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I have heard about buddhist monks who undertake strictly solitary practice for 6 months where they practice entirely by themselves. They have no human contact and some of the other monks will come and bring them their food. The other monks will leave the food at the entrance and only when they leave the solitary monk will come out to take the food.

I'm very interested in this way of practicing and would like to know what the benefits of such concentrated practice is and the fact that there is no human contact or contact with the outside world.

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If one has the maturity, will and energy, this can be very good. Unfortunately, most lack that kind of will until they have progressed a good distance already. Bodhidharma, the Zen patriarch practiced this way for nine years.

Isolated practice can only cut us off from humans, when concentration deepens, it can often lead to encounters with non-humans :-) It's never possible to cut us off from all sentient existence.

There are dangers and rewards with everything. Reintegration with society can be difficult, if we are not mature and stable enough, some experiences in solitary meditation can be very scary and disturbing, especially if we choose to practice in places with spirits, like graveyards.

It's like free climbing without a rope, not for beginners.

p.s. if you have not already, read the biography of Ajahn Mun Bhuridatto Thera

  • Thats a good point about the reintegration into society. – Lanka Jun 25 '15 at 11:37
  • The rule of thumb is it takes 3-5 times the time of practice to integrate the learning into life. After a three month silent retreat it can take a year or two to associate with normal society. Of one has particularly deep insights one must also be prepared for a period of depression afterwards. – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 11:43
  • That is a long time to reintegrate oneself. Also where can one do 3 months silent retreats? I heard only about 10-day retreat. Or you mean 3 months retreats only for monks? – Lanka Jun 25 '15 at 11:48
  • Pa auk monastery, Burma if you're into samatha jhanas and powers, Wat chomtong, Chiang mai has a 21 day retreat in vipassana and there are several retreats in the mahasi tradition - see this for 60 days. There are others for 100 days or more, even for lay people – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 11:59
  • If you're interested in Zen and Mahayana traditions, check out plumvillage.org (Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh), France and www.bodhizendo.org, South India – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 12:06
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Meditation puts the body into a sort of state of hibernation, doesn't it, to some extent? The passage of time becomes very relative, and if the practitioner is accessing a bliss state, then...who needs human company? Monks in isolation are involved in repeated intense inner-directed mental exercises. [here] you might find this useful

  • I also wonder what benefit would this behavior bring to the world. What is the point of achieving bliss and illumination, if you stay isolated from other humans? Probably it's material for another question.... – FraEnrico Jun 25 '15 at 7:08
  • One can always benefit others using metta. – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 11:49
  • Isolation helps achieving peace of mind and state where there is no lust for things – Rushikesh Jun 25 '15 at 11:51
  • Do you have any references to back up the statement about hibernation? – Lanka Jun 25 '15 at 11:54
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Such practice is not wished by the Buddha, actually the whole issues of storing food and cooking for themselves are meant also for that purpose. There was a question about livelihood of hermits here, which touches the issue outwardly.

Inwardly the Buddha often "begged" monks to stay with the Sangha, since solitude life (even if still for alms out) is not good for one having not developed Samadhi, e.g. not beyond sensuality at its gross form.

In one case, to Upali, he made the example of cats and rabbits, willing to follow the elephant and jumping into the lake, finding no ground and get lost.

To develop right view, as well to abstain from sensuality for the next step, is good done when having the "controlling" support of admirable friends.

So for a worldling of no benefit, and for someone on the path, it's better to depend on admirable friend, Nissaya, Nyom Lanka.

Practising people are always in solitude (turned inwardly, what ever they do) and if not talking about Dhamma.

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial use or other lower wordily gains by ways of exchange or trade]

  • Thank you Bhante. This is very true: "Practising people are always in solitude (turned inwardly, what ever they do) and if not talking about Dhamma.". – Lanka Jan 16 '18 at 14:48
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There is no special way of practise here, apart from having samadhi. If there is no samadhi, there is no bliss. If there is no bliss, such solitude will be torture. Samadhi is ideally developed in an ordinary retreat.

This said, there are no special benefits of such solitude, if the solitude is physically comfortable. When the Buddha used the word 'solitude' ('viveka'), he was primarily referring to mental solitude from the five hindrances. Thus, for a mind with samadhi, physical solitude makes little difference.

However, living in a forest or cave, where there are animals, snakes & creeping things, this is challenging & has the special benefit of fearlessness.

  • Thanks Dhammadhatu. I've heard Ajahn Punnadhammo tell stories about monks in Thailand that purposely meditate in jungle areas where there are tigers and other dangerous animals. – Lanka Jan 16 '18 at 12:22

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