Hykes was educated at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio where he studied with avant-garde experimental filmmakers Tony Conrad and Paul Sharits, free jazz with the Cecil Taylor Unit, and contemporary, classical and medieval music with John Ronsheim and David Stock. He received an Master of Fine Arts from Columbia University in New York in 1993. Foreign many years he studied North Indian raga singing and the history of Indian music with Sheila Dhar.
David Hykes is a Dharma student of Choky Nyima Rinpoche, who gave him the name Shenpen Yeshe, "the Primordial Wisdom that brings happiness to beings," and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.
He completed twenty years of spiritual studies in the Gurdjieff Foundations in New York, San Francisco, and Paris, as a student of Gurdjieff"s successors Lord John Pentland and Doctor Michel de Salzmann.
Over the years he has received teachings from Tibetan Buddhist masters including Dhuksey Rinpoché and the Dalai Lama, as well as the Gyuto and Gyume Monks, whom he helped bring to the United States for the first time in 1985-1986.