The Ten-Year Gateway Program

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 (1800-1866)

(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.

Gateway Program estimated annual cost:

Total annual estimated cost ranges depending on what housing options you choose, how many retreats you take, and amount of dana you offer.

  • Annual Fee of $350/year, due by Jan 31st of each year.
  • Sustaining Sangha membership: $30 – $60/month (higher levels available)=  $360-$720/year
  • Annual 5-7 day retreat at Tara Mandala (which includes housing and food) at a cost of $415 -$1845 (depending on type of accommodation chosen) with suggested teacher dana of $150-$320 = $415-$2,165/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 for the first 2 years, required every year after that: Dzinpa Rangdröl Drubchen: from $640 to $2,650 (depending on housing & donation options you choose) – Sangha member discounts available.
  • Three Yana Retreat (for those who have not completed this prior to enrollment): cost not included in total below. 

Total annual estimated cost may range from $1,450 up to $5,725 per year depending on your housing options, how many retreats you take per year, and amount of dana you offer. THIS ESTIMATE INCLUDES DRUBCHEN. Travel expenses and extra retreats, such as the Three Yanas, are not included.


Financial Assistance

Financial assistance is available for those in need for Gateway Program retreats as well as the Gateway Program Annual Fee. Click on the link below to apply. 

Please note that the Sustaining Sangha membership requirement is not applicable for financial assistance.  Also any discounts from any level of Sustaining Sangha membership will not apply if receiving a scholarship or deferred payment plan.

Click here for the Financial Assistance Application


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.




Now in its fifth year, the Gateway Program continues to deepen with practitioners entering into the profound practices of Dzogchen. This year the “Tigers” will be completing their Ngondro (Preliminaries), the “Garudas” will focus on the deity yoga of Tröma, and the “Completes” will practice the final phase of Rushen, called Semjong (Mind Training), Dzogchen preliminaries.

This year, our White Dakini Drubchen allowed us the opportunity to “come of age” as a strong, collaborative community. It was the first time we held it on our own, without Khenpo Ugyen and Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche. They were missed deeply, but we rose to the challenge and accomplished the 10-day sadhana with a motivated community that heightened its capacity for teamwork and encouragement. The feedback received from longtime participants was glowing. We are grateful to have accomplished it without a hitch!

Gateway provides an opportunity for practitioners around the world, with diverse backgrounds and circumstances, to be a part of a program that gives structure and momentum to their Dharma practice. Each cohort becomes a Dharma family inspiring and supporting each other on the path. A new cohort will begin in 2019.                        




“I have participated in the Gateway program for five years now. It has profoundly changed my life. Being given access to these precious teachings in a structured and progress format has been a great gift. Having the support of sangha, teachers and, of course, Lama la…well…there are no words. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to participate.”

  • L. Treasure, Sign Language Interpreter


“By committing myself to practice for two hours a day, I started on a path that has activated a REAL process of stripping away what’s false in my life. The commitment has necessitated a lot of distraction falling away, and the outcome is a reorientation of my value system and my way of being in the world. Seven years into the practices, I feel a great deal of inner simplification and clarity. I am constantly touched by the deep psychological wisdom in these ancient processes and the way each step catalyzes the next layer to open. The feedback that comes from life in the world becomes part of this dialogue. During my time in the program, I have experienced deeply disorientating personal tragedy and loss, but I was able to relax into the groundlessness by staying with the process and through the support of Lama and the sangha. In this way it became a doorway to understanding the true groundless state of awareness.”

  • Rosemary Bourne, Acupuncturist




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.”

SUTRAYANA: THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF THE BUDDHA (classes alternating Saturdays) | January 20 – April 14 | Polly Ryan, MA, MFT – Truckee, CA and Online via Zoom (email for registration link)

THREE YANA RETREAT | June 17 – July 14 | Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, Lopön Charlotte Rotterdam & Pieter Oosthuizen | 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 17 – 24 | Lopön Charlotte Rotterdam & Pieter Oosthuizen
  • MAHAYANA: VAST VIEW, OPEN HEART | June 27 – July 4 | Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo & Pieter Oosthuizen
  • VAJRAYANA: THE MANDALA PRINCIPLE | July 7 – 14 | Lopön Charlotte Rotterdam

GATEWAY FOUNDATION: DEEPENING NGÖNDRO & PARCHANGMA CHÖD (By invitation only – Tigers) | August 5 – 9 | Lama Tsultrim Allione & Anna Raithel

WHITE DAKINI DRUBCHEN | August 8 – 19 | Drubpön Lama Karma & Lama Tsultrim Allione

GATEWAY COMPLETE TRANSMISSION: TSALUNG (By invitation only – Garudas) | August 22 – 26

GATEWAY COMPLETE TRANSMISSION: TREKCHÖ (By invitation only – Completes) | August 22 – 26 |  Tulku Sang-ngag Rinpoche

MAHAYANA (in German only)  | October 19 – 25 | Dagmar Löwenkamp – Bavaria, Germany, Seminarzentrum Schloss Wasmuthhausen