Light of the Path Retreat 2017
“The real medicine is only Dharma, the only medicine to cure [suffering] totally, so it is impossible to experience that again. Then the virtuous friend is like a doctor who gives you the medicine, the actual medicine is the Dharma, the antidote to that. It gives you aaaaaaaaaaaall the different levels of happiness of Dharma, aaaaaaaaaaaall the different levels. So no question about the happiness of this life, happiness of future lives, ultimate happiness, totally liberation from oceans of samsaric sufferings, and peerless happiness, total cessation of obscurations and completion of all the realizations.”
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Light of the Path 2017
What is the Light of the Path Retreat?
Light of the Path Retreat 2017 is the fifth of a 5-year series of teaching retreats led by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA, and hosted by Kadampa Center (an FPMT affiliate located in Raleigh, NC). This year, for the first time, Rinpoche has kindly offered to teach for four weeks. The root text for the course is Lama Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Anyone is welcome to attend, even if you did not come in previous years. You can stream the teachings from past years on FPMT’s Online Learning Center to help prepare.
What is it like to be there?
Get a flavor of the retreat through this wonderful multimedia presentation, Everything Depends on Your Attitude, that provides a delightful taste of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche's wisdom, and the sights and sounds of the retreat. Our thanks to Venerable Sarah Thresher and Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive!
Inspiration to Attend
In the 11th century, Lama Atisha (Shri Dipamkara) was invited from India to Tibet for the purpose of transmitting the complete teachings of Lord Buddha to the Tibetan people, and presenting them in a way that was clear, precise, and easy to practice. To that purpose, Lama Atisha wrote and taught the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (jangchhub lam gyi drönma), which had a profound impact for the Tibetans. It not only became the source for the Gelug lam-rim tradition, presenting a step-by-step set of instructions how to practice the path to enlightenment, but is also a source of teachings in all the Tibetan Buddhist lineages.
Lama Atisha’s text provides a foundation for understanding and realizing Lord Buddha's teachings that continues to flourish in modern Buddhist practice internationally. Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche is giving a modern day commentary on this profound and ancient text. FPMT considers this event to be the ultimate teaching and practice lineage transmission available for FPMT teachers and students and strongly encourages everyone to attend in person. We will also make full use of the spectrum of information technology to make this program available to a worldwide audience. Living in the Path is an online teaching program created from Rinpoche’s teachings during the Light of the Path Retreats and has continued to evolve throughout this series of retreats.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is a unique teacher in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. He is well-known for rarely teaching in a linear fashion according to a text, but rather according to what is most karmically beneficial for his audience. For more than 45 years, Rinpoche has been gathering examples of the truth of Dharma and perfecting his ability to discern what practices and teachings are best suited for his students. It is our belief that Rinpoche's offer to give a commentary on Atisha's Light for the Path, which had a tremendous impact on how Buddhism was subsequently understood and practiced in Tibet, is an indication of how transformative this teaching event will be for the way Buddhism is practiced and understood in our time.
Who is Kadampa Center?
Kadampa Center was founded in 1992 as an expansion of a study group formed some years earlier by Don Brown. The center has been directed by either Don Brown or Robbie Watkins since the beginning. We are incredibly fortunate to have had Geshe Gelek Chodha as our resident teacher for more than sixteen years. Our first resident teacher was Geshe Tsulga.
We are an urban center in Raleigh, NC, and in 2007 we reached the long-term goal of purchasing our own building. Since then we have expanded our spiritual program offerings and membership considerably. We offer FPMT education programs such as Discovering Buddhism and Meditation 101, a regular schedule of pujas, Sunday morning teachings, regular children’s and teens’ programs, social events, and many special events such as 21 Tara practice nights, animal blessings and liberations, and a New Year’s Eve Dorje Khadro fire puja.
Kadampa Center has had the good fortune to host visits by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, Chöden Rinpoche, Gyümed Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Lobsang Delek, Khensur Rinpoche Geshe Donyo, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Geshe Yeshe Tobden, Geshe Kelsang Wangmo, Venerable George Churinoff, Venerable René Feusi, Venerable Robina Courtin, Venerable Sangye Khadro, Venerable Tsen-la, Gareth Sparham and many other western and Tibetan teachers.
Family Camp at Light of the Path
This year, we are happy to announce that our annual Family Camp will take place at Blue Ridge Assembly during the Light of the Path retreat, from Sept. 1-4 (Labor Day weekend). The camp will run independently of our retreat, but some parents will likely join us in the gompa while their children enjoy Dharma experiences elsewhere on the BRA campus.
How does a residential retreat differ from attending teachings at a center? Unlike teachings at a center, a retreat provides the participants with an atmosphere conducive to practice 24 hours a day. Basic retreat discipline includes observing the five lay vows, attending all sessions and keeping silence for at least the first half of the day, and avoid idle speech or gossip for the rest of the day.. Use of cell phones and internet service is strongly discouraged to reduce distraction and prevent disruption to the contemplative environment. Everyone is encouraged to participate as fully as possible but no one is expected to do more than they are able. Observing the five lay vows in the context of a retreat means no killing of any being (including insects); no sexual conduct of any kind; no lying; no stealing or taking that which has not been given; and no intoxicants, including drugs, alcohol or cigarettes.
During the four-week retreat, Rinpoche's commentary will be supplemented by practice and review sessions, discussion, and guided meditations led by senior FPMT teachers with additional practices to accumulate positive energy and purify obstacles so that realizations may dawn quickly in the mind. Course participants have the opportunity to engage in group practice of Lama Chöpa Jorcho (Guru Puja), confession and prostrations to the 35 Buddhas and take the Eight Mahayana Precepts in the latter part of the retreat. All participants will be expected to participate in karma yoga work sessions for the duration of the retreat. We will especially need service from participants because of the length of this year’s retreat. In this way, the Light of the Path Retreat will include all aspects of FPMT integrated education: study, practice, service, and ethical behavior.
For those interested to watch the event via webcast or receive information about Living in the Path courses based on Rinpoche's teachings at this retreat, please refer to the FPMT website.
Where is the retreat being held?
Light of the Path Retreat will be held at Blue Ridge Assembly, a retreat and conference center in Black Mountain, in the Western part of North Carolina near Asheville. The retreat is not being held at Kadampa Center, which is in Raleigh (about a 4-hour drive away in the Eastern part of the state).
When can I arrive at the retreat?
Accommodation is available beginning Friday, August 18, 2017. This is before the retreat officially opens on Sunday, August 20, but allows those who are traveling a great distance to rest and begin karma yoga by helping the Kadampa Center community prepare the gompa.
There will be a small additional fee for the Friday and/or Saturday night stays before the retreat begins. Blue Ridge Assembly will contact anyone who registers for early arrival to arrange for meals. Be aware that the venue is located some distance from town, too far to walk to grocery stores or restaurants.
How do I get to Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, NC?
Kadampa Center cannot provide transportation from our center in Raleigh to Blue Ridge Assembly, a distance of 200 miles. We’re sorry, but we also cannot provide transportation back to Raleigh after the retreat or to and from the Asheville airport. Shuttle services from the airport are available and can be booked in advance (see below).
We strongly encourage retreat participants to book your flights through the Asheville airport, where you can book a shuttle to the retreat site.
Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain is just off Interstate 40 in Western North Carolina.
Driving directions to Blue Ridge Assembly
We strongly encourage retreat participants to book flights to the Asheville Regional Airport (AVL). The Asheville airport is a 40-minute shuttle ride to the Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, and is the recommended arrival point. The airport can be reached via connections from anywhere in the country.
Asheville Airport Shuttle
There are two shuttle services from Asheville Regional Airport to Blue Ridge Assembly:
GrandyCo Airport Transportation Services. 1-828-691-0504 email: Joe3holly@gmail.com
Ask for the LOP Retreat group rate. Cost for one person is $45 plus gratuity.
Diamond Executive Transportation. (828) 281-8139
Ask for the LOP Retreat group rate. Cost for one person is $65 plus gratuity. but decreases if multiple people share the ride.
Contact your shuttle service as soon as you have your ticket, and they can begin building a schedule of shared rides, which may reduce your cost. You can check back with the shuttle service closer to the time of the retreat to see if they have been able to place you in a group.
Ground travel from Charlotte Douglas International Airport is not recommended because it is a several hour drive from Charlotte to Black Mountain. Shuttle service is available but quite expensive and bus service is available but requires several changes. For more information, the bus lines are:
Greyhound Bus Line
Black Mountain Trailblazer (which does not run on Sundays)
How and when can I register?
Registration will open in late February 2017. Retreat participants register directly with Blue Ridge Assembly and pay accommodation fees to them.
How much will the retreat cost?
The costs of the retreat are divided into 3 segments: those associated with a residential retreat (room and board costs), a facilities fee, and spiritual program costs.
The "room and board" costs:
The registration fee paid directly to Blue Ridge Assembly covers the costs related to accommodation and meals. The fee for the full four weeks ranges from $1,198.50 per person for a shared room in the dormitory style building to $2,850.50 for a single room in the hotel style building closest to the gompa. Please note these prices are for the full four week package—shorter stays of two weeks, one week or a weekend are possible.
Need based financial support for room and board costs is available for FPMT sangha through the generosity of the International Mahayana Institute (IMI). For more information contact Drolkar at email@example.com
There are no camping facilities at the retreat venue.
We are unable to offer work exchange options or discounts for those offering service in FPMT Centers.
It is our tradition at Kadampa Center not to charge a fee for Dharma wherever possible so that the lack of money is not an obstacle for anyone to receive the teachings. We cannot entirely continue this practice for Light of the Path Retreat 2017. Because this retreat is longer, and therefore more costly for Kadampa Center to host, we have added a modest facilities fee to the amount Blue Ridge Assembly charges, which is included in the registration fee. We still continue to rely on generous benefactors to cover the spiritual program costs, which are budgeted to be over $120,000.
The spiritual program costs:
Spiritual program costs include bringing Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche and his entourage to North Carolina, housing them during the retreat, creating the gompa and our beautiful altar, providing puja supplies and helping support ordained Sangha to attend. Quite literally, these teachings are not possible without the substantial support of donors.
Kadampa Center relies on the generosity of all those who value these teachings, regardless of whether they are able to actually attend the retreat, to cover the program and teachings themselves.
We extend our deepest gratitude to all whose generosity has supported the Light of the Path Retreat. Your continued support has made this amazing retreat possible year after year!
What about meals?
Meals are included in the cost of accommodation. All meals are served buffet style in a private dining room. All meals will be vegetarian with vegan and gluten-free options. Please indicate any food allergies or concerns on the registration form.
Do I need to bring my own prayer book?
All retreat participants must have the most recently revised FPMT Retreat Prayer Book published in 2016. Prayer books will not be sold at the retreat bookstore. Print copies are no longer available. PDF format retreat prayer books are available in English only and may be ordered directly from the FPMT Foundation Store here.
All retreat participants must have the Lamp fot the Path to Enlightenment.
The Lama Tsongkhapa Guru Yoga text is available in PDF format from the FPMT Foundation store here.
Note: If you have these from an earlier Light of the Path Retreat, you will not need new copies.
Will there be precepts?
Yes. We may take precepts during the latter part of the retreat. A light supper will be available during that time for those unable to take precepts. Please indicate on the registration form if you plan to eat dinner on most nights. Precepts will not begin for at least a week into the retreat.
Is there internet access?
Use of cell phones, internet and email during the retreat are strongly discouraged, in order to fully participate and reflect on the teachings during free time. It can also be disruptive for other participants. For emergencies and unavoidable situations, wireless internet service is available in most locations on the site, but NOT in the rooms.
Are there laundry facilities?
There are no laundry facilities on site. Please pack with this in mind. We will have a laundry day every week throughout the retreat with pickup and delivery from a local company. The cost is $15US per laundry load.
Meditation cushions and chairs will be provided at the retreat. If you are a local participant, please consider bringing your own cushion.
The retreat experience can be very intense and can bring emotional issues to the fore, including issues that have been stabilized for some time in ordinary circumstances.
Keeping this in mind, consider whether you feel stable and relaxed enough to participate in this course, knowing that we cannot provide one-on-one counseling.
It is important to continue taking your medications during the retreat.
Blue Ridge Assembly General Policies
Tobacco use is not permitted anywhere on Assembly property.
Pets are not permitted.
No candles, incense, alcohol, decorative lighting, helium balloons, glitter, or confetti is permitted in any building.
Mountain biking, inline skates, and skateboards are prohibited.
Motorcycles are prohibited.
Blue Ridge Assembly’s Accessibility
Blue Ridge Assembly was built over 100 years ago on hilly terrain, so the site is not fully handicapped accessible.
Washburn Hall (the gompa) and some of the accommodations are accessible.
We will have golf carts available to assist a limited number of participants to and from the gompa on a scheduled basis.
If you have special needs or questions, please contact us LIGHT OF THE PATH RETREAT.