What are the Preliminary Guide Retreats?
The following explanation, given by Geshe Kelsang in 1993, applies to the Preliminary Guide Retreats. These retreats are held every year at the center. They are usually a week in length, four sessions a day, and allow people to gain deeper experience of a particular practice. They are an integral part of the Teacher Training Program (TTP), but are also open to everyone. You may attend any number of sessions.
Buddha taught many different meditations. The realizations attained through these meditations are the path to liberation. Liberation from suffering therefore depends upon making progress in meditation, and progress in meditation depends upon engaging sincerely in preliminary practices. Buddha taught four principal preliminary practices. These are normally called the ‘four great guides’ because they are the methods by which we are guided into the actual path to liberation. Meditation itself is like the main body, and the four great guides are like four limbs; just as without limbs our body cannot move and function, so without preliminary practices meditation alone cannot work.