The Gateway Program
A 10-year study and practice program in the cycle of
Dzinpa Rangdröl (Self-Liberation of Clinging)
a Dzogchen terma from Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje
Gateway is a program for dedicated practitioners who wish to live a life imbued with intense practice. The curriculum consists of all practices done in the traditional Tibetan Buddhist three-year solitary retreat, but in a format adapted for the modern practitioner living “in the world” spanning a ten-year period.
As this complete and magnificent Dzogchen lineage continues to arrive and take root Tara Mandala, we find ourselves feeling blessed in so many ways, both in practice and in our activities. Tulku Sang Ngag Rinpoche has asked Lama Tsultrim to preside over the annual White Dakini Drubchen as the Vajra Master this year for the first time. We are so excited to have her take the Vajra Master seat and to have our community hold more and more of the Drubchen activities. We now have three different cohorts progressing through the 10 year program, some just beginning the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro, others practicing Deity Yoga and others focusing on the Dzogchen preliminary practice of Rushen.
The focus of this program is the Dzinpa Rangdröl (Self Liberation of Clinging) cycle of teachings that Machig Labdrön revealed to Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje (1800-1866). It was transmitted by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche to Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche several times, and he has been teaching it at Tara Mandala since 2008. It is an extremely unique lineage because it combines the teachings of Machig Labdrön with the Dzogchen (Great Perfection) teachings. The cycle contains two deities directly connected to Chöd, Tsogyal Karmo (the White Dakini) and Tröma, in addition to three Chöd practices. It also contains teachings on Trekchö and Tögal, which are wholly unique to Dzogchen.
(Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje)
This program offers a rare opportunity to receive this exceedingly pure esoteric lineage with consistent support and structure for the dedicated practitioner. Never before has it been taught in the West. Already, several people have completed the traditional three-year retreat in this lineage at Tara Mandala. This program is unusual because it makes the three-year retreat curriculum available to those who live and practice in the world. This lineage is being established at Tara Mandala through the kind guidance and blessings of Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche. The program is open to anyone interested who is accepted after their application and interview with Lama Tsultrim.
(above: Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Gochen Tulku Sang-Ngag Rinpoche, and Lama Tsultrim Allione)
The Dzinpa Rangdröl Cycle
The Tibetan word Dzinpa means to cling or to fixate. Rang means self, innate, or inherent. Dröl means liberation. Compositely, the term Dzinpa Rangdröl may be translated as Self-Liberation of Clinging— a path in which fixation or clinging are inherently liberated by themselves into the nature of the mind. It is the core text of Do Khyentse’s extensive terma (treasure) cycle called the Yangsang Khandro Tug Tig (Exceedingly Secret Heart Essence of the Dakini). Within this cycle are all of the different types of practice that comprise the full Tibetan Buddhist path.
The program is divided into two sections: First, the three-year Foundation Program in which one engages in the foundational practices of Ngöndro; and second, the Complete Transmission Program, which builds upon the first, focusing on the more advanced practices of Tsogyal Karmo (White Dakini), Tröma, three Chöd practices, and the Dzogchen preliminaries of Rushan, followed by Trekchö and Tögal. There are also various other yogic and Dzogchen practices attached to this cycle, including three main Chöd practices of varying lengths. It is rare to have a terma cycle of such vast profundity that is complete and thus able to lead one to complete liberation.
Over the course of the program, a close cohort of fellow practitioners will develop, providing a sense of camaraderie and support while engaging in these profound practices. Each practitioner will also be assigned a Kalyanamitra, a spiritual mentor, with whom they can communicate, get support and share experiences.
Level 1: The Foundation Program Overview
The Foundation program spans three years and covers the Ngöndro, or ‘that which goes before,’ which is the gateway practice for entering the profound lineage of the Dzinpa Rangdröl cycle. This program is designed so that participants will complete the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro at the end of the three-year time period. Since the time of Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century, the practice of Ngöndro has been completed by many great yogis and yoginis, many of whom have taken Ngöndro as one of their core practices. Commensurate with the complete body of the Dzinpa Rangdröl cycle, many practices in this Ngöndro are considered esoteric and in the past were given only as a practitioner’s second Ngöndro. In this Ngöndro, one completes 100,000 prostrations with refuge; 40,000 Bodhicitta prayers with accompanying meditation; 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras; 100,000 Mandala Offerings; and 1,300,000 Guru Yoga mantras. All of these are accompanied by visualizations. The purpose of these practices is to purify the body, speech and mind and to accumulate merit, akin to preparing the foundation before a house is built. Practitioners should expect to practice 2-3 hours a day.
Those who have already completed a Ngöndro in another lineage will be required to do 10% of the Dzinpa Rangdrol Ngöndro in order to enter into the second level “Complete Transmission” program. To receive these instructions and begin the practice, there are no additional prerequisites; however, it is a practice that requires great effort and commitment. The application and interview process must be completed.
Level 2: The Complete Transmission Program Overview
The second program builds upon the Foundation program and is for those who have completed the Ngöndro requirement. The seven years of this curriculum include the deity yoga practices of Tsogyal Karmo and Tröma, Tsalung, and the Dzogchen preliminaries of Outer and Inner Rushen followed by Trekchö and Tögal. There are also various other yogic and Dzogchen practices attached to this cycle, including three main Chöd practices of varying lengths. There will be both group and solitary retreat requirements as well as a commitment to regular two-hour daily practice. The first Complete Transmission program began in the summer of 2013 and is still in progress.
Prerequisites: Completing of the Foundation program (Ngöndro) or 10% of the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro if you have already completed Ngöndro in another lineage. Interview and acceptance by Lama Tsultrim is also required.
Foundation Program Details
The primary focus of the Foundation program is training in the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro, the Foundational Vajrayana practices, which include:
- Contemplations on the Four Thoughts That Turn the Mind toward the Dharma
- Training in the two kinds of Bodhicitta: Absolute and Relative
- The Four Immeasurables: Love, Compassion, Joy, and Equanimity
- Progressive Stages of Emptiness and other topics
- Barlung Breathing
- Refuge & Prostrations
- Vajrasattva mantra recitation
- Mandala Offering
- Guru Yoga
- Dream Yoga
- Parchangma Chöd will also be taught in the Foundation Program
Each year, you will participate in the following:
- An annual 7-day retreat (including a personal interview) with Lama Tsultrim , Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche, or Lopön Sang Ye at Tara Mandala Retreat Center.
- Two tele-teachings or webcasts with Lama Tsultrim or Tara Mandala senior teachers to be attended locally or via live webcast
- Personal interviews with Lama Tsultrim, Sang-ngag Rinpoche and Lopön Sang Ye as needed. (Please note: during retreats, priority for personal interviews will be given to those enrolled in the Gateway Program.)
- Email or Skype contact with your Kalyanamitra, Lama Tsultrim and Lopön Sang Ye as needed
- Required daily 2-3 hour personal practice commitment (depending on the speed you do the practices at, it will take longer in the beginning as you learn the practices)
- Occasional daylong, weekend or longer personal retreats as appropriate
- Dzinpa Rangdröl Drubchen retreat at Tara Mandala – first 2 years optional, but the third and final year attendance is required to graduate.
- Becoming a Sustaining Sangha member of Tara Mandala
- Taking the Parchangma Chöd Retreat
- In addition, those participants who have not yet completed the Three Yana Month Long Retreat (Sutrayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana) will be required to do so during the 3 years of the Foundation Program.
Foundation Program cost:
- Annual tuition of $350/year
- Sustaining Sangha membership: $30 – $60/month (higher levels available)= $360-$720/year
- Annual 7-day retreat at Tara Mandala (which includes housing and food) at a cost of $588-$1596 (depending on type of accommodation chosen) with suggested teacher dana of $150-$300 = $736-$1,896/year
- Two tele-teachings or webcasts per year with Lama Tsultrim, Lopön Sang Ye, or Lama Tsultrim’s senior teachers with suggested teacher dana of $50 per session = $100/year
- Optional: Solo cabin rental (not included in total below) = Discounted to $200/week
- Optional first 2 years: Dzinpa Rangdröl Drubchen: cost TBD (not included in total below) – Sangha member discounts available.
- Three Yana Retreat (for those who have not completed this prior to enrollment): cost TBD (not included in total below)
- Application for Foundation Program can be found by clicking on this link
Total annual cost: $1,546-$3,066
(Travel expenses and extra retreats not included)
Complete Transmission Program Details
The Complete Transmission program will take those who have completed the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro requirement into the progressive stages that are traditionally practiced during the three-year retreat.
The seven-year Complete Transmission Program will consist of the following:
Years 1 & 2: Yidam Practices:
Tsogyal Karmo retreat in person with Sang-ngag Rinpoche or Lama Tsultrim Allione, followed by daily practice (two hours of practice per day) including approach, accomplishment, activities, and fire puja.
Tröma retreat in person with Sang-ngag Rinpoche or Lama Tsultrim Allione, followed by daily practice including approach, accomplishment, activities, and fire puja.
Year 3: Tsa-Lung:
Six-day retreat in person with Sang-ngag Rinpoche followed by one year of daily practice. Includes Trulkor, Tummo, and Milam (Dream Yoga). Those with physical issues preventing Tsalung practice will be given guidance and support.
Year 4: Rushen:
Seven-day group Outer Rushen (Dzogchen Preliminaries) retreat, as well as instructional retreat with Sang-ngag Rinpoche followed by one year of daily practice, cycling through the Inner Rushen, body training (lujong) and speech training (ngagjong).
Year 5: Semjong:
Group retreat on Dzogchen Mind Training, followed by one year of daily practice. Including Nalbab and Solshog.
Year 6: Trekchö
The Dzogchen practice of “Cutting Through.” In person retreat (length to be determined) with Sang-ngag Rinpoche followed by one year of daily practice.
Year 7: Tögal
The Dzogchen practice of “Leaping Over.” In person retreat (length to be determined) with Sang-ngag Rinpoche followed by daily practice.
Complete Transmission Program Schedule:
- 1st seven-year cycle: 2013-2020 (started with the Aug 5-16 Drubchen in 2013)
- 2nd seven-year cycle: 2016-2023 (upon completion of first Foundation group)
*Dates and details to be determined according to Sang-ngag Rinpoche and Lama Tsultrim’s schedules.
Note: All participants will need to complete Three Yanas by the end of the Complete Transmission program.
QUESTION: Can I join Gateway even though it is already underway?
ANSWER: A new cohort begins once every three years, and since the most recent one began in the summer of 2016, our next cohort will begin in the summer of 2019. We will begin taking applications for the program in 2018.
If you have already completed the Ngöndro in another lineage, you have the option of completing ten percent of the Dzinpa Rangdröl Ngöndro before summer 2019 and joining the Complete Transmission program then. Or additionally, if you were to go into retreat, you could conceivably finish the whole Ngöndro before entering the Complete Transmission program. You must also learn the Parchangma Chöd before entering the Complete Transmission program.
If you feel you can commit to either of these options and want to apply, complete the Gateway application on the website and we will arrange for you to have the interview and receive the Ngöndro transmission.
As this complete and magnificent Dzogchen lineage continues to arrive and take root at Tara Mandala, we find ourselves feeling blessed in so many ways, both in practice and in our activities. We are grateful to Tulku Sang Ngag Rinpoche for sharing this rare lineage with such integrity and generosity. Rinpoche has asked Lama Tsultrim to preside over the annual White Dakini Drubchen as the Vajra Master this year for the first time. We are so excited to have her take the Vajra Master seat and to have our community hold more of the Drubchen responsibilities. Rinpoche will continue to be involved in the program in the coming years as he hands over more responsibility to us.
We now have three different cohorts progressing through the 10 year program: The “Completes,” the “Garudas,” and the newest cohort, the “Tigers.” The Tigers started this past summer with the Ngöndro retreat and they will soon learn Parchangma Chöd. The Garudas graduated into the Complete Transmission phase of the program and began practicing the White Dakini Sadhana this summer. The Completes concluded their year of learning Tsalung and have begun practicing their Dzogchen preliminaries, namely Rushen.
The commitment and discipline required to engage on this path is no small feat. The Gateway participants have a samaya (commitment) to practice two hours each day. They have all found innovative and creative ways to make space and time so that their Dharma practice becomes a primary element of their daily lives.
Visit www.taramandala.org/about/gateway/ to learn more about how to apply to the program.
To my surprise and amazement, I have loved every day of this practice. The only way to experience the depth of it is to actually do it… I cannot verbally articulate the benefits but I am certain that a huge change has occurred in me and my point of view since starting the Gateway Foundation program…
- A.T. , 66, artist
I am so grateful to have entered into this authentic lineage through the Gateway program. As a busy householder with a young child and a small business I can say with complete confidence that my ability to engage deeply and accomplish these traditional practices is greatly attributed to the supportive and blessed container of this structured program.
- Khandro Noble, 38, Esthetician
UPCOMING GATEWAY RETREATS 2017
All retreats take place at Tara Mandala Retreat Center in Colorado unless otherwise noted. Gateway retreats are open to those not in the Gateway Program unless noted “by invitation only.”
THREE YANA RETREAT| June 3 – 30 With Lama Tsultrim Allione, Polly Ryan, MFT & Osel Dorje. The Three Yana retreat is offered in three parts, Sutrayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, and can be taken together or in segments in any order:
- SUTRAYANA: THE JOURNEY OF THE BUDDHA | June 3 – 10 Polly Ryan, MFT & Osel Dorje
- MAHAYANA: VAST VIEW, OPEN HEART | June 13 – 20 Lama Tsultrim & Osel Dorje
- VAJRAYANA: THE MANDALA PRINCIPLE | June 23 – 30 Lama Tsultrim & Osel Dorje
PARCHANGMA CHÖD | June 23 – 30 Lama Tsultrim Allione & Anna Raithel
GATEWAY COMPLETE TRANSMISSION: TROMA SADHANA (By invitation only – Garudas) | August 1 – 5 Lama Tsultrim Allione
GATEWAY COMPLETE TRANSMISSION: DZOGCHEN PRELIMINARIES (By invitation only – Completes) | August 1 – 5 Lama Tsultrim Allione
WHITE DAKINI DRUBCHEN | August 5 – 16 Lama Tsultrim Allione, teachings with Lopön Beth Lee-Herbert
GATEWAY FOUNDATION: DEEPENING NGÖNDRO (By invitation only – Tigers) | August 19 – 23 Lama Tsultrim Allione & Osel Dorje
SUTRAYANA (in German only) | October 2 – 8 (dates could change) Barbara Staemmler – Germany (http://www.gestalttherapie-staemmler.de/)