Practice structure of the three-year retreat

This retreat was designed in 1989 by Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche for the Shambhala Buddhist community. Because he understood that the view of Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was to create an enlightened society, Thrangu Rinpoche wanted this retreat to be divided into segments that would allow practitioners to maintain relationships with family and careers.

In 2004, with the blessing of Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche and Thrangu Rinpoche, the decision was made to open up the retreat modules so that practitioners who were unable to attend the entire retreat could do one or more sections of it. This has proven to be a great success as people in our community discover the hidden treasure of Söpa Chöling.


Guru Yoga Practices

Guru yogas are the profound practices that develop the essential ingredient for progress along the path, devotion. Therefore, the first four months of the retreat are dedicated to the guru yoga sadhanas of Gampopa (text by Karmapa XV, Khakhyap Dorje) Milarepa (text by Jamgön Kongtrül the Great) and Marpa (text by Jamgön Kongtrül the Great).

Könchok Chidü

Könchok Chidü, meaning “Embodiment of the Three Jewels,” is a sadhana of Guru Rinpoche, with a commentary by Jamgön Kongtrol Lodrö Thayé. It includes outer, inner, secret, and long-life practices as well as an amending fire offering and feast practice. His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche bestowed this abhisheka on our community in 1987.


Mahamudra is the culmination of the previous months of guru yoga practices. The Transmission Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, the most profound and concise text by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje is the basis for this three-month practice. The commentary is by Venerable Thrangu Rinpoche. By means of the instructions, it is possible to gain certainty in the fundamental or natural state of mind. Mahamudra means an uncontrived recognition of an uncontrived state. Here, recognition is gained through actual experience and is, therefore, the most profound way of looking and seeing.


Inner Vajrayogini retreat

This retreat is an excellent bridge between Vajrayogini practice and the Six Dharmas. It uses the same sadhana text as in our previous practice, but the commentary we follow is by Pawo Tsug-lak Trengwa, which offers a series of five recitations that progressively train in chandali and mahamudra. It includes drupchen and fire offering practices.

Chakrasamvara retreat

The sadhana text used in this practice is the same as the one used by other practitioners in our sangha, but the visualizations are different. We follow a commentary written by Karma Chagme, a ten-chapter practice manual for the outer, inner, secret, and very secret practice, which includes a drupchen and fire offering. Many people who completed the Chakrasamvara practice before coming into this retreat have found this new commentary extremely beneficial. The retreat is also open to those who have received the abhisheka but have not done the practice.


Six Dharmas of Naropa retreat

The six dharmas are the practices of chandali, illusory form, dream, luminosity, bardo, and phowa. Together they represent the completion stage of Vajrayogini-Chakrasamvara practice and are methods for transforming all states of mind into the wisdom of Mahamudra. At Söpa Chöling we have an ideal facility for these practices, with guided instructions for group and individual training. In particular, each retreat has included older practitioners, many in their sixties, who have found this retreat most workable and beneficial.

Jinasagara retreat

Jinasagara (Tib: Gyalwa Gyatso), red Avalokiteshvara with consort, is a very important yidam practice in the Kagyü lineage, and like Guhyasamaja, it is of the father lineage—an emphasis on the upaya of compassion, completely transforming aggression.

The lineage comes from Rechungpa who received it from two sources. First, he was asked by Milarepa to go to India and receive these teachings on the nine dharmas of the formless dakinis from Tiphupa.

Padmasambhava also gave instructions on Jinasagara to King Trisong Detsen and Yeshe Tsogyal. They were concealed as a terma that was later transmitted to Rechungpa by the terton Nyan Rolpa. Rechungpa’s lineage was transmitted to the second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, and the practice of Jinasagara remains a heart practice of the Karmapas.

Krishnachola drupchen

The lineage of instruction for the wisdom protector Krishnachola (Tib: Pernakchen) and his consort Mahakali comes from Guru Rinpoche who taught it to Trisong Detsen’s brother who was a ngakpa. The instructions were passed down through thirteen generations to Karma Pakshi, who then promulgated the practice. Throughout retreat, a group daily practice to Vajra Krishnachola is done, and this culminates in a two-month drupchen at the conclusion of the retreat.

Other Practices and Trainings Included in the Retreat

Fire offering

Adjacent to the retreat building is a beautiful fire offering shrine room that overlooks the sea. Amending fire offerings are included in Könchok Chidü, Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, and Jinasagara retreats.

Feast offerings

Werma and Padmasambhava feast practices are also included throughout the retreats, as well as Vajrayogini, Chakrasamvara, Könchok Chidü, and Jinasagara (the latter 10th-day feasts are specific to those retreats).

Sadhana of Mahamudra

We follow the custom of performing the sadhana on full and new moon days, and a Sadhana of Mahamudra feast is offered at the conclusion of each retreat.

Rain of Wisdom

Normally within the retreat, there will be at least one full day of reading the Rain of Wisdom, with the Milarepa sadhana.

Sur offering

On a daily basis, we perform a smoke offering to the six guests, including bardo beings and our karmic creditors.

Daily Vajrakrishnachola

The wisdom protector practice is done by the group daily, chanted in the traditional melodies. For most of the retreat, this is the only group gathering of the day, since all the other practices are done mainly in your rooms.

Monthly Vajrakrishnachola feast

In some of the retreats, a 29th-day feast practice to the protector is performed.


All retreatants will receive extensive training in torma making and will make permanent tormas out of clay for each practice as well as fresh tormas for offerings.


Monastic music is an important enhancement during group practices. Training is offered for all the traditional instruments: drum, silnyen (Tibetan cymbals), radung (long horn), gyaling (oboe-like horn), and kangling (thigh-bone trumpet). Previous music training is not a requirement; only a willingness to enjoy the power and energy of the music that accompanies the sadhanas.