Path of Liberation Program
Objective: Upon completion, students will have a basic understanding of fundamental Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths, the Eight-fold Noble Path, Karma and Klesha, Interdependent Co-operation, and the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. They will be familiar with Buddhist history and important works of literature. They will further understand the living spirit of Buddhist teaching and practice.
Length: Minimum 2 years; maximum 4 years. The 2019 Path of Liberation Program began in March 2019. Enrollment for the program may still be possible. Please contact us at (510) 809-1000 or email us if you are interested.
Program components: 10 classes, 15 workshops, 1 retreat.
10 required classes (unless written permission is given by both the program director and chief academic officer, these classes must be taken in sequential order):
DHS201 An Awakened Vision of Being
This course is a journey into the Buddha’s vision of what embodiment means. Students will study the teachings of the Buddhist Abhidharma, be introduced to the life-story of the Buddha and the symbolism of the form of the Buddha as presented in traditional art and sculpture, and recognize the stages on the Buddhist path.
DHS202 Transmitting Insight; Penetrating Illusion
At every moment we receive messages transmitted from our body, from our mind, and from the world around us. These messages form the basis of all that we know and do. The Dharma teaches us to ‘watch the watcher,’ to bring our attention to how the senses operate and how knowledge of ourselves and the world develops. This course focuses on how information from the body, mind, and world is transmitted and received. The Abhidharma and Lojong (Mind Training) teachings form the textual basis of the course. Prerequisite: DHS201 or equivalent.
DHS203 Who Owns Mind?
We sensitively explore consciousness, looking for the source of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and actions. We search for an independent ‘self’ who controls and owns the mind and experience. Following an ancient analysis from the time of the Buddha, we glimpse how mind, free of the confines of ‘self’, might function. Our primary practices are mindfulness in all things and the four immeasureable states (love, compassion, joy, and equanimity). Prerequisite: DHS202 or equivalent.
DHS204 Four Foundations of Mindfulness
The Buddha taught that mindfulness—the steady and sustained contemplation of the body, feelings, mind, and phenomena—leads to wisdom. Training in these “Four Foundations of Mindfulness” leads to an unshakably present state of mind and is the foundation for further study and practice. Prerequisite: DHS203 or equivalent.
DHS205 Compassion in Action
What does it mean to live a life dedicated to compassion and wisdom? We look to the ways of life that the Buddha established and read biographies of great masters, men and women from India and Tibet. We also continue to cultivate our own inner capabilities for compassionate wisdom and deepen our knowledge of cause and effect. Taking steps in the direction of the path, our entire orientation begins to shift from being centered on our own benefit to being centered on the benefit of others. In this quarter we deepen understanding of interdependent coproduction (Pratitya samutpada), study the lives of great masters of the Indian and Tibetan tradition, and reflect on how the Buddhist vision could manifest in the Western world. Prerequisite: DHS204 or equivalent.
DHS206 The Resolve for Ultimate Goodness
All living beings have the nature of a Buddha, yet this nature is obscured by veils of obscurations. We live in ignorance of this great treasure, like a poor, blind man, unaware that a jewel of infinite value lies buried under his hearth. Traditional teachings and practices can help us develop confidence in our ability to discover the Buddha nature within. We will study teachings on Bodhicitta (the ‘seed of enlightenment’) and continue to work on mind training practices that overcome the destructive forces of anger, attachment, and ignorance in our lives. Prerequisite: DHS205 or equivalent.
DHS207 Gateway to Knowledge
We deepen our search for awakened mind through an in-depth study of topics from Gateway to Knowledge (Tib. mKhas-’jug and its commentary) by the great Tibetan teacher Lama Mipham. With penetrating analysis, we look again at inner and outer phenomena and the sense fields. We explore teachings on ‘what is possible and what is impossible’ along with teachings on time and the arising of the system of suffering. Prerequisite: DHS206 or equivalent.
DHS208 Deluded Mind/Awakened Mind
All the teachings of the Dharma are informed by knowledge of the inner workings of consciousness. As the mind is further cultivated, what seemed confused or difficult becomes magically workable. ‘Deluded mind’ is no longer an obstacle: all that arises can be brought onto the path of liberation. Prerequisite: DHS207 or equivalent.
DHS209 Majestic Aspirations
We study the Pranidhana Raja, a text beloved in the Mahayana tradition that expresses the Bodhisattva’s vows and commitments in poetic form. Prerequisite: DHS208 or equivalent.
DHS210 The World as Sacred Space
Powerful Buddhist symbols point toward a comprehensive vision in which the universe itself arises as a mandala—a sacred space in which the journey to awakening is assured. We explore this vision, studying how every aspect experience can be transformed. We also look at the sacred symbols that have been created by the Nyingma organizations and how the mandala structures its operations. Prerequisite: DHS209 or equivalent.
15 required workshops. Most workshops are held Friday evening (7-9 PM) through Saturday (10 AM-4:45 PM); some are Saturday only:
DHS401: Visions of Enlightenment
The form of the Buddha reflects the reality that all who live can cultivate the same wisdom and compassion. In this workshop, students study the ways that a Buddha is embodied: the Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, and the Nirmanakaya; look at the process of achieving this perfect embodiment through studying the Jatakas (birth stories of the Buddha); and contemplate the form of the Buddha as it is represented in Tibetan art and sculpture. The workshop also includes a meditation evoking the presence of the Buddha written by the 19th century Nyingma Master, Lama Mipham. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS201 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS402 Faith in Dharma
The awakening of faith in the Dharma means that we have surrendered our heart to truth. This workshop outlines the steps to such faith. Students will learn to distinguish belief from faith and skepticism from inquiry. Class discussion and practice will focus on how to build inner confidence in our own abilities as we seek guidance from those who are wiser. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS201 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS403 Turning the Mind to the Dharma
Students will study the “four thoughts” that turn the mind to the Dharma: Contemplating Freedom and Good Fortune, Impermanence, Suffering, and Karma. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS202 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS404 Training for Freedom
Classic Buddhist education uses three trainings—shila (ethics), samadhi (meditation), and prajna (wisdom)—to develop wholesome knowledge and power. This workshop will introduce you to these traditional tools for clearing away the network of confusion and karmic patterns. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS202 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS405 Question of Identity: Ten Kinds of Self
Who creates, controls, enjoys, defiles, or purifies experience? Am ‘I’ substantial, or have ‘I’ as Tarthang Tulku writes, “entered into an illusory partnership with an entity that has no existence of its own”? Experiential exercises will shed light on these questions, while lecture will examine the ten kinds of self as described by the Bodhisattva Maitreya and the Nyingma master Lama Mipham. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS203 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS406 Cultivating Unlimited Love
Cultivating the “four immeasurable” states of mind—love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity—is a classic Buddhist practice that teaches us to transcend our ordinary way of being and our limited way of understanding love. We discover an inner serenity that fosters the realization of selflessness. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS203 or consent of the Instructors.
NPR402 Cultivating Compassionate Love
We can learn to love ourselves and others more deeply through actively cultivating compassionate love. This kind of love heals the painful divisions between living beings, allowing us to forgive others and to cleanse ourselves of ill will. The workshop introduces gentle visualization, mantra and meditation practices given by the enlightened Buddha. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS205 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS407 Making Mind the Matter
In order to make the Dharma relevant to our lives, we explore the activity of our mind. Working specifically with the ‘three trainings’ of shila, samadhi, and prajna, we gain insight into how samsara is being fabricated and by whom, and what patterns of ego, personality, and identity are being put in place. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS206 or consent of the Instructors.
MED413 Filled with Devotion
The final chapter of the sacred text known as the Uttaratantra, titled ‘Benefit’, describes how one ‘filled with devotion’ and with certainty in the Dharma creates immense merit in the world. This advanced meditation workshop invites faith based on insight. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS206 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS408 The Wheel of Life
The symbolic imagery of the Tibetan wheel of life demonstrates fundamental Buddhist teachings about the chain of causality and how conscious life evolves. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS207 or consent of the Instructors.
MED415 Cutting Off Negative Thoughts
Meditative action is the process of bringing even adverse conditions onto the path to enlightenment. The torment of negative thoughts dissolves as insight into the nature of mind and the action of karma arises. The heart’s natural capacity for love and compassion awakens. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS207 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS413 The Perfections of Patience and Strength
Based on the Bodhicaryavatara and its Tibetan commentaries, students will study the perfections of patience (ksanti) and strength (virya). Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS208 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS414 The Perfections of Meditation and Wisdom
Through study of chapters eight and nine of the Bodhicaryavatara and its Tibetan commentaries, students will learn the types of meditation and appropriate topics of meditation. Selected verses from the chapter on Wisdom will help illuminate the depth and complexity of its study. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS208 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS415 Path of Prayer to the Land of Bliss
We study texts and teachings about the Buddhafield of Sukhavati and about the Buddha Amithaba. Students will learn what a Buddhafield is. They will also hear examples of rituals that are used to connect human consciousness with Buddhafields. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS210 or consent of the Instructors.
DHS416 The Power of Buddhist Symbols
Even the colors and landscape elements in a Tibetan painting have symbolic meaning. This workshop introduces Buddhist symbols that are found worldwide, such as the Stupa, and other symbols found only in the Tibetan tradition. Prerequisite: concurrent registration in DHS210 or consent of the Instructors.
One elective retreat chosen from the following:*
Note: the program cost includes a nonresidential retreat only; if you wish to attend the retreat residentially, there will be an additional fee for room and board.
*In individual cases, to further a student’s educational goals, an elective retreat may be substituted for those on this list with the consent of the Program Director or the Chief Academic Officer.
DHS501-505 Embodiment: An Awakened Vision.
These retreats are an experiential journey into the Buddha’s vision of what embodiment means. Students will use teachings and practices from Nyingma Psychology to integrate body and mind; will learn to release unnecessary tension and stress through Tibetan Yoga; will study the teachings of the Buddhist Abhidharma found in the mKhas-‘jug by the great teacher Lama Mipham; will learn about the symbolism of the form of the Buddha as presented in traditional art and sculpture; will learn to recognize the stages on the path and its view, result, and application; will deepen experiential knowledge of the mind through training in meditation.
DHS501 Awakening the Heart
DHS502 Openness Mind
DHS503 Awakening Vision
DHS504 Joy of Being
DHS505 Embodying Wisdom
DHS506-510 Transmitting Insight, Penetrating Illusion.
At every moment we receive messages transmitted from our body, from our mind, and from the world around us. These messages form the basis of all that we know and do. The Dharma teaches us to ‘watch the watcher,’ to bring our attention to how the senses operate and how knowledge of ourselves and the world develops. In these weeks of retreat students will learn: how knowledge is transmitted from the outside world to the senses and from the senses to the mind and heart through study of the sense-fields and experiential exercises from Tibetan Yoga; how to attune themselves to their senses in ways that evoke insight to penetrate illusions; the teachings of the three marks of existence and the four thoughts that turn the mind to the Dharma, reversing the operation of suffering; basic teachings from mind training (Lojong) and Nyingma Psychology that help to integrate heart and mind.
DHS506 Tuning the Senses
DHS507 Turning the Mind to Joy
DHS508 Integrating Body with Mind
DHS509 Discovering the Marks of Existence
DHS510 Listening and Lightening Mind
DHS511-515 Who Owns Mind?
These weeks of retreat use tools of analysis and introspection to explore consciousness, looking for the source of thoughts, feelings, impulses, and actions. Using classical ‘insight’ meditation students will be guided in a search for an independent ‘self’ who controls and owns the mind and experience, glimpsing how mind, free of the confines of ‘self’, might function. Students will also: study teachings on karma and klesha; cultivate the ‘four immeasurable’ qualities of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity that expand the mind and heart; Deepen mindfulness; learn about the Bodhisattva’s aspiration and the role that faith and devotion play in Dharma study.
DHS511 Mind’s Hall of Mirrors
DHS512 Base of Suffering
DHS513 Reversing the Direction
DHS514 Expanding Heart and Mind
DHS515 Mindfulness and Faith
DHS516-520 Compassion in Action
Buddhist teachers have said that, “The depth and vastness of the Dharma restore the foundation, purpose, and direction of human life, inspiring a way of living oriented toward loving-kindness, compassion, and selflessness.” In these weeks of retreat students will explore what it means to live a life dedicated to compassion and wisdom, looking at the biographies of great masters, men and women from India and Tibet. They will also continue to cultivate inner capabilities for compassionate wisdom and deepen the knowledge of cause and effect through studying interdependent coproduction (Pratitya samutpada). Finally, they will look at the way this vision is manifesting in the Western world.
DHS516 Interdependent Arising
DHS517 The Compassionate Response
DHS518 How the Buddha Taught
DHS519 Stories of Liberation
DHS520 An Unending Path
DHS521-525 Cultivating the Seed of Enlightenment
All living beings have the nature of a Buddha, yet this nature is obscured by veils of obscurations. Traditional teachings and practices help students develop confidence in their ability to discover Bodhicitta (the ‘seed of enlightenment’). Mind training practices will help to overcome the destructive forces of anger, attachment, and ignorance in our lives. These weeks of retreat also explores: the qualities of a spiritual teacher and the qualities of a worthy student; how to practice guru yoga and go to refuge; the twelve actions of a fully enlightened Buddha; meditations from Path of Heroes such as Tong-len; practices that heighten awareness of the ‘seed of enlightenment’.
DHS521 Miraculous Body of Knowledge
DHS522 Working the Mind
DHS523 Entering Openness
DHS524 Practices from the Heart
DHS525 The Sunlight of Merit and Wisdom
DHS526-530 Gateway to Knowledge
Students deepen their search for awakened mind through an in-depth study of topics from Gateway to Knowledge (Tib. mKhyas-‘jug) by the great Tibetan teacher Lama Mipham. These will include ‘what is possible and what is impossible’; time; and the arising of the system of suffering. Meditation practice will focus on analyzing the constituents of inner and outer phenomena and the sense fields. Kum Nye practice will help to deepen the analysis.
DHS526 The Transmission of Insight
DHS527 Fields of Awareness
DHS528 Attuning to Dharma
DHS529 Time and the Arising of Suffering
DHS530 The Possible and the Impossible
DHS531-535 Deluded Mind/Awakened Mind
All the teachings of the Dharma are informed by knowledge of the inner workings of consciousness. As the mind is cultivated through meditation and analysis, what seems confused or difficult becomes workable. ‘Deluded mind’ is no longer an obstacle: all that arises can be brought onto the path of liberation. In these weeks of retreat students will learn: advanced teachings from Nyingma Psychology on how to penetrate the veils of ignorance within ordinary consciousness; Lojong teachings from Path of Heroes with an emphasis on meditation practice; and traditional teachings from Tibetan authors on the nature of mind.
DHS531 Parting the Veil of Delusion
DHS532 Regaining the Power of Mind
DHS533 Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being
DHS534 Refining Mind
DHS535 Guidelines for Self-Mastery
DHS536-539 The World as Sacred Space
Powerful Buddhist symbols point toward a comprehensive vision in which the universe itself arises as a mandala—a sacred space in which the journey to awakening is assured. Students will explore this vision, studying accounts of what a mandala is and how experience can be transformed. This will lead to an in-depth exploration of the meaning of sacred Buddhist symbols, especially focusing on those that have been created by the Nyingma organizations. Students will also study: the form of the mandala and how it informs the operation of Buddhist organizations; the symbolic language of Tibetan art; teachings on the efficacy of Tibetan ritual projects such as prayer-wheels and prayer flags; teachings on the Buddha Fields.
DHS536 The Emerging Mandala
DHS537 Lineage of Light
DHS538 Inner and Outer Symbols of Enlightenment
DHS539 Aspiration and Accomplishment
What students say about the Path of Liberation Program:
I was initially unsure as to whether Tibetan Buddhism as taught in the Nyingma tradition would satisfy my thirst for a deeper understanding of the Dharma, but I took a leap of faith and enrolled in the Nyingma Institute’s two-year Path of Liberation program. I soon discovered that this program was a balanced approach combining both an intellectual understanding of the Dharma as well as a heart-based approach that allowed me to connect with The Dharma on a deeper level. Through the program, I have learned to incorporate the Dharma into my daily life and have found that my daily suffering has much diminished and that I now see the world through much more compassionate eyes. Russ B., ProgramGraduate
This program is a rare gem. While the textual content of the classes addressed my hopes for a solid foundation for further study of the Dharma, Sylvia and Jack brought a depth of understanding that goes much farther than mere intellectual knowledge. The meditations, mantras and visualizations practiced in the classes were essential to opening both my mind and my heart in ways that enabled the teachings to penetrate through some of my habitual ways of understanding and being in the world. I recommend this program to anyone who wishes to truly taste the nectar of the Buddha’s teachings. Lynn P., Program Graduate