The Menri Monastery has the tradition of the Strict Retreat of Monastic Discipline in the 8th Lunar month for a week. This year the retreat will start on 29th September and finish on 5th October 2019. It is an important ceremony in the lives of monks and nuns of Bon tradition which include intensive fasting during the period of one week. The monks and nuns are distinct from the lay people because of the vows they keep and strict rules they follow.
When Enlightened Tonpa Shenrab, the founder of Yungdrung Bon tradition, became monk he fasted for nine yearsby consuming only a grain of food and a drop of water a day. It is said, “Discipline is the pillar of Monastic life and ordeal is the pillar of discipline”. There are three categories of fasting. First, fasting for the whole life. When you are able to fast for your whole life, you will get enlightened in one life. Second, fasting for three years. When you are able to fast for three years, you will be free from the cycle of existence, thus free from the suffering. The last, fasting for six months, forty nine days, seven days, five days, three days or fasting during special occasions. In the third category of fasting, you will be free from the suffering of illness, hunger and weapons, become generous, disciplined and a leader of virtue.
This fasting retreat falls into the third category and monks fast for seven days. During this period of seven days, monks get involved in obey the rules very strictly. They indulge in intensive learning of the texts, maintaining strict discipline, safeguarding vows, avoiding food after noon, waking early in the morning and not roaming outside the monastery compound.
The day starts with monks waking very early. His Holiness the 34th Menri Trizin Lungtok Dawa Dhargyal will lead the ceremony. He will recite the names of the Enlightened beings with each prostration and the monks will follow him. After breakfast, His Eminence Menri Ponlob Trinley Nyima will teach the texts of Monastic discipline. Then there will be offerings of butter lamps, flowers, food, incense and ritual musical instruments and words of praise. These offerings are for purifying one’s karmic obstructions and gain two kinds of accumulations: merits and wisdom.
After lunch, the monks, led by His Holiness, will chant “Akar” mantra and go bare foot circumambulating the main temple and the statues for three times. Then the chanting of the three heart mantras and reciting prayers will continue until evening.
In the evening, all the monks will gather at the debate ground and practice the teachings of Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen of Yungdrung Bon for one hour. After that, His Holiness and the monks will gather in front of the main temple facing backward to the main temple and perform the rites of offering cakes to the karmic debts. Then they perform the dedication prayers in facing forward to the main temple.
His Holiness will say the dedication prayer, “the source of all bliss and happiness” and read the names of sponsors in front of the monks. All the monks will say the dedication prayer and have milk.
After that, no one goes to room until 10pm. The monks get busy in different practices like meditation, studying, reading sciptures, debating, prostration, circumambulation, reading the biography of the enltightened Tonpa Shenrab Miwo, etc.