Sutra and Tantra: The Profound and Miraculous

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In this extraordinary course, Professor Robert Thurman explains Tsong Khapa’s essential points for understanding the union of relativity and voidness, and the crucial instructions for the creation and perfection stages of Unexcelled Yoga Tantra. By guiding students through Tsong Khapa’s biography and his masterworks—Essence of EloquenceGreat Stages of Mantra, and Brilliant Illumination of the Lamp—Thurman brings to life and makes accessible the most profound aspects of Tsong Khapa’s teachings.

Thurman guides students in a penetrating survey of the exoteric and esoteric techniques and philosophies of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism according to Tsong Khapa’s systematization. Students will learn the inner science behind the tantric and sutric methods employed by countless scholars and adepts of India and Tibet on their paths to enlightenment, as well as how to apply such learning to their own personal practice of the path.

When you enroll, you’ll have unlimited access to the course. You can take the ten lessons for this course at your own pace and on your own timeframe.

Lessons

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Lesson 1: The Spiritual Life of Tsong Khapa

In this lesson, Robert Thurman shares with us how Tsong Khapa was not just the amazing scholar we know him to be—but also restored the Vinaya in fourteenth-century Tibet and founded tantric colleges. We also hear about the four great deeds of Tsong khapa, his awakening experiences, and his connection with the bodhisattva Manjushri.

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Lesson 2: The Union of Relativity and Voidness

Robert Thurman takes us through the poetic verses Tsong Khapa wrote on the morning of his enlightenment. Here we begin to clarify our understanding of emptiness and relativity, and how these two relate to our lived experience and perception of the world around us.

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Lesson 3: Thatness, Suchness, and Selflessness

In this lesson, we begin to take a closer look at the Madhyamaka—or Central Philosophy—view of the emptiness and relativity, particularly in regard to the self. We learn how this helps us overcome our habits and also go deeper into the Four Reliances and four keys that help us understand personal selflessness.

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Lesson 4: Tsong Khapa’s Philosophy in Context

Robert Thurman takes us through Tsong Khapa’s philosophy in the context of the many great philosophers who came before him—such as Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, Bhaviveka, and Dignaga. In this way we begin to distinguish some of the subtle distinctions between the various philosophical schools.

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Lesson 5: Tsong Khapa, Wittgenstein, and Coping with Reality

In this final lesson addressing the sutric teachings of Tsong Khapa, we learn how his understanding helps us see the nonduality of the relative and absolute. We learn more about the absurd consequences of believing in our own intrinsic identity as well as how emptiness helps us overcome our own self-centeredness and better cope with reality around us.

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Lesson 6: The Accelerated Path of Tantra

Robert Thurman begins to explore the tantric teachings and helps us understand why tantra is considered an accelerated path to buddhahood. We learn about how the buddhas Shakyamuni and Vajradhara are related, explore the three types of course, subtle, and supersubtle planes, and learn about the eight levels of dissolution that take place in the bardo.

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Lesson 8: Tantra and the Subtle Body

Prof. Thurman takes us deeply into the practice of tantra, giving us an overview of a visualized sadhana practice—a meditative performance script. We learn about how tantra relates to the bodhisattva vow, how practice leads to attaining siddhis, and finally how speech isolation, the second step of the perfection stage that involves mantra recitation, helps us develop command over the wind-energies in our subtle body.

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Lesson 7: Entering the Creation Stage

In this lesson, we go into tantra in more detail—learning about the creation stage through the Unexcelled Yoga Tantra, specifically the Guhyasamaja Tantra. Prof. Thurman walks us through the mandala and shares the deeply transformative potential of this visualization practice, highlighting the practice of body isolation.

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Lesson 9: Mind Isolation in the Perfection Stage

In this lesson we learn about the perfection stage practice of mind isolation, which helps us to uncover the reality of our mind as pure clear light. In addition to sharing with us how this directly applies to our daily life, Prof. Thurman also teaches us about the three luminances (luminance, luminance-radiance, and luminance-imminence) and how these relate to the eighty instinctual natures.

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Lesson 10: Magic Body, Clear Light, and Complete Buddhahood

In this extended lesson, Prof. Thurman takes us further along the perfection stage to mind isolation. We also learn more about the initiation process, how the magic body emerges from clear light, and how a yogi attains complete buddhahood.

About the Teacher

Robert A.F. Thurman
A recognized worldwide authority on religion and spirituality, Asian history, world philosophy, Buddhist science, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Robert Thurman is an eloquent advocate of the relevance of Buddhist ideas to our daily lives. In doing so, he has become a leading voice of the value of reason, peace and compassion. He was named one of Time magazine’s 25 most influential Americans and has been profiled by The New York Times and People Magazine. Thurman travels internationally lecturing to universities, companies, conferences and think tanks. He is a gifted communicator who can make complex concepts understandable introducing challenging ideas with intelligence and humor in a down to earth and comprehensible way.

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Course Materials