Cover image for Dawning of clear light : a western approach to Tibetan dark retreat meditation
Dawning of clear light : a western approach to Tibetan dark retreat meditation
Lowenthal, Martin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Charlottesville, Va. : Hampton Roads Pub., [2003]

Physical Description:
xxvi, 197 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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BQ7982.2 .L68 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Retreats in darkness have been used by all the great spiritual traditions for thousands of years as a method for tapping deep clarity, accessing sacred wisdom, connecting with the Divine, and training to transform the mind/body system into a manifestation of wisdom. In dark retreat, the practitioner lives in complete darkness--eating, sleeping, meditating, and simply existing in a world without external light.
Traditionally, in Tibet, dark retreats were performed by monks as part of their training with the support of their monastery and their fellow monks. But dark retreats are of value to people from all walks of life, from the monastic to the busy householder--those with jobs, families, and all-too-many responsibilities. Martin Lowenthal has taken a practice little-known in the West and made it accessible by incorporating methods based in western psychology with traditional Tibetan Buddhism.
There are many advantages of a retreat in the dark, one of which is rest for our eyes, weary from overstimulation in our visually oriented world, that then promotes overall relaxation of body and mind. This relaxation helps us cut through old mental and emotional habits, harmonizes the elements in the body, works with visions, and rests in the "Natural State."
Retreats in the dark also improve the quality of our daily life. We can develop greater clarity and awareness in every aspect of living. When we improve the conditions of our lives, we provide an atmosphere more conducive to continued meditation practices. Dark retreat is also a powerful setting for practicing tantra. Tantra uses imagination, senses, and creativity to transform experience into food for the spirit.
Dawning of Clear Light is a celebration, a joyous invitation to find the treasures that are hidden within your world and the world around you.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Tibetan Buddhist practice is elaborate, esoteric and challenging for Westerners. This book by Lowenthal, a psychotherapist, meditation teacher and longtime student of Tibetan Buddhism, breaks ground as an English-language guide to the technique of dark retreat, a traditional Tibetan spiritual practice that a Western, non-monastic Buddhist can experience by sitting in a sound- and light-proof room. The dark retreat affords a clearer view of how mental and physical processes generate an individual's experience of reality. Lowenthal explains the practice, frames it in the context of teachings from the Buddhist and Bon spiritual traditions of Tibet, and uses his journal, recorded during his own retreats, as an example of the retreat experience. The journal excerpts are especially helpful as a way of concretely describing what a practitioner might encounter under these unconventional circumstances designed to promote spiritual growth. While the author writes clearly and helpfully about techniques-two appendices give useful practical instruction-and is transparent about his experience, Tibetan Buddhist teachings about the nature of reality are complex. A few chapters are too short to shed sufficient light on central concepts that are very difficult to grasp. This is not a book for beginners, but an advanced practitioner with good guidance from a teacher can benefit from this clear and helpful introduction to a little-known spiritual practice. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Lowenthal is a longtime practitioner in the Tibetan Buddhist and Bon traditions and founder of the Dedicated Life Institute in Newton, MA. This book attempts to present the Tibetan dark retreat in a way that can be practiced by Westerners. The dark retreat, as the name suggests, is a retreat done in total darkness for varying lengths of time. The traditional Tibetan retreat requires careful spiritual preparation and the guidance of a qualified teacher. While Lowenthal acknowledges and encourages this approach, he also presents a version that affords a taste of the practice with less vigorous preparation and grounding. Much of the book consists of the author's daily journals from a one-month dark retreat in 1998. Readers comfortable with language such as "each of us is a learning being who has a psycho-physical bodymind and is part of an Essence" might find something of substance. Others will simply be annoyed. The text seldom rises above the level of self-advertisement, and the blow-by-blow description of the retreat is also of questionable value. (We probably don't need to know that the broccoli he had for dinner gave him gas, for instance.) Most collections would be better served by books written by Lowenthal's teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, such as Wonders of the Natural Mind. Not recommended.-Mark Woodhouse, Elmira Coll. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche
Forewordp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introductionp. xv
Part I Radiant Heart of Darknessp. 1
1. What Is a Dark Retreat?p. 3
2. Attitudes Toward Dark and Lightp. 6
3. The Goddess of the Darkp. 9
4. Retreats in Darkness in Other Traditionsp. 11
Part II A Western Practitioner in Dark Retreatp. 19
1. Setting Up My Retreatp. 21
2. Taking the Plunge: Opening the Retreatp. 36
3. Gradual Awakeningp. 47
4. In the Flowp. 64
5. The Burden of Wisdom and the Wisdom of Responsibilityp. 81
6. Making Love with the Goddessp. 89
7. A Change of Heart, Surrender, and Being Workedp. 94
Part III A Framework for Understanding the Teachingsp. 105
1. Purpose of Spiritual Workp. 107
2. Dimensions of Beingp. 109
3. Three Aspects of Being: Awareness, Energy, and Relationshipp. 111
4. Reactive Habit Body/Samsaric Mind of Confusionp. 117
5. Wisdom Naturep. 120
6. Coming Homep. 122
7. Meditationp. 124
8. Training Attention and Mindfulnessp. 125
9. Recognition and Dzogchenp. 129
10. Training to Embody Wisdom--The Inner Alchemy of Tantrap. 131
Part IV Bon Teachings on Dark Retreatp. 135
1. Dzogchenp. 137
2. The Five Elements and Dark Retreatp. 139
3. Teachings of Lopon Tenzin Namdakp. 142
4. Clarity and Clear Lightp. 147
5. Practices of Introduction to Dark Retreatp. 148
Part V Blessings of Gracep. 151
1. Grief and Praise: Selections from Journals of Retreats in 1999 and 2000p. 153
Appendix A Practices for Dark Retreatp. 165
Appendix B A Dark Retreat of Your Ownp. 177
Endnotesp. 183
Indexp. 187
About the Authorp. 195