- This article refers to the primordial state as considered in Tibetan Buddhism and Bon. For the monastery of the same name, please see Dzogchen (monastery)
Dzogchen is a state. The Dzogchen state is said to be the natural, primordial state of every sentient being, including every human being. When an individual is able to maintain this specific state continually, he or she no longer experiences dukkha, i.e., feelings of discontent, tension, and anxiety in everday life. (Compare with Nirvana. For more details see Nirvana and Dzogchen.)
Wylie: rdzogs chen
- “Dzogchen” has been translated variously as Great Perfection, Great Completeness, Total Completeness, Supercompleteness. The term is sometimes held to be a Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit term maha sandhi and its variants, and, in turn, to render the Sanskrit term ati yoga in Tibetan texts, though the two terms are probably not synonymous.
- The homonymous term “Dzogchen” designates a meditation practice and body of teachings aimed at helping an individual to recognize the Dzogchen state, to become sure about it, and to develop the capacity to maintain the state continually.
The Dzogchen teachings are considered by some to be the pinnacle of the nine yana (Tibetan theg pa, vehicle, means of conveyance ) systems of the Nyingma (Tib. rnying ma) school of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan Bön (Tib. bon) tradition. They are sometimes described as a set of “inner” or “heart” (Tib. snying thig) teachings. Practicing Tibetan Buddhists consider that the state pointed to by these teachings is indescribable, and can only be discovered through its transmission by an authentic Vajra Master.
Most teachers perform the transmission with student or, usually, students physically present. It is also possible to receive transmission from a teacher remotely (see Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche).
The first master of the Dzogchen lineage in our world was Garab Dorje (Tib. dga’ rab rdo rje, Sanskrit *prahevajra) from Uddiyana (Tib. o rgyan). Padmasambhava (Tib. padma ‘byung gnas, gu ru rin po che) is the source of Dzogchen teachings in Tibet (Tib. bod), which are the heart of the Nyingma (Tib. rnying ma) tradition, with which they are primarily associated. Dzogchen has also been practiced in the Kagyu (Tib. bka’ brgyud) lineage, beginning with Milarepa (Tib. mi la ras pa) and most notably by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (Tib. rang byung rdo rje). The Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth (present) Dalai Lamas (Tib. ta la’i bla ma) are also noted Dzogchen masters, although their adoption of the practice of Dzogchen has been a source of controversy among more conservative members of the Geluk (Tib. dge lugs) tradition.
In the Bön religion, three separate Dzogchen traditions are attested and continue to be practiced: A-tri (Tib. a khrid), Dzogchen (Tib. rdzogs chen, here referring narrowly to the specific lineage within the Bön tradition), and Shang Shung Nyen Gyu (Tib. zhang zhung snyan rgyud). All are traced back to the mythical founder of Bön, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche (Tib. ston pa gshen rab mi bo che).
The essence of the Dzogchen teaching is the direct transmission of knowledge from master to disciple. Garab Dorje epitomized the Dzogchen teaching in three principles, known as the Three Statements (or Testaments) of Garab Dorje:
- Direct introduction to one’s own nature (Tib. ngo rang thog tu sprod pa)
- Not remaining in doubt concerning this unique state (Tib. thag gcig thog tu bcad pa)
- Continuing to remain in this state (Tib. gdeng grol thog tu bca’ pa)
In accordance with these three statements, Garab Dorje’s direct disciple Manjushrimitra (Tib. ‘jam dpal bshes gnyen) classified all the Dzogchen teachings transmitted by his master into three series:
- Semde (Tib. sems sde), the series of Mind, that focuses on the introduction to one’s own primordial mental state
- Longde (Tib. klong sde), the series of Space, that focuses on developing the capacity to gain familiarity with the state and remove doubts
- Men-ngak (Tib. man ngag sde, Sanskrit upadesha), the series of secret Oral Instructions, focusing on the practices in which one engages after gaining confidence in knowledge of the state
The Dzogchen teachings focus on three terms: View, Meditation, and Action. To see directly the absolute state of our mind is the View; the way of stabilizing that View and making it an unbroken experience is Meditation; and integrating that View into our daily life is what is meant by Action.
Dzogchen is one of several recognized approaches to Nondualism.
The Practice of Dzogchen
In Dzogchen, self-liberation is achieved by discovering or recognizing one’s own primordial mental state and remaining in that natural state of primordial awareness in which all phenomena are experienced without creating karma through reaction, attachment, or conceptual labelling.
Sogyal Rinpoche, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and other teachers provide different practical sets of instructions for the practice of Dzogchen. The central practice of Dzogchen teaching is Dzogchen contemplation. Silent and prolonged meditation is also used to allow the obscurations of the mind to dissipate like clouds dissolving to reveal the empty, luminous sky. Through meditation, it is possible to remove the conditioning of our minds and to glimpse our true nature.
According to some teachers (in particular, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu), Dzogchen is a practice rather than a doctrine or religion. It does not require the practitioner to be anywhere special; in fact, to be normally active while in a state of primordial or natural awareness is the ultimate practice of Dzogchen.
The goal of Dzogchen practice is to remain in the clear, undeluded state of the nature of the mind, unconditioned by thoughts — which is not the same thing as not having any thoughts, which is in any case impossible. At the beginning, a Dzogchen teacher introduces one directly (Tib. ngo sprod, introduce, point out) to the real nature of one’s mind, even if only for a few seconds; being a Dzogchen practitioner thus implies that one must have a qualified Dzogchen teacher, one who has mastered the nature of the mind. Historically, Dzogchen teachers have been very selective in choosing initiates, but current lineage holders in the Nyingma and Bön traditions have made Dzogchen teachings available to a wider (Western) audience.
Uses and Application for Ordinary People
Tulku Thubten Rinpoche of the Dharmata Foundation teaches that “being aware of one’s awareness” is a simple method for people to follow in practicing Dzogchen moment to moment. Consistency is the key to this method.
- Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (tr. John Shane), Dzogchen: The Self-perfected State. Snow Lion Publications, 2000.
- John Myrdhin Reynolds, The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications, 1996.
- John Myrdhin Reynolds, The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung: An Introduction to the Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings of the Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung Known as the Zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud. Vajra Publications, 2005.
- Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. 1. Wisdom Publications, 1991.
- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Random House, 2002.
- Elías Capriles, Buddhism and Dzogchen. Part 1 – Buddhism: a Dzogchen Outlook. Published on the Web: Dzogchen
Dzogchen Дзогчен Đại cứu cánh