Dzogchen – Tradition of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism
Dzogchen or “Great Perfection”, Sanskrit: अतियोग, is a tradition of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the natural primordial state of being.
Dzogchen developed in the Tibetan Empire period and the Era of Fragmentation (9th-11th centuries) and continues to be practiced today both in Tibet and around the world.
It is a central teaching of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism and of Bon. In these traditions, Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path of the nine vehicles to liberation.
Dzogchen is also practiced (to a lesser extent) in other Tibetan Buddhist schools, such as the Kagyu, Sakya and the Gelug schools.
Table of Contents
- 1 - Dharmakāya
- 2 - Ekajati
- 3 - Buddha Nature
- 4 - Rainbow body
- 5 - Adi-Buddha
- 6 - Samantabhadrī (tutelary)
- 7 - Rigpa
- 8 - Chöd
- 9 - Svabhava
- 10 - History of Dzogchen
- 11 - Ngagpa
- 12 - Gebchak Gonpa
- 13 - Eleven vajra topics
- 14 - View (Dzogchen)
- 15 - Melong
- 16 - Semde
- 17 - Ground (Dzogchen)
- 18 - Svasaṃvedana
- 19 - Longdé
- 20 - Menngagde
- 21 - Kyunglung
- 22 - Five Pure Lights
- 23 - Contemplation (Dzogchen)
- 24 - Zhangzhung
The dharmakāya is one of the three bodies (trikaya) of a buddha in Mahayana Buddhism. The dharmakāya constitutes the unmanifested, “inconceivable” (acintya) aspect of a buddha out of which buddhas arise and to which they return after their dissolution. Buddhas are manifestations of the dharmakāya called the nirmāṇakāya, “transformation body”. Reginald Ray writes of it as “the body of reality itself, without specific, delimited form, wherein the Buddha is identified with the spiritually charged nature of everything that is.”
Ekajaṭī or Ekajaṭā,, also known as Māhacīnatārā, is one of the 21 Taras. Ekajati is, along with Palden Lhamo deity, one of the most powerful and fierce goddesses of Vajrayana Buddhist mythology.
According to Tibetan legends, her right eye was pierced by the tantric master Padmasambhava so that she could much more effectively help him subjugate Tibetan demons.
In the realm of Buddhist philosophy, Buddha-nature represents the inherent potential within all sentient beings to attain Buddhahood. This concept is frequently translated into English using various related Mahayana Buddhist terms, including “suchness” (tathata). However, two of the most prominent terms associated with this concept are “tathāgatagarbha” and “buddhadhātu.”
Tathāgatagarbha can be understood as “the womb” or “embryo” (garbha) of the “thus-gone” (tathāgata), signifying the idea of containing the potential for Buddhahood. On the other hand, buddhadhātu can be literally interpreted as the “Buddha-realm” or the “substrate of Buddhahood.”
In Dzogchen, rainbow body (Tibetan: འཇའ་ལུས་, Wylie: ‘ja’ lus , Jalü or Jalus) is a level of realization. This may or may not be accompanied by the ‘rainbow body phenomenon’. The rainbow body phenomenon is a religious topic which has been treated fairly seriously for centuries, including in the modern era. Other Vajrayana teachings also mention rainbow body phenomena.
In Vajrayana Buddhism, the ādibuddha is the “First Buddha” or the “Primordial Buddha.” The term reemerges in tantric literature, most prominently in the Kalachakra.
Samantabhadri is a dakini and female Buddha from the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition.
She is the consort and female counterpart of Samantabhadra, known amongst some Tibetan Buddhists as the ‘Primordial Buddha’. Samantabhadri herself is known as the ‘primordial Mother Buddha’.
Samantabhadri is the dharmakaya dakini aspect of the Trikaya, or three bodies of a Buddha. As such, Samantabhadri represents the aspect of Buddhahood in whom delusion and conceptual thought have never arisen.
As font or wellspring of the aspects of the divine feminine she may be understood as the ‘Great Mother’. Seen differently, Samantabhadri is an aspect of Prajnaparamita.
In Dzogchen teaching, rigpa is the knowledge of the ground. The opposite of rigpa is marigpa.
Chöd, is a spiritual practice found primarily in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Also known as “Cutting Through the Ego,”, the practices are based on the Prajñāpāramitā or “Perfection of Wisdom” sutras, which expound the “emptiness” concept of Buddhist philosophy.
Svabhava literally means “own-being” or “own-becoming”. It is the intrinsic nature, essential nature or essence of living beings.
History of Dzogchen
Dzogchen, also known as atiyoga, is a tradition of teachings in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the ultimate ground of existence. The primordial ground is said to have the qualities of purity, spontaneity and compassion. The goal of Dzogchen is knowledge of this basis, this knowledge is called rigpa . There are numerous spiritual practices taught in the various Dzogchen systems for recognizing rigpa.
In Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, a Ngagpa is a non-monastic practitioner of Dzogchen who has received a skra dbang, a hair empowerment, for example in the Dudjom Tersar lineage. This empowers one’s hair as the home of the dakinis and therefore can never be cut. The term is specifically used to refer to lamas and practitioners who are “tantric specialists” and may technically be applied to both married householder tantric priests and to those ordained monastics whose principal focus and specialization is vajrayana practice. However, in common parlance, “ngakpa” is often used only in reference to non monastic Vajrayana priests, especially those in the Nyingma and Bonpo traditions.
Gebchak Gonpa – also spelled Gecha Gon, Gechak, Gechag, and Gebchak Gompa – lies in the remote mountains of Nangchen, Eastern Tibet. It is the home of a spiritual lineage of female practitioners, or yogini, a nunnery of 350 nuns and the heart of a renowned practice tradition. Gebchak’s practices come mainly from the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, while the Nunnery has been closely affiliated over its history with the Drukpa Kagyu lineage and with the Nangchen royal family.
Eleven vajra topics
In Dzogchen, the eleven vajra topics explain the view of the secret instruction series. These can be found in the String of Pearls Tantra, the Great Commentary by Vimalamitra as well as in Longchenpa’s Treasury of Word and Meaning. The String of Pearls Tantra briefly lists them as follows:Although reality is inconceivable, pristine consciousness has three aspects. Though there are many bases of delusion, it is natural perfection and compassion. Abiding within oneself are the kāyas, families, and pristine consciousnesses. The location of buddhamind is in the center of the heart. The path is the four nāḍīs; vāyu causes movement. There are four gates of arising: the eyes and so on. The field is the sky free of clouds. The practice is trekchö and thögal. The gauge is the yoga of four confidences. The bardo is the meeting of the mother and child. The stage of liberation comes first.
In Dzogchen, the view is one of the Three Dharmas of the Path of Dzogchen. The other two dharmas of the path are practice (gompa) and conduct (chöpa).
Melong is a Tibetan term that means “mirror”, “looking glass”. The melong is a polyvalent symbol, divine attribute, and quality of the enlightened mindstream or bodhicitta.
Semde translated as “mind division”, “mind class” or “mind series” is the name of one of three scriptural and lineage divisions within Atiyoga, Dzogchen or the Great Perfection which is itself the pinnacle of the ninefold division of practice according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
In the Dzogchen tradition in Tibetan Buddhism ground is the primordial state. It is an essential component of the Dzogchen tradition for both the Bonpo and the Nyingmapa. Knowledge of this Ground is called rigpa.
In Buddhist philosophy, Svasaṃvedana is a term which refers to the self-reflexive nature of consciousness. It was initially a theory of cognition held by the Mahasamghika and Sautrantika schools while the Sarvastivada-Vaibhasika school argued against it.
Longdé is the name of one of three scriptural divisions within Dzogchen, which is itself the pinnacle of the ninefold division of practice according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.
In Tibetan Buddhism and Bon, Menngakde, is the name of one of three scriptural and lineage divisions within Dzogchen.
Kyunglung, sometimes also spelled as Khyunglung, Qulong or Qulongcun, is a village in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Kyunglung Ngüka “Silver Palace of Garuda Valley”, located southwest of Mount Kailash, identified with palaces found in the upper Sutlej Valley, was the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Zhangzhung. Many Tibetologists and theorists suggest that Kyunglung was perhaps what the Zhangzhung people called Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring.
Five Pure Lights
The Five Pure Lights’ is an essential teaching in the Dzogchen tradition of Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. For the deluded, matter seems to appear. This is due to non-recognition of the five lights. Matter includes the mahābhūta or classical elements, namely: space, air, water, fire, earth. Knowledge (rigpa) is the absence of delusion regarding the display of the five lights. This level of realization is called rainbow body.
Dzogchen, also known as atiyoga, is a tradition of teachings in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism aimed at discovering and continuing in the ultimate ground of existence. The primordial ground is said to have the qualities of purity, spontaneity and compassion. The goal of Dzogchen is knowledge of this basis, this knowledge is called rigpa . There are numerous spiritual practices taught in the various Dzogchen systems for awakening rigpa.
Zhangzhung or Shangshung was an ancient culture and kingdom in western and northwestern Tibet, which pre-dates the culture of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet. Zhangzhung culture is associated with the Bon religion, which in turn, has influenced the philosophies and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Zhangzhung people are mentioned frequently in ancient Tibetan texts as the original rulers of today’s central and western Tibet. Only in the last two decades have archaeologists been given access to do archaeological work in the areas once ruled by the Zhangzhung.