The Great Journey

9 Month international Program

based on Keys of Knowledge by Tarthang Tulku

  • 31 online classes and 1 retreat (online, or join in-person in Amsterdam)
  • Mondays 10 – 11:30 AM (PST), September 11 2023- May 27 2024 in English
  • Led by Elske van de Hulst and Abbe Blum
  • Co-organised by Nyingma Centrum Nederland and Nyingma Institute, Berkeley

As long as we do not embody knowledge, we move through life as if we were lost or asleep. We would like to do it differently. We would like to develop ways of cooperating with the mind; we would like to create a new home for awareness.

Keys of Knowledge 

The Great Journey

This new 9-month program follows Tarthang Tulku’s concise book Keys of Knowledge. This series of essays examines in pithy ways the architecture of human experience and the way I, me, mine and mind interact.

In Keys of Knowledge, we cultivate a practical way of life that could be called mystical. We explore the field of our reality, the realm of body, mind, and senses, of energy, waves and gravity, of space and knowledge. Many of us may be used to a journey marked by emotional pain, disappointment, and disillusion. Looking closely at time and the operations of mind, we open up our ability to contact transformative knowledge: experience comes alive. What would it be like to manifest compassion, caring and ease? To embody knowledge? That is the great journey invitation.

The program follows the sequence of chapters at a pace of one chapter every three to four weeks. Readings, experiential practice and contemplations encourage ease and harmony of body, mind and thoughts. Excerpts from other books by Tarthang Tulku will occasionally be brought in to broaden and deepen the exploration.

Between classes, there will be reading assignments preparing for the next meeting, as well as self- observations which aim to carry the investigation into daily life. Also suggestions will be given for daily practice, as well as occasional writing or creative assignments.

Included in The Great Journey is a retreat program planned for February 21-25, called Mind at Ease.  In this retreat, which will be co-taught by Elske van de Hulst, Abbe Blum and Bram Williams, we will work with materials from Keys of Knowledge combined with exercises and readings from Tarthang Tulku’s second Kum Nye book The Joy of Being which offers experiential ways to open up the treasures of direct experience.

Online participation in the retreat’s core sessions is included in the program costs. Also, The Great Journey program participants are warmly encouraged to come to Amsterdam if they can. For those in residence, there will be a daily program of experiential practice sessions and the opportunity to meet and interact with fellow students. For program participants, room and board and all retreat sessions will be available at only €45 surcharge per day.

Participants will need to buy the book Keys of Knowledge, which is available through Dharma Publishing (USA) or through Lotus Design Store (Europe).  

Who is this program for? 

Those with a background in any other teachings by Tarthang Tulku are welcome to continue their journey with us in the Great Journey program. The program is a good sequel for students of Dimensions of Mind, Knowledge of Freedom, Buddhist studies or the Time Space Knowledge vision. Others, with a stable foundation in meditation and self-observation are also very welcome to attend.


Abbe Blum is a long time student of Tarthang Tulku and a seasoned teacher, presenting Kum Nye, Lotus Trilogy and Nyingma Psychology at Nyingma Institute and Dharma College, both in Berkeley. She worked as one of the editors on several of Rinpoche’s latest books. She holds a B.A. from UC Berkeley, an M.A. from Cambridge University, England, where she was a Marshall scholar, and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Yale University. As an Associate Professor at Swarthmore College, she taught Shakespeare and intensive writing seminars, and she currently teaches in the School of Psychology and Interdisciplinary Inquiry at Saybook University. 

Elske van de Hulst worked in the theatre as an actress, director and author, between 1969 and 1995. She taught at the Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten and for many years was a member of the Dutch Arts Council. In 1998 she started studying the theatre of the mind, guided by Tarthang Tulku’s books, and has not stopped since. She is now a co-dean at Nyingma Centrum Nederland and teaches Knowledge of Freedom, Revelations of Mind and Lotus Trilogy teachings in Amsterdam and elsewhere.

In the course of our journey, at first we may proceed rather slowly, but then we graduate. Once we graduate, we see clearly that the unfolding of linear time, and the sense of progress on a path -aspects of reality that seemed so fundamental and vital- are in fact only marks, points imposed on the rhythms of time.

— Tarthang Tulku, Keys of Knowledge, Chapter 8, “The Great Journey”

The Great Journey Program Schedule 

31 Online Classes and 1 Retreat (in Amsterdam or online) 

September 11:  Introductory session

September 18, 25 and October 2: Prologue: Mind Holds the Keys

‘When viewed from the open field of knowledge, so-called ‘ordinary’ mind presents an extraordinary opportunity to gather treasures far richer than what we are conditioned to believe ourseles capable of grasping’

October 9, 16 and 30: Chapter One: Going  (no class on October 23)

“When we look behind the concepts make up our knowledge, we find no light: only loops, an astounding number of tight, compressed loops, the feedbacks of sense and perception. These sensory products of mind are plugged into the conceptual apparatus; the found and ground and are themselves authorized by its insistence, in vicious circles of ‘reasons’ and ‘evidence’.

November 6, 13 and 20: Chapter Two: Knowing

“In order to recognize reality, I need an object , then i can be ‘objective’. My subjectivity depends on it. But the object’s ‘that-ness’, rapidly pointed out by mind, may also be a kind of scarecrow. The zigzag movement of questions and answers sets up a rhythm: back to the subject, forward to the conclusion, the object and back again.

“Beyond the loop, in the heart of time where knowing resides, knowledge may be as free as air.”

November 27, December 4 and 11: Chapter Three: Ruling

“Without cutting, there is no way for us to differentiate times. Suddenly time is a collapsed bridge: we cannot cross over to the next instant of becoming.  What becomes of action? What becomes of experience? What becomes of the past, lost times of experience? If it is truly gone, how can the past become a memory or understanding? If it is truly gone, how does thinking carry on? “

December 18, January 8, 15, and 22:  Chapter Four: Kingdom of Time (no class December 25 and January 1)

“ In part, the difficulty is that the mind that asks questions or wonders howknowing functions is still trying to accomplish something.  It wants to enjoy the fruis of inquiry, but this wish to get good results creates an internal tension”

“The familiar moment-to-moment we live seems to be a necessary part of time. But is it? The present moment eludes scrutiny; it may not even be in the grid. “

January 29, February 5 and 12: Chapter Four: Play of Light (no class February 19)

“When seeing sees itself for itself, knowing knows its own knowing. This is the real cutting edge of awareness, an awareness that transcends dimensions, directions and rules. Now knowledge is not a by-product, but cognition manifesting, with no biases and no ‘belongings’.

February 21- 25: Mind at Ease live-online retreat based on Keys of Knowledge and Joy of Being

Led by Bram Williams, Abbe Blum and Elske van de Hulst  (no class February 26)

March 4, 11, and 18: Chapter Six: Mind at Ease

“In our sacred juncture, what could we hear, what could we see…..?  Could we discern a new sound, or see a different way to operate? When light plays, could we recognize its appearance as the signature of the knower itself?”

March 25, April 8, 15, and 22: Chapter Seven: We Embody Knowledge

(no class April 1 or 29)

“Being has a close connection to great knowledge. This great knowledge has no bias: it doesn’t belong to a regime.  It owes nothing to the Rule, or the rules. Not even to concepets, not even to thoughts, not even to the most preliminary awareness of sound or image. It has its own freedom, its own realm: a realm without borders. This is the birthright of all sentient beings; and the greatest work we can dois to help these beings find the way home.

May 6, 13, and 20: Chapter Eight: The Great Journey

“When we know how to coordinate and accommodate every aspect of experience, the expressions of time unfold countless dimensions of beauty.  Your responsibility is simply to play your role well. letting the ship move smoothly through the waves.

May 27: Closing session