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The Way of Liberation of the Primordial Buddha

At the time of arising of the “appearances of the basis,” by recognizing the self-essence of the cognition and realizing the spontaneously accomplished appearances as self-appearances and as free from inherent existents, one attains liberation instantly. It is called the way of attainment of enlightenment as the Primordial Buddha, the Universal Goodness (Saman-tabhadra).

Delusion into Samsara

At the time of arising of the appearances, by not realizing the true nature of the self-essence of the cognition and selfappearances of phenomena, one becomes deluded by means of three unenlightenments (Ma-Rig-Pa gSum) and four conditions (rKyen-bZhi)^ and one wanders into the cycle of samsara though the “chain of twelve links of interdependent causation” (rTen-’Brel Yan-Lag bChu-gNyis) endlessly until one attains enlightenment through the power of merits and realization of enlightenment.

(i) The Three Unenlightenments. Relying on Thegchog Dzod,TCD I’218a Perna Ledrel Tsai explains the three unenlightenments :

(1) The aspect of the cognition, not recognizing the selfessence of the primordially pure intrinsic awareness itself (as it is), is the unenlightenment of the single self-cause (rGyu bDag-Nyid gChig-Pa’i Ma-Rig-Pa). (2) While observing the outwardly (arisen) spontaneously accomplished appearances, not realizing them as self-appearances and as free from inherent existence is the innate unenlightenment (Lhan-sKyes Kyi Ma-Rig-Pa). The Universal Goodness (Kun-Tu bZang-Po) possessed these two (unenlightenments), but then the wisdom (Shes-Rab) arose (and it led him to the«liberated state without straying into samsara).

(3) Beings, by not realizing the power (rTsal), the analyzer, as non-inherent existence, self-essence, and self-power, become deluded into appréhender and apprehended (dualistic

concepts). Then through the imaginings (Kun-bTags) about the two selves, one thinks, “I have arisen from that” or “that has arisen from me.” This is the unenlightenment of imaginings (JCun-brTags Kyi Ma-Rig-Pa). Due to these three unenlightenments, the grossness of the mind increases and apprehendeds the self-glow of the five primordial wisdoms (as objects) and they result in the five elements (i.e. earth, water, fire, air, and space). For example, apprehending the white light, the glow of the mirror-like primordial wisdom, results in the element of water....

As the result of apprehending the five lights as objects, there arise the gross appearances of the container [[[world]]] of the samsara of the three realms of the five elements. As the result of apprehending the peaceful and wrathful (enlightened) Buddha-bodies, the gross bodies of the three realms arise. As the result of apprehending the self-sound of ultimate nature, speech arises. (As the result of apprehending) the power of the intrinsic awareness as “this is my mind,” the mind arises.

(ii) The Four Conditions. Perna Ledrel Tsai also summarizes the four conditions :

(1) The innate unenlightenment, which is the (aspect of) not realizing the self-essence, is the “causal condition” (rGyu’i rKyeri).

(2) The (outward) arising of the appearances as the five fights is the “objective condition” (dMigs-rKyeri).

(3) The arising of the power of compassion as the analyzer is the “subjective condition” (bDag-Po’i rKyeri).

(4) (“The immediate preceding condition,” De-Ma Thag-rKyen )

This is (the condition which), once the three immediate preceding conditions have gathered (7)us) became the analyzer; and thereby one becomes deluded into the apprehended and appréhender (dualities). Then one goes off course from the sphere of light and gets trapped in habituations [traces] of effectuations (rNam-sMin Bag-Ch’ags).

(iii) The Twelvefold Chain of Interdependent Causation of Samsara. Beings are wandering in the delusory samsara through the chain of the twelve links of interdependent causation. Long-chen Rabjam summarizes:

(One wanders in samsara') through the successive (Lugs-’Byung) process of twelvefold interdependent causation (rTen-’Brel): (1) Unenlightenment: It is the arising of the three unenlightenments, which are the non-realization of the self-essence of the power (rTsal) of compassion. (2) Formation: It is the four conditions that formulate samsara.

(3) Consciousness: From the formation arises the gross cognition which enjoys (sPyod-Pa) the modes of the objects

(4) Name and Form: From consciousness arise the name (i.e., feeling, discrimination, formation, and consciousness of the five aggregates) and form due to various karmas

(5) Six Sense Organs: From the name and form arise various specific elements and colors of (the six sense organs: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind).

(6) Contact: From the sense organs arise enjoyment of the objects.

(7) Feeling: From contact arise happiness, suffering and neutral experiences.

(8) Craving: From feeling arise the cognition of attachment to happiness and dislike of suffering.

(9) Grasping: From craving arise the apprehension (Dang-Du Len-Pa) of the objects.

(10) Becoming: Karmas and emotional defilements having developed from grasping, the actions which bring about the birth of the next life are accomplished.

(11) Birth: From becoming arises birth in one of various migrations.

(12) From birth arise youth, old age, and death.

Beings are deluded (into samsara and are wandering) through the twelvefold chain of (interdependent causation) from the beginning. (For example), regarding one life, the first instant of not realizing the self-essence, when the clarity (A’od-gSal, luminous absorption) is dissolved and the “intermediate state

of existence” (Srid-Pa Bar-Do) is ready to arise, is unenlightenment. (The process of life) until the cessation of the outer breathing (Phyi-dBugs), which is death, is the turning of the cycle of (twelvefold) interdependent causation in succession. The processes of gross and subtle dissolutions which take

place following (the cessation of the outer breathing until death) are the turning in reverse (of the cycle of twelvefold interdependent causation). Then the appearances of delusions will be emptied and samsara will collapse. At that time, first there arises the vision of original purity, the spontaneously

arisen ultimate nature, nirvana. Then there arise the appearances of the “intermediate state of ultimate nature” (Ch’os-Nyid Bar-Do) which are the appearances of the interdependent causation of nirvana [[[cessation]]]. At that point, if one does not realize (that absolute nature), one will be deluded into samsara’, and if one realizes it, one becomes liberated into nirvana. (These alternatives) are called (straying into) samsara and liberation into nirvana.

In both the “basis” and the “appearances of the basis” there is no unenlightenment; but because of adventitious arisings like clouds (in the clear sky), and particularly because of the arising of the impure (perceptions) as samsara, beings start to wander in the six migrations.

Based on the Dzogpa Chenpo tantras of the Nyingma Gyud-bum (rNying-Ma rGyud-’Bum) such as Dra Thalgyur, Rigpa Rang-Shar, Rinpoche Pungpa, and Trashi Dzeyden, Longchen Rabjam elucidates the view of the Innermost Secret division of Dzogpa Chenpo in his Thegchog Dzod and other works. Based on Thegchog Dzod, Perna Ledrel Tsai writes :

All four categories: Outer, Inner, Secret, (and Innermost Secret) category (of Mengagde) agree that delusion takes place by not realizing the primordial wisdom, which is present at the basis with its essence, nature and compassion. But according to the tantras, the unique view of the “innermost secret category” is as follows: Although it is said that there are three different ways of delusion, namely that some beings are deluded from the essence (Ngo-Bo), some from the experiences (Nyams), and some from power

(rTsal), actually beings are deluded by being based on not realizing the true essence (Ngo-Bo), and by apprehending the experiences (Nyams) or the modes-of-arising of the “intrinsic awareness of the ways of arising” (’Ch’ar-Tshul Gyi Rig-Pa) with the mind, the power (rTsal).

The so-called Great Primordial Basis, the common ground of the Buddha and beings or the “Youthful Vase Body” is presented (in terms of): essence as the Bud-dha-body, nature as the speech, and compassion as the mind. (This basis is the state) which previously neither became enlightened (or became Buddha)

through realization (of the self-essence) nor strayed into mind by not realizing it. The basis was present as the un-neutralized (Dug-’Don Ma-Byas-Pa) quicksilver or as a crystal with its rays remaining unprojected. Then, by projecting outwardly, the glow (gDangs) of the essence of five energies or air

(Rlung-Nga), the life-energy (Srog-Rlung, S. Prana, life-force) with its four aspects, which is present in the intrinsic awareness, breaks the shell of the “youthful vase body” (gZhon-Nu Bum-sKu). Then from the power (rTsal) or glow (gDangs) of the spontaneous accomplishment (Lhun-Grub) arise the appearances of five lights (A’od-lNga), and simultaneously the glow of compassion, the intrinsic awareness, arises in the mode of analytical cognition. (At that

point), the aspect of merely not realizing the self-nature (of the cognition and the arising as it is) constitutes the so-called unenlightenment in relation to enlightenment. At that time the basis is not changed, but it seems to be changed because of the “appearances of the basis” and it is called the changes in the intrinsic awareness (that occurred due to the) changes of appearances in the intrinsic awareness (sNang-Ba-La Rig-Pa ’Gyur-Ba). At that

time, from the cloudless sky-like appearances (sNgang-Ba) of the primordial purity, arise the “eight modes of arising of spontaneous accomplishments” as the self-appearances. (These appearances are called) the appearance in the nature of the precious casket (Rin-Po-Ch’e’i Gau). It is like a dream,

the appearances having arisen in their own state, but they have neither realized their self-essence (Rang-Ngo), which is non-inherent existence (Rang-bZhin Med-Pa), nor have there (yet) arisen any gross mental concepts of extremes of apprehender and apprehended. (The process of arising of appearances) up to this point is called the mode of “appearances of the basis” from the “basis.”

Longchen Rabjam explains the five energies or air:

In the state of intrinsic awareness the life-energy (Srog-Rlung, Skt., Prana, life-force) with its four aspects is present in the nature of primordial wisdom:

(1) The root life energy is the presence of the primordial wisdom (Ye-Shes) of the intrinsic awareness (Rig-Pa) as wisdom (Shes-Rab). T

his is the presence of the potential for arising of both: the arising of concepts and analysis, which are the foundation of delusion, and of self-awareness, the foundation of liberation, while nothing (yet) has arisen (as anything). At that point, it (the root life-eneigy) is present as the primordial wisdom which sees the objects (Yul Rig-Pa’i Ye-Shes). So it is the basis of arising of all the primordial wisdoms. The four secondary aspects (Yan-Lag) are the self-arisen power or glow which developed from the root energy.

(2) The upward moving energy (Gyen-rGyu) which is the conveyance of primordial wisdom.

(3) The downward clearing energy (Thur-SeT) is the radiant glow of wisdom

Srog-dzin -“life-accompanying windGyen-rgyu -“upward moving wind”-assists breathing -assists speech

Khyab-byed -“pervasive wind

Me-mnyam -“fire-accompanying wind

-assists muscular motions

-assists digestion and assimilation

Thur-sel -“downward clearing wind

-assists secretion

-seat in heart center -seat in chest, but travels to nose and gullet.

-seat in head but travels to all parts of body.

-seat in abdomen but travels to all parts of intestines and stomach.

-seat in “secret” genital center but travels to intestines, bladder, sexual organs, and thighs.)


(4) The heat-assimilated energy (Me-Dang mNyam-Pa) has the power of causing assimilation or nurturing

(5) Pervasive energy (Khyab-Byed) has the power of causing completion

The View of the Innermost Secret Category

(a) Basis

The following are statements by Longchen Rabjam on the view of the Innermost Secret cycle of Mengagde

The Primordial Basis (Thog-Ma’igZhi): Its essence (Ngo-Bo) is primordially pure like an immaculate crystal. It does not exist either as things or (as a) characteristic. Its nature (Rang-bZhin) is spontaneous accomplishment, and although in the whiteness (of the crystal-like nature) the subtle self-light is

present as the profound (or inner) clarity (gTing-gSal Du), it does not appear outwardly (Phyi-gSal) as there are no conditions. So the basis is present in the mode of “the youthful vase body” since its outer covering (rGya) is not (yet) broken. The essence (of the primordial basis) is emptiness as it is

primordially pure and there are no things in it. But the subtle (Phra-Mo) intrinsic awareness, the self-light of the profound glow, is naturally accomplished without hindrances. So it presents itself as the “basis of arising” of all the appearances. Yet its essence does not appear outwardly in the

characteristics of lights, forms, or colors. In the vast expanse of essence, the primordial purity, is present the spontaneously accomplished primordial glow (Ye-gDangs), the self-light (Rang-A’od) of the subtle and profound clarity (gTing-gSal) and intrinsic wisdom. They are not in the modes of either one,

different or separate, but are present as the supreme clarity, as the sphere of the precious spontaneous accomplishment (JJiun-Grub Rin-Po-Ch’e’i sBubs), as the field of the “youthful vase body” and as the nature of essence, nature and compassion. As its essence is emptiness, it does not exist as things or characteristics. As its nature is ciar-

ity, it has never abandoned the self-nature of appearances of primordial glow. Since its compassion [power] is intrinsic awareness, it is present as the ceaseless basis of the arising of knowledge (jnKhyen-Pa) as the primordial wisdom.

Longchen Rabjam continues:

If you see from the standpoint of the essence (of the basis), which is the primordially pure, nothing exists, and the lights, forms, and colors of the outer clarity (Phyi-gSal) are not distinguishable. But (if you see from the standpoint of) the nature (of the basis), which is the spontaneously accomplished ultimate sphere, there is the primordial glow, which is the utmost subtle appearances of the five lights, forms, rays, and Thigles in the ultimate sphere. So (the nature) dwells as the utmost subtle intrinsic wisdom, the inner clarity {Nang-gSat).

He continues :

The nature of primordial purity is spontaneously accomplished. Its ultimate sphere, the utmost subtle primordial wisdom, the inner (dwelling) presents itself as the subtle appearances of the luminous clarity, the primordial glow. (The ultimate sphere) is free from the extreme of etemal-ism as there is no assertion that it is gross outer clarity (which is projecting). It is free from nihilism as it is asserted as a subtle inner clarity. Thus, the spontaneously arisen primordial wisdom, free from extremes, is nonexistent as it is emptiness in its essence, and it is ceaseless appearances as it is clarity in its nature. It is the basis of all the arisings as it is ceaseless in its compassion (power). This is the mode of the true nature of the basis.

(b) Arisings of the Appearance from the Basis Longchen Rabjam explains:

In the primordial ultimate sphere, the “youthful vase body” is present in its essence as the Buddha-body, in na

ture as the speech and in compassion as the mind. By the outward emerging of the glow of the five energies, the lifeenergy with its four branches, which dwell as the heart (sNying-Po) within the intrinsic awareness, breaks the shell of the “youthful vase body.” Then from the glow of spontaneous accomplishment arise the appearances of five fights. Simultaneously, the glow of compassion, the intrinsic awareness, arises as the cognition which analyzes the modes (of appearances). At that point, the aspect of just not realizing the self-essence (of the cognition and appearances) functions as the

so-called unenlightenment (Ma-Rig-Pa) (which is established) in relation to enlightenment. At that time, although the basis is not changed, it seems to be changed because of appearances of the intrinsic awareness (Rig-Pa-La sNang-Ba ’Gyur-Baf At that time, from the state of cloudless sky-like appearances of original purity, arise the “eight modes of arising of spontaneous accomplishment” as self-appearances.

(c) The Way of Liberation of Universal Goodness (Kuntu Zangpo)

Longchen Rabjam writes:

When the inner glow arises outwardly from the primordial ultimate sphere and the compassion [power] arises simply as the aspect of not (yet) realizing the (self-essence of the) intrinsic awareness itself (as it is), at that point, by watching outwardly the “appearances of the basis” one realizes them inwardly

as the self-appearances. At that very instant of realization, the unenlightenments will be purified and the mode of “(eight) spontaneous accomplishments” of the basis will dissolve into the state of primordial purity and will remain in it.

The liberation as, or of, the Universal Goodness is taking place all the time, and it is not a matter of one person’s or some people’s having achieved such liberation in the past.

Perna Ledrel Tsai writes:

One shouldn’t think that the mode of liberation of Universal Goodness (Kun-Tu bZang-Po, the Primordial Buddha) is a matter of a liberation that was attained in an ancient time. Because at the very time of our speaking now, there are many beings who are being deluded from the basis, who are liberated,

and who are confused on the border between liberation and delusion. In Dzogpa Chenpo the attainment of Buddhahood is not seeking something from other sources but is liberation of the intrinsic awareness in its own nature.

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

Dzogpa Chenpo just gives the designation of attainment of Buddhahood to the liberation of the intrinsic awareness in its own natural state. But it does not have aspiration or seeking for Buddhahood from any other source. So the Buddhas of the three times are perfected in the state of natural intrinsic awareness free from apprehended and ap-prehender (the dualistic concepts).

(d) Delusion of Beings Due to Unenlightenment

Longchen Rabjam writes:

In the “primordial basis” there is no delusion. But when the “appearances of the basis” arise, (there arises) the cognition (Shes-Pa) which does not realize the self-essence, and that is a neutral cognition rooted in unenlightenment, which takes the “appearances of the basis” as separate (entities), and thereby one becomes deluded as a being.

Perna Ledrel Tsai writes :

Both the objects and the subjects of the delusions are nonexistent in their true meaning. But they appear in delusion and formulate the emotional defilements and the virtuous, unvirtuous, and neutral karmas. First, having the five lights becomes the ground of delusion for the objects, having the intrinsic awareness becomes the ground of de

lusion for the mind, and having the peaceful and wrathful forms (of the deities) becomes the ground of delusion for the body—then there occurs the building up of the habits of objects, subjects, and of various delusions. And (beings) wander around (in samsara) experiencing happiness and suffering endlessly like the revolving of an irrigation wheel.


The Dzogpa Chenpo master Srisinha classified the Mengagde teachings into Four Categories (sKor-bZhi)

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

In Mengagde (there are four categories): The Outer Category, which is like the body, the Inner Category, which is like the eyes, the Secret Category, which is like the heart, and the Innermost Secret Category, which is like the complete body.

Longchen Rabjam explains :

(a) Outer Category (Phyi-sKor'): In essence (Ngo-Bo), as there are no emotions to be abandoned, the five poisons are present as the path (of training). In nature (Rang-bZhiri), as there are no efforts, whatever arises appears as the attributes of the ultimate nature. In character (mTshan-Nyid), as there are no partialities, the emptiness is not inclined to any (aspect).

(b) Inner Category (Nang-sKor)-. In essence, as it doesn’t exist as real form, it is the ultimate nature free from characteristics. In nature, as it is free from comings and goings, it is the primordial wisdom of the eternal continuum. In character, as it penetrates into (both samsara and nirvana), it is

like the root (of a tree), as it is the direct realization (of the nature), it is like the trunk, as it is the development (of the power of appearances in various forms), it is like the branches, as it is the (ceaseless) clarity, it is like

Three Divisions of Atiyoga 65 flowers, and as it is the ripened (fruition) it is like fruit (of a tree).

(c) Secret Category (gSang-sKor): In essence, as the introduction (to the intrinsic awareness) and realizations of it are simultaneous, it doesn’t rely on (the three wisdoms of) study, thinking and meditation. In nature, as the enlightenment and the cessation of breathing [[[death]]] are simultaneous, it

doesn’t rely on diligence and strength of experiences (Goms-sTobs). In character, as the development of compassion [power] and enlightenment are simultaneous, it doesn’t rely on completion of the two accumulations.

(d) Innermost Secret Category(gSang-Ba Bla-Medy. In essence, as it doesn’t depend on words, it doesn’t rely on the wisdom of analysis. In nature, as it is the direct realization, it doesn’t remain in views of mental analysis. In character, as it is the perfection of the four visions, it doesn’t have

expectations (for the attainment of) three Bud-dha-bodies and five primordial wisdoms. Because, in this practice, one actualizes the primordially and spontaneously accomplished (result) in this very lifetime.

Perna Ledrel Tsai explains the distinctions of the four categories while explicating a four-line quotation from Ati Kodpa Chenpo (A-Ti bKod-Pa Ch’en-Po) tantra: Generally, none of the four categories differ as to the ascertaining of the ultimate nature of primordial purity (of Threg-chod) either directly or indirectly. In any case, the first line, on (a) the outer category, explains the ultimate nature of the primordial basis in detail, but there are no

explanations how the signs (brDa), meaning (Don) and characteristics (rTags) signify (the nature), how the path of fourfold visions arise, how the lights (sGron-Ma) arise in the intermediate state (Bar-Do), or how one attains liberation into the sphere (sBubs) of spontaneously accomplished result, (b) The second line (on the inner category), explains how the signs, meaning, and characteristics of the path signify the meaning but not other aspects (the basis

and results), (c) The secret category, which is called “like the heart,” explains the way of meditation of “four natural contemplations” (Chog-bZhag bZhi) of yogis, but not more (of the basis and results), (d) The innermost secret category is like a person who possesses a complete body and faculties. It

explains the ultimate nature of the primordial basis, the way of signifying (the nature) by signs, meaning and characteristics, the way of arising of the path of the four categories, the way of arising of the lights in the intermediate state, and the way of liberation into the sphere of spontaneously accomplished result. Besides that, in this (innermost secret category) are explained the entire teachings of the path as the complete body, a path that is (complete) for the practice of every individual

Longchen Rabjam characterizes the Innermost Secret Category as follows :

As it does not rely on words, it does not depend on (intellectual) wisdoms. As it realizes the nature directly, it does not dwell in the view of mental analysis. As the characteristics of the four visions are perfected, it does not depend on the results of three Buddha-bodies and five primordial wisdoms.

So this is the innermost secret category. In the (yanas) lower than this, practitioners trust to mental analysis for (the realization of) the ultimate nature. But here (the ultimate nature) is perceived as the object of the direct sense (mNgon-Sum Dang-Pd) through the power of the Lama. So it is supreme.


Jigmed Lingpa explains:

In this yana the realization of the essence of the mind itself, which from primordial time is present as the great liberation, is called the intrinsic awareness (Rig-Pa'). By maintaining the continuity of (that realized intrinsic awareness}, one attains enlightenment by force.

He continues:

For a person who is (still) on the ordinary path (of training), when he sees a mountain, in the first moment it is unavoidable not to have the thought, “this is a mountain,” but in the second moment, because of the perfection (rDzogs-Pa) of the power (rTsal) of the mind and mental events which analyze the

nature of the mountain, the concept of mountain disappears without any trace. At that time, although the appearance of the mountain (in the mind) has not ceased, one will gain experience in dwelling in the ultimate nature, in which there is no apprehension of (the appearance of the mountain). Having purified

(all the phenomenal existents) as the simultaneous liberation-at-arising (Shar-Grol), to unify (’Dres-Rz) the appearances and mind (indivisibly) is the unerring Dzogpa Chenpo.


In general there are two major categories of training in Men-gagde. They are Thregchod (Khregs-Ch’od, Cutting Through) and Thodgal (Thod-rGaf the Direct Approach). In Mutig Threngwa (Mu-Tig ’Phreng-Ba) tantra it is said:MT 289a/3 “ Thregchod and Thodgal are the trainings.” Perna Ledrel Tsai describes them:KT 208a/3

Thregchod is the path through which one trains on the naked intrinsic awareness, without relying on the appearances [[[visions]]] of clarity (of Thodgal) and

which liberates without efforts. It is the crucial path for people who are intellectually sharp but lazy about (practicing for) attaining enlightenment. Thodgal is (the path through which one attains) liberation with efforts. Relying on appearances [[[visions]]] of clarity (A’od-gSal Gyi sNang-Ba), diligent

people purify their gross bodies in this very lifetime and attain enlightenment. However, Thregchod is the essence of the training of Dzogpa Chenpo and Thodgal is specifically related to the Innermost Secret Division of Mengagde. Natshog Rangtrol explains that the entire Dzogpa Chenpo meditations are included in the training of Thregchod and Thodga

Generally, there are inconceivable divisions of practice in Dzogpa Chenpo, such as Outer Semde, Inner Longde, Secret Mengagde and the Innermost Secret, as well as Ati, Chiti (sPyi-Ti) and Yangti. But in brief they are all included in Thregchod, the training on the (union of) intrinsic awareness and emptiness,

and Thodgal, the training on (union of) appearances and emptiness. The root of both Thregchod and Thodgal is naked realization of the intrinsic awareness.

Jigmed Lingpa writes:

If one could not nakedly bring out (or realize) the intrinsic awareness, the root of both “original purity” and “spontaneous acomplishment,” then just gaining experiences in the phenomena of emptiness-form of Thodgal will not produce any benefits, except to make one take birth in the form realms.

In Dzogpa Chenpo practices the trainings on channels, energy [[[air]]] and essence of the tantras are also included. Natshog Rangtrol writes :

We try to emphasize the practice as explained in the cycles of Dzogpa Chenpo teachings, which unite all the channels as the channels of primordial wisdom, the ultimate sphere of freedom from elaborations, all the energy [[[air]]] as the energy of primordial wisdom, the self-clarity of intrinsic awareness, and all the essences (Thig-Le) as the essence of great blissful primordial wisdom, unfabricated and all-pervading essence.

On the particularity of the luminous absorption of Atiyoga, Jigmed Tenpa’i Nyima says:

The luminous absorption of bliss, clarity and no-thoughts

(bDe-gSal Mi-rTog-Pa’i A’od-gSal) is expounded clearly in all the anuttara tantras. But to emphasize the naked bringing out of the aspect of knowledge, which is the aspect of the intrinsic awareness or the compassion [power] (of the intrinsic awareness), and then through that to train on the path of luminous absorption, is the special skill of the Vhjra-summit [[[Dzogpa Chenpo]]].

(a) Thregchod (Khregs-Ch’od, Cutting Through)

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

By relying on the primordial purity, the emptiness, to bring forth the intrinsic awareness nakedly, free from elaboration, and to dissolve (the phenomenal existents into the) ultimate nature, the emptiness, (is Thregchod).

Lochen Dharmasri explains :ZL

(Thregchod) is the contemplation in the view (ITa-Ba) of primordial purity without waverings.... The master Garab Dorje (Prahevajra) said in Ati Zabdon Nyingpo (Ati Zab-Don sNying-Po)’.

“The nature of the mind is Buddha from the beginning. Mind is like space, it has neither birth nor cessation. Having realized the pure and equalness meaning of phenomena,

To remain in it without seeking is the meditation.”

There are four stages of realizations through meditation. As it is said,

“They are dwelling, unmoving, equalness and spontaneity.”

In Rigpa Khuchug it is s


Remaining naturally is the contemplation.

Mipham summarizes the Dzogpa Chenpo meditation in the following lines

Having realized the view, and having contemplated effort unlessly on the self-present essence of primordial wisdom without negations or defendings and dispellings or maintainings, one realizes the meaning of the ultimate nature directly as it is. Although (both categories of Dzogpa Chenpo meditation) are the same in using the effortless selfarisen intrinsic awareness as the path in the formlessprimordial purity” (r№m-Afed Ka-Dag ofKhregchod) the practice is, among others, on the fourfold “natural contemplations” {Chog-bZhag).

In the “spontaneous accomplishment” (Lhun-Grub = Thodgal) with form, having reversed (bZlog) the delusions into the basis through such training as the “threefold glance” (gZigs-sTang), one (meditates) on perfecting the “four visions” (sNang-bZhi).

Jigmed Lingpa explains the four “natural contemplations” :

On the method of entering into the four natural contemplations (Chog-bZhag bZhi) it is said in Dronma Nangched (sGron-Ma sNang-Byedy.

Mountain (-like) natural contemplation is the perfection of view. Ocean (-like) natural contemplation is the perfection of meditation. Contemplation naturally on appearances [[[percepts]]] is the perfection of actions.

Contemplation on intrinsic awareness naturally is the perfection of result.

A Yogi who has attained the four perfections Has united with the absolute meaning.

(a) By the view of mountain-like natural contemplation (ITa-Ba Ri-Bo Chog-bZhag), having been introduced to the freedom from concepts (bSam-Ngo) as it is, one contemplates in the great self-clarity, the intrinsic awareness freely and changelessly, without having been influenced by the antidote of meditation of mental efforts and apprehensions.

(b) In the meditation of ocean-like natural contemplation (sGom-Pa rGya-mTsho Chog-bZhag), having placed the body in the cross-legged posture with the eyes staring widely into space, one clears the mind (Shes-Pa), like the ocean unmoved by waves, through the state of not expanding the apprehension of the (objective) appearances of the six senses,

(c) By the actions of instructional natural contemplation(sPyod-Pa Man-Ngag Chog-bZhag), having relaxed the three doors naturally, one brings forth nakedly the self-clear intrinsic awareness from the coverings of view and meditation and maintains it naturally, (d) By the result of unmodified natural contemplation (Bras-Bu Ma-bChos Chog-bZhag), having

contemplated on the five (external) objects naturally as they are, inwardly there arises the naked self-clarity vividly. Also thereby having maintained the five airs [energies] in the ultimate sphere, externally the clarity of self-pure perceptions arises (in the form of) smoke, mirage, rainbow rays, and so on as the common secrets.

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

According to this, the king of they anas, the essence (Ngo-Bo) of the intrinsic awareness is primordially free from elaborations. Therefore, there is nothing to be liberated which wasn’t free. So it is the primordially pure intrinsic awareness or the natural state of original purity, as it is, without modifications. (It possesses the signs of the “three doors of liberation” (rNam-Thar sGo-gSum):

(a) In the basis (view), (the intrinsic awareness) is present without falling into any dimensions (rGya). As its nature is free from inherent existence, it is free from falling into any extremes. It is free from the intellect of conceptualizations of self and it is the naked and unhindered intrinsic awareness which is inconceivable and inexpressible. Thus it dwells in the “emptiness (sTong-Pa Nyid or Ngo-Bo Nyid Med-Pa) door of liberation.”

(b) In the path (meditation), (the intrinsic awareness) transcends (being an object) of characterization by words and letters and it is not reachable by the mind which apprehends subject and object as dual. So it is the natural entering into the “characterless (mTshan-Ma Med-Pa) door of liberation.”

(c) In the result, as there is neither fear nor expectation concerning achievements, it is the attainment of the ultimate sphere “(the door of liberation of) freedom from aspirations” (sMon-Pa Med-Pa).

In any case, as (the intrinsic awareness) is the remaining in the secret link (JDam-Tshig)^ the lineage of the vajra-essence clarity, which is the full perfection of the virtues of intrinsic awareness, from it all the virtues of the three Buddha-bodies arise without any efforts. Sogpo Tentar interprets

As the intrinsic awareness is not present as a knowable object, it transcends both selves, the self of person and the self of phenomena, which apprehend (things) as “I” and “my.” There is nothing else that is the meditator or to be meditated upon. If one remains in the true nature without modifications, the

intrinsic awareness wisdom emerges nakedly from the womb of the eight consciousnesses, and one will see it nakedly. When (the realization of) such ultimate nature is established permanently, no ignorant apprehensions will be able to drag one into the cycle of existences. Like space, it does not change

according to the clouds.... When one realizes such meaning, since the attachment to objects and to self are not created by a creator but are established by the strength of mental concepts, although for a while it appears that they have arisen from the basis and root which is (actually) non-existent even (to

the size of) an atom, they will be liberated by being perfected as unborn at the very moment of their arising. Then there is no need of realization of any other wisdom. At that time, all the conventional methods created by mind, such as recitation, memorization, meditation, composition and pondering dissolve like a drawing on water.

And then, as one dissolves the phenomenal appearances, all the three aggregates (Tshogs-Pa), the external appearances, the internal body and the secret mind become free from their gross aspects, and one realizes them as (the union of) emptiness and clarity, like the reflection of the moon on water. For

such a person there is no hindrance to passing through mountains and rocks. As his mind dwells in the noble truth, he possesses (the virtues) such as (divine) eyes and foreknowledge. He is free from rebirth.... If he attains liberation in the state of emptiness, the equalness and primordial purity

(sTong-Pa Dag-mNyam Ka-Dag Gi Sa), he purifies even the four elements of his (mortal) body with the fire of primordial wisdom, and he disappears into space with miracles like the evaporation of mist, and his intrinsic awareness remains in the ultimate sphere. Then it is called the Buddhahood free from

aspirations (for further attainments)... In some cases, when it is beneficial for others, the (yogi) blesses the dissolved atoms to remain in the form of Ringseis (Ring-bSrel, relics)

(b) Thogdal (Thod-rGa]l, the Direct Approach)

Jigmed Lingpa summarizes :

Relying on appearances (or visions), the spontaneous accomplishment of purifying (Dangs) the gross aspects into the clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]] absorption] and dissolving the (phenomena into the) ultimate nature of appearances (is Thodgal). Lochen Dharmasri also summarizes :ZL 41b/4

Relying on six crucial means (of training), the four visions arise gradually. (The four visions are:) the Direct (Realization of) Ultimate Nature (Ch’os-Nyid mNgon-gSum), Development of Experiences (Nyams Gong-’Phel), Perfection of Intrinsic Awareness (Rig-Pa Tshad-Phebs) and Dissolution of (phenomena into) the Ultimate Nature (Ch’os-Nyid Zad-Pa).

In Dra Thalgyur (sGra Thal-’Gyur) tantra it is said:GT 224a

The vision of Direct (Realization) of the Ultimate Nature Transcends (even) the word “apprehender,” the mental analysis.

The vision of Development of Experience

Dissolves the delusory appearances

And attains the primordial wisdom of the intermediate state.

The vision of Perfection of Intrinsic Awareness Transcends the conceptual appearances of the path of the three kayas.

The vision of Exhaustion into the Ultimate Nature Ends the continuation of the chain of samsara.

Jigmed Lingpa explains that although the attainments of the four visions correspond to the paths of the common yanas, the attainments of the paths of thisyana are greatly superior and swifter.YL 37b/1

In terms of the things to be purified and the results of purification, these four stages partially correspond (Phyogs-mTshungs) to the five paths of common paramitdydna (of the sutric path), but there are great differences in the speed of the paths, like the difference between the speed of a horse-drawn chariot and the sun and moon.

The following is a summary of the “six crucial means” (gNad-Drug) given in Yeshey LamatYL 22b/6

The “six crucial means” of training are the three crucial means of the three doors (sGo-gSum) and the three crucial means with which one concentrates on the clarity or luminous absorption (A’od-gSal). The three crucial means of the three doors are: (a) the three postures of the body: the posture of a lion

for the Dharmakaya^ of an elephant for the Sambhogakaya and of a sage for the Nirmanakdya, (b) the crucial means of speech is to maintain silence from expression, and (c) the crucial means of mind is to concentrate on external space. The three crucial means by which to concentrate on the luminous absorption are:

(a) the crucial means of the door of arising, the eyes with the three ways of glancing of the three Kayas, (b) the crucial means of the basis of arising, the cloudless sky (or sun or lamp), and (c) the crucial means of breathing, breathing naturally from the mouth and concentration of the intrinsic awareness on the sky, as the outer ultimate sphere brings the arising of the inner ultimate sphere as the outer ultimate sphere.

Gyurmed Tshewang Chogtrub explains the superiority of Thodlgal:

Thregchod liberates the delusory appearances, the objects of the apprehensions, into their true nature, without leaving any basis and root. In this (Thodgal), all the aspects of appearances of the three realms (Khams-gSum) are liberated as the clarity of the Thigles of five lights, the natural profundity (Rang-gDangs) of the intrinsic awareness. So this is superior to the lower trainings.

At the time of death an accomplished yogi of Thodgal, if he wishes, will transform his body into an intrinsic light body visible only to those who possess pure eyes, and will serve living beings until this world is emptied or until there is no further reason for him to remain. Guru Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra both came to Tibet in this body. Jigmed Lingpa explains the two attainments:YL 463/4

There are two attainments, the power [control] over birth and over entering (sKye-’Jug). (a) The attainment of power over birth: One transforms into the body of Great Transformation (JPho-Ba Ch’en-Po) and fulfills the needs of living beings... One shines forth in (the body of) lights after having dissolved

the atoms (of the mortal body). The attainment of power over birth and entering is the speciality of Thodgal. Because in Thregchod there is nothing else but that after dissolving the body into atoms (Lus rDul-Phran-Du Dengs, total dissolution) and the mind into ultimate nature, one attains liberation in original purity.... (b) The

attainment of power over entering: If there is no way to serve beings with that (particular) form of body, .. .he dissolves his (light) body (of Great Transformation), like mist dissolving into the sky and enters into the inner ultimate sphere. Thereby until samsara has ceased, he acts for others through enlightened activities of the inseparability of (four) Buddha-bodies and (five) primordial wisdoms.


In Dzogpa Chenpo one attains and perfects the paths and stages as the result of the meditative training. Longchen Rabjam’s interpretation of this matter is quoted briefly in section eleven, part II, of this book.

The five paths of Buddhist training and attainments are completed in the instant realization of the intrinsic awareness of Dzogpa Chenpo. Paltul Jigmed Chokyi Wangpo writes:

Generally in the causal and characteristic (swmc) yanas, having developed the mind of enlightenment, one trains on the accumulations of merits and wisdom for countless eons. It is the Path of Accumulation. By developing the wisdom produced by meditation, one is joined to the wisdom of the Path of Seeing (the

truth). It is the Path of Application. Seeing directly the (true) nature of phenomena and the absolute nature (of all phenomena) of the Four Truths is the Path of Seeing. The (means that) causes one to gain experiences of the (realization which) has been seen is the Path of Meditation. Having completed the trainings, when there is no more training, it is the Path of No More Training (Buddhahood). In Dzogpa Chenpo these Five Paths are perfected instantly.

He continues:5

(In Dzogpa Chenpo) by the aspect of realizing the meditative primordial wisdom—thorough and free from elaborations—one spontaneously completes the aspects of skillful means, such as generosity, without concepts and attachments. Also one develops the appearances of the power of discriminative wisdom and the

illusion-like unreal compassion from the subsequent cognition (of the off-meditative state, rJes-Shes}. So, in Dzogpa Chenpo one perfects the vast accumulation of merits and primordial wisdom instantly. That is why the great Rongzom {Rong-Zom, 11th century) defines Dzogpa Chenpo, saying: ‘it is

(called) the Great Perfection {Dzogpa Chenpo} as it perfects the vast dual accumulations.’ Accordingly, the realizing of the essence of intrinsic awareness (of Dzogpa Chenpo}—the instant perfection of the great accumulations—is the Path of Accumulations. Some people (who claim to be Dzogpa Chenpo teachers)

deprecate (the dual accumulations), saying: “A yogi who has realized Dzogpa Chenpo concentrates only on the intrinsic awareness, and all the other (trainings) in skillful means are errors.” Some others (who claim to be scholars) assert that for a yogi who has realized the view (of Dzogpa Chenpo} there

won’t be any virtues, such as compassion and renunciation. Upon hearing such evil assertions, some people who boast of being scholars (of Buddhism), without examining (the true meaning of Dzogpa Chenpo}, slander and commit grave karmas of “renunciation of Dharma” (Ch’os-sPang} saying: “Dzogpa Chenpo is

not pure doctrine as it despises the aspect of (virtuous) activities.” None of them have understood the slightest meaning of Dzogpa Chenpo, and they haven’t even witnessed the lives of the accomplished masters of Dzogpa Chenpo. All the canonical and commentarial texts of Dzogpa Chenpo state the following:BGT36b/3

When one realizes the meaning of Dzogpa Chenpo directly, all the subsequent cognitions (of the off-meditative state) will arise as free from concepts and attachments. Thereby, one will naturally become free from the attachment to material things, etc., and all the anger, animosity and attachment, and hatred

towards self and others becomes purified as self-liberation. Naturally, the harmful activities will be uprooted and will remain in the “four disciplines of the ascetic” (dGe-sByong Gi Ch’os-bZhi). The four disciplines of ascetics are: Do not curse (gShe-Ba) others even though you are cursed by them, do not get

angry (Khro-Ba) with others even though they are angry with you, do not insult (inTshang Bru) others even though you have been insulted, and do not beat (rDeg-Pa) others even though you have been beaten by them. One remains in the “stream-like natural continuum training” (Ch’u-Bo’i rGyun-Gyi rNal-’Byor)

with effortless efforts. When one has aroused the power of the light of “spontaneously arisen wisdom” (Shes-Rab Rang-Byung-Gi sGron-Ma) as the meditative wisdom, and it has burst (Klong-rDol) into the depth of knowledge of words and meanings, all the virtues of the six perfections arise in one naturally without efforts.

These results will be understood even by reading the lives of Longchen Rabjam, Jigmed Lingpa and others.

Owing to completion of the dual accumulations, the power of the subsequent cognition (of the off-meditative state), the obscurations of the path become thinner, and one joins the meditative wisdom, the insight of the meaning of exhaustion of phenomena—this is the Path of Application. At that time, seeing

all the phenomenal existents which are comprehended in the fourfold truth as the play of inconceivable primordial wisdom, free from elaborations, is the Path of Seeing. Training on the meaning of what one has seen with stream-like meditationless training is the Path of Meditation. Having no further path to

pursue since all the paths and stages are completed as one, the effortless state (of Dzogpa Chenpo), is the Path of No More Training (Buddhahood). Three Divisions of Atiyoga 79

Rigpa Rangshar Chenpo tantra of Mengagde explains sixteen stages of attainment. They are not stages of attainment of different virtues or phenomena, however, but are phases of the realization and perfection of the same visions and intrinsic awareness, the attainments of liberation in this lifetime and

in the intermediate state. As Kongtul Yonten Gyatsho interprets these phases,SKGIV’167b they constitute the uniqueness of the Dzogpa Chenpo path. The first ten or eleven stages are identical in structure to the stages enumerated in Mahayana sütras and the last ones are unique to the esoteric path.

The tantra says:

The stages (of attainment) are not something other (than the realization of the intrinsic awareness itself). All the stages are perfected by a person who has realized the (ultimate) truth. For the person who has been introduced (to or has realized the intrinsic awareness): (the aspect of) having joy at the

realization of the truth is the attainment of the first stage, “the Joyous.” Recognizing it (the realization) as the self-perception of the intrinsic awareness is the second stage, “the Pure.” Gaining experience of it is the third stage, “the Light-maker.” Gaining experience of it by seeing the vison of

lights is the fourth stage, “the Radiant.” Seeing the primordial wisdom by having purified the emotional defilements naturally and by gaining experience in the insight of the vision of primordial wisdom is the fifth stage, “the Invincible.” (Seeing) the lightbody is the sixth stage, “the Actualization.” Moving

far away from the emotional defilements by perfecting the experiences is the seventh stage, “the Far-ranging.” Not moving from that state is the eighth stage, “the Unshakable.” The perfection of the virtues is the ninth stage, “the Excellent Wisdom.” Having maintained (Zin) one’s senses (Shes-Pa) in the

vision of the primordial wisdom, the visions arise naturally, then seeing all the phenomenal exis-tents as clouds (in the one sky) is the tenth stage, “the Cloud of Dharma.” These (stages) are attained (in this way) by a person who has not abandoned this realm (sBubs-, i.e., life). A person who has abandoned

this realm (sBubs-, i.e., life or world and is in the intermediate state) does not attain the stages in this manner. (For him) upon the cessation of the delusory appearances, the arising of the visions of assemblages is the eleventh stage, “the Total Light.” Having no attachment even to that vision (of assemblages) and being unstained by any internal and external phenomena is the twelfth stage, “the Unstained Lotus.” The arising of chains of rays of the

primordial wisdom from one’s heart and their being present as the five assemblages of lights in the sky is the thirteenth stage, “the Great Assembly of the Wheel of Letters.” Remaining in the vision of primordial wisdom is the fourteenth stage, “the Great Bliss.” Attainment of certainty (Nges-Pa) in the spontaneously accomplished state is the fifteenth stage, “the Vajradhara.” The arising of the primordial wisdom spontaneously in the state of primordial purity is the sixteenth stage, “the Supreme Primordial Wisdom,” for there is no stage that surpasses it.... Although there are an inconceivable number of beings, there is only one essence of primordial wisdom. There is no other so-called path or stage. There is no need of training and attainment in (any other) path or stage.

As a result of the realization and perfection of Dzogpa Chenpo, one becomes free from emotions such as anger and pride and enriched with virtues such as compassion and insight. Mipham Namgyal writes :

Even the virtues of realization progress (limitlessly) to (the extent of) the sky.

That there is no pride in one’s mind is the extraordinary sign of this path.

Even if one doesn’t meditate intentionally, the power of compassion

Arises naturally without efforts.

Even if one doesn’t work hard on intellectual expositions, One gains the insight-wisdom of ocean-like sutras and Three Divisions of Atiyoga tantras.

If one possess such (perfections), that is the infallible sign That one has perfected the essence of the excellent path of Dzogpa Chenpo. Otherwise, upon the mere arising of vague experiences Of bliss, clarity and no-thought, less learned people Boast about them as the high stage (of attainment) and become inflated with pride, and

They judge others without any sense of their own state. They cannot tolerate even the sharpness of a harsh word. And if that is so,

I swear that they won’t be able to bear the flames of the most tormenting hell.

Not knowing that the cause of wandering in samsara is present in themselves—

“I have no fear of falling into samsara

They articulate loudly and carelessly,

While they are afraid of even tiny harm from others—how strange it is.


As death is the most important aspect of life, I would like to provide some other considerations of death from the scriptures. Generally, life is a chain of births and deaths since every moment of life is the birth of a new moment and the death of a preceding moment. But conventionally, birth relates to the

beginning of a life and death is its end. As we have already taken birth in this life, the important thing for us to deal with is death. According to Buddhism, even for an unrealized person, if one can deal properly with the circumstances of the time of death, one’s next rebirth results in a pleasant life since everything functions through interdependent causation. A person who is an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo trainee may attain the accomplishments at

the time of death, in the intermediate state, or in the next rebirth. Accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditators are the most amazing adepts of Tibet, for they die displaying the wondrous signs of achievement of en

lightenment described in the scriptures. They display numerous signs of attainments as a result of the training they have been pursuing. Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa summarizes the significance of the signs divided into two categories :NS 385a/2

As a result of the speed of attaining liberation, there are two types of (attainment at death), (a) In (Dzogpa Chenpo\ in order to attain the cessation of sorrow, the primordial nature, and the city of sacred peace, one exhausts the contaminated (elements of the mortal) body. The result is called the Fully Enlightened One (S. Samyaksambuddha).

(b) Death with display of five signs: the lights, sounds, images,* gDung** and earth tremblings. It is called the attainment of Manifesting Enlightenment (mNgon-Par Sangs-rGyas-Pa, S. abhibuddha).

Jigmed Tenpa’i Nyima explains the distinctions between the basis and the result :

If one does not recognize the single luminous innate mind, that is the basis of delusion. If one realizes and stablizes it, that is the state of liberation .The first case is the basis and the second is the result. The Omniscient One [[[Long-chen Rabjam]]] has rejected the interpretation that they are the same. For the basis, a complete luminous absorption arises at each time of death, but by not realizing it one returns to the delusory movements (Yo-Lang') of apprehended and apprehender. When one reaches the result, as one attains one’s own (true) essence, one will not return (to delusion). So that is the difference between the basis and the result.

The most exceptional sign of Dzogpa Chenpo at death is the dissolving or transforming of the mortal body. As stated before, there are two main forms of dissolution of the mortal body:

of peaceful and wrathful deities in the bones.

gDung are of various colors and are indestructible. The white ones are the size of a pea, and the colored ones vary in size from a pea to a mustard seed. Ring-bSrel are white, destructible, and vary in size from a sesamum seed to an atom.

the attainment of the dissolution of the atoms or the most subtle particles [total dissolution] of the mortal body, popularly known as the attainment of Rainbow Body (’Ja-Lus), through training in Thregchod (Cutting Through), and the attainment of the Light Body (A’od-Lus) or the Great Transformation (fPho-Ba Ch’en-Po) through training in Thodgal (Direct Approach). Longchen Rabjam distinguishes these two attainments :NDG 85b/2

The cessation (or dissolution) of the elements at the time of perfection of (the attainment of) the meaning of the primordial purity (Ka-Dag) (through the training of) Thregchod, and the exhaustion of the elements by perfecting the spontaneous accomplishment (through the training of) Thodgal are similar in

just having purified the internal and external gross elements. But in Thregchod, at the very instant of dissolving the partless particles, one attains liberation in the primordial purity, and there is no manifestation of Light Body. In Thodgal, with (the attainment of) Light Body one accomplishes the

(Body of) Great Transformation. So their difference lies in whether or not they have the Light Body and not in (the attainment of) liberation in the state of primordial purity.

Some Dzogpa Chenpo tantras, however, distinguish four forms of dissolution. The Nyida Khajor (Nyi-Zla Kha-sByor) tantra says;NK 213a/2

(a) The way of death of the Dakinis,

(b) The way of death of the knowledge-holders,

(c) Self-consuming like a fire, and

(d) Invisible like space;

In all of them, they exhaust their mortal elements (of the body) and (become) invisible and do not take (any other elemental form). This is what the supreme yogis enjoy.

Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa elaborates on the four ways of dissolution]:

In the supreme way (of death), one dissolves one’s mortal body (in two ways): In Thregchod, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like space and like the way of death of the Dakinis. In the Thodgal, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like fire and like the way of death of a knowledge-holder. These are the four ways of dying of an accomplished (Dzogpa Chenpo yogi).

First: Having purified (down to) the subtlest defilements of air/energy and mind which obscure the ultimate sphere, one attains the exhaustion of (phenomena into) the inner ultimate sphere (Nang-dByings), and thereby the external body dissolves into atoms [total dissolution]. At that very moment, the

suchness of (one’s) intrinsic awareness, which was based in the (mortal) body, unites with the natural ultimate sphere (Rang-bZhin Ch’os-Kyi dByings), as the space in a vase merges with the outer space when the vase is broken. Then, having united the ultimate sphere and the intrinsic awareness in the (state of) equalness purity without separation, one becomes enlightened....

Second: It is the union of the body, the basis, and the intrinsic awareness, the based. The atoms of the body (of Dzogpa Chenpo adepts) are present (in one moment) but (in the next moment) they dissolve into the invisible (nature). At that very moment the intrinsic awareness dissolves into the ultimate sphere

without return, like an arrow shot by a skilled archer. It is similar to the way that Dakinis or beings who have been bom by miraculous birth die, their bodies (suddenly) becoming invisible. As stated before, it is the same as the manner in which Pang San-gye Gonpo (sPang Sangs-rGyas mGon-Po), a direct

disciple of Vairocana, died at Tragmar Gon (Brag-dMar dGori) of Tod Khung-rong (sTod Khung-Rong) and in which three followers of their lineage died in a single snake year, one after another, at Wa Senge Trag (Wa Seng-Ge Brag). Third: The way of dissolving the intrinsic awareness after purifying the defilments of the air/energy and mind, as well as the ultimate sphere, the place where one attains

liberation, are the same (as in the two previous cases). But (in this case), as the inner elements are exhausted, the physical mortal body dissolves into a

a light body (A’od-Phung). It is as when the fuel of a fire is burned, there is no more fuel for the fire to continue. For example, two disciples of Kyergom Zhigpo (dGyer-sGom Zhig-Po) attained tight bodies and disappeared into the sky in the cave of Dot-shen (rDo-mTshari).

Fourth: One dissolves his mortal body—created by the maturation (of karma and habituations)—into the light body and becomes visible to other beings in order to lead them to the doctrine. It is as when the knowledge-holders progress from one stage to another, they travel through the sky to other Buddha-

fields with sounds and tights and serve the needs of others. And it is like Chetsun Senge Wang-chug QChe-bTshun Seng-Ge dBang-Phyug, 1 lth-12th cent.), the lord of yogis, whose mortal body dissolved into the tight body with tights and sounds in the sky at Oyug Chikong (A’o-Yug Phyi-Gong).

The bodies of Dzogpa Chenpo meditators who still have residues of karmic maturations do not dissolve at death, and there are some whose accomplishments are fully perfected, but who, instead of dissolving their mortal bodies, leave them with gDung and Ringsei (relics) as objects of devotion for devotees. Also

some Dzogpa Chenpo adepts leave their bodies with or without any signs because of various circumstances or purposes. Sogpo Tentar says:ST 270a/2 Even if (a Dzogpa Chenpo adept) possesses the capacity to dissolve (the mortal body) through (his realization of the) view and meditation, he does not

exhaust his karmic energies (of remaining in the mortal form) but accepts (the responsibility of) the wheel of activities for the sake of the doctrine and beings. Even in order to help beings with (the remains of their) gDung and Ring-sel, they (attain the accomplishment) in the manner of the state of

Knowledge-holder with Residues” (rNam-sMin Rig’Dziri). This is like Jigmed Thrinle Odzer Palbar CJigs-Med Phrin-Las A’od-Zer dPal-’Bar^ 1745-1821, the first Dodrup Chen), our supreme refuge, the lord of the sages and the master of the hundred (Buddha-) families, and the illusory manifestation of the primordial Buddha Saman-tabhadra for the perception of the disciples.

A less extraordinary way for a Dzogpa Chenpo meditator to attain death is described by Sogpo Tentar as having four signs :ST 270a/4 Even if (some realized Dzogpa Chenpo meditators) couldn’t reach the exhaustion of the four elements, if they have realized the meaning of suchness and have

purified their attachments to objects, they will not be oppressed by worldly means CJig-rTen mThun-’Jug). They will not rely on physicians, divinations or prayers if they are sick, and they will not rely on the weekly death ceremonies etc. at (the time of their) death. They possess four signs: Like a deer,

they enjoy solitude where men do not move around, like a lion which does not fear anyone, they do not fear death, like a beggar, even if they die in the street they do not feel sad and, like a baby, they have no worry about death or life.


Lochen Dharmasri summarizes :

In this (the trainees) enjoy all phenomena without discriminations of abandonments or acceptances since whatever arises has arisen as the play (JRol-Ba) of the ultimate nature.


Lochen Dharmasri summarizes :

It is the perfection of being in the state of spontaneously perfected Universal Goodness {Kun-Tu bZang-Po), from this very present time. Through the perfection of fourfold confidence in it, one attains the liberation of samsara into nirvana.

The following is a summary from Yeshey Lama on the fourfold confidence:

The fourfold confidence is (a) the confidence of having no fear of hell (by knowing all as delusions), (b) having no expectations of karmic results as samsara is non-existent,

(c) having no hope of attainments as there is no true existence of nirvana, and (b) having no joy, but rather equanimity concerning the virtues of Buddhahood, as one has reached the natural state.

Mipham Namgyal writes:

It is the presence (in oneself of the nature) of the self-intrinsic awareness, the essence of the enlightened mind, which is inseparable from the all-pervading lord, the Universal Goodness (Kun-Tu bZang-Po), the stage of sublime primordial wisdom. Having purified all the adventitious obscurations, this (attainment) is the perfection of purification and realization, and is free from (changes of) decreasing or increasing.

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

Thus, having realized the characteristics of the basis and path,

One (perfects) the result, the (five) Buddha-bodies1 and the (fivefold) primordial wisdom.

(These results) do not come from other (sources, but) are the purification of the defilements of the universal ground, and

The pacification of the mind and mental events into the ultimate sphere.

In this, the sun-like primordial wisdom, totally pure from The cloud-like substantial cause (Nyer-Leri) of the eight consciousnesses, The apprehensions of knowable phenomena of the habit-uations of grasping at self,

Are the “appearances of the basis” arisen from the “basis,” and

They shine forth as the natural clarity, free from coverings.

Changeless Viyra-body (Mi-’Gyur rDo-rJe), Fully Enlightened Body (mNgon-Par Byang-Ch’ub), Peaceful Ultimate Body (Zhi-Ba Ch’os-sKu), Enjoyment Body (Longs-sPyod rDzogs-sKu) and the Variously Manifested Body (Chir-Yang sPrul-Pa’i sKu).

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yinas and Traditions

According to Dzogpa Chenpo scriptures, Dzogpa Chenpo is the summit of all the yanas. It embodies all the merits of other yanas. Other yanas are the steps to the realization of the meaning of Dzogpa Chenpo. The fruition of Dzogpa Chenpo is the realization of the Intrinsic Awareness, the Buddha-essence.

Buddha-essence is discoursed on by the Buddha in both the “Second and Third Turnings of the Wheel.” To realize the naked Intrinsic Awareness, the Buddha-essence, the profound and pure meaning of the Dzogpa Chenpo view by the swiftest and most direct way for highly intelligent trainees is the unique

distinction of Dzogpa Chenpo. However, some scholars of other Tibetan Buddhist schools question Dzogpa Chenpo’s authenticity as a pure esoteric Buddhist view and meditation. Some allege its ties with the Bon religion or Ha-shang Mahayana’s philosophy. The following are quotations of and comments on studies

of authentic sources which illustrate the distinction of Dzogpa Chenpo and the relationship between Dzogpa Chenpo and other yanas and traditions. There are some scholars who negate Dzogpa Chenpo, alleging that it recommends remaining in just no-thought and no

meditation. But most of the great masters of all the schools see Dzogpa Chenpo as one of the most profound teachings. The first Panchen Lama, Lobzang Chokyi Gyaltshen (Blo-bZang Ch’os-Kyi rGyal-mTshan, 1570-1662) writes in his Instructional Commentary on Mahamudra:LN 378b/5 Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Madhyamaka, Lamdre, Chod and Zhiched, etc.

Are various designations.

But if examined by an experienced yogi,

They lead to the same realization.

Milarepa (1040-1123) sings his realization to Pha Dampa San-gye {Pha Dam-Pa Sangs-rGyas), illustrating it in terms of pain and death:GB 2913/2 From behind I am in pain through Mahamudra.

From the front I am in pain through Dzogpa Chenpo. I am caught by the chronic disease of vase-like breathing. From the top, I am tormented by the fever of primordial wisdom.

From the bottom, I am sick with the cold of absorption. In the middle the fever and cold of bliss and emptiness are in conflict. My mouth vomits the blood of instructions.

My chest is stretched by the bliss of ultimate nature.

I am not only ill but dying.....

Bury me in the cemetery of Vajradhara.

To a scholar of the Sakya school Jigmed Lingpa answers :

In Mahamudra, Dzogpa Chenpo, Madhyamaka, Zhiched, Chod, Lamdre, and so forth, there is no difference as to the result, the liberated state. But regarding the immediate approachCJug-sGo), there are differences in (degree of) profundity of the path due to their slow and swift (process of fruition) as a result of whether they teach the paths (of training) directly, through the means of relative or absolute truth, and in definitive or interpretable ways.


According to Mahayana Buddhism, the essence of the whole doctrine of the Buddha is the perfection of wisdom. Dzogpa Chenpo realizes and perfects the primordial wisdom directly and nakedly. By perfecting the primordial wisdom one perfects all the other perfections, as all of them are attributes of the primordial wisdom. Santideva says:

All these branches (the perfections) were taught

By the Subduer (Buddha) for the sake of wisdom.

Jigmed Lingpa specifically writes that all the trainings of the common yanas are steps to Dzogpa Chenpo:

The entire meanings of the vast, excellent path, Are for cleaning the (defilements of the) mind.

So the three precepts, six perfections, development stage, perfection stage, and so on

Are the steps to the path of Dzogpa Chenpo.

Mipham Namgyal writes:

This {Dzogpa Chenpo) is the only resultant yana and it is the summit of all the yanas.

Except for this one, other yanas are accompanied by accepting and rejecting, defending and negating,

And are created by mind.

They are the stairs (leading) to this yana.

All the different tenets, divisions of yanas

And the paths and stages

B5F accomplishing the great confidence in this realization— Will be perfected in the equalness state without efforts.


Sogpo Tentar explains the differences between the views of the Second and Third Turnings of the Wheel :

In the Second Turning of the Wheel, Buddha elucidated all the phenomenal existents through the “three doors of liberation” (emptiness, freedom from characteristics, and freedom from aspirations) in order to liberate from apprehension of the antidotes (to the defilements).... (The Bud-dha-essence) is

discoursed on (in the Third Turning of the Wheel) but (the Second Turning of the Wheel) is more appropriate, in conventional terms, as the antidote to the elaborated theories.... The Last (Third) Turning of the Wheel is extensively vast in discoursing upon the inconceivable primordial wisdom, the source of

(ten) strengths, etc., the ocean of virtues. But it is not the case that the Second Turning of the Wheel doesn’t discourse on it. As, for example, in Sañcaya sütra (mDo sDud-Pd) it is said:

“If there is no Primordial Wisdom, there is no development and enlightenment.

The ocean-like virtues of the Buddhas will also not be there.


The meditation in Dzogpa Chenpo is to realize the Intrinsic Awareness, the Buddha-essence, and perfection of the realization is the result, attainment of Buddhahood. Buddha-essence is taught in both the Second and, especially, in the Third Turning of the Wheel. Some scholars interpret that the Buddha-essence

taught in Dzogpa Chenpo is in accord with the Second Turning of the Wheel, and according to others it is the essence of both Turnings of the Wheel. Dzogpa Chenpo provides more profound, swift, and esoteric means of training to realize the Buddha-essence, however, than do the common Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions dzogpa chenpo is based on


According to Jigmed Lingpa, Dzogpa Chenpo is based on the Second Turning of the Wheel as it emphasizes elimination of elaborations through the means of the “three doors of liberation” :

The discriminating Intrinsic Self-awareness

Which is the essence of the “three (doors of) liberationTaught by the Victorious One (Buddha) in the Second Turning of the Wheel,

Is naturally present as the Buddha-essence in the nature (JChams) of living beings, and it is called Dzogpa Chenpo.

According to Gyurmed Tshewang Chogtrub, Dzogpa Chenpo is the essence of both the Second and the Third Turnings of the Wheel:LNT1’118a/5 In the Second Turning of the Wheel the Buddha elaborately taught the inconceivable nature through the ways of non-conceptualization of the characteristics

of elaborations. But in it he did not disclose the presence of the (Buddha-)essence. In the Third Turning of the Wheel he disclosed the presence of the (Buddha-)essence, but he didn’t disclose the definite fnTshan-Nyid-Pa) path which realizes that essence. Dzogpa Chenpo, without contradicting them, embodies the ultimate vision of both Great Chariots; (a) the vision of the Second Turning of the Wheel elucidated by Nagarjuna in his (Six) Collections of Reasonings (Rigs-Tshogs') and Praise of the Ultimate Sphere (Ch’os-dByings bsTod-Pa, S. Dharmadhatu-stava) and so on and (b)*the vision of the Third Turning of the Wheel elucidated by Maitreya, the Great Regent, and the Noble Asanga and his brother (Vasubandhu).


According to Mahayana sutras, the Buddha-essence is present as the essence of all knowable phenomena. In Candradipasutra

(Zla-Ba sGron-Me’i mDo) it is said: The Buddha-essence pervades all living beings.

Jigmed Lingpa writes :

The presence of the (Buddha-essence) in living beings is discoursed on in the Third Turning of the Wheel, how it is present as the nature of (all) knowable phenomena, for beings of sharp intellect.

The Mahaparinirvana-sutra explains it clearly:

“The secret Buddha-essence, naturally and totally pure, I proclaim that it does not change and does not transfer.”

In Dharmadhatu-stava by Noble (Nagarjuna) it is said:

“The water that is present in the earth Remains unpolluted. Likewise, In the emotional defilements, the primordial wisdom is also Present without stains.”

In Uttaratantra by Asanga it is said:

(In beings) the Buddha bodies are emanating, (Beings) are inseparable from suchness and

(They) possess the lineage (Rigs)-, therefore, all the embodied ones

Are always with the Buddha-essence.

Praihd-ndma-mula(madhyamakakdrika) by Nagarjuna says:

That which is the nature (Rang-bZhiri) of the Thus-gones (Buddha)

Is the nature of beings.

As Thus-gones have no inherent existence, Beings also have no inherent existence.


If the Buddha-essence is taught in the lower yànas, what distinguishes Dzogpa Chenpo? The unique distinction of Dzogpa Chenpo is not the Buddha-essence but the profundity of its view of the Buddha-essence and the swiftness of its path of training in it.

The following is a quotation from Kunched Gyalpo tantra. Comparing the views of the lower yànas with that of Atiyoga, it illuminates the special and essential core of Dzogpa Chenpo:

In the sutras of Bodhisattvayana

With the intention (of attaining) “the Total Light” (11th) stage

Through the concepts and analysis of the two truths,

It is asserted that the ultimate nature is emptiness like space.

(Whereas) the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind, free from concepts and analysis.

The sütras obscure the (state of) freedom from concepts and analysis.

The (view with) concepts and analysis in Dzogpa Chenpo Is a diversion to the sütras.

In Kriyayoga, intending to attain the Vajradhara state, One enters through the doors of three purities and Dwells in the purity free from (the duality of) apprehended and appréhender.

(Whereas) the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind (which) transcends (the duality of) apprehended and appréhender.

Kfiyâiyoga') obscures the (state of) transcending the apprehended and appréhender.

(The view with) apprehended and appréhender in Ati(yoga) Is a diversion to Kriyaiyoga).

In Upaiyoga), in its view and action,

As it follows the view of Yoga(tantra') and the action of Kriyatyoga),

There is no union of view and action in it.

It doesn’t realize the meaning of non-duality. (Whereas) the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind of non-duality.

Upatyoga) obscures the (state of) non-duality.

(The view with) duality in Dzogpa Chenpo

Is a diversion to Upatyoga).

In Yoga(tantra), intending to actualize the Beautifully Arrayed (pure land),

One enters into (the trainings) with and without characteristics

And emphasizes the fourfold seal.

(But Yogatantra') is incapable of entering into (the state) of freedom from (discriminations of) acceptance and rejection.

(Whereas) the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind, free from acceptance and rejection.

Yoga(tantra) obscures the (state of) freedom from acceptance and rejection.

(The view with) acceptance and rejection in Dzogpa Chenpo Is a diversion to Yoga(tantra).

In Mahayoga, intending to attain the Vajradhara state and Having entered the door of skillful means and wisdom, In the pure mandala of one’s own mind-stream, One trains in the fourfold “recitation-and-sad/zana.” (Whereas) the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind, free from efforts and acquirements.

(The view with) efforts and acquirements in Dzogpa Chenpo Is a diversion to Mahayoga.

In Anuiyoga), intending to attain the state of indivisibility (of the ultimate sphere and primordial wisdom) and

Having entered the door of the ultimate sphere and primordial wisdom,

One sees the appearing phenomenal existents

The pure ultimate sphere—as the cause

And the mandala of primordial wisdom as the result. (Whereas) in the great bliss of Atiyoga

Is the enlightened mind, free from cause and results. Anutyoga') obscures the (state of) freedom from cause and result.

If one views (things) as cause and result in Dzogpa Chenpo, It is a diversion to Anuyoga.

Garab Dorje (Prahevajra) says:

Dzogpa Chenpo is the fortress of view,

Its Paths and stages are completed instantly. It is not comparable to the lower yanas.

Identifying the Intrinsic Awareness, the Buddha-essence, in accordance with Dzogpa Chenpo, Jigmed Lingpa explains:

In Dzogpa Chenpo, by contemplating and remaining without modification in the state of the continuum of primordial wisdom, which is free from elaborations, spontaneously arisen, transcending the mind, free from actions and pacification of mind and mental events, the sudden defilements of the manifestative power (of the Intrinsic Awareness) disappear naturally.

In Changchub Kyi Sem Kunched Gyalpo (Byang-Ch’ub Kyi Sems Kun-Byed rGyal-Po) it is said:

“As it is remaining in the state of (nature), it is unmoving and spontaneous accomplishment.

As it is remaining in the nature, it is unchangeable by anything.

• Remaining in that unmodified suchness Is the actionless supreme action.

Longchen Rabjam describes the nature of Enlightened Mind, the Intrinsic Awareness of Dzogpa Chenpo, in the following words:CD 6b/6

The nature of the enlightened mind, the embodiment of all is:

Not clarity, as it transcends all the phenomena of clarity, Not emptiness, as it transcends all the phenomena of emptiness,

Not existence, as there are no things and characteristics, Not non-existence, as it pervades all of samsdra and nirvana, Not (both or neither) existent or non-existent, as it is the primordial ultimate sphere, spontaneous equalness;

Not partiality, bias, foundation, root, or things,

And no discontinuity. So it is the expanse of enlightened Intrinsic Awareness.

Longchen Rabjam writes that Vajra-essence, Atiyoga, is the summit of all the Yanas:

The vajra-essence, Atiyoga is:

The utmost summit of the yanas, and it realizes all the meanings


And the lower ydnas do not realize the meaning of this (ydna).

Therefore, this is the pinnacle, the spontaneously accomplished summit.

The different yanas are discoursed on for the benefit of beings of different intellectual capacities and to suit their abilities^0 8a/5

For people who need the gradual (path) and efforts To lead them (finally) to the ultimate nature and the primordial ultimate sphere, The yänas of Srdvaka, Pratyekabuddha, and Bodhisattva Are expounded to those of lesser (intellect).

The Kriya, Upa, and Yoga (tantras) are

For the three mediocre (intellects).


Anu and

Ati (yogas')

Appear primordially for the great (intellects).

For the attainment of Full Enlightenment, Buddhahood, one has to enter into the realization of thisyäna. The lower yanas are the entrance to this yäna:

All the Yanas finally have to enter

Into the great secret and marvelous meaning of Vajra-essence.

So this (yäna) is called the summit of all the (yänas), the supreme and changeless clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]] absorption], Full Enlightenment and the essence of the yänas.

Longchen Rabjam explains how the essential virtues of the lower yänas are embodied in the Intrinsic Awareness, the Enlightened Mind of Dzogpa Chenpo:

In the Enlightened Mind, the Intrinsic Awareness, all the yänas are included.... The view of Srävakayäna asserts that all the internal and external phenomena are “selflessness of person,” like space. The Pratyekabuddhayäna asserts, besides (the selflessness of person), the selflessness of half of

phenomena, the apprehended (objects). The Bod-hisattvayäna asserts the selflessness of the person and phenomena, the apprehender and apprehended, like space.... These realizations are included in the vision of (Intrinsic Awareness of Dzogpa Chenpo), (which is) the nature of self-arisen primordial wisdom, the (union of) emptiness and clarity, like the nature of space. So the self-arisen primordial wisdom of Dzogpa Chenpo embodies the suchness of all

phenomenal existents, and those (yänas) are united in (Intrinsic Awareness).... Kriyätantra asserts that by viewing the deities and oneself as the lords and servant, and by making offerings and pntise (to the deities), one receives the

accomplishments. Yogatantra asserts that by submerging the wisdom deities into the mandala of visualized deities and by making offerings and praise, etc., to them, one receives the accomplishments. They are all the same in purifying the defilements of the three doors and the achievement of the accomplish

ments. So their views are included in this (Intrinsic Awareness of Dzogpa Chenpo), which is the realization of the Enlightened Mind, the total purity achieved by means of the awakening of all phenomenal existents as the mandala (of spontaneously arisen Enlightened essence)....

Mahâyoga, the father tantra, and Anuyoga, the mother tantra, assert that the mandala of the basis is the Intrinsic Awareness (Rig-Pa). The mandala of the path is the visualization of the world and beings as the mansions and deities, and the trainings on the indivisibility of the ultimate sphere and the

Intrinsic Awareness, the skillful means and wisdom. The mandala of the result is the attainment of the supreme enlightenment. Atiyoga, too, asserts that by realizing that all are primor-dially enlightened and by not wavering from the ultimate nature, which is the vision free from

abandonments, acceptances, and modifications, one’s Intrinsic Awareness reaches the (primordial) basis. So in this (Intrinsic Awareness), the essence of the meanings (of all the y anas) is condensed, and this is the great absolute secret y ana. Jigmed Lingpa writes on the superiority of the Instruction Division (Man-Ngag-sDe) over the other ydnas and the lower Divisions of Dzogpa Chenpo itself:NS

In the Vajra-essence of the clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]] absorption] of Dzogpa Chenpo, which is the path of liberation of thoughts and emotional defilements, one

realizes the nonexistence of the nature (Rang-bZhiri) of emotional defilements in the nature (gShis) of Intrinsic Awareness. So this division doesn’t abandon (defilements) as Sràvakas and Pratyekabuddhas do. It doesn’t subdue (the defilements) as do Bodhisattvas, since here, the antidotes and the things

to be abandoned are of the same substance (rDzas). It doesn’t apply (the defilements) as the path as the general tantras do, since here, all are in equalness of time in the continuum of the mind. It doesn’t liberate (the mind) into the nature (gShis) (of the mind) as Semde does, since mind

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Ydnas and Traditions 101 does not see mind. It doesn’t apprehend (the mind) as an ornament (rGyari) as Longde does, since primordial wisdom doesn’t see mind. (According to the Instruction Division,) in the ultimate nature of the Intrinsic Awareness, suchness, all the

assertions and mental theories (such as) the emptiness of self and the emptiness of others do not stand, and they dissolve spontaneously without traces. Alala! the objective appearances do not cease in the Intrinsic Awareness, but the Intrinsic Awareness doesn’t mix with (or stray to) the objects. So, the

apprehended and apprehender, the nature of samsara, become the “naturally liberated antidote and the things to be abandoned,” like a drawing on water. Saraha will smile (with joy at this). In the essence of Intrinsic Awareness, which is not distracted to the objects, there are no manifestations of any

attachment, rejecting and achieving. So it is the state of liberation from the bonds of samsara and nirvana. At this (view) Dampa (Sangye) of India will rejoice. In the Intrinsic Awareness, which is perfected as the ultimate body (Ch’os-sKu), there is no subject of reasoning. So, it is unhinderedness as the

nature of primordial wisdom, the great freedom from extremes. As the thoughts are liberated as the Intrinsic Awareness, the falsehood of view, meditation, and result is broken and there is no yearning for rituals and Dharma activities, yet one never dissociates oneself from the enlightened mind, the ultimate nature, free from elaborations. It is the perfection of Dharma (training).

Gyurmed Tshewang Chogdrub points out the imperfections of the lower ydnas compared to Dzogpa Chenpo:

cognition and atom are absolute truth. Yogacarya asserts that the consciousness of self-awareness and self-clarity is the thoroughly established absolute truth. (All of them) do not transcend mind and mental events. Madhyamaka apprehends space like emptiness, the truth of cessation and free-

dom from extremes and elaboration, etc., by analysis of the two truths, through examination of four reasonings, such as non-arising, non-ceasing, non-

existing, and not non-existing. Among the lower tantras, Kriydyoga posits achieving accomplishments by pleasing the deities of the three purities, the austerity of cleanness. Upayoga [Carydyoga] apprehends the characteristic as it is, in accordance with the higher (Yogatantra) and lower (Kriydyogd)

tantras. Yogatantra reflects on the yoga of the fourfold sign (Phyag-rGya') by relying on the blessing of the deities for the (attainment of) ultimate truth. Mahàyoga proposes the development of primordial wisdom by recommending (training in) the development stage and the channels, energy and essence of

the perfection stage. Anuyoga perceives the ultimate sphere and primordial wisdom as the mandala of the divine creator and the creator. In brief, all these levels (ofyünas) up to Anuyoga are mere theories perceived by the mind. In the mental attitude of all of them is the claim that the object and subject are

the ultimate nature, arrived at by thoughts, mental creation and analysis, thinking “this is non-existent,” “it is emptiness” and “it is truth.” So they do not realize the ultimate nature as it is.

He continues :

(The views of these Yanas) are created and modified by the mind, the mind of eight consciousnesses, which are the defilements to be abandoned. In the

Natural Great Perfection (Dzogpa Chenpo), all the virtues of the nature are present spontaneously as uncompounded clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]] absorption] in the Mind, which transcends the mind and is the Intrinsic Awareness and spontaneously arisen wisdom. So it is naturally free and does not depend on causations

of creator and created or other conditions, like the character of space. It is present without any changes. So the primordial lord [[[Buddha]]], Samantabhadra (All Good) himself, also is enlightened by realizing this spontaneously

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions 103 arisen primordial wisdom itself without creation and not by other conditions such as compounding accumulations, studying, and pondering.


In Dzogpa Chenpo the Intrinsic Awareness is designated as self-awareness and self-clarity. But it is free from elaborations and non-existence. So it is superior to the thoroughly established self-awareness and self-clarity of consciousness of the Yoga-carya school. Longchen Rabjam explains:LT 76a/1

In it {Dzogpa Chenpo) the essence (Ngo-Bo) of Intrinsic Awareness, the realization of the non-existence of the apprehended and apprehender, is called the spontaneously arisen primordial wisdom. But Dzogpa Chenpo doesn’t assert it as self-awareness and self-clarity (JRang-Rig Rang-gSal) as Yogacarya, the Mind Only school, does. Because (according to Dzogpa Chenpo), as there is no existence of internal and external, it (Intrinsic Awareness) is not established as internal mind. As there is no self and others, it isn’t established as self-awareness. As the apprehended and apprehender have never existed, freedom from

the two is not established. As it is not an object of experiences and awareness, the experience is not established as non-dual. As there is no mind and mental events, it does not exist as self-mind. As it does not exist as clarity or non-clarity, it is not established as self-

clarity. As it transcends awareness and non-awareness, there are not even the imputations of awareness. This is called the Dzogpa Chenpo, free from extremes. Although it is designated as self-arisen primordial wisdom, enlightened mind, ultimate body, the great spontaneously accomplished ultimate

sphere, and the naked self-clarity Intrinsic Awareness, these ascriptions are merely in order to signify it. It should be realized that the self-essence (of Dzogpa Chenpo) is inexpressible. Otherwise, if you take the meaning of the words literally, you

will never find (in Dzogpa Chenpo) any difference from the cognition of self-awareness, self-clarity, and non-duality of appiehender and apprehended of the Mind Only school.


Madhyamaka, having distinguished the appearances and emptiness separately, emphasizes the concept of emptiness. Dzogpa Chenpo, having distinguished the Intrinsic Awareness, the pure and natural state of mind, from mind, realizes and perfects the Intrinsic Awareness directly and nakedly. Thereby it realizes the truth of the whole universe free from discrimination and extremes. Longchen Rabjam explains:

Most of the methods of comprehending (analyzing) the freedom from extremes (mTha’-Bral), and so on, of Natural Great Perfection are similar to Prasangika Madhyamaka. However, Madhyamaka regards the emptiness as the important thing. (Dzogpa Chenpo), relying on the primordially pure and naked Intrinsic Awareness which is just non-existent and unceasing, comprehends it (the Intrinsic Awareness) and all the phenomena arisen from it as free from extremes like space.

Jigmed Tenpa’i Nyima summarizes in the following lines:

In Choying Dzod (Ch’os-dBying mDzod), etc., there is praise for the (view of) Prasangika Madhyamaka philosophy. Thus (Dzogpa Chenpo) follows Prasangika in regard to (defining) the limits of the object-of-negation (dGag-Bya’i mTshams-’Dzin). However, (Prasangika), having distinguished the appearances and

emptiness separately, apprehends the emptiness of non-affirming (Med-dGag) negation, calling it the distinction of the appearances and emptiness or the exclusion of emptiness. It is a method of maintaining (meditation and view) by concepts. It also asserts that if one first distinguishes (the view) by con- Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions 105 cepts and gains experience (of it) through meditation, then it will become as it is said: “with the

fruition of bliss, clarity and no-concept mind.” In any case, Dzogpa Chenpo tradition uses the Intrinsic Awareness as the path, or it maintains only the Intrinsic Awareness. It does not employ concepts since concepts are mind, and it meditates (on Intrinsic Awareness after) distinguishing the mind and Intrinsic Awareness separately.

Although in pure Dzogpa Chenpo one doesn’t train on admitting the energy into the central channel, the training is more effective and direct than the trainings given in the tantras. Dorje Wangchog Gyepa Tsai explains :

Those who have attachment to the path of skillful means (Thabs-Lam) think, “No matter how good the path of Dzogpa Chenpo is, since it doesn’t rely on the method of admitting the energy into the central channel, its (realization) is not higher than an experience of (the meaning taught in) Madhyamaka” This kind of wrong judgment arises (due to) lack of understanding of the essential points. The (sole) purpose of admitting the energy into the central channel is (as a means) to arouse the primordial wisdom (which is realized directly in Dzogpa Chenpo).


Jigmed Tenpa’i Nyima writes:

Generally in the instructions of Dzogpa Chenpo there are endless profound, unique aspects. But the main point is the reliance on distinguishing the Intrinsic Awareness, as it is stated in Yonten Rinpoche’i Dzod: The Intrinsic Awareness which transcends mind Is the specialty of the Natural Great Perfection.

He writes:D

All the aspects of the mind arise as the self-power of the Intrinsic Awareness, and this is not the actual Intrinsic Awareness. Otherwise, the distinction of mind and Intrinsic Awareness becomes a matter of saying the distinction of Intrinsic Awareness and Intrinsic Awareness.

It transcends the eight consciousnesses :

The ultimate nature of the Intrinsic Awareness, which transcends the eight consciousnesses with their conceptions, expressions, and causations, is the presence of the primordial wisdom of Natural Great Perfection.

It transcends the mind and mental events :

In Dzogpa Chenpo one remains in the natural state of the continuity of the spontaneously arisen primordial wisdom, the pacification of mind and mental events into the ultimate sphere, which is the great transcending of mind and detachment from actions. There are no efforts and modifications. So the sudden defilements of the appearances of power disappear spontaneously.


There are scholars who assert that the teachings of Nyingma are mixed with Bon because there are many texts and teachings which are common to both. The

following is a brief study of this matter based mainly on the writings of Buddhist historians. Bon is the indigenous pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet founded by the prophet Shenrab Miboche (gShen-Rab Mi-Bo-Ch’e). Different sources have different views about his date. Some Bon sources place him many centuries

before Sâkyamuni Buddha, some as contemporary to the Buddha, and some after the Buddha. He was born in Olmo Lungring (A’ol-Mo Lung-Ring) in the Zhangzhung (Zhang-Zhung) country, and he visited Tibet and gave Bon teachings. Mt. Tise [[[Kailas]]] and Lake Manasarowar are situated in Zhangzhung. In the seventh

century Zhangzhung became part of Ngari (mNga’-Ris), the western province of Tibet, and became known as Guge (Gu-Ge). In the beginning, Tibetan Bon seems to have been solely

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions 107 based on worshipping nature or the spirits of nature, but later it incorporated mainly Buddhist teachings, as well some others. The following is a summary of the main points of the history of Bon by Lobzang Chokyi Nyima (1737-1802),LSM_9’2b/6 who says that he based it on the Gongchig (dGongs-gChig) of Drikung Kyobpa (’Bri-Gung sKyob-Pa, 1143-1217). In this text, the early Bon history of Tibet is classified into three stages:

(a) Naturally Developed Bon (rDol-Bon): At the beginning, Bon in Tibet consisted of three aspects—methods of subduing harmful spirits (’Dre-Srin gNon-Pa), worshipping the di-vinities(LAa mCh’od-Pa), and performances of the home hearth (Khyim-Gyi Thab ’Don-Pa). Apart from those elements, Bon had no philosophical and religious tenets. This Bon tradition is called the Black Bon Tradition (Ch’ab-Nag).

(b) Stray Bon (’Khyar-Bori): At the time of the death of King Trigum Tsenpo (Gri-’Gum bTsan-Po), the eighth of the forty-one rulers of the Chogyal dynasty (127 B.C.-901 A.D.) of Tibet, other Bon practices such as displaying miracles, predicting the future, and performances of death ceremonies were brought by Bon masters from neighboring countries: Kashmir, Zhangzhung and Brusha (’Bru-Sha).

(c) Translated Bon (bsGyur-Bori): around the reign of King Thrisong Deutsen (790-858 A.D.) of Tibet, the tradition of translated Bon originated. When Gyalwa’i Changchub (rGyal-Ba’i Byang-Ch’ub) was ordered by the king to receive teachings from Rinchen Chog (Rin-Ch’en mCh’og), the great Buddhist teacher, instead of obeying, in protest he translated many Buddhist texts into Bon terminology. After the destruction of Buddhism by King Lang Darma (d. 901?), Shergur Luga (gSher-rGur Klu-dGa’) of Tsang Nyangtod (gTsang Nyang-sTod) translated many Buddhist texts into Bon terminology. Later, Khyungpo Bonzhig (Khyung-Po Bon-Zhig) and others also translated many Buddhist texts into Bon terminology. The Translated Bon is called the White Bon Tradition (Bon Ch’ab dKar).

Thus, in Bon scriptures many translated Buddhist texts and teachings are transposed as Bon scriptures. Lobzang Chokyi Nyima writes:

In Bon teachings there are substitutes for (the different sections of) Kagyur (or Kajur: bKa’-’Gyur, which is the collection of 110 volumes of Buddha’s teachings in Tibetan) .... In the (Bon) scriptures there are scattered teachings on impermanence, karma, loving-kindness, compassion, development of the

mind of enlightenment, and the six perfections. They also contain the system of five paths, ten stages, and three bodies. They also have the (tantric teachings) parallel (to Buddhism) such as empowerment, development stage, perfection stage, sacred obligations (samaya), ceremonies of consecration and

fire offerings (homa), propitiations of mandalas, and death rituals. (In Bon) there are many teachings that are quite similar to Buddhism and many that are different. They say Yeshen (Ye-gShen) for Buddha, Bonku (Bon-sKu) for Dharmakdya, Satri Esang (Sa-Dri E-Sang) for the Great Mother (prajñáparamita), Kuntu Zangpo (Kun-Tu bZang-Po) for Sambhogakaya, Sidpa Sedpo (Srid-Pa Sad-Po) for Nir-manakaya, Shense (gShen-Sras) for Arhant, Yungtrung Sempa (gYung-Drung Sems-dPa*) for Bodhisattva, Wonse (dBon-Sras) for Guru, Amonyid (A’-Mo-Nyid) for emptiness.

According to Buddhist scriptures, Buddhist teachings appeared or are taught in various forms to benefit the followers. The sole purpose of any true teaching is to benefit beings. So there is no logical reason why Buddhism should not appear as Bon teachings. Perna Namgyal (19th-20th cent.) quotes scriptures to this effect:

In the Avatamsaka (siitra) it is said:

“O sons of good families! The manifestations of the Thus-Gones [[[Buddhas]]] are immeasurable. They serve beings in every form, color, and name, whatever is appropriate in disciplining them.”

In the Subahu (sütra) it is said:

“Although his (Buddha’s) nature is free from hatred and attachments,

He appears, for the beings-with-desire, in a form with desire;

For wrathful beings, in wrathful form to subdue their harmful (nature).

The leader (Buddha) with skillful means: to you, I pay homage.”

In Dorje Trawa (rDo-rJe Drva-Ba) tantra it is said: Whatever form is

Able to tame the embodied ones,

In that very form he (Buddha) manifests,

Like the wish-fulfilling gems.

Whatever means of discipline is

Able to discipline beings,

With that very means

(He) expounds the teachings.”

Some Nyingma Ter texts specifically state how the teachings and masters of Buddhism appeared as Bon and Bon masters. Pema Namgyal again quotes :PKD 270a/2 In (a Terma text entitled) Katsi (bKa’-rTsis) discovered by Guru Chowang (Ch’os-dBang, 1212-1270) from Namke Chen (gNam-sKas Chan) it is said:

“When he [[[Guru Padmasambhava]]?] was in absorption at Vajrasana

Inspired by Avalokitesvara, he traveled to Tibet.

But it was controlled by Bon and it was hard to spread Dharma.

So he manifested in the form of Shenlha Odkar (gShen-Lha A’od-dKar) (of Bon),

Gave the secret signs to the (first) Dharma king Thothori,

And turned the king’s mind towards Dharma so that he was able to distinguish the virtuous and unvirtuous deeds.”

Especially in the Kayi Thang-yig (bKa’-Yi Thang-Yig), discovered by the great Terton Longsal Nyingpo (Klong-gSal sNying-Po, 1625-1692), it is said: “Then, intending to go to Zhangzhung, he [[[Guru]] Pad-masambhava?] surveyed it and saw that Zhangzhung would only be tamed by Bon. He went there with the retinues of self-lights and spoke thus:

‘O sons of good families! Be aware. My father is Trenpa Yeshekyi Namkha (Dran-Pa Ye-Shes Kyi Nam-mKha). My mother is Oden Barma (A’od-lDan ’Bar-Ma). My elder brother is Tshewang Rigdzin (Tshe-dBang Rig-’Dziri). I am bom spontaneously from the ultimate Bon, the changeless sphere.’ Then he opened the door of numerous teachings which are free from falling into the extremes of eternalism or nihilism. A mass of eighteen hundred thousand beings attained liberation.”

From the point of view of reasoning (the appearance of Dharma as Bon teachings) is establishable by three points: (a) Avalokitesvara did generate the mind and he made the aspirations for taming all the trainable beings of Tibet, (b) The Bon followers also possess the Buddha-essence, the ultimate-body

(Dharmakdya) and are the same in the lineage of the nature of ultimate purity, (c) If the teachings were not given that way (as Bon), those beings would have been difficult to discipline and the (Buddha) actions wouldn’t have been completed. (Buddhist teachings which were discovered as) Bon Ter(s) were

concealed for the future disciples (by Guru Padmasambhava) and later, when the time came, authentic (Buddhist) Terton(s) such as Rigdzin Godkyi Demthruchen (Rig-’Dzin rGod-Kyi IDem-’Phru-Chan, 1337-1408) of the Northern Ter tradition discovered them and made them available to Bon followers. In Katsi (bK’a-rTsis) it is said:

With Dharma Ter(s), Bon Ter(s), medicine, astronomy

Whatever is appropriate for the minds (of beings) (Buddhas) filled the mountains, rocks, temples, stupas, Landmarks, giant trees, boulders, palaces And caves.

Dudjom Rinpoche, Jigtral Yeshe Dorje (bDud-’Joms Rin-Po-Ch’e, ’Jigs-Bral Ye-Shes rDo-rJe, 1903-1987) answers the accusations made against Nyingma-.^ 386a/3 Some say: “Bon and Dzogchen seem to have close connections as there are similarities between Nyingma and Bon teachings.” Yes, there are many similarities

in technical terms and so on. But since the writings of Bon are based on Buddhism (of the Nyingma translation period), why would there not be similarities? For example,... in Tibet the Bonpos have parallels to the (scriptures and deities of) Buddhism. They have texts on scriptures such as Madhyamaka,

Prajhaparamita, Vinaya, Abhidharma and tantras. They have deities such as Cakrasambhara, Vajrabhairaha and Vajrakila and (teachings on) heat-yaga, Mahamudra and Dzogpa Chenpo.... In any case, (in traditional Bon) there are (exclusive) teachings such as Chashen (Phya-gSheri), and mantras that provide

temporary benefits for the followers. It is possible that these (also) have been taught by Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Dudjom Rinpoche also explains that Guru Padmasambhava kept some of the exclusively Bon practices for the Buddhists in Tibet :LN 387b/4

Guru (Padmasambhava) saying, “The gods and demons (of th^ spirit world) of Tibet are happy with Bon” maintained divinations and astronomy (Mo-rTsis), offerings to the divine spirits(LAa-gSoZ), and the gathering of luck (gYang-’Gug) of Bon as they are, (for the Buddhists). From this and other sources it is clear that the aspect of White Bon Tradition is very similar to Buddhism and that the

Black Bon tradition is the original Bon. Generally, because of human nature, in any religious history we find many negative events. So neither Bon nor Buddhism in Tibet is exclusive. Buddhist teachings were translated into Bon for revenge and to compete with Buddhists. In Buddhism, traditional Bon

practices are introduced for worldly benefits. But from the positive point of view, in the White Bon Tradition there are many Buddhist scriptures and practices translated into Bon terminology and dedicated to Bon masters of various ages. Since the Translation period of Bon took place during the

development of the Nyingma school, it is logical to find that those Bon teachings are more similar to the teachings of Nyingma than to those of other schools. Further, many masters of Nyingma and Bon of the White Tradition taught and discovered many of their common teachings and transmitted them to each other at various junctures. Further, not only in Nyingma teachings, but in other schools of Tibetan Buddhism as well, we find that aspects of traditional Bon culture, such as worship of spirits, are incorporated as worship of the Dharmapalas. But here it is important to know that the true Tibetan Buddhists

do not practice the worship of spirits in an ordinary way but transform it into Buddhist tantric training with compassionate attitude, pure perception, and realized mind for dual benefit.

So the finding of Dzogpa Chenpo and other Nyingma texts and teachings in Bon has no other significance than that common Buddhist teachings were translated into Bon terminology.


Some Tibetan Buddhist scholars who refute Dzogpa Chenpo, make allegations that Dzogpa Chenpo is close to or mixed with Ha-shang Mahayana’s view, because Dzogpa Chenpo also propagates instant enlightenment and remaining in no-thought. The following is a study of Ha-shang Mahayana’s view (but not on Ch’an Buddhism) based on Tibetan Buddhist sources.

Ha-shang Mahayana (Chinese: Ho-shang Mo-ho-yeri) was a master of the Ch’an (Japanese: Zen) school of China founded Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions 113 by Bodhidharma in the sixth century A.D. According to Lob-zang Chokyi Nyima (1737-1802),LSM11’llb/6

Bodhidharma (or Bodhidharmottara) was the twenty-eighth in the line of Transmission of the Ultimate Essence (sNying-Po Don-Gyi brGyud-Pa) from Kasyapa, the chief disciple of the Buddha. Nub San-gye Yeshey (gNubs Sangs-rGyas Ye-Shes, 9th century) gives the following brief sketch of Bodhidharma’s life. The

spellings of most of the Chinese names are hard to figure out, so I have just spelled them as they appear in the Tibetan text:SM 12a/5 The Instantanealist (Chig-Ch’ar-Ba) tradition came through the lineage of Kasyapa and Dharmottara. Bodhidharmottara1 came (to China) from eastern (India)

by sea. When he reached Ledkug (Led-Kug)2 in China, where he was met by Emperor Seu-yan-ang,3 4 Bodhidharmottara realized that the Emperor didn’t understand the ultimate (teaching). He went to Khar Lag-ch’u {mKhar Lag-Ch’u):* There the monks Kha-shi, Liu-chi, and Kvan-hong etc. became jealous of him.

Li-chi {Liu-chi?) poisoned him six times but it didn’t harm him. Finally he found a disciple5 6 to whom he was able to transmit his teachings. Then he died in China and the funeral ceremonies were completed. Then a trader called Un went to Tong (sTong),7 and at Ramatingilaka he met master Bodhidharmottara, who

was holding in his hands one sandal of a pair. He had a detailed conversation (with the master). On his return, Un told of his encounters in detail in China. People opened his tomb and in it they found only one sandal of the pair.... All agreed that he was a Noble One.

seventh1 in the line of transmission from Bodhidharma. Also Nub’s text quotes P’u-chi (651-739) first and then Ha-shang with the footnotes listing them as the tenth and eleventh. It is hard to tell how authentic these footnotes are. So Ha-shang might be a follower of P’u-chi of the northern school of Ch’an Buddhism. But he might not be a direct student of P’u-chi, since he was supposed to be in Tibet in the ninth century. There is not much information about Ha-shang’s life. He was a highly noted Chinese teacher of Buddhism in Tibet during the reign of king Thrisong Deu-tsan (790-858 A.D.). As Ha-shang Mahayana

was a follower of the Instantanealist teachings (Chinese: Tun-men, Tibetanized Chinese: sTon-Men/Muri) or Sudden Enlightenment, in Tibet, he faced opposition from the followers of Indian masters, who are Gradualist (Chinese: Chien-men, Tibetanized Chinese: Tsen-Men/Muri) or who teach Gradual Enlightenment. In the end Ha-shang was defeated by the great Indian master Kamalasila in a debate, which is called the Samye Debate by modem Western scholars. Ha-shang and his followers had to leave Tibet, and it was forbidden to practice his teachings in Tibet any more. Since then all the teachings of

Ha-shang have disappeared from Tibet, except for a few passages here and there refuting him. There is not much basis for learning what his teachings were or whether they were true Ch’an Buddhism. Two recent discoveries, a text entitled Samten Migdron (SM) by Nub Sangye Yeshey, and some Tun-huan documents, shed some light on Ha-shang’s teachings. They will be discussed briefly later.

It is also worth noting that some sources say that many Mahayana Buddhist scriptures were translated into Tibetan from the memory of a Ha-shang Mahayana. Who knows whether it is the same Ha-shang or another? Longchen Rabjam SayS’GD

Many sutras such as the Avatamsaka, Mahaparinirvana (sutra), and Vinayagama (’Dul-Ba Lung), which were translated into Chinese before they were burned (at Nalanda ut according to the footnotes to the text, SM 61b/3: he is the eleventh.

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yznas and Traditions 115 monastery in India) by Nyima Ngodrub (Nyi-Ma dNgos-Grub), were translated into Tibetan by Vairocana and Ba Sangshi (’Ba’ Sang-Shis) from the memory of Ha-shang Mahayana.

Traditional Tibetan scholars generally believe that Ha-shang rejects all the virtuous deeds and teaches the remaining in mere absence of thoughts. They all give an identical outline of Ha-shang’s thesis. It seems to be based mainly on the thesis which it is believed that he presented at the debate with

Kamalasila. The following lines are from Khepa’i Gaton (mKhas-Pa’i dGa’-sTori) by Tshuglag Threngwa (Tshug-Lag ’Phreng-Ba, 1454-1566). Other sources including the Tibetan Chronicle known as Bazhed (sBa-bZhed) and the History of Buddhism by Buton Rinchentrub (Bu-sTon Rin-Ch’en Grub, 1290-1364) are very similar but for some differences in wording:

(Starting the debate with Kamalasila) Ha-shang said: “As all are created by the concepts of the mind, through the karmas [the process of causation] of virtuous and unvirtu-ous deeds, one experiences the fruits (of rebirths) in the higher and inferior realms and one wanders around in samsara. Whoever does not think of anything in his mind and does not do anything will be totally liberated from samsara. Therefore, do not think anything. The ten virtuous deeds

such as generosity (copying scriptures, making offerings, listening to Dharma teachings, memorizing scriptures, reading scriptures, teaching Dharma, reciting scriptures, pondering upon the meanings of Dharma, and meditating upon the meanings of Dharma) are taught for those people who do not possess a

stream of virtuous karma and have lesser intellects and dull faculties. For those who have^previously refined their minds and possess sharp intellect, the virtuous and unvirtuous deeds are (the same as) obscurations, since either white or black clouds cover the sun. So, not thinking, not conceptualizing, and not analyzing anything is the freedom from conceptualizations. It is the instantanealization (or sudden enlightenment), equal to the tenth stage (of the path).”

Jigmed Tenpa’i Nyima (1865-1926) summarizes Ha-shang’s meditation in one line:

He [[[Ha-shang]]] asserts that not thinking anything in the mind alone is the profound path (of enlightenment).

Natshog Rangtrol (1608-?) argues that Ha-shang’s meditation is the reverse of the method of Dzogpa Chenpo and Mahamudra meditations:*16 43b/5 The meditation of Ha-shang, which asserts (that remaining in the state of) recollectionlessness and blankness is the actual meditation, is the reverse of taking the union of clarity, awareness, and emptiness as the path by (both) Mahamudra and Dzogpa Chenpo.

Both Lobzang Chokyi Nyima and Khyentse’i Wangpo (mKhyen-brTse’i dBang-Po, 1820-1892)™ 19b/6 write on it in one voice:

Ha-shang Mahayana, who visited Tibet, seems to have been a follower of Tsung-men.1 However, Ha-shang’s teachings and the view of general Tsung-men are not, it seems, the same. Tsung-men followers say:

“The virtuous karmas, which are not influenced by (the attitude of) emergence (from samsara) and the mind of enlightenment, and the unvirtuous karmas do produce the happy and unhappy results (respectively). Yet there is no difference between them, since neither cause liberation and omniscience. For example, the black and white colors of clouds appear differently, but there is no difference in their covering the sky. But Ha-shang Mahayana, without distinguishing them (properly), said that all the virtuous and unvirtuous thoughts are bandages. Also in the instructions on meditation and the view of Tsung-

'Although they say that Ha-shang was a follower of Tsung-men (i.e., Tsen-men, usually a term for a Gradualist), they refute him as an Instantanealist, as all do. It seems that they are using the term Tsung-men for Ch’an Buddhism.

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Ymas and Traditions 117 men the terms “doing nothing” and “not thinking” are used, but that is (speaking) for those who have (already) realized the ultimate nature directly. Whereas Ha-shang Mahayana said that one attains liberation by not thinking anything in the mind from the beginning stage (of meditation). So a misinterpretation of one Ha-shang should not lead to the conclusion that all the Ha-shangs (of Tsen-men or Chan Buddhism are wrong).”

Jigmed Lingpa distinguishes the so-called view of Ha-shang Mahayana and the view of Dzogpa Chenpo in the following lines. (In a footnote to these lines, however, Jigmed Lingpa expresses doubt whether the popular allegations about the nature of Ha-shang’s view are fair):

According to your assumptions (about Ha-shang’s view, the teaching of) Ha-shang doesn’t have the means of distinguishing the objective mental concepts (Yul Sems rTog) and the objectless thoroughness (Yul-Med Zang-Ka-Ma). (If so,) it fells into the cognition of a mental state which doesn’t distinguish between

the mind and the intrinsic awareness. It is a state of extreme ignorance like an unconsciousness or deep sleep in which all the recollections, thoughts, and feelings have ceased. In Dzogpa Chenpo the objectless primordial wisdom doesn’t analyze objective mental concepts (Yul Sems rTog). All the concepts

have subsided (Bag-La Zha) into the state of immaculate crystallike recollection of self-awareness. In its essence there are no changes, decrease, or increase. It is the dwelling in the vision (dGongs-Pa) of great vastness, free from extremes. So there is no way that there can be any similarities between» the two (the views of Ha-shang and Dzogpa Chenpo).

There is an interesting story which involves Vimalamitra, one of the greatest of the Mahayana scholars from India who visited Tibet, Tingdzin Zangpo of the Nyang family, who was the chief recipient of Nyingthig teachings from Vimalamitra, and a Chinese master identified just as a Ha-shang. This Ha-

shang may or may not be the Ha-shang Mahayana, but it is quite possible that he belonged to the Tsen-men tradition. The story illustrates the differences between Dzogpa Chenpo and this kind of meditation and shows that if one doesn’t have the right meditation and perfect realization, then even if someone has attained a very stable absorption and achieved some wondrous experiences, it brings no enlightenment but delusions. Natshog Rangtrol repeats the story:

In histories of Dzogpa Chenpo (the following) incident is related: Tingdzin Zangpo (Ting-’Dzin bZang-Po, 9th century), a monk from the Nyang family and a former attendant of King Thrisong Deutsen, received meditation instructions from one Ha-shang. He diligently meditated on them and became able to remain in

absorption continuously for many days and nights without food and drink, and he acquired clairvoyance. While he was proud of having a good meditation, he met the great scholar Vimalamitra. He presented his meditation (to Vimalamitra for evaluation). Vimala(mitra) said: “Oh, your kind of meditation will bring

birth in the Naga realms and you will remain (there) asleep for eons without waking up. It won’t become the cause of enlightenment.” This caused the monk from Nyang to awaken his past (karmic) traces (in Dzogpa Chenpo), and then he received the teachings on Dzogpa Chenpo from the scholar [[[Vimalamitra]]]. Later he attained rainbow body.

New sources: In this century, two important documents have been discovered which shed some light on Ha-shang’s views. The first is Samten Migdron (SM) or Naljor Miggi Samten (rNal-’Byor Mig-Gi bSam-gTari) by Nub Sangye Yeshey (9th century), one of the twenty-five chief disciples of Guru Padmasambhava and a

contemporary of Ha-shang Mahayana. He lived for well over a hundred years.LN 1513/3 This text became unavailable to scholars for centuries owing to lack of copies. The author gives a fair, respectful and unbiased account of different Buddhist schools, including the Instantanealist school of his time in

Dzogpa Chenpo and Other Yanas and Traditions 119 Tibet. The second is the documents discovered at Tun-huan, China at the end of the nineteenth century by some European scholars. The Tun-huan discoveries included many valuable texts and fragments of writings in Tibetan, Chinese, and other central Asian

languages and are now preserved in various libraries. They are considered to be documents of the twelth century A.D. or earlier. Among the Tun-huang documents, it is said, are some fragments of writings of Ha-shang Mahayana, possibly a text entitled Samten Chichar Jugpa’i Go (bSam-gTan Chig-Ch’ar ’Jug-

Pa’i sGo). This text is quoted in Samten Migdron,12b/6 but unfortunately I am not equipped to use or make any comments on it. Samten Migdron (SM): This text is a very valuable piece of writing which provides great information about different views, meditation, and history of its

time. Unfortunately, in many places the text is not very clear because of language, style, the scribe’s writing, and the compact nature of the material. In many places it needs interpretation, and there is no commentary on it available. Today it is rare to find a scholar who possesses insight and knowledge of

such a text. Those who render interpretations or translations might merely represent their own mental reflections and boasting echoes. Instead of trying to interpret it, it is important here to try to present a general view of its structure so that readers may reach their own conclusions.

The text has eight chapters. The fourth is on the Gradualist school (Tsen-Men ) propogated in Tibet by Indian scholars such as Kamalasila,SM 12a/5 and it

is distinguished as interpretable teaching {Drang-Don). The fifth chapter is on the Instantanealist {slon-Mun) school propogated in China by Bodhidharma and in Tibet notably by Ha-shang Mahayana. The sixth chapter is on tantra (esoteric teachings). The seventh chapter is on Dzogpa Chenpo (the Great Perfection), which is characterized as the summit of the yanas. Samten Migdron makes it clear that the succession of these chapters on schools is ordered according to the superiorities of the teachings and that the later teachings are superior to the earlier ones. The fol

lowing are some quotations from Samten Migdron to illustrate the essence and the distinction of the four schools in terms of their entering into the path of contemplation :SM28a/6

(a) In the Gradualist school {Tsen-Meri), they abandon the four concepts of characteristics, such as the concept of nature (Rang-bZhin) (concept of antidotes, concept of suchness, and concept of attainments) gradually and enter into freedom from conceptualizations....

(b) In the Instantanealist school(sTon-Afwn), from the beginning, without any alternatives, they train on the unborn ultimate nature instantly.... Abbot (JHa-shang) Mahayana says: “Contemplate in the inconceivable ultimate nature (Ch’os-Nyid, S. Dharmata) without any concepts.” Nub writes :

Here, there is no gradual training as the Tsen-men do. It enters into omnisicience (Buddhahood) instantly from the beginning. It is called trainingless training.... Here, there is nothing to abandon as the Tsen-men practitioners do. The intrinsic awareness of contempla tion on emptiness completes the dual accumulations (merits and wisdom). There is no need of purification as there are no apprehensions and attachments.

Nub explains :

According to the Instantanealists, all the phenomenal ex-istents of self and others are unborn from primordial time, and seeking (something) that is unborn is deluding the mind. Through that (seeking) one will never see the great meaning. It is like the ocean—it will not be stirred by the power of a rooster. It asserts that one enters into the ultimate nature (Ch’os-Nyid) if one doesn’t think at all.... The Gradual way is taught for people of lesser intellect.

Nub writes :

(c) According to Mahayoga (Tantra) scriptures, all the phenomenal existents are self-clear as the intrinsic awareness. It is the indivisibility of the (two) truths, uncreated by a creator, total clarity and indivisibility of primordial wisdom and the ultimate sphere....

(d) Atiyoga (Dzogpa Chenpo), the extraordinary yoga-. In the spontaneously accomplished suchness, all the phenomenal existents are radiantly clear primordially in the vast expanse of the totally pure and spontaneously arisen primordial wisdom. Cause and result are spontaneously perfected without seeking them separately (or without any gross efforts; Ril Ma-bTsal-Bar Lhun-Gyis rDzogs-Pa).

The following are some quotations from the Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch of Ch’an Buddhism:

In the Dharma there is no sudden or gradual, but among people some are keen and others dull. The deluded recommended the gradual method, the enlightened the sudden teachings.

Platform Sutra continues:

See for yourselves the purity of your own natures, practice and accomplish for yourselves. Your own nature is the Dharmakaya and self-practice is the practice of Buddha; by self-accomplishment you may achieve the Buddha Way for yourselves.

The Sutra says:ps

Although in the teaching there is no sudden and gradual, In decision and awakening there is slowness and speed. In studying the teaching of the sudden doctrine, Ignorant persons cannot understand completely.

The Sutra continues:

The master (Hue-neng) said: “The mind-ground, not in error, is the precept (sila) of self-nature; the mind-ground, undisturbed, is the meditation (dhyana') of self-nature; the mind-ground, not ignorant, is the wisdom (prajna) of selfnature.”

After going through these sources, one may find some clue to what was Ha-shang’s views and whether it was similar to Ch’an or Dzogpa Chenpo. If Ha-shang Mahayana was teaching the remaining in mere absence of thoughts, then it is not what Mahayana or Dzogpa Chenpo scriptures teach. If he was saying that

after having realized the meaning of the ultimate nature (Ch’os-Nyid), one should remain in it without any thoughts, as any kind of thoughts will only obstruct one from remaining in contemplation in the realized state, then there is no conflict with the teachings of Dzogpa Chenpo. But this approach is

only for those who have realized such attainment and not for people who have ordinary mind, life, view, and emotions, as many of us do. In Mahayana and especially in the tantras and Dzogpa Chenpo, there is instant realization. But it is only for those people who have already matured their

minds, sharpened their intellects, and strengthened their virtuous karmas, the positive energies, by means of common trainings in advance in this life or in past fives.

So, according to the interpretations of traditional Tibetan scholars such as Ba, Buton, and Tsuglag Threngwa, Ha-shang’s instant realization is merely

remaining in absence of thoughts. Samten Migdron makes clear that it is remaining in the ultimate nature (Ch’os-Nyid) without thoughts. But here, it is necessary to do more research about this so-called ultimate nature, as to what kind of meditative or realized state it is. Also, according to Samten Migdron, Ha-shang states that the gradual way is for people of lesser intellect, but what distinguishes people of higher and lesser intellect for him? He seems to have given his teachings publicly without any discrimination; so did he consider most people to be beings of higher intellect?

Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters to Illustrate the Ways of Training in Dzogpa Chenpo The masters who reach the highest attainment of Dzogpa Chenpo and display wonders as the sign of their attainment all undergo a vigorous process of

training for years. It is true of the great masters of Dzogpa Chenpo of the past, such as Prahevajra, Manjusrimitra, Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava, Longchen Rabjam, and Jigmed Lingpa, and it remains true for many recent masters including some of our own teachers. The meditative state, realization, and the

perfection of the result of Dzogpa Chenpo are instant, effortless, spontaneous, and natural. But to reach that realization and to perfect it, almost all the trainees are bound to go through various studies and trainings step by step, according to their ability and nature, with intense dedication. It is

unknown in the history of Dzogpa Chenpo that an ordinary follower has attained realization without essential preparations or has perfected the realization with no need of improving and refining it through meditation on it. Yet the actual realization is instant and its perfection is spontaneous. Among those great Dzogpa Chenpo masters, many were manifestations of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but they

became reincarnated as ordinary beings and went through the hardship of training to demonstrate a model of training on the path for others. Many other great masters were ordinary beings who became realized and accomplished adepts through their long and earnest training.


The following is a summary of the Eves of some of the early masters from Logyu ChenmoLC 49a/6 and Dzamling Thatru Khyabpa’i Gyen'S^60b/7 Master Prahevajra was a great Buddhist teacher and he was the first human master of Dzogpa Chenpo. He remained in absorption for thirty-two years in a

grass hut CJag-Ma’i sPyil-Bo). He received the empowerments and the 6,400,000 verses of the tantras of Dzogpa Chenpo from Vaj-rasattva in a pure vision. At the end, he dissolved his gross body into a “Light body” (AW-P/iwng). Manjusrimitra received the Dzogpa Chenpo teachings from Prahevajra over a period of

seventy-five years and then attained “Lightbody.” Srisinha of China, after studying and training in various disciplines of Buddhism for decades, received Dzogpa Chenpo teachings from Manjusrimitra and practiced them for twenty-five years. Jnanasfitra, after passing through study and training in various

disciplines of Buddhism, spent decades receiving teachings and empowerments of various stages of Dzogpa Chenpo from Srisinha, and then he trained on them. Vimalamitra was one of the most learned monks among the five hundred scholars who lived near Vajrâsana, where the Buddha attained enlightenment. In

fulfillment of a prophesy which he received from Vajrasattva in a pure vision, he went to China and for twenty years received the teachings of the First Three Categories, the Outer, Inner, and Secret Categories of Dzogpa Chenpo^ from Srisinha and then returned to India. Then, in fulfillment of a prophecy

given by a Dakini, Vimalamitra went to Jnanasfitra, who was also a Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 125 disciple of Srisinha. He received the transmission of different levels of teachings and empowerments

of the Innermost Secret Category of Dzogpa Chenpo, the Elaborate, Non-elaborate, Simple, and Utmost Simple empowerments, gradually over an expanse of years from Jnanasutra. Then he perfected the respective realizations of the instructions and empowerments. Like Guru Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra attained the body of “Great Transformation” CPho-Ba Ch’en-Po'). In that “light body,” it is believed, he is still living at Wu-tai-shan in China and is visible to fortunate beings. Longchen Rabjam, after becoming a great scholar and adept of common Buddhist disciplines, received the Dzogpa Chenpo teachings and transmissions

from the great master Kumaradza. He then underwent intensive meditative training for six years on those teachings and became the most venerated teacher and writer of Tibet on Dzogpa Chenpo scriptures and instructions.


The virtuous trainings including devotion are most important in the training of Dzogpa Chenpo meditation. They are indispensable means to bring forth the realization and to perfect it. In his autobiography, Perna Ledrel Tsai (1879-1941) describes how his master Nyoshul Lungtog taught him in the following way:

In this lineage, through devotion to the master one attains the realization. The way of having a teacher is not polite-• ness, but devotion. Guru yoga is not prayers, but devotion. Once, Jigmed Gyalwa’i Nyuku was practicing meditation for many years at Tsa-ri with intensive asceticism and hardship. One day

he went out of the cave into the sunlight. He looked in the direction of Lhasa, and a strong recollection of his root master (Jigmed Lingpa) and of the lineal teachers arose in his mind. He prayed to them with strong devotion. For a while it was as if he had become

unconscious. When he regained consciousness, he found that there was nothing to view or meditate upon, as all the apprehensions of attending to meditation had dissolved into the ultimate sphere. He had (actually) reached the ultimate presence of intrinsic awareness, free from waverings and delusions. But he

(wasn’t aware of its nature and he) wasn’t satisfied (with what he was experiencing). He thought, “Alas! if I hadn’t gone into the sunlight I would have a meditation, but now there is nothing. I have to leave to see the Lama because now he is old and I must get clarifications concerning my meditation. ... He

went to see (his teacher), Rigdzin Jigmed Lingpa, and he presented (his meditative) realization to him. (Jigmed Lingpa) was pleased and said: Son, that is it! You have reached the stage of “Exhaustion of Phenomenal Existents into the Ultimate Nature....” Then (Gyal-wa’i Nyugu) went to Thrama (Khra-Ma) in Dza

(rDza) valley (in Kham) and meditated there for more than twenty years, and he became known as Thrama Lama. So, mere realization is not sufficient, but one has then got to meditate on it. The experiences (developed through meditation) should be perfected (Klong-Du Gyur), and the perfection should be completed.

Until the perfection is completed, one should train on it in meditative periods. When for oneself the meaning of exhaustion of phenomena of Dzogpa Chenpo is actualized, the wisdom of discriminating all phenomena, the power of intrinsic awareness, bursts forth, and the yânas and tenets can be discriminated without confusion. And for others, if one has spontaneously generated great compassion free from concepts, the time for one to teach, discuss, and write has arrived.


To the extent that one progresses through Dzogpa Chenpo training, all the virtues such as compassion will be developed and strengthened. In his autobiography Perna Ledrel Tsai 5ays:

(Nyoshul Lungtog) asked me: “Do you have pride?” I told (him): “No, I don’t. During the off-meditation periods, I do not have any experiences except loneliness (sKyo Lhang-Lhang), since all the appearances are unreal and unimportant.” (Nyoshul Lungtog) said: “It should be like that. One should have the experiences (of the virtuous thoughts), as the Omniscient One (Longchen Rabjam) said:

By gaining experiences in (Dzogpa Chenpo'), these virtuous experiences arise:

The (realization) of impermanance and of reducing the range of the mind, from the depth of the heart,

Loving-kindness and compassion without cessation and Pure perception and devotion without partiality.


Although one has to go through intensive preparations of study and meditation to get the introduction to the realization and to perfect it, the actual realization is instant when the meditator has ripened, and there is no need of intellectual and mental concepts. When the disciple is ready, through

various means the teacher introduces the disciple to the realized state. Nowadays, generally the teachers bestow the transmission of Dzogpa Chenpo

realization through meditative concentration, devotional chant, and ceremonial performances. If the disciple is ready he will attain realization, otherwise

it may only act as a special blessing from the master. But if the disciple is ready and the master is a realized adept, then even the simplest indication could bring forth the highest realization. The following is a piece of teaching that Nyoshul Lungtog gave to Perna Ledrel Tsai about how Paltul Rinpoche

(1808-1897) introduced Nyoshul Lungtog to the Dzogpa Chenpo realization. Nyoshul Lungtog had already become a great scholar and had spent years in preliminary and actual practices of tantra and Dzogpa Chenpo, and when he received the following transmission from

his teacher, because he was ready, his realization took place in a very simple way. Nyoshul Lungtog narrates the story to Pema Ledrel Tsal:NGR 59b/5 If there is no crucial means of teaching by (individually given) oral instructions, the (intellectual) words, supposed to be of high realization from a

Lama, will get nowhere. Nowadays teachers (just) dance to the tunes of the texts. That is not sufficient. Once, Abu (Elder Brother = Pal-tul Rinpoche) was living with us disciples in a field on this side of Nagchungma (hermitage).... Every day at dusk, Abu would do a meditation session on the training of

Namkha Sumthrug (Nam-mKha’ Sum-Phrug), stretched out on his back on a new woolen carpet on a piece of grass the size of himself. One evening, while he was lying there as usual, he said to me: “Lungchey (Lung-gChes = dear Lung-tog)! Did you say that you do not know the essence of the mind?” (I answered,) “Yes,

sir, I don’t.” (Abu said:) “Oh, there is nothing not to know. Come here.” So, I went to him. (He said:) “Lie down, as I am lying, and look at the sky.” As I did so, (the conversation went on as follows:)

“Do you see the stars in the sky?”


“Do you hear the dogs barking in Dzogchen monastery?”


“Well, that is the meditation!”

At that moment, I arrived at a certainty (of realization) from within. I had been liberated from the fetters of “it is” and “it is not.” I had realized the primordial wisdom, the naked (union of) emptiness and intrinsic awareness. I was introduced to this realization by his blessing, as Saraha said: “He in whose heart the words of the master have entered Sees (the truth) like a treasure in his own palm.”

Afterwards, when the words (of Paltul Rinpoche) were (intellectually) examined, there was nothing much, but just his having said that the eye-consciousness and earconsciousness are the intrinsic awareness. However, it should be understood that the introduction (to Dzogpa Chenpo) took place (through these words) because of the transmission of blessing, the absolute transmission of the realization of the meaning of the Heart Essence (sNying-Thig).


Sometimes great yogis give the high transmissions such as that of the realization of Dzogpa Chenpo through various means and indications, and the disciple who is ready receives the introduction miraculously. There are no logical and intellectual reasonings or ceremonial performances, but just a skillful

display of whatever is appropriate. Dodrup Chen Jigmed Ten-pa’i Nyima writes about how Paltul Rinpoche was introduced to Dzogpa Chenpo realization by Khyentse Yeshey Dorje (1800-?):DZ 43/

When Jigmed Yeshey Dorje (’Jigs-Med, Ye-Shes rDo-rJe), the Precious Excellent Incarnation of the Omniscient One (Jigmed Lingpa), was wandering to perform ascetic disciplines (sPyod-Pa), he arrived one day where the Lord Paltul Rinpoche was staying and shouted: “O Paige (dPal-dGe—Paltul Rinpoche’s lineage

name)! Are you brave? If you are, come here!” When Paltul Rinpoche went to him, he held Paltul by the hair, threw him on the ground and dragged him around. After a while, an odor of alcohol was suddenly emitted and Paltul Rinpoche thought: “Oh, he is drunk. Even a great adept like him is capable of this kind

of behavior because of his drinking. This is the fault of alcohol as discoursed upon by the Blessed One (Buddha).” At that very moment, Khyentse Yeshey Dorje freed Paltul from his grip and shouted: “Alas! you who

are called intellectuals (rTog-Ge-Ba), how could such an evil thought arise (in you)? You old dog.” He spat on Pal-tul’s face and showed him his little finger (sign of the worst insult) and then he left. Immediately Paltul realized, “Oh! I have been deluded.” It was an introduction. And he resumed the

(meditative) posture. (At that moment) Paltul realized the unhindered intrinsic awareness, (clear) like the cloudless sky. The dawn-like (clear) introduction (to the realization) given by Jigmed Gyalwa’i Nyugu had become (bright) like the rising of the sun. Later on, Paltul Rinpoche would say jokingly, “ ‘Old Dog’ is my esoteric name given by Kushog Khyentse.”


It is very important to study and practice intensively. Otherwise, merely having the best teacher, the most profound path, or being a wise disciple won’t work and may only create pride in oneself and contempt for others. The great yogi Milarepa, before he met the great translator Marpa, received Dzogpa Chenpo teachings, but he didn’t make any progress on his meditative path because he did not practice them. The biography of Milarepa relates:MN 39/20 (Milarepa goes to Rongton Lhaga (Rong-sTon Lha-dGa^), a Dzogpa Chenpo master and says:) “I am a man from Latod. I have committed grave evil deeds. Please

give me a teaching which leads me to liberation in this very lifetime.” The Lama said: “My sacred teaching, the Dzogpa Chenpo, is a triumph at the root, triumph at the summit, and triumph at the fruition. If you meditate on it by day, you will become a Buddha that day. If you meditate on it by night, you

will become a Buddha that night. For fortunate people who have (ripened their) karmic connections, there is not even the need of meditation, for by hearing this (teaching) one attains liberation. It is the share of Dharma for the most intellectually gifted people. I shall give you this teaching.” He gave me the empowerments

Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 131 and instructions. Then I thought: “In the past when I was practising spells, I produced the great signs in fourteen days. Seven days were sufficient for a hailstorm. Now I have met a Dharma which is even easier than the spells and hailstorm, such that

if I meditate on it by day, I will become a Buddha that day, and if I meditate on it by night, I will become a Buddha that night. For fortunate people who have (ripened their) karmic connections, there is no need of meditation. So I must be a person who has (ripened his) karmic connections.” With this pride, I spent the time sleeping without doing any meditation, and dharma and the person (myself) went two separate ways.


It is very important to rely on authentic scriptures such as the tantras and the writings of Longchen Rabjam as the basis and to have the teacher’s instructions as the keys. But some people rely on oral instructions from a teacher and don’t know anything about the scriptures, the sources of the teachings. In addition to conveying the blessings of the lineal Buddhas, Vidyadharas and masters, these scriptures contain various levels and means of practice in both detailed and condensed forms.

Nyoshul Lungtog teaches Perna Ledrel Tsal:

From now on refine (the realizations of) your own mind by (comparing them with) the meaning of the great (scriptures:) the Seven Treasures (mDzod-bDuri) of the Omniscient One (Longchen Rabjam) as well as the Mother and Son Heart Essences (sNying-Thig Ma-Bu). There are peo-• pie who just listen to the words of

an old Lama and put the Seven Treasures and Four Volumes (Ya-bZhi) aside and say: “These books are textual expositions. The unexcelled oral transmission is given to me by so and so Lama,” and they give new designations (to the meditations such as:), “dwelling, moving and aware (gNas ’Gyu Rig}” to the tranquillity {Zhi-gNas} with or without characteristics.

These (tendencies) which deceive trainees (of Dzogpa Chenpo') of both higher and lesser (intellect) are perverted teachings influenced by demonic forces [mam].


While one is doing the meditative training of Dzogpa Chenpo, it is important not to be taken over by any kind of experience, even if it seems to be a wonderful and important sign, but to remain on the path of meditation without wandering, for those experiences might not be the true Dzogpa Chenpo realization and its virtues.

Nyoshul Lungtog tells Pema Ledrel Tsal:

Once (Paltul Rinpoche) was giving us teachings on The Three Cycles on Relaxation (Ngal-gSo sKor-gSum) and experiential instructions of Dzogpa Chenpo, and we were doing meditations on them, while making “three-body tea” in Ari forest in Do valley (near Dodrup Chen monastery). At that time, all the false caves

of my apprehensions (of self and phenomena) as real collapsed. All the phenomena arose (for me) as the phases of illusion. I (Pema Ledrel Tsai) asked him: “Is this a realization?” He [Lungtog] answered: “No, it is a good experience.”


There are many so-called great meditators, who ignorantly believe, cleverly pretend, or arrogantly boast that they have achieved high realizations. But in truth only their ego and emotional defilements have increased. This is proof that those people were not even doing any practice on Dzogpa Chenpo as it is taught but were misusing it to fool themselves and others. Pema Ledrel Tsai asks Nyoshul Lungtog:

“Nowadays there are many people who say that they have realized emptiness, but their emotions have not decreased. What is that, Sir?” He [Lungtog] answered: “These areExcerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 133 empty claims. In this dark age, there are people who say, ‘I have realized

emptiness or the nature of the mind and my (realization of) the view is high.’ But (in actual fact) they have increased their confidence (only) in indulging in the unvirtuous deeds, and their emotions have become rougher. They only focus on verbal tradition. When they face the crucial junctions of

birth, death, and the intermediate state, (their confidence in so-called high realization) turns out to be lower than that of someone who (just) has a good mind.”


In ancient times, when an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditator, at the time of his death or the dissolution of the mortal body, would leave his or her

testament to his chief disciple, the disciple became inseparable with the master in realization and he became the main lineage-holder. Manjusrimitra received Prahevajra’s testament, The Three Words that Penetrate the Essence, Srisiriha received Manjusrimitra’s testament, The Six Meditative Experiences,

Jnanasutra received Srisinha’s testament, The Seven Crucial Points, and Vimalamitra received Jnanasutra’s testament, The Four Methods of Contemplation. But even in recent centuries many masters left their testaments to their chief disciples, sometimes directly and sometimes in pure visions. At the time of the

death of the first Dodrup Chen Rinpoche, one of his chief disciples, Do Khyentse Yeshey Dorje, was away from his teacher at a distance of a few weeks’ travel by horse and wasn’t directly informed, maybe for months.

But on the very day that Dodrup Chen died, Do Khyentse received the following pure vision and the testament:

At dawn on the thirteenth day of the first month of the iron-snake year (1821), I saw the peerless lord, the king of Dharma, the triply gracious one in the form of a lightbody attired in a five-colored silken costume blazing with

radiance in a chariot of brocades carried by four Dakinis in the midst of rainbow lights in the sky. In an enchanting voice he said:

“lam going to the vast expanse of Primordial Wisdom of the Ultimate Sphere,

The primordial wisdom of the ultimate sphere is inexpressible and inconceivable.

I am going to the state of Mirror-like Primordial Wisdom,

It is a vivid and unceasing glow of clarity.

I am going to the sphere of the Primordial Wisdom of Equanimity,

It is the dissolution of the concepts of apprehension of samsdra and nirvana into the ultimate sphere.

I am going to the state of the Discriminative Primordial Wisdom,

It is the means of clear arising of the six foreknowledges (mNgon-Sties').

I am going to the state of the Primordial Wisdom of Accomplishment,

It displays various manifestations appropriate to the wishes of trainable beings.

I am going to Glorious Copper Colored Mountain, the Buddha-field of knowledge-holders;

When I attain equal realization with the Heruka^ Three incarnations will appear for your assistance. The testament, which appears clearly in the symbolic script of Dakims,

Until the time arrives,

Keep secret and closed, like a tomb,

The symbolic sign will not disappear. May it be stable! Son, for a while stay healthy.

Now you are victorious over the obstructions in your life. Until the phenomenal existents are liberated in accordance with the indications and texts (of teachings),

See samsdra and nirvana as dreams and illusions.

Devote yourself to taking (all) into the path of freedom from objective thoughts.

This is the empowerment of complete aspiration and transmission. This is the commanding empowerment among empowerments.”

Then from the white ‘Ahsyllable, clear like a water-crystal at his heart, a five-colored light was emitted and merged into me. Again a second ‘Ahsyllable shot (from the Ah syllable at his heart) and merged into my heart. Instantly I became unconcious and remained in the great Vajra-waves. Then the Lama had disappeared with no trace of where he had gone. At sunrise I came out of the unconscious state, but all the gross and subtle concepts had been

liberated as “no apprehension at arising.” I saw the spontaneously arisen intrinsic awareness nakedly and vividly. For three days I remained in the unmodified and thoroughness state, unpolluted by either doubts or confidence. I was free from the views of analysis of “it is” and “it is not.” Then, in my

mind, I realized that the mind of the lord, the triple gracious one, the second Buddha, had dissolved into the ultimate sphere, and I remained for a while in the darkness of sorrow, since the orphans, I myself and other disciples, had been (left behind), wandering in the field (of samsara).


Маму accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditators display various signs of their accomplishments at the time of death. Some have pure visions of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and adepts and receive inspirations, empowerments, and introductions. Many remain in the meditative state, for hours or days, even after the

energies of the elements are dissolved, breathing has ceased, and mind is submerged into the inner clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]] absorption], yet one’s mind is not separated from the body. As an external sign of the meditator’s being still in the meditative state, the body will be warm at the heart and the head will still be held up. Many leave various signs in the ashes from their cremation. They include images, relics in the form of pellet-shaped white particles

called Ringsei (Ring-bSrel)^ and special larger, hard relics which are Ringsei of various colors and are called Dung (gDung). At the time of death and of cremation, many wondrous signs such as rainbow rays, sounds, sweet odors, and earth tremors take place. The following is a brief account of the events at

the time of the death of Khenpo Konchog Dronme (dKon-mCh’og sGron-Me), alias Lobzang Kunkhyab (Blo-bZang Kun-Khyab), popularly known as Konme (dKon-Me) Khenpo (1859-1936), of Dodrup Chen monastery. Just before his death, Khenpo received from a Dd-kini a special introduction to the inner clarity [[[Wikipedia:luminous|luminous]]

absorption] as the five primordial wisdoms. A one-page note prepared by the disciples who were present says: Just before his death early on the night of the 28th day of the 12th month of the wood-pig year (1936), he told his disciples who were present before him:

“I had a dream (although his disciples were sure that he didn’t sleep). A woman told me: ‘Sokhe Chomo (Sog-Khe Jo-Mo) says: ‘This present luminous absorption is the realization of emptiness. Because if this is not the emptiness which is the nature of primordial knowledge, then the Primordial Wisdom of

the Ultimate Sphere of final Buddhahood and the present luminous absorption will not be able to be established as indistinguisha-ble.This (present luminous absorption) is the Precious Majestic Virtue (Yon-Tan Rin-Ch’en rGyal-Pd). Because, if all the virtues of the result are not spontaneously present (in it)

without (need of) seeking, then the primordial wisdom of the Buddhas and present luminous absorption will not be able to be established as undifferentiable.’ I told the woman: ‘Yes, that is a perfect understanding. In any case, if one extends it fur-

Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 137 ther by meditating on it through the path of Unmodified Natural Contemplation (Ma-bChos Chog-bZhag) and if one realizes the total perfection of the intrinsic awareness, then this (luminous absorption) becomes as the Five Primordial Wisdoms. The clarity

and no-concept which has not arisen as either of the two obscurations is the Mirror-like Primordial Wisdom. The freedom from falling into partialities and dimensions is the Primordial Wisdom of Equanimity. Knowing all the phenomenal existents without confusion is the Discriminative Primordial Wisdom.’ ”

Then Khenpo sat in the posture of Relaxing in the Natural State of the Mind (Sems-Nyid Ngal-gSo) and passed away. He remained in the meditative absorption without leaving the body for a couple of days. According to the tradition, after a couple of weeks, with a huge

ritual ceremony his body was cremated in a specially constructed temporary stupa, in the midst of signs of rainbow rays in the sky, and then the stupa was sealed. After a couple of days, when the stupa was opened to collect the ashes, his disciples found hundreds of relics in white, red, yellow and blue which

had emerged or were emerging from the burned bones. Later, they built a golden stupa and preserved almost all the relics in it. I had a set of four of these relics in four different colors in my locket, but at about the same time that the golden stupa in the Dodrup Chen monastery in Tibet was destroyed, I

lost my locket in India. It seems that when the time comes, everything that is supposed to go goes, in one way or another, wherever it is.


As referred to before, there are two supreme physical attainments of the most highly accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo

masters. The first is the attainment of the Great Transformation (fPho-Ba Ch’en-Po') achieved by very few known adepts such as Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava, and Chetsun Senge Wangchug (IChe-bTsun Seng-Ge dBang-Phyug), who transformed their mortal bodies into subtle light bodies and live without death, appearing

whenever it is appropriate. The second is the attainment of Rainbow Body (’Ja’-Lus) achieved by many Dzogpa Chenpo meditators throughout the age of Dzogpa Chenpo in India, and in Tibet till the middle of the twentieth century. At the time of death these meditators, having attained the ultimate nature through

the practice of Dzogpa Chenpo, dissolve their mortal bodies with a display of lights and leave behind only the nails and hair. The last Dzogpa Chenpo meditator who attained Rainbow Body in well witnessed circumstances attracting much attention occurred in 1952. He is Sodnam Namgyal (bSod-Nams rNam-rGyal,

1874?-1952) of the Tag-rong (sTag-Rong) clan in Yidlhung {Yid-Lhung) valley in Kham, Eastern Tibet. He was the father of the late Lama Gyurtrag CGyur-Grags, d. 1975), a close Dharma friend of mine. The following is the narrative of the event given to me by Lama Gyurtrag, and also some information drawn from prayers to his father written by Lama Gyurtrag:

My father was a hunter in his youth. But later he became very devoutly religious and practiced a lot. But we didn’t know that he was such an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditator. He was very secretive about his meditation. He had completed the Fivefold 100,000 Preliminaries thirteen times. He had received

Dzogpa Chenpo meditation instructions from the meditator Jinpa Zangpo (sByin-Pa bZang-Po), a disciple of Khyentse Yeshey Dorje (mKhyen-brTse Ye-Shes rDo-rJe, 1800-?). For most of his life my father spent his time carving images, mantras, and scriptures in stones in many places, mainly at Mani Kedgo in

Yidlhung valley. He was very humble and no one ever expected him to be such a special person, which is as it should be for a true yogi. Once I was in retreat. My brother came to me and said: “Father is slightly sick. I don’t see anything serious, but he says he is going to die.” Then after a couple of days, on the evening of the seventh day of the fourth Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 139 month of the Water-dragon year (1952), Father died at the age of 79. A lama had advised my brother

that they should take special care of their father’s body when he died, but my relatives didn’t understand what that meant. So, soon after his death they arranged the body in the same way as for an ordinary lay person. But they began noticing rainbow lights and rainbow tents around their place, and the body

started to reduce in size. Then they realized that their father had attained enlightenment in the ultimate nature through Dzogpa Chenpo meditation and that his gross body was dissolving in what is popularly known as “Dissolution into Rainbow Body.” After a couple of days (I can’t remember how many days he told

me), his whole mortal body was dissolved. I hurriedly concluded my retreat and \ went home. Then everything had gone and only the twenty nails of the fingers and toes and the hair of the body was left behind on the spot where his body was being kept. We collected these remains and except for a few little

pieces that we kept for ourselves, we offered all the nails and hair to Jamyang Khyenste Chokyi Lotro CJam-dByangs mKhyen-brTse Ch’os-Kyi Blo-Gros^ 1893-1959), as he wished to have them. Everybody in the valley was talking about my father’s death. If a famous Lama died in this manner, it wouldn’t be a

suprise, but when a humble lay person displayed such a great accomplishment, it amazed us all. In truth, ofcourse, a humble life is a great support for meditation and accomplishment. Name, feme, and wealth could easily become obstructions. Humbleness is a great priviledge for a Dzogpa Chenpo meditator, but ordinary

people don’t see things in that way. They are only attracted to and believe in empty names, deceitful material riches, and arrogant intellectual reasonings.

Lama Gyurtrag had a small piece of a nail of his father with him as a relic and he gave me a very small piece of it. <*>


Most people generally overestimate their own capacity, intelligence, and nature because they are enveloped in the ignorant darkness of their own egoistic shadows. Their ambitions and expectations exceed what their actual capacity could provide for them. It is important to realize the extent of one’s own

ability and to pursue the goals accordingly. The following is the account of our visit to a most famous Dzogpa Chenpo master, Yukhog Chatralwa (gYu-Khog Bya-Bral-Ba), the Hermit or ascetic from Yu valley named Choying Rangtrol (CKos-dByings Rang-Grol, d.1953?). My tutor Kyala Khenpo, Chochog (Kya-La mKhan-

Po, Ch’os-mCh’og, 1893-1957) and I went to see Chatralwa accompanied by Khenpo’s brother, Kyali Loh, and a few others. In 1951 we went to the hermitage called Yagegar (Yag-Ge sGar), the Beautiful Camp, to see Chatralwa, the ascetic. He had about two hundred disciples,

mostly monks. Almost all the disciples lived in small huts and caves outfitted with a small bed-cum-seat on which they could sleep, sit, and meditate. Near their beds they had small stoves for making tea, and little altars with some books. Many could hardly stand up in their cells. Many of his disciples were

doing Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, but the majority of them were still doing common sutric and tantric studies and practices and the preliminaries of Dzogpa Chenpo, and they were being taught by the Chatralwa’s senior disciples. For the most part Chatralwa only gave teachings and clarifications on the

meditation and philosophy of Dzogpa Chenpo and only saw disciples individually, giving meditation instruction according to the experiences (Nyam-Khrid) of the disciples. He didn’t give public talks or teachings to groups since disciples have different meditative needs. The most impressive thing about that

hermitage was that while almost all the disciples lived on mere life-sustaining means, yet their peace, cheerfulness, calmness, compassion, contentment, and energy, and the smiles on their faces told

Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 141 the whole story of their Eves and achievements. Generally, unless you were committed to staying for a

long time, Chatralwa wouldn’t see you. But, he was fond of children, and they could go to his house at any time when he was free. He played with them and told stories. He was very old, perhaps in his 80’s or even around 90, but no one knew his actual age. Usually people had to help him stand up or walk

because of his bad knees; but there were incidents such as his once running after pages of his books when they had blown away in the wind, and no one had shown up in response to his call. People believe that he could read others’ minds and everyone was always fearful about their own thoughts when they were

with him. After the first day interview, which my tutor Kyala Khenpo and I had, Khenpo told his brother Kyali Loli some of the clarifications on Dzogpa Chenpo meditation he received from the Chatralwa. The next day, before we took our leave at the end of the second interview, Chatralwa told Khenpo out of

the blue: “Don’t immediately try to find someone with whom you can sharpen your lips [chatter].” It enforced our belief and fear that he possessed clairvoyance. And of course Khenpo felt compelled to stop passing on the clarifications to his brother.

Chatralwa lived as a celibate yogi. He had thin gray hair; his hair was long and a little clotted. I remember his saying: “My teacher, Adzom Drugpa (A-Dzom ’Brug-Pa, 1842-1924)^ told me that I should lead a tantric life, and he prophesied that I would become a Terton (gTer-sTori), a Dharma Treasure Discoverer.

But neither do I want to be married, as it could lead to a life of struggle, nor to discover any new Terchos, Discovered» Dharma Treasure Teachings, as there are so many authentic golden Terchos which are available. So, as a symbol of observance of my teacher’s words, I kept this long hair as a tantric costume.”

As it was very hard for anybody to see the Third Dodrup Chen Rinpoche and because Chatralwa, too, had never any chance to see him, he had received clarifications from the Rinpoche through lerton Sogyal (¿Ter-sTon bSod-rGyal, 1856-1926),

with whom Chatralwa stayed for a long period of time. Chatralwa told us: “Of course I never had the good fortune to see Rinpoche, but I received so many

wonderful clarifications from him. When I was staying at Terton Sogyal’s Latrang (residence), whenever Terton returned from seeing Rinpoche, he would always call me and would pass on to me all the instructions on doctrinal and meditational points that he received from Rinpoche, or whatever they had

discussed on crucial points.” Raising his voice he would continue: “Abe (elder brother’s)! How could I foiget those golden teachings? I am not mad!” Chatralwa had rather a big comfortable house with lots of books and religious objects and a few attendants. If you gave him any presents or offerings,

sometimes he would accept them or send them for religious services, but sometimes he would show rage and throw them away. But if you brought him a nice meal, especially Zhemog (bZhes-Mog)^ he would always take it with great pleasure and would say his famous line: “Oh, it is worthy of hundreds of horses and cows (mDzo)”

There is a funny story about Chatralwa’s big house. One day a well-known Lama named Rinchen Targye (Rin-Ch’en Dar-rGyas), who was prophesied by the first Dodrup Chen as a great adept, had an interview with Chatralwa. This Lama entered Chatralwa’s room and kept looking around instead of sitting down and

talking to the Chatralwa. Chatralwa asked him sharply: “What did you lose?” The Lama answered: “I heard you are a Chatralwa, an ascetic. But you have enough to be called a rich man. How can one call you a Chatralwa?” Chatralwa answered: “Chatralwa means someone who has cut off his emotional attachments to worldly materials or to life. It does not mean being poor and hankering for them as many do.” Chatralwa always enjoyed people who are direct and bold.

We spent eighteen days at Yagegar. Kyala Khenpo and I saw Chatralwa many times. Chatralwa gave the answers to Khenpo’s questions in very great detail, and after each answer he told an interesting story of the past before going on to the next question. I didn’t understand much of the main teachings but en-

Excerpts from the Lives of Dzogpa Chenpo Masters 143 joyed the stories. Looking at him gave one a feeling of his being so ancient, ageless, wise, natural, and vast. I kept thinking again and again: “Oh, Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa must have been like this Lama.” At that time I didn’t think much about its unusual

significance, but later, and still now whenever I try to understand, I don’t find any answer to the question of why he let me be in on those very esoteric

interviews. Is it because I had been recognized as a Tulku of a great Lama for whom Chatralwa had great respect, or because I was just a child of twelve years old? I don’t think either of these is the reason. Whenever I think about him and his presence, it still brings a great peace within me. That must

have been the true reason that this great Lama who had clairvoyance permitted me to be present. A couple of days before we left, Khenpo arranged for his brother, Kyali Loli, to have an interview with the Chatralwa. Loli was neither a scholar nor an

accomplished meditator. Anyhow, he had already received Dzogpa Chenpo teachings and had practiced them after completion of his common practices and preliminaries. But when he met Chatralwa it was disappointing for him. It is not because he wasn’t doing well with his Dzogpa Chenpo meditation, but that he wasn’t even ready to start it.

On that day, one of the most important days of his life, Kyali Loli went to see Chatralwa. Loli was a very courageous person and nothing would intimidate him. So Loli explained his practice, especially concerning his Dzogpa Chenpo experiences, and he requested instructions and clarifications. Chatralwa, without making any remarks about Loli’s presentation, said:

You should first try to say with devotion the “name prayer” of Amitabha Buddha 100 times a day, then increase it to 200, and so on. One day there might be a time when whatever you are doing, you will always be united with the expression of the “name” of the Buddha and the feeling of the presence of the Buddha. If that happens, when you die, you will die with the expression and feelings of the

presence of the Buddha. Then, because of your merits and the blessings of the Buddha, perceptions will manifest as the Buddha-field, and your future will be in peace and happiness. Then you will be equipped to serve others.

Then he wrote down a few lines, a quotation from a sutra which reveals the merits and benefits of the “recitation of the name of Amitabha Buddha.” Kyali Loli was disappointed because he didn’t get any Dzogpa Chenpo teachings, and it broke his proud heart. But, now thinking back, I can understand how

these teachings were perfect for him, and how it will be beneficial if he or anybody uses those instructions. It is important for the teacher to be fair, frank, certain, and clear, and for the disciple to be realistic, careful, tolorant, and open, as a line says: “Having the Dzogpa Chenpo as teachings is not enough, The person needs to become Dzogpa Chenpo.”