Date: Rescheduled for Saturday, January 27th
Time: 1:00 – 4:30 pm
Led by: Dr. Tom Yarnall
RSVP is required: https://forms.gle/BmpC5WauFA7Nk9iN8
(Once you RSVP, you will receive the Zoom link to join and a reading that Dr. Yarnall strongly suggests for this class.)
*Suggested donation: Donations are welcome for this class here.
*The suggested donation is a guide for those who wish to contribute to the ongoing upkeep of the Monastery facilities, programs, maintenance, staff and Lamas. Please make whatever donation you are able to in support of the Monastery.
In this class Dr. Yarnall will explore in detail what a Buddhist tantric sādhana is. A sādhana is a highly structured contemplative practice (like a rehearsal or a performance), the central part of which involves the practice of buddha-yoga (aka devatā-yoga, or “deity yoga”). Buddha-yoga is defined as an advanced psychophysical practice in which you dissolve your ordinary, limited, coarse body-speech-mind complex into emptiness (śūnyatā), then use that extraordinary, limitless, subtle state as the basis to nondually rearise and manifest as the integrated body-speech-mind of a buddha (a fully awakened, fully blossomed, omni-capable being, the very embodiment of wisdom and compassion).
As we will learn in this class, the structured stages in this dissolution/rearising process are directly related to (and indeed consciously rehearse, reframe, and gradually purify) the specific stages of dissolution/rearising that occur when you “fall” asleep into subtler psychophysical states and then rearise in a subtler psychophysical dream body-speech-mind state, as well as the related processes that occur when you dissolve out of your coarse body-speech-mind at death an rearise in the between state (the bardo) before reversing this process to be reborn in another coarse embodiment. Moreover, it is these same subtler psychophysical states (comprised of various radiant states of mind, subtle energies, energy channels and chakras, subtle energy “drops,” etc.) that, when fully purified, directly correlate with and indeed constitute the manifestation of a buddha’s integrated body-speech-mind (rūpa-kāya, saṁbhoga-kāya, and dharma-kāya).
Thus, every step, visualization, mantra sound, yogic process, etc. of a buddha-yoga sādhana simulates and purifies these specific dissolution/rearising processes. It is these specific, direct relationships—these homologies or continuities (the meaning of “tantra”)—that make a buddha-yoga sādhana an effective performance, and not a mere act of imagination or flight of fancy. Learning about and understanding these processes, states, and continuities is an essential first step (and a central purpose of this class), critical to the success of sādhana practice, enabling you gradually to gain awareness of, directly recognize, and “get a handle on” these always present (but otherwise obscured) subtler, more malleable psychophysical states, and ultimately to purify and evolve them into a buddha’s integrated body-speech-mind.
Dr. Tom Yarnall has been a Buddhist student/practitioner guided by lamas from all four orders of Tibetan Buddhist traditions for forty-five years. He has been a dedicated student of H.H. Dagchen Rinpoche, H.H. Trinly Rinpoche, and H.E. Dezhung Rinpoche, and a member at Sakya Monastery since 1979.
Dr. Yarnall’s primary academic mentor over these decades has been Dr. Robert Thurman. Under Thurman’s mentorship, he earned his B.A. in Religion (Buddhist Studies) in 1983 from Amherst College, and later (after returning to Seattle for a decade) his M.A., M.Phil,, and Ph.D. in Religion (Buddhist Studies) in 2003 at Columbia University, where he has remained and worked for the last two decades as an Associate Research Scholar and Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religion. Dr. Yarnall specializes in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies, teaching courses in Buddhist history, philosophy, ethics, and contemplative sciences. He is also the executive editor for the “Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences” series of English translations and studies of works from the Tibetan Tengyur (first-millennium canonical Indian Buddhist treatises translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan) and associated Tibetan works (with over 35 volumes published to date, and 15 more currently in the works), being copublished by the American Institute of Buddhist Studies (AIBS) and Wisdom Publications, in collaboration with the Columbia Center for Buddhist Studies and Tibet House US.
Dr. Yarnall’s own scholarly research and teaching has focused on Mādhyamika philosophy, Buddhist ethics, and especially on Indian and Tibetan tantric theory and practice. His study and translation of the creation stage chapters of Tsong Khapa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra (sngags rim chen mo) was published by AIBS in 2013. His forthcoming book is entitled The Emptiness That is Form: The Nonconceptual Embodiment of Buddhahood.