What is Sesshin?
Sesshin is a period of intensified Zen training, usually lasting from 4-7 days. The roots of this practice trace back to the time of the Buddha in India, when monks gathered during the rainy season for several months of secluded meditation. The primary inspiration for sesshin, in fact, lies in the example of the Buddha himself, sitting beneath the Bo tree for 7 days and nights, in his final great exertion to realize Full Enlightenment for the sake of all beings.
The Japanese word sesshin derives from two characters: setsu, meaning to unify, collect, or touch, and shin, meaning heart-mind. As these terms suggest, sesshin is a time dedicated to collecting and unifying the normally scattered mind in order to focus it inward, like a powerful laser beam, to discover the deepest truth of one’s own Self-nature, the source of all wisdom and compassion.
Traditionally the high point of Zen monasticism, sesshin has become a way for lay practitioners as well as monks to put aside all worldly concerns and dive straight into the depths of the Buddha Way. Japanese masters have stated that one can accomplish in a rigorous 7-day sesshin what would otherwise require many years of regular daily practice to accomplish. What makes such results possible is the heightened discipline of sesshin, along with a unique combination of elements that make up this mode of practice: many hours each day of zazen, or Zen meditation; daily teishos, or Dharma talks by the teacher; and dokusan (also known as sanzen), the private interviews with the teacher, taking place at least once a day.
The prices below include retreat fees as well as room and board for the duration of sesshin. Dana for our teachers and staying extra days before or after are not included. To find out more about staying at Windhorse outside of sesshin, click here.
The cost of sesshin for dues-paying Windhorse members is $55 per day ($385 for a 7-day sesshin).
For non-members, the sesshin price is $60 per day ($420 for a 7-day sesshin).
If you are unable to pay the full cost of sesshin, please contact the center directly and apply for a scholarship.
For those who are able to contribute more, we ask that you consider paying a “benefactor price” of an additional $100-$200. This portion of your sesshin fee is a tax-deductible donation to the center and it allows Windhorse to offer scholarships to those who cannot afford the full cost of sesshin.
*If applying after the deadline, a $5 per day fee will be added to the cost of sesshin.
*Please note: These prices do not include dana for our teachers, who are not paid a salary for their Dharma work.
What to Bring
If you’re not coming by plane, please bring bed sheets, towel, soap and a pillow and pillowcase, and also a sleeping bag or blanket if you can (we do have some blankets at the center). For those traveling by air, we will of course supply the larger items. Everyone please bring a pillowcase and flashlight. If any of this is a problem, let us know.
Also bring a brown zazen robe if you have one, since during sesshin everyone wears a robe. For those who don’t own one, we have extras that people are welcome to borrow. Hopefully you’ll find one that fits reasonably well. Anyone attending sesshin regularly would do well to order a personal robe for future needs, since our supply is limited.
You’ll also need work and exercise clothing—free of words or patterns, in a subdued color and modest cut. Please avoid white or bright clothing, for example, and skin-tight yoga-type pants. All indoor sesshin clothing that is visible to others, including socks and clothes worn under robes, should be plain, muted in color and not eye-catching. Or ear-catching: please avoid synthetic pants, for example, that make a lot of noise when you walk.
Please bring only unscented or very lightly scented toiletries to sesshin, including deodorant and lotions. Anything noisy, like electric toothbrushes and hairdryers, are not to be used during sesshin. And if you bring personal sitting cushions, please be sure they are some shade of black or brown, with no visible white tags.
It’s a good idea to bring a pair of house slippers or indoor shoes for work periods – especially useful if you work in the kitchen on the hard tile floor. And, with shared rooms the norm in sesshin, you might also wish to bring a set of earplugs. Snorers, please consider bringing one of those nose-fitting devices that help to reduce snoring.