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.

Dharma Students study and learn the principles, practices, and philosophies foundational to Vajrayana Buddhism. Students who complete the program may choose to continue their studies in the advanced multi-year programs offered through Sukhasiddhi.

BEGINNING IN OCTOBER, 2016, Sukhasiddhi will be offering a new 5-month Dharma Training Program specifically for those who are interested in exploring and deepening dharma practice and want to be part of a spiritual community of like-minded individuals. This new program will introduce a variety of Buddhist teachings and practices, and will support each person to choose and practice an authentic path in the midst of work and family commitments.

See more information about the Program here >>

Dharma Student Practices

To deepen their relationship with the teachings, practices and primary Sukhasiddhi teachers, Dharma Students participate in and learn the following practices through class attendance and individual practice:

level1_dharmaShamatha of Mahamudra (calm abiding or concentration)
At the First Level, Shamatha of Mahamudra is the primary practice. Shamatha develops concentration and allows a practitioner to disidentify herself from her constant stream of discursive thought. One commits to at least 20 minutes of Shamatha meditation a day. One can receive instruction during class or by individual appointment with a Sukhasiddhi Practice Mentor or Teacher.

Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows
The basis of practice in Vajrayana Buddhism is the taking and upholding of refuge and bodhisattva vows. Within the Mahayana, of which the Vajrayana is a part, one takes refuge from now until full and complete awakening in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dharma and Noble Sangha. In addition, in Vajrayana one also takes refuge in one’s Lama and lineage, the Yidams, Dakinis and Protectors. It is understood that these objects of refuge support, guide and reflect our true nature to us, providing a bridge to our true nature and inner wisdom, which in actuality we have never been separate from but don’t usually recognize.

In taking and maintaining the Bodhisattva vow we acknowledge our inseparability with all beings. We extend our loving kindness, compassion and efforts on their behalf as well as our own. We vow to fully awaken in order to liberate all sentient beings. Shantideva said that our bodhisattva vow is constantly being compromised by our habitual patterns of self-centeredness and ignorance. As aspiring bodhisattvas we continually open to and engage in the bodhisattva view and training.

Yidam Practice: Tara and Chenresig
At Sukhasiddhi, the first yidam meditation practices are usually of Tara and/or Chenresig, a female and a male embodiment of compassion, respectively. Students may learn the practices in either or both Tibetan and English and receive the empowerments and teachings. These practices further develop shamatha (calm abiding), vipashyana (insight), and bodhicitta (awakened mind that inherently benefits others), and they provide an entry into the profound blessing and technology of Vajrayana.

Posture, Breathing
Correct posture is critical to maximizing the effectiveness of meditation. Breathing practices consciously unite body and mind. They facilitate the deepening of calm abiding and realization. On the level of the subtle body, they help to straighten the channels (Sanskrit: nadi; Tibetan: tsa) and allow the prana (energy or wind principle, Sanskrit: prana; Tibetan: lung) to flow properly.  Posture and simple breathing instructions are provided at the start of most meditations. Further breathing techniques are taught on the level of Shangpa student in combination with advanced yidam and six yogas meditations.

Lujong, a form of Tibetan yoga, straightens the subtle channels, promotes healthy circulation of prana, and increases vitality, strength and body/mind flexibility. This work with the subtle or vajra body facilitates realization of nondual true nature. Lujong instructions must be received from an authorized teacher.

Lojong, Mind Training
Lojong (mind training) turns the mind away from ordinary ways of reacting and towards the enlightened or bodhisattva way. Students learn and incorporate into practice and daily life the Seven Point mind training, 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva, Shantideva’s teachings on A Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, and the Paramitas (perfections).

Tonglen (Taking and Sending) is the primary bodhisattva meditation practice on the Vajrayana path. One develops compassion for the suffering of oneself and others. The suffering is liberated into awakened love, awakened mind, and healing energy. In the Shangpa lineage there is an extraordinary form of Tonglen practice, which serves to transform the way we experience and interact with our fellow sentient beings and greatly enhances our capacity to experience our buddha nature.

Cultivating Balance and Health
Sukhasiddhi emphasizes the value of living a balanced life that includes physical exercise, psychological well-being, healthy and satisfying relationships, meaningful work, service and spiritual development.

Dharma Student Study Topics

Introduction to the Three Vehicles; Shravakayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana
The yana (vehicle) system is the primary way the teachings are organized in Tibetan Buddhism. Described like a house: Shravakayana is the foundation; Mahayana is the first floor and Vajrayana, the top story. Each level is dependent on the teachings, ethics, and meditation practices of the previous levels.

Fundamental Shravakayana Topics
Shravakayana focuses on the teachings and practices that develop individual understanding, integrity and discipline. Study and practice topics include:

  • Four Noble Truths
  • Motivation and Intention
  • Refuge, Bodhicitta, Dedication
  • Karma, Cause & Effect
  • Twelve Links of Dependent Origination
  • Eight Worldly Dharmas
  • Morality & Ethics: Five Lay Precepts; Ten Wholesome Acts
  • Eight Consciousnesses
  • Five Skandhas
  • Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind to Dharma
  • Study of Buddha’s Life: Twelve Acts
  • Nine Stages of Shamatha
  • Three Realms (Form, Formless, Desire)

Fundamental Mahayana Topics
Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, focuses on developing loving kindness, compassion and understanding emptiness. Study topics include:

  • Bodhicitta
  • Four Immeasurables
  • Six Paramitas and Antidotes
  • Lojong: Seven Point Mind Training
  • 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva
  • Bodhisattva Vow Study
  • Heart Sutra
  • Shunyata (Emptiness)
  • Two Truths: Relative and Absolute
  • Tonglen, in relation to the three spheres of emptiness

Fundamental Vajrayana Topics
Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, is a path of transformation. All elements of one’s life are liberated into their corresponding wisdom aspect. Vajrayana takes the fruit of the path, i.e. full awakening, as the path. Study topics include:

  • Mahamudra Shamatha
  • Fundamentals of Yidam practice
  • Teacher Student relationship
  • Three Kayas
  • Death & Dying
  • Apparent and Genuine Reality
  • Five Buddha Families
  • Eight Consciousnesses
Commitments at the Dharma Student Level
  • Taking the appropriate teachings and engaging in daily meditation practice
  • Maintaining Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows
  • Developing the Paramitas:
    1. generosity
    2. ethics and manners
    3. patience
    4. joyful effort or diligence
    5. meditative concentration
    6. discriminating awareness born from wisdom

Membership and Service Commitments:

  • Dharma Students maintain membership in Sukhasiddhi Foundation, paying dues regularly at their personal level of financial comfort.
  • Dharma students are asked to serve at Sukhasiddhi events and/or periodically in ongoing administrative capacities. Generally, we feel that it is best for people to participate at least for one year at Sukhasiddhi before we ask them to take on an administrative responsibility.
Dharma Student Reading List


Mahayana & Vajrayana

Bokar Rinpoche, Taking the Bodhisattva Vow
Tara, the Divine Feminine
Chenrezig, Lord of Love: Principles and Methods of Deity Meditation
Chodron, Pema, No Time to Lose, A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva
Start Where You Are
Dalai Lama: A Flash of Lightening in the Dark of Night: A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life
Hixon, Lex., Mother of the Buddhas: Meditation on the Prajnaparamita Sutra
Kalu Rinpoche, Gently Whispered
Luminous Mind
Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, The Heart is Noble: Changing the World from the Inside Out
Kongtrul, Jamgon, The Great Path of Awakening
Mattis-Namgyal, Elizabeth, The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom
Ponlop, Dzogchen, Kongtrul, Jamgon., trans. Dewar, Tyler., Trainings in Compassion: Manuals on the Meditation of Avalokiteshvara
Ray, Reginald, Indestructible Truth: The Living Spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism
Rockwell, Irini, The Five Wisdom Energies
Shantideva, Trans: Padmakara. The Way of the Bodhisattva (ed: There are many good translations of this text)
Tai Situ Rinpoche., Praises & Prostrations to the Twenty-one Taras
Ground, Path and Fruition
Thrangu Rinpoche., A Guide to Shamatha Meditation.
A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life of Shantideva
Everyday Consciousness and Primordial Awareness
Jewel Ornament of Liberation
The Three Vehicles of Buddhist Path
Trungpa, Chogyam., Training the Mind: And Cultivating Loving Kindness
Tulku, Ringu., Daring Steps Toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Buddhism
Wallace, B. Alan, The Attention Revolution: Unlocking the Power of the Focused Mind
The Four Immeasurables: Practices to Open the Heart


Rangdrol, Tsele Natsok, Lamp of Mahamudra: The Immaculate Lamp That Perfectly and Fully Illuminates the Meaning of Mahamudra, The Essence of All Phenomena


Tsok Nyi Rinpoche, Carefree Dignity
Tulku, Urgyen, Rainbow Painting


Kalu Rinpoche, Excellent Buddhism: An Exemplary Life
Mukpo, Diana, Dragon Thunder
Khortsa, Tsering Namgyal, His Holiness the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje
Martin, Michelle, Music in the Sky: The Life, Art and Teachings of the 17th Karmapa
Lhalungpa, Lobsang P, The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan