Fields of Study Overview

Fields of Study at the Nyingma Institute

At the Nyingma Institute Tarthang Tulku developed mutually reinforcing fields of study that bridge the gap between a traditional Buddhist education and a Western education. The Nyingma Institute, now observing its thirty-eighth year, continues to offer evening classes, retreats, weekend workshops, and residential programs in all of these fields. Together, these subjects constitute a balanced approach to human education that seeks to develop the full potential of human intellectual and spiritual capacities. Prominent in all of them is the emphasis on understanding the nature of mind - essential for deepening meditation and for cultivating increasingly profound dimensions of consciousness.

Buddhist Studies At the heart of the Institute’s programs are courses in traditional Buddhist Studies that present the nature of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha; Abhidharma, the study of mind and mental events; the Bodhisattva path and the six perfections; and other related topics. Our premier Buddhist Studies course is the two-year Path of Liberation Program.

Nyingma Meditation The insights and qualities of mind that are developed through meditation provide the basis for progress in all areas of study. Nyingma Meditation offers a wide range of techniques that help students move quickly into states of serenity and insight. Classes in meditation include instruction in silent sitting, walking meditation, mantra, visualization, and other traditional practices. Instruction and practice in meditation also forms an essential component of many of the Institute’s workshops, retreats, and classes.

Nyingma Psychology and Practices Classes, retreats, and workshops in Nyingma Psychology are based on Tarthang Tulku’s writings in the Nyingma Psychology Series which grew out of his early teaching at the Institute. Students in these courses study the nature of consciousness; identify patterns of thought, feeling, and emotion; and examine the connection between “inner” and “outer” experience. The methods presented promote incisive awareness of mental events, transform negative mental patterns, sustain the dynamic of meditation, and bring the benefits of meditation into daily life.

Kum Nye (Tibetan Yoga) The practice of Kum Nye, a unique healing system based on Tibetan medicine and body-mind disciplines of Buddhism, provides a doorway to insight and meditation. The Kum Nye system presented at the Institute was developed by Tarthang Tulku specifically to help Westerners overcome problems with stress or difficulties in entering meditation. The massage and movement exercises of Kum Nye shape a path of physical ease and meditative calm that stimulates mental and physical energy. Joining conceptual thought with direct experience, Kum Nye exercises heal the separation between body and mind and promote a relaxed, natural awareness that easily leads to meditative concentration.

Kum Nye provides a basis for a healthy lifestyle and is an entryway to deeper self-understanding. Many people who begin practicing Kum Nye with the idea of self-improvement go on to discover the benefits of meditation and become interested in Buddhist concepts that support a broader understanding of spiritual, emotional, and mental health.

Skillful Means Developed by Tarthang Tulku and taught at the Nyingma Institute since 1974, Skillful Means fosters ways of working that inspire creative accomplishment. Courses in Skillful Means offer effective techniques for enjoying work while meeting personal and career goals; using work as a means to self-knowledge; and developing mastery through the transformation of awareness, concentration, and energy.

Knowledge of Freedom More accurately viewed as a subtopic of Nyingma Psychology and offered under that heading, Knowledge of Freedom courses and workshops feature readings, dialogues, and awareness exercises that enable students to benefit more fully from meditation, while building a solid foundation in self-knowledge for the more traditional analysis and inquiry introduced in the Buddhist Studies programs. This special area of Nyingma psychology focuses on the diverse aspects of mental conditioning in the West, inviting us to become aware of our patterns, identify the limitations they place upon us, and awaken the motivation to realize a more joyful and liberating way of being.

Time, Space, and Knowledge Courses in the Time, Space, and Knowledge (TSK) vision offer a creative and dynamic approach to the basic elements of our existence that provide energy, opportunity, and insight—the building blocks of a meaningful life. The vision of the TSK series of books inspires students to apply their understanding to the most important questions and the greatest opportunities in human life. The courses and workshops shine the light of knowledge on ordinary experience, freeing participants from bondage to routine and revealing each moment as an opening to new and more liberating perspectives on self and world.

Tibetan Language and Culture Classical written Tibetan is taught at beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. Studying classical Tibetan opens the door to the treasure-house of the Dharma. Tibetan literature includes thousands of translations of Sanskrit texts from India—many of them lost in their original language—and twelve centuries of writings by Tibetan masters. At all levels of study, students are introduced to sacred literature. Beginning with short prayers and visionary poems, students progress to texts such as the Heart Sutra, Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara, and the beginning chapters of Longchenpa’s Ngal-gso-skor-gsum.

Sacred Art Courses in sacred art and other aspects of Tibetan culture are designed to inspire an appreciation and understanding of this ancient tradition. These courses also convey the urgent need to preserve the texts, art, and teachings of the Nyingma lineage. Along with formal courses, the Institute teaches about Tibetan art and culture by adorning the interior of classrooms with richly framed paintings and Tibetan statues. Students and visitors alike are moved by their spiritual beauty and power. The Institute regularly leads art tours of the rooms for Institute students and students from local universities.