Crossey, D. (2022). The phenomenology of spiritual development within a vajrayana Buddhist community [Unpublished Master’s thesis]. Alef Trust & Liverpool John Moores University.

Vajrayana Buddhism is considered the third turning of the Dharma Wheel, that incorporates a more dynamic range of practices including deity and mantra work. Quantitative and qualitative research has looked at the key differences between Vajrayana and other Buddhist approaches in terms of specific forms of meditational techniques, but there is a lack of research into the lived experiences of following a Vajrayana path. Six participants were interviewed who were living at Clear Sky Meditation Center, a conscious community that aims to follow a traditional Vajrayana approach whilst working within the modern world. An Interpretive phenomenological analysis approach was used to delve into the lived experience of the individuals experience of spiritual development whilst following a Vajrayana path of practice. Five superordinate (major themes) emerged from the data analysis alongside subordinate (minor) themes within them; 1 beyond the self, 2 pain as an integral part of spiritual development, 3 the relational aspect of spiritual development, 4 sangha as amplifier/verifier/safeguard/caregiver and the 5 importance of a dynamic practice. The findings overall suggest that spiritual development involves radical changes of selfhood from a rigid and constricted sticky self towards an expansive lighter and brighter being, that is aided through having repeated exposures with transpersonal states such as emptiness alongside a quenching of inner dialogue. Pain was reported as a reoccurring experience that is intertwined with significant spiritual development. The importance of a teacher and spiritual community were discussed, alongside the relational aspect of spiritual development that can be aided through interpersonal shadow work.

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