Dark retreat (Tibetan: mun mtshams[1]) refers to advanced practices in the Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The time period dedicated to dark retreat varies from a few hours to decades. Dark Retreat in the Himalayan tradition is a restricted practice only to be engaged by the senior spiritual practitioner under appropriate spiritual guidance. This practice is considered conducive for navigating the bardo at the time of death and for realising the rainbow body. The traditional dark retreat requires stability in the natural state and is only suitable for advanced practitioners. Ayu Khandro and Dilgo Khyentse are examples of modern, if not contemporary, practitioners of significant periods of Dark Retreat sadhana.

Ayu Khandro performed the Yang-Ti (Tibetan), an advanced sadhana of the Dzogchen Upadesha, a version of the Dark Retreat.[1]

Dark retreat in other cultures

Ancient Egyptians and Mayans practiced a form of the dark retreat as well, traditionally lasting 10 days. Holy men would enter into the center of their respective pyramids, completely removed from light and sound, and have visions of the workings of the universe. Today, scientists have hypothesized that when the human body is deprived of visual stimulation, the brain produces a substance called Dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a tryptamine, which results in intense visions.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Women of Wisdom. (Includes transcribed interview with Namkhai Norbu) Source: [1] (accessed: November 15, 2007)


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