Knowledge of Freedom: Understanding Self and Mind

9 Month international Nyingma Psychology program

How can we discover what is truly meaningful and beneficial for human beings? How can we bring the full meaning of freedom alive in our hearts? Knowing that we do not yet have the knowledge we need is in itself the knowledge that can open our minds to a new perspective on freedom.   

Knowledge of Freedom, Introduction, p. xx

  • 9 Month Online International Program, September 2021 – May 2022
  • 31 weekly classes, starting Monday, September 6th
  • Weekly self-observation assignments
  • 2 weekend webinar-retreats: November 2021, May 2022
  • Jointly organized by Nyingma Institute Berkeley (USA) and Nyingma Centrum Nederland (Europe)
  • Based on Tarthang Tulku’s book Knowledge of Freedom: Time to Change

Knowledge of Freedom: Time to Change

Tarthang Tulku wrote Knowledge of Freedom after working intensively for many years with Western students. The book contains a wealth of observations on how we as individuals and societies limit our chances for freedom and fulfillment.

Today’s global challenges make it urgent that the true guidance found within this book become widely available. The Nyingma Institute of Berkeley, California, and Nyingma Centrum Nederland — enabled by Dharma Publishing’s new reissuing of the book — announce our joint 9-month international online training program based on the teachings of Knowledge of Freedom.


Who is Invited to Attend?

Many people who turn to mindfulness, yoga and/or meditation hoping for relief from pain and stress find that their more fundamental problems tend to return again and again. Deeper insights into the workings of mind and self are necessary to invite lasting transformation — real freedom from suffering.

This Knowledge of Freedom (KOF) program is intended for students with sufficient experience in meditation and self-observation to make precise forms of introspection possible. In a very practice-oriented way, the KOF program investigates, step-by-step, the patterns and conditioning that dominate us individually and collectively. Working with the three vehicles of body, speech, and mind, the program cultivates the innate capacity of our hearts and minds for a realization that is not constrained by self-imposed limitations.

Does this program speak to you but you still have questions or hesitations? Email us at and we will be happy to contact you by e-mail or arrange a private zoom call.


Information Session

There will also be a short introductory presentation held via Zoom Monday, August 30th, 10 am (PDT, Berkeley) or 7 pm (CEST, Amsterdam), followed by a Q and A session. Please RSVP for the link. 

Benefits of the Program

Students who have trained in Knowledge of Freedom across the world have found that they persist joyfully in open inquiry, and that new warmth and insight informs their daily lives in a positive way. The KOF program is also excellent preparation for further, truly fruitful study of the Dharma — or for advanced courses in Understanding Self and Mind offered by our Nyingma Mandala organizations.


KOF Program Structure

The program consists of 31 weekly classes, weekly self-observations and reading assignments, and 2 webinar-based weekend retreats.

The classes begin September 6, 2021 and conclude May 16, 2022 and run in two parallel groups:

  • Mondays 10-11:30 AM (PDT)/ 19-20:30 (CEST)
  • Mondays 7-8:30 PM (PDT)

Each section is limited to 22 participants to ensure ongoing quality and sustained participation. Please note that there is no class on October 18, December 27, January 3, May 2, or May 9:  these breaks are different from our usual academic calendar as they are in sync with our Amsterdam center’s scheduling. 

Two weekend retreats complete the program and will be attended by both sections of the program. Retreat dates:

The retreats each consist of three webinars, with a webinar running 3 hours. Daily webinar times: 10 -13 AM (PDT), 7- 10 PM (CEST). Personal practice assignments are given during the webinars each day.

Retreats are included in the program cost. They can also be attended by those not taking the program for $150 or 135 euros.




Abbe Blum (Principal instructor for Monday 7 pm PDT and Monday 10 am PDT) 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 (Principal instructor for Monday 10 am PDT) 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.

Photo of Olivia Hurd

Olivia Hurd (Instructor for Monday 10 am PDT), B.F.A, is a textile artist and retired children’s publisher. She was a co-founder of the Peaceable Kingdom Press, a children’s publisher featuring art from children’s books, which she ran for many years. She is a long-time meditation practitioner and has been a student at the Nyingma Institute since 1997. Olivia says, “In my years studying at Nyingma Institute, my life has taken a wonderful turn. I’ve increased awareness of whatever activity is at hand and the importance of how I do it. Most importantly, I feel that my sensitivity for others has grown.” 

Pauline Yu (Assistant instructor for Monday 7 pm PDT), has been studying and practicing under Tarthang Tulku’s senior students since 2007 and completed Nyingma Institute’s 1,200 hour Path and Practices of Liberation program in 2010.

After encountering meditation in 2006 during her final year at UC Berkeley, where she studied Art History and Philosophy, she entered the Nyingma Mandala community in 2007 as a full-time work-study volunteer.

We do not have to depend upon circumstances or other people for fulfillment, or settle for the sweet sadness of longing as substitute for lasting happiness.

We can train ourselves to search within, questioning the source of our deepest yearnings.

Letting go of all preconceptions, we can ask ourselves what is really important to
our lives, what is it that will sustain us through all forms of adversity.

The times we feel most restless and lonely are valuable opportunities to make friends with ourselves, to find within our own hearts a new depth of understanding.

Knowledge of Freedom, by Tarthang Tulku

Sign up for Knowledge of Freedom

Program costs: $630 or €585 can be paid in 9 monthly installments of or $70 or €65 per month.

  • 31 weekly classes (Mondays 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm PDT)
  • Weekly Self-observation Assignments
  • 2 weekend webinar-retreats
  • 31 weekly classes (Mondays 10:00 am – 11:30 am PDT / 19-20:30 CEST)
  • Weekly Self-observation Assignments
  • 2 weekend webinar-retreats

Knowledge of Freedom Program Description 


Part 1: (class 1-4) Touching Wonder, Facing Fear

When we look back in history and realize what capacity humanity has for growth we feel amazement and wonder at the same time. When we look at our own lives we also realize that these abilities are not coming out very well. Ignorance and fear are very strong obstacles. However, they also show how powerful the mind is. It has been trained in this direction and can therefore be trained in another. Fear, therefore, can be seen as a sign that we can begin a process of inquiry to break the vicious cycle.

Part 2: (class 5-8) Ideals and Desire

The next step is to examine desire, the third and strongest limiting force affecting life in our society. Because of disappointments, the heart has closed down. We do not have enough peace to feel what our ideals are and realize them. As a result, we keep trying to find fulfillment in outer things. This vicious circle can also be broken. The heart can open again and our ideals can come forward.

Part 3: (classes 9-13) Fundamental processes

Concepts and thoughts play an important role in our reactions. What role do they play and what are the consequences? By asking questions and observing the workings of our mind in meditation, we see how “our reaction” is the final outcome of a number of sequential steps in our mind. We discover that essentially our reactions are not fixed.

First retreat: Opening to Knowledge; November 26-28

Part 4: (class 14-15) Acknowledging Not Knowing

If you really want to change, the first steps are to acknowledge to yourself that you don’t know at the moment and stop holding on to (or letting yourself be held back by) what you think you know for sure. In this way, your mind becomes free to open up to alternatives that didn’t have a chance before. The wish for new knowledge will be the ‘engine’ for this.

Part 5: (class 16-20) Self-images

We are now ready to investigate our mind further in its workings by asking questions and observing our experience directly, without the need for words or concepts. What role do confusion and fascination play in our lives? What about images we have of ourselves? How do we juggle our collection of self-images and how are they constructed over the course of our lives? How do they define our lives now? We can start to see self-images for what they really are: images and no more than that.

Part 6: (class 21-23) Observing, Recognizing and Releasing

Neutral observation (without being absorbed by what we see) offers a clear view of the processes of identification, attraction, avoidance, and the other stories the mind presents to us. This clarity counterbalances the painfulness of emotions. They lose their power. The inner chatter of the mind tells loses its appeal. What is past we can let go of and leave behind. Inner balance becomes stronger.

Part 7: (class 24-27) The core of confusion

Who are we really? Perhaps a frightening question if you ask it seriously. For it seems that our basic certainty – “I” – is at risk. But if we don’t know who we really are, what is this certainty based on? What guides my life?
Living from a strong heart, certainty and uncertainty are not as important: the need for control gives way to sincerity and openness. Lessons 24 through 27]

Second retreat: Grounded in Freedom; May 6-8 2022

Part 8: (class 29-32) The bright light of awareness

Now that we can see more clearly how our mind works and see its effects directly in our experience, it becomes clear that it is our mind that runs our lives. This awareness is the “alternative” knowledge we need. Once we stop separating them, ‘Mind’ and ‘heart’ can once again become one and all the ‘ordinary’ becomes full and rich.


For a week-by-week overview of theme and literature, please download the syllabus of the Knowledge of Freedom International Program.

Included Retreats: