The Shepherd’s Search for Mind

The Shepherd’s Search for Mind has been a seminal text for Triratna, ever since Sangharakshita first led study on it in 1976. In it, Milarepa guides a young shepherd with an inquiring mind in a step-by-step exploration of his experience. Under the guidance of the great yogi, the young shepherd is led from going for refuge to exploring the Mahamudra teaching. Eventually he comes to see the nature of his own heart-mind and becomes a heart-disciple.

Vessantara attended the ordination retreat in 1976 at which Sangharakshita first introduced this text, and he has returned to it often since then as inspiration for his own practice.

During this retreat, we make our own journeys of exploration into the nature of heart-mind, through presentations from Vessantara, structured questioning, guided meditations, silence, and some devotional practice.

Retreat Resources at bottom of page.

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Day 1

Welcome and dedication ceremony

An open sit and ritual to mark the start of the retreat. Unfortunately this recording contains audio interference throughout.

Day 2

Setting the scene

Vessantara sets the scene by giving some background to Milarepa, the history of the text and Sangharakshita’s own connection with it.

two young shepherds

An exploration of the section where Milarepa first encounters the two young shepherds and how he engages their interest.

meditation and threefold puja

The day closes with a spacious evening comprising a guided meditation, threefold puja and open sit.

Day 3

closer to the experience

Establishing a grounded, kindly awareness before progressing into the shepherd boy’s description of the characteristics of his mind.

flowing and knowing

Unpacking the distinction between sensate experience (‘flowing’) and awareness (‘knowing’).

sevenfold puja

A devotional session of ritual featuring a Milarepa mantra and bookended by two meditations.

Day 4

the nature of mind

Looking deeper into the Buddhist view that everything in our experience is a manifestation of mind and awareness.

the shepherd’s reply

Hearing more about the shepherd’s experience as he searches for the mind. Note: there were unfortunately two internet outages in this session.

Milarepa puja

A special puja to Milarepa, with two periods of meditation to support the ritual.

Day 5

continuity and change

The shepherd investigates which parts of him go for refuge and the ongoing and changing aspects of mind.

conditions for discipleship

Discussing Mahamudra as both path and realisation, and hearing Milarepa describe effective conditions for practice.

visualisation and ritual

A lead meditation and devotional practice including a Milarepa visualisation and mantra chanting.

Day 6

concentration and context

Looking at ways to contextualise our practice – who we are practicing with and for – and developing the faculty of concentration.

mistaking samatha for vipassana

Milarepa warns of the dangers of mistaking concentration for insight, relating this to the dharmakaya at death.

saddhana and ritual

A guided Milarepa saddhana visualisation and devotional ritual with a reading and mantra chanting.

Day 7

avoiding pitfalls of practice

The shepherd is given much advice on how to progress and avoid common pitfalls.


An open period of unled meditation.

closing ritual

The retreat closes with thank yous, meditation and ritual.

English (UK)