At Sukhasiddhi, students are introduced to a broad spectrum of teachings and meditation practices. The Sukhasiddhi Mandala provides a map of this progressive landscape and how one might engage within it.
As one proceeds, one’s understanding gradually deepens. Over time, a student’s personal optimal level will become apparent to both herself and her teacher. This decision is not a judgment or comparison. It is simply a matter of what is most appropriate for the particular practitioner’s inclinations and development.
Although the Mandala is presented in a linear and hierarchical form, spiritual work is not experienced in a linear or hierarchical way, and this is especially true in Vajrayana. In the end, the Mandala is traversed more as a circular spiral than as a straight line. We all circle through all the steps multiple times. For example, one might be learning at both the Dharma Student level and Shangpa Student level simultaneously.
It is also traditional for a student who finds a special connection to one practice, to rely on that practice for as long as it is useful. Many Himalayan people simply perform one practice for their entire lives. This seemingly narrower way (decided upon with one’s teacher) has also been found to be effective in reaching high levels of spiritual realization. At Sukhasiddhi, of primary importance is whether one is moving closer to true nature, experienced over time as a sense of increased happiness, well being, loving kindness and compassion. The commitments at the various levels of practice are to facilitate this unfolding.
As one’s understanding, realization and actualization develops over time, one becomes an active participant in the manifestation of a Vajra Mandala.
As discussed in the Programs section, Sukhasiddhi Foundation offers multi-year programs to take a student through whatever levels they would like to traverse. It is also possible to work more individually with a Sukhasiddhi teacher.
Levels of the Mandala
Entering the Mandala: Seekers: Seekers are those wishing to explore Vajrayana and Mahamudra teachings and practices through study with the Sukhasiddhi’s teachers and the Sukhasiddhi sangha, to ascertain its “fit” for their own spiritual or personal growth. Sukhasiddhi welcomes seekers of all levels; and all may participate in most of our classes, daylongs and retreats (prerequisites may apply for advanced classes).
Level 1: Dharma Student: Should one elect to deepen one’s spiritual practice through progressive study and practice with a Sukhasiddhi teacher, one may step onto the Mandala’s first level of practice, study and commitment: Dharma Student. Or one might be a student of a different Buddhist tradition and come to Sukhasiddhi for specific teachings. Through attending classes and teachings, reading and listening to recordings, Dharma students study and learn the foundational principles and practices of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Level 2: Bodhi Student: To become a Bodhi Student one must feel ready to commit to one to two hours a day engaging with the Shangpa foundational practices (ngöndro). To know whether or not this is right for oneself, one searches within as well as consults with Lama Palden or one of the other lamas (from whom permission is required). While Sukhasiddhi offers a formal two-year study program for students at this level, it is not necessary to be part of this program to be a Bodhi level student.
Level 3: Shangpa Student: The Shangpa Student spiritually and in all ways develops further through continuing to engage in the lineage practices and teachings, and enters into a deeper level of spiritual relationship with Lama Palden.
Level 4: Lineage Student: Lineage students at Sukhasiddhi Foundation have received the empowerments (Tib: wangs), reading transmissions (lungs), and oral instructions (tri), and have practiced the core creation and completion stage practices of the Shangpa lineage.