The Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Himalayan tantric Buddhism require a long period of intensive training in meditation—a three-year, three-month retreat—before a practitioner is considered to be a qualified teacher. Jamgon Kongtrul's Retreat Manual was written in the mid-nineteenth century for those who wish to embark on this rigorous training. It guides them in preparing for retreat, provides full details of the program of meditation, and offers advice for their re-entry into the world.
Jamgon Kongtrul's Retreat Manual also introduces us to one of the towering figures of nineteenth-century Tibet: Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (1813–99). The three-year retreat center he describes in this book was his creation, and its program consisted of those practices Kongtrul treasured enough to pass on to future generations through the spiritual leaders he trained.