The View of Madhyamaka

Within Mahayana, both in Buddhism and in Bon, we find two different systems of philosophy. The first is Madhyamaka, called Umapa (dbu-ma-pa) in Tibetan, meaning the middle way school. The second is Yogachara or Chittamatra, Semtsampa (sems-tsam-pa) in Tibetan, meaning the mind-only school. Although not as well known, the Bonpo tradition also possesses its Prajnaparamita Sutras, and the philosophical view and method expounded in these Sutras is known as Madhyamaka. According to Tibetans...

The Four Portals and the Treasury

The Four Portals of Bon and the Treasury, which is the Fifth (bon sgo bzhi mdzod lnga), represent an ancient, system for the classification of the Bonpo teachings into four groups known as the Four Portals (sgo bzhi). This system appears to be independent of the classification of the teachings into the Nine Ways and is probably earlier. These groups or classes of teachings are as follows 1. The Bon of the White Waters containing the Fierce Mantras (chab dkar drag-po sngags kyi bon) this...

View

Dzogchen is an especially valuable teaching for this time in the West. It goes directly to the essence of the matter. All of us as sentient beings (sems-can) possess mind (sems). So this teaching about mind and its nature is very useful to us in practical terms and not just theoretically. The benefit is that Dzogchen can bring us peace of mind and happiness in our lives. In the practice of Dzogchen, there are no complicated visualizations, no difficult yoga positions, no monotonous chanting of...

Mahamudra and Dzogchen

Mahamudra and Dzogchen, in terms of their respective definitions of the Base, the Path and the Fruit, are not the same. Mahamudra belongs to the Tantra system indeed, it represents the culmination of the Tantric process of transformation where the practitioner becomes totally identified with the meditation deity or Yidam. That is the meaning of Mahamudra in the Tantra system, total (maha, chen-po) identification (mudra, phyag-rgya). Moreover, Tantra speaks of Detong Yeshe, the unification of...

Notes to Chapter Three Four Essential Points for Understanding Dzogchen

The Nam-mkha' 'phrul mdzod, The Magical Treasury of the Sky,attributed to Dranpa Namkha (eighth century), a contemporary of Guru Padmasambhava, belongs to one of the four principal cycles of Dzogchen teachings in Bon, the Ye-khri mtha'-sel, rediscovered by Lungton Lhanyen (Lung-stong lha-gnyan) in the eleventh century. 2. The Two Truths (bden-pa gnyis), the Relative Truth (kun rdzob) and the Absolute Truth (don-dam), refer to the understanding of reality according to the Sutra system and, in...

Recognizing the Nature of Mind

We have been continuously searching for the mind. But if we try to do or correct anything while we are focusing, agitation will disturb us and thoughts will come more and more. But check to see what is the condition of the mind, where is it and what does it do. Is it material or not Material things have size, shape, and color. Does the mind have these qualities Seek to find the mind. However, success in this searching for the mind will depend on the skill and capacity of the practitioner. If we...

Four Essential Points for Understanding Dzogchen

Transcribed and edited by John Myrdhin Reynolds. The short text we have before us here is from the Nam-mkha' 'pbrul mdzod collection. 1 Here there are four essential points for understanding the nature of Dzogchen. First, Dzogchen does not contradict the Two Truths. Second, in Dzogchen there is no grasping at the view that a self exists. Third, the Dzogchenpa's conduct is not just going around doing whatever one wants at the moment. And fourth, there is no special apprehension of anything. 2 As...

The Dzogchen View

From the standpoint of Dzogchen, this creating of a Gyulu through the unification of subtle prana and mind (the Tantric method) and the attaining of rebirth as a Deva in the Akanistha heaven (the Sutra method) do not represent real Buddhahood. Nor does an Arhat, the state realized through the Hinayana method, represent a real Buddha. Once the Arhat has attained this state of having cut off all his kleshas, or defilements, at their roots, he need no longer be reborn as a human being....

Meditation

Once we have realized the Dzogchen view, then the next question is how to practice. We need to practice because this is how we can develop the view, make it more concrete, and remove all doubts. In any session of practice, we begin with Guru Yoga we have explained how to do Guru Yoga in some detail elsewhere. Then we dissolve the visualization and all thoughts created by the Guru Yoga practice. 8 Even this discursive thought, the Guru Yoga visualization, cannot stand on its own and it...

The Inner Rushans

Then we visualize ourselves successively as the seven Bud-dhas, that is, the six Dulshen, plus Shenlha Odkar. The latter, Shenlha Odkar (gShen-lha 'od-dkar), is the Sambhogakaya aspect of the Buddha. He is a radiant white in color and is attired in all the costly jewels and silks worn by a great prince, thus signifying the richness and inexhaustible abundance of the Sambhogakaya. The six Dulshen ('dul gshen drug) are the six Nirmanakaya Buddhas projected into the six realms of rebirth in order...

The Causal Ways of

It is true that the Bonpo tradition does preserve many texts of archaic rituals, totally un-Indian in character, which maintain traditions and myths from the times before Indian Buddhism came to Tibet. These old rituals invoke and placate the gods of the mountains (yul-lha) and the spirits of wild nature (gzhi-bdag) in a manner that we might term shamanic. In the older classification of Bonpo texts, such shamanic practices were known as Chab-nag, which in contemporary Tibetan would mean black...

Hidden Treasure Texts

These Nine Ways or Nine Successive Vehicles to Enlightenment are delineated according to three different systems of hidden treasure texts (gter-ma) that were said to have been concealed during the earlier persecutions of Bon and rediscovered in later centuries. These hidden treasure systems are designated according to the locations where the concealed texts were rediscovered 1. The System of the Southern Treasures (lho gter lugs) these were the treasure texts rediscovered at Drigtsam Thakar...

Bon and Buddhism in Tibet

Bon is the name of the pre-Buddhist religious culture of Tibet and often in Western books in the past it has been equated with a kind of primitive North Asian shamanism. Indeed, shamanism as a traditional practice still exists among Tibetans, both in Tibet itself and in adjacent regions such as Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Yunnan. Such practitioners were known as Pawo (dpa'-bo) or Lhapa (lha-pa) in Tibetan. But this is not Bon. In terms of religious affiliation, these shaman practitioners are...

Notes to Chapter Seven The Practice of Dzogchen

Tazik (stag-gzig) was the name in Tibetan for Ancient Central Asia, the region now known as Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and northern Afghanistan. Uddiyana (o-rgyan) may also be identified with eastern Afghanistan. It was not simply the tiny Swat valley in modern day Pakistan. See Upasak, History of Buddhism in Afghanistan (1990). 2. Lung-ston (var. Lung-bon) Lha-gnyan, b. 1088, is said to have met in person the sage Tsewang Rigdzin (Tshe-dbang reg-'dzin), who was disguised as a Hindu sadhu. Tsewang...

The Four Lamps

In the practice of Thodgal, we speak of four lights or Four Lamps (sgron-ma bzhi), or sometimes of Six Lamps (sgron-ma drug). These Four Lamps are as follows 1. The lamp of the self-originated wisdom (shes-rab rang-byung gi sgron-ma) 2. The lamp of the completely pure dimension of space (dbyings rnam-dag gi sgron-ma) 3. The lamp of the (globe-like eye of) water that lassos everything at a distance (rgyang zhags chu'i sgron-ma), and 4. The lamp of the empty spheres of light (thig-le stong-pa'i...

Introduction to the Practice of Dzogchen

Compiled and edited by John Myrdhin Reynolds. It is necessary for us to know what Dzogchen is, how to practice it, and the result of this practice. Even in Tibet it was not easy to get these teachings. They have been kept very secret since the eighth century. Even before that there were twenty-four masters of Dzogchen in the Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud lineage, all of whom realized .Jalu ('ja'-lus), or the Rainbow Body. However, each of them only gave the transmission to a single disciple. 1...

The Outer Rushans

Now, having understood something about the inter-relationship of karmic causes and consciousness, we can see the purpose of preparation in Dzogchen. Here there are the preliminary practices known as Khorde Rushan Chewa ('khor 'das ru-shan dbye-ba), which means distinguishing between Samsara and Nirvana. We first have to know what is good about Nirvana and what is bad about Samsara. It is always imperative to know clearly the purpose of our practice, otherwise we may not persist in it. Nirvana...

The Biography ofLopon Tenzin Namdak

The Venerable Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak Rinpoche 1 is an accomplished scholar and practitioner of the Bon tradition, in particular of Dzogchen and the Ma Gyud or Mother Tantra, and the foremost and most learned expert on Bon outside Tibet. Since the 1960s he has also been in the forefront of reviving Bonpo religious culture among the Tibetans living in exile from their homeland in India and Nepal, where he has established Bonpo communities and monastic educational institutions. Lopon...

Tonpa Shenrab and Olmo Lungring

Thus Bonpo Lamas look to a prehistoric Buddha from Tazik (stag-gzig), in Central Asia, as the source of their tradition. The title Tonpa (ston-pa) means teacher in the sense of the original founder of a spiritual tradition, who is the source of this revelation. According to Bonpo belief, Tonpa Shenrab was not merely a priest or a shaman, but a fully enlightened Buddha (sangs-rgyas). Shenrab was a Nirmanakaya manifestation of Buddhahood, appearing in time and history, whereas his Sambhogakaya...

Thodgal Visions

The reason why we do Thodgal practice is in order to realize that the vision of ordinary normal life is equally illusory and insubstantial. We think that our impure karmic vision, that is, the world as we see it as human beings, is solid and real and concrete. But this vision is all a projection arising from causes. Because we all have the cause for human karmic vision, we humans see the world in more or less the same way. But we must understand the illusory nature of our karmic vision. The...

Karmic Causes and Consciousness

Karmic causes are discussed very much in the texts of both Buddhism and Bon. But how do we accumulate them Virtuous actions such as generosity, not harming others, and so on, create positive karmic causes and in the future they bring about happy results. But it is not enough just to talk about doing good deeds and avoiding bad deeds. In our present life here and now, we are experiencing the fruits of what we have done in past lives. These past causes are not changed or modified by our actions...

Notes to Chapter Nine Introduction to Thekchod and Thodgal

All of the individual's tensions, rigidities and obscurations are compared to a bundle of sticks khregs-pa tied together with a cord or rope. When one cuts chod this cord, all of the sticks immediately fall to the ground. Therefore, the term Thekchod means the releasing of all one's tensions and rigidities in a totally relaxed state lhod-pa chen-po . The latter term is also a synonym for Dzogchen. 2. Tsewang Rigdzin revealed these Dzogchen teachings, which he had received from his father...

Development of Visions

Without Thekchod, we cannot practice Thodgal. Visions may come, but they will not be Thodgal visions. First we must practice Thekchod and make our remaining in the Natural State stable, then we can go on to practice Thodgal. In this way our visions will be stable. In Thodgal both pure and impure visions can come, but gradually the visions will become clearer and clearer, and then more and more integrated with our normal vision. In the end this integrated vision will dissolve into the Natural...

Notes to Chapter Five The Views of Tantra Mahamudra and Dzogchen

This is more or less true of all the Sarmapa schools. But nowadays, and even for some preceding centuries, the Geshes, or Lama scholars, belonging to the Menri tradition of Bon, studied and were familiar with the expositions of the Dharma by the great Tsongkhapa and certain other Gelugpa scholars, whereas they were not so likely to be familiar with Nyingmapa, Sakyapa, and Kagyudpa treatises. For example, only later while in India during exile from his homeland in Tibet, did the Lopon come to...

Notes to the Appendix

The personal name Tenzin Namdak means in Tibetan the completely pure rnam-dag holder of the teachings bstan 'dzin . In general, the title Lopon slob-dpon, Skt. acharya designates the head teacher or professor in a monastic institution. A Lopon is principally in charge of educating the new monks both in terms of the Dharma and the Vinaya, whereas the Abbot or Khenpo mkhan-po, Skt. upadhyaya is, in general, the chief religious administrator of the monastery and the senior monk who administers the...

Notes to the Introduction to

In the Bonpo tradition, Maitreya, the future Buddha, is known as Tonpa Thangma Medron sTon-pa thang-ma me-sgron . 2. On the Bonpo understanding of the Trikaya, or Three Bodies of the Buddha, see Chapters One and Two in Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-zhung 2005 . 3. However, this similarity of the Bonpo texts to many Indian Buddhist texts and teachings was explained as simple plagiarism in medieval Tibetan histories written by Buddhist monk scholars. Shenchen Luga was considered the...

The View of Tantra

Nowadays there are two principal philosophical traditions in Tibet. The first is found among the Sarmapas or Newer Schools, which employ the Prasangika-Madhyamaka view not only in explaining the real meaning of the Sutras but also in their interpretations of the Tantras as well. The second is found among the two Old Schools, Nyingmapa and Bonpo, which emphasize the Dzogchen view in explaining the Higher Tantras. 1 However, in both cases the fundamental principle upon which Tantra rests is...

Notes to Chapter Six The View of Dzogchen

On the Dharmakaya and the masters in the lineage for the Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud, see Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-zhung 2005 , Chapters Two through Nine. 2. Geshe dge-bshes, Skt. kalyanamitra , literally good spiritual friend, is the term used not only in Bon but also in the Sakyapa and Gelugpa schools, for an individual who has completed the course of Sutra studies 3. The two principal systems of Bonpo Termas, or hidden treasure texts discovered from the tenth century onwards are...

The Traditions of Bonpo Dzogchen

In general, within the Bon tradition, a number of different lines of transmission for the Dzogchen teachings exist, three of which are collectively known as A rdzogs snyan gsum. The first two of them represent Terma traditions based on rediscovered treasure texts, whereas the third is an oral tradition snyan brgyud based on a continuous transmission through an uninterrupted line of realized masters. These transmissions of Dzogchen are as follows The first cycle here of Dzogchen teachings is...

Shenchen Luga and the Revival of

In the year 1017, Shenchen Luga gShen-chen klu-dga' came from eastern Tibet and discovered two large wooden boxes containing many Bonpo texts in the Tibetan language, which had been buried at Drigtsam Thakar 'brig-mtsham mtha' dkar in Tsang Province, near the ancestral seat of the Shen clan. 21 It was principally this discovery that led to the revival of Bon in central Tibet in the eleventh century, a revival similar in character to the revival of Buddhism among the Nyingmapas at the same time....

Notes to Chapter One Introduction to the Practice of Dzogchen

1. gCig brgyud, transmission to a single disciple only. On the Twenty-four Masters, all of whom become Jalupas 'ja'-lus-pa who realized the Rainbow Body 'ja'-lus , see Chapter Four in Reynolds, The Oral Transmission from Zhang-zhung 2005 . Unlike the other traditions of Bonpo Dzogchen, the Zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud was never a Terma gter-ma , or hidden treasure text, concealed during the eighth century persecution of Bon and rediscovered centuries later. For the traditional account of why this...

Notes to Chapter Two The Attaining of Buddhahood according to Sutra Tantra and Dzogchen

According to Lopon Tenzin Namdak, the more immediate aim of the practice of the Higher Tantras is creation, by way of the practices of the generation process bskyed-rim and the perfection process rdzogs-rim , of a Gyulu, or illusory body sgyu-lus comprised of mind sems and prana or subtle psychic energy rlung . Such a subtle psychic body has the form of one's Yidam yi-dam lha , or personal meditation deity, whether this form be peaceful or wrathful, male or female. This Yidam image...

The Mahayana View

According to the traditional cosmology found both in Bon and in Buddhism, there are three principal levels of existence in the universe 1 The Kamadhatu, or Desire World, where all sentient beings, including the gods or Devas, are dominated by their sense desires kama , 2 the Rupadhatu, or Form World, the abode of the gods who have exceedingly subtle bodies rupa and sense organs of light, and who are no longer dominated by gross sense desires kama , and 3 the Arupadhatu, or Formless World, where...

Thekchod and Thodgal

Most of the extant Bonpo texts dealing with Dzogchen are Upadesha. In the Upadesha or Manngagide man-ngag gi sde , the emphasis is put on Thekchod and Thodgal. Thekchod means entering into and remaining in the Natural State. This is mainly concerned with the state of primordial purity ka-dag , but Thodgal is the other half of Upadesha practice and refers to spontaneous self-perfected manifestation lhun-grub . Here the practitioner uses posture, breathing and gazing. But nevertheless, as the...

The View of Chittamatra

The basis of the Chittamatra system of the Yogachara school is compassion and Bodhichitta. Chittamatra also recognizes a basic Kunzhi kun-gzhi or Alaya, as well as a self-awareness, or Svasamvedana rang-rig , that is inherent in each moment of consciousness. Chittamatra uses these concepts such as Rang-rig and Kunzhi but, according to Madhyamaka, Shunyata is the highest view. However, the Chittamatra position does not recognize the Shunyata known to and defined by the Madhyamaka school the...

The Three Series of Dzogchen Teachings

In the three series of Dzogchen teachings rdzogs-chen sde gsum , that is, the Semde sems-sde , the Longde klong-sde , and the Manngagide man-ngag gi sde or Upadesha, the Natural State is precisely the same because it exists as the unification and inseparability dbyer-med of emptiness and awareness. However, the view in each of these three series of teachings is different because emphasis is placed on the one side or on the other. With such an emphasis, the process of realization takes longer...

Chittamatra and Dzogchen

The followers of Chittamatra assert that everything depends on mind sems and that there is nothing beyond mind. According to the Chittamatra view, everything that exists is connected with mind. It is mind-created that is their real view. According to them, if we see a blue color, the eye consciousness the subject side and the blue color the object side are inseparable, that is, they both arise from the same single karmic cause. Therefore, anything that is perceived is connected with mind,...

The Tantra View

In the Tantra system, we find a different method described where it is not necessary to be reborn first in the Akanistha heaven in order to obtain a subtle body of light. This method is known as Mayadeha, the Illusion Body or, in Tibetan, Gyulu sgyu-lus . In this case, during our lifetime here on earth, we do the practice of Dzogrim rdzogs-rim , which is the second phase of Tantric transformation, and we create in our heart center a very refined Illusion Body by way of a union of subtle prana...