Lama hands clasped

The Vajra Essence - Part IV

8-Week Retreat with Lama Alan Wallace

March 31 – May 27, 2023
in Crestone, Colorado

In the final 8-week retreat of this series on Düdjom Lingpa’s revelations of the Great Perfection, we come to the culmination of the Lake-Born Vajra’s teachings in The Vajra Essence on cutting through to the original purity of pristine awareness (tekchö).

This series of pointing-out instructions draws critical distinctions between the mind and pristine awareness, between conditioned consciousness and primordial consciousness, and other fundamental distinctions within the Dzogchen view. These instructions are followed by detailed teachings on the final stage of Dzogchen practice known as the direct crossing-over to spontaneously actualization (tögal), which comes to its fruition in the achievement of various manifestations of the rainbow body. As with the earlier teachings on Düdjom Lingpa’s revelations of the Great Perfection, commentary on this practice will not be offered during this retreat as a public teaching, but only later on to those who have achieved shamatha and vipashyana and on that basis are able to authentically rest in pristine awareness.

Following this section of The Vajra Essence, oral commentary will be offered on the Lake-Born Vajra’s concluding teachings on the six transitional phases (bardo), including dream yoga.

Applications are now available to attend
The Vajra Essence - Part IV in person.

  • The 2023 retreat will be held in Crestone, CO, either at Miyo Samten Ling or another venue

  • You will be responsible for your travel and lodging arrangements. SBI will provide lodging and travel suggestions and we hope to organize catered lunches and dinners that you can order if you like.


  • One-hour morning sessions of guided meditations & Q&A three times each week. Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9:00-10:00 am

  • A 90-minute guided meditation + lecture, six days/week. Monday -Saturday: 10:30-noon

  • This will really be a meditative retreat, not an intensive 8 weeks of teachings

About the Retreat

The teachings and guided meditations offered during these 8-week retreats are sufficient for achieving shamatha, realizing emptiness, and identifying pristine awareness, and thereby entering the path of the Great Perfection.

The instructions presented in these retreats on The Vajra Essence are for the sake of progressing along that path to its culmination in the achievement of the rainbow body and perfect enlightenment. At the end of this revelation, the Lake-Born Vajra declares that the unsurpassed quality of the profound path of the Vajra Essence is that it enables those who practice it to identify pristine awareness, dispel their flaws by means of meditation, and finally, by practicing while remaining inactive, become siddhas and experience the state of omniscient enlightenment. But he cautions that this sublime revelation will not remain for long, for there will be no teachers who know how to explain it, and few people who have the karma, prayers, and fortune to receive it.

We at the Santa Barbara Institute and Wisdom Publications are offering and recording these teachings so that for generations to come there will indeed be teachers who know how to explain them, and individuals who have the good fortune to experience their full benefits.

During this 8-week retreat, Lama Alan will grant an oral transmission and commentary to Düdjom Lingpa’s revealed treatise, The Vajra Essence, picking up where we left off last May.

The retreat will also be available virtually with audio recordings offered from SBI and video recordings via Wisdom Publications as in prior years. Registration to participate virtually will open in late January or February.

Glen Svensson: Co-Teacher

During this retreat, co-teacher Glen Svensson will:

  • lead two 1 hour Zoom sessions each week, Thu and Sun 19:00 AEST. These will also be recorded to view at a convenient time

  • provide summaries, background and guided review meditations pertaining to the topics discussed in the text

  • answer emailed questions by retreatants, as he has done in the past 8-week retreats.

Listening to Glen's teachings is strongly recommended for everyone participating in this retreat.


2020 8-week retreat - The Vajra Essence Part I

The most important prerequisite for participating in this retreat is that all applicants must have already listened to the oral transmission and commentary on the opening phases of The Vajra Essence by Lama Alan given during the first retreat in this series, offered during April – May, 2020 via either the SBI audio-stream or the Wisdom online retreat.

Recitations and Additional Recommended Teachings

While there are no references to the five sets of 100,000 recitations of preliminary practices in any of Düdjom Lingpa's five revealed treatises on Dzogchen, in his treatise The Foolish Dharma of an Idiot Clothed in Mud and Feathers and in his lineage-holder Sera Khandro's text The Fine Path to Liberation, clear teachings on the inner and outer preliminary practices are given. Each of these is essential to the authentic practice of Dzogchen.

As a basis for those practices that are specifically intended as preliminaries to Vajrayana practice, applicants should have already established a sound basis in understanding and practice of the foundations of Buddhism, including śamatha, the four applications of mindfulness, the four immeasurables, and relative and ultimate bodhicitta. Such understanding and experience can be acquired by listening to, studying, and practicing any one of the following sets of teachings:

The following eight-week retreats:

Alternatively, applicants may listen to the following recordings of week-long retreats sponsored and available from the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies 

In-person Retreat Information

To attend the retreat in person an application will be required, and the prerequisites described above must be met.


The daily schedule for the retreat consists of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours each day, Monday-Saturday.

First daily session: Three times each week Lama Alan will offer a one-hour morning session with a guided meditation and Q&A.
These sessions will be Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9:00-10:00 am

Second daily session: Six days a week Lama Alan will offer his oral commentary on The Vajra Essence, as well as a guided meditation in a ninety minute session.
These sessions will be from 10:30 am - noon, Monday - Saturday.

Interviews with Lama Alan will not be offered during the retreat, so that everyone can immerse themselves in meditation each day. However there will be Q&A periods during the morning sessions three times each week, and participants are also welcome to pose questions to Glen by email.

Attending the Retreat In-Person

You will be responsible for organizing all of your transportation to and from Crestone as well as your lodging and food arrangements during the retreat.

We hope to organize catered lunches and dinners that you can order if you like.

We understand that the cost of travel and lodging can be quite high so we are maintaining the same cost to attend the retreat in person as last year. The price will be $2900 (exclusive of lodging, food and travel), and we will also offer a discounted price of $2400. This covers teachings six days a week, for 8 weeks.

Once you are confirmed to attend the retreat via the application process linked below, you will receive a code to register officially at the Santa Barbara Institute website. After you register there, you will receive an email confirmation when your registration is completed. We hope to advise everyone who has applied by the end of the year.

Information about Crestone

  • Crestone is a small, isolated town in Southern Colorado, at an elevation of 8,000 feet/2,400 meters. It sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains. If you suffer from altitude sickness or any other health conditions that could be triggered by the elevation please consider this before submitting an application and consult with your doctor.

  • Should you have health conditions that could require a doctor, please be aware that it is about 50 miles to the closest town with a hospital, Alamosa, on a two-lane highway. So the trip can easily be over an hour. This is also the closest airport.

  • There are currently two grocery stores in Crestone and a few small cafes with limited hours. Here is a list of some of the available services in Crestone as well as travel information.

Join us in Crestone for this special retreat
We thank you for your support of Santa Barbara Institute.