Practitioner in Residence (PIR) Program

Buddhist Study, Practice, and Community

Next Session: Information Forthcoming

The Practitioners In Residence (PIR) Program is an opportunity for experienced Buddhist Vajrayana practitioners to immerse in a residential community centered on daily practice and study at Tara Mandala Retreat Center, situated in the beautiful San Juan Mountains of Southwest Colorado.

If you are a Vajrayana practitioner, this retreat-like experience will allow you to set down the concerns of worldly life and direct your energy towards intensive study and practice for a minimum of three months. An extended application and assessment would be required in order to extend your stay to up to six months.

We have space for up to nine individuals to participate in this program. PIR participants would live on the first floor of Prajna Residence Hall in individual rooms with shared bath facilities.

“This program provides a wonderful, yet flexible balance between retreat life and community living. It gave me the opportunity to both dive deeply into personal practices while simultaneously benefitting from community practice. The staff was incredibly warm and hospitable in every way — from attending to personal needs to answering practice questions. I always felt supported, both to retreat in solitude and to be involved in community life.

Being immersed in this sacred land brought me back to my roots and has helped me to refocus the trajectory of my life. I now feel ready to step back into the world with more clarity, direction, and ease. I can’t imagine a more suitable environment to experience the true nature of one’s mind than Tara Mandala.

This place is a wish-fulfilling gem, bringing the sacred lineage and direct practices of Vajrayana right here to the US. We are indeed blessed, thanks to Lama Tsultrim and her life.”

– Theresa Elwell (Thubten Wangmo), recent 2021 PIR participant

Overview of PIR Program

This Program is centered on the following core components to enrich a practitioner’s experiential container in Dharma practice:

Group Practice

Tara Mandala holds daily community practice at 5pm, weekly Tsogs, as well as morning Fire and Naga Pujas on auspicious days. PIR participants have the opportunity to join in these community practice sessions and receive training in the ritual arts, including potentially holding roles during community practice. If interested, training will be offered in holding the roles of Drummer, Umdze (chant leader), and/or Chöpön (activity leader) during community practice.

As a part of the PIR program, it is suggested that a practitioner attends five community practices per week, two to three morning pujas per month, and Tsog every Wednesday evening. Our weekly Tsogs are a time when the whole community comes together to practice, make offerings, and enjoy each other’s company during the winter months. Upon applying, a practitioner will be asked to submit a daily practice schedule to be followed for the duration of the three months, and to build in community practice as (at least) one of your daily sessions. We expect that each practitioner will be engaging in solo and group practice at a minimum of three to four times per day.

Personal Practice

Undertaking a personal retreat is a serious and life-transforming experience. Participants of this program need to have taken Refuge before applying. Most importantly, each participant must have the guidance of a spiritual teacher or mentor who advises and provides support on setting goals for the practitioner’s personal practice time. As part of the application, references from spiritual teachers and peers will be requested to ensure the participant’s preparedness to undertake intensive personal practice as well as participate in group practice.

This program is great for someone who is working on their ngöndro or involved in one of Tara Mandala’s long-term programs, such as Magyu or Gateway, and needing to gain practice hours. Opportunities to do partner FYD work with other residents and participants is a possibility.  PIR participants will also have the opportunity to learn a variety of Chöd practices if interested.

Photo by Josh Brownlee


While living at Tara Mandala as a PIR, you will have access to the full library, which includes hundreds of titles on Buddhism. An orientation to the library will be provided, and you are encouraged to utilize it for self-study during your stay. You will also have access to our resident library of videos and instruction guides and other reading material.

Practitioners will have the opportunity to participate in Tara Mandala Virtual Retreats and Online Courses at a discounted rate. Please note: in order to take advantage of this offer, you will need to bring your own laptop. Wifi access is available only in the Temple and the Community Building.

Karma Yoga

Offering service to the community offers the chance to incorporate your practice into daily life. We ask that all participants commit to two hours of karma yoga per day, five days per week. All service should be completed with the mind and heart of compassion in action while maintaining your personal boundaries (e.g., Noble Silence, etc).

Areas of service could include: housekeeping, kitchen, Dakini store, or Temple.


To be considered for this program, a practitioner must:

  • Have taken Refuge with a Buddhist teacher and have a daily meditation practice.
  • Be familiar with Vajrayana practices (preferred).
  • Have completed at least one (1) solitary retreat in a Buddhist tradition a plus.
  • Submit three (3) spiritual references from teachers, mentors, sangha members, and other individuals that know the applicant’s level of practice, history, etc.
  • Be 21 years old or older.
  • Agree to abide by the Five Precepts throughout the extent of participation in the program (This agreement will be formalized in writing and with official signature).
  • Agree to the Tara Mandala Code of Conduct, Liability Waiver and Communication Agreement (documents will be provided once application is considered is accepted).


There will be the option to extend your stay to six months after submitting an extension application and receiving approval. At this time there can be no exceptions made to the arrival date, as all participants in the program will need to begin and end their quarantine at the same time. We will continue to monitor the status of COVID and will make changes as is warranted.  We have space for up to nine individuals to participate in this program. PIR participants would live on the first floor of Prajna Residence Hall in individual rooms with shared bath facilities.

Lodging, Meals, and Accommodation

PIR Participants will reside in Prajna Dormitory Hall, in individual rooms with shared bathrooms. Two queen rooms are available with their own shared private bathroom for an additional charge. 

A vegetarian lunch will be provided 5 days a week. Daily breakfast, dinner and weekends meals are self-serve with leftovers or make your own meal with food provided.  Special personal foods are not provided but storage space is allowed for a small amount of personal items.

PIR participants are responsible for providing their own transportation to and from the retreat center. See this page for more information about transportation to and from Tara Mandala. Tara Mandala does have a rideshare forum

Special Note: While under the current COVID-19 pandemic, special guidelines remain in place in regards to arrival and departure procedures. PIR participants will be asked to quarantine upon arrival at Tara Mandala.  Those arriving by car will be asked to quarantine for 7 days, 14 days if arriving by air.  The proper use of facial masks will be required in the community buildings at all times, with social distance of 6+ feet and hand washing requested. Because of our current quarantine policy, PIR participants will arrive at the center in cohorts to allow Tara Mandala to ensure the safety of everyone.  Meal service will be set up for those in quarantine in Prajna.

Financial Commitment

Upon acceptance into this program, the financial commitment includes:

  • Cost:  Tiered Pricing
    • Essential:  $850 per month – 2 hours of service, five days a week, with free access to self-paced online courses.
    • Luminous: $1,000 per month – 2 hours of service, five days a week, with free access self-paced online courses. You are also supporting other retreatants via the scholarship fund.
    • Mandala:   $1,300 per month – 2 hours of service, five days a week, and free access to 1 VR per month. You are also making it possible for other retreatants to access the dharma via the scholarship fund.
  • A renewal application would be required for a second 3 month stay in the program.
  • A $500 non-refundable deposit to hold a spot, due within 10 days of acceptance into the program. Payment of the remaining balance can be made all at once at least 30 days prior to arrival. Monthly payments due one week before the next month would be possible, if needed, for a small additional fee, and must be requested through accounts@taramandala.org
  • The same payment requirements would be in place for the second 3 month stay, if approved.
  • $200 refundable cleaning deposit.
  • You will be asked to offer Dana to teachers that offer Dharma Talks during your stay.
  • Participants receive a 10% discount for use in our Tara Mandala Dakini Store.

Tara Mandala does not have scholarships available for this program. Students may choose to do their own fundraising on a platform like: offering bowl.

Cancellation Policy

If we receive your written Cancellation Request 15 days or more before the program starts, you will receive a full refund minus the $500 non-refundable deposit. If we receive your written Cancellation Request 14 days or less before the program begins, you will receive a credit for your first month, less the $500 non-refundable deposit, to be used within one year. The remaining months will be refunded. If you should need to leave the program after arriving, there will be no refund for the current month, and 50% refunded for following months.

Program Commitments

PIR Participants are required to attend an orientation meeting on the first day and must agree to Tara Mandala’s Code of Conduct, COVID protocols, and policies for living in the community for the duration of their stay. All participants will be asked to sign an emergency release form. Tara Mandala reserves the right to ask participants to terminate their retreat if their behavior disrupts other participants or community members or does not abide by the expectations of this program in regards to practice, study, community practice and karma yoga.