Foundational Vajrayana Buddhism
Dharma Training Program 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 2020, Sukhasiddhi will be offering a new cycle of the 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. Below are the details of the program.
Dharma Training Program (DTP) Overview
The aim of the Dharma Training program is to present authentic teachings and practices in a way that allows one to experience simultaneously the teachings’ wisdom and their relevance as one engages in the various commitments of daily life. The Dharma Training Program is designed to optimize a deep dive into this path while allowing the flexibility needed to tend to one’s everyday commitments.
To facilitate this, the DTP curriculum will be delivered in 10-week modules three to four times a year. Each module consists of a 6-week Sukhasiddhi Sunday Series, 3 monthly dharma practice sessions to help integrate the dharma teachings into daily life, 1 one-on-one meeting with a Sukhasiddhi teacher, and 1 daylong or online meeting.
The heart of each module will be the 6-week Sukhasiddhi Sunday series that Lama Döndrup will be leading. In the Sukhasiddhi Sunday series, participants will learn a specific meditation practice and will receive teachings that are a part of the DTP curriculum. These topics will be further discussed in 3 monthly dharma practice discussion sessions with Lama Pat that specifically are geared towards integrating these teachings and practices into our daily life so that one comes into a lived understanding of the teachings. DTP participants will also have the opportunity for individual guidance in a one-on-one interview. Additional daylongs or online meetings will provide the opportunity to receive teachings on other curriculum topics and/or will provide another opportunity to check-in about one’s practice and study.
Program participants will be given a checklist of the DTP Curriculum requirements when they enter the program, which can be met by attending the activities described above. Completion of the Dharma Training Program takes place when all the curriculum requirements have been fulfilled. At that time, one can one can apply for participation in the Bodhi Program, (the next level of study at Sukhasiddhi) or one can simply continue to attend Sukhasiddhi offerings as desired.
Dharma Training Program Benefits
This program offers its participants:
- Study and practice within a supportive cohort
- Experiential understanding of the fundamental teachings of the Buddha from a viewpoint of the Vajrayana tradition
- Instruction in silent meditation practice (calm abiding) as well as an introduction to Green Tara and Chenrezig meditation
- Individual guidance in one’s personal practice and study from a qualified Lama
- Preparation to move into the Bodhi Program to begin ngöndro practice (the four preliminary practices) and for further study
Dharma Training Program Tuition
The cost of the Dharma Training Program is $375/quarter. This cost includes:
- The Sukhasiddhi Sundays Series which can be attended in person, by live streaming or by listing to the recordings
- Three monthly, two-hour dharma practice sessions to help integrate the dharma teachings into daily life
- One daylong per quarter
- Online course offerings on the topics included in the program
- A private interview with a Sukhasiddhi lama, which can be in person or by phone
The multi-day retreats are not included in this quarterly cost. When attended, they will be an extra cost.
To apply for the program, please complete the online application form here, or if you prefer, download and complete the PDF application form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once your online or PDF application has been submitted, we will contact you within 2 weeks to advise you of your acceptance into the program. For questions, please contact email@example.com. Thank you very much for your interest.
Dharma Training Program Curriculum
Dharma Training Program students participate in and learn the following practices and foundational teachings through attendance at center offerings on the following:
Shamatha 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 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.
Other Topics Include
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.
Core Teacher and Resident Lama: Lama Döndrup has practiced and studied in the Buddhist tradition for over twenty years. After five years of Theravadin Buddhist training, she immersed herself in the teachings and practices of the Shangpa and Kagyu Vajrayana lineages. In 2005, she completed the three-year retreat and was authorized as a lama. Upon her return to Marin County, she began teaching classes and leading meditations at Sukhasiddhi Foundation. Lama Döndrup enjoys guiding students through creation and completion stage meditations; helping them to feel confident in their own understanding of ceremonies and teachings; and supporting the natural unfolding of their innate wisdom. In addition to her Buddhist practice, Lama Döndrup has trained in the Diamond Approach for seven years and has a Masters of Fine Arts degree in piano performance. She is on the piano faculty at San Domenico Music Conservatory.
Dharma Practice Session Teacher: Lama Pat (Pat Berube) first started meditating in 1975. Prior to meeting Lama Palden in 1999, she studied with both western and eastern teachers including several pilgrimages and retreats in India. Under Lama Palden’s tutelage, she completed both the full Shangpa Kagyu practices usually reserved for the traditional three-year retreat and the four-year teacher training program. In 2017, under the authority of Kalu Rinpoche, both Lama Palden and Lama Drupgyu authorized her as a Lama. With immense gratitude for her teachers and the lineage, Lama Pat is excited to share these teachings with others that supports the natural unfoldment of innate wisdom transforming one’s life. In addition to her dharma studies and teaching, she has been an RN for over 40 years and holds a masters in counseling psychology. She also leads Sukhasiddhi’s Clear Light Institute assisting contemplative approaches to working with illness, death and dying.