Upcoming Becoming Buddha Retreats:
April 30 – May 3, 2020 | November 5 – 8, 2020

Updated Spring 2020 Retreat Information coming soon. Registration is now open.

John Teaching 2This will be our tenth retreat at Won Dharma Center in Claverack NY. Our first retreat here was in the spring of 2013. The center is about  3 hours from the Bucks County Pa. and the Hunterdon County NJ area. It is about an hour from Albany NY and about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Manhattan.

Opened in 2012, the modern buildings have spacious and comfortable rooms on 450 acres of pristine beauty.  Information about Won Dharma Center and directions are linked at the top and bottom of this page.

Won Dharma Center staff will prepare all of our buffet-style vegetarian meals from Thursday dinner to Sunday lunch and all meals are included in the prices below. Special dietary needs can be accommodated.

Here is the introductory talk from our Spring 2019 retreat that clearly explains the purpose and structure of our retreats:

Group Outside 1

As with all of the Buddha’s Dhamma, our retreats are structured to have a direct engagement with his Dhamma allowing for the direct experience of integrating the Eightfold Path. The Buddha awakened to the profound understanding that the cause of dukkha, the cause of the underlying unsatisfactory nature of life, is rooted in ignorance. This is a specific ignorance that results in a confused and distracted mind prone to self-inflicted stress and suffering. It is ignorance of Four Noble Truths that, through twelve observable causative links, results in all manner of confusion, delusion, and suffering.

This often misunderstood and misapplied understanding is known as Dependent Origination. His very first teaching then was to explain The Four Noble Truths to bring direct wisdom where there was once ignorance.

He presented the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, the sutta setting the wheel of truth in motion, to his five friends. Upon hearing this discourse,John and Group Day Room 2 Kondanna declared, “all conditioned things that arise are subject to cessation.” Upon hearing this the Buddha said “you are now Anna-Kondanna, the one who understands.”

The Buddha’s second discourse – the Anatta Lakkhana Sutta teaches the confusion and contradictions of conceit, or “I-making” that results from ignorance (of The Four Noble Truths).

His third discourse was the Adittapariya Sutta, The Fire Discourse. In this sutta the Buddha describes in simple detail how, from basic ignorance of The Four Noble Truths, conceit arises and is reinforced by craving and clinging born of passion, resulting in ongoing Dukkha, ongoing unsatisfactory experiences.

My talks and our sangha discussions will be on the Satipatthana and Anapanasati Suttas, the Buddha’s first three discourses, Dependent Origination, Emptiness, and the personal experience of suffering – The Five Clinging Aggregates. All of my Dhamma talks are based on the Buddha’s direct teachings as preservedMatt Qigong 5
in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. Here is an article that explains the remarkable story of the preservation of the authenticity of the sutta’s: The Pali Canon

The Buddha presented an Eightfold Path so that these teachings could be developed by anyone who would wholeheartedly engage with the path and develop a life of lasting peace and happiness. As such, the Eightfold Path provides the guidance and framework for our retreats.

On retreat, we gently strive to deepen our understanding of the Eightfold Path by engaging with the entire path. Thursday dinner and Sunday lunch will be an opportunity to practice Right Speech. Our meals on Friday and Saturday, and Sunday breakfast will be taken in Noble Silence. All other times we support each other in the Dhamma and observe Right Speech.

Matt Qigong 6Retreats guided by the Buddha’s Dhamma are not retreats from the Dhamma and so are not silent. Our retreat environment will be very similar to the Buddha’s Sangha 2,600 years ago. The first Sangha was guided by a simple observance: When gathered as a sangha be mindful of the Dhamma so as to develop the Dhamma.

As with the first Sangha, the Eightfold Path will guide our thoughts, our speech, and our actions, and deepen our mindfulness of all aspects of the Path.

The purpose of a retreat is to enter a quiet space free of the distractions of daily life and engage deeply in the Dhamma. This is how useful insight is developed – from a quiet and well-concentrated mind that supports the refined mindfulness to experience what is occurring from Right View.

Our retreats are remarkable on many fronts, including the setting. The Won Dharma Center provides a spacious and beautiful natural setting, very comfortable and quiet rooms, and delicious but simple food. The staff is attentive and supporting without being intrusive.

Our retreats are structured by the Buddha’s dhamma as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka of the Pali Canon. Our retreats are a refuge form the world but not a retreat from the Dhamma so we avoid the asceticism of forced silence. Foundational suttas, Right Speech, and the entire Eightfold Path provide the framework and guidance supporting profound insight and integration of the Buddha’s Dhamma.

Retreats based on a clear understanding of the scope and purpose of the Buddha’s Dhamma avoid the extreme view that would result in denial of the senses necessary for skillful mindfulness such as the common practice of forced silence which leaves no opportunity to learn or to engage directly in the Eightfold Path.

A retreat is a time to disentangle from worldly events through the investigation and integration of the Eightfold Path. One of the Seven Factors of Awakening is the investigation of the Dhamma as taught in the Satipatthana and Anapanasati Suttas, and many others. Forced silence is not a factor of awakening for obvious reasons.

Direct investigation of the Buddha’s Dhamma first requires listening to the Dhamma from a teacher who has actually studied the Dhamma as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. This teacher would then avoid adapting, accommodating, or embellishing the Dhamma from their knowledge gained from studying and integrating the Dhamma. Once the Dhamma is heard then it becomes possible to integrate what is learned through the use of the Six-Sense Base generating the immediate visceral experience of the Dhamma during retreat.

By engaging in any extreme practice such as forced silence there is no opportunity for direct investigation of the Dhamma. Integrating the Buddha’s Dhamma requires the actual experience of mindfully engaging in all factors of the Dhamma through the use of the Six-Sense Base.

This is how the Buddha taught – to develop the framework of the Eightfold Path in order to recognize and abandon ignorance of Four Noble Truths – to empty oneself of ignorance.

“Not by silence does someone confused and unknowing turn into a sage.” Dhammapada 268

One of the first “rules” the Buddha established with the original sangha is that when gathered as a sangha to only discuss his Dhamma and have the Dhamma guide their moment-by-moment lives. In this way, every moment that unfolds is an immediate opportunity to develop and establish the teachings of an awakened human being. The Buddha taught the Middle Way of the Eightfold Path that avoids the extreme views that would result in sensory indulgence or ascetic practices. Avoiding asceticism of any kind and guided by the Eightfold Path, the mindful interaction of our sangha during retreat develops the Dhamma as originally intended.

The physical setting of our retreat reflects inner quiet. A tranquil and peaceful setting allows for our physical bodies to quiet and settle. our physical bodies come to stillness, our minds gently follow. Retreat is a time for inner inquiry and insight, a time to deepen understanding, and a time of taking refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, The Dhamma, and our Sangha.

We will be supported on our retreat by Matt Branham with morning meditation and his profound knowledge of QiGong – refreshing mind and body throughout our retreat.

Take refuge in this understanding and the true lineage of the Dhamma present at our retreat.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions: Contact John

Dhamma Talks will be based on my book BecomingBuddha. Becoming Buddha Preview

Our retreat schedule (subject to impermanence):


3:00 pm to – 5:30 pm Check-in

5:30 Dinner – Right Speech

7:00 to 9:00  – Dhamma Talk and Meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • The importance of retreat and taking refuge in the Buddha, his Dhamma, and a well-focused Sangha
  • Developing Right View from Wrong View.
  • Nagara Sutta – The Buddha Describes his awakening to Dependent Origination – From ignorance of The Four Noble Truths confusion, deluded thinking, and stress arise.  P. 165
  • The Noble Search For The Noble Path – The Ariyapariyesana Sutta – Booklet


6:45 To 7:15 am – 30-minute Jhana meditation (Optional) With Matt Branham

7:30  Breakfast – Noble Silence

8:45 to 9:15 – QiGong with Matt Branham

9:30 to 11:00 – Dhamma Talk and Meditation:

  •    Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  •    Dependent Origination – The Paticca-Samuppada Sutta  P. 187

12 noon Lunch – Noble Silence

1:30 to 2:00 – QiGong with Matt Branham

2:15 to 4:00 – Dhamma Talk and Meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • Analysis Of Four Noble Truths – The Sacca-Vibhanga Sutta – Booklet

5:30 Dinner – Noble Silence

7:00 to 9:00 – Dhamma talk and meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • Mega Vibhanga Sutta – Analysis Of The Eightfold Path  – Booklet


6:45 To 7:15 am – 30-minute Jhana meditation (Optional) With Matt Branham

7:30 Breakfast – Noble Silence

8:45 to 9:15 – QiGong with Matt Branham

9:30 to 11:00 – Dhamma Talk and Meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • Becoming Explained – The Loka, Bhava, and Mula Suttas  P. 219
  • Atthakanagara Sutta – The Single Quality For Awakening – Booklet

12 noon Lunch – Noble Silence

1:30 to 2:30 – Qigong with Matt Branham

2:30 – 5:30 – Quiet Time

5:30 Dinner – Noble Silence

7:00 to 8:30 – Dhamma talk and meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • Satipatthana Sutta – Four Foundations Of Mindfulness  P. 329
  • 8:30 Mindful Social – Right Speech In Practice


6:45 To 7:15 am – 30-minute Jhana meditation (Optional) With Matt Branham

7:30 Breakfast – Noble Silence

8:45 to 9:15 – QiGong with Matt Branham

9:30 to 11:00 – Dhamma Talk and meditation:

  • Jhana meditation, Dhamma Talk, Sangha Q&A, and Discussion, with John Haspel
  • Anapanasati Sutta – The Buddha describes skillful and authentic Dhamma practice – Booklet

12 Noon Lunch – Right Speech

1:00 pm – Closing Talk and Sangha Appreciation (Group Hug and Pic)

Prices below include all retreat activities. There are no additional fees. We have engaged in Skillful Effort with the staff at the Won Dhamma center to provide a comfortable and peaceful venue for our retreat while keeping the cost as reasonable as we can.

All rooms are modern, spacious, airy and quiet.

Please register as early as possible to ensure your choice of room and assist with our planning.

Currently available accommodations are on the reservation form.

  • Single Occupancy room includes 3 nights lodging and 9 meals: $740 (3 single rooms available)
  • Double Occupancy room includes3 nights lodging and 9 meals: $560
  • Quad room includes3 nights lodging and 9 meals: $450 (women only this retreat – limited availability)

Becoming Buddha Foundations of Meditation and Mindfulness Retreat Cancellation & Refund Policy is here: Refund Policy

Becoming Buddha Foundations of Meditation and Mindfulness Retreat Registration Form is here: Retreat Registration

Here is a link to the Won Dharma Center’s Web Site:  Won Dharma Center Web Site

Directions to Won Dharma Center is here: Won Dharma Center Directions

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My Dhamma articles and talks are based on the Buddha's teachings  (suttas) as preserved in the Sutta Pitaka, the second book of the Pali Canon. I have relied primarily on Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s excellent and insightful translation of the Pali generously made freely available at his website Dhammatalks.org, as well as the works of Acharya Buddharakkhita, Nyanaponika Thera, John Ireland, Maurice Walsh, Hellmuth Hecker, and Sister Khema, among others, as preserved at Access To Insight.

Also, I have found Bhikkhu Bodhi's translations from Wisdom Publications Pali Canon Anthologies to be most informative and an excellent resource.

I have made edits to the suttas from these sources for further clarity, to modernize language, to minimize repetition, and maintain contextual relevance to Dependent Origination and Four Noble Truths.


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