00:00:00 Introduction

00:01:28 Background to Dark Retreat

00:05:44 Some experiences that Justin has had in dark retreat and what he learned about himself.

00:13:00 Freeing oneself of narrative of a dharma practitioner looking a certain way

00:16:00 The essentiality of giving oneself to space and formlessness and the fear of space.

00:20:44 How to know if one is qualified to do dark retreat.

00:27:14 Dream yoga in dark retreat

00:31:00 Visionary experiences and tögal in dark retreat and technology of dark retreat.

00:40:00 Manifestation of elements in dark retreat, destabilization and losing one’s mind. 

00:44:00 What Justin finds particularly interesting about Ati Yoga for this time 

00:47:00 Lived Ati Yoga



This practice arose in Lama Justin’s mind during one of the dark retreats he shares about in this episode.





Past conversations:

Resting in the Mind Beyond Time & Being Consumed by Dharma


Ati Yoga, the Becoming of Indigenous Western Tantra & the Ministry of Death





Enjoy these episodes? Please leave a review here. Scroll down to Review & Ratings. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/love-liberation/id1393858607



Please excuse all errors

Olivia Clementine: I am Olivia Clementine, and this is Love and Liberation. Today our guest is Lama Justin von Bujdoss. Justin is an American Vajrayana Buddhist teacher, writer, and co-founder of Bhumisparsha, an experimental Buddhist sangha, along with Lama Rod Owens. He is also in the process of establishing the Yangti Yoga Retreat Center in collaboration with Dr. Nida Chenagtsang. Until December of 2021, Jusin was the Executive Director of Chaplaincy and Staff Wellness for the New York City Department of Correction. He also has professional experience in home hospice and hospital settings as a pastoral care. Justin was ordained as a repa a lay tantric yogin in the tradition of Milarepa by his Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche. He is the author of Modern Tantric Buddhism. This is our third episode with Justin. You can visit the show notes for links to our previous conversations.

Well just to say again, so grateful to have you. Thank you for your time and always a joy. And because you’re currently establishing a yangti or dark yoga retreat center our topic today will revolve around yangti or dark yoga practice which I’m really looking forward to.

And it’s obviously good to say that dark retreat is in many traditions, but I imagine today we’ll be focusing on dzogchen and the specific qualities to dzogchen practice. So I guess to start with some general questions, do you want to offer a synopsis of what the term dark retreat means? 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, sure.

So in, in Tibetan the term is munsam. And so the practice of dark retreat exists in a number of different Based lineages. Primarily though you find it in in the practice of the Kālacakra tantra there is a dark retreat practice. And then within the context of both Bon Dzogchen and, Buddhist dzogchen, how, even though I don’t like necessarily distinguishing the two, some people do.

 And in these contexts, yangti or darker retreat practice serves as a tögal style practice where one is working with the visual experiences the visions that arise when one is completely deprived of any, any light. So it’s a very, it’s a very interesting feeling practice.

It, it feels very old, like as an old human practice. And of course, it doesn’t take much to look around the breadth of human spirituality to see that there’s this probably, almost like shamanistic component to it, that has like trickled into a lot of different faith traditions around some deprivation of light and the impact it has. Perhaps, it, it reveals something very innate about what it means to be human and, and this natural luminosity that exists within all of us. 

Olivia Clementine: And in terms of the word yangti, is there an essential meaning to that? 

Justin von Bujdoss: From the way I understand it yangti is like ati represents, or, or it means like the highest, and then yangti means like, even higher , so like, even even higher than the highest which is both good and bad of course.

Like, it’s, it’s good in the sense that I think it’s a accurate designation, right? It’s, it’s, it’s high in, in the sense that it, it, it really provokes Visceral response. And it’s a little bit maybe like surfing, like, there’s a lot of training that needs to go into it that I don’t think you necessarily know how all of the training it ends up coming into play.

But I think the, the most important characteristic of the training is around what we might find, in both Trekchö and Mahamudra, this, this ability to be able to rest into ease with respect to whatever it is that that is being experienced in the moment. Because it’s quite visceral. Again, the, the nature of the visions that happen. They could be destabilizing, they could be seductive, they could be everything in between. And then of course, the term is a little negative, I think sometimes because of how we as humans tend to categorize things and then, puff up our egos around any quote unquote exclusive practice, so it’s, it’s, it’s good and bad, everything, everything could be used in either way. 

Olivia Clementine: I definitely wanna, in a moment get into some of those bits you just shared right now. Just a couple more general questions to lay some ground for our ourselves. 

Justin von Bujdoss: Sure. 

Olivia Clementine: So this might be too general and, and difficult to, to speak to without getting into the details, but if not, is there something in particular that dark retreat exhausts that potentially other retreats don’t within ourself?

Justin von Bujdoss: There’s a lot of really interesting threads that I guess you could say came together for this to happen. And a lot of those threads I think were also just born out of my, my experience both within practice, but then life.

What typically is experienced in a 49 day dark retreat is moving through like a bardo like process right of, of death. And then, there’s this experience that, that that’s very death like there’s this experience, or at least that I had that was very close to what I imagine it actually would be like to die and be disembodied consciousness and say goodbye to my family, for example. And then to notice that they’re moving on with their lives and I’m no longer there. And so all of this like really intense fear and anxiety and, being left behind and leaving people behind.

 This what happens with separation, right? Like we, I don’t think at that moment can know who is leaving, what we might feel like we’re leaving somebody else. And then we will also perhaps feel like we’re being left at the same time. But nevertheless, there’s this experience of suffering that can occur there.

 And then the Decreasing gravity of all of the different kinds of sense, all the different layers and levels of consciousness that we are very used to being there, begin to fade away, fade away, fade away. And then opening up into this experience of the vastness of rigpa, which is, is classically a point or a period within which liberation and the bardo can happen.

And so going through this was. Very powerful . It was very intense, but it also connected to me specifically just having been a hospice chaplain and a dharma practitioner who has done a lot of practice at the intersection of death.

I very much enjoyed the whole process. It was intense, don’t, don’t get me wrong. But I did learn a lot about myself in terms of a typology, my energy is definitely probably more like dakini energy than like daka. The idea of flight and easy movement is not particularly scary to me and I don’t need a lot of structure. So that was very powerful and 

I think that even, even now, beginning to consider some of the application of these kinds of practices for others that I’ve been engaging in with Dr. Nida makes me very curious about offering shorter dark retreat opportunities for people who are perhaps at the end of life, right? Or, or for practitioners who are really interested, to concerned, this, this range of wanting to be able to understand how their practice can be maximized, so to speak. Not in a capitalist sense, but in a good dharma practitioner way through the death process and to be able to be prepared for the bardo. 

I also feel like there’s very interesting timing in this too, because this is also this time where for better, for worse the boomer generation that, that, that really brought so much dharma to the west and helped magnetize it or support it. A lot of folks at that generation are approaching the end of life. And so this is actually a very fascinating way of yoking of a very profound dharma practice with on one level helping to facilitate people to have a very powerful transformative experience pre-death.

Olivia Clementine: When was your 49 day?

Justin von Bujdoss: That was in 2021. I did a seven day preparatory dark retreat. And then about two weeks after, moved into a 49 day retreat. And then last year last year March of 2022, I did another seven day retreat based on taking the instructions from the 49 day retreat and like squishing them down. So it was like one instruction per day as opposed to one set of instructions per seven day interval. 

Olivia Clementine: And what practice were you doing in particular, if you don’t mind sharing? 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, so this comes from a text actually written by Dr Nida Chenagtsang. 

Olivia Clementine: It’s the Yuthok?.

Justin von Bujdoss: Yes. We could consider it like the second part of Yuthok’s presentation on Dzogchen or Ati Yoga. Yeah. So this yangti component which was great because there’s something about these texts being fresh, right? We could say that the dakini’s breath, was still warm. And the blessings were still quite warm. That’s the nature of that text. Since then though, I was in Sikkim and Bhutan earlier this year, and I’ve received the transmission of a yangti practice that compiled from the terma cycle of Duntso Repa which is the more classical entry of yangti practices into the the Tibetan canon. And, with close comparison of that text and the one that I used, they’re basically quite, quite similar.

Olivia Clementine: And because you’re in the dark you’re not reading texts. So how is that looking? 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah. So, my experience was a little bit different than what traditionally happens, where one’s teacher would, if you’re in a cabin, darker tree cabin or something, they would come and, knock on the door and give you, just speak through the door or if it’s in a cave, speak somehow so that you can hear the instruction for the next seven days.

So this is the instruction you do. So at the time, because Covid was still happening and Dr. Nida Chenagtsang was in retreat as well at the time in Europe, and I was in New York State what I did was I pre-recorded the instructions on a digital recorder, and every seven days I would listen to that instruction and then engage in the practice.

And then, and then there’s this funny system of measuring time. Because you completely lose that, right? And so food was brought to me in this stainless steel container. And had those magnets with the alphabet and numbers and stuff that kids have. One of those magnets would be placed on at the end of every week. So I knew, one, this is the end of the first seven days. Okay. So then go to my little drawer and, in the dark, play this recording and then listen and then engage the practice.

Into second to third day the circadian rhythm begins to slip by the fifth day to seventh day it’s a real effort to try and maintain what we know to be the structure of time. And you really just need to let go, and then you have no idea what time it is, what day it is necessarily.

Although in my case, I had timed mine, my 49 day retreat, interestingly, in the sense that I missed one of my son’s birthdays and Mother’s Day and my wife’s birthday and so I wrote notes, like I have I have journals that I wrote in the Dark.

 And actually after this, I’ll share a guided visualization of a short practice that came to me during that retreat. But I was actually able to write notes and pass them through, the same slot that the food came through.

Olivia Clementine: I think a lot of people feel like if they’re in family life there’s an impossibility to do retreat. I imagine people sometimes feel like unless their life is perfectly structured for retreat, that’s not something they can do.

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah. I mean, I’ve met a lot of people who are like that. I’m sure there were periods in my life where I felt that way as well. So let’s put it this way. If all appearance is illusory, and all visual consciousness just arises spontaneously and that includes gender identity, location, and time, cultural identity. And is not to say none of those things matter, right? But they are all just happening, in and of themselves. Then this idea of things having to be a particular way to be a Dharma practitioner is absurd is ultimately where I go with this, and of course, I can hold the conversation very compassionately, when there’s need but in the context of this podcast, I think it’s important to really push people a bit around examining this projected narrative structure that people feel they need to have happen for their practice to develop. Because I mean, imagine like, if we just extrapolated these projections towards what they think their liberation will be like, and then why that’s so important is all fodder for our practice.

So I would like to think that, that if people are practicing, dzogchen or mahamudra you have to get loose with how seriously you take these things because none of it’s particularly real to begin with, and the dark retreat like experience is super powerful at, at helping to move that along because you experience so much of your natural luminosity through these practices. You are able to see all of the peaceful and semi wrathful and wrathful, bardo deities, right? Coming, arising from your experience of mind. This is something we don’t typically encounter when we’re walking down the street, but it’s there within us, right?

So if all of this is there within us, and it doesn’t really matter, what we are doing or what our station in life is, or we might think that we would prefer some closer thing. 

And I think that it is important to make time for retreat, but the real tight ideas of the way things should be is so limited and in, in a way, to use a Trungpa term, like neurotic, it’s a prison.

I think this practice is ultimately extraordinarily feminine in nature because I don’t think you really survive well in the practice if you can’t just give yourself to space and again, this is an interesting thing to consider because we talk about wisdom and compassion, in the vajrayana tradition in particular.

And within this binary system of, yab and yum coming together. I think so often in our fear and our anxiety, we, we turn to structure to help us, it becomes a crutch really. And it behooves us to let go of structure a little bit more. I think maybe the western mind is a little bit more, oriented towards it anyway, towards, this structuralism that letting go into space itself means we get to shed all of the like, Parent, not parent stuff.

I was meeting with somebody recently and it, it somebody I care about and they’re so gendered in their practice. It’s so male. Their practice and I found it so interesting that I think, the monastic system as we see it in the vajrayana traditions they skew towards, this heavy masculine approach, which I don’t think it’s very helpful.

Olivia Clementine: I think of Ayu Khandro, this incredible Yogi, female yogi of the 20th century who did I think 50 years of dark retreat. Mm-hmm. . And she went into dark retreat during really emotional times in her life, which I find so fascinating. It feels so connected to what you’re saying because there’s so much giving in to the floods of whatever’s pouring through.

I’ve heard different thoughts or theories of when to go into retreat, when to do deep practice. Some people will say, don’t do it when you’re too emotional or sorting something out because you won’t really practice. And other people say, just, just practice. 

And she’s such a testament to this feminine spaciousness. She was totally in an emotional state, and that’s what drove her to be like, I’m gonna go into a retreat for the next 50 years. Dark retreat nonetheless. And it’s really the center of what I imagine her energy to be is what you’re speaking of.

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, absolutely. I agree a hundred percent. Dakini are space. Dakini is the manifestation of space. Troma, like the fast manifestation of spaciousness, right? It feels like this roaring the roaring loud quality in which space arises, is absence of form. Prajna Paramita very gentle, theoretically, induction or introduction of spaciousness or lack of reference point.

I’m also fascinated by the fear around the practice too, because I think there’s a lot that’s coded in that fear of space, fear of spaciousness, fear of loosening a reference point. And especially the way, these practices, like a lot of, I think, very good yogic practice in both Buddhist tantra and Hindu tantra seem to thrive at the marginalia of the tradition.

Right. And I think that that is an important thing to remember too because this easing of concept and easing of boundary between self and other easing of tightness is terrifying to systems. It’s not easy. So I think, I think there’s something in that too.

Sometimes the secrecy around this practice might be well deserved, because it’s not the thing that again, these large monastic structures necessarily can hold because it’s about more than that. 

Olivia Clementine: Dark retreat often isn’t recommended until you have more stability in the nature of mind or, or certain aspects of you, you’re more familiar with. What are your thoughts in terms of when somebody is ready to engage in a practice like that and the mind state that they may need to be in, if that’s even the case. 

Justin von Bujdoss: This is a very good question because I imagine as this project becomes better known to the world, that it will also be not very popular, or not be regarded well by some because maybe we’re moving a little bit out of the norm.

One of the things that needs to be taken into consideration and that we’re in the process of beginning to just lean into, because we’re still in the acquisition of the property phase, so we still have a bit of time before anything starts, is, what are the qualifications that are needed? And again, this is probably not going to be popular, amongst some people too. Like most of my practice has been in the Karma Kagyu tradition, right? And so my entry into, into Nyingma is relatively late in life, as it were in my practice career.

But I have a lot of experience with Mahamudra and I studied and practiced under the previous Bokar Rinpoche and in some of the initial dialogue with Dr. Nida around making sure that I had the proper grounding. And I also did have a practice of trekchö before, trekchö and mahamudra are really key components to being able to have this stability of mind.

And so what is the stability we’re looking at? We’re looking at the ability to not over-identify with whatever it is that’s arising within the context of mental phenomena, emotional experience, physical experience. And so I think, this is powerful. I don’t think that there’s necessarily ever going to be like a curricula that will be able to show, after two years of blah, blah, blah you’ll be ready. This is also where I think the intersection of chaplaincy is quite interesting. Really working with people on an individual basis ascertain their stability. And so there’s stability in practice is one piece, and then there’s, what’s going on in one’s life, and then also probably a psychological evaluation of some kind.

Not, not anything too elaborate necessarily, but we wanna be able to make sure that the people who are going through this are stable simply because what arises, like, there were times where I might take a nap while while doing a dark retreat and you wake up and when you wake up , there are all these wrathful dieties standing all around, right? Or, or, sitting, quote unquote doing the practice as there were and then all these animals coming, like alligators, tigers, people I feel like I saw for at least a week in what I assumed to be like the end of the day, whatever that means. People who had died or, or who were dying, right? So babies in hospital beds or elderly people slumped over in a recliner or there seemed to be a, a high level of relationship to people who had just passed. 

So we want to be able to just make sure that there’s the proper support. And then also, when these retreats are done, I will always be onsite, to be there. I feel comfortable doing solitary dark retreat, with my teachers far away but I would not wanna make that assumption about others. 

And then the other piece is the integration period afterwards. So what we’re seeking to do is do this on a farm and have an active integration period afterwards. So being able to just be on the property with the earth, doing some contemplative farming just as a way of coming back not only to apparent reality but also to be able to ground oneself, very consciously, with the earth.

Olivia Clementine: And I imagine there’ll be shorter and longer versions of retreat, or how does that look? 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, I understand that this might be the way that Namkai Norbu led some people where they were in cohorts of seven day retreats.

And so I think that that might be the most helpful in the beginning. And then again, like understanding the typology. There might be somebody who is predisposed very nicely to being able to do a solitary 49 day retreat. And if it seems like these qualities are displaying themselves, then I think that individualized nurturing of those qualities is important.

But I think that a cohort style system makes the most sense and also makes the most sense just in terms of the time people can take out of their daily lives. Like if you did one or two seven day dark retreats over the course of a year, and this was done for three and a half years you’d do the whole seven weeks in that way. But it’s a lot more manageable for people to take seven days, here and there. You’d have to buffer on both, both sides, right. Cuz I remember I went from a funeral for a correction officer hopped in the car, I was in my uniform, drove to the 49 day dark retreat , like, okay, I had a day or two to buffer, so I didn’t jump just right into that. But I remember we’re all standing saluting, in, in formation just feeling like I could feel the darkness calling me. I was like, oh, I can’t wait. I can’t wait. 

Olivia Clementine: How does the lack of light and the lack of that line that you’re speaking of between day and night aid in dream yoga, the dark yoga. 

Justin von Bujdoss: I went into this thinking that when it was time to sleep, I would do dream yoga. There was first, first of all, my dreams are very vivid. There’s, there’s something about, when you enter into complete darkness a level of restful finality to that darkness that is so different.

 So, you feel this in your body and your body really, really, really, really, really slows down. Leading from the second day into the third day or I should say second quote unquote morning, as the circadian rhythm is still there, but, but beginning to trail off. I remember dreaming, lucidly and then opening my eyes and the dream just continuing because where’s the separation, right?

It’s very interesting to begin to get into these kinds of spaces because the only separation is light and dark, right? Throughout the entire thing, that moment and then afterwards, if, if I would do this, to just cover my eyes I was seeing exactly the same thing and of course I’m in darkness. But there’s this disbelief that then leads into this consistency of the experience of my mind is happening. The consistency of this experience is happening, but I am very distracted in this lit environment.

 And I’ve happened to have perhaps convinced myself that, there’s this separation. So all this is to say after, the first day or so, there’s no need to engage in dream yoga. The visionary experience is more or less constant. Especially from the second day. So you begin to you’ll see different colored lights, you’ll see different kind kinds of beings.

You’ll see well, what’s very fascinating is that I think that there is an innate Visionary experience that I think all humans probably have in the dark, but then this series of instructions that that one relies on seems to just, it’s not guide because you’re not really applying any structure, it just causes a specific visionary experience to happen. 

So there’s, there’s one instruction that does seem to bring into focus the peaceful and wrathful in semi wrathful thes of the bardo. There’s another one that seems to provoke an intense non-duality. And, and, but, but what has to be said about them and again, why this is a dzogchen practice is because you’re not really doing much. There’s very minimal you, your fingers, no fingerprints. It’s just, it’s all very light a very light experience. A light touch. In fact, there were some times where, I assumed it was the end of my day or whatever I’d get ready for sleep, and I’d be a little overwhelmed sometimes by how much I had seen, it’s just like, thing after thing after thing, blending, blending, blending.

 And then, at a certain point though, things seemed to slow down and there was this palpable, vast, spacious quality as if I had been picked up and put in the middle of the universe. All I saw were stars and, like a nighttime thing. Look up, see that front to the left, to the right, look down in my body. It was the same space and it was just this vastness. So there’s every possible thing that could arise, can. 

Olivia Clementine: And so in terms of visionary experiences, you’re bringing up some of these things already, like in terms of Tögal practice, are you doing anything formal in that way or is it mainly just natural, because you are following a practice format? A weekly format? 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, as best you can, right? Like, you can’t really hold for four meditation sessions so well, in a day because you don’t know what time it is and the alligator just walked by and distracted you, or Tiger is on the wall or, whatever. So yeah, I mean, I think on, on one level, like yes, there’s an attempt to, to hold to some structure and then this need to also just, let go too as, as this whole thing goes.

But there, there are, much like with many different kinds of tögal instructions, postures to adopt and techniques around gazing, but you’re not really gazing, right. And there’s no light. Right? So what are you looking at? And I think the thing that really blew me away about this was just the the efficacy. I wasn’t doubting anything, but like by the second or what I assumed to be the second day of each week, the manifestation of those visions were so dynamically present that I mean to this day, I’m In awe of and grateful for all the beings who have come together to be able to understand this technology, to use a Bob Thurman word.

Cuz I mean, it really is a profoundly powerful technology of being able to go through the death process and then experience the vastness of rigpa, the vastness of samantabhadra samantabh adri in such a palpable way. There’s also this contemplative aspect of this too, where what gets played out directly is this experience of sem and rigpa, cognitive, rational mind, so to speak.

And, the vast primordial purity of mind itself reveals itself in such stark clarity that you, you can’t go back. It’s like, there’s that phrase like, once you’ve tried black, you can never go back. Once you’ve tried dark retreat, you can never go back to seeing your mind, the way you saw it before or reality or what happens when you die.

And what was really fascinating to me, I had to, I mean, it’s not that I had to keep it secret because it’s not really about that for me, but I taught this death and dying retreat at Pure Land Farms last year. and going back and looking at all of the bardo material and preparation, I was like, oh, that’s right, I experienced this and I experienced that, and this is real. And I know what to do here and this is why this intervention happens at this point. And, and that is real, and, and this is what makes it such a powerful thing. I mean, it always has been, right. But especially in these times where we are so terrified of aging and so terrified of death. And so terrified of letting go. I mean, it is so hard to let go of loved ones. It is. And it doesn’t have to be death, right? It could just be a breakup. Right. Or a relationship that just, started and then it’s not able to take, fruition the way we want. it hurts so much.

And so these practices as a way of helping, our fellow beings to be able to find the rooting not in some sort of external strength, but in their vastness, and then also the similitude, right? Like what is the difference between your mind, Olivia and mine, right? And even though we’re not in the same space together right now, if there is no separation, what, what a beautiful thing to be able to share with people.

Olivia Clementine: It’s true and I really hear from the different vantage points you’re articulating through your experience how everything really is manifestation of mind and through this dark retreat practice how it was even more confirmed. Of course you’ve recognized that before, but we can do visualization practice still we can question like, where is this coming from? Like, maybe it’s coming from the thing I’m looking at. But in dark practice, all of these things find deeper rooting in reality beyond who you are and all that self identity. 

Justin von Bujdoss: Absolutely. There’s this one, one point where and you, and you see in, in illustrations of the visions, these tigle arise and then they’re different, different Buddhas or gurus or whomever inside the tig le and the first time, I experienced that I felt laughter, tears of gratitude, like this beauty. And then watching them dissolve into me was I mean, even now recalling it is just so profoundly beautiful. When my retreat was coming to a close I had timed it so that it would end at the middle of the night.

 And I could take some of the some of what had been used to block the windows down so that just some atmospheric light from the middle of the, the night came in. And I could see these tigle becoming less, more and more faint, less and less apparent is just even the light of like, three in the morning crept in.

And it was a sweet sadness to, to see the profundity of this being replaced by light . But I think that your point about like visualization is why I brought this up. Like

there, it did not seem like there was a lot of conscious effort ever needed to, there was no creation stage of this in a willful way. This is interesting too because, in I believe it’s in Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thayé text on creation and completion stage practice.

He does mention that there is this artifice to the creation stage process, which, of course intellectually we can understand, but it isn’t until you get into these kinds of settings that you’re like, wow, sitting down and generat generating myself as whomever it’s a lot of work until it’s not and when it’s not, we’re just, self arising as whomever, and that’s great. But in the beginning there’s a lot of effort. And, and I think what is important about this practice is or maybe one of the things that has to happen before, this is a great level of comfort with simplicity and non effort, but I will say, like even in the seven day retreat there were things I saw that reinvigorated my relationship to the six yogas of Naropa, for example, in the sense that you come across these descriptions of all these different kinds of light, you can see like fireflies and, full moon light and smokey hazy light and in all three retreats in different times and different capacities to be able to see that and experience that viscerally was again this like confirmation of the power of the practice that I was not expecting to have. And the way that we engage the elements too. I think I filled two big moleskins like notebooks of drawings, of visions as best I could, it was not all straight lines in terms of texts. And I had a separate notebook for these kinds of songs that would come.

Olivia Clementine: Do you remember any of them offhand? 

Justin von Bujdoss: No, but I, I have some, that I could share. There were many I lost, I couldn’t get to a pen in, in time. And then to even try and recall sometimes was very hard because it felt like my mind was so spacious that the need for recall was, was really not particularly important. 

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. And will you speak to the elements?

Justin von Bujdoss: So they manifest as color, different colored light and also visionary image too. So, there was one period of time where I felt like I was deep down in the center of the earth. Like there was miles and miles of rock between myself and, the center or the surface of the earth. And I was in the system of caverns and engaging in this very ancient feeling, prehistoric earth element. And then space, being in the midst of the vast spaciousness of mind I could move 10,000 miles straight to 10,000 miles up, 10,000 miles down, and I was in the middle of space or water, so you’d see either the different colored lights or another experience was flying through well, what felt like Central Asia, through and seeing different retreat places and Practitioners in their little caves and little hermitages.

Olivia Clementine: I already see the moments you had to not grasp. 

Justin von Bujdoss: Yeah, yeah. No. Cuz you’re just like (laughter) yeah. I mean, it’s interesting. I was gonna say you would probably lose your mind. I came across a a transcript where somebody had asked Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso about dark retreat practice and he had apparently said that it used to be more common, in the Kagyu traditions, but so many people started to lose their mind that they stopped, so, so there is always this risk of destabilization.

And, and I mean, this is also very fascinating too. If, if one stops to stretch this past, just the Buddhist tradition, this, this relationship between what it means to be awakened and liminality, more broadly speaking. And it is often the case that these really truly awakened people are, again, at the marginalia of society.

 And maybe that’s the only place that we can be, when that process occurs. But, this is another argument for properly holding space for people as they do the practices. Yeah, we’re gonna have to get you in one. 

Olivia Clementine: Yeah. I look forward to

Justin von Bujdoss: (laughter) Yeah. 

Olivia Clementine: Do you have a timing to it? 

Justin von Bujdoss: I mean our goal is to try and have the property procured this year and Something happening on the property.

There’s one property we have in mind that’s really amazing. There’s a field in the back, which just feels like a dzogchen field. You, you go out and you lose track of time completely. So a very interesting place 

Olivia Clementine: Is it in New York state?

Justin von Bujdoss: In New York State, yeah. It’s about an an hour and 45 minutes north, north of the city. So knock on wood, we can get that. And then probably we’ll be starting like online platform to be able to offer some training for people ahead of time. And one of the things I wanna also add to this, which isn’t a dark retreat practice per se, but over the summer I was given transmission and permission to teach the Karma Nyingtik, which is the cycle revealed by third Karmapa.

And that feels really powerful to me to be able to bridge the two. I want to be able to offer the Karma Kagyu some spaciousness and maybe to bring some of these traditions together a little bit Rangjung Dorje and Longchenpa EMPA were contemporaries and had the same dzogchen teacher. That’s important to, to hold that too in a place like this. 

Olivia Clementine: Is there anything before we close our conversation that you wanna share related, unrelated, anything else current for you?

Justin von Bujdoss: I think the thing that’s probably the most alive for me right now is, I’m not so concerned with the history. I love the history and I love the historical developments that have led these practices to come into being. And I respect that and, and I venerate that. Definitely, but I’m really passionately focused on what it means to truly hold the Ati view as so for me as a male practitioner .

Which means letting go of my maleness and overreliance on that. But I think that for us as humans, moving into a new way of being . We have to be able to do this in order to remain on this earth. Not in an Elon Musk like leaving the earth way. I get concerned when I am in relationship with dharma practitioners or dharma communities where there is clearly a lack of harmony that with the ati and mahamudra view, and I can’t help but feel like this over-reliance on form, over-reliance on structure, over-reliance on, on the yab,

 is a time hopefully is ending. And I hope practices like this can, can move us more towards the room for constant open liberation that is not bound by religious tradition so much. I think that this is the thing, right, is Ati yoga invariably pushes us towards the very edge of what can be held by a religious tradition. And I think that is so necessary for us as a species, for the West in particular, in order to not self emulate or, fall back into its, heavy reliance on the binary structures.

 And the violence that seems to constantly create, right? If not explosive in an outward way, like internally in a spiritual way, psychological way. I feel like Ati Yoga has completely ruined me in a good way.

And I hope that this just spreads these bliss waves of ruin . I like causing people to forget the old ways and be curious about what comes next. Hmm, 

Olivia Clementine: if we’re thinking of inhabiting Ati in its truest essence, what does that look like as a human moving through the world? What does that feel like? How are we taking in reality and engaging? 

Justin von Bujdoss: It means we have to completely let go of reference point and what that means. So for me, I feel that is meaning I need to shed everything. And that could be hard, right? It’s, it’s definitely hard for me. Because for example, like, being in a relationship, right? Been married for 11 years and, and it’s interesting how we become fossilized sometimes in relationship to the views of others and all of these things. 

I think as we move closer and closer and closer to we could say manifesting or resting directly into the essence of the Ati view and we begin to see how much more we actually are than we have been, all the time or up until this point, it’s literally like unzipping, and stepping out of everything. So for me, stepping out of gendered being, stepping out of anything. It’s like unzipping your skin and opening it up and all. All that’s there is the universe, and there’s not set identity and there’s not set structure.

But then when you unzip yourself, it’s the same thing. And then when the next person unzips themselves if we were unzip this earth, it would be the same. And what a blissful reunion that is. This return to like the Kuntuzangpo Kuntuzangmo state. We find this in Shabkar too.

 Shabkar explains this cosmology of how we came to Samsara, right? And at first everything was Samantabhadra Samantabhadri together and then eventually, through distraction, through comparative analysis, subject and an object, two things appeared.

Four things appeared, phenomenon appeared. All we’re doing is we’re returning back to the original state. And in that process, we let go of fear, anxiety, everything that comes with separation, defensiveness, the need to fight and then even like the passionate need for union, that transforms as well into a natural ease.

We’re all complete, we’re all together. I think that, this practice holds a benefit. When I got out of my retreat and Dr. Nida was still on his, and after about a couple weeks, we were able to connect by Zoom and I was able to check in with him and share some of my experiences and, he’d checked them and I told him that this is it, this is the practice. And why it is, is because very infrequently are we able to hold a mirror up and see Kuntuzangpo or Kuntuzangmo or both together. And this practice allows you to hold this mirror up and see and experience ourselves as that. And when we stop to consider that this world system has the ability to hold people who can have that experience, this world system is sacred beyond measure. It is a place of fundamental perfection. And that’s an extraordinary thing.