Dzogchen and the Nine Vehicles of Enlightenment According to the According to the Nyingma Nyingma Tradition Tradition
by David Paul Boaz
In order to lead living beings to understanding In order to lead living beings to understanding I taught all the different I taught all the different yanas . . . yanas . . . - Shakyamuni, the Buddha - Shakyamuni, the Buddha(Lankaratara Sutra) (Lankaratara Sutra)
Sakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the historical Sakyamuni Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama), the historical Buddha taught Buddha taughtsutras sutras (exoteric) and (exoteric) and tantras tantras(esoteric) for disciples of varying levels of understanding. Jesus (esoteric) for disciples of varying levels of understanding. Jesus and the great Chinese and Hindu masters also taught in this manner and the great Chinese and Hindu masters also taught in this manner. In the First . In the First Turning of the Wheel of the Turning of the Wheel of the Dharma Dharma (Deer Park transmission) the Buddha elaborated (Deer Park transmission) the Buddha elaborated The Four Great Truths The Four Great Truthsand and The Eightfold Path The Eightfold Path. It is generally agreed among Buddhist . It is generally agreed among Buddhist schools that the Buddha's teachings are properly classified schools that the Buddha's teachings are properly classified into intoThe Three Vehicles The Three Vehicles(yanas) (yanas) of enlightenment: the of enlightenment: the
Hinayana Hinayanaor or Theravada Theravada (lesser vehicle, (lesser vehicle,Shojo Shojo zen), the zen), the Mayayana Mayayana (greater vehicle, (greater vehicle, Daijo Daijo and and Saijojo Saijojozen), and the zen), and theVajrayana Vajrayana(diamond vehicle). Of these (diamond vehicle). Of these three vehicles, the three vehicles, the Nyingma Nyingma (old school of the (old school of the Vajrayana Vajrayanaor Tibetan Tantric tradition) or Tibetan Tantric tradition) further classifies Buddhist teachings (of the historical Buddha, the further classifies Buddhist teachings (of the historical Buddha, theTripitaka, Tripitaka,and later and later terma terma and and Sambhogakaya
Sambhogakayatransmissions of the Buddha transmissions of the Buddhadharma) dharma)into nine vehicles. into nine vehicles.The The key point of all nine vehicles is the tacit or express teaching of luminous emptiness key point of all nine vehicles is the tacit or express teaching of luminous emptiness ( (shunyata) shunyata). The essential nature of all phenomena is . The essential nature of all phenomena is shunyata. shunyata."There is a refinement "There is a refinement of understanding that becomes progressively more subtle through the vehicles" (Tulku of understanding that becomes progressively more subtle through the vehicles" (Tulku Urgyen), culminating in the non-dual teaching of the Urgyen),
culminating in the non-dual teaching of the Mahayana (Saijojo Mahayana (SaijojoZen and the Zen and the non-dual non-dual Madhyamika Madhyamika or or Uma, Uma, the middle way), and the middle way), and Vajrayana (Dzogchen Vajrayana (Dzogchenand and Mahamudra). Mahamudra). The The dualistic dualistic Hinayana Hinayanaor Pali School survives today in Southeast Asia as or Pali School survives today in Southeast Asia as the the Theravada Theravada , teaching of the elders, and in , teaching of the elders, and in Shojo Shojo and and Daijo Daijo Zen of both the Zen of both theSoto Soto and and Rinzai Rinzai schools. The non-dual schools. The non-dual mujudo no taigen mujudo no taigenof Saijojo zen
is also taught in both Zen of Saijojo zen is also taught in both Zen schools (Ch.III). schools (Ch.III). The The Hinayana: Hinayana: The first Two Vehicles consist of (1) the The first Two Vehicles consist of (1) theShravakayana, Shravakayana,the Vehicle the Vehicle of the Listeners, or disciples, and (2) the Vehicle of the Solitary Buddhas, of the Listeners, or disciples, and (2) the Vehicle of the Solitary Buddhas,(Pratyekayana) (Pratyekayana) the way of solitary meditation. The goal of the the way of solitary
meditation. The goal of the Hinayana Hinayanais to become an is to become an Arhat Arhat (saint), (saint), one who has saved oneself from the passions one who has saved oneself from the passions of ofsamsara samsara through practice of the “three through practice of the “three baskets” of the baskets” of theTripitaka Tripitaka (Pali Canon): (Pali Canon): Vinaya Vinaya(monastic life), (monastic life),Sutra Sutra study, and the study, and the metaphysics of the metaphysics of the Abhidharma. Abhidharma. It is through this practice, with It is through this practice, withshamatha shamathameditation that meditation that the mind is finally brought to rest. the mind is finally brought
to rest. Hinayana Hinayanapractice is not a “lesser vehicle” but is the practice is not a “lesser vehicle” but is the foundation for all of the other foundation for all of the other vehicles (Nyoshul Khenpo 1995). vehicles (Nyoshul Khenpo 1995). The The Mahayana: Mahayana: The Third Vehicle, the Great or The Third Vehicle, the Great or Causal Vehicle, the Causal Vehicle, the Bodhisattvayana Bodhisattvayana (Vehicle of Enlightened Beings) is the way of those who seek or attain (Vehicle of Enlightened Beings) is the way of those who seek or attain enlightenment for the sake or intention of liberating not just oneself, but all sentient beings from samsara. Thus it is known as the Mahayana, or greater vehicle to enlightenment. The goal of the path here is not individual salvation or Arathood, but the development of the bodhisattva attitude or intention, compassion for the suffering of all sentient beings, and the aspiration to save all beings from suffering. The ultimate goal of the Mahayana is nothing less than Buddhahood. The Mahayana Sutras(Vulture Peak Transmission) represent the 2nd and 3rd turnings of the Dharma Wheel (perfection of wisdom and mind-only teachings). From this vehicle arose the Madhyamika (the Middle Way) and
the Yoga Cara (mind-only) schools. Here the Buddha reveals that the intrinsic nature of all reality is shunyata (luminous emptiness). The view of the Mahayana is that the inherent nature of all beings is Buddha nature (Tathagatagarbha, Jap. Bussho). The great non-dual teaching of the Mahayana appears in slightly different forms as the Madhyamika of the Definitive Meaning, and in Saijojo Zen (mujodo no taigen). In China the Mahayana flourished in the Ch’an (transported to Japan as Zen by Eisai and Dogen,
circa 1200), and Pure Land (ching-t’u, Jap., jodo) schools. The Hinayana and the Mahayana collectively comprise the Sutra System. The Vajrayana (Mantrayana), the collective (outer/lower and inner/higher tantras) teachings of the tantras (tantrasystem or mantra system) were transmitted by Vajrasattva (Sambhogakaya aspect of the historical Buddha). The vajra (Sanskrit) or dorje (Tibetan) means diamond and symbolizes the adamantine, radiant, indestructible inherent nature of all beings. The Outer Tantrascomprise the 4th 5th and 6th Vehicles. The 4th Vehicle, Kriya Tantra is exoteric. Charya Tantra(Yogachara or Chittamatra/ Mind Only, the 5th Vehicle), is exoteric. The 6th Vehicle, the
Yogatantra practice is esoteric but still dualistic. The lower tantras were transmitted to those of lesser capacity, the higher tantras to those of greater capacity. The Inner Tantras of the ancient Nyingma tradition comprise the three highest vehicles (vehicles 7, 8 and 9): Mahayoga (development stage), Anuyoga (completion stage), and Atiyoga (Dzogchen,perfection stage). More recent Vajrayana traditions (ninth and tenth centuries), Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug utilize the Anuttara Tantras: Father tantras (lunar, upaya,
clarity), Mother tantras (solar, prajna, clear light, kundalini energy, emptiness) and the non-dual Advityayoga tantras.The highest or most subtle of the Anuttara tantrasis the non-dual Essence Mahamudra. The highest and most direct vehicle of the Nyingma tradition is Atiyoga, (Dzogchenor Dzogpa chenpo, [Skt. Mahasandi],the Great Perfection). The non-dual view of Dzogchen is nearly identical to the non-dual Essence Mahamudra teaching of the Kagyu school, the non-dual Supreme Vehicle of Zen (Saijojo), and the non-dual teaching of the Great Madhyamika of the Definitive Meaning. It is taught by Tulku Urgyn Rinpoche (1995) and other non-sectarian rime (ris-med) masters that this Great Madhyamika teaching is the ultimate view of the Nirmanakaya; the
Essence Mahamudra is the ultimate non-dual view of the Sambhogakaya; and Dzogchen (Ati yoga) is the ultimate non-dual view of the Dharmakaya. Further, the Base (source, ground) is the Mahamudra, the Path is the Great Madhyamika of the Middle Way, and Dzogchen is the Fruit or result (enlightenment and Buddhahood). With the advent of the non-sectarian rime movement of the last century many Kagyu , Sakya and Gelug as well as Nyingma masters practice and teach Ati Dzogchen , the Great Perfection. And many Dzogchen masters practice the Mahamudra of the Kagyu school. In Dzogchen, shamatha (stillness) and vipasyana (insight) meditation are united. “Awake mind is the unity of shamatha and vipasyana.” In the Mahayana , the Supreme Vehicle of Saijojo Zen this same unity is practiced as shikan-taza, the zazen of the unity of stillness with non-dual insight (direct seeing/kensho/satori). Sectarian bias in the beginning or advanced practitioner of any of the great non-dual paths will quickly derail the practice. Yet, one must commit to a path and a master, or masters. The non-sectarian rime intention that arose within Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism is now occurring in all of the great wisdom traditions. The
recent and living masters of the Great Tradition of Humankind have agreed to transmit the secret nondual teaching of their various traditions to all of those willing to receive. Without this, the great teaching will die. Indeed, the transmission of this supreme teaching from the living lineage holders of the entire Perennial Great Tradition is the fundamental process and result of the emerging global New Reformation in religion, science and culture. A Brief History of the Non-Dual Dzogchen Teaching
In Uddiyana (Orgyen) in the second century BCE, Garab Dorje , the human, historical founder of Dzogchen , in his Sambhogakaya form, transmitted the great Dzogchen teaching to Manjusrimitra (The Three Essential Statementsor Three Vajra Verses)who then classified the tantric texts (the Dzogchen Nyingthig, the five series) and transmitted them to Srisimha who transmitted them to Jnanasutra, Guru Padmasambhava, (the Khadro Nyingthig), Vimalamitra (the Vimala Nyingthig), and Vairochana (The Cuckoo of the State of Presence
or The Six Vajra Verses) who brought them from Uddiyana to Tibet in the 8th century CE. In the 14th century they were synthesized by Long Chen Pa (Longchen Rabjum 1308-1363) into a unified system, the Seven Treasures (Dzodun).In the eighteenth century Jigme Ling Pa (1730-1798) rediscovered the complete Dzogchen Nyingthig, including Longchenpa’s Seven Treasures,as a root mind terma (gong ter) and condensed its essence as the Yonten Dzod which is known as the Longchen Nyingthig and is generally considered the authoritative expression of the great Dzogchen tradition.
Nyingthig means great heart-essence or heart-expanse. Esoterically, the Longchen Nyingthig contains the precious heart essence of Dzogchen. It contains the innermost secret pith instructions or upadesha and is transmitted directly from master to individual student, without dependence on scripture (lung). Garab Dorje initially received the Dzogchen teachings as a direct transmission from the Dharmakaya , represented by Samantabhadra (Tib., Kuntuzangpo), the primordial Adi Buddhi, through the Sambhogakaya aspect of Buddha
Vajrasattva, from whom emanates all historical (Nirmanakaya) Buddhas. Indeed, it is taught by some Nyingma masters (Tulku Urgyen, et.al.) that the ancient Dzogchen teaching was transmitted to Garab Dorje by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (b. 563 BCE), the twelfth of the twelve great Dzogchen masters, in his sambhogakaya form as Vajrasattva (Tulku Urgyen, 1995). From an historiographic view (relative truth), early Nyingma Dzogchen was formatively influenced primarily by the Indian Buddhist tantras, but also by Taoist Ch’an, indigenous Tibetan Bon, Tibetan Nestorian Christianity and Kashmiri Shivaism (Namkhai Norbu 1984 and in Reynolds 1989; Dowman 1996). The preceding is approximate historical fact based upon extant texts from the eighth through tenth centuries CE, including recently discovered texts at Tun Huang , China (the Rig Pa'i khu byug and the Bas
Pa'i rgum chung). However, according to certain Dzogchen tantras the Dzogchen lineage (ringyu) includes "the Twelve Teachers of Dzogchen" (Dodupchen Rinpoche, Tantric Doctrine According to the Nyingmapa School). Not all of these masters were of the space- time human realm. These prehistoric teachers pre-date even the ancient Bon Dzogchen master Shenrab Miwoche (Tonpa Shenrab Miwo) who taught Dzogchen in Olmo Lung ring (Central Asia) circa 1600 BCE, long before the incarnation of the historical Buddha (Namkhai Norbu,
in Reynolds 1989). From there the teaching spread to Zhang Zhung and Tibet. Indeed, the Grathal gyur Tantra (upadesha),and other texts state that the great non-dual Ati Dzogchen teaching, by whatever name, has appeared in inhabited star systems throughout the kosmos for many kalpas, long before the appearance of our solar system, and will continue long after its death. Meanwhile, our purpose is to practice, realize and teach it here, now.
The essence of all the Buddhas exists prior to samsara and nirvana, beyond transmigration and liberation. As it transcends the four conceptual limits and is intrinsically pure, this original condition is the uncreated nature of existence that always existed, the ultimate nature of all phenomena. . . It is utterly free of the defects of dualistic thought which is only capable of referring to an object other than itself. . . It is the base of primordial purity. . . Its essence is the purity
of original emptiness. . . Its nature is self-perfection. . . Clarity of light is the pure nature of emptiness. . . which is the immutable state of dharmakaya. . . Similar to space it pervades all beings. . . The inseparability of the two truths, absolute and relative, is called ‘the primordial Buddha’. . . In the condition of the base there is no duality. . . When its primordial energy manifests it becomes the common ground of liberation and delusion. . . If at the moment the energy of the base manifests, one does not
consider it something other than oneself, and one recognizes one’s own state as the indivisibility of essence, nature and energy, the movement of energy self-liberates. . . Understanding the essence that is the very nature of primordial enlightenment, one finds oneself always in this state: this is called ‘Samantabhadra’ or ‘Immutable Light’. . . the ‘Primordial Lord’. . . dwelling in the fourth time, beyond past, present and future. . . the infinite space of self-perfection . . . this is the pure dharmakaya dimension, the essence of the vajra of clear light, that also contains the dimensions of Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. - Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, from The Supreme Source, 1999 The Three Statements Which Strike The Essence (The Three Vajra Verses of Garab Dorje)
Upon receiving the last testament transmission from Garab Dorje of The Three Essential Statements,Manjusrimitra classified them into the three continuous aspects of Dzogchen and the three corresponding teaching series: 1. The Base: Recognize your own true nature. Direct transmission or introduction of the state of presence of one's Original Buddha Nature by the master. This is the Dzogchen View upon which the semde series is based. 2. The Path: Choose the state of presence. Direct discovery of the state of presence (rig pa), beyond doubt. This is the Dzogchen Meditation upon which the longde series is based. 3. The Fruit/Result: Continue in the state with confidence in liberation (total realized integration of the Base in the everyday lifeworld). This is the Dzogchen Conduct upon which the mengagde secret upadesha series is based. These three statements distill all of the Dzogchen tantras and wisdom (p.113, 114) (Compare these with the Four Statements of Zen, p.141).
The Primary Dzogchen Tantras
The Three Essential Points (The Three Vajra Verses)of the essence, nature and energy of the Base, and of the Path and Fruition of it is contained in Vairochana's early Dzogchen tantra, the Six Vajra Verses, or "Cuckoo of the State of Presence" (Rig- pa’i khu-byug) of the Radiant One that each individual is, primordial Being Itself, the luminous presence of intrinsic awareness (rig pa). The cuckoo is the sacred bird of the Bonpo founder Shenrab Miwo and is considered in the aboriginal Bon tradition as the king of birds, harbinger of spring and bearer of wisdom from the vast empty sky. The Six Vajra Verses of Vairochana and all of the hundreds of Dzogchen tantras and texts are but commentaries on Garab Dorje's Three Varjra Versesor The Three Essential Points(cf. p.99).
The Six Vajra Verses (translated by Namkhai Norbu): Verse 1 & 2: The Base (View): The nature of phenomena is non-dual (gnyis med), but each one, its own state, is beyond the limits of the mind (semde mind meditation series). Verse 3 & 4: The Path, Way of Practice (The Meditation): There is no concept that can define the condition of "what is," but vision nevertheless manifests: all is good (longde , space meditation series). Verses 5 & 6: The Fruit, Result, Way of Being in Action (The Conduct): Everything has already
been accomplished, and so, having overcome the sickness of effort (seeking), one finds oneself in the self-perfected state: This is contemplation. (mengagde/upadesha , secret essence meditation series). Purport: The Base by direct transmission (semde): Introduce the state of rig pa directly (ngo-sprod) by transmission from the master. The View: recognize and practice your own primordial nature which is Buddha nature the source of all arising. This is the development or “understanding” (rtogs pa, avabodhi) phase of Dzogchen teaching. The Path (longde): “Don't remain in doubt” (“choose the state of presence”). The Meditation (gompa): “Decide on one point.” Choose and use the realization of
the nondual unity of emptiness and awareness that is the nature and essence of the three kayas. This does not mean “choose the Dzogchen Path or teaching.” That is dualistic. Rather, choose the state of presence, moment to moment, now. Do not remain in dualistic, space-time located meditation on emptiness. Choose to be the vast empty space of the primordial non-dual state. Thus is the primordial state of presence stabilized through practice in the lifeworld. This is the “stabilizing” (brtan pa) phase of the Dzogchen teaching. The Fruit/Result, (Integration, mengagde , or secret upadesha, nyingthig): Continue in the profound confidence (gdeng) of the wisdom of emptiness that is self-liberation. The Conduct: Liberation (grol ba) is prior to meditation. The state of presence or contemplation is already accomplished as thoughts arise and spontaneously selfliberate (rang grol). No effort. No seeking strategies. All thought and emotion, all arising is already primordially or universally liberated (ta-drol). Wise, compassionate conduct
arises and continues from stable confidence (gdeng)in the luminous emptiness of the source, just as that very light descends and continues throughout the conduct in the lifeworld. Thus is the prior unity of the state of presence with the arising energy of inner and outer phenomenal experience realized, and expressed. This is the “integrating” or completion (bsre ba) phase of the Dzogchen teaching. The semde and longde teaching is derived from the kama or oral tradition, which became the tantras and agamas (lung), while the mengagde or nyingthig, the Innermost Secret Heart Essence teaching series is primarily terma, “rediscovered earth and mind treasures.” Each of the teaching series is
complete in itself, has its own development and completion stage, and may lead to self-liberation, and integration into the lifeworld of the non-dual primordial state of Bodhicitta, the subtle seed (thig le, bindu) of Buddhahood that is the luminous empty source of all the manifestations of energy in the kosmos. However, according to Longchenpa and Lingpa, mengagde is the superior teaching for it is the least conceptual and most direct. Indeed it is heart-mind to heartmind transmission directly from the master, with
no dependence on scripture. The secret mengagde upadesha then, is the supreme teaching of the Ati Dzogchen teaching series. Ati yoga is the supreme vehicle, the peak of all yogas and the mother of all Buddhas. . . because it discloses in detail the meaning of the spontaneous and natural perfection of all the infinite phenomena. . . recognized directly, without intervention by the conceptual mind. . . [all] within the dimension of the single sphere of self-arising wisdom. - Nubchen Sangye Yeshe, devotee of Padmasambhava (from the Sámten Migdrön, translated by Namkhai Norbu)
H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche’s Comments on Garab Dorje’s Three Vajra Verses or The Three Statements (cf. p.99; translated by John Reynolds): Verse I: Recognize your own true nature (The Base) “This fresh immediate awareness of the present moment, transcending all thoughts related to the three times (past, present, future), is itself that primordial awareness or knowledge (ye-shes) that is selforiginated intrinsic awareness (rig- pa).” Verse II: Choose the state of presence (The Path) “Whatever phenomena ofSamsara or Nirvana may manifest, all of them represent the play of the creative energy or potentiality of one’s own immediate intrinsic awareness (rig pa’i rtsal). One must decide upon this unique state for oneself and know that there exists nothing other than this.” Verse III: Continue in the state with confidence in liberation (The Fruit) “Whatever gross or subtle thoughts may arise, by merely recognizing their nature, they arise and self-liberate simultaneously in the vast expanse of Dharmakaya , where Emptiness and Awareness are inseparable (gsal stong gnyis med).”
No Buddhas, no beings, beyond existence and non-existence Intrinsic Awareness Itself is absolute Guru, Ultimate Truth. By resting naturally, beyond fixation in that inherently free perfect innate Bodhi-mind, I take refuge and actualize Bodhicitta. -Jigme Lingpa, Longchen Nyingthig "The perfect explanation of Dzogchen," according to contemporary Dzogchen master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is voiced in these profound words of Gautama Shakyamuni, the historical Nirmanakaya Buddha:
All that arises is essentially no more real than a reflection, transparently pure and clear, beyond all definition or logical explanation. Yet the seeds of past action, karma, continue to cause further arising. Even soknow that all that exists is ultimately void of self-nature, utterly non-dual!
The Great Perfection that is Dzogchen is the Great Love. From this primordial awareness that is the non-dual Base or source arises the energy that manifests as the motion of conditional space-time mental and physical phenomenal reality. Here it briefly dwells. And into this, it will all return. From the moment to moment realization (rig pa) of the unity or identity of this arising phenomena with the luminous emptiness of its actual nature — the primordial unity of form and emptiness — spontaneously arises The Conduct: the selfless devotion and compassion that is the activity of love
(brtse-ba). Right conduct is human action grounded in meditation and contemplation (rig pa) of the primordial source. The purpose or purity of intention is selfless service in the cause of the reduction and ultimate cessation of the suffering of all beings (relative bodhicitta, the awakened, compassionate heart, the urge to enlightenment). Devotion to the master and to all enlightened beings, and wise (prajna and ye-shes), compassionate action in the service of all unenlightened beings (including ourselves) is love. “The practice of love is the sufficient practice” (Tulku Urgyen); cf. p.64 ff