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Nyungne at Home - Instructions

Welcome to the Nyungne Retreat 2020 at the Virtual Palyul Retreat Center. We're so happy you have joined this retreat and are rejoicing in your accumulation of merit. We will miss you upstate this summer, but we are happy we can all be together online.

This page will let you know what to expect on retreat--and what to prepare. May all beings benefit!

The text can be downloaded here (available July 1).

Facebook Streaming Link:

Zoom Streaming Link: Password: nyungne

Questions for Khen Rinpoche Tenzin Norgay

Rice Gruel Recipe: Click here

Quick Reference:

What to Expect

First Day of Retreat

  • In the morning we will take the vow which includes the precepts delineated here.
  • We will then spend the day reducing our speech and chanting "Om Mani Peme Hung" as well as conducting prostrations as much as we can.
  • We will take only one meal before mid-day. This meal must consist of pure foods (see restrictions here)
  • After mid-day, only beverages you can see your face in (such as water, tea, juice, milk, or other beverages predominantly water.

The Second Day of the Retreat

  • We engage in a full fast with no drinking. We continue to abide with our vows and also take the additional vows not to eat, drink, or speak for the next 24 hours
  • We continue to recite "Om Mani Peme Hung" and to engage in prostrations
  • The precept of ‘no drinking,' as it allows you to wash and keep the body clean, permits washing your mouth (but taking care not swallow--or drink any fluids of any kind.)

The Final Morning Session (Third Day) of the Retreat

We break the fast when the session starts at 6 am. Microwave your porridge or, if there is someone willing to help you (don't insist, though!), ask them to heat up and bring to you. Our retreat should be concluded by 8 AM.

To help you plan for your retreat, here are some more helpful tips:

Consider your health, consult your doctor
If you have a history of eating disorders, have any medical condition that might be affected by fasting, or any medical concern whatsoever, please consult with your doctor prior to taking this retreat.

Inform your family and friends
Let your friends and family know that you are entering a short retreat and will not be checking devices during that time period. Best is if you can keep those devices closed during your retreat for full effect (except when joining the practice online).

What to do if there's an emergency and you have to speak or eat. Return your vows by either visualizing Avalokitesvara or gazing at your picture and say aloud "I apologize but due to this emergency, I must return my vows.”

Retreat Room
You will need to plan your home environment in order to take this retreat. What you'll need:

  • A shrine—which can be simple. Here is a link to a printable version of 1000-arm Avalokitesvara which you can print out, if you wish. Or you can feel free to arrange an inspiring vase of flowers, or to offer a single flower, candle, bowl of water (no meat or alchohol)
  • Enough space to do prostrations. You might want a yoga mat for this purpose. If you can, clear enough space in your room to conduct full-length prostrations. If you've not done prostrations before, let us know and one of the monks will show you on camera.

Drinks and food

  • You should prepare your porridge for breaking your fast in advance of taking the retreat and freeze it. If you can get someone to help you by committing to heating it up for you on the last day, that would be ideal, but it is okay to heat it up yourself. See our recipe for rice porridge here.
  • Also purchase milk, lemons and/or juice for the first day liquid fast before we enter the full fast and a hearty electrolyte drink for when you break the fast. (Choose drinks that conform to any dietary restrictions you have. Taking lactaid tablets is ok if you normally reuqire this).

Practice - Full Nyungne
Speaking: You will start by speaking only very essential words after lunch on Day 1 then you will take a vow to maintain complete silence for the duration of this retreat starting at midnight the evening of Day 1. Be careful of running into people unexpectedly as our instinct is to greet that person which would mean breaking the vow.
Eating and Drinking: After noon on Day 1 you will not eat solid food and drink only liquids you can see your face in until midnight. After midnight of Day 1 (the start of Day 2), you will neither eat nor drink. You will drink no water or any other beverage starting with midnight of Day 1 through to the morning of Day 3 (36 hours).

Practice - Sojong
Speaking: You will start by speaking only very essential words after lunch on Day 1 then you should strive to maintain silence for the duration of this retreat starting at midnight on Day 1.
Eating: From Day 1, you must maintain a strict vegetarian diet, no eggs or meat products. You will eat no solid food after noon each day with only liquids you can see your face in until rising the next day.
Drinking: Beverages you can drink after noon every day are only those you can see your face in. That means no triple-thick shakes, smoothies or soups.

Vows: Vows will be reviewed in detail during the retreat. The vows to be kept for the practice include:

  • No killing
  • No stealing
  • No sex
  • No telling lies
  • No drinking alcohol
  • No idle chatter, singing or dancing, makeup or ornaments
  • No evening meals
  • No sitting in high seats

I have to eat a bit of food with my medicine, is this ok?
If you ONLY eat a small amount of food with prescribed medications, then that becomes a circumstance of your retreat. It may be better to practice Sojong if this food has to be taken in the morning.

I need to drink a bit of water to take medicine.
You may drink a sip of water to swallow down required medicines. Definitely do NOT stop taking needed medicines during this retreat. If you have doubts about your medicine and your health, please consult your doctor.

I need to drink water all day long for health reasons.
Be cautious in drinking *only* water with no food for any extended period. Depending on your health condition, the resulting loss of electrolytes of hydrating with water only can result in light-headed-ness, fainting, or even convulsions. If you feel you must drink past midnight on the first day, it is probably best to take sojong vows instead.

Hygiene and dressing:
Can I brush my teeth?
Yes but do not swallow the water or toothpaste

Can I wear deodorant?
Best not to use deodorant.

Can I wear my wedding ring?
It is okay to wear jewelry that you normally wear because it is meaningful, not because it is dressy. You should not dress up during Nyungne with additional jewels.

Are there any limitations on my clothing?
Do not dress up or wear clothes that are luxurious or meant to attract other's eyes. Wear clothes you will be comfortable in conducting prostrations.

How many prostrations must we do?
As many as you feel comfortable doing without becoming too lightheaded or weak.

What if I feel uncomfortable, lightheaded or weak?
If you in any way question your ability to continue Nyungne, give back your vows and recite the 100-syllable mantra.

Palyul Ling International
Tashi Delek Dear Mary,
One more email as Khen Rinpoche Tenzin Norgay just answered our questions.

Q: Can we have legumes? Milk?
A: We can have legumes and dairy no problem. Legumes are okay.

Q: Will you live stream the practice in between with the monks?
A: As much as is possible and our network can handle, we'll do.

Q: What part of text to recite in between?
A: Chant the long mantra in between or Om Mani Peme Hung.

Q: How to handle being in another timezone?

A: Download the text. If you have not done Nyungne before with another teacher, then you should endeavor to attend the New York time zone (7 AM) once so you receive the vows with Khen Rinpoche. Once you've received vows with a teacher, you can do on your own and set your schedule accordingly.

Timezone ahead of New York: If you are in a time zone that is later than ours (e.g. Europe), you can go through the vows yourself in the morning as a blessing, have lunch, then follow through with the vows with Khen Rinpoche when the time comes.

If you are in a timezone in which the Nyungne is much earlier, ideally you could get up at night to receive the vow from Khenpo-lak, then you will be set to go back to your own schedule afterwards. Or you can delay your Nyungne by one day, attending the vows in your evening, then taking on your own in your morning.

To catch up with the practice on your own, you can start from the beginning and stop where we chant the long mantra. Then continue the practice, but skip the torma section. (Or you can put milk in a serkyem (or other cup) and offer some cookies and do the torma section.)

Q: Can we eat seeds?
A: You can eat seeds.

Advice about lunch:
For lunch, have lunch in your local time, before noon. If you eat before 11:30 AM, you can keep eating even if it is a little after noon. But you cannot get up. If you get up, you cannot sit back down to eat again.

"Impure Foods"
The following foods are not permitted during Nyungne:

  • no meat including fish
  • no eggs
  • no radishes
  • no garlic or onion
  • no legumes (beans)
  • no chives, leeks, horseradish or "hot" foods of this type
  • no intoxicants

"Pure Foods"
The following food should be preferred during Nyungne or Sojong:

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Butter

Teaching Dana
Offerings to support Khen Rinpoche Tenzin Norgay, Lama Pasang Tenzin, Lopon Rapjee Wangchuk and any of the monks can be made via PayPal. While there is an option to offer to the center, during the pandemic we request you instead to direct your funds to your local food bank, Meals on Wheels, or Feeding America and let us know that you've done so.

You can also donate by mail by sending a check to:

The Palyul Retreat Center
359 German Hollow Road
McDonough, NY 13801

Make your check out to Palyul Ling International and include a note letting us know how you would like your funds distributed. Thank you!