Vajrayana tradition maintains the crucial importance of the student’s encounter with a teacher in the context of ritual “empowerments,” initiations where a kind of inspired transmission and inspiration is conveyed. For this reason, it is considered impossible to ever fully encounter Vajrayana in books or on one’s own, it is a path that emphasizes the relationship between the student and teacher, the experience of ritual and connection with other practitioners. The Vajrayana Training course does not necessarily replace those elements but it can support it.
Whether or not transmission of Vajrayana practices can or cannot be given over the internet is a matter of debate. Some Lama’s give empowerments over the internet these days, while others do not. However, what is clear after the last four years of this course, and courses like it, is that high-quality education and learning can take place through internet courses. Likewise, so can support for ongoing inspiration, commitment, and training.
Vajrayana Training is not a series of “empowerments.” Empowerments are ritual initiations into specific Vajrayana meditation practices where one trains to visualize oneself as a particular Buddha and experience oneself as integrated with one’s buddha nature through the mantra and imagery of a specific buddha from the tradition. These practices are called deity yoga or yidam practice.
The only initiation connected with Vajrayana Training is connected to Ngondro, the foundational practice that everyone begins within Vajrayana – and the practice that is the core of the meditative tools that one trains by.
In modern Buddhism, access to empowerment is generally more available than in-depth Vajrayana education. So the Vajrayana Training offers that education. Both Vajrayana and Great Perfection (Dzogchen) views are taught in the course. It trains students to recognize the context, philosophy, perspectives, questions and details of how to make use of and make sense of Tibetan Buddhism as a whole. This material is equally important to the Vajrayana path. Vajrayana has always been more than just empowerment and other rituals. It has a philosophical view, an understanding of conduct in terms of Buddhist tantra and it has a rich history and lineage.
Furthermore, ritual itself can only be fully accessed through some training in Tibetan Buddhism as a symbolic language, a kind of poetry of being where we learn to see the world in terms of wisdom, compassion, sanity and presence. Therefore Vajrayana Training offers education above all else. Students are encouraged to seek empowerments and develop personal relationships with Lamas or enter Ngakpa Training with Pema Khandro for going further in the Vajrayana Buddhist path.