To become a Bodhi Student one must feel ready to commit one to two hours a day engaging with the Shangpa foundational practices (ngöndro). In addition, practitioners continue with in-depth study of Vajrayana philosophy and principles.
To know whether or not the Bodhi Level 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 program for students at this level, it is not necessary to be part of this program to be a Bodhi Student.
Foundational Practices: Ngöndro
The first step in the complete journey to enlightenment offered by Vajrayana is the Ngöndro or Foundational Practices (comprised of four Ordinary Foundations, four Extraordinary Foundations and four Special Foundations). Through these foundational practices, a student undergoes a process of purification and transformation that prepares her for understanding and practicing Mahamudra and further Vajrayana meditations and practices.
The Four Ordinary Foundations
The four thoughts that turn the mind to dharma are: 1) the preciousness of the rare human birth that allows us to study and practice dharma 2) the impermanence of life and inevitability of death 3) karmic causes and results of which we are at the mercy till full liberation and 4) the shortcomings of samsara, which is filled with suffering. Through contemplation, the Bodhi Student deepens and personalizes his or her understanding of these profound concepts.
The Four Extraordinary Foundations
Traditionally a student completes 100,000 each of the four Extraordinary Preliminaries or ngöndro – 1) taking refuge + generating bodhicitta 2) Vajrasattva practice 3) mandala offerings and 4) guru yoga practice. However, the decision of how many to complete and how long to do each practice is determined in consultation with the teacher.
The practice purifies negative habitual patterns, karma and helps transform emotional afflictions, all of which present obstacles to the path. Finally, during guru yoga, we request and pray for the blessings and transmission of primordial wisdom from the guru and lineage masters. These practices, when done with sincerity, powerfully connect us with the awakened lineage.
The Four Special Foundations
The causal condition, empowering condition, object condition and proximate condition make up the four Special Foundations that further us on the path.
The causal condition is the development of a genuine sense of revulsion for samsara. The empowering condition is the development of devotion, trust and confidence in the lineage and the guru. The object condition (referring to various objects of Mahamudra meditation) begins with ground Mahamudra-the inseparability of samsara and nirvana and the inseparability of the three kayas, which exist in this very nature of mind (the very nature of reality). The proximate condition means instantly entering Mahamudra meditation, going beyond labeling, beyond discursive thought, beyond meditation, meditator and the act of meditation.
Vipashyana of Mahamudra: At this stage, one begins to engage in the Vipashyana of Mahamudra, a series of analytical meditations that look directly at the nature of mind, cutting through to the root or basis of reality to discover the true nature or suchness of mind.
Yidam Practices: Bodhi Students learn the practices of Medicine Buddha (after receiving the empowerment). Students may also learn the Monlam Choga (the extended practice of Niguma’s tönglen), Amitabham and White Tara. Some students may choose to receive the empowerment, learn and do Chagdrukpa (Six-Arm Mahakala) meditation practice.
Songs of Realizations, Aspiration Prayers: The fully-realized Buddhist masters have left us a priceless treasure in their aspiration prayers (heart prayers for realization and help on the path), and songs of realization, which poetically express their awakened experience and transmit the understanding and blessings to us. Bodhi Students integrate these prayers and songs by reciting, studying and singing them in class and as a part of their personal practice.
To develop wisdom, compassion, skillful means and flexibility of mind, the Bodhi student studies a wide range of Buddhist philosophies and practices.
- Philosophical Schools
- Stages of Meditation on Emptiness
- Sun of Wisdom (Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche’s book on Nagarjuna)
- Buddha Nature
- Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being
- Perfect and Complete Purity
- Ground, Path and Fruition
- Mahamudra: Shamatha and Vipashyana; Formal pointing out instructions
- Mahamudra Shamatha and Vipashyana as Inseparable with Vajrayana
- Creation and Completion Stages of Practice
- Turning Adversity to the Path
- Working with Emotions
- Deepening in Yidam practice
- Vajra Mandala
- Tsog (Ganachakra: Sanskrit; Feast Offering: English)
- Bardo Teachings
- Extraordinary Vipashyana and Mahamudra from the Shangpa tradition
- Tantric Vows
- Learning to create one’s own meditation discipline in daily life
- The student teacher relationship
Specific to the Bodhi Student:
- Lifetime dedication to one’s Samaya commitments
- Studying and committing to root Tantric Vows
- Participating in the Sukhasiddhi annual residential retreat
- Developing a Spiritual Mentor relationship with Lama Palden
- Meeting individually with Lama Palden once a year
- Taking the appropriate teachings and engaging in daily meditation practice
- Maintaining Refuge and Bodhisattva Vows
- Developing the Paramitas:
- ethics and manners
- joyful effort or diligence
- meditative concentration
- discriminating awareness born from wisdom
Membership and Service Commitments:
- Engaging in active service with Sukhasiddhi Foundation (Long distance students also can assist)
- Continuing to maintain active membership in Sukhasiddhi Foundation
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