PeterB wrote:I would request politely that answers come only from members who have attended Buddhist retreats , including two day introduction retreats.
When attending retreats has it been your experience that the style of the instructors made a difference to the quality of your retreat ? If they were warm, cool, " spiritual " business like. Did it make a difference to you ?
My first 10 day retreat was taught by Ven. Antonio Satta - http://www.venantonio.com/
I have no frame of comparison as my next retreat is not until April.
Ven. Satta is a curious mix because he is a Mahayana (Tibetan) monk who teaches Mahasi-style meditation around the world.
With hindsight, the retreat was a mix of Mahasi-style instruction and practice but with Mahayana devotionals, including daily recitation of the Heart Sutra. We also ate 3 meals per day and kept the Noble Silence. Ven. Antonio touched extremely briefly on Mahamudra, but only to the extent that it was made abundantly clear that an exceptionally large amount of preparation and purification is required before one actually practises it.
The monastery, very close to KTM, is beautiful and very well-serviced, a short walk to Boudhanath Stupa. I feel this immersion certainly helped enthuse me.
Each evening Ven. Antonio gave a dhamma talk, which was based on the instructions given for the days practice. They were well-timed, as they dealt with matters both practical and dhammic that arose during the course of the retreat, and built on the previous day's dhamma talk.
The discipline was rigorous and several people dropped out as the retreat progressed. Ven Satta is very strict and professional when it comes to the meditation practice. For example, I had a flash of insight during walking meditation (which I can't describe in words) which I got excited by, clung to and was so enthused that I broke my meditation, found Ven. Satta who was nearby and excitedly gabbled (in a whisper) of what had just happened. He told me quite assertively that I was clinging, to note it but not to dwell on what had just happened and return to the practice and his instructions.
Due to the large number of retreatants (around 60), the interviews were short, between sessions. During the interview I focused solely on my progress, obstacles that arose and practical advice for readjusting post meditation and ways to continue the practice. He gave down-to-earth advice that was most certainly suited to my particular questions and circumstances.
In all, I'd say that for my first retreat it definitely set me in the right direction. I verified for myself the benefits of vipassana. I discarded the Alan Watts/Hardcore Dhamma/self-proclaimed materials I had previously been referring to (and as Ven. Antonio pointed out, gave me a lot to unlearn and let go of, as I'd built up my own conception of a framework in which I was expecting to measure my practice and progress by) and focused on (at the time) Mahayana, though various events conduced to inclining me to practise and study in the Theravada tradition. That I am considering ordination, directly influenced by the retreat and my subsequent practice, is testament to the start and benefit this retreat has given me.
What I will say, however, is that for practising Theravadins on this board, the Mahayana elements of the retreat will most certainly be a turn-off. Alternatively it could be beneficial exposure to some of the Mahyana thought, particularly sunyata. Then, I didn't understand anything. I still don't, but I now have a better understanding of what and how much I don't understand. For a complete novice to Buddhism, meditation and vipassana, however, I highly recommend it.