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PART I: Jan 16, 23, 30 & Feb 6, 13, 20

1. Four Truths for Noble Ones: This teaching is the core of the entire buddhadharma. If we understand bondage and its causes, and liberation and its causes, we will know which causes lead to which results. In the Foundational Vehicle, the causes of bondage are said to be craving or attachment, particularly attachment to an illusory self. In the Mahayana, this analysis is taken further. By deeply examining the objects of our craving and clinging, we see that they are nothing other than our own projections. Because all phenomena are empty of these projections, liberation occurs when we recognize their true nature.

Reading: The Truth of Suffering and the Path of Liberation (NB: while the reading mentions both Hinayana and Abhidharma, it’s definitely a Mahayana perspective.)


2. Three Trainings: We travel the path to liberation by using three complementary methods—training in conduct (aka discipline or action), training in view, and training in meditation. Because not knowing the true nature of our experience is the cause of bondage, the remedy is knowing the true nature.

Reading: Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness


3. Buddha Nature As the Ground: The true nature of mind is always the true nature, whether we recognize it or not. That’s why it’s said that all beings have buddha nature. Sometimes it’s explained that all beings are “buddhas with stains.” The purpose of the path is to remove the stains, not to produce some new thing called “enlightenment.”

Reading: Uttaratantra 1


4. Two Truths: Conventional truth, or relative truth, accurately explains how causality functions, from the perspective of conceptual mind. In that sense it is true. However, conceptual truth also obscures the true nature of phenomena. In that sense, it is deceptive truth. Ultimate truth reveals the true nature.

Reading: Samvirti Satya


5. Madhyamika Investigations: The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, wrote, “Nagarjuna’s approach is similar to having an executioner order his or her own execution.” That’s exactly what the Madhyamika reasonings do to the conceptual mind.

Reading: Great Reasonings of the Middle Way

Slogans: 2-6


6. Sunyata: The experience of the empty luminous nature of genuine reality is sunyata. There are lots of other terms for this experience, but the experience itself is beyond speech and thought. This is indicated by the metaphor of the finger pointing at the moon.

Reading: Emptiness, 

Branching Streams Flow in the Darkness

Slogan: Seeing confusion as the four kayas is supreme sunyata protection



PART II — Mar 13, 20, 27 &  Apr 3, 10, 17

7. Yogacara: The Mahayana developed in India during the early centuries of the Common Era. Nagarjuna emphasized the empty nature of phenomena. Following in his footsteps, two half brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, emphasized the luminous nature of phenomena. They explained that all phenomena were merely appearance; the storehouse consciousness was the source of these appearances; and that genuine reality was free from duality.

Reading: Vasubandhu Three Natures (Gold Trans.), Vasubandhu Three Natures (Brunnholzl Trans.)

Regard all dharmas as dreams


8. Karuna: Compassion becomes more profound as we progress along the path. In conventional compassion, the object of compassion, the compassionate person, and the suffering, are all taken to be truly real. When you recognize that the object of compassion, the suffering, and you, yourself, are all illusory, you practice compassion for the mere appearance of suffering beings. Ultimately, compassion is non-referential. For buddhas, there is no one cultivating anything, but there is spontaneous, effortless radiation of warmth and benefit for others.

Reading: The Karmapa’s Middle Way

Slogan: Three objects, three poisons, three virtuous seeds


9. Bodhicitta: There are two types of bodhichitta. Relative bodhicitta is the intention to attain enlightenment, to be able to bring the powers and wisdom of buddhahood to the aid of suffering beings. Absolute bodhicitta is the realization of the true nature of reality.

Reading: The Way of the Bodhisattva

Contrast absolute and relative bodhicitta slogans in Point Two


10. Bodhisattva Vow: The bodhisattva vow is the formal rite of entry into the Mahayana.

Reading: The Heart of the Buddha up to page 119.

Slogan: Observe these two even at the risk of your life


11. Paramitas: Mahayana training in conduct is the practice of the six, or ten paramitas. Paramita literally means “gone to the other shore.” This is a metaphor for transcendent action. These practices are transcendent because they transcend self-concern. For these actions to be truly transcendent, they need to be free from concepts of the three spheres: thoughts of an actor, an action and an object of the action.

Reading: Continue reading The Heart of the Buddha

Consider which Points of Mind Training are associated with which paramitas


12. Buddha Nature as the Fruition: Our nature has always been perfect buddhahood. Not recognizing our nature, we wandered in samsara. Recognizing it, we are liberated. That nature has never changed. For this reason, Uttaratantra could be translated as the Sublime Continuum.

Reading: Uttaratantra 2

Always maintain only a joyful mind


About the Instructors

Adrienne Chang first heard the message of basic goodness on a Saturday morning in her Shambhala Level 1 class in Washington, DC, nearly ten years ago. She continues to walk the path of the Vidyadhara, and is currently a trainee within the Milinda program, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche's 10-year shedra-styled, teacher training program for Western dharma instructors. Together with fellow trainees from the Siddhartha's Intent, Rigpa, and Shambhala sanghas, Adrienne has taken a deep dive over the last years into the Prajnaparamita, Pramana, and Yogacara philosophies within the Mahayana. Adrienne lives in Luxembourg, and is currently involved in online course content development for the Milinda program. In a previous life, Adrienne was a management consultant for US and international government agencies.
Andy Karr is a writer, photographer, meditator, and a senior teacher of advanced Buddhist courses within two international practice communities in the United States and Europe. He is he author of <i>The Practice of Contemplative Photography</i> and <i>Contemplating Reality</i>. He trained with two of the great founding teachers of Western Buddhism: Shunryu Suzuki Roshi and Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. He is also a student of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
Barry Boyce began practicing and studying with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1973. He was longtime senior editor with the Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma magazines. He is editor-in-chief of Mindful, editor of The Mindfulness Revolution, and co-author of The Rules of Victory, a commentary on Sun Tzu’s Art of War. He has taught many dharma and Shambhala programs and, in recent years, much of his study and teaching has been focused on the Sadhana of Mahamudra.
Daniel Nguyen chanced upon Chögyam Trungpa’s work Transcending Madness in high school. Although he never quite fathomed its meaning, he was nevertheless hooked by the power of those teachings. It eventually led him to study Theravada Buddhism with True North Insight, as well as to explore Shambhala Training. Since 2013, he has been involved with the Profound Treasury Retreats led by Judy Lief, and that has become his main practice community. He resides in Montreal and works as a primary care physician, where he is privileged to be reminded of the realities of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Tillie Perks was raised in a Buddhist community in Canada and has been a practitioner for over twenty years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a master’s degree in Buddhist studies, with a focus on the English poetry of Chögyam Trungpa. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist traditions at McGill University, in Montreal, Quebec. Her research is focused on Buddhism in the modern era. She works for the Chögyam Trungpa Transcription Project, which aims to transcribe all of Chögyam Trungpa's recorded audio and video materials and she is presently serving on the board of the Nalanda Foundation.

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