Nyungne (pronounced nyung-nay) is a traditional retreat which includes vows for fasting and silence. Periods of group mediation are interspersed with periods for individual practice, study and reflection. Each day, we eat a large midday feast together, with assigned groups alternating cooking responsibilities and observing no meat or eggs, and also Rinpoche’s dietary restriction. This practice is loved by everyone who does it, and members of our sangha look forward to the intimate retreat time with each other and Rinpoche each summer. Nyungne, literally “ritual fasting,” is a practice that belongs generally to the Mahayana, and more specifically to the Kriya Tantra tradition. However, the wonderful thing about this practice is that it generally acts as a framework for discipline and diligence, and practitioners of all levels–from beginners to practitioners of Atiyoga Dzogchen–can do the practice together, each at their own level. We focus on generating Bodhichitta and training in the view of meditation, relying upon the practices of Avalokitesvara and Medicine Buddha. Anyen Rinpoche also gives general practice instructions each morning.
A Brief History of Nyungne
Nyungne was adopted as a formal style of practice after a great female Siddha from India, named Gelongma Palmo, attained realization using just this method. Gelongma Palmo was born a princess in the land of Orgyen, also the birthplace of Padmasambhava. Because she was highly educated and had a strong aptitude for Dharma, she developed renunciation and became a nun. However, after joining a nunnery, she developed leprosy and was cast out to live on her own in the wilderness. Gelongma Palmo took up ritual fasting as a strict, daily discipline. She focused herself wholly on the practice of 1000-Armed Avalokitesvara, until she saw the face of Avalokitesvara himself, and attained realization that equaled his. After this divine vision, her body healed and she no longer showed any signs of illness.