The Rubin is transforming. Read important updates from our Executive Director.

Dark Retreats

Dr. Nida Chenagtsang and Prof. Robert A.F. Thurman

Friday, April 14, 2023
7:00 PM–8:45 PM

Please note that Laurie Anderson is no longer able to make this event. Prof. Robert A.F. Thurman will join Dr. Nida Chenagtsang in her place.

Can light deprivation lead us to the light?

The Tibetan Buddhist esoteric practice of a dark retreat, in which practitioners remove all light stimuli for 49 days, has long been shrouded in secrecy. The practice is a simulation of the bardo, the transitional consciousness state at the time of dying. Esteemed Tibetan medical practitioner and teacher Dr. Nida Chenagtsang has become an advocate for selectively bringing this practice to the fore as part of his healing practice. In this exploratory conversation he will guide Prof. A.F. Thurman and the audience through the process of inner exploration.

The talk will be preceded by a 6:15 PM guided tour of the tantric Lukhang Murals on the 2nd floor, which provide visual context for the discussion through images of practitioners preparing for dark retreat.

Dark Retreat Workshops are being offered on April 22 and May 6 in connection to this talk led by Dr. Nida’s student and former Chaplain to Rikers Corrections Facility Justin von Bujdoss.

About the Speakers

Dr. Nida Chenagtsang

Dr. Nida Chenagtsang, founder of the Sowa Rigpa Institute: School of Traditional Tibetan Medicine, is a traditional Tibetan physician and international teacher of Tibetan Medicine (Sowa Rigpa), Buddhism, and yogic practices. Born in Amdo, in North Eastern Tibet, Dr. Nida completed his medical studies in Lhasa, while training in all lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism, especially in the Longchen Nyingthig, Dudjom Tersar, and the Yuthok Nyingthig, the unique spiritual tradition of Tibetan Medicine. His extensive research and revival of ancient Tibetan healing methods has gained him high acclaim in the East and West. In addition to his work as a physician, he trains students in Sowa Rigpa and the Yuthok Nyingthig tradition in over 40 countries around the world.

Robert A.F. Thurman is the Jey Tsong Khapa Professor Emeritus of Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University and President of the Tibet House U.S./Menla Retreat & Spa. He is the author of many books on Tibet, Buddhism, art, politics, and culture, including The Central Philosophy of Tibet, Circling the Sacred Mountain, Essential Tibetan Buddhism, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead. With Marilyn Rhie he was the author of Worlds of Transformation: Tibetan Art of Wisdom and Compassion, highlighting works from the original Rubin collection. He also writes popular books ““ most recently the 300 page graphic novel, Man of Peace: the Illustrated Life Story of the Dalai Lama of Tibet.

He lectures all over the world in the “public intellectual” tradition, with special concern for ethics and human rights in general, and the fate of the endangered Tibetan culture and people in particular. His main academic interest is in the Indo-Tibetan philosophical, scientific, and psychological traditions and their history. “˜On Behalf of Nature’ was the topic of conversation with Meredith Monk when he was last on stage at the Rubin in 2018. Other appearances have included the Red Book Dialogue series in 2009, and with Peter Sellars on the Vimalakirti Sutra in 2011.

Image credit:
Five Cosmogenic Elements; Text and Illuminations of the Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities of the Intermediate State (Bardo); Tibet; ca. 15th century; Pigments on cloth; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; F1998.16.5.2 (HAR 68878)

Tickets: $35.00

Member Tickets: $28.00

A ticket grants attendees access to a discussion in the theater and pre-program tour on the 2nd floor.