Tibetan name
Tibetan: རྫོགས་ཆེན་
Wylie transliteration: rdzogs chen
(rdzogs pa chen po)
pronunciation in IPA: [tsɔktɕʰẽ]
official transcription (PRC): Zogqên
THDL: Dzokchen
other transcriptions: Dzogchen
Chinese name
traditional: 大究竟、
simplified: 大究竟、
Pinyin: dàjiūjìng,

According to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen or Atiyoga) is the natural, primordial state or natural condition of the mind, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition. Dzogchen, or "Great Perfection", is a central teaching of the Nyingma school also practiced by adherents of other Tibetan Buddhist sects. According to Dzogchen literature, Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment.[1]

From the perspective of Dzogchen, the ultimate nature of all sentient beings is said to be pure, all-encompassing, primordial awareness or naturally occurring timeless awareness. This intrinsic awareness has no form of its own and yet is capable of perceiving, experiencing, reflecting, or expressing all form. It does so without being affected by those forms in any ultimate, permanent way. The analogy given by Dzogchen masters is that one's nature is like a mirror which reflects with complete openness but is not affected by the reflections, or like a crystal ball that takes on the colour of the material on which it is placed without itself being changed. The knowledge that ensues from recognizing this mirror-like clarity (which does not have an intrinsic existence in itself) is what Dzogchenpas refer to as rigpa.[2] One knows that there is a primordial freedom from grasping his or her mind (sems).[3]

There is a fairly wide consensus among lamas of both the Nyingma and Sarma schools that the end state of dzogchen and mahamudra are the same.[4] The Madhyamaka teachings on emptiness are fundamental to and thoroughly compatible with Dzogchen practices.[5] Essence Mahamudra is viewed as being the same as Dzogchen, except the former doesn't include thödgal.[6]


Nomenclature and etymology

The word Dzogchen has been translated variously as Great Perfection, Great Completeness, Total Completeness, and Supercompleteness. These terms also convey the idea that our nature as intrinsic awareness has many qualities that make it perfect. These include indestructibility, incorruptible purity, non-discriminating openness, flawless clarity, profound simplicity, all-pervading presence and equality within all beings (i.e., the quality, quantity and functionality of this awareness is exactly the same in every being in the universe). It is said that the impressive personal qualities of the fully enlightened Buddha are derived from the fact that he was fully aligned with this already-existing primordial nature. Descriptions of a buddha as omniscient and omnipresent refer to their ultimate nature as this awareness. The Tibetan term dzogchen is sometimes said to be a rendering of the Sanskrit term mahāsandhi,[7] and is also used to render the Sanskrit term ati yoga (primordial yoga).[8]

A 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.

Pettit (1999: p. 4) identifies the various contextual usages and implications of the term "Dzogchen" (Wylie: rdzogs chen) that are often conflated and mentions agama, siddhanta and darśana:

"Great Perfection" variously indicates the texts (āgama, lung) and oral instructions (upadeśa, man ngag) that indicate the nature of enlightened wisdom (rdzogs chen gyi gzhung dang man ngag), the verbal conventions of those texts (rdzogs chen gyi chos skad), the yogis who meditate according to those texts and instructions (rdzogs chen gyi rnal 'byor pa), a famous monastery where the Great Perfection was practiced by monks and yogis (rdzogs chen dgon sde), and the philosophical system (siddhānta, grub mtha') or vision (darśana, lta ba) of the Great Perfection."[9]

Maha Ati

Maha Ati is a term coined by Trungpa Rinpoche[citation needed], a master of the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. He generally preferred to introduce Sanskrit rather than Tibetan terms to his students, and felt "Maha Ati" was the closest equivalent for "Dzogpa Chenpo," although he acknowledged it was an unorthodox choice. In an indication of its pedigree as a back-formation, the coinage does not follow the sandhi rules; if it did, it would properly be mahāti.

Esoteric transmission

The Dzogchen teachings are the highest of the nine yana, (Tibetan theg pa, vehicle) of the Nyingma (Wylie: rnying ma) school of Tibetan Buddhism and the Tibetan Bön (Wylie: bon) tradition. Many lamas, particularly of the Nyingma and Kagyu schools, regard them as the most profound teachings altogether.[10]

The instructions that point to the Dzogchen state are sometimes described as a set of "inner" or "heart" (Wylie: snying thig) teachings. Tibetan Buddhist ascetics consider that the state pointed to by these teachings is very difficult to describe, and can only be discovered through the esoteric transmission and pointing-out instruction by an authentic Vajra Master.[11]

Although Dzogchen cannot be separated by the Buddhist or Bön tradition, very often teachers emphasize the non religious character of Dzogchen. However, the Buddhist or Bön traditional framework is never negated. Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche says that, as our primordial nature, Dzogchen has existed since the beginning of time and is pointed to by various masters throughout the Universe.[12]


According to one tradition,[who?] the first master of the Buddhist Dzogchen lineage in our world was Garab Dorje (Wylie: dga' rab rdo rje, Sanskrit *prahevajra) from Uddiyana (Wylie:. o rgyan).

Indian originators

According to Garab Dorje, Dzogchen is said to have been passed down as listed following. Often, practitioners are said to have lived for hundreds of years, and there are inconsistencies in the lifespan dates given, making it impossible to construct a sensible timeline.

  1. Prahevajra (Tib. Garab Dorje, Wylie: dga' rab rdo rje) 184 BCE to 57 CE
  2. Mañjuśrīmitra (Tib. Jampal Shenyen, Wylie: 'jam dpal bshes gnyen) 2nd century BCE (elder contemporary of Prahevajra)
  3. Śrī Siṃha (Tib. Palgyi Senge, Wylie: dpal gyi senge) 3rd century CE (500 years before Vimalamitra)[13]
  4. Padmasambhava (Tib. Pema Jungne or Guru Rinpoche) fl. mid-8th CE
  5. Vimalamitra (Tib. Drime Shenyen, Wylie: dri med bshes gnyen) fl. late 8th CE
  6. Vairotsana (Tib. Nampar Nangdze Lotsawa, Wylie: rnam par snang mdzad lo tsa ba ) fl. late 8th CE.

In Tibet

Padmasambhava (Tib. Pema Jugne or Guru Rinpoche, Wylie: padma 'byung gnas, gu ru rin po che) is considered the source of the Buddhist Dzogchen teachings in Tibet (Tib. bod), which are the heart of the Nyingma (Wylie: rnying ma) tradition, with which they are primarily associated. Dzogchen has also been practiced in the Kagyu (Wylie: bka' brgyud) lineage, beginning with Milarepa (Wylie: mi la ras pa) and most notably by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (Wylie:. rang byung rdo rje). The Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth (present) Dalai Lamas (Wylie: 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 Gelug (Wylie: dge lugs) tradition.[14]

In the Bön religion, three separate Dzogchen traditions are attested and continue to be practiced: A-tri (Wylie: a khrid), Dzogchen (Wylie: rdzogs chen, here referring narrowly to the specific lineage within the Bön tradition), and Shang Shung Nyen Gyu (Wylie: zhang zhung snyan rgyud). All are traced back to the founder of Bön, Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche (Wylie: ston pa gshen rab mi bo che).[citation needed]


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 of Garab Dorje (Tsik Sum Né Dek):

  1. Direct introduction to one's own nature (Tib. ngo rang thog tu sprod pa)
  2. Not remaining in doubt concerning this unique state (Tib. thag gcig thog tu bcad pa)
  3. 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:

  1. Semde (Wylie: sems sde; Skt: cittavarga), the series of Mind, that focuses on the introduction to one's own primordial state;
  2. Longde (Wylie: klong sde; Skt: abhyantaravarga), the series of Space, that focuses on developing the capacity to gain familiarity with the state and remove doubts; and
  3. Menngagde (Wylie: man ngag sde, Skt: upadeshavarga), the series of secret Oral Instructions, focusing on the practices in which one engages after gaining confidence in knowledge of the state.

Tulku Urgyen explains what is meant by "gaining confidence in liberation": "The third analogy of the liberation of thoughts is described as being like a thief entering an empty house. This is called stability or perfection in training. A thief entering an empty house does not gain anything, and the house does not lose anything. All thought activity is naturally liberated without any harm or benefit whatsoever. This is the meaning of gaining confidence in liberation."[15]

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 approaches to nondualism.

This open awareness of Dzogchen, or rigpa (also comparable to the Buddha nature), is said to lie at the heart of all things and indeed of all Dzogchen practice and is nothing less than "... primordial wisdom's recognition of itself as unbounded wholeness... the incorruptible mindnature." [16] This reflexive awareness of Enlightenment is said to be inherent within all beings, but not to be attainable by thought.[17] Namkhai Norbu points out that Dzogchen "refers to the true primordial state of every individual and not to any transcendent reality."[18] In discussing the Nyingma text, the Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra (kunjed gyalpo = 'the all-creating king', synoymous with Samantabhadra Buddha[19]), Namkhai Norbu explains that Kunjed Gyalpo is in fact "beyond" the dualism inherent in the notion of an 'individual'. He writes:

The transmission of knowledge comes from the state of rigpa that has never been stained and has never been hindered. This is Adibuddha, or "primordial Buddha", Kunjed Gyalpo... The state of Kunjed Gyalpo is knowledge, and in knowledge there is not even the concept of "one and two", otherwise we have already entered into dualism. Also, the concept of "individual" presupposes dualistic vision. But Samantabhadra is beyond all this...[20]

Klein and Wangyal comment on the ultimate "one taste" and dynamic stillness of the Dzogchen state:

... cause and effect, sentient beings and Buddhas, subjects and objects, path and goal are ultimately revealed to be of one taste: movement from one to the other is no movement at all, really, but a dynamic stillness."[21]

There can be found within Dzogchen a sense of Reality as limitless wholeness, a multiplicity which is yet all of one "taste", which is a borderless wholeness. According to Lopon Tenzin Namdak, it is unconditioned and permanent, changeless, not originated from causes and conditions, blissful, and the base or support of numerous exalted qualities.[22] "It is at once base, path, and fruit".[23] "That reality, unbounded wholeness, is naturally complete." [23] Also: "...the essence and base of self-arisen wisdom is the allbase, that primordial open awareness is the base, and that recognition of this base is not separate from the primordial wisdom itself. ...that open awareness is itself authentic and its authenticity is a function of it being aware of, or recognizing itself as, the base. ...The reflexively self-aware primordial wisdom is itself open awareness (rigpa), inalienably one with unbounded wholeness."[24]

In dzogchen teachings, the buddha-nature is viewed as the basis of all worlds and phenomena, in the sense that the idea of "beings" and "worlds" only arises when one, out of ignorance, ignores the mind's essential condition, manufactures reference points, and clings to them as if they are real.[25]

Opposing views

The views of the Dzogchen school are not endorsed by all Tibetan Buddhists. In fact, Bonpo Lopon Tenzin Namdak contrasts his own view that primordial wisdom does not arise from causes with that of Tsongkhapa, who states that without consciousness, there is no understanding.[26] Some critics claim that the views of the Dzogchen school of philosophy conflict with those of Madhyamaka and to the views of other prominent Buddhist thinkers such as the logician Dharmakirti.[27] However, Longchenpa and Mipham argue that the views of the Dzogchen school are in fact in accord with the view of Madhyamaka.[28][clarification needed] Dzogchen meditative techniques are, however, consistent with Madhyamaka.[5]

Germano (1992: p. 4) conveys how Longchenpa codified the now normalized, institutionalized and orthodox view of the Nyingma Dzochenpa from its foundations of Madhyamaka, Cittamatra (Yogachara), Buddha nature, Tathagatagarbha, Tantra (specifically Mantrayana) traditions, holds that:

" can profitably interpret the overall system of [Nyingma Dzogchen] thought [as formulated by Longchenpa] as a very innovative reinterpretation of the mainstream exoteric Indian Buddhist schools of "the Middle Way" (Madhyamika) and "Mind Only" (Cittamatra) that not only revives the themes of the so-called "Buddha-nature" or "enlightened nucleus of realized-energy" (Tathaga[ta]garbha) literature in a much more sophisticated form, but also takes the tantric discourse and transforms it into a model for a new understanding of philosophical thought and literary expression totally eliminating the boundaries between exoteric philosophy (emphasizing analytical logic) and esoteric tantras (emphasizing contemplation and "aesthetic" issues)."[29]

Logic and the syllogism

Dzogchen, though a learned and literate tradition de-emphasizes and deconstructs the importance of conceptuality, scholasticism and rhetoric even though it has its own sophisticated technical language, treasury of poetic song and literary masterpieces, educational skillful means and modalities to convey its philosophical constructions and philosophical liberations. This tension is evident and to be seen in how the traditions of Buddhist Logic, Bon Logic and the syllogism are engaged in markedly different ways in the lineages of Dzogchen.

Germano (1992: p. 4) in his doctoral thesis supervised by the Geshe and Professor Emeritus, Lhundub Sopa (b. 1923) discusses the typical view of the Dzogchen tradition towards the "syllogism" and by implication Buddhist Logic:

"The tradition is especially striking in its implicit development of a model of rigorous philosophical thought that refuses to be reduced to syllogistic reasoning (though utilizing it as a secondary hermeneutical tool) or dismissed as mere "aesthetics" as it treats Buddhist Tantra as a serious philosophical innovation that must be utilized to reinterpret previous traditional scholasticism, in stark contrast to extend traditional scholastic methodologies into Tantra, and deny the revolution of "poetic thought" they may embody."[29]

Three aspects of energy

Sentient beings have their energy manifested in three aspects:

  1. "dang" (Wylie: gDangs)
  2. "rolpa" (Wylie: Rol-pa)
  3. '"tsal" (Wylie: rTsal)

Energy of an individual on the dang level is essentially infinite and formless.

In the form of rolpa, energy forms appear as though seen with "the eye of the mind". Many practices of thödgal and yangthig work on the basis of functioning of the rolpa aspect of individual's energy. It is also the original source of the sambhogakaya deities visualized in Buddhist tantric transformational practices and of manifestations of 100 peaceful and wrathful deities in bardo and Zhitro practices.

Tsal is the manifestation of the energy of the individual him or herself, as apparently an "external" world.[30] The mind of a sentient being is also tsal energy when it is "contaminated" by the karmic "winds" (Tibetan: rlung).[citation needed] Certain practices stop the karmic winds of the body and therefore allow the energy of tsal to be experienced by itself.

The interplay of these energies explain the "thoughtform" or "tulpa" (Tibetan: sprul pa) phenomenon, the logistics of the Trikaya doctrine, the yidam sadhana, bardo visions, Clear Light (Tibetan: 'od gsal), emergence and the logistics of the doctrine of Pratītyasamutpāda, they also explain the "play" (Sanskrit: lila; Tibetan: kun tu rtse) of the Five Pure Lights (Tibetan: 'od lnga) and the arising of a 'Creation' without a Creator deity or a Prime Cause that is the particular "view" (Tibetan: lta ba) and hallmark of Buddhism.

External world versus continuum

According to Dzogchen teachings, energy of an individual is essentially totally formless and free from any duality. However, karmic traces, contained in the storehouse consciousness of the individual's mindstream (Sanskrit: citta santana; Tibetan: sems rgyud) give rise to two kinds of forms:

  • forms that the individual experiences as his or her body, voice and mind and
  • forms that the individual experiences as an external environment.

It is maintained that there is nothing external or separate from the individual. What appears as a world of apparently external phenomena, is the energy of the individual him/her self. Everything that manifests in the individual's field of experience is a continuum (Sanskrit: santana; Tibetan: rgyud). This is the Great Perfection that is discovered in the Dzogchen practice.[31]

Causality and interdependent origination

In Dzogchen teachings the interdependent origination and any kind of causality is considered illusory: "(One says), 'All these (configurations of events and meanings) come about and disappear according to dependent origination.' But, like a burnt seed, since a nonexistent (result) does not come about from a nonexistent (cause), cause and effect do not exist.

"Being obsessed with entities, one's experiencing itself [Wylie: sems, Sanskrit: citta], which discriminates each cause and effect, appears as if it were cause and condition." [32]

This corresponds to the assertion in the Heart Sutra (Sanskrit: Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra), that there is no karma, no law of cause and effect. The assertion was made by bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara in a teaching for the great arhat Shariputra, given before multitude of beings, on request of Buddha Shakyamuni. After the teaching Buddha Shakyamuni greatly praised the wisdom of Avalokiteshvara's words and the beings present rejoiced.[33]


All teachings have energies that have special relationships with them. These energies are guardians of the teachings. The energies are iconographically depicted as they were perceived by yogis who had contact with them. The dharmapalas most associated with Dzogchen are Ekajati in the Nyingma and Sidpa Gyalmo in the Bön tradition. The iconographic forms were shaped by perceptions and also by the culture of those who saw the original manifestation and by the development of the tradition. However the guardians are not merely symbols. The pictures show actual beings.[34]

Well-being and health

Dzogchen teachings maintain that the quality of people's lives is best when the internal classical elements are balanced.[35] The body is healthy when the elements are balanced.[36] They see the best way to balance the elements as abiding in the natural state.[37]


Up to and including tregchöd (see below), Dzogchen meditative practices are parallel to and often identical with those of essence Mahamudra.[4]

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' (Tib. ting nge 'dzin) which is rendered in English as "The View". "The View" when stabilized or unbroken, is the nondual perception of the Dzogchenpa, or Dzogchen practitioner. That is, a continuous 'contemplation' through all activity, waking and sleeping as a lived experience. According to some Dzogchenpa (in particular, Namkhai Norbu), Dzogchen is a 'practice', rather than a 'doctrine' or 'religion', and does not require the practitioner (Sanskrit: sadhaka) 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.

Having distinguished rigpa from sems,[38] silent and prolonged meditation (Tib. sgom pa) is also used to allow the obscurations (Sanskrit: kleśa) 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 bodymind (Sanskrit: namarupa) and to glimpse and work to stabilize rigpa.

Dzogchen preliminaries

Although many lamas require their students to complete the conventional tantric ngondro before starting Dzogchen practice, there is also a series of preliminary practices unique to Dzogchen. These include the Korday Rushan exercises (Tibetan: འཁོར་འདས་རུ་ཤནWylie: 'khor 'das ru shan) "differentiating saṃsāra and nirvāṇa,"[39] which are described in such texts as the Yeshe Lama (Tib. ཡེ་ཤེས་བླ་མ་, Wyl. ye shes bla ma). Rushan involves "going to a solitary spot and acting out whatever comes to your mind."[40] The Dzogchen preliminaries also include a series of exercises known as Semdzin (sems dzin).[41] Semdzin literally means "to hold the mind" or "to fix mind."[42] Semdzins are found in all three series of Dzogchen (Semde, Longde and Mennagde), but the twenty-one semdzins found in the latter are common; Longchenpa divides them into three series of seven.[43] According to Longchenpa as reported by Reynolds, "the first group enables the practitioner to find him- or herself in a calm state, and thus the exercises are similar to the practice of Shamatha . . the exercises in the second group enable the practitioner to discover the relationship between body and mind. And those in the third group enable one to discover the nature of one's own condition."[44] Exercises in the first category include "fixating on a white Tibetan letter A on the tip of one's nose. Linking the letter with one's breathing, it goes out into space with each exhalation and returns to the tip of the nose with each inhalation. This fixation inhibits the arising of extraneous thoughts . . . however, the second exercise in the same category involves the sounding of the syllable PHAT! which instantly shatters one's thoughts and attachments. Symbolically, the two parts of the syllable indicate the two aspects of enlightenment, that is, PHA signifies Means (thabs) and TA signifies Wisdom (shes rab)."[45]

Tregchöd and thödgal

Once the state of non-dual contemplation has been arrived at, one has to continue in it. This continuation has two levels of practice: tregchöd and thödgal (also sometimes spelled thogal). These are main practices presented in the Menngagde series (Oral Instruction Series) of the dzogchen teachings.[34]

In both the Bön and Buddhist Dzogchen traditions, sky gazing is considered to be an important part of tregchöd.[46]

Thödgal represents more a fruition than a practice itself. There are methods prepared in the event of a psychotic break to bring the practitioner back to sanity.[47]

In contrast to other kinds of tantric practices, there is no intentional visualization; rather, imagery appears spontaneously using secondary conditions such as darkness or light. Eventually a practitioner has experiences which are viewed as knowing the subtle energies of one's being. These have the qualities of earth, water, fire, air and space (see Classical element). Throughout the retreat, a practitioner is believed to be approaching an experience which is entirely unconditioned.[48]

Thödgal relies on esoteric anatomy including the avadhuti (also known as the center channel or sushumna in Hindu parlance) and heart chakra. Along with the fact that Dzogchen is based on a class of literature called the tantras, this indicates why Dzogchen is considered a tantric system as opposed to sutra systems such as Zen. This is not to say that Dzogchen is a part of general Vajrayana. Vajrayana is a path of transformation. Dzogchen, an independent vehicle in its own right, is a path of self-liberation.[49]

Rigpa and Rainbow Body

Rigpa has three wisdoms, two of which are kadag and lhun grub. Kadag (primordial purity) is the Dzogchen view of emptiness. Lhun grub (natural formation) is the Dzogchen view of dependent origination. Throughout Mahayana, emptiness and dependent origination are two sides of the same coin. Kadag deals with tregchöd. The lhun grub aspect has to do with esoteric practices, such as (but not limited to) Thödgal, that self-liberate the dependently originated human body into the Sambhogakāya (rainbow body phenomenon).[50] The symbol of Dzogchen is a Tibetan A wrapped in a thigle (see picture to the right). The A represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub. The third wisdom, thugs rje (compassion), is the inseparability of the previous two wisdoms.

In Dzogchen, a fundamental point of practice is to distinguish rigpa from sems (mind). The distinguishing of rigpa and sems from each other is emphasized by Jigme Lingpa and goes back to the seventeen tantras.[51]

Tibetan letter "A" inside a thigle. The A represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub.

The ultimate fruition of the thodgal practices is a body of pure light, called a rainbow body (Wylie 'ja' lus, pronounced Jalü.)[52] If the four visions of thogal are not completed before death, then at death, from the point of view of an external observer, the following happens: the corpse does not start to decompose, but starts to shrink until it disappears. Usually fingernails, toenails and hair are left behind[53] (see e.g. Togden Urgyen Tendzin, Ayu Khandro, Changchub Dorje.) The attainment of the rainbow body is typically accompanied by the appearance of lights and rainbows.[52]

Some exceptional practitioners such as Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra are held to have realized a higher type of rainbow body without dying. Having completed the four visions before death, the individual focuses on the lights that surround the fingers. His or her physical body self-liberates into a nonmaterial body of light (a Sambhogakāya) with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one's compassion.[54]

Dzogchenpa samaya: a practiceless practice of abiding or contemplation

Capriles (2003: p. 180) openly quotes Dzogchenpa Namkhai Norbu in the subtle but very important distinction of the activity of meditation from the effortless abiding of Dzogchen contemplation:

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu relates that once someone asked the famous Dzogchen Master, Yungtön Dorje Pel, what his practice consisted of, and he replied with the negative “mepa” or “there isn’t.” Then his startled questioner asked again, “Then you don’t meditate?,” to which the Master replied, “And when am I ever distracted?” This is the essence of samaya in Dzogchen teaching: not to meditate or to practice something with the mind and yet never to be distracted, for one remains uninterruptedly in the self-perfection of the single state of rigpa or Truth.[55]

In this denotation, dzogchen is a verb, and denotes the perfect process in the grammatical sense or alternately an infinitive verb, wherein the great continuum of 'one taste' (Wylie: ro gcig) or as Capriles renders it "single state" is the effortless 'contemplating' or abiding in the view of non-distraction from rigpa.


'Apperception'[56] (Sanskrit: svasaṃvedana/svasaṃvitti; Wylie: rang rig)[57] is understood variously in different yana, buddhist schools, and practice lineages. These cosmetic differences are resolved in the practice of 'meditative trance' (Wylie: 'jog pa).[58] For it is in the direct experience and associated literatures of the deep contemplative traditions of Himalayan Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism, Nepalese Buddhism, Bhutanese Buddhism, etc.) and Bon, particularly Dzogchen and Mahamudra, that apperception is key, e.g. Dark retreat (Tibetan: mun mtshams[59]).

In the language of Zhangzhung, 'rang rig' (Wylie) is 'nges de shin'[60] where 'shin' equates to 'shes pa'. The Zhangzhung lexical item 'shin' is found in many compounds (Martin, 2004: p. 158[61]) where it means: 'to know' and 'knowledge' to both nominal and verbal/process oriented lexical items.

Pettit (1999: p. 129) holds that 'apperception' (Wylie: rang rig) is key to Mipham's (1846–1912) system of epistemology and hermeneutics discussed in the DRG[62] and in Mipham's Commentary to the Ninth Chapter of the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra.[56]

Padmasambhava, Karma Lingpa, Gyurme Dorje, Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa (2005: p. 480) define 'intrinsic awareness' which is a rendering of the Tibetan Wylie 'rang-rig' and the Sanskrit 'svasaṃvitti' or 'svasaṃvedana' according to the precedent established in Indian Buddhist epistemology and in the writings of the lauded logicians Dignāga and Dharmakīrti that this technical:

...term svasaṃvedana refers to the apperceptive or reflexive faculty of consciousness, for which reason it is sometimes rendered as 'reflexive awareness' or 'apperceptive awareness'. However, in the view of the Great Perfection (rdzog-pa chen-po) and in the context of the present work [The Tibetan Book of the Dead], the same term refers to the fundamental innate mind in its natural state of spontaneity and purity, beyond the alternating states of motion and rest and the subject-object dichotomy. It is therefore rendered here as 'intrinsic awareness'. As such, intrinsic awareness gives the meditator access to pristine cognition [ye-shes; jñāna] or the buddha-mind [thugs, citta] itself, and it stands in direct contrast to fundamental ignorance ([ma-rig-pa,] avidyā), which is the primary cause of rebirth in cyclic existence (['khor-ba,] samsara). The direct introduction to intrinsic awareness is a distinctive teaching within the Nyingma school.... This practice is a central component of the Esoteric Instruction Class ([man-ngag-gi sde,] upadeśa[varga]) of Atiyoga, where it is known as Cutting Through Resistance (Khregs-chod).[63]

Williams, et al. (2000, 2002: p. 264) conveys an epistemological commonality held by Dharmakirti and Śāntarakṣita which holds that all is sentient consciousness:

There is also an epistemological argument found in thinkers like Dharmakirti and Santaraksita. How does consciousness know ‘external’ physical objects, when consciousness itself is of a completely different order from matter? Consciousness has a reflexive quality of knowing (svasamvedana), while matter has no such reflexivity. Clearly only things of the same basic order of reality can contact each other. Thus either all must be matter, or all must be consciousness. But if all were matter then there would be no experience at all. Since there patently is experience, all must be consciousness.[64]


Dzogchen instructions are found in some Mahayoga texts, as it may simply have been the associated completion stage practice. However, the majority of the Dzogchen corpus comprises the "18" Semde tantra texts, the Longde tantras, and the Menngagde termas.

Samten Migdrön (Tib. bsam gtan mig sgron) is a Tibetan text of historical importance for the historical relationship of Dzogchen and Zen as well identifying the view of its author, Nubchen Sangye Yeshe.

Seventeen Tantras of Dzogchen Upadesha-varga.

These Seventeen Tantra amongst other Dzogchen texts are included in the various divergences and holdings of the numerous extant Nyingma Gyubum editions.[citation needed]

Reality vs dreams

Mipham Rinpoche has said:

The real sky is (knowing) that samsara and nirvana are merely an illusory display.[65]

According to contemporary teacher Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, in Dzogchen the perceived reality is considered to be unreal. All appearances perceived during the whole life of an individual through all senses, including sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations in their totality are like a big dream. It is claimed that on careful examination the dream of life and regular nightly dreams are not very different, and that in their essential nature there is no difference between them.

The non-essential difference between our dreaming state and our ordinary waking experience is that the latter is more concrete and linked with our attachment; the dreaming is slightly detached.

Also according to this teaching, there is a correspondence between the states of sleep and dream and our experiences when we die. After experiences in an intermediate state (bardo) an individual comes out of it, a new karmic illusion is created and another existence begins. This is how transmigration happens.

One aim of dream practice is to realize during a dream that one is dreaming. One can then dream with lucidity and do all sorts of things, such as go to different places, talk to people, fly and so forth. It is also possible to do different yogic practices while dreaming (usually such yogic practices one does in waking state). In this way the yogi can have a very strong experience and with this comes understanding of the dream-like nature of daily life. This is very relevant to diminishing attachments, because they are based on strong beliefs that life's perceptions and objects are real and, as a consequence, important. If one really understands what Buddha Shakyamuni meant when he said that everything is unreal or of the nature of shunyata, then one can diminish attachments and tensions.[citation needed]

The teacher gives advice, that the realization that the life is only a big dream can help us finally liberate ourselves from the chains of emotions, attachments, and ego and then we have the possibility of ultimately becoming enlightened.[66]

See also


  1. ^ Keown, Damien. (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 82. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.
  2. ^ Namdak, Tenzin. Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings. Vajra Publications 2006, page 97.
  3. ^ Namdak, Tenzin. Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings. Vajra Publications 2006, page 144-5.
  4. ^ a b Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 304.
  5. ^ a b B. Alan Wallace, Genuine Happiness. John Wiley and Sons, 2005, page 203.
  6. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 303.
  7. ^ Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection by the [14th] Dalai Lama, Snow Lion, 2004. ISBN 1559392193. pg 208
  8. ^ Keown, Damien. (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 24. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.
  9. ^ Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's beacon of certainty: illuminating the view of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Somerville, MA, USA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-157-2 (alk. paper) p.4
  10. ^ Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection by the Dalai Lama, trans. by Thupten Jinpa & Richard Barron, fore. by Sogyal Rinpoche, ed. by Patrick Gaffney. Snow Lion. 1559392193
  11. ^ Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, Essence of the Tree Statements: Based on an Oral Advice given by Khyenrab Chökyi Özer, pp.39-57, 66-70
  12. ^ Norbu (1999)
  13. ^ The Tantra that Reveals the Intrinsic Buddha Mind, translated in :- Erik Pema Kunsang (translator) : Wellsprings of the Great Perfection. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong Kong, 2006. p. 215
  14. ^ "The Shugden Affair: Origins of a Controversy (Part I)" by Georges Dreyfus. Official website of the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.[1]
  15. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 314.
  16. ^ Klein, Wangyal, Unbounded Wholeness, Oxford University Press, 2006, p. v
  17. ^ Klein and Wangyal, 2006, p. vi.
  18. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 297.
  19. ^ Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Adriano Clemente, The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde Kunjed Gyalpo, Snow Lion, New York, 1999, p. 14
  20. ^ Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Adriano Clemente, The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde Kunjed Gyalpo, Snow Lion Publications, New York, 1999, p. 235
  21. ^ Klein and Wangyal, 2006, p. 48
  22. ^ Klein, Wangyal, 2006, pp. 68-69
  23. ^ a b Klein and Wangyal, 2006, p. 118
  24. ^ Klein and Wangyal, 2006, p.109
  25. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, pages 308-309.
  26. ^ Klein and Wangyal, page 107.
  27. ^ Klein and Wangyal, page 45, see also page 135.
  28. ^ Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism
  29. ^ a b Germano, David Francis (1992). "Poetic thought, the intelligent Universe, and the mystery of self: The Tantric synthesis of rDzogs Chen in fourteenth century Tibet." The University of Wisconsin, Madison. Doctoral thesis. Source: [2] (accessed: Friday December 18, 2009)
  30. ^ Norbu (1999), pp. 99, 100, 101
  31. ^ Norbu (1999), pp. 99, 101
  32. ^ from byang chub sems bsgom pa by Mañjusrîmitra. Primordial experience. An Introduction to rDzogs-chen Meditation, pp. 60, 61
  33. ^ Norbu (1999), p. 42
  34. ^ a b Norbu (1999), p. 129
  35. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002), p. 21
  36. ^ THDL Medicine Collections
  37. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002), p. 121
  38. ^ Accessed June 23, 2010
  39. ^ Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications (1999). ISBN 0861711572. p.81
  40. ^ Germano, David F. (1994). "Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric History of rDzogs Chen". In The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 17.2, p 262 [3]
  41. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [4]
  42. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [5]
  43. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [6]
  44. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [7]
  45. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [8]
  46. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2002), p. 130
  47. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, pages 318-319.
  48. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, pages 319-322.
  49. ^ Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Dzogchen Teachings. Snow Lion 2006, page 43.
  50. ^ Dalai Lama. (2004). Dzogchen, pg. 32. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 13 978-1-55939-219-8.
  51. ^ Accessed June 29, 2010
  52. ^ a b Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 323.
  53. ^ Norbu (1999), pp. 158-161
  54. ^ Namdak, Tenzin. 2002. Heart Drops of Dharmakaya. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. pg. 106
  55. ^ Capriles, Elías (2003). Buddhism and Dzogchen: The Doctrine of the Buddha and the Supreme Vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism. Part One Buddhism: A Dzogchen Outlook. Source: [9] (accessed: Saturday, August 23, 2008) p.180
  56. ^ a b Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications. pp. 129. ISBN 0861711572. 
  57. ^ Williams, Paul (1998, 2000). The Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Madhyamaka Defence. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers. ISBN 978-0700710300, p.xi
  58. ^ Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Boston: Wisdom Publications. pp. 126. ISBN 0861711572. 
  59. ^ Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Women of Wisdom. (Includes transcribed interview with Namkhai Norbu) Source: [10] (accessed: November 15, 2007)
  60. ^ Jacques, Guillaume (2008). Zhang-zhung and Qiangic languages. National Museum of Ethnology, Osaka. Source: [11] (accessed: Sunday April 12, 2009), p.6
  61. ^ Martin, Dan 2004. Zhang-zhung dictionary. electronic publication.
  62. ^ DRG = Mipham's 'Don rnam par nges pa'i shes rab ral gri' (Wylie) a text within 'lHag bsam bstan pa'i ryal mtshan, 1984' (Wylie)
  63. ^ Padmasambhava (composed), Karma Linga (revealed), Gyurme Dorje (translated), Graham Coleman (Editor) and Thupten Jinpa (Associate) (2006). The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States. London, England: Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN 978-0-140-45529-8. p.480
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  65. ^ Quintessential Instructions of Mind, p. 117
  66. ^ Norbu (1992), pp. 42, 46, 48, 96, 105


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