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Ground, Path, and Fruition
Mind-Nature Teachings Concerning the View, Meditation, and Action of Dzogpa Chenpo, the Innate Great Perfection
Compiled by Surya Das with Nyoshul Khenpo
Homage to the primordial Buddha
Samantabhadra, the Buddha within!
Homage to the omniscient master Gyalwa Longchenpa!
Buddha-nature, the essence of awakened enlightenment itself, is present in everyone. Its essence is forever pure, unalloyed, and flawless. It is beyond increase or decrease. It is neither improved by remaining in nirvana nor degenerated by straying into samsara. Its fundamental essence is forever perfect, unobscured, quiescent, and unchanging. Its expressions are myriad. Those who recognize their true nature are enlightened; those who ignore or overlook it are deluded. There is no way to enlightenment other than by recognizing buddha-nature and achieving stability in that, which implies authentically identifying it within one's own stream of being, and training in that incisive recognition through simply sustaining its continuity, without alteration or fabrication. All spiritual practices and paths converge, and are included, in this vital point. This recognition is the sole borderline between Buddhas and ordinary beings. This is also the great crossroads at which we find ourselves every moment of our lives. The illusory history of samsara and nirvana begins here and now; the moment of Dzogchen, the innate Great Perfection, is actually beyond past, present, and future, like a seemingly eternal instant of timeless time. This is what we call "the fourth time": timeless time, beyond the three times, the ineffable instant of pure ecstatic presence or total awareness, rigpa.
Rigpa, primordial being, innate awareness is primordially awakened: free, untrammeled, perfect, and unchanging. Yet we need to recognize it within our very own being if it is to be truly realized. Rigpa is our share or portion of the dharmakaya. Those who overlook it have forgotten their true original nature.
Subject to suffering, karma, and confusion, we must recognize rigpa in order to actualize our own total potential, the sublime joy, peace, and freedom of enlightenment itself.
The late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said that the
great yogis and enlightened adepts wanted and needed nothing more than the
realization of the fundamental nature of intrinsic awareness itself. Padampa
Sangye, the medieval Indian siddha who brought the Prajnaparamita Sutra and Chod
teachings to Tibet, said that all wishes and aspirations can be fulfilled within
the natural state. Emaho! Don't overlook this. The primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, the personification
of rigpa, who is the formless dharmakaya Buddha at the source of the Dzogchen teachings and lineage, never strayed into
dualistic thinking, and remains free and perfect in the infinite
display of pure appearances that is his pure land or buddha-field, embracing the inseparability of everything within both samsara and nirvana.
However, deceived by deluded thoughts and appearances, sentient beings fall into dualistic thought and cling to the illusion of subject and object, thus being led into the roiling ocean of impure appearances, conditioned existence. Mistakenly perceiving the inexpressible, self-existing, innate wakefulness of primordial awareness for a fixed self or soul, our own egoic, individual existence, we enmesh and bind ourselves time after time, time without end.
Ignorance is the sole cause of wandering in samsara. Buddhas know and understand what ordinary sentient beings ignore, misunderstand, and overlook: the true original nature of one and all. That is the sole distinction between Buddhas and ordinary beings.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche said, "The confusion that arose in...the path can be cleared away. When we remove the temporary stains from primordially awakened rigpa, we become re-enlightened instead of primordially enlightened. This is accomplished by following the oral instructions of a fully qualified master."
According to the shunyata teaching of the Mahayana, everything is empty and open by nature, including both body and mind and all external phenomena. All things are selfless, ungovernable, unreliable, and impermanent. They are totally without independent self-existence or permanent individual entityness. That understanding of absolute emptiness is reached by the understanding of true selflessness, which means the nonexistence of the separate individual self and the nonexistence of the eternal self of phenomena.
Nothing can be confirmed as either existent or
nonexistent, nor both nor neither. This is the profound lion's roar of Nagarjuna
and his followers, who elaborated the Middle Way philosophy of Madhyamika, the
supreme teaching of emptiness. Yet isn't
there a cognizance present in all this openness and emptiness, a vivid clarity
or luminous awareness undeniably functioning right now and throughout all our
existences? This is because the empty essence of mind, which is actually none
other than dharmakaya (the formless body of absolute truth), is by nature luminous, aware, cognizant (which is the sambhogakaya, pure clear light or radiant energy), yet undeniably manifests unobstructedly as manifold expressions of dynamic compassion (the nirmanakaya, or tulku, the form body of enlightened activity). Understood in this way, isn't it obvious that the three kayas are inseparable and inherent in one's own heart-mind?
Mipham Rinpoche's Prayer of the Ground, Path,
and Fruit says:
Present since the beginning, it is not dependent upon being cultivated,
Nor upon such things as differences in one's capacity.
May this vital point of the nature of mind, hard to believe since seeming so easy,
Be recognized through the power of the master's oral instructions.
May we be spontaneously perfected in the nature of nonaction, beyond both action and inaction.
Buddha-nature pervades all sentient beings. When the wisdom of the Great Perfection is transferred to a being, it does not matter if that being has a sharp or intelligent mind. Why is that? It is because that which prevents us from realizing the Great Perfection is not that this Great Perfection is something fundamentally different or far away. If we cannot see our own eyelid, it is not because it is far away like a distant mountain. It is very near but difficult to see. The same is true with the nature of the mind.
How can we be introduced to such a nature? If we stay in a state ; where we are not influenced by thoughts of the past, we do not invite thoughts of the future, and we are not disturbed by thoughts e of the present. In the fresh instant of the present moment, there is a wisdom free from all concepts. We should remain in this state without falling into drowsiness, without allowing our mind to withdraw naturally or to wander to external objects. As Jetsun Milarepa said, enlightenment lies in the very simple ability to recognize the wisdom beyond thoughts, the space which is in between the thoughts. But simply to glimpse this wisdom does not suffice: we need to achieve firmness and stability. Though all sentient beings have buddha-nature, they are like the young infant of a king, a newborn prince. By nature he has royal blood, he is meant to be a king, yet he does not have all the faculties to govern the country, protect the subjects, defeat enemies, or administrate. It is the instruction of a teacher that will readily help: at first to realize the view of the Great Perfection; secondly, to achieve skill and perfect it; and thirdly, to achieve perfect stability in this realization. We should not expect instant realization. Jetsun Milarepa said, "Do not have expectation of the fruit, but practice until death." . In the beginning we should practice often for short periods. Our confidence in the view will gradually grow. A time will come when 1 certainty will be born from within. The "subject" who experiences the practice will vanish. When the realization has fully bloomed we will become like the omniscient Longchen Rabjam Rinpoche. We should aspire to see the vanishing point of the thoughts, because the realization of the guru will enter through that, and merge with our self. Lama Mipham prayed: To elaborate or to examine is nothing but adding concepts. To make effort or to cultivate is only to exhaust oneself. To focus or to meditate is but a trap of further entanglement. May these dissatisfying fabrications be cut from within. We will never come to the end of intellectual investigation. Intellectual investigation is like a small bird flying from a ship in the ocean, trying to find the limit of the sky. The sky is so vast, and the small bird's wings become so tired, that he has no choice than to come back to the ship. In the same way, if we engage in mental fabrications, we will never find an end to them. We will just tire ourselves. The view is not something that is linked with objects, or representations, or targets. If there are such targets or representations, there is clinging. It is said, "If there is clinging then there is no view." A view mixed with clinging and representation cannot be named the Great Perfection. If we have concepts we will put appearance on one side and voidness on the other, and in no way will we come near to the realization of the Buddha's mind, the inseparability of voidness and appearances that is free from all conditions. In this way we exhaust ourselves by searching for different methods and fabricating different exercises. We exhaust ourselves in three ways: We create fabrications like mental concepts. We exert a lot of effort. We create many objects or targets in our minds. These are the three things that really tire us. It is like an insect caught in a spider's web: the more agitated it becomes, the more tangled it gets in the web. This creates real suffering, real torment for the mind.
If we decide that there is no need for elaboration, no need for any effort, and no need for any targets, we will be able to rest in a state that is vast like sky. This is the absolute nature, in which one has rid oneself of something to be seen and a subject who sees. This is the view, the realization of the natural state of things.
Lama Mipham wrote:
Being beyond thought or description, not a thing is seen.
There is, however, nothing extra remaining to be seen.
That is the profound meaning of resolving one's mind.
May this nature, hard to illustrate, be realized.
So what is to be done to realize the natural Great Perfection, Dzogpa Chenpo, if it is free from all concepts, efforts, and representations? The Prajnaparamita Sutra says, "The perfection of wisdom is beyond thought." It should not be conceived of, for it is inconceivable and cannot be described. The absolute truth is not something that can be apprehended by the mind of ordinary beings. In order to indicate this to beings, in a relative way, the Buddhas have said that the void nature is like the sky, while its luminous expression is like the sun. But in truth, even a Buddha cannot entirely express the nature of the mind; there are no words or examples to explain it. It is utterly beyond the relative mind of beings. Yet it is not something that did not exist before, like a new thing appearing for the first time.
When we are free from all conceptualizations and mental fabrications we can see this nature. When Karma Chagme Rinpoche realized the absolute nature, Mahamudra, he said to his friend, "This is something that has been with me forever. It is something I have known forever. Why didn't you tell me that this was Mahamudra itself?" When we see the true nature within ourselves, there is nothing more to be seen, There is nothing more to be found in the eighty-four thousand teachings.
The Prajnaparamita Sutra says:
Mind does not exist,
Its expression is luminosity.
GROUND, PATH, AND FRUITION
In The Diamond Verses of the Absolute Nature,
Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa sang:
Even if a hundred learned beings and hundreds of siddhas would claim that this view is wrong,
In this there is nothing seen to be discarded,
Nor is there anything to be kept or established.
May this state of dharmata, unspoiled by acceptance and rejection,
Be perceived as the spontaneously present nature.
Although true nature is divided into the 'ground to be known,' The 'path to be journeyed,' and the 'fruition to be attained,' These three are but like levels in open space. May we spontaneously abide in the nature of nonaction.
In truth, in the way things really are, from the very beginning the qualities of the essence of buddhahood, the tathagatagarbha, are fully bright without modification, without losing anything at all. They are present within every sentient being.
On the path, this essence of buddhahood never changes: it does not increase, nor does it decrease. It does not have to undergo any modification.
Regarding fruition again, this very essence of buddhahood that is realized is perfectly complete. There is nothing to be added to it. There is nothing more that a Buddha could discover. In fact, from the point of view of the way things are, there is no reason to make distinctions such as different bhumis or levels. There are no such things as a starting point, a path, and a goal. All these are like looking at the sky and trying to see different delineations, levels, or limits within it. We can make these configurations intellectually, but in truth there are no subdivisions in the sky. If we say, "This is the top of the sky and this is the bottom of the sky," it is still just the sky.
In fact, there is nothing to be done, so we may abide in nonaction, beyond both action and inaction. We already have this perfect unchanging nature, so why try to perfect ourselves, purify ourselves, attend to a teacher, and go along the path? This question inevitably arises.
In general, the view and meditation of the eight vehicles are somewhat adulterated by mental fabrications, but the ninth vehicle, Ati Yoga or Dzogpa Chenpo, is completely beyond intellectual activity. A vast sky can be considered as void or luminous, but it is all one. From the aspect of essence, it is beyond such distinctions as view, meditation, and action. There is an "appearing aspect" that we may call a "view," which is to find one's own nature; a "meditation/// which is to bring everything back to this single point or conviction; and an "action," which is to gain confidence through the method of spontaneously liberating thoughts.
Lama Mipham wrote:
Whatever one is focused on is poison for the view
Whatever is embraced by effort is a fault of meditation.
Whatever is adopted or abandoned is a defect of action.
May we perceive the nature free from all shortcomings and limitations.
How should this view be? The view should be completely free from clinging. As Manjushri said in a vision to the great Sakyapa teacher Trakpa Gyaltsen, "If there is clinging, there is no view." The view is completely free from conditions, concepts, and characteristics. Object, representations, targets, and postulates are like poison to the view. With these the view cannot be pure. If someone eats poison he will die immediately. In the same way, the view is spoiled by clinging to either materialism or nihilism. This becomes a cause for wandering further into samsara. Clinging in this way, we can never be free from the bondage of ego.
According to the Dzogpa Chenpo, if one engages in striving, clinging, and tense effort during one's meditation, it is a defect. One should remain in a view, meditation, and action, free from fabrication. For such a yogi, whatever he does with his body, speech, and mind, everything, even just moving his hand in the air, takes place as the display of awareness. For this reason, there is no need for an enlightened being to purposely cultivate virtuous actions or discard nonvirtuous actions. Whatever he does is within the display of wisdom.
The absolute expanse has never been stained or limited by concepts such as nirvana and samsara or existing and nonexisting. We should become enlightened like the primordial Buddha Kuntuzangpo, who was enlightened in the original ground. Aside from this very original ground of buddhahood, it is imposing hardship on ourselves to strive to achieve a spiritual state that we have always had. We have buddha-mind within, so there is no need for all these hardships; just as when someone has already reached the diamond throne at Bodhgaya in India, there is no need for them to undertake difficult travels through hard conditions in order to get there.
The primordial Buddha, the great vidyadharas, and all those who achieved enlightenment, merely actualized qualities they always had, they were not fabricating new qualities. In practicing the oral pith-instructions, what we really need is to be liberated through recognizing our own awareness, the ultimate nature of being itself. This will not come through the so-called secret teachings and pith-instructions found in books. The first eight vehicles take us along the path working with the mind: none of those vehicles take wisdom itself as the path. Dzogpa Chenpo takes the wisdom itself as the path, and it is therefore devoid of any representations and objects. We need to utilize wisdom, how things actually are, as the path, not merely using our mental fabrications. Because whatever is related to the mind is automatically related to delusion, to the clinging between subject and object.
Lama Mipham wrote:
Since the unfabricated and uncompounded dharmata
Has nothing new to be obtained through the path of fabrications,
May the nature of the ultimate fruition, which does not result from a cause
Be perceived as being primordially present within oneself.
Vividly present and awake, free from concepts, through constant re-mindfulness recognizing everything, wherever we are under all circumstances and conditions, as the magical display of rigpa; seeing through everything and never falling prey to ego-clinging, attachment, and dualistic fixation, nor to its further elaborations as the three poisons (kleshas) and the eighty-four thousand defilements; thus we maintain our primordial throne, like the enlightened sovereign personifying intrinsic awareness, Samantabhadra.
On the other hand, being deceived by this unobstructed spontaneous magical display of intrinsic awareness itself; confused by ignorance and falling into the duality of subject and object; thus we forego our primordial throne, depart from our spiritual kingdom, and, like the prodigal son in the Bible, forget who and what we are, to wander endlessly like stray dogs lost on the endless plains of samsaric existence. The great good fortune of meeting an authentic enlightened master and being introduced to the ultimate view, recognizing, acknowledging, confirming our true nature, is like being reintroduced to ourselves, like the prodigal son being restored to his rightful place as crown prince of his father's kingdom, beyond the possibility of doubt or disputation.
All the phenomena of samsara and nirvana are perfect and complete within rigpa. One instant of total awareness, recognition of rigpa, is enough: the Manjushri-namasam~iti Tantra says, "In one moment, perfect recognition, in one instant, complete enlightenment." The wisdom-mind of all the Buddhas, innate wakefulness, is inherent to our very nature, yet it is temporarily obscured by conceptuality. Innate vajra-like buddha-mind, rigpa, is unveiled the moment dualistic mind dissolves and nondual awareness nakedly dawns, which is none other than the immaculate and primordially pure dharmakaya. This is the authentic Buddha, the Buddha within. There is no Buddha apart from one's own heartmind, as Milarepa and other siddhas often sang.
The main difference between deluded mind and enlightened mind is the degree of narrowness and openness. The essential nature being one and undivided, it is immediately apparent to those with eyes to see, the degree to which any particular individual is open, free, and unconditioned or, on the other hand, rigid, close- ~r minded, fixated, attached, and confused, that is, totally conditioned by adventitious obscurations, the karmic imprints of previous actions and obscuring emotions and defilements.
THE ULTIMATE NATURE OF MIND
After his great awakening beneath the bodhi-tree in Bodhgaya, Lord Buddha said that the ultimate nature of mind is perfectly pure, profound, quiescent, luminous, uncompounded, unconditioned, unborn and undying, and free since the beginningless beginning. When we examine this mind for ourselves, it becomes apparent that its innate openness, clarity, and cognizant quality comprise what is known as innate wakefulness, primordial nondual awareness: rigpa. This is our birthright, our true nature. It is not something missing, to be sought for and obtained, but is the very heart of our original existential being. It is actually inseparable from our uncontrived everyday awareness, beyond wilful alteration, free from conceptuality: unfabricated ordinary awareness, unadulterated by effort and modification, naked, fresh, vivid, and totally natural. What could be simpler than this, to rest at home and at ease in total naturalness?
The sutra vehicles, the common teachings of Buddhadharma, consider that the above-mentioned description of the ultimate nature of mind by Lord Buddha himself refers to nirvana, or nirvanic consciousness According to the Vajrayana practice lineages of Tibet and especially the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions, that description refers to the true nature of mind, rigpa, intrinsic awareness itself. In that light, how far is that fabled "other shore," nirvana?
So get out of the construction business! Stop building bridges across the raging waters of samsaric existence, attempting to reach the "far shore," nirvana. Better to simply relax, at ease and carefree, in total naturalness, and just go with the primordial flow, however it occurs and happens. And remember this: whether or not you go with the flow, it always goes with you.
Yet it is not so easy or so it seems. First we must recognize this profound view, innate Great Perfection, then train in it, then attain unshakeable stability in it. This is the path of practice, undistractedly maintaining the view or outlook to which one has been introduced and which one has recognized. Only then can realization progressively unfold. Thus, training implies nonmeditation, noneffort, and nondistraction, a vivid presence of mind. Innate wakefulness, nonconceptual wisdom, nondual primordial awareness, buddha-mind, is suddenly unsheathed the moment dualistic mind dissolves. This can occur gradually, through study, analysis, and spiritual practice, or suddenly, through the coming together of causes and conditions, such as when a ripe student encounters a totally realized master and inexplicably experiences a sudden awakening.
Buddha-nature is pure, undefiled, unelaborated,
unconditioned, transcending all concepts. It is not an object of dualistic
thought and intellectual knowledge. It is, however, open to gnosis, intuition,
the nondual apperception of intrinsic awareness itself, prior to or upstream of
consciousness. Adventitious obscurations temporarily veil and, like clouds,
obscure this pristine, sky-like, luminous fundamental nature or mind essence,
also known as tathagatagarbha, buddha-nature.
All conventional practices along the gradual path to liberation and enlightenment aim to uncover this innate wisdom by removing and dissolving the obscurations, revealing what has always been present. This is the relation between how things appear to be and how things actually are: in short, the two levels of truth, absolute and relative or conventional truth. According to these two truths, there are different levels of practice. The subtle and profound Vajrayana view emphasizes correctly recognizing the ultimate view, the wisdom inherent within oneself; this is the renowned vajra-shortcut elucidated in the Dzogchen tantras. The approach of the various sutra vehicles depends on and utilizes, purification of dualistic consciousness, until the mind is eventually purified and freed of obscurations and defilements. , The tantric approach depends upon, and from the outset utilizes, wisdom, nondual awareness, rather than mere mind. This is a crucial difference.
The sublime view of Dzogpa Chenpo, the ultimate vehicle, is that everything is pure and perfect from the outset. This is the absolute truth, the supreme outlook or view of Buddhas, which implies that there is nothing that need be done or accomplished. Based on such recognition of how things actually are, the meditation of Dzogchen is nonmeditation, resting in the evenness of being, rather than doing any particular thing, beyond hope and fear, adopting and rejecting. The action or behaviour of Dzogchen ensues from such transcendence, and is totally spontaneous, aimless, and appropriate to whatever conditions arise. The fruition of Dzogchen is the innate Great Perfection itself, inseparable from the very starting point of this swift and efficacious path: rigpa itself, one's own true nature.
The famous enlightened vagabond, the nineteenth century Dzogchen master Patrul Rinpoche, sang, "Beyond both action and inaction, the supreme Dharma is accomplished. So simply preserve the natural state and rest your weary mind." His compassionate, humble lifestyle and profound writings are still widely studied today, inspiring practitioners of all the sects and lineages of Tibet.
Padampa Sangye said, "Everything is found within the natural state, so do not seek elsewhere." Buddhahood is the wisdom within us all, it is not elsewhere. It is actually our fundamental nature, the primordial state, our inherent freedom and unfabricated beingness.
That is why it is called the natural state, innate buddha-nature, and said to be possessed by all beings. This is the raison d'etre of Dzogpa Chenpo, the natural Great Perfection. There is nothing beyond or superior to this. Realize it, as it is even right now, and everything is included. All wishes and aspirations are fulfilled in this natural state of innate wakefulness, our own innate great perfection, Dzogchen. It belongs to each and every one of us.
Different purposes or approaches give it different names, depending on whether it is being seen as the view, the goal, the practice path, the fundamental ground, or otherwise. This single ineffable essence is variously known as tathagatagarbha, sugata-garbha, buddha-nature, rigpa, empty and cognizant self-existing wakefulness, dharmakaya, Prajnaparamita, transcendental wisdom, shunyata or emptiness, clear light, buddha-mind, and so on. Rigpa, whether called intrinsic awareness, nondual presence, selfexisting inherent wisdom, or innate wakefulness, is like one's own individual share of the transpersonal ultimate body of truth, the dharmakaya of all the Buddhas. There is nothing superior to this.
Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche said, "The enlightened essence (buddha-nature) is present within the heart-mind of every sentient being. Dzogchen directly introduces and reveals how this actually is, unbarring the natural state. The pith-instructions show how it can be nakedly recognized within one's own experience. They note the great need for recognizing it and the tremendous benefit of doing so, clearly showing how, at that very moment, the Buddha, the awakened state, need not be sought for elsewhere, but is present within oneself, and that you become enlightened through experiencing what was always present within you. This is the effect of nyongtri, instruction through personal experience."
As Asanga and Maitreya said, the nature of mind is luminous. It is perfectly empty, open, and aware, unfettered by conditions or conditioning. The mind, or dualistic consciousness, is a mere impermanent concatenation of causes and conditions, totally bound up in conditioning. The difference between mind and its nature, the difference between awareness or mind-essence, and conceptual thinking or namtok, is like the difference between the sky or space itself, and the ephemeral weather which occurs within it. In the Prajnaparamita Sutra Buddha says, "True mind is not the dualistic mind. The nature of mind is actually the inseparability of awareness and emptiness."
Longchenpa says that mind is duality, that rigpa, nondual awareness, is transcendental wisdom. The fundamental nature of mind is sheer lucency, free and unfettered by concepts such as subject and object; a profound luminosity free from partiality and fixation, a free-flowing compassionate expression of indefinable, limitless emptiness, unobscured by thinking. Thought is bondage; the immeasurable openness of empty awareness is freedom. Compassion for those bound within their own illusory constructs, mindforged manacles, and self-imposed limitations, spontaneously, unobstructedly, and inexhaustibly springs forth.
Therefore, with the essential pith-instructions of a qualified Dzogchen master, crush the eggshell of the mind and unfold your wings in the open sky. Destroy the hut of duality and inhabit the expansive mansion of rigpa. There are no other enemies or obstacles to overcome and vanquish. Ignorance, dualistic thinking, is the great demon obstructing your path. Slay it right now and be free.