Curriculum for Practice and Study
(Compiled by Shamar Rinpoche)
Bodhi Path offers a curriculum for meditation practice and study that is rooted in authentic dharma teachings and is suited to the needs and conditions of modern-day dharma practitioners.
The Bodhi Path curriculum is based on the teachings of Mind Training (Tibetan: Lojong), a profound system of contemplative practices that helps bring mindfulness, awareness and insight to our experiences, both on and off the meditation cushion. These teachings have been preserved by an unbroken lineage of masters since the time of the Buddha, and are presented at all Bodhi Path centers, along with supporting practices and study topics, according to an approach compiled by the present Shamarpa, Mipham Chokyi Lodrö.
The primary text for the Bodhi Path curriculum is Shamar Rinpoche’s The Path to Awakening: A Commentary on Ja Chekawa Yeshé Dorjé’s Seven Points of Mind Training, which serves as a guidebook to the stages of Mind Training. These Lojong teachings follow in the tradition of Gampopa (1079-1153) who joined the Kadampa instructions of Atisha with Mahamudra teachings from the tradition of the great Indian Mahasiddha Saraha. This oral transmission is known as the “Two Rivers Joined” (bka’ phyag chu bo gnyis ‘dres) tradition of Mind Training.
The curriculum is taught at Bodhi Path Centers and should be undertaken with the guidance of a qualified teacher.
The core system of practice for Bodhi Path centers is the Seven Points of Mind Training (Tibetan: Lojong). The foundation of Mind Training is calm-abiding meditation (Tibetan: shiné, Sanskrit: shamatha) which helps develop mental peace, stability, and focus. With a calm mind comes the ability to practice insight meditation (Tibetan: lhaktong, Sanskrit: vipasyana), which involves analysis of mind’s true nature. Through these practices of calm-abiding and insight we can remove the veils of ignorance and confusion which prevent us from experiencing the peace and clarity that is already present within our minds.
In addition to the core practices of calm abiding and insight meditation, Bodhi Path centers teach additional contemplative practices that help support our path of training the mind. These practices help us purify negative actions, habitual veils and karmic obscurations; accumulate merit; develop compassion; and dedicate the merits of our positive actions for the benefit of all beings.
- 35 Buddhas (Compendium based on the Three Heaps Sutra)
- Chenrezig (Avalokiteśvara)
- Dorje Sempa (Vajrasattva)
- Practice of the Bodhisattva Wish
According to the commentary on the Wishing Prayer of the Arya Samantabhadra.
These practices require explanation and instruction by a qualified teacher and are taught at regular intervals at most Bodhi Path centers. They are typically undertaken by the practitioner as a personal practice.
Practices to be specially chosen for individuals according to their qualities and attitudes with the help of the root master:
- Practice of Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig)
- Practice of Buddha Amitabha
Requires lineage transmission and empowerment.
- Karma Kagyu Mahamudra practice
- Kagyu Mahamudra
The Stages of Practice in relation to the Blessing received from the Short Supplication to Vajradhara and the Lineage Holders. Lineage Practice.
- Highest Practice for Enlightenment
With meditation, we train our minds to rest in a calm and clear state. Based on this, we are able to realize mind’s peaceful nature and innate wisdom. The primary guidebook for meditation at Bodhi Path centers is The Path to Awakening, a commentary on the Seven Points of Mind Training (Tibetan: Lojong), by the present Shamar Rinpoche, Mipham Chokyi Lodrö.
In Bodhi Path centers, the study of meditation emphasizes the following topics:
- The four thoughts that turn the mind toward enlightenment:
precious human existence, impermanence, karma, and the defects of samsara
- Refuge and the qualities of the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha
according to the The Bringing the Qualities of the Three Jewels to Mind Sutra and the sutra commentary by Taranatha
- Training in the practice of calm-abiding meditation (Tibetan: shiné, Sanskrit: śamatha) according to The Path to Awakening
Absolute and relative bodhicitta (the wisdom and compassion aspects of enlightened mind)
- Training in the practices of insight meditation (Tibetan: lhaktong, Sanskrit: vipaśyanā)
meditation on the unborn nature of mind, according to The Path to Awakening
- Training in the meditation of giving and taking (Tibetan: tonglen)
the union of relative and absolute bodhicitta, according to The Path to Awakening
Additional Points of Mind Training
- Converting adversities into the path of awakening
- Training in fully integrating mind training in one’s life
- The measure of mind training
- Commitments of mind training
- Advice for mind training
Buddhist Conduct and Ethics
Buddhist conduct and ethics, grounded in mindfulness, form the basis of the path to awakening. They provide guidance in understanding which of our motives and actions are conducive to development on the path and which are not. Bodhi Path Centers teach conduct and ethics based on certain chapters of The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by Gampopa, emphasizing the following topics:
- Chapter 1: Buddha Nature. Understanding our birthright: the potential to awaken to the inherently enlightened nature of our mind.
- Chapter 2: The working basis for the spiritual path. Understanding the precious human existence which allows us to engage on the spiritual path to awakening.
- Chapter 3: The conditions required for spiritual progress. Understanding the importance of the spiritual guide.
- Chapter 6: Karma and its result. Understanding the 10 virtuous and non-virtuous actions.
- Chapters 9-11: Bodhicitta and the bodhisattva vow.
- Chapters 12-17: The six transcendent qualities (paramitas). Exploring the qualities of generosity, ethical conduct, patience, enthusiastic effort, meditative concentration and wisdom.
- Chapters 20-21: Buddhahood, the awakened state. Understanding Buddhahood as fruition, the state of awakening, and exploring a Buddha’s scope of action.
The Buddhist View of Reality
In order to develop our meditation practice, it is helpful to study the Buddhist view of reality. Through studying and understanding the nature of phenomena and our experiences, we can begin to unlock the vast wealth of wisdom already present within us, understand the workings of mind in our day-to-day lives, and develop a profound meditation practice that can lead to realization.
The following topics from the Abhidharma, based on the text The Gateway to Knowledge by Mipham Rinpoche, inspire us and point the way to developing a mind free from confusion:
- 1. The five aggregates (Sanskrit: skandhas)
Form and the various functions of consciousness which comprise the bases upon which self-clinging perpetuates itself
- 2. The fifty-one mental events
An in-depth look at the fourth aggregate: formations
- 3. The eighteen mental seeds
How the senses — our perception of and interaction with the world — and the various workings of consciousness lead to a continuity of lives in the cycle of rebirths
- 4. The twelve sense sources
The ways in which the senses and perception arise and develop (with the support of the Sautrantika Philosophy)
- 5. The twelve links of interdependence
How ignorance inevitably triggers the chain of events that perpetuates samsaric existence, seen from the perspective of the Madhyamaka (middle way) philosophy
- 6. Karma & the explanation of the six causes and four conditions
- 7. The four noble truths (in detail)
Samsara in terms of its causes (origin) and effects (suffering), and nirvana with its causes (the path) and effect (the fruition of cessation)
- 8. The twenty-two faculties
The phenomenological faculties that determine our experience of life
- 9. The three yanas and the five paths
The three vehicles or approaches to Buddhist practice and and their definition of progressive spiritual development
- 10. The conditioned and the non-conditioned
That which is conditioned, in that it arises and ceases based on causes and conditions, and that which is not
- 11. Time and its workings
- 12. Relative and absolute truth
According to the Uma Gyen (The Ornament of Madhyamaka) by Shantarakshita
Direct, accurate perception and inferential accurate perception (i.e. the Buddhist theory of knowledge, mind and its workings)
- The states of meditative concentration
The ground as the progressive states of meditative absorption, according to Chapter 8 of Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosha: The Compendium of Higher Knowledge of Phenomena
Fruition as primordial awareness: the insight of wisdom, emerging as the fruition, according to Chapter 7 of Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosha: The Compendium of Higher Knowledge of Phenomena