Sakya Retreat Center

The following article is from the Autumn, 1996 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


Sometimes, in the space of the sky, there is bliss; in the state without extremes or center, there is bliss. Sometimes, in the depth of the ocean, there is bliss; in the state without movement or agitation, there is bliss. Sometimes, at the sun and the moon, there is bliss; in the state of clarity without obscuration, there is bliss. Sometimes, in the middle of a river, there is bliss; in the state without ceasing, there is bliss. Sometimes, residing in retreat, there is bliss; in practicing in solitude, there is bliss.excerpt from Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen's Doha, Song of Experience


Barre, a small colonial New England town settled in 1722, is located in the Nashoba Valley in Central Massachusetts. In the past two decades, Barre has become a popular center for Buddhist study and retreat, housing the Sakya Retreat Center, the Insight Meditation Society, and the Buddhist Study Center.

A tradition of emphasizing meditation retreats impelled the Sakyas to found the Sakya Retreat Center. The Retreat Center is nestled on 165 secluded acres of forest abutted by state conservation forest land. Located at the end of a mountainous private road, the Sakya Retreat Center offers a peaceful place to develop meditation and practice.

Once a rustic hunting camp, the property has been transformed into a place much like the one Shantideva described when he said, When shall I come to dwell in forests amongst the deer, the birds, and the trees?


Town, home and marketthreeare the places the wild horse of the mind wanders. Because the rider, vipashyana, is bad, and the bridle, shamatha, is weak, having run and run on the field of bad karma, one risks falling into the ravine of suffering. Similar to a wild animal which has been injured, reside in seclusion and practice.Dragpa Gyaltsen's Doha


With the encouragement and blessings of the late Most Venerable Deshung Rinpoche, the land for the Sakya Retreat Center was purchased in 1984. Subsequently, it has been blessed by other prominent Sakya masters, including His Eminence Ludhing Khen Rinpoche, His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche, and His Holiness Sakya Trizin. In 1989 Sakya Trizin appointed Acharya Lama Migmar Tseten as the head of the Sakya Retreat Center.


When shall I come to dwell in forests amongst the deer, the birds, and the trees?-Shantideva

Sakya students perform graduated retreats starting with Common Foundations Retreat (meditating on the faults of samsara, thepreciousness of human life, impermanence and death, and the karma of cause and effect). The Center also offers retreats for the Uncommon Foundations (100,000 repetitions of refuge, prostrations, bodhicitta, Vajrasattva, mandala offerings, and guru yoga), as well as a Vajrapani retreat and a Yidam retreat.

Lama Migmar Tseten has led various group retreats at the center, and has instructed students for solitary retreats, ranging in time from two days to three years.

The center is currently working on expanding and modernizing its facilities, constructing dormitory spaces for students, and improving the plumbing systems of its existing buildings. Planning is also underway for the creation of a secluded garden called Nirvana Grove, which will contain stupas and rocks carved with mantras, to be used to honor the remains of Buddhist practitioners and to create a place for the bereaved to dedicate merit.

For further information, or to make a contribution to the Sakya Retreat Center, contact project director Karin Phillips at P.O. Box 391042, Cambridge, MA 02139, or call (617) 876-8787.

Back to all Snow Lion Articles