photo credit: Michael Wood

Shambhala School of Buddhist Studies

Overview of the Four Cycles

This is a four-cycle program of practice and study for anyone interested in learning about Shambhala Buddhism and meditation. Students do not need to be or become a Buddhist to take these courses, although that opportunity will be provided for those who want to do so. This course of study will also prepare students for Sutrayana Seminary, if they desire to take their study and practice further. All students will be encouraged to take Shambhala Training levels and other offerings at the center concurrently.

Each cycle provides:

• weekly classes as well as one-day, two-day, and weekend intensives

• courses in each of the three yanas

• a community practice intensive

• teachings of the Sakyong, the Vidyadhara, and other teachers

• a central transmission and contemplation

These four cycles could be completed in 2 years: one cycle in the fall and one in the winter/spring of each year. Some centers may take longer.

Introductory Course:   Fearless Buddha, Peaceful Warrior (Saturday / Sunday)

First Cycle:

Taming the Mind 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Shamatha: Nine Stages community weekend
Walking the Bodhisattva Path 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Maitri: Five Wisdom Energies community weekend
Second Cycle
The Three Jewels Saturday / Sunday
Bodhisattva Warrior: Six Paramitas 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Vipashyana: Four Foundations of Mindfulness community weekend
Lineage & Devotion 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Third Cycle
Karma: Five Skandhas & Twelve Nidanas 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Union of Shamatha-Vipashyana community weekend
Lojong 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Sadhana of Mahamudra community weekend
Fourth Cycle
Life of Buddha & History of Sangha 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Mahayana & the Bodhisattva Vow weekend
Emptiness 5 classes + 1 day intensive
Journey Without Goal 5 classes + 1 day intensive


 An Introduction to Shambhala Buddhism


The purpose of this course is to introduce the new student to the three yanas of the buddhadharma and to the path of the Shambhala warrior. It is also introduces the view of establishing a community based on awakened principles.


1.1 Taming the Mind


This course, together with its companion course Walking the Bodhisattva Path, introduces a student to the view and practice of hinayana and mahayana. These courses are based on a three-week seminar taught by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche at Karmê Chöling in November 1999.

In Taming the Mind, Rinpoche presents the hinayana path of renouncing samsara and the joy of developing discipline on the path that leads to liberation. He emphasizes the importance of having the confidence that comes from understanding what we are doing, and presents the path in a vast, multiple lifetimes perspective.

Format: Six classes and a dharma exchange

Five weekday classes

1. The Buddhist Path of Transformation

2. Mindfulness and Awareness: The Practice of Calm Abiding

3. True Suffering

4. Motivation and the Four Reminders

5. Faith and Discipline

One day intensive

6. Selflessness and Liberation
7. Dharma Exchange

During this course, students are introduced to the practice of contemplation and specifically the contemplation of the four reminders.

1.2 Shamatha: Nine Stages

A Community Practice Intensive


This weekend intensive is open to all members of the community and is mainly a chance to deepen our understanding and realization of shamatha. The focus is on the first four stages of shamatha, which are the most relevant for most of us. There is no prerequisite for this intensive, except that everyone should have already received meditation instruction. Students who have taken Taming the Mind will have studied some of this material already, but a review in the context of intensive practice will only be of benefit. This material will also be deepened significantly later in the context of dathün.

Format: Community weekend intensive

Friday night talk

Saturday & Sunday 9:00 to 5:30

Walking the Bodhisattva Path


This course, together with its companion course Taming the Mind (cycle I), introduces a student to the view and practice of hinayana and mahayana. These courses are based on a three-week seminar taught by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche at Karmê Chöling in November 1999.

In Walking the Bodhisattva Path, Rinpoche presents the mahayana path of dedicating one's life and practice to rousing awakened heart and engaging the practices of a bodhisattva warrior for the benefit of all sentient beings.

Format: Five classes and a one day intensive

Five weekday classes

1.Transition from Hinayana and Introduction to Mahayana

2. The Bodhisattva Vow

3. The Practice of Rousing Bodhichitta

4. Engaging Bodhichitta: The Six Paramitas

5. Ultimate Bodhichitta

One day intensive

6. The Heart Sutra / Wisdom and Compassion

7. Dharma Exchange (see description at end of course descriptions)

1.4 Maitri: Five Wisdom Energies

A Community Weekend


Maitri: Five Wisdom Energies is a meditation practice that was created in 1973 by the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche based on the traditional principles of the five buddha families and a vajrayana approach to mind, energy, and space. Though it has a strong vajrayana flavor, Maitri has been a practice available to the public and practitioners of all levels. In particular, it has been used in a therapeutic community setting for in-depth training in Buddhist psychology, as well as the arts, at Naropa University.

Maitri practice essentially highlights and tunes us directly into our different psychological styles or energies. This allows us to clearly see and experience how we embody and relate to them in either a sane or neurotic fashion. Gradually, we open up and embrace these energies in ourselves and our world with friendliness or maitri. This warmth helps us transform the frozen energy of self-centeredness into the flowing creativity of compassionate wisdom.

This practice is generally done in an intensive group format. It both needs and creates a strong container and sense of community. There are many ways to approach the practice. In this context, we are using it as an experiential introduction to the principles of vajrayana. Vajrayana is primarily known for its skillful means, and Maitri is an excellent example of the Vidyadhara’s genius in transmitting the essence of the tradition in "new" creative forms.


2.1 The Three Jewels


This weekend explores what means to take refuge in the three jewels and to become a Buddhist. It is open to anyone who is curious and interested in exploring the topic of refuge, but who is not at the point of making a formal commitment. In that sense, it is just another course in the curriculum. However, it is also an essential step for those who are preparing to take refuge.

The Sakyong regards the refuge vow as a large and meaningful step on the student’s path, and would like students to be well informed and well prepared. For this reason, students who are considering taking refuge should take this weekend ideally some three to four months before the vow ceremony. This will give time for students to contemplate the meaning of the vow.

Therefore, it is recommended that Centers consider offering refuge vows once a year as a major community celebration rather than scheduling several smaller ceremonies. The teacher of this weekend intensive need not be an Acharya, but should be a highly experienced senior

2.2 The Bodhisattva Warrior: Six Paramitas


Having developed a powerful aspiration to attain complete enlightenment for the benefit of all, one takes the bodhisattva vow to manifest and actualize that aspiration. After this, one develops the bodhichitta of engaging, entering into the actions of a bodhisattva.

This course presents the six transcendent actions or paramitas of the bodhisattva path. Two texts will be used: the Vidyadhara’s 1980 & 1982 Seminary Transcripts. The two presentations are closely related in structure and provide the basic instructions on what these actions involve. Much of this material was covered in one class in the "Walking the Bodhisattva Path" course. In this course, we are simply taking it one step deeper.

This class and topic is be a good time to begin asking for more involvement from the students. You could run this class in a seminar or discussion format, asking certain students to prepare material for the class, or even to lead the discussion. What you do exactly will depend on the size and maturity of the class; nevertheless, they can be invited to stretch and be put on the spot. The class could sit in a circle to facilitate discussion.

Format: six classes and a dharma exchange

Five weekday classes

1. Sugatagarbha

2. Generosity

3. Discipline

4. Patience

5. Exertion

One day intensive

6. Meditation & Prajna

7. Dharma Exchange

2.3 The Four Foundations Of Mindfulness

A Community Practice Intensive


All teachers of the tradition emphasize the critical importance of beginning the Buddhist path "at the beginning," by relating directly to one's mind through the practice of mindfulness (Tib: trenpa) and awareness (Tib: sheshin) meditation. Traditionally, the four foundations are the first undertaking of the first path of accumulation.

This intensive demonstrates the degree of precision that can be applied to meditation practice. Participants experience a range of meditation techniques that emphasize both flexibility and the personal responsibility for "being your own meditation instructor."

This is a weekend program of intensive meditation for practitioners at all levels of practice, including teachers and meditation instructors who wish to deepen their practice.

Community weekend intensive
Friday night talk
Saturday & Sunday 9:00 to 5:30

2.4 Lineage and Devotion


This course will introduce the principles of transmission and the student/ teacher relationship as a central component to the study and practice of Shambhala Buddhism. Although historical figures are studied in this class, this is not a history class, but a look at the dharmic paths and human qualities of our lineage holders.

We will also explore an overview of the path of devotion according to the three yana principles of trust, faith, and devotion. Finally, we will introduce the central lineage figures of this Shambhala Buddhist tradition and the living and up-to-date nature of their life examples.

Six Classes and a Dharma Exchange

Five weekday classes
1. Contemplation of Lineage

2. Trust, Faith, and Devotion

3. The Kagyü Lineage: Tilopa, Naropa, and Marpa

4. The Kagyü Lineage: Milarepa

5. The Nyingma Lineage: Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal

One day intensive (consisting of one class and a dharma exchange) The Shambhala Lineage: Gesar and Manene


Karma & the Nidanas (5 classes + 1 day intensive)


Who am I? How did I get here, and where am I going? Looking directly at the experience of mind, we begin to understand our apparent confusion about ourselves and the phenomena of our world. Renouncing the painful cycle of confused action (karma), we use the natural inquisitiveness of mind to see how confusion arises and therefore how it could simply cease, allowing awake wisdom to manifest.

Union of Shamatha-Vipashyana (community weekend)


Full awakening is not possible until we have realized the inherent unity of shamatha and vipashyana. Being on the dot is only possible when we appreciate the whole space of our existence. Opening to our world comes from being fully present and alive to who we are. Traditionally, we practice these qualities of precision and vastness as if they were separate and gradually blend them together. Finally, we realize they have never been apart. This weekend continues to deepen our practice of shamatha, and offers glimpses of vipashyana and its union with shamatha.

3.3 Lojong (5 classes + 1 day intensive)


Lojong or "mind training" cultivates realization in emptiness and compassion, the essential qualities of the bodhisattva warrior. This practice-oriented course will explore the mahayana slogans of Atisha, a 10th century Indian Buddhist master whose teachings left a deep imprint on all Tibetan lineages. The contemplative practice of exchanging self for other (tonglen or "sending and taking") is emphasized in conjunction with day-to- day application of the mind training slogans.

3.4 Sadhana of Mahamudra (community weekend)


The Sadhana of Mahamudra is a short liturgy practiced by the Shambhala community on the new and full moon days of the lunar calendar. It was written by Trungpa Rinpoche while on retreat in Bhutan in 1968. This retreat marked a profound turning point in his presentation of the buddhadharma in the West. The text presents a fruition vajrayana view, bringing together the devotion mahamudra of the Kagyü and the crazy wisdom ati of the Nyingma. As such, it provides a powerful touchstone for understanding our vajrayana heritage.


4.1 Life of Buddha & History of Sangha (5 classes + 1 day intensive


Much of our study has focused on dharma. In this course we will enjoy the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha and the evolution of the early Buddhist community of practitioners. We will also briefly survey the spread of the teachings through various cultures over the past 2500 years. This course can give us a greater appreciation for the unique transmission of buddhadharma to the West in which we are taking part.

4.2 Mahayana & the Bodhisattva Vow (weekend)


The entrance into the "great vehicle" of deep insight and vast action is marked by taking the courageous vow of the bodhisattva. Through this vow, we dedicate our life and practice toward complete awakening and the benefit of all beings. The liturgy of the vow will serve as the core contemplative component for this weekend in conjunction with the practice of rousing bodhichitta. This weekend is open to all, and is required for those aspiring to take the bodhisattva vow.

4.3 Emptiness (5 classes + 1 day intensive)


Form is emptiness; emptiness itself is form.
Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness.
In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and
consciousness are emptiness.
Thus, Shariputra, all dharmas are emptiness.

When the teaching of the Heart Sutra first occurred, its proclamation of emptiness was so powerful that several highly realized disciples died of heart attacks. Yet today we can read it without missing a beat. In this course we will study and contemplate the sutra line by line and bring these teachings alive so that we too could take them to heart.

4.4 Journey Without Goal (5 classes + 1 day intensive)


In 1974, Trungpa Rinpoche gave talks on the principles of tantra at Naropa University. His teachings transmit a direct and experiential picture of the teacher-student relationship, devotion and empowerment, self-existing or nontheistic energy, mandala principle, visualization and formless meditation, and the fruition qualities of the three kayas, five buddha families, and unconditioned space. A classic introduction to the path of vajrayana.