In complete darkness, can we make contact with the pure light of our awareness? 

Dark meditation, or yangti yoga, is an advanced Vajrayana Buddhist technique practiced in the Dzogchen tradition, and one that is also found within virtually all major spiritual traditions around the world. In the Vajrayana school, the practice is typically used as a way to shed internal and external distractions and to find greater clarity and spaciousness. Retreatants often report visual impressions with striking parallels to the psychedelic experience. While dark meditation is becoming increasingly popular, it shouldn’t be taken lightly as a spiritual trend; it is a powerful esoteric practice designed to support advanced practitioners in reaching deep levels of insight and awareness. 

Lama Justin von Bujdoss, dharma teacher and chaplain for Hart Island, New York City’s public cemetery, has completed four solitary retreats in complete absence of light-based stimuli, including one retreat lasting the traditional 49 days, mirroring the journey through the bardos between life and death. 

On August 10 at 3 p.m. ET, von Bujdoss joins Tricycle in conversation with Executive Editor Phil Ryan to discuss the practice of dark meditation within the context of Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. He will share insights from his own 49-day retreat—which ultimately led to his decision to leave his work as a chaplain within the New York City department of corrections—and will answer questions from the audience. 

This event is free for Tricycle Premium subscribers and $10 for general admission. Subscribe to Premium or upgrade your existing subscription for free access.


Lama Justin von Bujdoss

Lama Justin von Bujdoss

Lama Justin von Bujdoss is an American vajrayana Buddhist teacher, writer, and the is a co-founder of Bhumisparsha an experimental Buddhist sangha along with Lama Rod Owens and is currently developing the Yangti Yoga Retreat Center. He is the author of Modern Tantric Buddhism: Authenticity and Embodiment in Dharma Practice published by North Atlantic Books, and contributor to Buddhism and Whiteness: Critical Reflections published by Lexington Books. From 2016 until December 2021 Justin served as the Executive Director of Chaplaincy and Staff Wellness for NYC Department of Correction where he also served as Staff Chaplain supervising over 30 chaplains and guided wellness programming for staff. Justin also has professional experience in home hospice and hospital settings as a pastoral caregiver. Lama Justin is currently the chaplain for Hart Island, New York City’s public cemetery.

Justin was ordained as a repa, a lay tantric yogin in the tradition of Milarepa, by His Eminence Gyaltsab Rinpoche, one of the heart sons of His Holiness the 16 th Karmapa. He is passionate about helping to create the conditions for authentic embodied tantric Buddhist spiritual practice in the West.

Phil Ryan

Phil Ryan is the Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.


  • Date: August 10, 2023
  • Time: 3-4 p.m. ET
  • Format: Zoom webinar
  • Price: Premium subscribers: Free // General admission: $10