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Retreat Levels

Level 1


Most students enter the Pointing Out Way community by attending a Level 1 Mahamudra retreat. Level 1 retreats present a full set of instructions for Mahamudra practice in a highly condensed manner. By emphasizing concentration early in the retreat, students experience a momentum for practice that often allows at least a taste of realization of the nature of the mind as being pointed out. Due to the intensity and pace of the week it is impossible for students both to gain such a taste and to comprehend fully at a conceptual level what is presented. For this reason we expect all students to build a strong foundation for their practice by attending at least two or three Level 1 retreats before we would consider their participation in a restricted retreat.


An entire set of teachings, from the beginning up to a taste of awakening, is included in the Level 1 retreat. Experience with students has shown that the practices of those who are methodical and patient with learning the teachings develop more steadily and fully than those grasping for 'higher' teachings. We ask that students do not ask us to make exceptions to this policy. In the rare instances where an exception may be appropriate the teacher will make such a suggestion.

Restricted Access Retreats


We encourage all students who are committed to the practice to develop an ongoing teacher-student relationship after completing the Level 1 retreat. Students who do not form a relationship with a POGW teacher may attend unlimited Level 1 retreats, but will not be admitted to the Level 2, 3, and 4 restricted courses.

Registration for the Level 2, 3, and 4 retreats is restricted to students who have an active, ongoing relationship with an authorized POGW teacher, and have received explicit approval from their teacher to attend a specific given retreat. There are times when we may ask a student to have an interview with a second teacher as part of our decision-making process.

An active ongoing relationship with a teacher generally means that the student and teacher have had contact on the average at least every three months in the preceding year or more.

Levels of practice vary with life conditions. A student who has a deep experience of the mind's nature may find that the realization becomes obscured by struggle with difficult life experiences, busyness, or lack of ongoing practice. The quality of ongoing practice is thus more important than past experiences, and approval in the past for a Level 2 or 3 retreat does not constitute ongoing approval for such retreats. Students must receive approval from their teacher for each distinct retreat they wish to participate in, before registering for that retreat. If you register before having received explicit permission from your teacher, your registration may be canceled.

Unless a student has already developed an ongoing teacher-student relationship, we ask that students do not contact a teacher for an interview just to get access to a restricted retreat. Such a consumer mentality is disrespectful to the lineage.


Level 2


Level 2 restricted access retreats present the Mahamudra stage-wise path in more detail. All students will enter these retreats with both a good ability to concentrate as a prerequisite, which allows us to help students refine their practices of concentration in the range of the final stages of the Nine States of the Mind Staying (elephant path). The course includes a special type of Mahamudra concentration, which will cause overall concentration to deteriorate unless the student starts with reasonably strong concentration ability.


The Level 2 course also expands the range of application of emptiness practices beyond the Level 1 course. Instructions are presented for cultivating positive states, such as the Four Immeasurables, the Six Perfections, as well as a range of compassion meditations. More time is available for the actual Mahamudra practices that begin with the meditations on the emptiness of time, such as One Taste Yoga, and the course also includes additional instructions for non-meditation.


Recommended Texts:

Level 3 and Level 4 Retreats


Level 3 and Level 4 retreats are restricted to students who previously have taken the Level 1 and Level 2 retreats and who have had direct experience of awakened awareness, however unstable. The Level 3 and Level 4 courses are designed specifically for students who have some degree of awakening, who wish to stabilize this awakening at all times in all situations, and who wish to then develop the positive qualities, conduct, and levels of awareness of a Buddha for the benefit of others.


Participation in the Level 3 and 4 courses is restricted to students who have been approved by the authorized POGW teacher who is following their practice. Do not sign up without your teacher's permission.


Level 3A - The Lion’s Gaze


The Level 3A Dzogchen retreat is taught in memory of Rahob Tulku Thupten Kalsang Rinpoche.


​The Level 3A retreat gives Dzogchen teachings designed for students who have direct experience of awakened awareness that has been repeatedly accessible, but who have not been able to stabilize that awakening. This specific set of teachings provides the tools to develop or nurture awakening at all times in all situations on and off the meditation pillow.


The Level 3A course will focus on Great Completion (Dzogs chen) meditations, mainly a transmission of Garab rDorje's Three Golden Letters, and the Patrul Rinpoche commentary on it as found in Lion's Gaze. Additional teachings come from Longchen Rabjam's Self-Liberated Mind, and Padmasambhava's Self-Liberation Through Seeing with Naked Awareness. The main emphasis is on stabilizing awakened awareness through:

  1. Re-establishing the conditions which set up awakening via non-meditation and thoroughly cutting through instructions;

  2. Identifying conditions that cloud over awakened awareness in everyday life, such as thought, emotional states, self, and external appearance; and,

  3. Developing meta-cognitive skills that sustain awakening.


The goal of the teachings is to establish awakened awareness with definitive certainty at all times and in all situations, the development of complete freedom, and the flourishing of all positive qualities of full realization.


Recommended Text: Lion’s Gaze by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche (Translated by Sarah Harding)


Level 4 - Buddhahood Without Meditation


The Level 4 Dzogchen retreat is taught in memory of Rahob Tulku Thupten Kalsang Rinpoche.


The Level 4 retreat is designed for those who have attained relatively stable awakened awareness on and off the pillow and familiarity with the ongoing practice of self-arising self liberating (dharmadhatu exhaustion). In line with more than a decade of collaboration with Rinpoche, this course also  gives a transmission on more advanced teachings such as the original purity of all phenomena,non-ordinary perception, and completion teachings on the Buddha Bodies and Wisdom Energies.


The Level 4 course focuses on Buddha-training using a transmission from Dudjom Lingpa's Buddhahood Without Meditation. These precious teachings focus on the exhaustion of all negative states and the flourishing of all positive states of mind, the development of the five wisdom energies, Buddha-fields, and Buddha-Bodies. Level 4 is restricted to students who have taken the Level 3A course and who also have the consent of their teacher.


Recommended Text: Buddhahood Without Meditation by Dudjom Lingpa (Translated by Richard Barron)

retreat levels
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