An Invitation to Pause and Reflect

Not so long ago, a group of young probationers ready to fly on the wings of ambition and youthful energy, were witnessed indulging in an innocent banter. Their middle-aged senior watched them with an empathetic smile, lines of experience etched on his seasoned face. He shared that around 25 years ago, he too, like them, had taken similar confident steps to meet their jobs and of course life.

Now, with his career on the receding end of the curve, he wondered when life slipped by, while he climbed the ladder of achievements, slipped down only to strategise, and join the race again. These thoughts shared with honesty and concern hold an invitation to pause and reflect.

The practice of taking retreats may emerge from similar callings, especially in the context of competitive aspirations and the pace of living today.

Etymologically, the word ‘Retreat’ implies pulling back, disengaging, or withdrawing. The religious and spiritual traditions have taken positive connotations of the word ‘retreat’ to facilitate such ‘withdrawals’, to explore the inner spaces.

Thus, retreats have been an intrinsic part of Buddhism, having emerged since the Buddha’s lifetime itself. Christ’s withdrawal for 40 days may have set an example of practising retreats, especially in the Roman Catholic tradition. Sufism, the mystical aspect of Islam, incorporates retreats known as ‘Khalwa’.  Aranya Sanskriti – the forest civilization from the Indic regions, is replete with examples of seekers of truth retreating by themselves or with their Acharyas and co-travellers. The same quest and the wisdom of stepping back to be a witness unto oneself flows into the present times.

The retreats might be undertaken individually or as a group; these may focus on the study of a text or relate to the quest of a seeker to be in solitude. While the spiritual retreats may allow more time for reflection, observation, and meditation, the religious retreats tend to be more centred around rituals and practices. In addition, one does not have to be a ‘believer’ to explore the inner space, to connect with the core of one’s Being.

It is true that the presence of a Spiritual Master in a retreat is a blessing and aids one’s journey tremendously. At the same time, it is also true that a spiritual aspirant must do his own ‘Purusharth’ – self-study; while treasuring the gift of the ‘Teachings’, he must assimilate them. 

Recognising the necessity of a conducive environment, Sri M has envisioned a Retreat Centre for Swadhyaya – for Self-Study. The Sacred Grove – a retreat centre at Chowdepalle, Andhra Pradesh, India, was inaugurated on 3rd July 2022.

Since last year, with Sri M’s guidance, the Sacred Grove team has introduced 3-day residential self-retreats on a series of Upanishads – Kena, Ishavasya, Mandukya, Mundaka and Katha.

These retreats respect his emphasis on the fact that Upanishads are primarily “Shruti” – belonging to the oral tradition, where the emphasis is on listening and absorbing rather than on analysing or depending on another’s interpretation. This emphasis also underlines that these sacred texts are meant to be meditated upon rather than to be treated as intellectual or discursive exercises.

We plan to facilitate similar Self-Retreats focusing on Sri M’s Teachings on the Yogasutras, Bhagavad Gita, Meditation, and other Satsangs. These are planned with minimum structures that include the practice of Yoga, Shravana, Karma – listening to the Teachings, and nature walks.

In addition, “Solitude Retreats” are introduced to facilitate the journey of Sadhaks, who may wish to retreat without participating in any group activity.

Since the inception of The Sacred Grove 17 months ago, we have witnessed many guests come and retreat by themselves or with like-minded partners.

Most of them come for around 3-5 days. A few come for solitude retreats for periods ranging from five days to a couple of months, this category of seekers has been coming either to follow their spiritual practices in a conducive environment or to be in silence to reflect and even review their lifestyles.

The concept of focused self-retreats with the help of Sri M’s Teachings on a selected theme was introduced less than three months ago. Generally, there have been 5-10 participants for these self-retreats.

This participation of volition brings a feel of earnestness, that is complemented with yogic practices and interspersed with nature walks. Whichever mode of retreat the seekers may have chosen at the Sacred Grove, most of them have taken leave with a promise to return at the earliest possible.

About The Satsang Foundation

The Satsang Foundation, founded by Sri M, is a meeting point for spiritual seekers of all persuasions. The Satsang Foundation also extends a helping hand to the less privileged of society.