January 5, 2009


Photo: Alex Wright.

“It’s very helpful to realize that being here, sitting in meditation, doing simple everyday things like working, walking outside, talking with people, bathing, using the toilet, and eating, is actually all that we need to be fully awake, fully alive, fully human. While we are sitting in meditation, we are simply exploring humanity and all of creation in the form of ourselves. We can become the world’s greatest experts on anger, jealousy, and self-deprecation, as well as on joyfulness, clarity, and insight, Everything that human beings feel, we feel. We can become extremely wise and sensitive to all of humanity and the whole universe simply by knowing ourselves, just as we are.”

Pema Chödrön, teaching on day two of a dathün (her wonderful introduction to Buddhist meditation book, Wisdom of No Escape, was transcribed from a series of her Dathun talks). 

These two slideshows, one of the monastic variety at Gampo Abbey (with Atisha’s slogans in the mix), and one at Dorje Denma Ling, give a great sense of what it’s like to do a Dathun—a month-long meditation intensive.

Click on photos for source.

Have reminiscences? Blog? Photos? Video? Let us know, we’ll be happy to include ’em here.


From the Shambhala site: 

Dathün (Tibetan for “month session”) is a one-month group meditation retreat lead by a senior teacher.  It is open to anyone and is a very powerful introduction and deepening of mindfulness-awareness meditation. Each day consists of alternating periods of sitting and walking meditation with time for talks, study, and a short work period.   Silence and functional talking are observed throughout the day.  Meals are served in the shrine room oryoki-style, a practice of mindful eating taken from the Zen tradition. There is regular individual instruction with trained meditation instructors.  

An example of a day in the dathün:

6:30 am Wake up
7:00 am Morning chants
  Practice: sitting & walking meditation
8:00 am Breakfast (in the shrine room)
9:00 am Practice: sitting & walking meditation
12:00 pm Lunch (in the shrine room)
1:00 pm Work period
2:30 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
4:00 pm Tea
4:30 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
5:30 pm Talk
  Evening chants
7:00 pm Dinner (in the shrine room)
8:00 pm Practice: sitting & walking meditation
  Closing chants
9:00 End of day

In general, the daily schedule is quite full, and there is not much time for personal activities.  One day in the middle of the dathün is open with no scheduled practice. 

Although there is a shrine with Buddhist and Shambhala symbols as well as chants at certain points of the day, one does not need to be a Buddhist nor even be interested in becoming a Buddhist to take part.  All the symbols and chants are oriented toward arousing our natural wakefulness and compassion and are provided as methods for realizing the nature of our minds.  

In the Shambhala Buddhist tradition, dathün is one of our most important training programs.  There is a real power and depth to practicing with a group for a month, and for many people, it is a big step on their path of meditation.  In terms of the teachings, there are different kinds of dathüns, with some of them emphasizing the Buddhist teachings, the Shambhala teachings, the teachings of lojong (“mind training”), or the creative arts. Yet all dathüns are alike in being grounded in intensive sitting practice of mindfulness and awareness.  

Anyone is welcome to come to a dathün.  If possible, it is good if you have already had meditation instruction and some experience and understanding of meditation beforehand. There are 165 Shambhala Centers worldwide, where you can receive free meditation instruction and can take part in meditation classes and programs for reasonable fees.  Please see our Shambhala Center guide for the center closest to you. 

Since dathün is such a central part of our training, it is a requirement for those people planning to take Sutrayana and Vajrayana Seminary, as well as for becoming a meditation instructor.  It is also required to do at least a weekthün before doing a solitary retreat.  For more information on retreats, click on retreats. 

Recommended Readings

Pema Chödrön:
The Wisdom of No Escape 
Start Where You Are
(These books are teachings she gave during two particular dathüns.)

Chögyam Trungpa
The Heart of the Buddha
The Path is the Goal

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche:
Turning the Mind Into an Ally

 Where to Go, Who to Contact

There are four practice centers in the Shambhala mandala that offer dathüns at different times of the year.

Dechen Chöling,        Mas Marvent, France 
Dorje Denma Ling,    Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia 
Karmê Chöling,          Barnet, Vermont 
Shambhala Mountain Center,    Red Feather Lakes, Colorado 

You can also do a Dathun with Buddhist teacher Dr. Reggie Ray.

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