A. Retreat Rules & Regulations
It is important before coming here that you do not have pressing distractions outside upon yourself, resolve these before booking. This is a place to go inside yourself with others who are here. To work on yourself ONLY. Everyone who comes here needs to contribute to the running of the ashram by helping out.
Rules & Regulations
The foundation of the UOCA Ascension practice is a mixture of Yoga and Buddhism, even Christian Gnosis. Piety or Dharma or Sila: moral conduct provides a basis for the development of Samadhi or enlightenment by meditation : concentration of mind; and the purification of the mental process is achieved through Moksha or Panna or Gnosis: the wisdom of insight. UOCA considers enlightenment of the self in itself a false goal, but instead the goal is collective ascension of the planet. This puts UOCA most in line with Mahayana Buddhism, though it is not that and incorporates the best from all religions as UOCA does not believe any human can become perfectly enlightened on Earth. The Christian concept of humility by grace not works to attain divine truth and unity with Divine Consciousness is part of the UOCA system. Though the emptiness of dependent arising and null state of consciousness in Buddhism or anatma (non-self) in Yoga without need of a God persona nor a divine controlling being again aligns UOCA’s spiritual religion with Buddhism rather than Western Monotheism. See www.uocah.blogspot.com for more detailed information on the Ascension path.
The precepts are based on Sila and the Niyamas and Yamas of Patanjali and Christ’s teachings.
All those who attend retreats must undertake to observe the following five precepts for the duration of the retreat :
1. To abstain from killing or eating any living creature
2. To abstain from stealing or taking anything not offered
3. To abstain from sexual activity unless of a spiritual nature connected with a specific retreat
4. To abstain from telling lies or negative thinking
5. To abstain from all intoxicants, drugs and cigarettes.
6. To abstain from gross, sexually abusive or violent entertainment and bodily decorations
There are an additional two precepts that experienced students may like to observe:
7. To abstain from taking food after lunch
8. To abstain from using soft beds or chairs.
Experienced students should try to only take herb tea or a fruit drink at the evening break, whereas new students may take tea and some fruit or a light meal depending on their health and the retreat. Food in the evening disturbs meditative sleep. Posture and spine sitting in chairs is avoided as are soft mattresses.
a) General Behaviour and Yogic silence during meditation
The practice of Yogic Silence during meditation helps you to gain more mindfulness and mind control. This enables you to progress in meditation. Therefore, you should keep silence during the specific meditation class times on the retreat: talking to other meditators is not allowed then. However you should act as if they were meditating at all times on the retreat and concentrate on their own cultivation of mindfulness in all actions. During other times you should be quiet and respectful to others and keep conversation to a minimum that is relevant to the retreat. Avoid discussing your problems emotional or otherwise with others unless it is in a specific session or class directed to that. It distracts them and will confuse you. Should any problems arise during the practice you can talk to assistant teachers or teachers.
Practising yoga is encouraged in private personal time anywhere in the ashram as long as others are not using the space. Classes are compulsory to attend unless due to injury. Be mindful of respecting others and not showing off or exposing yourself provocatively. Asanas are not just to look better or get fit, but to spiritually prepare for meditation.
c) Bowing down
Although this is a yoga ashram, bowing down three times to the Divine Intelligence or Buddhi in Sanskrit Yoga or Buddha image in Pali Buddhism within all of us is a normal and frequent practice in UOCA. We bow down three times to pay respect to the Buddha (Wisdom), Dhamma (Truth) and Sangha (Virtues). You can join in.
In spiritual development, acceptance of teachers and teachings (Saddha) is the very first step to achievement. However, you are not expected to practice bowing down on the floor during the retreat. You may simply fold your hands in prayer posture and bow your head, as a gesture of respect to the practices.
d) Sexual behaviour and Couples
It is important that people transcend their sexual drives during the retreat. This allows the opening of the higher heart energy, liberation and bliss to develop without fear, competitive behaviour, imposing on others sexually, etc. Celibacy is encouraged though not enforced. It is important to act with love in all your actions and kindness and compassion. Couples need to be discreet and act in a sensitive compassionate manner not flaunting their relationship.
e) Physical contact
This must always be with the other person’s clear permission. This may be part of a retreat process to engage in physical contact and this agreement gives your consent to such contact. In certain specified retreats such as Vipassana it is important that there should be no physical contact, between persons of the same or opposite sex for the entire retreat unless a staff member directs otherwise as part of the retreat process or gives permission for retreat students to do so. This is not a requirement for general or private retreats or visits to the ashram BUT you must act respectfully and with clear permission if you touch another and not do so to distract others on the retreat.
f) Religious objects, crystals, charms, rosaries, musical instruments etc.
People who bring such items should use them privately and not interfere with the quietness of the retreat.
g) Intoxicants, cigarettes and drugs
The retreat is strictly a smoke-free zone, as well as an alcohol and drug abuse free zone. No drugs, alcohol, cigarettes or other intoxicants should be brought to the site: this applies to tranquilizers, sleeping pills, and all other sedatives. Those taking medication on a doctor’s prescription should notify the staff when applying for the retreat.
The kitchen is out-of-bounds to all students unless arranged in advance or part of the nutrition classes. This is to ensure the productivity, efficiency, hygiene, promptness and punctuality of staff and students in the preparation of food and all meals. Should you require entering the kitchen even with a good heart to help, please ask UOCA staff before doing so. However students will be required to help prepare meals unless told otherwise.
One will find more progress in one’s own cultivation when living simply. Staff will supervise students in preparing all raw living vegetarian meals. All food is prepared with loving-kindness and strict hygiene levels. Students are ensured a plentiful and healthy diet, to promote peace of mind. However, if any student has allergies due to ill health, please inform staff in advance or at the time of application. Food must only be eaten during meal times. Do not bring food to the retreat for private consumption. This will damage the process. Hand in all private food on arrival and you will be asked to do so.
After eating, students must bring all dishes, cutlery, cups or anything to the dishwashing area. Students MUST wash your own plates, cutlery, cups, and teaspoons at the rear left sink located outside the kitchen. Please exercise mindfulness in queuing and washing your dishes. No cups, teaspoons, plates, cutlery, tissue, morsels of any kind are to be left lying around the grounds or any areas in the monastery. All food scraps are to be placed in the bins provided. If unsure, just ask the staff or retreat volunteer, please do not assume things.
j) Offering of Food to the Divine
Food from meals will be prayed for in a short silent prayer to the Divine Being in us all before each meal.
k) Sleeping Time
Lights out is 10:00 pm but generally 8.00 pm is quiet time. Students are encouraged to sleep earlv so as to have enough rest for the next day. No activities are to be conducted by any student after 10:00 pm. 5.00 am is time for getting up.
Dress should be simple, flexible, modest, and comfortable; otherwise there are no particular rules in relation to clothing but consult with the ashram manager first. In CERTAIN SPECIFIED retreats are naturist so clothing is not worn - but this is not the norm so enquire if interested. In CERTAIN SPECIFIED retreats it may not be appropriate to wear transparent, revealing, tight or otherwise striking clothing (e.g. shorts, short skirts, singlets or skimpy tops) – please check your retreat guidelines or check with ashram manager. Be prepared for cool evenings even in summer and hot tropical days. Shoes are not to be worn in the ashram and feet must be kept clean on entering.
Also bring clothing and boots where you can work outside.
m) Fire & Security
This is a very high bushfire risk area in summer due to the forest and heat. No fire of any kind is permitted to be started within and throughout the area especially campfires except candles for light or incense. This is to ensure your safety and the safety of others.
Please place a towel on your yoga mat and wipe down the yoga mat after you have used it.
Cleaning the ashram bedrooms, lounge, studio, verandas, shower and toilet areas is the responsibility of everyone. You are also helping the many friends and students that may come and benefit from this facility after you. Students must live and work in communal rooms, so it is essential that they wash regularly and keep their clothes clean.
As there is no laundry service, students will have to wash their own clothes or ask permission to use the washing machine and only use if full loads. Showering and laundry may be done only in the break periods and not during meditation hours. It is important to clean yourself after working in the garden – wash hands and change clothes, shower if very dirty and necessary only.
ELECTRICITY is solar and a small system so switch off lights and use the minimum electricity. Hot water is solar too, so keep showers to 3 minutes and only have hot baths if it is a sunny day and consult first if there is sufficient water and hot water to do so. On cloudy days restrict hot water usage further, don’t run hot taps and also reduce electricity further. Don’t use electric heaters or blankets. The water pump is also electric so our water depends on solar battery power.
WATER is limited. This is a dry area of a dry continent. There is limited rain tank water and dam water. Do not run taps. Showers 3 minutes. No bath without permission. Limit clothes washing to necessities. Use a basin in the sink to wash dishes.
Bring your own toiletries that are organic products and do not use other peoples. Keep them in your room or the guest shelf in the bathroom only if there is room. Minimise your use of toilet paper by using the jug in the bathroom to wash yourself Indian style with water. Minimise paper use by using the jug to wash yourself in the toilets, then wipe off with a small amount of paper. Half flush toilet or use garden for urinating on a fruit tree (they need it) or use the compost toilet. Check if pooh has flushed down the toilets and use bucket if necessary in laundry to flush extra water. Wipe the toilet area clean after use with the sponges, mop there or in the laundry. Leave the bathrooms clean before you go.
o) Outside contact
Students must remain on the meditation site for the entire retreat. You are not allowed to leave the retreat at your own discretion. This is to ensure your own safety and well being in the event of emergency. You may leave only with the specific consent of the teacher or it is part of a retreat activity. No outside contact is allowed before the end of the retreat, including internet, letters, phone calls and contact with visitors. In the event of an emergency, a friend or relative may contact the management.
p) Mobile phones & other Communication tools
Please switch off all your mobile, communication tools during the duration of the retreat and hand in all mobiles, computers, tablets, games, ipods, etc and hand them in for safekeeping at the office. This is to minimize distraction, disturbance and also your mindfulness. Internet is available in emergencies only as are phones. Limited use of internet and phones is permitted in private or casual retreats.
Satsang times are for music and people are encouraged to bring instruments for this. The playing of musical instruments, radios, computer games etc. is not permitted during the rest of the retreat unless staff say otherwise.
r) Serious mental disorders / drug addiction / psychiatric disorders
This is not the place to cure people with psychiatric disorders or drug addiction. However, these people are welcome to attend special courses designed by experienced teachers or do a private retreat where this is catered for.
s) Dogs and cats or other pets
No pets are allowed to stay except those belonging to the centre. This is because we have much native wildlife around the place, including wallabies, wombats and birds. To keep the place quiet and safe for these wild creatures, please don’t bring your pets.
UOCA is not responsible for any health problem, sickness, allergies, injury (internal or external) or death that may occur from any program that we offer or during the duration of your stay or visit including any injury arising from any adventure sport, yoga, diet, or meditation practice. The teachers are not representing themselves as qualified in anything but UOCA's system. Therefore, should any uneventful circumstances arise within the retreat and its vicinity or on activities organised by UOCA or its affiliates, UOCA is not and shall not be made responsible or liable in thought, action, words and writing or even legal proceedings/ actions. You are solely responsible for yourself. UOCA reserves the right to discharge any person/s found unruly or disobeying any rules. Signing or putting your name on this document binds you to this agreement and disclaimer.
In the event of any harm or injury occurring during the retreat you are obliged to inform staff immediately and desist from participating in further activities until the teacher has assessed you. You may be obliged to leave the retreat or to see a doctor by the teacher and you must agree to do this at your own expense. You may be reimbursed pro rata your costs of being here at our discretion.
The cost of the retreat is by donation. People with special circumstances can consult staff about paying less, but must have the teacher's approval to do so. People are encouraged to be generous and give with a good heart above the amount recommended as this is simply the minimum to pay for the retreat expenses. Volunteer work for those unable to do this is recommended. Your donation should reflect your income and assets and what you have received. It is your opportunity to thank those who have taught and provided for you with love. It should neither be excessive nor mean, and should not put you in financial difficulties. Please contact the teacher if you have concerns over this before the course. The website booking fee donation must be paid prior to the course and is not refundable. A further donation is strongly suggested to be made at the end of the course and a recommended amount can be specified according to an income scale if you are uncertain what to give. No donations will be refunded even if a student leaves the course or is directed to leave for whatever reason unless at the absolute discretion of UOCA a pro rata amount may be returned if there is no fault by the student and unforeseen circumstances.
If you are staying for longer periods not part of a retreat then it is suggested that you make arrangement with the ashram manager as to an amount you wish to donate per week and pay that in advance. Volunteer workers may have to make a contribution depending on what has been negotiated with them and their financial circumstances.
Once you have made a booking you are under the ethical constraints of UOCA's Sila or moral conduct. Therefore you must act honestly. You must have a firm intention of attending if you make a booking and if due to unforeseen circumstances you have to cancel you must contact UOCA immediately. Your full donation should be made of the recommended amount when you book and will not be refunded if cancellation unless there are special circumstances and this is notified 7 days prior to the retreat start date. We wish to operate by donation but it depends on others decency and sincerity. Due to past problems in this respect a 100% amount of the recommended booking fee donation is requested in advance unless there are certain special circumstances which need to be approved by the teacher. This can be paid by bank cheque or Paypal by credit card, or by a Bank Account transfer. Details will be provided of how to pay if necessary. Failure to make payment will cancel that booking and the person may not be welcome to reapply unless they have a valid excuse
x) Karma Yoga
Generally 1-2 hours helping out at the ashram is required a day and allows us to keep the costs down unless you are doing Helping Out backpacker work exchange in which case hours are 6 a day. If you stay longer than a week then you get off one day a week. This can be all sorts of different chores including cleaning, (helping with food preparation is not included in these hours as that is part of your nutrition classes nor is tidying up/cleaning the ashram area), gardening, maintenance. Work exchange may be doing path clearing, tree removal, renovation, building work and more strenuous labour. You are encouraged to do more than these hours as this will better connect you with the process here. Connecting with nature may be a part of some retreats and doing meditation work in the garden may be part of that. Private or casual retreats requires gardening activities to help maintain the ashram. If this poses a problem please contact us about this prior to booking. This activity is to benefit you as well as the ashram and it is not necessarily the quantity of what is done but the quality and meditational attitude in which it is done to bring peace and love to the ashram Buddha Field. EXEMPT: Some private or group retreats do not require helping out and an additional fee is paid by the guest. The private ‘relax indulge’ retreat is exempt from Karma Yoga work for example.
xi) Breaking the Rules
If you break a serious rule or behave abusively you will be asked to leave immediately, and must do so or the police may be called to help you leave. Continually breaking minor rules and you will also be asked to leave after one warning and must do so that day. There will be no refunds. If asked to leave you must either get a taxi - $200 to Grafton, hitch out, or take your own vehicle. If you decide to leave for your own reasons or are asked to leave for any reason at all including that which is not your fault, you may be given a lift to Grafton but there is no obligation on us to do so and you may be charged $70 for the lift. You may at our discretion receive a pro rata refund for your stay.
I acknowledge that I have read, understood the rules and regulations set down and agree to undertake and abide by them by having signed this application form.