Dark retreat

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Dark retreat (Wylie: mun mtshams[1]) is a solo retreat in a space that is completely absent of light, which is an advanced practices in the Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo, and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Because there is no optical stimulation, one can experience "prisoner's cinema", commonly known as the lights. 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.


Some spiritual traditions have used similar techniques in the pursuit of enlightenment: Kogi people spend 9 years in dark caves or huts in Colombia, in Europe, the dark room appeared as a network of tunnels, in Egypt as the Pyramids, and in Rome as the catacombs. The Essenes in Israel and Daoists in China used caves. Ancient Greeks practiced the oracular discipline of enkoimesis or incubatio.[citation needed]

Czech Television reporter, Silvie Dymáková (winner of the main prize for documentary filmmaking in the Czech Republic "Czech Lion award"), documented a week in dark retreat.

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


Chia, Mantak Dark Room Enlightenment.

Martin Lowenthal Dawning of Clear Light: A Western Approach to Tibetan Dark Retreat Meditation

See also[edit]


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


  • Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Women of Wisdom. (Includes transcribed interview with Namkhai Norbu) Source: [2] (accessed: November 15, 2007)
  • Dymakova, Silvie (2014) Week in the darkness [3]