Calm Abiding and Special Insight

  • Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture Vajrapani Institute for Wisdom Culture
  • 19950 Kings Creek Road, Boulder Creek, CA, USA
  • Jul 3 - 7, 2019 (5 days)
  • Commuting - $384.00 Camping - $500.00 Women's Dorm - $660.00 Men's Dorm - $660.00 Women's Quad - $704.00 Men's Quad - $704.00 Private Room- Double bed - $908.00 Private Room- Twin Bed - $908.00 Private Cabin - $1,068.00

About This Event


All Levels

Silence Level

Partial silence

Who is it for?

Beginners are welcome and encouraged, as well as more advanced students wanting to review the stages of the path in an experiential format.

What is it?

Calm-Abiding (shamatha) and Special Insight (vipashyana) are two of the three principal aspects of the Buddhist path (the other being ethics).

Calm-Abiding is the practice of developing single-pointed concentration, resulting in a calm, clear and focused mind that can be used as a basis with which to conduct special insight—the investigation into the ultimate nature of reality.

Special Insight confronts the distorted view of reality that we share.  The Buddha said these distorted views arise from our mental afflictions—such as attachment and anger—which are the root causes of our suffering. This distorted view of things leads to craving and attachment to the things we like and aversion to the things we don’t like. This in turn often leads to frustrations and dissatisfaction – the fundamental suffering nature of all things.

Join Geshe Gelek as he returns to Vajrapani for this illuminating retreat on Calm-Abiding and Special Insight infused with the Mahayana approach of engaging in all actions for the benefit of others.  He will guide us on how we can use these wise teachings of the Buddha to generate the mind that strives to see the world as it truly is, not as it appears—ultimately a more enlightened way of seeing.  Geshe-la will use the following texts, which unfortunately aren’t available yet in English:

Calm Abiding by Gu-ge Yons Dzin Lobsang Tenzin

Short Text on Critical Point of Emptiness by Yong Zin Yeshe Gyaltsen

As Geshe Lhundub Sopa described so clearly:

Mere shamatha is not sufficient for achieving either individual liberation from samsara or the Mahayana goal of perfect enlightenment for the benefit of others. Nor can those final goals be achieved by vipashyana alone. Tsongkhapa says that if it is dark and you want to see a painting clearly, then you need a butter lamp that both shines brightly and is undisturbed by wind. If the lamp is bright and clear but flickers in the wind, then you will not be able to see the painting clearly. If there is no wind, but the light from the lamp is weak, then you will not be able to see the painting clearly. In the same way, you can cultivate an understanding of emptiness – the ultimate nature of reality – using inference and logic, but the profound truth of emptiness is much clearer when seen through meditation. To have a direct realization of emptiness, you must have the very deep and profound meditation where all other senses, sense consciousnesses, and thoughts stop, so that only one consciousness – the wisdom penetrating to the depths of the truth – remains. Only if you have the unshakable stabilization of shamatha combined with penetrating insight of vipashyana can you see reality clearly.

Suggested reading

Training in the Mind of Calm Abiding, Geshe Lhundub Sopa, Mandala magazine article.

Calming the Mind, Gen Lamrimpa.

Realizing Emptiness, Gen Lamrimpa.

Both of Gen Lamrimpa’s books are short, very readable and crystal clear.

Additional Information

Please plan on arriving between 3:00 and 5:00 PM on the first day of the retreat

Please plan on departing approximately 2:00 PM on the last day of the retreat

Consider reviewing our accommodations

For more detailed information, please see our FAQ

If you are interested in serving as Course Liaison for this retreat, please apply here.

Fees (includes accommodation, 3 meals a day, and facility costs)

The base fees listed above reflect the true cost of hosting visitors and are higher as a result. If you are financially able, we encourage you to please pay these fees.  That said, we also offer subsidized fees designed to allow as many people as possible to attend. These fees are supported by generous contributions to Vajrapani Institute. You can access those fees by using a discount code that will be provided to you at registration checkout. The accommodations are the same for both options.

10% membership discounts are also applicable for members (please contact the Main Office)

Financial Aid/ Scholarships

We want to make retreat available to everyone. With this in mind, we will gladly work out a payment plan with you.If you need even more assistance, we offer several scholarships. Please note that the scholarship deadline is one month before retreat begins.

For detailed information on setting up a payment plan, please see Financial Aid: Payment Plans

To see if you’re eligible for a scholarship and how to apply for one, please see Financial Aid: Scholarships

If you have additional questions after reviewing the guidelines for payment plans and/or scholarships, please email the Office at (contact info blocked)

Teacher’s fees

Traditionally, spiritual teachings are considered priceless; remuneration of our teachers is not included in the fee information detailed on this page. Instead, we invite you to consider bringing a cash donation with you to express your gratitude for the teachings. Participants get a chance to present a cash offering to the teachers on the last day of the retreat and this is supplemented by a donation from Vajrapani Institute. Please note that we don’t offer a credit card option for teacher’s fees.

“Retreat offers a situation where it’s possible to fulfill our basic human potential and develop all the positive qualities within ourselves.” – Lama Zopa Rinpoche

Event Highlights

  • -Learn meditations for developing Calm-Abiding - the practice of developing single-pointed concentration, resulting in a calm, clear and focused mind.
  • -Explore meditations in special insight - the investigation into the ultimate nature of reality.
  • -Gain an understanding of Mahayana Buddhist approaches towards engaging in all actions for the benefit of others.
  • -Strive to see world as it truly is, not as it appears—ultimately a more enlightened way of seeing.


-Morning Meditation
-Two sessions of teachings with meditations and a tea break
-Break time for rest, hiking, yoga, personal time
-Teaching sessions
-Evening Meditation

Venue Highlights

Located off the grid in a remote forest location within the Santa Cruz Mountains our contemplative retreat center offers private retreat cabins and group meditation retreats . Everyone comments about how quiet and peaceful it is once they arrive and how the mind naturally settles. We have a beautiful Meeting/Meditation Hall that’s been blessed by 30 years of spiritual practice. Beautiful walking trails around the land and a longer hike with views of the Monterey Bay. We are also blessed with a number of stupas on the land. The main one is situated within close proximity to the main building. The others are up on Lama’s Ridge where the private cabins are located. Stupas are symbolic of the unlimited mind of all enlightened beings. Shakyamuni Buddha taught that performing spiritual practices at a stupa would have the same effect as making offerings to the Buddha himself.


Our main lodge building contains:
Women's Dormitory with 14 beds
Men's Dormitory with 12 beds
Two Semi-Private Dorms with 4 beds each
Four Private Rooms with a double bed each
One Private Room with a single bed
Two shared women's and men's bathrooms

We also have seven private cabins situated on a beautiful ridge above the Lodge. There is a shared private indoor bathhouse as well as outdoor showers with a fabulous view of the surrounding mountains. The private cabins have single beds and can be set up for double occupancy with the addition of a cot bed.

Lastly we have 36 camp sites around the land for you to bring your own tent to. Size of sites vary and can accommodate a 2-4 person tent. (tents not provided)


  • Free Parking
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Ceremony Space

Menu Types

  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian
  • Organic
  • Gluten Free
  • Dairy Free


Vajrapani Institute is renowned for the deliciousness of its vegetarian cooking. Our meals are fully vegetarian and nutritionally balanced to offer you a supportive retreat experience. We can accommodate gluten, dairy, and soy allergies, as well as those on a vegan diet. We also have hot tea, pour-over coffee, and fresh fruit available at all times.

Breakfast: Includes hot porridge, stewed fruit, granola, yogurt, boiled eggs, and toast.
Lunch: The largest meal of the day, includes a grain, vegetable dishes, vegetarian protein, and salad.
Dinner: A lite meal with soup, salad, cheese, hummus, bread, and gluten-free crackers.


Located in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Boulder Creek, CA at the end of a five-mile dirt road on the border of Castle Rock State Park. While secluded, we are relatively close to the San Jose and San Francisco airports. About an hour to an hour and a half drive respectively.

If you are using a navigation system in your car or on your phone we recommend inputting the address of one of our local businesses, The Mountain Store at 125 Pool Drive in Boulder Creek CA 95006. Once your navigation system takes you there, you will drive less than a quarter of a mile on Pool Drive, turn left on Kings Creek Road, and follow Kings Creek Road for 5 miles. You should see occasional signs that let you know the distance left to travel and some prayer flags hanging over the road to let you know you are on the right path!

Thank you!

We're glad you've joined our retreat community. See you around :)

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Why Retreat?

We asked people why they go on retreat, here's what they said:

Am opportunity to deepen my practice..thank you Lilliane

Retreat Guru's Vision

We believe human beings are innately wise, strong and kind. This wisdom, although not always experienced, is always present. Going on retreat is a beautiful way to reconnect to our basic sanity and health. Our aspiration at Retreat Guru is to inspire people to experience authentic retreats and reconnect with their innate wisdom, strength and kindness.

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