A Nyung-Ne is a practice on Chenrezig, the Buddha of compassion. It is about purifying negativities and accumulating merit. It is a retreat of body, speech and mind from non-virtuous actions. It includes taking the 24-hour Mahayana precepts with the addition of complete fasting and silence on the second day.
The retreat consists of eight sessions, held over 3 days; 3 on the first day, 4 on the second day, and 1 on the last morning. Each session is about 2 hours long and has meditation, mantra recitation, mandala and tantric offerings, and 3 sets of prostrations.
Doing even one Nyung-Ne or "abiding in retreat" for just two days is said to be as effective as three months of other purification practices. Lama Yeshe said it was an ideal practice for Westerners, and it is indeed very popular in the west, because of its instant results! It is extremely powerful for healing illness, purifying negative karma, and opening the heart to compassion.
You do not need to have an initiation to do a Nyung-Ne, although it is nice to. You can make aspirational prayers to receive one in the near future.
If you have had the Great Chenrezig Initiation you can self-generate as Chenrezig during the practice. You can also do so if you have had any other Great initiation (in the Tathagata or Lotus family), a performance tantra initiation or HYT. For instance, if you have done the Medicine Buddha initiation over two days, you can self-generate in the Nyung-Ne. If you don’t know if the Chenrezig Initiation you took ages ago was a Great initiation, ask yourself, was it a 1 day or a 2 day initiation? If it was 2 days, it was a Great initiation.
If you haven’t had the initiation, you do not have permission to self-generate, so you visualise Chenrezig on the crown of your head or in front, even if the instructions say to do otherwise! (this can be a bot confusing, ut they were written for the initiate).
Only people who have had the Great Chenrezig initiation (or other relevant ones, see above) have permission to do the mudras. It is customary to use a bell and dorje when doing the mudras, rahter than having your hands empty. If you have had the relevent initaiton, it is actually not a complete nyung-ne unless you do the mudras!
They are Action tantra mudras, particular to the Lotus family. Even if you have an HYT initiation, you do the mudras according to this particular practice, not the level of initiation you have had. The mudras vary a little from which lama you received them from, so Geshe-la’s are slightly different to the ones in the book. Try to make the mudras a thing of grace and a meaningful practice. You can ask the correct way to do them during the Nyung-Ne.
These are the 24 hour Mahayana precepts. Although it is good to receive the precepts first from the lama, it is not absolutely necessary. Determine to receive them from the lama some time in the near future. This is because it is an unbroken oral tradition, from the Buddha himself, to us. If you have not taken precepts before, image you are receiving them for the first time from Guru Shakyamuni Buddha himself.
The 24 hour Mahayana Precepts are to avoid: killing (even small insects) stealing (taking that which is not freely given) lying (even giving a wrong impression), sexual conduct (of any type), and taking intoxicants (including cigarettes). Also to avoid eating food at the wrong times (we have one meal and finish before 12pm), sitting on high beds or thrones, wearing jewelry or perfume, and singing and dancing.
On the second day, when we take the precepts we think we are taking the vow not to eat or drink anything for 24 hours. We also keep silence for that time as well, starting from when we go to bed the night before, and ending when we break the fast.
On the first day we take the 24 hour precepts, it involves having lunch as our only meal. We should try to start by 11.15 am and finish it before 12 pm (1pm at the latest). Once we think “that’s it I’m full, I’ve finished,” we can’t change our mind! We can drink as much liquid as we want. If it is fruit juice, then don’t have the pulp. If we are drinking milo, then use no more than 1/3 milk.
On the second day, when we take the 24 hour precepts, it involves not eating or drinking at all for 24 hours. We can have a drink before then first session of the day, but once we are seated and about to take precepts, the fast goes for 24 hours. Remember to not drink the dutsi (blessed water) when it is distributed at the end of each session, but instead wash the crown of your head with it. We also keep silence for these 24 hours.
One the third day we break the fast a little way into the final session, with dutsi (blessed water) first, and then apple juice and chai tea. We bless and offer the drinks together, before we drink them. At the conclusion of the last session we all share breakfast together.
If you need to take medicine, or drink water because you only have one kidney, then you should determine exactly what you can do before the Nyung-Ne starts, and keep that in mind when you are taking the precepts. For instance, if you need to take medication daily, you don’t need to discontinue this, but if you have a headache a want a pain killer, as this is an extra, it is not allowed. If you need to take medicine in liquid form, then do so in the safest small amount that you can. The main thing is to determine your limits before the Nyung-Ne starts, and not change your mind during the Nyung-Ne.
If you can, bring a camp-bed or lilo, your bedding and pillow. Also, bring a couple of towels and facewashers, a hot water bottle, working alarm clock, and toilettries (we have a couple of inflatable mattresses and beds).
Ritual things (if you have them): mala, bell and dorje, mandala set, your personal daily prayers. You may also want to bring a small free-standing picture frame to put pictures of your Gurus, Chenrezig in on your gompa table. Practical things: lip balm (as your lips get dry), a hanky or face washer to mop your brow, a shawl or cardigan that is warm and easy to take on and off, a special seat (if you use one).
Don’t wear slippery material, like parachute silk trousers, or you will slide off your cushion! Track suit pants with a draw string are the best. If you wear shorts they must be below the knee. If you wear singlets or t-shirts, they must cover your stomach and your shoulders. Warm socks and a warm sweater are good to have too. Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Chose comfortable undies and a sports bra. You may want to change your t-shirt after every few sessions.
Read the commentaries before hand. The one by Lama Zopa Rinpoche is very inspiring and quite funny. The one by Geshe Tashi Tsering is very practical and explains the practice. These two commentaries compliment each other wonderfully. You can also read about other people’s experiences of in the Library section of the LTC website.
Three to four days before starting the Nyung-Ne, prostrate for as long as the longest time in a session (23 minutes). Repeat this every day if you can. This will get your muscles used to it, sore, and healed before the Nyung-Ne starts!
Try not to sleep in the breaks! Reading commentaries on the Nyung-Ne practice is very helpful (we have several copies to borrow throughout the retreat. You can also read the small print in the Nyung-Ne sadhana itself.
Painting tsa-tsas is also very enjoyable and a change of pace. You can also try to memorise the prayer to Chenrezig (the Po Praise) or the 35 Buddha's names.
Remember to clean your teeth before each session. Be on time to sessions. It is really embarrassing coming in late to find the whole class has been waiting for you!
To help with sitting, make sure your cushion is arranged so your hips are higher than your knees. Try to keep your posture straight and alert (avoid slouching), and the mind will naturally follow. Leaning against the wall or a pole is discouraged. Try to keep clean and tidy, as this is action tantra.
Remember, this is a purification retreat, so don’t believe in all the appearances. We are actually purifying each of the states of mind we travel through. People have said that they felt they were purifying each of the realms in turn! Also remember that this practice is an astonishingly powerful way to generate genuine compassion for others’ suffering, as well as a sense of renunciation towards samsara.
Place your hands together, with your thumbs bent inside, and bring them to your crown, forehead, throat and heart. Then we go down and touch the 5 places to the ground (2 hands, 2 knees and head). Remember to put hands first, then knees, as you go down! Try to keep your hands flat and your fingers just slightly apart. Then stretch out your arms and your feet. While you are lying down, you can lift your fingers off the ground as a gesture of homage. Try not to rest at all on the ground, and to come up faster than you go down.
If you can’t continue doing the prostrations it is OK to stand with your hands in the prostration mudra. If you can’t stand it is OK to sit with your hands in this mudra. The most important thing is what the mind is doing.
Find your own rhythm. It's not a competition - you don't have to worry about how fast other people are going. Always use a small cushion for your knees to prostrate on. Put a cardigan on straight after the prostrations, so your muscles don't seize up.
If you are prostrating on bare boards, you can use small pieces of material to slide on like a folded tea-towel or clean socks. This has the added advantage of avoiding the dust in the rugs.
Two very important points to remember: breath through your nose when prostrating (this stops you losing so much moisture through your mouth) and keep your knees together, especially when coming up from a prostration. This is a little hard, as you need stomach muscles to do it, but it is worth it – otherwise you will develop very inflamed and painful knees.
Try to keep your body aligned and symmetrical. Offer each prostration as a thing of grace and beauty. You can pace yourself by taking lots of time to nicely place your hands on your crown, forehead, throat and heart, and then prostrating.
It can help if you try to memorise the prayer while you are prostrating. Just take a couple of lines and repeat them 10 times, then the next lines and so on.
When you are standing, as you bring your hand up and touch the 4 places, visualise light from Guru Chenrezig blessing the crown (guru), forehead (body), throat (speech) and heart (mind). You can also think you are putting in place the causes for the ushnisha, the causes for the treasure hair, the causes for the Buddha's melodious speech and the causes for omniscience, the Dharmakaya, the Buddha's mind.
As you part your hands to place them on the ground, think you are letting go of all delusions and negative mind states. You can also think you are letting go of the dualistic view, the endless elaborations of the mind, and allowing space for the Samboghakaya to appear.
When you place your hands and knees on the ground, think you are crushing the five major delusions. Or you can think "I will never react to anger with anger," "I will never react to an accusation with an accusation," "I will never react to a fight with a fight," and "I will never react to an insult with an insult."
As you gradually go down, remind yourself about the graduated path to enlightenment. Think "May I attain the 5 paths and 10 grounds". When the head touches the ground it is the 11th ground, the path of no-more-learning.
As you are coming up and your arms swing behind you, think that you take all the suffering of mother sentient beings and placing it upon the self-cherishing attitude. Think that they are all free of suffering. You could also think as you come up, that as many atoms of the ground have been covered, that many sentient beings are free, and that you gather that much merit.
There are many ways to make prostrations a meaningful activity. You can do your prostrations for another person – a sick person, or someone who has just died, for people suffering a particular illness, or the beings in each of the realms. Visualise nectar streaming from Chenrezig to them and all other sentient beings and purifying their negativities and suffering. Do 10 for each category you can think of.
You can also visualise yourself surrounded by all sentient beings, and you are all doing prostrations together. Or you can imagine all your previous and future lives prostrating with you now.
As you make each prostration you think you are liberating as many atoms as your body is covering of the floor – and not just the surface, but all the way down through the centre of the earth.
INTRO EVENING: 6.30 pm - 8.00 pm
On the evening before the 2 main days of retreat, we set up our seats in the gompa, have a general introduction to the practice, and learn how to do a prostration.
- Session 1: 5.00 am - 7.30 am
- Session 2: 9.00 am - 11.15 am
- Q&A: 2.00 pm - 3.00 pm
- Session 3: 5.00 pm - 7.30 pm
- Session 4: 5.00 am - 7.30 am
- Session 5: 9.00 am - 11.15 am
- Session 6: 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm
- Session 7: 5.00 pm - 7.30 pm
- Session 8: 5.00 am - 7.30 am
- Clean-up: 7.30 am - 8.00 am
- Breakfast: 8.00 am - 9.00 am