Filed in Vajrayana

The Power of Solitude

Shambhala Mountain Center's Reggie Ray talks to Tricycle's Ted Rose about the value of solitary retreat.

Ted Rose

Wisdom Collection

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Reginald A. Ray studied Buddhism as a divinity student at the University of Chicago, and in 1968, when he read Chögyam Trungpa’s Born in Tibet, he realized Buddha-dharma could be more than an intellectual pursuit. He met Trungpa Rinpoche two years later, and offered to drop out of divinity school and move to his Vermont retreat center. Trungpa said no, instructing Ray to finish his degree, to which the young man grudgingly agreed. Since then, Dr. Reggie Ray has become a respected scholar of Buddhism as well as a senior teacher in Trungpa’s lineage. He teaches Buddhism at Colorado University and Naropa University, and leads meditation retreats at Shambhala Mountain Center, in Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. He has published several scholarly books including two authoritative volumes on the history, context, and practices of Tibetan Buddhism titled Indestructible Truth and Secret of the Vajra World. He spends at least three months of every year in solitary retreat. Isolated retreat is a crucial component of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and Reggie Ray may be the most vocal advocate for its utility in the modern Western context. Tricycle contributor Ted Rose spoke to Ray just before the teacher headed into isolated retreat in a wood cabin above Shambhala Mountain Center.


                         © Amy Rinchen Metok Stahl
When I mention my own experience of going into isolated retreat for ten days, most of my friends get a little suspicious. They think of another Ted who spent time in a cabin alone: Ted Kaczynski, the so-called Unabomber. Why do people often have such a negative impression of isolated retreat? We are a very extroverted society. Even though within the Western tradition the practice of seclusion and retreat are very much a part of our own spiritual culture—the contemplative practices of Roman Catholicism, for example—most people are not aware that they are part of our heritage.

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