I thought it would be a good idea to post an announcement here about two upcoming online courses to be taught by my own teacher and research collaborator Tibetan physician and tantric yogi Dr Nida Chenagtsang, which I will be assisting with. Both training programmes start in only a few days and are being offered through Sorig Institute. The courses will be hosted on Teachable and lectures and discussion will take place primarily over Zoom (further information about Dr Nida, his life, work, and training can be found here, here, and here).
The first course is a follow-on foundational course in Tibetan traditional medicine or Sowa Rigpa (gso ba rig pa, a.k.a. Sorig) or the “Science of Healing”. Tibetan medicine is a remarkably cosmopolitan tradition of healing, incorporating medical knowledge, principles, and techniques from Indian, Graeco-Persian, Chinese, Mongolian, and indigenous Tibetan sources. Three months ago, the Sorig Institute launched its inaugural class, ‘Sowa Rigpa: The Foundations’. During this 108 hour/3 month online, interactive course, which took the form of three three-hour Zoom lectures and Q and A sessions per week, Dr Nida Chenagtsang instructed almost two hundred students from around the world in the foundational theoretical and practical elements of Sowa Rigpa, as outlined in the first or Root Tantra (rtsa rgyud) of the primary textbook of Tibetan medicine, the four volume twelfth century Tibetan scripture known as the Gyushi (rgyud bzhi) or ‘Four (Medical) Tantras’. Students learned about the basic principles of Tibetan humoural theory, diagnostic methods, dietary, lifestyle, pharmacological, and external therapy interventions, and received a basic introduction to subtle anatomy, Buddhist theories of sickness, and Tibetan ritual healing methods. The second course which begins on August 31st and runs for the next three months builds on the foundation put in place by the first. Taking the form of two two-hour classes per week, the syllabus for this Foundations class part II is divided into two sections: the first ten lectures or so will follow closely the second major limb or section of the second or ‘Explanatory Tantra’ (bshad rgyud) of the Gyushi called ‘Body Formation’, which deals with Tibetan ideas about conception, embryology, anatomy, physiology, bodily functions and classifications, and the identification of signs of death or the dissolution of the gross and subtle constituents. Key ideas relating to subtle tantric anatomy, a subject not directly treated in the Gyushi, will be taught as part of this first section as well.
The remaining weeks of the course will provide a thorough introduction to Tibetan materia medica. Students will learn about the principles on which Tibetan physicians assess the qualities and potencies of plant, mineral, and animal medicines, and will study at least one hundred distinct individual substances which are used either singularly or in combination to produce medicines in Sorig. Students will also learn about the ingredients, qualities, applications, and manufacture of several important traditional Tibetan herbal formulas.
Here are the details for the programme:
Sowa Rigpa: The Foundations (Part Two)
Body Formation & Introduction to Herbal Medicine
52 Hour Online Training with Dr. Nida Chenagtsang
August 31st – November 25th 2020
Mondays & Wednesdays
8am Los Angeles
10am Mexico City
11am New York/Toronto
5pm Paris/Rome/Cape Town
11pm-1am Hong Kong
PART ONE: Body Formation:
This portion of the course covers the topics:
– Embryology according to medical and energy systems
– Anatomy of the body including tissues and energy structures
– Physiology and typology according to the three nyes pa or humours
– Physical and energetic death processes
PART TWO: Introduction to Tibetan Herbal Medicine:
This portion of the course covers the topics:
– Tibetan Materia Medica: Herbs listed in the Root Tantra
– Pharmacology: Basic Sorig formulas, their production, application, and dosage for general and specific indications.
Course consists of:
26 two-hour live interactive webinars taught by Dr. Nida Chenagtsang.
Course notes and textual materials provided by the Sorig Institute
Homework assignments and quizzes to assess progress
Since this is a follow-on course, it is only open to students who have completed the Sorig Foundations Part I Root Tantra course or to individuals who can demonstrate equivalent familiarity with basic Sorig principles and practices or an equivalent level of training. Students who have studied Sorig elsewhere are welcome to join, following the completion of a short online entrance quiz. Recordings of all the lectures for the last three-month Part I course are also now available for students to purchase and to watch and study in their own time. Individuals who work through earlier material can also enroll in the second course and access class recordings, with the option to work through the material at their own pace rather than attend live lectures should they wish to. See here for more information about enrollment and pricing options. Few opportunities currently exist to study Tibetan medicine online, in English, and in such detail.
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The second course coming up is an unprecedented 100 day immersive training programme in the Yuthok Nyingthig, the tantric Buddhist or Vajrayana cycle of teachings transmitted by the chief systematizer of Tibetan medicine and revealer/composer of the Gyushi, Yuthok Yonten Gyatso the Younger. The Yuthok Nyingthig or ‘Heart-Essence Teachings of Yuthok’ is a unique Dharma-cycle that describes a comprehensive curriculum of tantric yogic training pitched specifically at working Tibetan physicians and individuals who wish to make a spiritual connection with Yuthok’s lineage. It is the only complete set of Highest Yoga Tantra teachings focused on Medicine Buddha as a meditational deity, and possesses many unique features (for a detailed discussion of the Yuthok Nyingthig’s special characteristics, see my translation of an essay by Dr Nida on this blog). It has been studied, promoted, and practiced by great masters from a range of Tibetan Buddhist lineages, including such luminaries as Zurkharwa Nyamnyi Dorje, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Desi Sangye Gyatso, and the Great Fifth Dalai Lama. Dr Nida has spent the past several years explaining and transmitting aspects of Yuthok’s system of Vajrayana teachings to students around the world but this immersion programme represents the first time that an overview of the entire breadth of Yuthok’s tantric teachings will be offered in English.
This 100 day immersion programme is inspired by the traditional one hundred day retreats undertaken by busy, tantric yogi/ni householders or ngakpa/ma in Dr Nida’s home community of Rebgong. The course is structured in week-long modules, which together aim to provide a thorough introduction to the full scope of the practices taught in the Yuthok Nyingthig. The schedule and breakdown of lessons for the course are as follows:
TUESDAYS & THURSDAYS: 8 – 10AM LA/ 5 – 7PM ROME
Teachings & Transmissions with Dr. Nida Chenagtsang
SATURDAYS: 9 – 10:30AM LA/ 6PM ROME
Group Discussion/ Q&A moderated by assistant teacher, Dr. Ben Joffe
SUNDAYS: 9 – 11AM LA/ 6 – 8PM ROME
Guided group practice by Dönla Tsering or Christiana Polites
THIS COURSE INCLUDES ACCESS TO ONLINE LEARNING PLATFORM WITH:
– Practice guide for 100 days of progressive training
– Digital files of all practice texts provided by Sky Press
– New translations & supplementary prayers and practices
– Recordings of live lectures and practice sessions posted after each class for your review
– Additional pre-recorded support videos
– Student Forum
Taught in English, with simultaneous translation available in multiple languages. Please inquire about your language.
Sliding Scale: $500 – $1000
Your donations help to support the development of Yuthok Nyingthig teachings internationally, including:
– Research, translation, and publication of Yuthok Nyingthig teachings
– Program development and administration
– Construction of Yuthok Ling temple in Paro, Bhutan
(SUBJECT TO SLIGHT MODIFICATION ACCORDING TO THE FLOW OF TEACHINGS)
PART ONE: THE FOUNDATIONS
INTRODUCTION TO YUTHOK NYINGTHIG PATH & NGÖNDRO PRELIMINARY PRACTICES
WEEK ONE (SEPTEMBER 1 + 3)
Intro to Buddhism
Sutra & Tantra
Overview of the Yuthok Nyingthig Path
WEEK TWO (SEPTEMBER 8 + 10)
Common Ngöndro: Four thoughts that turn the mind to the dharma
Developing renunciation for samsara and the sincere motivation to practice dharma
WEEK THREE: (SEPTEMBER 15 + 17)
Uncommon Ngondro: Yuthok’s Preliminary Practices
Shanglön Protector Practice
PART TWO: CREATION STAGE (KYERIM)
YUTHOK’S FOUR GURU YOGAS & SWIFT DAKINI PRACTICE:
THE SUNLIGHT OF COMPASSION THAT ELIMINATES THE DARKNESS OF SUFFERING
WEEK FOUR: (SEPTEMBER 22 + 24)
Outer Guru Yoga: The Wish Fulfilling Jewel
WEEK FIVE (SEPTEMBER 29 & OCTOBER 1)
Inner Guru Yoga: The Source of the Fulfillment of All Wishes
WEEK SIX (OCTOBER 6 + 8)
Secret Guru Yoga: Swift Liberation for the Fortunate Ones
WEEK SEVEN (OCTOBER 13 + 15)
Concise Guru Yogas: The Primordial Wisdom Wheel
Swift Dakini Practice
PART THREE: COMPLETION STAGE (DZOGRIM)
INTRODUCTION TO THE SIX YOGAS:
THE SELF-ARISING THREE KAYAS OF THE COMPLETION STAGE
WEEK EIGHT (OCTOBER 20 + 22)
Tummo Yoga: The Self-Blazing Blissful Heat
WEEK NINE (OCTOBER 27 + 29)
Illusory Body Yoga: The Self-Liberated Attachment and Aversion
WEEK TEN (NOVEMBER 3 + 5)
Dream Yoga: The Self-Purification of Delusion
Clear Light Yoga: The Self-Awakened Ignorance
WEEK ELEVEN (NOVEMBER 18 + 20)
Phowa Yoga: Buddhahood without Meditation
Bardo Yoga: The Self-Appearing Sambhogakaya
WEEK TWELVE (NOVEMBER 24; NO CLASS ON NOVEMBER 26/THANKSGIVING)
Six Yogas Conclusion
PART FOUR: GREAT PERFECTION (DZOGCHEN)
INTRODUCTION TO THE TWO MUDRAS AND ATI YOGA
WEEK THIRTEEN (DECEMBER 1-3)
Karmamudra: The Path of Great Bliss of the Lower Gates
Mahamudra: The Path of Complete Liberation of the Upper Gates
WEEK FOURTEEN (DECEMBER 8 + 10)
Dzogchen/ Ati Yoga
During a recent Q and A associated with teachings he gave online, Dr Nida encouraged students to avoid attending wang or empowerments without first doing some research and educating themselves about the teachers doing the transmitting and traditions being transmitted and what such transmission implied or entailed. These days, it is quite common and quite normal for individuals to attend empowerment ceremonies without really knowing what these are about and without having any intention to take up the commitments associated with the things being pointed out and transmitted. The idea for this 100 day training though is that it will provide students with everything they might need in terms of explanations, resources, and transmissions to progress in the future through Yuthok’s practices in the proper manner. The programme will offer students an overview and taste of Yuthok’s entire Dharma-cycle so that they can then make an informed decision about whether they would like to receive empowerment and to commit to regular practice of Yuthok’s sadhanas. While the course is designed with students who will go on to take up committed practice of Yuthok’s lineage-practices in mind, students who enroll are not obligated to commit to the lineage or to receive empowerments and other transmissions if they do not wish to. Options for receiving empowerment into the Yuthok Nyingthig will be discussed with students who wish to do so. Students are free to opt out of the course at any time and the course is structured so that discussion of more advanced tantric yogic practices comes towards the end of the programme.
It goes without saying that the subjects dealt with during each week of the immersion are vast and profound. They cannot be comprehensively summarized or mastered in just a few short days of online interaction. That said, as part of the programme we will be providing students with a day-by-day schedule of prayers and meditations which they will ideally practice for some amount of time on each allotted day of the 100 day training. We understand that everyone’s schedules and responsibilities are different, however, so there is no specific requirement regarding how much time students have to commit to praying and meditating every day, and we will not be checking or policing this. Still, our hope is that enrollees will make an effort to put aside at least some time, even just fifteen or twenty minutes every day, to familiarize themselves in a more experiential way with aspects of the tradition. There will also be regular Q and A sessions and live, online, guided group practice sessions.
The Yuthok Nyingthig clearly outlines the samaya or practice commitments for practitioners of different capacities engaging in different types of practices within its corpus of ritual texts. Students enrolled in the course are not required to commit to upholding these samaya in order to join or to participate in the course but the specific samaya for the lineage will be explained as part of the curriculum and our intention is that students who wish to take up serious committed practice under Dr Nida’s guidance will have everything they need to do so by the end of the course.
For a variety of complex reasons, medical and tantric education and professionalization have drifted apart to a considerable degree both inside Tibet and in Tibetan exile in the last few decades. This course will provide a rare opportunity for students interested in the esoteric, spiritual dimensions of Tibet’s healing traditions to familiarize themselves with a lineage centered on the ideal of integrated medical and tantric yogic expertise. Further information about enrollment can be found here. The costs above represent a suggested offering for the course. As with the first course, various scholarship and payment options are available. While it is traditional to make offerings of some kind in exchange for Secret Mantra teachings and transmissions no one who wants to join and is invested in learning about this lineage will be turned away for lack of funds. Tibetan, Bhutanese, Mongolian, Nepali and Himalayan students are also welcome to join the course free of charge. Please feel free to contact the administrators through the Yuthok Ling contact page for more information or with any other queries.
May it be auspicious, may merit increase and virtue spread!