Tsogyelgar is a collection of spiritual aspirants who study the alchemical practices that make up the path of Vajrayana Tantra and Dzogchen. The name Tsogyelgar is comprised of two words. The first is Tsogyel, the female Buddha who helped establish the Tantric and Dzogchen teachings in the Himalayan region during the 8th century. The second word is Gar, which is a Tibetan term for an encampment, a loose affiliation of people with common purpose, which arises around a center of sublime wisdom teachings.
The community of Tsogyelgar comprise a number always kept at around 108. Friends of the work, and practitioners of the way, live in several countries but are centered in southeastern Michigan, near Ann Arbor. Over the 30 years of teachings, the community has manifested all levels of spiritual practice from students who have full attainment to those who are just beginning.
At the heart of Tsogyelgar’s mission and activity are the teachings of liberation and enlightenment. The esoteric quest for gnosis and the realization of human life’s deep meaning. We exist as a place where the culture of contemplative practice can flourish - the transmission of empowerment, the offering of teachings, creation of an environment that supports spiritual practice, as well as yogis doing serious long term retreat.
Over time, a collection of unique, energetic, creative people who share a passion for spiritual realization, and enactment, produce a lot of beauty and goodness. And this is exactly what has happened. The alchemical transmutation of confused perception into wisdom bliss, the Gnosis that lies at the heart of spiritual contemplation, gives rise to a powerful energy of expression.
In America we have established both an urban center for contemplative study and also a 200 acre retreat land for “mountain retreat”. In northern India, on the border of Tibet, the Tsogyelgar community has founded a school for children preserving the ancient yogic practices and education. They have funded an orphanage, school, and breakfast program for children of all faiths in the slums of Varanasi, India. In Michigan they have started a farm, bakery, and creamery which support the community through Right Livelihood. They have also brought world famous poets to southeastern Michigan for free poetry readings, built a professional recording studio and recorded 11 CDs, created amazingly beautiful gardens . . . all as byproducts of the energy of compassion and wisdom created through spiritual work.
Into Tantra’s Hidden Land of Pemakö
A small group of community members traveled deep into the jungles of of far northern India and into the ancient Tantric hidden land of Pemakö. A 12 hour trek from the nearest road, in a small village that lies at the heart of the geomantic magic that is the Goddess’ body laid out across the geography, they established a school for preservation of Tantric yogic practices, alchemy, crafts, dances and solitary retreat practice.
Sacred Lands and Hidden Groves
There is a mytho-poetic landscape in Tantra which spreads out across the globe and is mirrored in the human body. At the heart of this are 24 sacred locations. Over the years, the community at Tsogyelgar has been recreating this magical realm, where even the geography enhances esoteric spiritual work, on the 75 acres which we own.
Life as Spiritual Practice
The formal aspects of spiritual practice are vitally important. Without formal meditation sessions, spiritual life tends to be a fantasy. At the same time, life and work are the testing ground of spiritual practice. Arts, work, relationship, group projects, family life, parties all serve as the territory and testing ground. The community at Tsogyelgar embraces all of these as part of the culture of wisdom. The bakery, creamery, farm, gardens, community events all serve as opportunities for honing the efficacy of the Great Work.
The Alchemy of Sensual Transformation
Human beings live sensually. We live through our senses which are in and of themselves organs of knowledge. Vajrayana is a path which makes use of aesthetics as a force in transformation. It uses the human body as alchemical flask and perceptions and feelings as alchemical ingredients. It is in music, painting, poetics, and more, that the human expresses their bliss and wisdom.
In the beginning, the middle, and at the end, the core focus of Tsogyelgar is always and foremost the transmission, practice, and realization of the Great Work that is innately personal and individual. To examine one’s life in earnest, one must discipline the mind, heart, and body. These three all become organs of knowledge where the subtle practices of alchemical transformation take place. It is in the formal teachings and practices of the path that realization emerges and then flows outward in life’s activities. Activity is important but private, consistent, sincere individual spiritual practice is primary.