Shamatha of Mahamudra (calm abiding or concentration)
Shamatha of Mahamudra is the primary practice in this first level of study. Shamatha develops concentration and allows a practitioner to disidentify oneself from the constant stream of discursive thought.
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.
The Shangpa Kagyu Lineage
The Shangpa Kagyu Lineage is unique in that it originated with two awakened Kashmiri women, Sukhasiddhi and Niguma. The profound teachings of these wisdom dakinis are pith, elegant, and penetrate straight to the heart of the matter, making them accessible, relevant, and an efficacious method as we engage in the world today. Studying the lives of the lineage masters increases confidence in the teachings, provides context for the practices learned in the DTP, and provides inspiration as we walk the same path that the lineage masters traversed.
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 awakened 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.
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.
The Four Noble Truths, Study of the Buddha’s Life, Motivation and Intention, Eight Worldly Dharmas, Four Immeasurables, Six Paramitas, Five Aggregates, Five Buddha Families, Eight Consciousnesses, Relative and Ultimate Truths, and more.