ICH information collected by National Library and Archives of Bhutan

Yarney: the Summer Retreat
  • Manage No PI00007084
    Country Bhutan
    Year 2022
    ICH Domain Social practices, rituals, festive events
Description Yarney is one of the mainstays of monastic life in most of the Buddhist countries from the time of Buddha until today. It is observed as one of the most important annual events in Buddhist monasteries and institutions. ‘Yar’ means ‘summer’ and ‘ney’ means ‘to stay or abide in’. The Sanskrit term for Yarney is Varsavasa (varsa means ‘rains or rainy season’ and vasa means ‘dwelling or residence’) meaning ‘residence for rainy season or residence during rains’. The term widely used in Bhutan is Yarney which literally means Summer Retreat. The origin of Yarney can be traced back to Lord Buddha some 2600 years ago in India. The first Buddhist monks did not build monasteries and temples; they were mostly homeless and solely depended their sustenance on alms round. However, during summer, it was not practical for Lord Buddha and his Sangha to make daily customary alms round from village to village and teaching tours due to heavy monsoon rains. Summer was also the peak time when insects and worms would reproduce and inhabit the muddy walkways and small plants and newly planted rice paddies would start budding in the fields. It was also common trend at that time for Non-Buddhist (Tirthikas) to criticize and accuse the Buddha’s practice of alms round, reasoning that especially during the summer walking around for alms round killed several animals and insects. So in order to protect insects and worms being injured or killed while walking as well as crops in the fields from being crushed; or avoid injuring themselves due to the monsoon rains, flooding and displaced wildlife and also to avoid being criticized and accused by non-Buddhists for killing tiny beings, the Buddha established a rule that members of Sangha would not travel during the monsoon rains. Instead, they would remain within the premises of their residences or dwelling places (monasteries) each summer as summer or rainy season retreat. The place where "Yarney" was observed must be conducive to spiritual and mental development of the monk as one of the main object of observing "Yarney" was to practice meditation besides preaching the Dharma more often to lay devotees. The period for the retreat was determined as three months by lunar calendar and, would usually start in June or July and would continue until sometimes in September or October. Since then, there came into practice formally the precept of observing Yarney – the retreat during summer or the rainy season by Buddhists. The Buddha and Sangha would stay and spend days in their residences. This was a period for Sangha to spend time in quiet and serious meditation, give Dharma talks and help laypeople and junior Sangha members in spiritual development. It was also opportune time for them to clarify their understanding of every aspect of the Buddha’s teachings (through questions and answers), based on which in the later period of time that the sutras were said to have been written down.
Place Bhutan as a Buddhist country has many Buddhist institutes and monasteries spread across the country. Some of the present Buddhist institutes which take part in the Yarney include Tago Trashithang Shedra and Dodey Drak Shedra in Thimphu, Sang-ngag Choekhor Shedra in Paro. Khothakha Shedra and Gangteng Shedra in Wangduephodrang, Tamzhing Shedra and Kharchu Shedra in Bumthang, Kanglung Shedra in Trashigang districts and so on. The Sangha members studying and residing in these institutes and monasteries undergo one and half months (45 days) Yarney in order to dedicate themselves to actual spiritual practice continue so as to keep up the teachings/tradition of the Buddha alive. During the period of Yarney, the assembly of monks and nuns, both young and old remain in residence within the demarcated premises of their institutes and monasteries and they cannot leave its premises unless necessary. Inside the congregation hall of the monastery, the monks would be constantly and vigorously involved in the recitations and practices/observances of Pratimoksha vow (so thar dom pa), Bodhisattva vow (jang sems dom pa) and Tantnric vow (ngag dom pa), and discussion and clarification of issues related to Buddhist teachings and philosophy and making prayers for the wellbeing of the livings (patrons and devotees) and death ones in particular and for the peace and harmony of our country Buddhist teachings in general. Thus in general they keep themselves engaged in observing vow; listening and contemplating (lob pa thoe sam) and meditating on teachings (pong wa sam tan) they received from their Khenpo. During Buddha’s time, many monks and practitioners were said to have achieved the state of Arhatship, non-returner, and once-returner. File Size 128 KB
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National Library and Archives of Bhutan

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