“Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity. Enter again into yourself.” Saint Augustine
Few days ago I attended the Nyung Ne retreat at Kopan Nunnery. I was busy in practicing Nuyng Ne so I can’t take more pictures. I hope you will enjoy this article with few pictures too. Nuyng Ne is a fasting retreat to purify your negative Karma and accumulate merit and wisdom. Moreover, it is a powerful and quick method to purify a lot of negativities and at the same time collect a vast amount of merit. Meditators of the past have been able cure disease such as Leprosy through this practice. There is a story on Nyung Ne which goes like this. Gelongma Pelmo was born to a royal family in India. She abandoned the luxury of royal palace and follow the path of Buddhism which she carry out for 12 years. One day her previous negative Karma ripened and she was stricken terribly with leprosy. However she overcome this disease with the practice of sadhana, mantra chanting and fasting for the one-thousand armed and one thousand eyed Chenrezig ( Avalokiteshvara). From that day onwards the practice of Nyung Ne continues. However, the principal purpose of the practice is to purify our negative Karma and to accumulate merit.
On the first day I was accompanied by other 200 nuns and more than 30 foreigners and few locals for the Nyung Ne. We started the practice at 3:30 am. We take the 8 Mahayana precepts i,e avoidance of killing, stealing, sexual activity, telling lies, taking intoxicants, not eating more than one meal, no singing/dancing/playing music, wearing jewelry and using high seats or beds. Interestingly, Nyung Ne also coincides with Saka Dawa. It is the special months in which Buddha’s conception, birth, enlightenment and parinirvana all occur. In particular, the full moon day, or 15th day, of the fourth month marks the holiest day in Tibetan Buddhism. We chant mantras, did prayers for Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara) followed by prostrations. I was so moved doing all this that most of the time I sob. I can’t scribble in words right now. It was unbelievable. At 12 noon, we had heavy lunch and thereafter, we skip our dinner but of course, we had the privilege to drink tea till 9 pm.
On the second day, we start our day very early at 4am. In this day, besides taking eight precepts, we took on additional vows of not speaking (expect reciting the prayers and mantras) not eating and not drinking for 24 hours. The meditation and practice sessions includes prostrations and reciting mantras. Specifically, the fasting of body (food and drink) , purifies the obscurations of body; the fasting of speech (silence) purifies the obscurations of speech and the fasting of mind (meditation etc.) purifies the obscurations of mind.
We start to prostrate in front of altar and recited mantras without having any food or drinks lead by respected Lama Gurus. This process continued till 6am. At the end of the day I experience little hunger, thirst, tiredness and dizziness . Likewise pain from doing prostrations. I am able to ease my pain knowing that I am purifying a great deal of my negative Karma accumulated over countless eons . I remember what Buddha has advised the “middle way” – not too soft, not too tough. During fasting I experience discomfort, but it is bearable and not too tough. This pain and discomfort gives me better understanding of the suffering experienced by animals, hungry ghosts, and some humans, and thus develop greater compassion for all sentient beings, and greater renunciation of samsara. Our fasting ended at 4 am the next day, where initially we were offered to drink a handful of holy water and thereafter a series of drinks . Hence, everyone seems to be alive once again with a smile on everyone’s face after the heavy meal. All of the nuns finished 8 sets ( 16 days)of Nyung Ne. perhaps we can imagine how they feel. Besides all this hardship I can see them all content and smiling all the times.
If you find this kind of practice awkward and you do not believe in this kind of practice even scientific research have proved that fasting is good for health. The Telegraph recently reported that scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have discovered that fasting “for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as ‘remarkable.'”Researchers suggest that the mechanism behind this phenomenon is that “starving the body kick-starts stem cells into producing new white blood cells, which fight off infection.” And fasting “‘flips a regenerative switch’ which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.
Nyung Ne practice proves to be advantage for my spiritual growth. It was also an unforgettable and interesting experience for me. After leaving Kopan Nunnery my mind says this two days of Nyung Ne is not enough for me. I would love to do whole sets i.e. 8 sets ( 16 days ) of Nyung Ne in the future.