The Contemplative Consciousness Network (CCN) last month hosted a six-day virtual retreat titled “Dwelling in the Heart of Reality: Parallel Practices in Dzogchen and Christianity” to explore the deep commonalities in practice and theory of the two ancient contemplative traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity. Running from 18–23 August, the retreat featured a series of dialogues conducted by the world-renowned Buddhist teacher and lama Dr. B. Alan Wallace and Dr. Eva Natanya, a scholar of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.
Each day of the retreat consisted of three sessions. Every morning there was a two-hour period in which Wallace introduced a guided meditation and explained the Tibetan Buddhist Dzogchen tradition. This was followed by a comparative discussion with Natanya.
Each afternoon had a two-hour session led by Natanya on meditation in the Christian tradition, which was followed by an explanation from the Christian hesychast tradition and further dialogue with Wallace.
The evenings consisted of a one-and-half-hour meditation session with Wallace and then an opportunity for both teachers to answer questions raised through the online platform.
Wallace and Natanya explained the meaning of each practice within their respective contexts: how stillness meditation (Skt: shamatha) fits within the full scope of the Buddhist path of Dzogchen, or Great Perfection, and how the Christian practice of hesychasm, or silent stillness, becomes a mystical path to contemplative union with the mind of Christ.
During the first day’s session on the fundamental reality of suffering, the CCN highlighted from the Buddhist perspective: “There is no beginning to suffering in our past lives and there will be no end to it in the future unless its sources are eradicated.” This was complemented by the Christian view: “Our suffering begins in this life and does not automatically cease at death for everyone.”
The retreat also underscored the Buddhist view on the sources of suffering: “The origin of suffering lies in ignorance and craving.” And noted an observation from St. Augustine (354–430): “The two real causes of the miseries of this life are ‘the profundity of ignorance’ and the ‘love of things vain and noxious.’”
Wallace is an internationally renowned scholar and Dharma teacher who has studied and practiced Buddhism for more than 45 years. Ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, he spent 14 years as a Tibetan Buddhist monk. As a meditation master, Wallace is renowned for the insight he brings into mindfulness as taught in secular movements and spiritual traditions other than Buddhism. In addition to his Buddhist training, Wallace has a degree in physics and the philosophy of science, and a doctorate in religious studies.
Natanya is an academic lecturer, writer, translator, and retreat leader. She earned an MA in Christian Systematic Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and a PhD in Religious Studies from the University of Virginia. For more than 20 years, she has studied meditation, yoga, and philosophy in the Christian and Buddhist traditions with teachers in India, the UK, and the US.
The CCN is an international network and charity that is dedicated to developing and practicing contemplative sciences. The organization runs a wide range of events throughout the year, among them residential retreats, and day-long and week-long workshops led by Alan Wallace.
As series of events, on 29 August, the CCN organized a seminar on “The World of Mind and Mindalas: Mandalas, Mind, and the Great Perfection,” featuring Natanya, Wallace, with Buddhist scholar Ian Baken. On 30 August, he CCN also organized a meditation workshop titled “Devotion as a Path to Divination and Buddhahood: From the View of the Great Perfection,” with Natanya.
Dwelling in the Heart of Reality (Contemplative Consciousness Network)
Devotion as a Path to Divinisation and Buddhahood: From the View of the Great Perfection (Contemplative Consciousness Network)
The World of Mind and Mindalas: Mandalas, Mind, and the Great Perfection (Contemplative Consciousness Network)