heavy monsoon rainfall in India, it was impractical for Lord Buddha and his Sangha to continue their customary daily walk from village to village in order to beg for their food. In addition, during monsoon the number of insects inhabiting the muddy footpaths and the surrounding jungle greatly increased. To protect these tiny beings from being crushed under foot and to prevent the crops in the farmers’ fields from being trampled, the Buddha asked his followers to settle in one place for a period of three months.
Each summer, the Buddha and his ordained Sangha would settle on the outskirts of a village and spend their days quietly meditating. This was also an opportune time for the Sangha to clarify their understanding of every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings. In years to come, the Sutras were written down based on the question and answer sessions that unfolded during these Rainy Season Retreats of long ago.
In tribute to the wisdom and compassion of Lord Buddha, every summer the Buddhist ordained throughout the world engage in some form of Rainy Season Retreat.
Commencing from the Full Moon of the 6th lunar month until the New Moon of the 8th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, the monks of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery gather together to observe their annual Rainy Season Retreat (Yar-ney in Tibetan) During these six weeks, the assembly of monks, both young and old, confine themselves strictly to the monastery grounds where all their daily needs are provided and where distractions of the noisy surrounding village are shunned. The monks enjoy this quiet retreat since it promotes the feeling of being one big family dedicated to a single virtuous purpose—to become the best practitioners that they can possibly be and to benefit others to the best of their capacity. Additionally, this is a special time for reviewing what has been learned in classes throughout the year, for making an intensive study of the Buddhist scriptures and for contemplating and strictly adhering to their Vinaya vows.
The first day of retreat begins in the early morning with participation in a special puja. Special Vinaya vows are taken which the monks will observe throughout the six weeks. Next, accompanied by horns and other sacred musical instruments, the assembly of monks circumambulate the monastery, then proceed in a single-file procession from the monastery grounds through the streets of Boudhanath to circumambulate the Great Jarung Khashor Stupa at the center of the village. Upon their return to the monastery a few minutes later, the grounds of the compound are consecrated, the gates are sealed with special mantras and the retreat begins.
Six weeks later, on the final night of their retreat, the monks assemble in the main temple along with elders of the Sangha. In turn, each monk stands at the entrance to the shrine hall, facing the large golden statue of Buddha Shakyamuni. The monk makes three prostrations and commences to summarize the text he has studied throughout the retreat. Each monk is expected to express his personal understanding of that text. When the smallest monks attempt to describe their ‘profound’ insights into their philosophical studies, the temple is often rocked by gales of affectionate laughter from their elders.
Three days of special pujas mark the conclusion of the retreat. Once again, the monastic assembly proceeds to the village in single-file, circumambulates the Great Stupa and returns to the monastery. Lastly, gak-ye ritual releases the monks from the vows they took at the beginning of yar-ney.