A Four month Abhidhamma Retreat by Dyana WellsGaliano Island is a wild slip of land grown up between mainland Canada and Vancouver Island. Punyashri and I arrived by ferry, an hour’s journey, ploughing through dark space and water, getting closer, excitement rising; we were almost there. Our New Zealand lives were now thirty hours behind. Libby, a fellow student, met us at the wharf and I finally breathed out, long and deep. She loaded our heavy luggage into her four-wheel drive and we drove the backbone of the island, slowing only to let the deer cross. White tails flashed and plunged back into the dark.

I smiled some more as I poked around my centrally-heated, luxurious (by retreat standards) meditation home. Forest was all around. The firewood was cedar, spruce, fir and arbutus. The big eyes of the house looked out over Trincomali Channel, where otters and seals and pods of whales froliced and fed just below. The hills of Vancouver Island across the water gathered the sun down into flamboyant sunsets and the snow fell and melted throughout the retreat, as the warm ocean currents from Japan and the warmer air currents from Hawaii, took turns with colder weather systems pouring down from the Arctic.

Abhidhamma – it’s tricky to describe just what this is. Our commentary, the Abhidhammathasangaha says ‘Buddhist philosophy and psychology’. Lama Mark said, incorrect, ‘an Insight manual for professional yogins, a brilliant Insight manual’. The original Abhidhamma, is said to be the direct teaching of the Buddha, but clearly not all of it is. It was quite a challenge. We poured over our Sanskrit and Pali dictionaries, unraveling the roots for clues about the ultimate realities of experience.

Extract from a full report by Dyana Wells on a four-month Abhidhamma retreat on Galiano Island, Canada. See Wangapeka for the full report.