Student Pathways

Commit not a single misdeed,
Cultivate a wealth of virtue,
Completely tame your mind,
This is Buddha’s teaching.

—Buddha Shakyamuni

The Buddha summarized all his teachings in these four simple lines, and when we distill their essence, we understand that the single most important point is taming the mind. However, students who wish to study under the guidance of Phakchok Rinpoche all come to the Buddhist path with different inclinations, backgrounds, and temperaments.

Following the Buddha’s example, Rinpoche wishes to provide multiple gateways or entry points so that each of his students is able to find a suitable point to embark on a genuine and authentic journey towards complete awakening.

After two decades of working with students, Rinpoche observes that people may enter the Buddhist path using three main entrypoints: the Path of Meditation, the Nine Yanas Path of Study, and the Traditional Vajrayana Path.

Other individuals may belong to other faith communities or may not choose to enter the Buddhist path, but can derive great benefit from learning skills for Holistic Living from the Buddhist tradition. Samye Institute offers support for all who are searching for meaning, contentment, and ease.

Overview of the Student Pathways

Holistic Living

Path of Meditation

Nine Yanas

Traditional Vajrayana

This roadmap of the “student pathways” helps to orient you in your practice. We advise students to discuss their choice with Rinpoche or an instructor. It is important to note that one choice is not “better” than the other.  Instead, one should make the choice based on the considerations of one’s interest, karmic propensities, and available time.

When you follow the pathways, you will be able to identify where you are currently on the path and anticipate how your path will unfold and progress systematically.

Holistic Living

Regardless of our background, age, and way of life, all human beings long for true happiness, a sense of mental ease and well-being, and to be free from suffering. Here we share methods derived from 2,500 years of the Buddha’s teachings that can help us all to achieve spacious minds, a sense of ease, kind hearts, and deep contentment.

Real Happiness is not found in situations or things.

—Phakchok Rinpoche and Erric Solomon, Radically Happy: A User’s Guide to the Mind

The Path of Meditation

These progressive programs of working directly with one’s mind are open to anyone. A student can enter this pathway without having taken refuge or having received any Buddhist teachings

The Path of Meditation Levels 1 and 2 are required for all students of Phakchok Rinpoche. The student begins by understanding the ground, reconnecting with the purity and perfection that is our innate nature. The path of meditation guides the student to an experiential recognition of this truth.

Since all phenomena are naturally pure,
Cultivate well the notion of lack of existence.

—The Buddha in The Noble Wisdom of the Time of Death Sūtra

The Nine Yanas

The first stage of the Nine Yānas program is open to everyone and might be especially suited to a student who is interested in the development of Buddhist thought and the philosophical framework behind the practice. A student can enter the program without any prior experience. Each stage will take from 6 months to 1 year of dedicated study and contemplation. This pathway is well-suited to students who have the time for in-depth reading and reflection

Just as the steps of a staircase,
You should also train step-by-step
And endeavor in my profound teachings;
Without jumping the steps,
Proceed gradually to the end.

—The Buddha in the Nirvāṇa Sūtra

Traditional Vajrayana

Followed by the practitioners and great masters of the past in Tibet, the Vajrayana path – beginning with the practice of the Four Foundations all the way up to Anu- and Atiyoga – is for students already familiar with Buddhist principles, who have experience with meditation, or a strong connection to Vajrayana Buddhism.

Though the view should be as vast as the sky,
Keep your conduct as fine as barley flour.

—Guru Rinpoche as taught by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche in As It Is Volume II

Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.