Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

How do I get to your center? Can I take public transportation?

Please see Our Location page for our address and detailed directions.

Can I use my mobile phone during retreat? Will I have internet access?

We highly encourage you to disconnect from mobile devices during your stay at Vajrapani Institute. However, if you need to stay connected while you are here, you have the following options:

Phones: Depending on your carrier, you may get cell phone reception in different areas of our land. However, because our facilities are shared with other retreaters engaged in contemplation and Private Retreat area is a silent space, we ask that you not talk on your cell phone in or near the Potala Lodge and maintain a quiet voice even if talking inside a retreat cabin. Do not under any circumstances talk outside in the silent area or wander around the land in search of better reception.
A guest phone is available in the Front Office for your use outside of business hours (10am to 6pm). Any calls outside of the 831 area code are considered long distance. Please make a suitable donation to cover such a cost. Any international calls require the use of a calling card which can be purchased in our bookstore. If you need to leave an emergency contact, please give friends, family, or work our Office phone number: 800-531-4001 x 1. We can receive urgent messages for you and respond on your behalf.

Internet access: Our retreat area is a Wi-Fi free zone. If you intend to use your devices for reading and listening to Dharma related materials, please be sure to download those materials onto your devices before you arrive. You are welcome to use your devices for writing or studying while outside. However, we discourage you from using them for communication or gaming in the silent retreat area. Doing so creates a distracting atmosphere that is detrimental to the contemplative one we are trying to create. Headphones should always be worn while outside listening to music, chants, or teachings.
A guest computer with internet access is available for urgent situations outside of business hours (10am to 6pm). You will be instructed on its use during your orientation. Please be prepared not to check email during your stay with us.

If I forget something can staff go to town and pick it up for me?

Our staff will not be available to run personal errands should you forget something important. Vajrapani Institute is 20 minutes away by car from the nearest small town so it’s important to pack carefully and wisely.

Do you have laundry facilities at your center?

No, we do not have laundry facilities at the center. If you are staying for a long retreat, arrangements can be made with the office for laundry to be done for you.

What should I bring with me for a stay at Vajrapani Institute?

Essential Items:

Bedding

  • Those staying in shared or semi-private dorms need to bring a sleeping bag or blankets. (Sheets and pillows are provided)
  • Those staying in private rooms or cabins have all their bedding provided.

 

Flashlight
Mosquito repellent
Towel
Toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
Comfortable walking or hiking shoes
Cozy indoor shoes (no muddy shoes inside the Main Building)
Warm jacket

 

Suggested Items:

Travel alarm clock (or meditation timer)
Books
Journal and pens
Vitamins and medicines

 

You may also want to bring cash, checks, or a credit card with you so that you can purchase items from our bookstore while you’re with us. Items include books, batteries, chocolate, cards, earplugs, and gift items. Additionally, you may wish to leave a donation for the teacher, the staff, or the center.

What kind of electrical devices can I bring with me?

Our electricity is generated by solar panels and hydropower, which are not strong enough to run appliances with heating elements. These appliances are harmful to our power system.
If your appliance is not included in the lists below or if you’re not sure whether it is compatible with our system, just ask us when you book.

 

Acceptable Items:
Laptop Computers
Personal audio players
Cell phone and camera chargers

 

Unacceptable Items:
Hair dryers and curling irons
Electric blankets
Heating pads
Space heaters
Electric kettles
Blenders and juicers
Anything with a heating element or high amp usage

What kind of facilities do you have for disabled or elderly students?

Our mountainous location presents challenges for people with limited mobility. A limited number of spaces are available for group retreat participants who cannot stay in our upstairs dorm accommodations. Please contact our Front Office at 800-531-4001 x 1 for more details regarding our facilities and services.

Can I bring pets on retreat?

No, unfortunately it is not possible to bring any animals to the center.

Where can I stay locally?

If you are commuting for a retreat, below is a list of nearby accommodations. Please note that this list is provided for your convenience and is neither an explicit nor implicit endorsement of any of these businesses.

 

Merrybrook Lodge
Address: 13420 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone:(831) 338-6813

 

The Historic Hartman House
Address: 13025 Pine Street, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone:(831) 431-3933

 

Redwood Resort
Address: 150 Grove St, Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone:(831) 338-3413

 

Quality Inn & Suites Santa Cruz Mountains
Address: 9733 CA-9, Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Phone:(831) 336-2292

 

Jaye’s Timberlane Resort
Address: 8705 Hwy 9, Ben Lomond, CA 95005
Phone:(831) 336-5479

 

Fern River Resort
Address: 5250 Hwy 9, Felton, CA 95018
Phone:(831) 335-4412

Group Retreat FAQ

Can I attend any retreat as a commuter?

In order to minimize distractions during your retreat and in order to get the full experience of a contemplative retreat environment, we now host residential retreats only. Most of our retreats begin early in the morning and end late in the evening and do not have a commuting option. If you are unable to afford the full cost of a residential retreat, please call our Main Office for financial aid.

 

Exceptions may apply to specific events. Please see the listing for each event for more information and then contact the Front Office at 800-531-4001 x1 with any questions.

Can I attend less than the full retreat? Can I get a refund?

You are required to attend the full retreat. This helps to protect the retreat environment for all. Each time a retreater comes or goes, they either bring in outside energy or take away energy developed by the group.

 

Any requests for early departures must be approved by our Community Relations Coordinator (CRC) before the retreat. The retreat price will not be pro-rated for missed nights. If you are finding the retreat physically or emotionally challenging, please talk to our Community Relations Coordinator before your departure. Our staff are prepared to offer support so that you can continue your retreat.

 

Exceptions may apply to specific events. Please see the listing for each event for more information and then contact the Front Office at 800-531-4001 x 1 with any questions.

Can I arrive late to the retreat?

Please arrive during our registration time which is usually 3 – 5 pm. Please check the retreat schedule to confirm the registration time. It is important that you arrive in time to register, settle in, learn your working meditation assignment, and attend the first session where our teachers set the tone, expectations, and guidelines for the duration of the retreat.

 

Our staff members begin their work early on the arrival day of all retreats. You will not be able to register or check-in after 6 pm. If you expect to arrive later than 6 pm due to unforeseen circumstances while traveling, please call the Main Office at 800-531-4001 x 1 as soon as possible so that we know your status and can assist you accordingly.

Can I arrive before the first day of the retreat?

Vajrapani Institute is closed to group retreaters until the arrival time of a retreat. This helps our staff to better prepare the facilities for each new event. There are accommodations nearby if you choose to stay in the area.

How much of a deposit will I need to pay in order to reserve my retreat space?

For group retreats, the minimum deposit is $150. When you register online, you can either select this minimum deposit amount or you can select the entire registration fee.

Is Financial Aid available?

Yes. We never turn away anyone for lack of financial resources and will gladly work out a payment plan with you. If you need even more assistance, we offer several scholarships that should suit the needs of everyone. Please see our Financial Aid page for more information.

What is the last day that I can register for a group retreat?

In order to accommodate any waiting lists we may have and to better organize our retreat logistics, we ask that you register at least 48 hours prior to the start of the retreat.

What is your group retreat cancellation policy?

A 30% non-refundable deposit is required to secure your reservation. Full payment will be automatically processed 15 days before the start of the retreat.  If cancellation becomes necessary more than 14 days prior to the event start date, your deposit minus a $50 cancellation fee will be credited towards another group retreat of your choice. The credit is valid for one year from the cancellation date. 

 

If cancellation becomes necessary less than (or equal to)14 days prior to the event start date after full payment has been processed, you will be issued a 50% refund on the full payment of the retreat. 

 

No refunds will be processed for cancellation notice given on the start date of the retreat or no-shows. 

 

On rare occasions, Vajrapani Institute may need to cancel a retreat due to low registration (with less than 10 people). If this occurs, we will notify you with at least 2 week’s notice before the scheduled start date of the retreat and offer a full refund.

 

If the scheduled instructor cannot lead the retreat due to unforeseen circumstances, Vajrapani Institute will attempt to find a replacement instructor or cancel the retreat. If a replacement instructor is found, you will have the option to attend the retreat or receive a full refund.

How do I get on a waitlist for my preferred accommodation?

If a particular accommodation is no longer available a message will appear encouraging you to contact the Front Office. Please either call 800-531-4001 x 1 or send an e-mail to add your name to a waiting list.

When can I check in for the event? When can I check out?

Group retreat Check-in times are generally from 3 to 5pm on the first day of the retreat. Check the schedule for your particular group retreat to confirm check-in times.

 

Check-out is generally 2:00pm. Again, check your schedule for confirmation.

What kind of food is served?

Our meals are fully vegetarian and nutritionally balanced to offer you a supportive retreat experience. We also offer vegan meals on request.

 

Breakfast includes hot porridge, stewed fruit, granola, boiled eggs, and toast.

 

Lunch, the largest meal of the day, includes a grain, vegetable dish, vegetarian protein, and salad.

 

Dinner is a lite meal with soup, salad, cheese, bread, and gluten-free crackers.

 

We also have hot tea, pour-over coffee, and fresh fruit available at all times.

What if I have a restricted diet or a food allergy?

We can accommodate gluten, dairy, and soy allergies, as well as those on a vegan diet.

 

If you have other acute food allergies, please refer to our two meal options below and contact our Main Office at least one week before your arrival to make the necessary arrangements. Planning ahead helps us provide the best service possible.

 

  • Option 1: Acute Allergy to All 3 – Wheat/Dairy/Soy.We can find alternatives to accommodate your needs. Beans or lentils are a common replacement, along with dairy alternatives.
  • Option 2: Other Acute Allergies.We offer a large bowl of steamed brown rice with a large bowl of mixed steamed veggies. No protein will be offered since most in this category will have various allergies to the vegetarian proteins as well.

Do you maintain a scent-free environment for visitors with chemical sensitivities?

We ask that retreat participants not wear perfume or scented lotions to respect our guests who have chemical sensitivities or allergies. If you have any questions or specific needs in this regard please contact our Front Office at 800-531-4001 x 1

Do you have accommodations for the hard of hearing?

If you have difficulty hearing and worried about hearing the retreat leader, please contact our Media Department (it@vajrapani.org) as soon as possible to request accommodation.

Do you have any gender neutral dorm accommodations?

In order to create a safe and welcoming space a limited number of accommodations are available for group retreat participants who are uncomfortable staying in our binary accommodations. This limited space is available on a first-come first-served basis. Please call the front office for details and requests.

Is it appropriate to offer a donation to the teacher at the end of the retreat?

Yes! To offer a financial donation to a teacher with a pure wish to express gratitude for their kindness in sharing valuable spiritual teachings with you can be a very joyful and positive action. If your heart feels moved to make a donation at the end of your retreat, we encourage you to do so. We always put an envelope out for this purpose on the last day. Checks or cash are both fine.

Private Retreat FAQ

What is the difference between the two types of cabins?

We have 7 cabins located in our silent area along Lama’s Ridge. Six of those are a standard size and have the same amenities. One, known as Most Secret, is more secluded, larger, and has more amenities. There is a minimum stay of 2 days in our standard cabins.

 

Each of our six standard 12’x16’ cabins is equipped with:

  • Single bed
  • Meditation cushions
  • Altar
  • Comfortable reading chair
  • Kitchen counter with gas stove
  • Thermostat-controlled heat
  • Storage closet
  • Outdoor sink
  • Redwood deck

 

“Most Secret” has been named for the extra seclusion it provides. Over the years it has been the cabin of choice for our guests entering long-term meditation retreat. There is a minimum stay of 3 days in our “Most Secret” cabins.

 

“Most Secret” includes all of the amenities of our standard cabins, plus:

  • Elaborate kitchenette area with cupboards
  • Private refrigerator
  • Indoor sink
  • Private shower
  • Private comfortable outhouse (for those who prefer, the shared indoor bathhouse is also available)

When can I check into my cabin? When can I check out?

Check-in is 3 pm to 5 pm.
Check-out is 11 am.

 

Please arrive before 5:00 pm so we may orient you to this blessed land and help you settle in comfortably. The orientation is required of all retreatants—those new to Vajrapani Institute and those who have been here many times. It lasts around 30 minutes.

 

In order to protect your safety, please let us know if you are unable to arrive by 5 pm so we can provide you with a list of hotels/motels close to our center. We will be happy to do the check-in starting at 10:30 am the next morning and offer the appropriate orientation. To ensure your timely arrival to Vajrapani Institute, please see Our Location page.

What kind of food is served?

Our meals are fully vegetarian and nutritionally balanced to offer you a supportive retreat experience.

 

  • Breakfast offerings found in your cabin include granola, quick-cooking oats, and a variety of teas. A communal fridge centrally located to all the cabins contains bread (wheat and wheat-free), milk (dairy and dairy-free), nut butters and jams, boiled eggs, yogurt, and fresh fruit.
  • Lunch and dinner are delivered to you each day in insulated meal bags. Lunch consists of a grain, vegetarian protein, vegetable dish, and salad. A soup for dinner is also included, which you can heat up later in your cabin. Cheese and bread can be found in a communal fridge near the cabins.

When are meals delivered?

Meal bags labeled with your name, are delivered between 12:00 and 12:30 PM at the Bathhouse located near your cabin. We will ring a meal bell to notify you they are delivered. You can heat up your food any time that suits your personal schedule.

What if I have a restricted diet or a food allergy?

We can accommodate gluten, dairy, and soy allergies. If you have other acute food allergies, please refer to our two meal options below.

 

    • Option 1– Acute Allergy to All 3 – Wheat/Dairy/Soy.We can find alternatives to accommodate your needs. Beans or lentils are a common replacement, along with dairy alternatives.
    • Option 2– Other Acute Allergies.We offer a large bowl of steamed brown rice with a large bowl of mixed steamed veggies. No protein will be offered since most in this category will have various allergies to the vegetarian proteins as well.

 

Please contact our Main Office at least one week before your arrival to make the necessary arrangements. Planning ahead helps us provide the best service possible.

 

The ability to cook in the cabins is very limited as they are outfitted for heating pre-cooked meals and water only. Individual cabins do not have their own refrigerators. However, you can supplement your meals to meet your dietary needs by bringing your own snacks. There is a small amount of space in the communal refrigerator for perishable snacks. When storing these, please be sure to clearly label them with your name to avoid confusion. Please keep non-refrigerated snacks in tightly sealed containers to prevent insects from entering the cabins.

What should I bring with me on private retreat?

Vajrapani Institute is 20 minutes away by car from the nearest small town, so it’s important to pack carefully and bring everything you may need. At the same time, we also recommend packing lightly for ease of transport to and from your cabin.

 

Essential Items:

 

  • Flashlight
  • Emergency contacts (doctor’s info and the name of someone we may contact in case of emergency)
  • Towel
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Comfortable walking or hiking shoes
  • Warm jacket

 

Suggested Items:

 

  • Travel alarm clock (or meditation timer)
  • Books
  • Journal and Pens
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Camera

What kind of electrical equipment can I bring?

Our electricity is generated by solar panels, which are not strong enough to run appliances with heating elements. These appliances harm our power system.
If your appliance is not included in the lists below or if you’re not sure whether it is compatible with our system, just ask us when you book your retreat.

 

Acceptable Items:

  • Laptop Computers
  • Personal audio players
  • Cell phone or camera chargers

 

Non-Acceptable Items:

  • Hair dryers
  • Electric blankets
  • Heating pads
  • Space heaters
  • Electric kettles

If I forget something can staff go to town and pick it up for me?

Our staff will not be available to run personal errands should you forget something important.

What if I need to cancel or reschedule my stay in a cabin?

Should you need to cancel or shorten your stay, our refund policy is as follows:

Deposit is 50% of the total cost of your retreat.

With 15 days or more notice, you may cancel all or part of your reservation and receive a refund of 50% or your deposit.

With 14 days notice or less, no refunds or credits are given on your 50% deposit. This helps us to ensure that there are open cabins available to private retreaters at all times of the year. 

Full balance will be processed to your card on file for cancellation notice given on the start date of your retreat or for no-shows. 

What if I need to reschedule the dates of my retreat?

You may reschedule your reservation for a flat fee of $50. Reservations may be rescheduled only once. Rescheduling a second time will be considered a cancellation for which the above policy will apply.

What if I need to leave early after I have already begun my retreat?

No refunds are issued for early departures regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.

Upcoming Retreats

A Practical Guide to True Happiness: Fall Lam Rim Retreat 2019

Elaine Jackson

December 6 - 15, 2019
Have you been curious about Buddhist practice, but don't know where to begin? Have you attended Buddhist teachings, but don’t know how to meditate on the subjects you’ve studied? This class will be based on the “Stages of the Path” (lamrim) tradition of Tibetan Buddhism and will include lectures, guided meditations, discussion periods, and experiential homework assignments. This class will also teach you the fundamentals of Buddhist meditation, and give you the tools you need both to begin a daily meditation practice and to deal with problems and difficulties once you have started to meditate.

New Year’s Vajrasattva Purification Retreat

Elaine Jackson

December 28, 2019 - January 1, 2020
Most of us operate from profound ignorance, a solid mis-knowing. This ignorance – that happiness and unhappiness come from somewhere “out there” – blocks us from seeing our clear light mind. The Vajrasattva practice purifies our mind from grasping so strongly onto the mistaken view. Utilizing time-tested visualization and meditation, deluded states – pain, sorrow, hatred, pride, jealousy, doubt – lose their power. Our mind is purified. We’ll explore why this powerful Vajrasattva practice actually works, and how we can use it in our daily life to grow our happiness.

Our Blog

  • by Heidi Oehler, Vajrapani Institute’s Executive Director   It’s time to take a deep exhale. Time to breathe and be. How often do you get caught up in the doing? The going? The ‘making’ things happen? Sensing into this energy, can you feel the quality......

Vajrapani Institute is affiliated with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition www.FPMT.org