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Tsig Sum Nei Dek

Garab D o ijes
Three Verses That Strike the
Key Points o f Practice

As Taught
Lingtrul Rinpoche

M ir r o r o f W is d o m

We dedicate the merit o f this publication to the health

an d long life o f the spiritual teachers, to the propagation
o f the D harm a in the world, an d to the happiness,
w ell-being and enlightenm ent o f all beings .
M ay auspiciousness prevail!


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Tsig Sum Nei Dek

Garab D oijes
Three Verses That Strike the
Key Points o f Practice

As Taught
Lingtrul Rinpoche

Translated by
Richard Barron (Chokyi Nyima)

The Three Verses That Strike the

Key Points o f Practice

To begin, I ask you to approach this teach

ing with the proper motivation. With altruistic and
compassionate resolve in your mind that you may
contribute to the spiritual attainment of all beings,
whose numbers are equal to the limits of space, to
the state of the Sovereign Lord, Samantabhadra, the
primordial Lord Protector. That is to wish for each
and every being to attain nothing less than complete
As you know, the topic is the instruction on
the direct transmission that is known as the Tsig
Sum Nei Dek in Tibetan or The Three Verses That
Strike the Key Points o f Practice. Due to the nature
of these Dzogchen, or Great Perfection teachings, it
possible, under ideal circumstances, for an individ
ual of the very highest acumen to use these instruc
tions for the attainment of buddhahood in this life
time. However, we shouldnt think of Great Perfec
tion teachings alone as some kind of a magical for

mula. A number of circumstances must come together

in order for that ideal result to come about. By this, I
mean that there must be the factor of a qualified and
realized teacher, as well as the student who is of the
highest acumen. In the students own situation any
number of factors must come together in a very posi
tive and supportive way in order to allow the practice
of that individual to lead to the very ideal result of the
attainment of buddhahood in a single lifetime.
On the level of the teacher to whom the stu
dent relates, he or she cannot be just anyone who is
conversant on an intellectual level with Dzogchen
teachings. In order for this ideal situation that we are
discussing to come about, the teacher must be of an ex
traordinary nature. He or she must be endowed with a
great deal of realization and enlightenment and, then,
be able to affect that same kind of realization through
working with the student. On his or her part, the
teacher must be someone who has realized and given
rise to the positive qualities of that realization based
upon an understanding and an experience of the
ground, path and fruition of the Great Perfection. In
order for the student to benefit, that realization must
already be present in the mindstream of the teacher. As
well, the teacher must be someone who has sufficient
blessing and power to be able to transmit that realiza
tion to the student. It is not enough just to have that
realization; he must be able to transmit that to some
one so that they can come to that same realization.
On the part of the student, it is important for
the students mindstream to be such that the student is
able to overcome all wrong view and all incorrect or
counter-productive thoughts and ideas concerning his
or her relationship with the teacher and the teachings.
So, if the teacher is of such a nature that he or she is

not able to inspire that kind of unwavering confidence

in the students mind and is not able to transmit the re
alization that he or she as a teacher has gained, then,
its really like trying to pour something from an empty
vessel. If the vessel is empty, there is nothing to pour
into another vessel; no effective transmission of the
Great Perfection can take place because of the defi
ciency on the part of the teacher.
When relying upon a teacher in the context of
the Great Perfection, it is important to understand that
the teacher must have these qualities that Ive been dis
cussing. Its important for the student to assess
whether he or she can have such a relationship with a
given teacher and to not assume naively that this is the
right teacher and begin to take teachings, because per
haps later on, a sense of disappointment or disillusion
ment will develop, as well as a wrong view about the
teacher. It is far more important in the first place to
examine the qualities of the teacher and determine
whether you feel you can trust and work with that
Now, regardless of whether the teacher has all
of these qualities or not, if you as a student are entering
into a relationship with the teacher and are receiving
Great Perfection teachings, it is important for you as a
student to make the decision, Yes, I can trust this rela
tionship. I will have respect for this teacher. I will
hold this relationship as dear to myself as my own
heart and my own eyes.
It is said that seeking the Great Perfection
teachings is like encountering a poisonous snake with a
jewel on the top of its head. If you want to take the
jewel, you have to be careful how you go about it. It is
possible to get the jewel and gain great benefit from it,
but you can also injure yourself if you go about it in the

wrong way. You have to remember that the situation is

There are different styles of teaching in the
Great Perfection approach. All are valid given that
they are styles that developed through the process of
historical transmission, which has come down to us
from the Dharmakaya level of Samantabhadra through
to the present day. It is important for there to be this
authenticity, although the style of one teacher may dif
fer from that of another teacher. In my case, my root
lama in the Great Perfection was a great lama, Khenpo
Munsel. His particular means of teaching the Great
Perfection was to insist that, first and foremost, the stu
dent had completed the ngondro or preliminary prac
tices the 500,000 repetitions of prostrations, bodhicitta, Vaijasattva mantra, and so forth. Khenpo Munsel
was not particular about which tradition one need have
practiced to complete this preliminary. One might
have practiced the Nam Cho cycle, the Long Chen Nying Thig cycle, or the Dudjom Tersar cycle. It really
didnt matter. The important point is that the student
had first gone through this process of purification and
development by completing the ngondro or preliminary
practices. Following this, Khenpo Munsel would teach
a one hundred-day course as a means of further purify
ing and training the students mind.
The particular text that he used as a basis for
this course was a commentary to the Kun Zang Lamai
Zhal Lung, The words o f My Perfect Teacher, written
down by Patrul Rinpoche and given by Khenpo Ngu
Gu. It begins with an examination of the Four Con
templations that turn the mind toward practice and
away from further involvement in samsara and contin
ues through the Six Perfections and so forth. So, there
is a very developmental approach o f the basic teach

ings of the three yanas. This was the course that

Khenpo would teach following the completion of the
preliminaries. This course was given in a very me
thodical manner in the sense that each topic that was
discussed and contemplated had a set period of time
that it was taught for a week or a few days or what
everbeginning with the contemplation of precious
human existence with the complete freedom and op
portunity that it offers for spiritual practice. We would
spend a number of days with Khenpo Munsel teaching
on the various states of freedom of the human exis
tencehe would teach and then we would contemplate
the teachings. We would then move to the different
types of opportunities that derive from our own situa
tion and the social situation around us. In this way, we
would go very methodically up to and including a dis
cussion on the Six Perfections and so forth. It was not
simply an intellectual course of teaching but an experi
ential one. Also, it was important for the teacher to
check each students development to determine that the
appropriate levels of realization were dawning in the
students mindstream. Only then would Khenpo Mun
sel proceed with the Great Perfection teachings. This
was how he insisted upon these teachings. In addition
to the completion of the ngondro practice, the prelimi
naries, and this course of training in the basic teach
ings, it was also important in Khenpos point of view
that one had received one of the major empowerments
from the Nying Thig Yab Shi cycle, the Four High Col
lections of the Heart Drop teachings, and all four levels
of the empowerment, which are technically known in
the Dzogchen context as the elaborate empowerment,
the unelaborate empowerment, the extremely unelaborate empowerment and the utterly unelaborate

Having received the four levels of

empowerment into any one of these cycles connected
with the Nying Thig Yab Shi he would then proceed
with the teachings. He was very precise about what he
considered to be the necessary prerequisites for the stu
dent who was interested in truly following the Dzogchen, Great Perfection teachings. After all of this
preparation, Khenpo Munsel would use another text by
Khenpo Ngag Chung which is considered part of the
Nying Thig tradition and it is known as Ten Pai Nyimai
Zhal Lung, The Oral Instructions o f Khenpo Ten Pai
Nyima who in turn was Ten Pai Ngag Chungs teacher.
He would use this particular text as the basis of intro
duction to the Great Perfection. This particular text is
interesting because it is the first case in this particular
lineage of the teachings having been committed to
writing. The Nying Thig transmission, as many of you
are aware, was transmitted through the great Longchenpa to the holder of intrinsic awareness, Jigmed
Lingpa. From him to Jigmed Gyalwai Ngu Gu, and
then, to Patrul Rinpoche, Jigmed Chokyi Wangpo. The
heart son of Patrul Rinpoche was Longchen Nyingpo
who in turn became the guru of the author of this text,
Khenpo Ngag Chung. Up until the point that Khenpo
Ngag Chung transcribed these oral teachings, there had
been no case of them actually being written down. It
had been solely an oral transmission held in the mem
ory of all the lineage holders, which was then transmit
ted from their memory to their students. Fearing that
these teachings would be lost, Khenpo Ngag Chung
committed to them writing, and this text became
known as The Oral Instructions o f Khenpo Ten Pai Ny
ima. This was the text on which Khenpo Munsel based
his teaching of the Great Perfection. When Khenpo
Munsel taught the Great Perfection based upon this

text, he followed the developmental presentations in

the text beginning with the preliminaries unique to the
Great Perfection approach. These preliminary stages
are known as tearing down the hut o f ordinary mind.
Think of the function of the ordinary mind as a hut that
is being tom down or dismantled. That is the technical
name given to that stage of practice. Following that is
the direct introduction to rigpa, or intrinsic awareness
in which the student is introduced to his or her intrinsic
awareness and all its immediacy. Then the practice of
Great Perfection begins, you may say, at that point.
When Khenpo Munsel taught that approach, he pre
ferred to take six months to do it. At the very least, if
you were rushing him, he would do it in one month.
But to think of it as being a week-end course, or some
thing that could be done in a couple of days, was really
out of the question. He insisted on it being a methodi
cal, thorough approach so that one had the proper in
troduction to the teachings and practice.
When he taught the introductory stage of tear
ing down the hut of the ordinary mind, Khenpo Munsel
would be very comfortable teaching a hundred or even
hundreds of people in one group. However, when he
gave the direct introduction to intrinsic awareness and
all its immediacy, he would insist upon doing this one
on one. He wouldnt even have two people in the
room. When it was appropriate for you as a student,
you would see him alone, and at that point there would
be the direct transmission. When I say he was giving a
course on this introductory level of tearing down the
hut of ordinary mind, I dont want you to think that all
day was spent in lectures with him talking and every
body just listening and taking notes. It was a very
practice oriented course in which you would be given
just the essentials of what you needed to contemplate.

Then, you would be sent off to do that contemplation.

When the process of tearing down the hut of ordinary
mind begins, the first stage of that practice is known
technically as seeking o f the root o f mind or seeking
mind as the root o f one's experience. You would re
ceive teachings and go off and practice for fifteen days
working with those topics of contemplation that you
had been given, until Khenpo Munsel was satisfied you
had come to a certain level of understanding. Then, he
would proceed with the next level of instruction, seek
ing out the hidden flaw o f the ordinary mindthe way
in which mind functions in an ordinary manner. In this
way, you would spend six months going through this
text, not just simply reading texts and having intellec
tual discussions, but working with these teachings in a
very personal, practice oriented way. Obviously, we
dont have this kind of time available to us in the pres
ent circumstances. We dont have even a number of
days, let alone months to spend together. So, I can
only hope to give you in the next day or two a brief
overview of the topics that ideally would be presented
in much more detail and over a longer period of time
and with practice involved.
There are people, I realize, who are a bit impa
tient with this kind of developmental approach. Some
people feel that if the Great Perfection is so wonderful
they should have the goods right now. Why not just
point out the nature of mind. They think, Lets go.
Whats the need of preliminary practices and studying
and training over a long period of time? We have to
understand that its not quite that simple. As magnifi
cent as these teachings of the Great Perfection are, they
constitute a skillful means of the student being led in a
developmental manner to the point where true realiza
tion can dawn in an authentic manner. We should un

derstand that the reason the tradition of teaching the

Great Perfection has developed in a certain way is not
arbitrary and not something purely cultural, but some
thing that has a purpose. If it were perfectly okay to
give the Great Perfection teachingsbang, just like
thatdont you think thats how the lineage would
have been transmitted already? If that would truly
benefit people, if that were truly the way these teach
ings were meant to be transmitted and realization
would result then, of course, the lineage masters would
not have wasted all this time with these seeming nonessentials. There are these preliminary approaches be
cause they have a purpose. Its like planting a crop.
You prepare the ground; you plow; you fertilize; you
water; and you plant the seeds in the appropriate man
ner for that particular crop. You weed, cultivate and,
finally, harvest a good crop. We need to approach our
practice of the Great Perfection exactly in the same
way and understand the stages of the practice are not
arbitrary. They are not something we can dispense
with because they dont seem to be necessary. They
have a very valuable function, an absolutely crucial
function in the presentation of this path and in the ex
perience of this path by the student.
In the case of a teacher of the Great Perfection,
it has always been and must always be the case that the
teacher has not just studied and practiced the Great
Perfection, but has received explicit permission from
his or her teacher to teach the Great Perfection. It isnt
just the case of saying, Well, I studied with so and so,
therefore, I guess its okay for me to teach somebody
else. Your teacher has to say, Okay, now you may
teach the Great Perfection to your students.
when that explicit permission has been given is there a
sense of authentic lineage being transmitted.

In my own case, I was a student of Khenpo

Munsel, one of thousands and not in any way unique.
Im not aware o f having been given such explicit and
impressive permission from my teacher in which he
said to me, You are now a lineage holder of the Great
Perfection. Go forth and spread the doctrine. I dont
even feel it would be appropriate or right of me to pre
sume to teach the manual that he used during his teach
ing, Ten Pai Nyimai Zhal Lung, The Oral Instructions
o f Ten Pai Nyima. The permission I did receive from
my teacher is the permission to instruct students on the
basis of Patrul Rinpoches Kun Zang Lamai Zhal Lung
text, one of the main teaching manuals for the prelimi
naries, the ngondro, of the Longchen Nying Thig tradi
tion. Also, he did give me explicit permission on the
level of trek chod and togal to transmit the lung, the
reading transmission of the text, Commentary on the
Enlightened Mind o f Samantabhadra. This is again a
commentary on the Great Perfection practice by
Khenpo Ngu Gu, and my own teacher granted me per
mission to give the lung of this text to no more than
three students at a single sitting. That he explicitly
stated to me. I will not claim that he gave me more ex
plicit permission. He also indicated that there was an
extremely serious and profound seal of secrecy by the
dakinis and that it was important to respect it in this
regard. That permission that I had been granted is the
extent to which I should feel free to impart teachings.
On this particular occasion, I am assuming all
o f you are motivated to receive teachings in the Great
Perfection. I have to approach this carefully as some
one who has been asked to transmit these teachings. In
the case o f the Three Lines That Strike the Key Points,
I only received the lung from Khenpo Munsel; I didnt
receive extensive teachings on it, but there is a power

in these words that even hearing in a very general way

the topics that these Three Lines discuss is a means of
liberating the mindstream of the student, the one who
hears these teachings. If you were to have asked me to
give extensive instructions based upon The Oral In
structions o f Tenpai Nyima, I would have refused be
cause I dont have specific permission from my
teacher. However, I feel comfortable enough in the
case of the verses of Garab Doije, the Three Lines that
Strike the Key Points to discuss these teachings in a
general way because they have the power inherent in
them to liberate upon hearing.
The Three Verses that Strike the Key Points are
definitely of the order of Great Perfection teachings.
They are the testament or last advice of Garab Doije,
the first incarnate teacher of the Dzogchen lineage in
the human world, in our era. They are the testament
that Garab Dorje left to his heart son Manjusrimita who
is the next lineage holder in the human realm of the
Great Perfection teachings. In the case of the particular
lineage of Great Perfection teachings that I have re
ceived, those teachings are contained within the much
larger text that I referred to earlier, The Oral Instruc
tions o f Tenpai Nyima. Although they are much more
concise, that is not to say that the Three Lines That
Strike the Key Points do not concern all of the essential
points that are found in a much larger and more de
tailed presentation, such as The Oral Instructions o f
Tenpai Nyima.
There are reasons why I have agreed to give
this particular teaching over the next few days. One is
I understand that there is a great deal of interest and
faith in the teachings of the Buddhadharma among
westerners and, in particular, there is a great deal of
interest and motivation to seek out the Great Perfection

teachings, so I dont want to ignore that fact. I also

have confidence that the translator will be able to
transmit the information in an accurate manner. When
I was asked to give these teachings, due to the interest
in them and the competence of the translator, I felt that
it would be of value, because people would receive in
formation that would be valuable for their practice.
Therefore, for a number of reasons, I felt comfortable
with agreeing to give these teachings this week-end.
I would like to return to the point I was making
earlier, and that is that the practice of the Great Perfec
tion path is not to be seen in a simplistic way. It is
something that under ideal circumstances requires
many supportive conditions for it to truly be fruitful.
We have already discussed the more external condi
tion, from your own perspective as a studentthe
teacher with whom you relate to in order to receive the
teachings. We should say something about the inner
circumstances as wellwhat kind of excellent attitude
and motivation you, as a student, should have in order
for your practice of the Great Perfection to be fruitful.
As a student, on the inner level, one of the most impor
tant factors for your practice to be truly fruitful is that
you have a certain level of contentment in your mind,
so that you are not desiring all kinds of things in an im
pulsive manner, but have developed some level of in
ner contentment. What I mean by few desires or few
wants in this context is that you are someone whose
mind is not grasping after fame, pleasure, power, influ
ence and wealth someone who is not constantly seek
ing these more worldly, mundane goals. When a per
son has evolved to the point that he or she is no longer
hankering after things in that way, then, that person has
developed few desires and few wants. The next quality
is being fairly content with your own lot, by under

standing when you have enough to eat, to wear, and to

pay your billsenough to maintain yourself in a basic
manner without continually yearning for more. Truly
understanding when you have enough, that it is enough
and all you really need in order to practice.
That level of contentment is an important fac
tor to assure success in your pursuit of the Great Per
fection path. If you do not have these qualities of hav
ing few wants and a degree of contentment in your own
personal situation, this will interfere greatly with your
ability to receive and to put into practice the Great Per
fection teachings. Your mind will be disturbed and
distracted by all of these wants and perceived needs.
Hankering after these goals, feeling unfulfilled, until
you have satisfied this or that worldly goal, will inter
fere with your practice. You will not be able to meet
the challenge of the Great Perfection path, if your mind
is continually caught up in those kinds of projects and
goals and thus robbing you of the ability to really focus
on the practice. That is why you need this quality. It is
not an arbitrary factor at all. It is something that con
tributes to your ability to receive the teachings of the
Great Perfection and to implement them. Whether you
have those kinds of attitudes or not, is something that
only you know.
You have already received the good fortune of
attaining the precious human existence, and you can
contemplate that in any number of ways. You can
think about the causes that have led to this rare state of
existence. You can think about the traditional meta
phors used to emphasize that rarity. You can think of
the relatively few numbers of beings who have this pre
cious human existence compared to beings in other
realms. In any of these ways, you can assure yourself
that you have this precious human existence as the

starting point, as the working basis. But whether or not

you have these other qualities, such as few desires, is
something only you know through examining your own
mind. It is not something that is necessarily evident on
the outside. It is something you, as a student, know by
examining your own mind with honesty. If you are not
aware of the kind of freedom and opportunity that this
human existence provides, in terms of being an ideal
working basis for spiritual practice, then you, at the
same time, cannot be aware of its rarity. You cannot
be aware of how difficult it is to come by that kind of
freedom and opportunity, how it doesnt happen all the
time. It is something that you approach methodically
by examining the causes that have led to such a fortu
nate and rare state of opportunity. This is approached
by examining any number of traditional metaphors that
emphasize or draw home the rarity of the occasion you
find yourself now enjoying and then comparing the
very few numbers of beings in this state of existence
that we now enjoy compared to beings in other realms.
In my home county of Tibet, there was a case
of a lama who spoke of the rarity of precious human
existence, and he had never even been to a large town
the size of Chengdu. People who had been there would
say, Its not rare at all. There are plenty of people out
there. The point they were missing is that when we
speak of the precious human existence, w ere not just
talking of being human. Anyone can be reborn as a
human. Thats not such a big deal. What is a big deal
is being reborn with those eighteen conditions of free
dom and opportunity and being connected with the
Dharma in that human existence. That is what makes it
the precious human existence. Otherwise, you have a
mere human existence. You are just in a human body,
and thats neither here nor there. The point that is be

ing emphasized here is that precious quality of oppor

I mentioned earlier about contemplating the
causes of this human existence. We only achieve this
precious state of human existence because ethical dis
cipline was a strong factor in our previous lifetimes
maintaining that discipline and not losing the value and
benefit of that discipline. Primarily, that is the cause of
our rebirth in the human realm in this state of freedom
and opportunity. It didnt come up haphazardly. This
rebirth came up for a very specific reason, and that rea
son being discipline. When we know how rare and dif
ficult that discipline is in the world today, we can see
how rare it is that the mindstream of a given being has
the cause that leads to that state of rebirth. To use per
haps the most famous traditional metaphor in the line
age to describe the difficulty and rarity of coming by
this human existence, we may refer to the very famous
example of the blind turtle that lives in the ocean.
Think of the entire planet being covered with water
one gigantic oceanand at the bottom of the ocean
there is a blind turtle. On the surface of the ocean there
is a yoke made of wood, which is buffeted around by
the currents and winds north to south, east to west,
back and forthwithout any particular pattern. Once
every hundred years that blind turtle comes to the sur
face of the ocean and then returns to the bottom of the
ocean for another century before resurfacing. The
metaphor is of the ocean as the ocean of samsara, of
cyclic existence, the yoke, as the opportunity for free
dom; the hole in the center of the yoke as the gateway
to liberation; and the blind turtle as the average unen
lightened sentient being, who is blind to the moral con
sequences of the actions that he or she commits. It is
conceivable given the law of averages that at some

point when the tortoise surfaces its head will go

through the yoke of wood. Its conceivable. Its less
likely that a given beings mindstream will take rebirth
in the precious human state of existence. Rebirth not
just in the human state of existence, but in the precious
human state of existence that is endowed with all that
freedom and opportunity. That is how rare it is. It is
not something that can just be guaranteed. Another
example that is often used in the teachings is the idea
of taking a handful of seeds in your hand and casting
them against a stone wall. Its conceivable that one or
two may hang on the rough surface of the wall; its
conceivable. Its less conceivable that the mindstream
of a given being will take rebirth in a precious human
existence. Its that rare. Its not something we should
take for granted.
In terms of the respective numbers of beings in
the various realms, the Lord Buddha taught that, if all
the beings in all of the hell realms are as numerous as
the grains of dirt, sand and earth in a huge area of land,
then the number of beings in the preta or hungry ghost
realm would be equal to the grains on your fingernail.
If the beings in the preta realm were equal to the num
ber of grains of sand and dirt in this huge area, then,
the number of beings in the animal realm would be like
the number of grains on your fingernail. If the number
of beings in the animal realm were equal to the number
of grains and dirt in this huge area, then the number of
mere human beings would be equal to the number of
grains on your fingernail and so forth. The point of
these graphic images is to indicate that there are far
more beings in the lower realms of existence than there
are in higher realms, to say nothing of the very few
numbers of beings that have this precious human state
of existence when compared to all beings in other

In one of his writings, the great Jigmed Lingpa
stated that if you think of the infinite numbers of be
ings in all realms, the number of human beings is ex
tremely small. It is within the realm of possibility that
there are human beings, when compared to all those
other realms, but only barely. Even within the human
realm, if you think of the people truly committed to
Dharma, it is like seeing a star in the daytime. It can
happen, but it is only barely within the realm of possi
bility. And if you think about it, it is true. The number
of people truly motivated to even receive teachings let
alone do anything about them in terms of practice, is
very few. If a very high, respected lama in one of the
traditions of Buddhism gives a talk and 200 or 300
people come, everyone is amazed that such a crowd
showed up. But if you go to your average concert or
sports event and 20,000 people show up, no one is sur
prised. They say, Tt happens all the time. It is a ques
tion of priorities, the number of people who actually
show up for anything spiritually significant in terms of
receiving teachings and perhaps implementing them in
practice is quite few. We can see this around us all the
time. The emphasis that people have is on anything
but receiving teachings.
We have a tendency, because we focus entirely
on our own situation as human beings, to think that hu
man beings arent very rare; there are billions of us.
But if you really compare the human form of life per
se, forget about the precious human existence, but just
the number of human beings compared to the number
of other beings, we can see on a universal level that the
number of human beings are very few. Most of us
cant see pretas and hell beings, so, lets talk about
something we can seethe beings in the animal realm.

If you take the average ant hill and count the number of
beings, that number is far greater than the number of
human beings in your average major city. Hell beings
and pretas are far more numerous than animals. Even
though we cant see them, the numbers of beings that
are experiencing those realms cant be fathomed; we
cant even begin to imagine how many beings are ex
periencing hell realms or preta realms. But we can see
something like ants, fish and birds that are far more nu
merous than human beings.
If you think about it just one step further than
we normally do, we can see that human existence is
relatively rare, even that level of being merely human
per se. Given that we have attained this ideal working
basis from all the alternatives of cyclic existence, given
that we have the ideal working basis for spiritual prac
tice, we should understand again that it does not come
about without reason, without cause or haphazardly. It
is due to an enormous store of merit that has been gen
erated in previous lifetimes. That is what has brought
us to this particular point of freedom and opportunity.
When you consider among the six classes of ordinary
beings in cyclic existence what opportunities are avail
able for those beings to effectively generate merit and
gather the accumulation of merit, again, it will remind
you of just how rare this opportunity is. That is be
cause the circumstances under which your average be
ing in the six realms can truly and effectively generate
merit in those circumstances is just as rare as the result
to which that merit leads. This is true for even the
most intelligent animals from our perspective, those
animals which can be trained and follow commands.
What happens if you walk up to the most clever and
best trained dog or elephant and ask them to recite one
mantra, or tell them, if they recite Om Marti Padme

Hung one time, theyll become a buddha? The animal

will just look at you. It is unable to understand on that
level. There isnt the capacity for that animal to be that
self-aware and that able to do something about its
situation. An animal may be comparatively intelligent
and clever, but the animal will never have the level of
intelligence that allows a human being to take note of
his or her situation and ameliorate it.
Given that we have attained this human exis
tence that is so difficult to attain, what is the purpose of
it? What does it truly mean to realize the potential of
being human? It means nothing less than following at
least one of the alternatives of spiritual development
open to us. It may simply be the lesser kind of spiritual
individual, who is concerned only with his or her sal
vation, but at least that is something. Or it may be
someone who has a greater degree of maturity and
commitment in the spiritual process, someone who
truly follows the Mahayana, the greatest, most superior
path of spiritual development. In any case, to realize
the potential of being human is nothing less than fol
lowing one of those spiritual approaches and truly lib
erating, at least, yourself from suffering and ignorance.
Although ideally, one would follow the path of the
bodhisattva and practice that spiritual path of altruism.
Given that you have attained this precious human re
birth, this ideal working basis, now is not the time to
sit back and rest on your laurels saying, Oh what a
wonderful rebirth I have. Isnt that marvelous! That
would be completely inappropriate under the circum
stances. The very nature of this precious human exis
tence is that it has far more potential than other state of
rebirth. This human existence, as the working basis for
your spiritual path, is the ferry boat that will carry you
across the ocean of cyclic existence, bringing you to

the far shore of liberation and omniscience.

At the same time, if you misuse this human ex
istence you can plunge your mindstream into the very
lowest state of rebirth in cyclic existence. So, how you
use this rebirth is of far greater consequence than how
a being in an animal, a hell or a preta rebirth uses that
state of existence. What you do in this human rebirth
carries far more weight, far more consequence. It can
go either way. You can create enormous damage for
yourself and others by misusing the precious human
rebirth, or you can gain the best of all possible benefits
for yourself and others, through using this precious hu
man state of existence. The choice is in your own
You now have this fortunate state that is en
dowed with this enormous potential. But simply hav
ing that opportunity isnt enough. You have to use it
and realize that potential. The way in which you go
about realizing that potential is in the same methodical,
developmental way that Ive been discussing all along.
We are fortunate in that what makes our precious hu
man existence precious is the fact that an authentic
teacher, the Lord Buddha, has appeared in the world.
The Lord Buddha taught, and we have the legacy of
those teachings, the Buddhadharma, which have con
tinued to the present day. We are fortunate that we are
motivated to enter the doorway of those teachings and
follow those teachings. We are fortunate that we are
able to encounter qualified spiritual mentors who im
part those teachings to us. Having come to that point
in our evolution as beings in this cycle of existence, it
is only fitting that we should continue with and follow
that path to which we have introduced ourselves and
been introduced by our teachers follow this path, step
by step, in a methodical manner from the very begin

ning stages to its final fruition. To practice in the ap

propriate manner is to follow the course of teachings
and practice as it has been laid out over centuries by a
process that has proven the effectiveness of this ap
How you begin training your mind is by study
ing through utilizing the Four Contemplations that turn
the mind away from further involvement in cyclic exis
tence and towards the practice of the Dharma and the
attainment of enlightenment. Following that training,
there is the extraordinary level of preliminary practices
starting with the taking of refuge, the arousal of bodhicitta and so forth, taking you, step by step, further
along the path. Following that, it is entirely appropri
ate and useful for you to receive and practice the Great
Perfection teachings. But do not assume that it is okay
to begin with the practice of the Great Perfection ap
proach just because you want to, or feel you should be
able to. That approach is highly unlikely to be effec
tive. 1 dont want to deny the possibility that some of
you might be like the great King Indrabhuti, who when
introduced to teachings on this level, understood their
profundity and immediately related to them, and,
thereby, attained enlightenment in a relatively short pe
riod of time. Thats conceivable, but lets be realistic,
most of us need to approach it developmentally step by
step. That is the most effective way to approach these
teachings. Its not that I feel that you havent under
stood or been exposed to these Four Contemplations
that turn the mind towards practice. Its not that I feel
that you havent understood the importance of taking
refuge, bodhicitta, purification and so forth. I dont
feel like Im talking to a group of idiots, and that you
havent understood this. I am simply emphasizing the
importance of these stages. They cannot be over

looked, and the more attention that you pay to them,

the more energy and effort that you bring to your prac
tice in following these stages, the more beneficial your
practice will be. On the other hand, I may just be bor
ing you. Maybe you are thinking, 4Oh no, Ive heard
all this before. Not again.
Another point I need to make at this time is
that it is all very well to receive teachings, but how
much have we actually implemented and realized? You
have heard from any number of lamas about the Four
Thoughts that turn the mind toward practice, about tak
ing refuge and generating bodhicitta, but remember it is
important to continually practice these, not just to re
ceive them and then think, 4Oh, Ive got it. Youve
only got it when youve actually integrated it into your
own experience through practice. Its just like food.
You can have the food in your fridge, but you still have
to make yourself a meal, sit down and eat it. Other
wise, you will go on just being hungry. So, keep in
mind just receiving the teachings alone is not enough.
They are meant to be practiced once you have received
and understood them.
When you think about it, the path that has al
ways been followed, is being and ever will be followed
by all buddhas and bodhisattvasthe foundation of
that path is in the taking of refuge and giving rise to
that precious quality of the mind we term bodhicitta. If
we dont have that foundation upon which to base our
practice, we have absolutely no hope of gaining en
lightenment. It is that essential of a foundation to our
path. We should never overlook or belittle the impor
tance of taking refuge or giving rise to bodhicitta. The
oral instructions of Samantrabhadra, the Kun Zang
Lamai Zhal Lung text by Patrul Rinpoche notes that
the taking of refuge is the very cornerstone upon which

the entire spiritual path is built. Above and beyond

that, giving rise to and developing the quality of bodhicitta is the very root of the Mahayana approach. This
is the fundamental principle that assures that ones
practice is of the highest order. In a pithy verse found
in this text, Patrul Rinpoche summarizes the impor
tance of bodhicitta. If you have one single factor, it is
that one factor that assures buddhahood. Yet, if you
lack that factor, any number of other means or ap
proaches will not be of benefit. It is that single unerr
ing seed that leads to the fruition of buddhahood. So
always give rise to bodhicitta. If you have that factor
in your spiritual path, that altruistic and compassionate
resolve that is bodhicitta, then your enlightenment is
guaranteed. If you do not have that factor, any other
means that you rely upon will not lead to the path of
buddhahood. It is that crucial. If you plant that seed;
you will get the fruit. It is guaranteed.
If you encounter a teacher who tells you that
you dont need bodhicitta to attain enlightenment, that
teacher is wrong. A teacher, who teaches that a path
without bodhicitta is a path to full and complete en
lightenment, is not teaching the truth. That teacher has
made a mistake, and you should not listen to that kind
of advice. There are people who seem to feel that all
you have to do is realize some profound view without
compassion entering into it at all. Nothing could be
further from the truth. In fact, from the Great Perfec
tion point of view, to realize the true nature of reality is
to experience compassion as a natural consequence of
that realization. Otherwise, you are missing the point
and are lost on some profound sidetrack. This is be
cause realizing the true nature of reality is realizing
your own buddha nature. When you have realized your
own buddha nature, you are also aware of everybody

elses buddha nature, and you are keenly aware of how

a given being fails to realize his or her own buddha na
ture, which moves you spontaneously to compassion
for the plight of those beings who fail to realize their
own true nature. It is an automatic consequence of that
realization. To assume that the Dzogchen view is less
than that is to make a fundamental error. So, you
should understand that compassion is the crucial factor
in your path and also in your realization to which that
path leads you.
It seems to me from my exposure to people in
the West, that you have a great affinity for the Mahayana way of thinking. You must understand that my ex
perience under Communist rule has exposed me to the
opposite attitudewhere there isnt a great deal of em
phasis on compassion, tolerance and kindness to oth
ers. What I am impressed with here is that the seed has
already been planted. If that seed is nurtured then very
swiftly Western people have the ability to become great
bodhisattvas, due to already having that natural inclina
tion for the Mahayana way of thinking and practice.
The important point to remember is that having the po
tential is not realizing it. It is something that you ac
tively work at, through hearing teachings, through
contemplating and meditating on those teachings to re
alize the ultimate meaning. What I see is a situation
where if you are willing to put the effort into meditat
ing, you will very swiftly experience the result in your
mindstream. But dont expect it to come about by it
self. The potential is there, but the potential must be
recognized and nurtured through practice. It wont just
happen by itself. Whether we are talking about bodhicitta or about the view of the Great Perfection or any
aspect of sutra or tantra, stage of development or com
pletionany aspect of the teaching or practice is only

to be realized through practice. It is only when you ac

tually experience it for yourself, that you truly gain the
benefit of the teachings. When I say you have that in
clination, that is the potentialthe opportunity that
presents itself. Its still up to you as individuals to
practice and realize that potential. Regardless of the
particular approach that you are following in the prac
tice of the Buddhadharma, its important that you first
hear about and study what you are practicing to come
to a deeper understanding. It isnt just intellectual.
You must put the ultimate significance of that study
and contemplation into effect with meditation so that
you directly experience the ultimate significance of
what you have learned and contemplated. Its exactly
analogous to learning to drive a car. You dont just
decide one day to drive a car and jump behind the
wheel and take off. Not if youre smart! First you
study the drivers manual. Then you get behind the
wheel and slowly begin to learn about the controls.
You have someone with you who can show you what
to do. You gradually begin to take the car out on a
road where there is no traffic and its safe, until finally
youre a competent driver and ready for the freeway.
In the same way Dharma is developed methodically,
step by step. First you hear the teachings and come to
an intellectual understanding of the ideas that are being
presented. Then you contemplate those teachings,
turning them over in your mind so that you cut through
all o f your wishful thinking and all of your speculation
about what they might be talking about and come to a
deeper understanding of what they really are address
ing. Finally, you put that into practice through medita
tion. With the precision you have gained through hear
ing, study and contemplation, you are really able to im
plement the meaning of the teachings in your medita

tion. If you begin in a half-baked fashion without hear

ing and contemplating and jump right into meditation,
youre out of your depth. You dont know what you
are supposed to be doing and get lost in side issues and
lack of clarity in your thinking. So, it is a very neces
sary process. First, you hear the teachings. Then, you
contemplate them. Then youre ready to put them into
practice in meditation. There must be this evenly bal
anced methodical approach.
If we think of learning any kind of skill or dis
cipline in the ordinary worldly sense, using our ordi
nary mind, we dont expect to grasp it overnight. We
go to someone who knows how to teach us whatever it
is that we want to learn, and we study. Some people
may be quicker at learning than others. It may take
some people only a few months what it takes others
years to learn, but even so, we have to go through a
process of learning. How much more so when it comes
to the Great Perfection! When dealing with the experi
ence of pristine awareness that transcends ordinary
mind, youre not just going to pick it up from a few
hours of hearing an introductory teaching. Were talk
ing about something so profound and far reaching that
it will require the same kind of effort that learning
something in the ordinary worldly sense takes, if not
more. And, if we are unwilling to practice, we are then
denying ourselves the opportunity to go through the
process that unerringly leads us to the result that would
occur had we followed that process.
This whole presentation has its purpose. There
is the outer condition of the spiritual mentor and the
inner condition of your own attitude and state of mind
as a student. All of these, beginning with the Four
Thoughts, are by way of facilitating your ability to ap
proach and appreciate the teachings of the Great Per

fection and to implement them properly so that you

come to the authentic realization to which these teach
ings are designed to lead you. Given that we have at
tained this precious human existence endowed with the
freedom and opportunity for spiritual practice, given
that we have encountered those beings it is very diffi
cult to encounterqualified, authentic spiritual men
torsgiven that we have come into contact with the
teachings of the Buddhadharma and the remarkable op
portunity in this lifetime to receive the teachings of the
Great Perfection path and to practice them, it is impor
tant that we dont fool ourselves. It is important that
we dont scurry off in wrong directions, but continue to
focus on the key point of practicing that path in the
most authentic manner possible and assert ourselves
with diligence, because although these factors are pres
ent, none of this is guaranteed for any length of time,
even the fact that we will go on living.
We have this remarkable opportunity for we
know not how long. It is extremely easy to lose this
human existence. Anything can be the cause of our
death. The human existence is so fragile that it can be
snuffed out at any moment by any number of circum
stances. As surely as the sun sets in the west, we are
heading for our death. We just dont know when or
under what circumstances. We dont have the control
over our human existence that we would like to have or
think we have. Its not guaranteed. With all o f this
good fortune in place there is a danger that we will se
duce ourselves into thinking there is plenty of time,
and we will take it easy, getting around to it when we
feel like it. Then, before we know it, that time will be
over, and we will have lost that opportunity with no
guarantee we will ever have it again. So, its important
that we not think of practice as something to do next

year, next month, next week or tomorrow. Rather, we

should leap at the opportunity to practice. In the teach
ings of the great masters, we see statements that we
should practice Dharma with the same eagerness that
someone, whose hair is suddenly on fire, puts it out. If
a poisonous snake is dropped into your lap, dont you
react immediately? You dont sit backyou act. In
the same way having understood the good fortune that
you now enjoy, as well as the fragility of that, you act
in the sense of putting what you have understood into
practice immediately! When you practice, none of
the results of what you undertake are lost. Under ideal
circumstances, the results of this practice will ripen in
this lifetime, in this embodiment. Even if that doesnt
happen to be the case, due to your specific circum
stances, nothing that you do on the level of practice is
wasted. It will always bear its fruit whether in this life
time or in a future lifetime, and that fruit will always be
of a beneficial nature. The important thing is to imple
ment what you have learned, through your study and
contemplation in meditation, to the degree you are
ableto actually begin doing something about it.
When I say that one should practice, I mean
that one should apply oneself to the developmental
process that we have discussedthat Victorious Ones,
the buddhas, out of their great compassion, skill and
means have presented as the most developmentally ex
pedient means. Whether it is Vajrayana meditation
stage, developmental stage of completion and, beyond
a doubt, the Great Perfection, Dzogchen, all of these, in
order for them to be truly effective, must be followed
in a developmental way. If you think that you are ready
to just leap into the practice of the Great Perfection,
well, who knows, maybe you are, but on the other hand
don't fool yourself. Don't fall prey to that all too human

flaw of self-delusion, of presuming to be ready for

something that you really aren't. You owe it to yourself
to begin where you need to begin and to follow the
stages of the path.
In my own home country, there was a woman
who was very skillful in the world. She was a very
good business woman and very capable on that level.
But she was the object of a bit of fun because, although
she had pretension of being a spiritual practitioner, she
didn't understand anything about the more profound
aspects of the teachings. Moreover, she couldnt bother
herself to be involved in any of the more mundane as
pects of the teachings. So, she was left with no re
sources on the spiritual level, even though she was a
very capable business woman and very successful on
that level. On the one hand, she didn't really under
stand anything about the profound view of the Great
Perfection, and on the other hand she really couldn't be
bothered involving herself in something as seemingly
mundane and unimportant as just ordinary physical
acts or verbal acts of virtue. She felt they were beneath
her, and that she needed something more profound. So,
she ended up in the middle of somewhere without any
thing. There is no point in sort of glibly going on about
how many Great Perfection teachings you have had or
how much the Great Perfection, Dzogchen, instantly
brings about enlightenment. If you really aren't practic
ing, it is all just empty talk. If you don't practice what
you receive in the way of teachings, it's virtually the
same as never having had the teachings in the first
place, because you deprive yourself of any of the bene
fits that they are designed to bring you. This is why the
developmental approach is so important. You begin
where you need to begin, and you go step by step
through a proven process that has been validated over

generations, so that you avoid any of the pitfalls or

possible points of error that might crop up. You con
tinue in a very methodical and systematic way to ap
proach that state of realization that is the Great Perfec
tion. And so I cannot overemphasize this careful ap
proach, this step by step methodical approach.
At this point I will conclude my discussion of
the more ordinary level of preliminaries and begin
speaking about the ngondro or preliminary phase that is
specific to the Dzogchen approach. You will recall that
earlier today this was referred to by the technical term,
tearing down the hut o f ordinary mind, where we com
pare the ordinary workings of the mind to a hut, which
is being dismantled at this stage of the teaching and
practice. The first stage in this phase of tearing down
the hut of ordinary mind begins with what is termed,
seeking out the root mind, seeking out mind as the root
of all samsara and nirvana. We come to understand
that at the very root of the experience of the state of
confusion, samsara, as an unenlightened being, or at
the very root of the experience of utter peace and total
realization, nirvana, that a buddha experiences, we are
speaking of something that is rooted in mind. It is a
subjective experience that arises in the mind of the one
experiencing that state of samsara or nirvana. Having
reduced samsara and nirvana at their root, to this prin
ciple of mind, we must further understand that mind as
an entity does not exist as something that has an actual
ground or root in itself. While mind is the root of sam
sara and nirvana, mind-itself is groundless and is with
out root or foundation in any fixed concrete sense.
If we take the example of a given individual
such as ourselves, we can speak about our being, if you
will, our presence in this world, in three ways. We
have a physical presence, our body. We have a verbal

presence, our speech. And there is a mental awareness,

our mind. And we tend to speak of these so-called
three doorways or three avenues of our being, the
physical, the verbal and the mental, as though they
were things. But this is really just a convenient way to
talk about what it is to be a being in the world. It does
n't mean that there are really three separate and distinct
things that are body, speech and mind. We can't really
establish any thing called body or speech or mind, but
it is a convenient way of describing our experience.
The very word for body in Tibetan, is the word, /w,
which means to leave behind because the body we
now experience as our physical body is only valid for a
certain length of time, which is to say, until we die.
When we die, it is left behind. It's like a shell that is
discarded. Other than that there is no thing that we can
ultimately prove is and always will be the body. It is
simply a convenient label for what we are experiencing
at this point as the physical envelope or container that
holds our mind during this lifetime. But it will be left
behind, and the Tibetans acknowledge this in the way
they term it luthat which is left behind.
When you think about it, of course, it is fairly
obvious that this physical body that you now experi
ence didn't always exist. At a certain point, there was
no physical basis, such as this physical body, for your
consciousness. Due to the sperm from your father and
the egg from your mother coming together and uniting
with your consciousness there was then a physical ba
sis. But even that physical basis has never remained the
same from the moment of conception until now. There
have been continual changes, continual development
and growth, even on that physical level of what we so
conveniently term the body. We began as a fetus, an
embryo growing in our mother's womb. We came to

full term and were bom into this world as infants. We

grew to be toddlers, then to a young person, and then
into adolescence. Some of us have moved further
along into middle age or even old age and are, perhaps,
approaching our deaths, since all of us eventually will
die. On this very coarse, obvious level there has been
continual change. But the change is also of a much
more subtle nature. It is the very nature of phenomena
to change constantly. Every moment, every instant, our
body is continually changing in many ways, so it is
never the same thing. When we speak of the body, we
are not describing some thing that is always the same
and always has a specific set of characteristics. It is a
simple and convenient way to talk about that aspect of
our experience. It is certainly nothing that we should
treat as eternal or self-sufficientan entity that exists
in and of its own right.
The same can be said for our speech, the sec
ond major aspect of our being or our presence in the
world. We didn't come into the world speaking flu
ently. It is something we had to learn through a process
that involves physical organs of articulating sound, and
the sounds themselves that we use to communicate
ideas. All of that linking of causes and conditions is
what we conveniently label speech. It's not a single
thing at all.
The point here is not that nothing exists what
soever, but that when we use the word speech we are
not describing something that exists in any ultimate
sense. To begin with, speech, as we understand the
concept, is mentally motivated. First, we think about
what to say and then we speak. It's not as though
speech is an autonomous entity that can just talk in and
of itself. We have to think, I want to say this. Then
we must use the organs of speech as we have learned to

use them in a laborious process to express that particu

lar thought in sound. Thats what speech is, not some
thing in and of itself, but a process of causes and con
ditions coming together in a certain way.
Again, although speech is one important factor
of our experience as beings, the term speech itself does
not describe anything that is always the same, that is
unchanging, that is eternal that is in and of itself.
Rather, speech is a word for a very impermanent proc
ess of sound coming into being, lasting for a short time
and then fading away. Moreover, our speech is such
that it continually has to come into being. It doesn't
stay the same all the time. It is continually something
that we give rise to and it vanishes; we give rise to it
again and it just vanishes. It doesn't have the power to
give rise to itself and constantly, always be the same.
Whether we are talking about human speech or the
sounds that animals make when they communicate,
whether we are talking about pleasant sounds or un
pleasant sounds, we're speaking of a fluctuating proc
ess of impermanent phenomena manifesting, not some
thing in and of itself. And so this is the kind of exami
nation and contemplation we need to undertake.
It is similar for the level of mind, this third ma
jor doorway or avenue of our being. Although in the
Tibetan language, there is quite a sophisticated vocabu
lary for describing different functions of mind, they all
boil down to the same thing some kind of mental pro
cess, be it discursive consciousness or the creation of
ideas or sensory consciousness of objects in the world
around us. They are all mental events taking place.
There are different terms to describe mind, for exam
ple, one of the more common words in the Tibetan lan
guage for ordinary mind is the word, sem, which in its
most generic sense simply comes from the verb to think

about, such as thinking about objects in the world

around us. On the other hand, taking into account that
the thinking about is able to think of specific details of
phenomena, we might use the word, nam shei, or dis
cursive consciousness, which is able to pick out the
details of things. Yet even a different word might be
used to mean the consciousness that is involved with
the creation of ideas. Based upon what we perceive in
the world around us, we come up with ideas about
those mental pictures, of what they are, and ideas of
what they constitute. But again we are using words to
describe different points of view to this whole process
of mental activity. So, it all boils down to the same
thing. We may use this precise vocabulary, but we are
talking about the same thing essentiallythis mental
level of our experience.
When we consider our make up as beings from
these three points of viewbody, speech and mind
and if we further consider the whole process of
karmaof what it is that is truly responsible for creat
ing karma, whether it is virtuous karma or non-virtuous
karma, whether it is the kind of karma that continues to
bind our minds to samsara or whether it is the kind of
action that will liberate the mind from that confusion
and sufferingwhat is primarily responsible? Is it the
body, the speech or the mind? Where does the primary
responsibility, the primary effectiveness lie? Whether
we are intent upon perpetuating samsara and keeping
our mind bound to samsara, or awakening to full
buddhahood that passes beyond all extremes, we are
dealing fundamentally on the level of mind, aren't we?
It is something that principally boils down to mind,
rather than being something specifically physical or
verbal in nature.
It may seem that we are saying at this point,

Aha, okay, since the mind is responsible for every

thing, then the only thing that really exists is mind,
right? Mind is something. Not quite, because when we
speak of mind in the ordinary sense, we are speaking of
something that is entirely dependent upon the object of
which that mind is aware. There is a certain kind of
mind taking place when we perceive a beautiful attrac
tive object in our sensory field. We want that object.
There is a different kind of mind taking place when we
perceive something disgusting, offensive or threaten
ing. When we perceive something about which we are
apathetic and that doesn't evoke any reaction at all,
there is a still yet different mind state. The way mind
functions in its ordinary capacity is in relationship to
objects. We can't say that something that is that de
pendent upon external conditions is in and o f itself
something that is always the same.
Earlier I made the statement that if you wish to
perpetuate cyclic existence, it is primarily on the level
of mind that you perpetuate it. I made it with this in
mind: When our ordinary mind is functioning in such a
way that we are attached to seemingly pleasant, attrac
tive objects in our perception or repelled or threatened
by certain others, the love/hate tension that we experi
ence towards the objects in our experience is what per
petuates samsara. It is fundamentally that which is re
sponsible for the cycle continuing to turn.
On the other side of the coin, if one is bent
upon attaining that state of utter peace, which is nir
vana, the transcendence of all sorrow and suffering,
then it is primarily a mental process. In the beginning
stages of freeing the mind from suffering, the object of
ones sense of faith or respect to which the mind re
lates is the Three Jewels, rather than an object that gen
erates attachment or aversion in the ordinary sense.

Ones approach to cyclic existence might be in the be

ginning stages a healthy fear of the consequences of
continuing to be involved in that level o f confusion.
So, you begin through a mental process of realigning or
reorienting your approach to the objects of your per
ception. You begin to carry out your spiritual path and
live your life in a different way. You begin to observe
the sense of discipline that we were talking about ear
lier, and living your life by some code of ethics that
assures that at the very least you yourself are freed of
suffering. That is a perfectly valid, although, perhaps,
not the most laudable motivation for following the
spiritual pathto want to end your own suffering, to
free yourself from pain and confusion. You can attain a
kind of nirvana that way. But again, that is primarily a
mental process. What you do with your body and your
speech, as a result of that, is just a supportive mecha
nism for what is basically a mental process. The most
important factor in all of this is mind, whether we are
talking about samsara, the perpetuation of cyclic exis
tence, or the attainment of nirvana.
If we consider the other alternative I men
tioned, the attainment of completely awakened buddhahood, which does not fall into either the extreme of
confusion, the perpetuation of cyclic existence, or the
mere peace and quietude of personal salvation, limited
nirvana, then we are describing something that is expe
rienced when a person has embarked on the Mahayana
path. That is to say, simply, that their motivation is al
truistic and compassionate. Their motivation for pur
suing a path of spiritual development is not one of be
ing concerned only for their personal benefit, but really
one which embraces the welfare of all beings, of every
thing that lives. When a person pursues their path as an
expression of that altruistic motivation of bodhicitta

and attains the goal of complete enlightenment, that is

an enlightenment that goes beyond the two extremes of
simply wandering in confusion or simply escaping
from your own suffering without consideration for the
welfare of others. But again, we are talking about what
is fundamentally a mental process. It is the mind that
experiences that transcendence of duality.
Because the factor of your mental perspective
is so important, the only way we can truly determine
the effectiveness of ones spiritual practice is on that
level of mind, not on the verbal or physical expressions
of that practice. When the great Lord Atisha of Bud
dhist India came to Tibet, his main Tibetan student,
Drongdun Rinpoche, was staying with him, and at a
certain point, Atisha just said, Oh, Oh my. It seemed
to come out of nowhere and very distraught. Drungten
Rinpoche said to him, Sir, what is wrong?
Atisha said, One of my students in India, who
is a practitioner of Hevajra, has just lost his bodhicitta,
and he is now practicing on the level of a Shravaka, of
a Hinayana practitioner.
Drongten first thought to himself before reply
ing, Hevajra is a Mahayana practice, a Vajrayana prac
tice. Its one of the most profound cycles in the Vajray
ana approach, and youre telling me that someone who
is a Mahayana practitioner, practicing this magnificent
cycle of teachings is somehow fallen to the level of Hi
Atisha answered, It has nothing to do with the
level of teachings he is practicing, it's the mind with
which he is practicing it. He is using a Mahayana tech
nique with a Hinayana attitude, and so his practice is
Hinayana practice. He has fallen from the ideal to
which he committed himselffollowing the Mahayana

The point that Atisha was making was that if

the Dharma is not practiced as the Dharma is intended
to be practiced, it fails to fulfill its purpose, and the
person is not utilizing the teaching in the way it is
meant to be utilized. If you practice a so-called Mahayana technique with a Hinayana attitude, your practice is
Hinayana practice. If you practice a so-called Hinayana
technique with Mahayana attitude, your practice is Mahayana practice. It is a question of your attitude. It is a
question of your mental point of view in undertaking
what you undertake. It has very little to do with the re
flection on a physical and verbal level of what seems to
be this or that, but everything to do with where your
mind is when you are practicing. It is perfectly possible
for a nominally Mahayana practitioner to be practicing
on the level of Hinayana and only achieving those
benefits, which are there to be experienced, but far less
than if the person were a Mahayana practitioner in the
true sense of the word. It is all a question of your mind,
of where your mind is, of how your mind is approach
ing something, rather than what that thing in and of it
self may or may not be.
Now, this isn't so abstruse a point that we can't
grasp it immediately in our own direct experience.
Whenever you act physically, first on some level you
think about doing that action, don't you? You say I
want to reach and grab the cup. You make some
thought in your mind; then that becomes expressed in
physical activity. Or when you say something. On some
level, however instantaneous, you think first and then
you speak. There's some thought that comes up in the
mind that is then expressed in speech. It's very obvi
ous, if we take the time just to think about how we ex
perience things, our mind is responsible for our verbal
and physical actions, which are just supportive mecha

nisms that express what is already going on in the

mind. All of this is concerned with this first stage of
the preliminary phase of Dzogchen practice, which is
known as seeking out the root of mind, seeking out
mind as the root, we might say, mind as the fundamen
tal factor.
From there we proceed to the next stage, which
is known as rooting out the hidden flaw, exposing the
hidden flaw in the way mind ordinarily functions. To
begin with, then, in exposing this hidden flaw, when
we speak of body, speech and mind, are we speaking
about an identitythat body equals speech, equals
mind? Or are we speaking about a separateness, a dis
tinctness, that there are three separate things? In the
first case is mind equal to speech, equal to body, are
these identical, are these the same thing? That's proba
bly absurd, because then our mind would have to have
the same kind of shape, color, size and so on and so
forth as our body. If mind and body, for example, were
identical, the characteristics of the body would be the
characteristics of the mind, but they are not. Our mind
is not subject to those same kinds of conditions as our
physical body; nor is it exactly the same as our speech,
because then it would be nothing more than whatever
the contents were of our speech at any given point.
That is not the case. So, it is patently absurd to assume
that body equals speech, equals mindthat there is an
identity there. So, our next conclusion is, Oh, they
must be separate and distinct from one another.
Are body and mind identical? We can come to
the conclusion, no, they are not because the mind does
not partake of the same kinds of characteristics, the
form, shape, color, weight, size and so forth as our
bodies. Then we can proceed to speech. And we note
that speech may be of a pleasant nature; it may be of an

unpleasant nature; it may be of a completely neutral

nature. But the sounds that constitute our speech are
not identical to our mind, because then our mind would
have to sound pleasant or sound unpleasant or sound
neutral, and our mind doesn't sound like anything at
all. It is not some pleasant or unpleasant sound or any
concatenation of pleasant and unpleasant sounds. So,
mind and speech are not identical, they are seemingly
separate and distinct.
Then we come to the mind itself, and we say,
Well, okay, if mind isnt equal to the body, and mind
isn't equal to the speech, what is the mind? How can
we say something is anything unless we can describe
it? If we say mind exists, mind is something, then lets
describe it. What color is it? What shape is it? What
size is it? What direction does it take? What character
istics does it exhibit? What does it taste like? What
does it feel like? If we are going to describe it, let's de
scribe it. Let's do a good job. We need to be able to de
scribe it in some kind of concrete terms if we are talk
ing about some entity that exists.
Let's go back to the idea of the body. When we
use the word, body, we seem to be describing a single
thing that is always the same, some thing that has its
own integrity as an entity, but when we examine fur
ther, we realize there is really nothing we can put our
finger on to establish the body. When we speak of the
body, we are talking about a whole concatenation of
arms and legs, bits and pieces, different sense faculties
like our eyes and our nose and so forth. When you put
those together, you can put the convenient label body
on it. But if you remove those elements, where's the
body? And so body per se is a fallacy. It's a convenient
fiction for what doesn't really exist in and of itself.
This does not apply solely to our own physical

bodies as individuals, but to all of the phenomena that

we experience, whether we are talking about the inani
mate world as a kind of container or the animate beings
contained therein. We are speaking about convenient
labels for things, not about actually existing entities
that have their own ultimate existence, whether we are
describing the largest mountain, the most impressive
physical object in the world around us. When we say
there is a mountain, we are not describing something
that actually exists in its own right, but a convenient
label for what happens when you put a number of
causes and conditions together in a certain way. We
can take that mountain, analyze it and reduce it down
to its molecular, atomic and subatomic components un
til we simply lose sight of anything there at all that can
justify the name, mountain, and that can be said to ex
ist ultimately as a mountain.
Suppose we take the example of the house that
we live in. We are used to saying This is my house or
my home. Although there are component parts of
stone, cement, various kinds of metal, glass, electrical
wiring and so forth, the only reason we can speak of
having a home is because all of these component parts
fit together in a certain way. Other than that, there
never was a house there in the first place, and there still
isn't. There is just a convenient label for this concate
nation of different component parts that we can con
veniently label house. But when we say that we have a
house, we are not talking about something that exists in
its own right. We can take the component parts and
reduce it even further. Suppose we take the front door
of our house, which is one of the component parts for
this thing we are calling house. The door itself is com
posed of smaller bits and pieces that are put together in
a certain way to achieve a certain function, which we

then label, door. Other than that there is no such thing

as a door that exists ultimately. It is simply a label for
this concatenation of bits and pieces of component
It is on this basis that we can say that there is
absolutely no difference between the enlightened mind
of any buddha and the buddha nature of our own
minds. But for the time being our confusion imposes
upon us a view of things that seem to exist when, in
fact, they do not. Things seem to be permanent, when,
in fact, they are impermanent. So, we continue to expe
rience things from the point of view of this misappre
hension. When our own mind directly understands its
own nature, that's buddha. Thats it! There is no dis
tinction between that and the mind of any buddha, but
for the time being these superficial distortions in our
way of seeing things prevent us from realizing that. In
stead, we impute all kinds of things to have an exis
tence that they don't have.
For that which we term buddha nature, for that
potential for enlightenment to become the actuality and
so that the process of unraveling that confusion can
take place, we are extremely fortunate that there are the
eighty-four thousand collections of the Buddhadharma,
the vast wealth of teaching that buddhas through su
preme skill and means and innate compassion present
for the benefit of unenlightened beings. If we are will
ing to commit ourselves to the practice of the path and
to follow the stages of that path, at some point our bud
dha nature will become evident. Our indwelling pris
tine awareness will become fully expressed rather than
just a latent potential. But for the time being, while we
are still under the influence of the confusion that pre
vents us from perceiving what is already the case, until
the point that we perceive what is for what it is, it is

important that we follow the process of seeking out

mind as the fundamental principle and exposing the
hidden flaw of the way ordinary mind works. It is im
portant that we follow all of these stages because they
are a necessary process in order for what is already the
case to become evident.
We may take our inspiration from the fact that
all buddhas and bodhisattvas were once just as ordi
nary, confused and unenlightened as we are. At some
point that being began to practice the spiritual path,
perhaps, for eons. In some cases spiritual practitioners
have undergone enormous hardships for eons in order
to receive even a single verse of teachings. But even
tually that process brought the buddha or bodhisattva
to the point that the innately indwelling pristine aware
ness in the mindstream of that being became evident
for that being. At a certain point the same buddha na
ture that became evident for those buddhas will be
come evident for us, but only if we commit ourselves
to the process of the spiritual path and practice just as
they practiced and gained enlightenment. There is
really no distinction to be made between our buddha
nature and the nature of a buddha, except for a buddha
that nature is evident, and for us it is not yet evident.
Now, if we consider the examples of those
buddhas and bodhisattvas, who in some cases may
have labored for eons to gain enlightenment, we may
tend to lose heart and think, Oh, I could never be
equal to that kind of challenge. That is completely in
appropriate. Rather, it should inspire you that someone
else went through the process. Why can't you go
through that same process and reveal your own buddha
nature in all its entirety, just exactly as it is? So, take
this as a kind of inspiration not as someone saying,
Well if you cant undergo that same kind of hardship

right now, then you are hopeless. Rather say, Look

at the kind of dedication those great beings had to their
spiritual search. That's the kind of dedication I want to
have. That's the kind of dedication I am going to
arouse in myself. Use it as a means of fueling your
own inspiration to follow your path.
All that we have been covering up to this point
is within the category that was described poetically as
tearing down the hut o f ordinary mind, dismantling the
way in which mind thinks about things. One begins, as
we described it very briefly, by identifying mind as the
root, as the fundamental principle behind all of our ex
periences of nirvana and samsara and buddhahood.
Then one moves to identifying or exposing the hidden
flaw of mindthinking of it as something when in fact
there is nothing thereby examining how body,
speech and mind are not identical, yet when we try to
identify what it is we mean when we say body or
speech or mind, there is nothing there to put our finger
on. This is known as exposing the hidden flaw of ordi
nary mind.
Having gone over this briefly, we should ex
amine the next stage of these preliminary practices of
the Dzogchen path, which is known as the examination
of the three phases of thought taking place in ordinary
mind. That is to say the examination of initially the
source, the location of a given thought or mental event
for the period of its duration, and then finally the desti
nation. When a given thought or mental event, some
process of ordinary mind, ceases to be, ceases to con
tinue, where does it go? What is its destination? This
is known as examining the three phasesthe arising,
the enduring or remaining o f thought, and the going
out o f existence o f thoughtexamining those three

The point of this exercise of examining the

three phases of thought is that you are attempting to
identify whether or not you can actually pin down a
particular source from which the mind arises when it
expresses itself as a given thought. You have a certain
thought that in the previous moment didn't exist and
now comes up as something new in your mind. The
process of meditation is an analytical one at this point.
You try to find out where that thought comes from, or
to put in a more general sense, where mind comes
from. And you try to identify any source that there
might be, so you can pin it down and say, Aha, that's
where that thought comes from. Now, the ultimate
point of the exercise is to arrive at the conclusion that
you really can't find any such source. When you really
come to try to put your finger on it so to speak, you
can't say, Aha, this is where mind comes from; this is
the origin of that thought.
Similarly, you move from there to the next
phase of mental activity, which is the duration of a
given thought or state of mind, and try to find out
where it is located. If we are talking about a thing, it
has to be somewhere. Where is that thought? Where is
the mind that is thinking that thoughtexternal, inter
nalwhere is it? Again, the ultimate point of the exer
cise is that you come to the conclusion that there is no
such location or anything located there.
Finally, there is the third phase, the cessation
of thought, the going out o f existence when a thought
ceases to be. Where does it go? Pin down the destina
tion if in fact there is such a thing that can be pinned
down. Again, the point o f the process is you eventually
come to the realization that there is nothing you can
put your finger on as the place to which mind, or the
thoughts in the mind go, when those thoughts cease to

happen. Thats the point of the exercise. It is valuable

to go through that analytical process rather than just
leap to the answer and say, Oh, I understand that the
process is that there is no such source. Actually work
through this analysis, this analytical meditation, to de
termine that you can't find any ultimate source or loca
tion or destination for these phases of ordinary mind
operating, creating thoughts.
Now, of course, given that we have already de
termined in the earlier stages of the preliminary medi
tations that mind has no form, no shape, no color or
size or location, it would stand to reason very logically
that we are not talking about something in the ordinary
sense. Therefore, we are not talking about something
that has to have an origin from a certain place, coming
into a certain location and lasting for a certain time and
then going somewhere else. We are not describing
things that are of that order. We don't have to talk
about mind as though it behaves according to the ordi
nary characteristics that ordinary things have. The
point of that process is to lead you, not just to the un
derstanding, but to the experience, the realization that
essentially mind is what is termed groundless and
without root, or without foundation. There is nothing
there to be discussed as though it were an ordinary
thing in the usual sense of the word. This process is
designed to bring you to that realization in more than
just an intellectual way.
Having followed this process through, you are
left with the experience of something which exhibits a
lucidity and an awareness, but perhaps you are still
thinking that there's got to be something there; theres
this lucidity, there's this awareness. However, if you
are talking about something that exists in the ordinary
or naive sense of the word, it has to have characteris

tics. In order to talk about it, as something that exists,

you have to be able to describe it. It has to have some
form or color or shape or size or direction. It has to
have parameters that you can use to talk about it.
It's a bit like trying to describe what it's like to
see space, not the sky, not the blue vault that we see
above our heads, but just the space in the room here.
Do any of you see the space? Yeah, but describe it. It's
that there's nothing else there between us, but what we
call space. So, we are not really describing anything,
but that does not mean we do not have the direct expe
rience of space. Talking about mind is a bit like that. It
comes down to the point that we are not really talking
about something in the ordinary sense of the word, but
there is an experience of lucidity and awareness that is
undeniable. But that doesnt mean that we are able to
concretize it and say that its this or that in the usual
sense of the word.
These are the three stages, if you will, to the
introductory, preliminary phase of Dzogchen practice:
determining that mind is the fundamental principle that
accounts for our experience of samsara and nirvana;
exposing the hidden flaw of conceptualizing that mind
to be something; and then examining the coming into
being of thought in ordinary mind, the duration and lo
cation of that thought and the destination to which that
thought finally goes. The express purpose of that proc
ess is to come to the realization that there is nothing
that you can really put your finger on. That is a brief
overview of these different stages of meditation as they
are presented in the ngondro or preliminary phase of
the Dzogchen tradition.
What might be most fruitful at this point is to
ask for questions; I will try to answer to the limit of my
own understanding and realization. I make no claim to

talk about something I don't understand, but to the ex

tent that I can address your questions, I am more than
happy to.
Q: Even though mind is distinct from and not equal to
body or speech, are we to also assume that in its dis
tinctness and its non-equalness that it has no inherent
part of body or speech, that the mind is so distinct?
A: The point of saying that mind and body, for exam
ple, are not identical was only to point out that they are
not identical and seem to be separate and distinct.
There is no claim being made that they are ultimately
separate and distinct in the sense of being ultimately
existing entities that have no connection with one an
other, because in fact there is no phenomenon within
samsara or nirvana that can be established to have its
own ultimate existence. Body, speech and mind are
phenomena that fall within the range of samsara and
nirvana, and none o f these phenomena can be proven
to have their own ultimate existence. The point that
was being made was that on a purely conventional
level we cannot say that body, speech and mind are
identical for the reasons that were mentioned. If the
body and the mind were identical, the mind would have
the same characteristics as the body. For example,
when the body died the mind would die, which doesnt
happen. The mind continues onto other realms of expe
rience after this physical body dies and rots away and
is no longer existent even in the nominal sense. The
point that was being made was that, ultimately, one
cannot say that any of this has any inherent self-nature.
Even on a nominal level you cannot say that we are
talking about identical phenomena. But likewise, you
can't turn around and say they are ultimately separate

and distinct, because for things to be separate and dis

tinct they have to exist ultimately with characteristics
that distinguish them from one another, and there is no
ultimate existence that can be proven in any of these
Purely on the level of proving that mind and
body are not identical is the argument that when the
body dies the mind doesn't die. The mind goes onto
experience some future state of rebirth. If they were
identical, when the body died, the mind would die.
That would be it; there would be no more experience.
But the mind does in fact go beyond death. All that
proves is that even on a nominal level mind and body
are not identical. It in no way proves or is meant to
prove that mind and body have ultimate existence
which distinguishes them from one another.
Q: Let's take the case of a chocolate bar. Maybe some
time you are just some place and you see a chocolate
bar. Then you have the thought that you want it. So,
you might think that the thought or desire to have the
chocolate bar came from the chocolate bar. But another
time when no chocolate bar is there, you may have the
thought; then it's very clear to see that the thought
came from your mind. And in that case you must go
find a chocolate bar. So, in those two instances it
seems like the arising of the thought is from two differ
ent places. The first time it looks like its from the
chocolate bar, and the second time it looks like it's
from your mind.
A: If the original, the initial idea that the thought
comes from the chocolate bar, if thats true, then what
that is really saying is that your mind is in the choco
late bar. And youre going to have a hard time proving

that. Actually, this is a useful question in that it points

out the thing I was getting at earlier that ultimately
there is no distinction to be made between the awak
ened awareness of a buddha and the buddha nature of
any of us. But for the time being, we are hampered by
the distortions imposed by our own confusion; we con
tinue to perceive things as though they were separate
from us and invest them with a reality they don't have.
We do this to the point that it actually feels like the
thought comes from the chocolate bar rather than a
thought arising in our mind. Just as the perception of
the chocolate bar, which was the trigger for the
thought, is just a perception in our mind, too. What you
are saying basically is you are investing the chocolate
bar with a reality all its own when you say the thought
comes from the chocolate bar.
That is an example of dualistic subject/object
grasping, which is the root of samsara. It's not a ques
tion of whether the apparent phenomena manifests.
Buddhas still experience the manifestation of apparent
phenomena, visual or otherwise, but there isn't the
grasping. There isn't the conceptualizing in terms of
subject and object that is fundamental to the samsaric
mind. Ultimately, all you are describing is that in your
mind there is for you the attractive appearance of a
chocolate bar in your field of perception to which you
then have an extremely desirous response. You want
the chocolate bar. You are really describing a process
of what manifests in your mindthe experience of the
chocolate bar, seeing the chocolate bar, which then be
comes the desiring of the chocolate bar. It doesn't mean
that a buddha wouldn't see the chocolate bar. It means
that there wouldnt be the subject/object dualism that is
in your mind. That is the only distinction on a conven
tional level that can be made between you and a bud

dha. You persist in your confusion; for a buddha there

is no confusion. Other than that there is no distinction
between your buddha nature and the Buddha's enlight
ened awareness.
Q: So, the distinction would be the attachment we
would have towards the chocolate bar, whereas a bud
dha would be able to taste and smell the chocolate with
all the senses, so the mind, the enlightened mind also
uses the sensory to experience the same way, but the
difference would be the attachment?
A: It's not as simplistic as that. For a buddha apparent
phenomena continue to manifest, but in a way that we
could only really describe at our level as a vast array
of purity, what is termed in Tibetan, dag pa rab ja m ,
which means literally a vast array of purity. That
which manifests to a buddha's awareness is not any
thing like the dualistic thoughts of lovely or ugly,
pleasant or unpleasant, tasty or revolting, fragrant or
disgusting, soft or rough, that we are used to. That du
alistic framework of value judgments about our sensory
experiences doesn't really pertain on the level of
buddhahood. So it's not a question of simply saying,
Well, a buddha sees everything just like we do, but
he's or shes not attached to it. It's not quite that sim
ple. Manifestations continue to appear to a buddha's
consciousness, but not on the same order of reality as
things manifest to us. Beyond that, we can say that one
of the aspects of a buddha's experience is there is no
subject/object dualism. It isn't the case of everything
being exactly the same, but there's no subject/object
dualism. What appears or manifests before a buddha's
awareness or in a buddha's awareness, vis a vis a bud
dha's awareness, is what is simply termed dag pa rab

jam this entire vast array of purity. For example, in the

case of an Arhat, on the Hinayana path, who has real
ized the non-existence of the individual self, but has
not realized the non-existence of phenomena, there is
some gradation of experience that we can talk about
that more or less parallels ours. But for us to talk
about full complete enlightenment, buddhahood we are
talking about not only the realization of the non
existence of the individual self, but the non-existence
of any self-nature in phenomena. And so the way in
which apparent phenomena manifest to a buddhas con
sciousness is of a completely different order than how
it manifests to our consciousness.
If we were talking about a buddha, and were
describing that buddha's experience in terms of lovely
things to see or beautiful things to hear or taste, we
wouldn't be talking about buddhahood, because we are
talking about a dualistic order of experience, a dualistic
level of experience of lovely versus not lovely, of
pleasant sound versus unpleasant sound. So, we would
still be talking about a dualistic framework, and not
really describing buddha awareness. In a nutshell, ordi
nary mind is what is taking place when there is the du
alistic conception of subject and object that underlies
the mental process thats taking place. If we are speak
ing of a state of awareness that is beyond that subject/
object dualism, then, we are speaking of rigpa.
Q: Im taking it when you use the usual word, mind,
you would be referring to both mind in its dualistic ca
pacity and its non-dual capacity. And so, the word
mind, as you have been using it, has not included in
trinsic awareness? Is that correct?
A: Right. What we have been speaking about today is

the level of view that deals with phenomenal reality

and the operation of ordinary mind vis a vis phenome
nal reality. We haven't got to the view of dharmata, the
view of the true nature of reality where we are talking
about rigpa.
Q: For example, with the chocolate bar if you are sit
ting with the awareness of the pattern or dynamic of
mind that is dealing with dualistic relationship to the
chocolate bar, at the same time being aware that there
is an intrinsic awareness, you are holding both of those
at the same time. What is the next step to dissolve the
pattern of the chocolate bar dilemma in order to rein
force or uncover more of the intrinsic awareness?
A: This is something that we will be talking about
later with the discussion of The Three Verses of Garab
Dorje. But suffice it to say that from the Dzogchen or
Great Perfection point of view, there is the initial rec
ognition of view or you might say of rigpa, of intrinsic
awareness, and then the holding to that recognition.
The process of meditation, if you will, or practicing the
path at that point is one of simply maintaining ongoing
awareness of that initial recognition. At that point, re
gardless of what thoughts arise in the mind, they are
freed in the immediacy of rigpa, of intrinsic awareness,
as long and this is the big ifas long as one is hold
ing to that recognition of intrinsic awareness. From the
point of view of the Dzogchen path, meditation is not
so much a deliberate or contrived process of maintain
ing awareness of something, as it is a means of simply
remaining in the recognition of rigpa despite all the
manifestations of what is called the dynamic energy of
that rigpa, of that intrinsic awareness. You simply
maintain that recognition rather than continually try to

pay attention to something in a dualistic sense. That

recognition is likened to drawing on the surface of wa
ter. The moment that you draw a design on water it
vanishes. You still draw the design, but it vanishes.
The thoughts arise and yet are freed in that recognition
as long as one holds to that recognition. But this is
something that paradoxically takes practice. There is
the initial recognition. To hold to that is a little trickier.
It does require continued or concerted attention to
maintain that recognition. Otherwise, people run the
risk of making a very big mistake when the first couple
of times it feels great. You maintain this recognition.
Thoughts arise and thoughts are released, and you
think, Hey, this is great! And then slowly without
even noticing it you start falling under the influence of
your old dualistic thought patterns but think you are
still maintaining the view. Its tricky, a tricky question,
but basically the process is simply one of maintaining
The metaphor that was used of the jewel on the
head of the poisonous serpent, was to indicate that you
can go either way: your involvement with the Great
Perfection path can go either way. If you approach the
teacher and the teachings with a sense of reverence,
with a sense of humility, with a sense of learning, seek
ing to leam from the connection, to receive the teach
ings and practice them, that's the jewel. You can attain
buddhahood in this lifetime. Even if you don't attain it
in this lifetime, if you approach it in the proper spirit
and maintain that samaya connection of respect for the
teacher and the teachings, you can attain enlightenment
in seven lifetimes, guaranteed, as long as you maintain
that positive connection. The poisonous serpent comes
in when a person initially, for whatever reason, re
ceives teachings in the Great Perfection, but then delib

erately turns against them or the teacher and deliber

ately cultivates an attitude of hating or criticizing in the
sense of belittling or disparaging the teacher or the
teachings. Then the person is in his or her own mindstream creating the conditions for rebirth in the lowest
hell, the hell of ceaseless torment, which is the most
painful of all of the eighteen realms of hell. Not be
cause the person is being punished by anyone else, but
because the person in his or her own mindstream has
made that extremely powerful connection and then
turned against it in a very negative way in his or her
own mind. So, the poisonous serpent strikes when you
as the practitioner of the Great Perfection deliberately
flout or disparage that connection that you have with
the teacher or the teachings in the Dzogchen context.
When you decide in your mind, that these are bad peo
ple, this is terrible teaching, this is a waste of time, this
is worthless, this is trash, you are turning your mind
away from the teachings and that powerful connection
of the teachings in such a way that, just as certainly as
you would have attained enlightenment, your mind will
certainly be plunged into the lowest hell. So, that's the
very powerful nature of the connection. That's the
jewel on the head of the poisonous serpent. But it is a
question of you deliberately flouting or going against
that connection rather than some incidental little mis
take you might make in your practice. It's the deliberate
sense of wrong views about the teacher and the teach
ings that allows the poisonous serpent to bare its fangs.
Another example, which is often used in the
tradition to demonstrate the very crucial nature of the
connection with such teachings, is of the snake in the
bamboo tube. The snake has two choices: it can go
straight up or straight down. If a person maintains a
positive connection with the teacher and the teachings

and practices to the best of his or her abilities then the

progress is upwards. But if the person flouts that and
creates wrong views in his or her mind and indulges in
those, the only way to go is down. The snake can only
go one of two ways. When it's in the bamboo tube, it
can't go any other direction only straight up or
straight down, but it is the snake's choice.
A: The term, narme, in Tibetan or avici in Sanskrit, ac
tually has two interpretations. There is one famous
terma cycle in which the statement or prayer is made:
May the consciousness of the enemy of the teachings
be mixed with earth and cast into the hell of ceaseless
torment. This sounds like a very cruel thing to say.
As a matter of fact, one Gelupa writer who was criticiz
ing this particular terma cycle said, What a terrible,
ruthless, uncompassionate thing to actually wish that
somebody's consciousness would be mixed with earth
and cast into the lowest hell.' The great Mipham Rinpoche of the Nyingma school, who came along towards
the end of the last century, wrote a commentary on this.
He said, You have to understand that, when it is talk
ing about the word earth or ground, it is using the
word for bhumi or level of realization, and the term
narme in certain contexts could be interpreted as being
the hell o f ceaseless torment; in another context narme
can be understood as a realm without suffering, (the
pinnacle realm of Akanishta, the dharmakaya pure
realm). So, this aspiration was in fact an extremely
compassionate aspiration: May the consciousness of
the enemy of the teachings be blended with the levels
of realization and edified, lifted into the pinnacle pure
realm that is beyond torment. It was a question of
somebody taking the language too literally, and in fact,
this term avici or narme can be interpreted in two

ways. In the case of someone breaking their samaya,

the negative connotation is to be understood, but that
doesn't mean when you come across that term in a text,
it always means that lowest of the hell realms.
In the hellish sense o f the word, the term does
n't mean without torment but means there's no torment
like the torment o f this hell it is without any equal
and so it is the worst possible kind of agony that can be
experienced. That's what the connotation of the term
is. But it shows you how something can hinge on a
term and the context in which that term is used, be
cause it can be taken to mean the realm beyond or
without any torment or full realization.
Q: I wasn't sure what Rinpoche was going for when he
talked about there being no thing present with the body
or the speech. Mind is a little different. In talking about
the body, for example, as being a series of parts, it
seemed like his explanation didn't take into considera
tion the well-known phrase, the whole is greater than
the sum of the parts. Functionally, on a physical level
there is such a thing as a body, namely a bit more than
a collection of parts.
A: The point that is being made here is that our habit,
the way we habitually react to things in our experience
is to naively invest them with an existence that they do
not have. So, when we speak about the body, we as
sume on some level that we are speaking of a single
thing. And, in fact, that is the way we react to all of the
phenomena in our experience including all of the com
ponent parts of that body. Even if we break it down the
next step further, we think o f the parts as being real.
There is always that tendency of the mind to invest a
reality or invest an ultimate existence in things that

they do not have. That is the fundamental problem that

perpetuates cyclic existence, that keeps us caught in
that process of confused existence that we know as
samsara. The point that is being made here is simply
that when we say the word body, all we are ultimately
referring to is a concatenation of circumstances, noth
ing more than that. This is not to deny the experience
of having a body and the body being able to execute
certain actions and so forth. It is simply to take us
back a step from the naive assumption that we are talk
ing about something that exists in and of itself with its
own self-nature, its own ultimate existence. Due to our
investing things with a reality that they don't have, we
then react to them on the basis of whether we find that
body beautiful or ugly or find that speech pleasant or
unpleasant and we, therefore, develop attachment and
aversion towards those perceived objects, which then
perpetuates for us the whole process of samsara. If we
realize that something like our body or speech does not
have an ultimate existence as something in and of it
self, then we are not going to indulge in those dualistic
patterns of attachment and aversion that perpetuate
samsara. So, that is the real point, and we can use our
own powers of reasoning to work that through. The
point that we are coming to is that not just the body
and not just the speech, but none of the components,
none of the elements of our experience, and none of the
phenomena within our experience can in any way be
proven to have ultimate existence in and of themselves.
That is the point that is being made, not that somehow
the parts are valid, but that the whole of the parts isn't.
Do you see the distinction there?
Q: Well, it seems that the analysis is looking at a dif
ferent level than physical existence.

A: Think of it this way: In the ultimate sense, no phe

nomenon can be proven to have its own ultimate exis
tence, but on the relative level, within that conven
tional level of reality, things are valid in the sense that
they perform certain functions. Something on a phe
nomenal level can perform a certain function that in a
sense validates its existence on the conventional or
relative level. But the conventional level is that which
is involved with dualism and with confusion. And so
the argument is presented from the perspective of ulti
mate realityto shake loose those fixations we have
on the conventional or relative level and instead pres
ent it from a higher perspective, so, that we are able to
move outside of that conventional context and see how
it is simply a conventional reality or relative reality.
But that is not something that comes about easily; it's
something that requires concerted effort and attention
in order to come to that realization. Its not that we
don't want to attain buddhahood; all of us do, but it is
nt that easy. Its not just that things are exactly the way
they appear, nor is it everything's empty, nothing ex
ists, and that's it, Im a buddha. It's not that easy. It
takes a lot more attention than that, a lot more of a pro
cess of coming to a higher level of realization, a higher
perspective. If it were easier than it is, we would have
far more many buddhas than we have. But we don't,
because it isn't that easy. It does take concerted effort.
The kinds of arguments that are presented are simply to
shift our perspective from being completely fixated
with relative reality, and, instead, to see things as well,
from the perspective of ultimate reality. That is some
thing that eventually in the future will lead to realiza
tion. It won't come about quickly though. If it seems a
bit overwhelming or a bit confusing at this point, that's

understandable. It will take some concerted effort to

really sort itself out.
Q: In the teaching that was given there was a caution
ary note where the teaching was referring to the view at
the relative level, so it's very easy for that view of the
self to appropriate the shift and to strengthen itself fur
A: There is a danger, if you will, or there is at least a
cautionary note in the sense that what we have been
discussing up to this point is the view of Dzogchen as
it concerns the phenomenal level of reality or experi
ence. If one has established a good understanding of
that view and then takes that to be something perma
nent, ultimate, true, in and of itself, then one is making
a mistake. All that the view of phenomenal reality is
intended to do is to reduce or to undermine the ten
dency of ordinary mind to invest things with a reality
they don't have. That's the purpose of analyzing, for
example, mind from the point of view of it having any
characteristics, such as form or shape or color or size
or direction. You arrive at the understanding that mind
is empty of any self-nature. When you settle your mind
in that experience of the emptiness of mind, then you
have achieved, in a sense, you have gained that insight
which is known as the view of phenomenal reality. Be
yond that it is necessary to gain direct introduction to
rigpa, to intrinsic awareness. But you are not out of the
woods yet. It's the first step, but to then say, Aha,
thats it. That is reality. That is the ultimate; that is
true. That is to make an error. Yes, there is a caution
ary note here. We are still only dealing on the level of
dualism, albeit subtle, and the level of phenomenal re
ality. We haven't yet begun to address the view of dhar63

mata, the true nature of reality, the true nature of the

Q: I have a question about approaching Dzogchen for
someone who has not found a root teacher. What do
you do in that case? Do you take a teaching and hold
onto it for a later time? Also, if we haven't made a
connection with the teacher of that level, how far do
you progress without that connection?
A: In terms of what teachings it is appropriate for you
to receive from which teachers, specifically in the
Dzogchen context, I think it really comes down to
your own attitude as students. If you have completely
uncontrived faith in a given teacher, there won't be any
question. O f course, you will go to take teachings from
that teacher, but otherwise it is a question of at least
having enough trust in the qualities of that teacher that
you will maintain an attitude of respect even if you
don't really understand what you are being taught. Per
haps, you find yourself a little out of your depth, the
teaching is beyond you, and you're not quite sure what
to make of it. At least maintain an attitude of respect,
thinking, 4Well, I may not understand it, but I trust this
teacher to be a good teacher and I trust these teachings
to be valuable teachings. At the very least, that is nec
essary. To simply go to a Dzogchen teaching out of a
sense of fascination, or because everybody is going, is
inappropriate. I would strongly encourage you not to
go to a teaching just out of the sense of idle curiosity or
a sense of peer pressure. Rather, you should have more
of a sense o f either a real heart connection with the
teacher or at the very least a sense of trusting the situa
tion, where you feel that this teacher is an authentic
teacher and the teaching is valuable. Then even if you

don't understand it, maintain a pure view of that situa

tion without then saying, Boy, you know, what a rip
off, what a charlatan. That person doesnt know what
hes talking about. Otherwise, you create potentially
serious problems for yourself as a student. At least to
have that basic trust in the situation seems to be essen
tial for receiving teachings, particularly in the Dzogchen context.
Q: I'm concerned about this motivation thing. In fact, it
sort of really ungrounded me. The idea that you can be
sitting there doing Vajrayana practice and yet, because
you slip in your motivation, you are definitely not get
ting any merit and are probably breaking your samaya
due to having a Hinayana attitude. Okay, I can take re
sponsibility for myself, but I'm also somewhat vitally
concerned about the responsibility of the teacher in the
situation, because as a student I can blindly sit there
and put all my faith and devotion into the situation, be
lieving that the teacher is truly and highly motivated.
That's a premise that I've accepted. I accepted it when I
examined my teacher, and I assumed that at that point
once I've accepted it, I need not be alert, but now I'm
beginning to wonder. Since all the teachers, because
they are physically manifestat least this is the way I
understand the teachingare accomplished bodhisattvas; they are tulkus. But they are not beyond the
eighth level, the eighth bhumi, because they are physi
cally manifest, then it would seem to me that there is
some layer there where we could have a discrepancy
not only in the bhumi, but also in the skill of the
teacher in maintaining his motivation. So, it boils down
to this: Can I, through my devotion to a teacher, be
blindly led to vajra hell because the teacher has failed
in his motivation, or would my own karma surface

above such and I don't think it's so abstruse a situa

tion and lead me forward, and simply the teacher
would experience his own karma. At what point does
the samaya to the teacher, of the teacher to the student
override the samaya o f the student to the teacher? It
seems to me it's a precarious situation.
A: That was a long question.
Q: So is hell.
A: What you say is perfectly true. It's entirely possible
that a lama can make a mistake or can err in his or her
judgment or his or her motivation and may fall into a
lower level of motivation, perhaps even he or she may
have a selfish motivation as opposed to an altruistic, or
perhaps simply a Hinayana motivation as opposed to a
Mahayana motivation. If you develop a connection
with a teacher in the context of Mahayana or Vajrayana
with a sense of faith and respect in the teacher and the
teachings, maintain that sense of faith and respect for
the connection that you have received in the Mahayana
or Vajrayana and follow the lamas instructions, then
even if the lama errs, as long as you maintain your pure
view of the positive qualities of that lama that allowed
you to have that connection with the Mahayana and
Vajrayana, you will not be influenced by what that
teacher may commit as an error in his or her judgment.
Q: But if I fail, then I follow him blindly to hell.
A: Yes. Simply because you are responsible for your
own karma vis a vis the teacher, not the teachers
karma. If it is the teacher's karma that the teacher
makes an error in judgment or falls from an ideal, that's

the teachers problem. Your problem is how you relate

to your connection with that teacher. That's all you can
be responsible for and that's all in fact you are respon
sible for karmically. Now the same thing goes the other
way. If you are going to assume that because a teacher
makes a mistake you automatically suffer the conse
quences you would have to assume the other thing
which is that if the teacher attains enlightenment you
automatically attain enlightenment. That doesn't work
either, because you are responsible for your own en
lightenment as well. From the Buddha Sakyamuni
down to the present day, there have been any number
of great mahasiddhas and great bodhisattvas who have
attained high levels of realization, and any of us have
had any amount of connection with such teachers
through Dharma, but our realization does not automati
cally equal their realization simply because we have a
connection. But based upon the connection, we have
the potential to attain that same kind of realization. In
the same way on the negative side, the fact that we
have the connection with the teacher does not make us
responsible for a teacher's potential mistakes, but what
we are responsible for is our relationship to our con
nection with that teacher, valuing and honoring that
connection because of what it has meant for us.
Q: What is the cause for phenomena arising in a buddha's mind? And what is perceiving that phenomena in
a buddha's mind?
A: In terms of what actually manifests to a buddhas
awareness, we are somewhat limited in our language,
in our ability to express this. This phrase, dakpa rab
jam , this vast array of purity or this cosmic array of pu
rity that was referred to earlier is simply a way of indi

eating that just as we perceive things that are visible,

hear things that are audible, experience mental events,
there is an analogous process in the sense that what
arises to a buddhas perception is the expression of
kaya or enlightened embodiment. What is heard by a
buddhas consciousness is the expression of enlight
ened speech, and what arises in the mind of a buddha is
an expression of enlightened mind, just as on an ordi
nary level what we see is ordinary impure form, what
we hear is ordinary impure sound and speech, and what
we experience is ordinary impure emotions and
thought patterns. There is an analogy here, but beyond
that to try and say exactly what it is a buddha is seeing
or hearing begs the question. Because when we are
talking about a buddha, we are not just talking about a
person or an individual, we are talking about the three
kayas. The three kayas of buddhahood are dharmakaya,
sambhogakaya and niimanakaya. Dharmakaya is form
less. There is no location or environment or embodi
ment or time frame to dharmakaya. It transcends all of
those concepts, but the expression of dharmakaya in
the perception of beings with highly purified percep
tions is that of what we term sambhogakaya. And in
our own perceptions as impure beings, the expression
of buddhahood, the dharmakaya buddhahood, is on the
level of what we term niimanakaya. Had we been
around in the time of Sakyamuni Buddha, we would
have perceived this magnificent physical form marked
with the thirty-two major and eighty minor marks of
physical perfection with the wheels on the soles of the
feet and the palms of the hands, the aura of golden
light, and the mid-brow pointall of these amazing
signson a physical level. But that still would have
only been what we were capable of perceiving with our
relatively impure perceptions. To say, 4Oh thats

buddhahood or That's what a buddha is, is only a

very small part of the picture. It's all that we would
have been capable of perceiving directly with our lim
ited senses in that set of circumstances. If we take it
from the sort of Mahayana point of view the standard
explanationbuddhahood pure and simple is dharmakaya. It is formless realization about which ordinary
concepts can't be used. We cant say, Oh it's like this
or it's like that, or it's because of this or that. On the
level that beings with a certain level of realization and
purified perceptions are capable of perceiving buddha
hood or enlightenment, we speak of the sambhogakaya
with its magnificent array or enlightened embodiment
and pure realms. And on the physical level we speak of
the nirmanakaya expression. But to then turn around
and say, Well, what does a buddha see? Well, we're
talking about a much bigger picture than just a single
individual with a set of eyes. We are speaking about a
whole spectrum, if you will, of enlightened awareness
and how it manifests in response to the perceptions of
beings on various stages of the path.
Let me assure you from my own experience
that I'm not going to satisfy your curiosity in a few
words. It is something that requires a long process of
using scriptural authority and your own reasoning and
experience to come to an understanding. If you are
confused at this point, I dont blame you. I know how it
feels. I've been through this process myself and I know
that it takes a long time of working with scriptural
authority, working with your own powers of reason and
your own experience to come to anything like an un
derstanding of how the three kayas of buddhahood
manifest. If you haven't got it this afternoon, don't
worry. It is something that you will need to devote
yourself to understanding.

Q: Im still thinking a little bit about the chocolate bar.

We are supposed to be thinking about where a thought
comes from, where it stays and where it goes. My two
examples were trying to delineate that in some cases it
looks like as if the thought comes from some place out
side. At other times, it's very clear that theres no
chocolate bar around; you want one, and you know it
comes from the inside. So you know in this case it is
somewhere coming from my mind and still where does
it come from I dont know. So Im trying to get more at
how do you distinguish, Rinpoche said its subject/
object. Alright, which comes first?
A: Maybe you should just never be around chocolate.
That would be the easiest approach for you. You need
to carry it one step further than your question implies.
Its not just a question of on a purely nominal and con
ventional level where the thought came from in terms
of what triggered the thought, but following it back fur
ther. In either case, whether its dependent on an object
of the chocolate bar that you have the thought or de
pendent on the idea of the chocolate bar that you have
the thought, regardless of whether you follow it back to
the object or the ideational consciousness thinking of
the chocolate bar. You have to follow it back behind
that and think, Okay, where did either of those come
from? Either the experience of the object of the choco
late bar that then produced the thought or the process
of ideation that gave rise to the idea of the chocolate
bar that then produced the thought, go back one step
further and look at where any of that thought or experi
ence came from in the first place. The perception of the
chocolate bar, where did that come from? As opposed
to just the thought that arose on the perception of the

chocolate bar, follow it back one step further.

Q: Then are you thinking about the thing outside or
the thing inside? Because it's a subject and an object.
Then, if you break it down the way you do your body
or something like that, then maybe you discover the
chocolate bar doesn't exist, but which do you do first?
A: In terms of which you felt first, if you have already
come to the understanding of mind as the nominally
inner, subjective agent experiencing the object, which
has no ultimate validity, no ultimate existence, that it is
groundless, without foundation, free from all elabora
tion, beyond all concepts, and that its nature really can't
be proven to be this or that, then the object perceived
by the mind is more or less taken care of. Whereas if
you begin with the object, you still have to go to the
level of mind. Its probably more straightforward just to
come back to the root principle, the fundamental prin
ciple of mind, which is responsible for the perception
o f the chocolate bar and all of samsara and nirvana in
the first place. You remember there was the first stage
o f coming to the understanding of mind as the funda
mental principle that is responsible for all of our expe
rience of samsara, all of our experience of nirvana in a
limited sense, all of our experience of buddhahood that
transcends both of those extremes. All of that is rooted
in mind. Follow it back to that, and then you don't
really need to concern yourself with the object first and
then the subject because you have already determined
that mind is the fundamental or root principle to be ad
dressed in the first place.
Perhaps, we should just leave it at that. Per
haps, I jumped the gun a bit. I kind of gave you the an
swer from the back of the book. In Tibet, when I was

taught this way by my teacher, all he did was say to

people, Go and examine your own minds. Tell me to
morrow morning what shape your mind is. Is it round?
Is it square? Is it triangular? Is it flat? Tell me what
color it is. Is it white, red, yellow, green, blue or what?
Tell me what size it is. Tell me how it tastes. Tell me
how it smells, tell me how it feels. He wouldn't say,
Oh, by the way, youre not going to find anything be
cause it really doesn't have its own ultimate existence.
He would say, Go and find out what your mind is like,
and tell me tomorrow morning. There would be a kind
of quiz the next morning. You would come in and you
would try to answer. He would say, Okay, what color
is your mind? You would try to give him some kind of
answer based upon your experience. The point was not
what's the correct answer. The point was to go through
a process of examining the nature of your own mind.
Perhaps, we should just leave it at that and ask people
to examine their own minds and determine what is and
is not the case about the nature of their own mind with
out giving the answers from the back of the book. You
can go through the process of just examining your
mind and dealing with these kinds quandaries
subject/object, that kind of thing. Just work with it,
grapple with it, and see what comes out of it. Now
lets return to the commentary.
The style of practice that is known as trek
chd, the effortless approach for lazy practitioners, is
one that is based upon specific instructions that derive
from the great holders of intrinsic awareness who were
the lineage holders of the Dzogchen path and who left
as their legacy these various testaments and pithy ex
pressions of direct transmission instructions in order to
guide the practitioner of trek chd. We have such lega
c ie s of in s tr u c tio n s f ro m G a r a b D o rje , fro m M a n ju s 72

rimitra, Shri Singha, Yana Sutra, Padmasambhava,

from all of the great holders of intrinsic awareness who
constitute the lineage of the Dzogchen teachings in this
world. The particular text that we are discussing is the
so-called testament of Garab Doije, which is known in
Tibetan by the title Tsig Sum Nei Dek, meaning The
Three Verses That Strike the Key Points of trek chod
In brief The Three Verses That Strike the Key
Points are as follows. The first is known as direct in
troduction to your own true nature in all its immedi
acy. What that refers to is the experience of yeshe, the
pristine awareness primordial wisdom that is inherently
present as a natural attribute of the nature of mind. It is
not something that needs to be sought elsewhere or cre
ated or manufactured in any way. Hence, the direct in
troduction that takes place on the level of this first line
or first verse of Garab Dorje is a direct introduction to
your own inherently indwelling pristine awareness
without anything having to be sought or found else
where. You are not introduced to anything other than
what is already inherently the nature of your mind. The
second verse or line in Garab Doijes testament speaks
of coming to a decisive experience in the immediacy o f
a single point o f reference, and this refers to the deci
sive experience of all of samsara and nirvana being the
display that unfolds within the vast expanse of rigpa,
of intrinsic awareness, with nothing falling out of the
encompassing expanse of rigpa, of intrinsic awareness.
To come to that decisive experience is what the second
line is referring to, coming to a decision in the immedi
acy of that one point. The third line or third verse in
Garab Doije's testament speaks of gaining confidence
in the immediacy o f a state o f freedom. When one has
come to that decisive experience of all of samsara and

nirvana as a display that unfolds within the vast ex

panse of intrinsic awareness, then the arising of a
thought or manifestation within that display is the free
ing of that thought within its own true nature. That is
the indwelling confidence that one gains, that one is
assured of, in the immediacy of that state of freedom.
So those, very briefly, are The Three Verses That Strike
the Key Points.
My comments will be based upon the commen
tary to these three lines composed by the great Patrul
Rinpoche of the Dzogchen lineage. Patrul Rinpoche
was recognized in his lifetime as a rebirth, as an em
bodiment of Shanti Deva, the great Indian Buddhist
master, who authored among other texts the Bodhicharyavatara. It was Patrul Rinpoche in the last century,
who composed one of the most famous commentaries
on The Three Verses of Garab Doije.
The nature of this kind of teaching is such that
I prefer to stick very closely to what Patrul Rinpoche
discusses in his commentary without adding a lot of my
own interpolation. I feel at this point that the profun
dity of the subject matter is such that any of my own
comments or digressions would only obscure the pro
fundity of the teachings. So, I prefer to base my com
ments very, very closely on the text that Patrul Rinpo
che has composed. The other difficulty that might pres
ent itself is lack of adequate translation, but I feel con
fident that the translator has enough understanding and
experience of this nature of teaching and discussion
that the meaning you will be hearing in your own mind
within the English language will be without error. So,
do listen closely because the points that are being made
in this text are all very crucial. There is no extraneous
material at this point; it is very much to the point.
The text begins with the simple statement:

Homage to the Guru. I pay homage to the guru. On

this level of practice and teaching, the understanding is
that the guru embodies all of the sources of refuge. The
form of the guru is the Sangha, the speech of the guru
is the Dharma, the mind of the guru is the Buddha. The
form of the lama is the lama, the speech of the lama is
the yidam or chosen deity, and the mind of the lama is
the dakini. So, the lama is the embodiment of the Three
Jewels, the Three Roots, the Three Kayas, all of the
sources of refuge. In recognition of the central and cru
cial nature of the guru principle in this level of teach
ing, the text begins with the invocation: Homage to the
At this point, someone who is intent upon fol
lowing this path of Great Perfection needs to have ex
plained to him or her the view, meditation and conduct,
the way that meditation is expressed in activity. What
Patrul Rinpoche is attempting to do in this text, just as
Garab Doije did, is to hit upon the key points and un
derline those key points in a way that makes them very
practical to apply. In that case then, we begin with the
fact that for the practitioner of the Great Perfection, the
guru is the essential nature that unites all of the sources
of refuge, the Three Jewels and the Three Roots. This
is what the text brings up, beginning with this invoca
tion of homage to the lama. In order to show that re
spect or honor to the guru in the Dzogchen context, it
is important that the individual practitioner have that
attitude of recognizing, understanding, and appreciat
ing the fact that the guru is the union of all the sources
of refuge within the Dzogchen context. That that is the
crucial nature of the relationship with the guru. Above
and beyond that, the point to which this part of the text
is directing us is the fact that the nature of your own
mind is such that it is inseparable from all of the root

and lineage lamas from all gurus whether they are

your root teachers or the lineage teachers, the nature of
their minds is inseparable from your own mind. That is
a further implication in this Dzogchen context of pay
ing homage to the lama. It is not simply externally re
specting the guru, but also recognizing the inseparabil
ity of the nature of your own mind and the nature of the
gurus mind, and, in fact, the minds of the entire line
age of the gurus. That is the first point to be brought
out with this simple invocation at the front of the text.
It is not simply an external respect being shown to the
guru, but a recognition of that inseparability.
The next line of the text by Garab Dorje states
that the view is longchen rabjam, which of course we
recognize as the name of a famous lama of the Nyingma lineage, but it also has a significance in itself
Longchen refers to the vast expanse of the nature of
being, and rabjam means the complete range or the en
tire range of that vast expanse. This is the view. How
are we to understand this? The nature of basic space, of
dharmadhatu, the basic space of phenomena, is such
that there is a freedom from all conceptual elaborations
of this or that, is or is not, good or bad all of those
conceptual elaborations. The true nature of reality, the
true nature of all phenomena is such that there is this
basic space free of all conceptual elaborations, which
we may describe as this supremely vast expanse of be
ing. Within the context of that vast expanse of being,
the entire range, the entire vast array of all the apparent
phenomena of samsara and nirvana, all of these are
perfect and complete. They are perfect and complete in
a state of equality within that vast expanse. To realize
the ultimate significance of that point is view. Hence,
the view is longchen rabjam. The view is to understand
that the vast anay of samsara and nirvana is perfectly

complete within this expanse of the nature of beingitself.

Such a view is by its very nature free of any
conceptual elaboration. When you are immersed in the
view of the Great Perfection, you are not conceptualiz
ing about things as this or that or reifying the nature of
reality as being something in and of itself. So, that as
pect of knowledge, of knowing this inherent nature that
is free of all conceptual elaboration, is what we would
term sherab, wisdom, transcendent knowledge or
vipassana, penetrating insight, the deeper insight into
the nature of reality. When through that experience of
transcendent knowledge or penetrating insight, you as
the practitioner have come to this definitive conclusion
about the nature of reality, that emptiness of the basic
space of phenomena is such that it is endowed with an
innately compassionate quality. The realization of emp
tiness entails, as a matter of course, the experience of
uncontrived and innate compassion. So, one is never
separate from both the deeper insight into the nature of
reality and the innately compassionate response to all
beings that is automatically forthcoming, as a matter of
course from that realization. The mind rests onepointedly in that union of the calm abiding of the mind
and penetrative insightshamata and vipassanathe
union of these two aspects of meditative experience.
From the point of view of Dzogchen, beyond the recog
nition of view, the process of meditation is simply al
ways being immersed in and never separate from that
experience of emptiness imbued with the essence of
compassion. Garab Dorje refers to this in his text when
he states: Meditation is the radiating quality o f wisdom
and loving kindness. There is the wisdom, the knowl
edge, the knowing of emptiness, which is at the same
time, imbued with the tone, if you will, of compassion.

One imbued with that view and that approach

in meditationas a fledgling buddha is referred to in
the text as a seedling that will develop into a Victori
ous One. Therefore, you are a bodhisattva in the sense
of being an embryonic buddha or a fledgling. For such
an individual, the way meditation is translated into ac
tion is through the practical application of the Six Per
fections of the Mahayana path. Within the Dzogchen
context that is the conduct, that is the way that the view
and meditation are expressed in action. Garab Doije
states that the conduct is that of a fledgling buddha, of
a bodhisattva, who is enacting the Six Perfections of
the Mahayana path, as an expression of that deep and
profound view in meditation and Great Perfection.
In order to emphasize the fact that the individ
ual who arrives at such a recognition of view, who pur
sues such an approach in meditation and who expresses
that realization through his or her actions as the con
duct of the Six Perfections, in order to emphasize the
good fortune of that individual, Garab Doije refers in
his root text to the practical application of all of this.
Having identified view, meditation and conduct, the
text states that in order to truly put this into living ex
perience, the fortunate individual proceeds as follows.
In order to apply this level of teaching and
practice in an extremely effective manner, it is ideal if
one is able to pursue a life in solitary retreat. One sim
ply leaves behind all ones ordinary mundane activities
and pursues this level of view, meditation and conduct
one-pointedly. That is ideal if one is able to carry it
out. The root text notes that if one is able to pursue the
practice on that level of intensity, then one is able to
gain freedom in this lifetime in the immediacy of this
ground of being, this ground of original purity. In the
immediacy of that, one is able to gain freedom. The

root text states that in pursuing the practice, in putting

this into practical application, in a single lifetime one
can conceivably awaken to enlightenment. I want to
add that the way the text is phrased here is that maybe
you can awaken to enlightenment. It depends upon the
student. It depends upon the diligence and perspicacity
of the student, but it is possible for an individual to
gain enlightenment, awaken to buddhahood, in a single
lifetime through pursuing this path one-pointedly.
Even if you are not able to pursue this ideal life
of practice in strict retreat, the text states that, as long
as you have connection with the teachings, as long as
your mind is at least on some level, however superfi
cial, involved with the principles of view, meditation
and conduct in the Dzogchen or Great Perfection ap
proach, the understanding that you gain through simply
continuing to pay attention to those principles is such
that during this lifetime, you are able to deal with nega
tive circumstances and obstacles as they present them
selves. You are able to incorporate them into your path,
this is what is known as carrying negative circum
stances on the path, transforming them into the fuel of
your spiritual practice. You are also able to avoid giv
ing rise to a great deal of hope and fear about ordinary
things on the mundane levelthe hope and fear that
continue to bind the mind to the cycle of samsara, to
conditioned existence. Then, in future lifetimes, this
connection of view, meditation and conduct in your
mindstream assures that lifetime after lifetime your
progress will be assured; your mind will attain to more
and more evolved states so that in future lifetimes you
come very quickly into contact with the teachings of
the Great Perfection and continue to progress on that
path. The root text states: In putting this into practical
application it is possible that you may awaken to

buddhahood in a single lifetime, but even i f you donft

your mind is happy. How marvelous!
In the beginning of the root text and the com
mentary by Patrul Rinpoche there is this brief overview
of the view, which is longchen rabjam, the entire vast
range of the expanse; of the meditation, which is the
rays of knowledge of wisdom and compassionate lov
ing kindness; and the conduct, which is the conduct of
the fledgling buddha, the bodhisattva, the seedling who
will grow into a fully enlightened buddha. Garab Doije
and Patrul Rinpoche, in his commentary, have simply
given brief overviews of the view, meditation and ac
tion. Next, Patrul Rinpoche in his commentary dis
cusses these three aspects in more detail.
We begin with the statement that the view is
longchen rabjam, is this entire vast array of samsara
and nirvana perfectly complete within the supremely
vast expanse of being. Given that the text is known as
The Three Verses That Strike the Key Points, this first
key point is that of cutting through all of our confusion.
The first key point that we hit upon is how to literally,
sever the aorta o f our confusion. Its just like draining
it of all of its life force so that our confusion is no
longer this self-perpetuating entanglement, but is com
pletely cut through. Its life force is severed, and it is
no longer operating in our minds.
The first stage on this level of view is the di
rect pointing-out when you, the student, are directly
introduced to what you have not recognized previously.
In the ordinary approach, the dialectical vehicle of the
ordinary Mahayana, you would use scriptural authority
and your own powers of reasoning to come to an un
derstanding of the view of that particular approach.
That is the accepted, time honored manner of arriving
at an understanding of view in the ordinary dialectical

vehicle. Through using these scriptural references and

through using your own powers of reasoning, you come
to some definitive understanding about what view con
stitutes. In the secret mantra path of Vajrayana, the pro
cess of abisheka or empowerment becomes paramount
as a means of affecting this direct introduction of
pointing-out the view of the Vajrayana. When you re
ceive the third empowerment o f transcendent knowl
edge and pristine awareness, this level of empower
ment is designed to awaken in your mindstream what is
termed literally the metaphor o f pristine awareness, the
anticipation of, or glimpse of, pristine awareness. This
is followed by the fourth empowerment which directly
introduces you to the actual experience of pristine
awareness. There are a number of different approaches
that these vehiclesthe dialectical vehicle and the ap
proach of the secret mantra path, the Vajrayana
employ in order to introduce the student either through
scriptural authority and reasoning or through a process
of empowerment. In this particular context, Patrul Rinpoche says, we are basing the whole idea of direct in
troduction, upon the practical methods developed by
the practicing lineage of the masters of the Dzogchen
tradition. Simply, one is introduced to the nature of
mind as it is directly, not through reasoning about what
that might be, but to what mind is in and of itself.
If the student's mind is very disturbed by ordi
nary discursive thoughtsby very rough or coarse, ob
vious patterns of discursive thinking that are like tur
bulent waves on the surface of the ocean, continually
seeking after and attaching itself to objects in a subject/
object dualismthen even though the guru may at
tempt to directly introduce the nature of mind, the stu
dent will not recognize what is taking place. The stu
dent will not be able to grasp the significance of that

direct introduction, and so the introduction will not be

effective. First and foremost, there must be some atten
tion paid to these coarser aspects of discursive thinking
in order to refine or weed them out, so that the mind is
not so disturbed and so agitated. Hence, the root text of
Garab Doije states: First and foremost allow your mind
to simply settle in a relaxed manner. This is in order to
prepare the ground, you might say, to create the context
for that direct introduction to be as effective as possi
ble. Otherwise, the mind will be so disturbed and dis
tracted that the attempts by the guru to effect this direct
introduction will not be effective and will not work.
That is the particular approach that is adopted in Garab
Dorje's text. First and foremost, for this direct intro
duction to take place, the mind of the student must be
allowed simply to settle in a relaxed state of awareness
without any particular disturbing influence due to
grasping after this or that object.
To further create the context for this direct in
troduction to take place, the root text states: There is
no proliferation o f thought nor is there any deliberate
attempt to suppress thought, there simply is no
thought. Now, this refers to the fact that from the
Dzogchen point of view the true nature of your own
mind as it is, completely uncontrived, without anything
being done about it, that itself is yeshe, that is pristine
awareness, primordial wisdom. That is pristine aware
ness of sheer clarity, sheer lucidity of mind. Any con
trived path, any attempt to use some contrived or delib
erate process to bring that about will not work. You
will not truly realize the fundamental nature of your
mind by trying to create some kind of state of aware
ness. Rather, what is necessary at this point for the di
rect introduction to your own intrinsic awareness to
take place is that the approach be completely uncon

trived. The pristine awareness that is coemergent with

being-itself is simply allowed to express itself, and is
identified as simply being inherently indwelling in the
nature of your own mind. That is why the text of Garab
Doije states that there is no proliferation of thought.
You dont have to seek with your mind to think about
something in order to make it happen. Nor, is there any
deliberate attempt to suppress thought by reabsorbing
all of those thoughts back into the mind and trying to
implode on some level. It is simply not to entertain
thought at all. There is no need to make any effort one
way or the other in the proliferation of thought or the
attempt to resolve thought back into the mind. Simply
allow awareness to take place in a completely uncon
trived manner. Again, we are not at the level of direct
introduction yet. This is simply setting the stage or cre
ating the context.
When a beginning practitioner attempts to al
low the mind to relax utterly in this uncontrived state
of bare awareness, even though the student may make a
genuine attempt to maintain that context of bare aware
ness, of simply allowing the mind to settle in and of
itself without any contrivance, what tends to happen is
that the student becomes caught up in all kinds of side
issues. The student may even experience a state of such
stability of mind that it in itself becomes very fascinat
ing. Or the person may experience a quality of bliss or
a quality of lucidity of mind that is almost shocking in
its vividness. Or it may be a state of non-conceptual
awareness like some kind of trance state where the
mind simply blanks out. Any and all of these are likely
to crop up for beginning practitioners and to become in
themselves sources of obsession, or fixation. The stu
dent may take them to be worthy goals in themselves
and become lost or deeply immersed in those more su

perficial experiences, rather than the true actual experi

ence of resting the mind in an uncontrived way. The
text points out this danger, saying that it is entirely pos
sible that a beginning practitioner may become lost in
such side issues. Therefore, the root text states that
when you are resting in the true nature, there is this
danger that you may instead become distracted and ab
sorbed in one of the experiences of bliss, clarity, or
non-conceptual awarenessany one of them can be
come a possible source of fascination and fixation and
hence an obstacle.
This kind of obstacle that is likely to crop up
for the beginning practitioner in which the student's
mind becomes cocooned or enveloped in the absorbing
experience of bliss, lucidity, or a non-conceptual
trance-like statethis overlay makes it impossible for
the student to directly confront rigpa, intrinsic aware
ness in all its nakedness. In order to reveal the funda
mental nature of reality in all its nakedness at that
point, the root text states: Suddenly, sharply give the
cry o f PHAT. Now, what this means is when you are
meditating, when you are settling or attempting to sim
ply allow the mind to settle in this relaxed state but
your mind has the tendency to become habituated to a
certain kind of experience and fascinated with that, the
way to cut through that is to simply, sharply cry out
PH A T. The text emphasizes that you do this suddenly,
almost impulsively in the sense that you don't think
about it. It's not as though you are thinking that you are
getting lost in the bliss and better say PHAT, because
then you are using the contrived mind all over again. It
has to be something very spontaneous, almost impul
sive as the mind begins to get just a little too comfy in
some more mundane state of experience, you cut
through that and return to that settling of the mind in

its own true nature.

On this note of the syllable PHAT that is ut
tered at this point, the text states that it is an extremely
valuable tool to cut through the momentum, the flow of
discursive thought and also to dismantle or shatter the
ordinary mental structures of the rational mind trying
to create some deliberate process of meditation. That is
why the syllable is recited very sharply almost with a
cutting force to ita very short, sharp utterance of the
syllable PHAT. The text states: Suddenly, impulsively,
utter the single syllable PHAT, forcefully, sharply.
How marvelous! The text states that uttering PHAT
sharply and forcefully cuts through the ordinary flow of
discursive thought and even the process by which the
ordinary rational mind creates or fabricates a process of
meditation. It cuts through the contriving mind, the or
dinary rational consciousness, which figures out how
to meditate even that is cut through by the short,
sharp force of that syllable.
With the skillful application of that syllable,
that short, sharp utterance of the syllable PHAT, cutting
through the ordinary flow of discursive thought, cutting
through the fabrications of ordinaiy rational conscious
ness, at that point there is no fixed point of reference.
There is no way in which you think, Oh, so that means
the nature of mind is just like this. There is simply the
vivid experience in all its nakedness of the nature of
mind, which is to say the level of freedom which sim
ply becomes evident at that moment. So, the root text
states that there is nothing whatsoever, only this star
tling sense of wonder or astonishment. There is nothing
to fix the mind upon, such as, it is this or it is that, or
this is what the nature of mind is. There is simply that
moment of instantaneous recognition; there is nothing
else whatsoever, simply a state o f wonderment or a

state of astonishment. With the moment of wonder

ment or astonishment that comes with that direct recog
nition, without thinking about it through any process of
the contrived ordinary mind, with that kind of recogni
tion, free from any fixed point of reference, there is the
experience of dharmakaya. This is the pristine aware
ness of dharmakaya; within that context there is a very
transparent and all-embracing quality to that experi
ence. There is no fixed point of reference; nevertheless
there is a kind of transparent expansive, all-embracing
quality. This is the experience of pristine awareness
that goes beyond ordinary mind. It transcends the func
tions of ordinary mind and is always innately present as
the actual nature of mind. The text states: In this aston
ished state o f wonderment, there is nevertheless this
free, all-embracing, transparent quality.
This state of transparent, all-embracing aware
ness that is not fixed upon any specific object is such
that it goes beyond all of the ordinary limits that ordi
nary phenomena are subject to, such as origination, du
ration, location and cessation. It is not something that
ever comes into being at any one point, where it isnt
one moment and it is the next. It does not cease to be at
any moment, where it is at one point and isn't the next
moment. You cant say that it is something that exists
nor can you deny the fact that the experience takes
place. You cant fall into any one of those traps of say
ing it is or it is not, or it is this or it is that, or it comes
into being or it goes out of being. You cant make any
of those limited statements about the experience of
free, all-embracing, transparent, penetrating awareness.
It is beyond any means of describing it. You can't ade
quately describe it with your speech. You cant ade
quately imagine it with your ordinary powers of imagi
nation, because it is the indwelling state of pristine

awareness that goes beyond all of those verbalizations

and intellectual concepts. Since the key point at this
level of practice is that the innately indwelling state of
pristine awareness is ineffable, indescribable, the root
text states: In being free and all-embracing and trans
parent, it is ineffable, it is indescribable.
The significance of this key point is that what
one experiences in that moment of astonishment, that
moment of wonderment, is rigpa, intrinsic awareness.
It is the indwelling ground of being. It is dharmakaya.
For the practitioner on the path, the yogin, that is the
view, the ultimate view of trek chd, cutting through
all which is seemingly solid and dense, and arriving at
this experience of original purity. Until that single
point is recognized and truly appreciated, no matter
how much you try to meditate, no matter how much
effort you make with your ordinary conceptual mind or
ordinary consciousness to fabricate a process of medi
tation, you are as different from the practice of the
Great Perfection as sky is from earth. When Tibetans
say things are completely different, they say they are as
different as sky and earth. So, if you try to make that
experience happen, you are as far as you can be from
the practice of the Great Perfection, which is the inher
ent nature of reality. To underline the importance of
this key point: There is nothing to meditate upon in the
ordinary sense of the word. There is nothing to think
about or to cultivate in meditation, only the recognition
of intrinsic awareness. Because of the importance of
this point, the root text states in the imperative mode:
Recognize the intrinsic awareness that is dharmakaya!
Of The Three Verses or Three Lines That
Strike the Key Points, we have covered the first, which
concerns the view. And so the significance of the pre
ceding discussion has been that of really striking at the

key point of what constitutes view in the Great Perfec

tion approach, according to the direct transmission in
structions left by Garab Doije.
If this direct introduction through the experi
ence of view has not occurred for the student, then no
meditation can proceed at that point, because medita
tion in the Dzogchen sense is simply maintaining rec
ognition of view. If you haven't had this direct recogni
tion or direct introduction to view, in the first place,
what is there to maintain? Meditation becomes mean
ingless to discuss, until there has been that direct intro
duction on the level of view. First and foremost, Patrul Rinpoche points out, it is crucial that you, as the
student, be directly introduced to the view of the Great
Perfection. Only then can we begin to talk about
meditation as the maintaining of that recognition, as
the ongoing awareness or recognition of that view. The
first key point to understand is that the recognition or
the direct introduction that comes about on the level of
view is paramount.
Again, remember the context that what you are
being directly introduced to is your own inherently in
dwelling pristine awarenessthe pristine awareness
that is already inherently indwelling as the nature of
your mind. That is what you are being directly intro
duced to, nothing more, nothing else. You are not be
ing introduced to anything outside or anything other
than what is already the nature of your own mind. It is
also not the case that you are experiencing the awaken
ing in your mindstream of something that didnt exist
before, like some new thought or some new experience
that has suddenly come into being. All that is taking
place is that you are finally recognizing what has al
ways, primordially been the case. It has always been
the case that the true nature of your mind is dharma88

kayaawakened enlightened awareness, intrinsic

awareness. You simply haven't recognized it up to this
point. At this point of the direct introduction through
view, you as the practitioner recognize that. And so,
the conclusion o f the first stanza of Garab Doije's text
is that direct introduction to your own true nature oc
curs in the immediacy of your own true nature and no
where else.
Just to summarize at this point: When the text
states that this direct introduction occurs in the imme
diacy of the true nature o f your own mind, what is be
ing emphasized or what is being implied by that state
ment is that the experience is nothing other than the
true nature of mind as it is. It is not what you might
think about it, nor how you might try to describe it, but
the true experience that goes beyond all of these ver
balizations and intellectual concepts. We might say on
the one hand in attempting to get a handle on this level
of experience, that it is ineffable, that it is inconceiv
able, that it is unimaginablewe can use all o f these
negatives. Or we can describe it in a more positive way
and say it is this free, transparent, all-embracing aware
ness, but we are really just beating around the bush.
Suffice it to say that the view of Dzogchen is recogni
tion of the pristine awareness of dharmakaya that has
always been inherently present as a natural attribute of
the nature of mind. It is the nature of mind and always
has been. You must understand that beyond the level of
simply thinking, Yeah, that's probably so, or That's a
nice idea, that's a wonderful thing. Really under
standing it and recognizing it to be so, that is view.
That is the view of Dzogchen. To talk about it on any
more elaborate level and try and describe it in any
other way is beyond the point. Can we try to conceptu
alize and try to create something that is this or that?

Can we say that the view of Dzogchen is like this, like

that, red, white, blue, yellow, big, or small? If we try
to conceptualize about it in any way, we miss the point,
and we will never realize the view of Great Perfection.
It is simply the experience of what is the inherent at
tribute or nature of your own mindnothing more than
that and nothing less. Beyond that, very little can be
said about it.
We have covered the first of The Three Verses
of Garab Doije, which deals with view and is referred
to as the direct introduction taking place within the im
mediacy of one's own true nature, the true nature of
ones own mind.
So you might think to yourself, Well is that
sufficient to have direct introduction to this view of
free, transparent, all-embracing, objectless aware
nessthat's it, right? Not quite. Thats not sufficient.
After the initial recognition you must maintain that rec
ognition, which is what we mean by meditation in this
Now, when we talk about the means by which
one practices meditation in the Dzogchen or Great Per
fection context, what this amounts to is an ongoing
presence, an ongoing flow, if you will, of settling in
this true nature of mind. You simply maintain that rec
ognition, moment by moment, in an ongoing manner so
that in all situations, under all circumstances, and at all
times there is this presence, the awareness or recogni
tion of the true nature of mind. You dont lose track of
that or lose sight of that under any circumstance. Other
than that, there is nothing to be deliberately achieved,
nor anything to be deliberately blocked or prevented
from happening, only the maintaining of that ongoing
awareness of confronting what is termed seeing the
true face o f dharmakaya. When the mind is at rest, you

are beholding the true face of dharmakaya; when the

mind is experiencing the proliferation of thought, one
again maintains that awareness, understanding this to
be simply the inherent dynamic energy of pristine
awareness expressing itself. And so the root text of Garab Doije states: From the point at which direct recog
nition o f view takes place, it does not matter whether
thoughts proliferate or the mind is at rest, because
there is an ongoing recognition under all circum
Regardless of whether the mind is at rest or the
mind is in motion so to speak, whether it is experienc
ing a proliferation of thought, this is simply the dy
namic energy of pristine awareness expressing itself.
Now, on the ordinary level of the way we experience
thoughts as concrete things in and of themselves, this
dynamic energy is experienced as afflictive emotions,
such as anger or desire or pride. These constitute what
the Buddha referred to in the Four Noble Truths, as the
truth of the origin of suffering, the afflictive emotional
ity in our minds that is responsible for the suffering
that we feel. As well, we experience on the ordinary
level various states of happiness or unhappiness, pleas
ure or pain due to certain circumstances, which consti
tute the noble truth of suffering itself, the afflictive
emotionality being the truth of the origin of suffering.
The truth of the origin of suffering and the results of
that afflictive emotionality are the actual states of ordi
nary pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, happiness and
sadness that we experience, as part and parcel of the
truth of suffering. But in this particular context the in
herent nature of such thoughts, emotions and feelings
is recognized as dharmata-itself, the true nature of reality-itself. At that point, this display of happiness and
sadness, of joy and sorrow, pleasure and painthese

afflictive emotions of attachment, aversionbecome

what is termed the vast phantasmagoria o f dharmakaya. They are just the vast magical display of dharmakaya. The text states that whether you are angry,
whether you are desirous, whether you are happy,
whether you are sad, the recognition is maintained. All
of these factors, all of these elements of ones experi
ence are nothing more than the dynamic energy of this
true nature of reality. That is the true nature of mind
expressing itself. Whatever arises is only part of this
phantasmagoria that is the expression of this dynamic
energy of intrinsic awareness. All of these elements of
experience are subsumed within the vast expanse of a
single pristine awareness, not as separate and discrete
entities that are in any way separate from that vast ex
panse of intrinsic awareness. Hence, the root text
states: Whether you are angry, whether you are desir
ous, whether you are happy, whether you are sad
under any o f these circumstancesthat recognition is
To further emphasize this point, the root text
goes on to state that at all times and under all circum
stances, because, of course, even though you have
gained this direct introduction to view in a general
sense, if you dont then meditateand again under
stand the significance of that word in this context if
you dont maintain that recognition at all times and un
der all circumstances, you quickly become lost in your
own confusion again. You lose that recognition and
become immersed in the nexus of confusion that just
draws you into its snare and holds you there. Then,
your mind quickly reverts to a very ordinary, very mun
dane level of functioning. Thoughts begin to take on a
life of their own as though they were things in and of
themselves, and you find yourself bound in cyclic exis

tence again. The teachings that you have received and

your own mindstream become further and further apart
from one another, and you end up just an ordinary per
son again. That moment of recognition isn't enough. It
must be maintained, which is what we mean by medita
tion in this context.
To guard against this danger of just becoming a
very ordinary person again who has no spiritual prac
tice despite that moment of significant recognition, it is
important to meditate. But the way in which meditation
is described here is as the supreme state of settling in
the true nature of mind that is not meditation at all. The
text states, because it is necessary never to be separate
from that, it is something that is maintained at all times
under all circumstances. The reason why the phrase,
supreme settling in the true nature o f mind that is not
meditation, is used is because in the Dzogchen ap
proach of trek chod, of cutting through what is seem
ingly solid and dense, in that approach there is no de
liberate attempt to be made to meditate about some
thing or to generate or cultivate a certain state of mind
in a particular way with a deliberate approach. It is not
something that the ordinary rational mind is supposed
to figure out. It is simply allowing the mind to settle in
its own true nature in that supreme state that is beyond
ordinary rational mind. Hence, it is termed the medita
tion that is no meditation. You are not meditating on
something in a contrived way but simply maintaining
recognition by settling in that true nature.
With this kind of approach, then, whether your
mind is at rest or whether your mind is moving in the
sense of experiencing the proliferation of thoughts and
emotions and so forth, in any circumstance at any time,
regardless of what arisesperhaps, it is an afflictive
emotion, a thought of anger or a thought of desire or a

thought of pride or ignorance, perhaps it is a specific

thought about this or that in the ordinary dialectical
approach, you would deal with these specific issues
with specific antidotes. If the thought of anger arises,
there is a specific antidote that you select and apply in
order to overcome or deal with that problem of that
thought of anger. If there's a thought of desire, there's
another antidote. If its a specific kind of discursive
thinking, theres another antidote. There are specific
tools or antidotes that are used as techniques in the dia
lectical approach.
In the Great Perfection approach of trek chod
practice the only antidote that is needed is recognizing
that view, which was previously recognized at the mo
ment of the direct introduction to the view that took
place, and just holding to that recognition. That alone
is sufficient. This is termed the cure, the antidote that
will suffice under any circumstances. You dont need
to approach your meditation the way you would in the
dialectical approach where it would be perfectly valid
to say, Okay, I am practicing this kind of meditation
and when this kind of thought comes up, I use this kind
of antidote to deal with it. You dont have a palette of
antidotes to select from. In this particular case, you
have the single antidote that is sufficient under all cir
cumstances, which is simply that of maintaining the
recognition of view, the recognition that took place at
that moment of direct introduction. Once that recogni
tion has taken place, the only taskthe only tech
nique is maintaining that recognition. There is no
antidote or supportive technique in Dzogchen that is
not subsumed within that single act of maintaining rec
ognition. At this point, the text states: At all times and
in all circumstances, maintain recognition, the recog
nition o f dharmakaya.

Regardless of the particular content of the

thought that arises in the mind, regardless of the par
ticular afflictive emotion that may arise, none of this is
separate from or other than the pristine awareness of
dharmakaya. It is simply a distorted expression of the
dynamic energy of that pristine awareness, distorted in
the way you perceive it. It is nothing more than the dy
namic energy of that pristine awareness of dharmakaya
manifesting. If you recognize the inherent nature of
these discursive thoughts and these emotions is the ac
tual sheer clarity of dharmakaya, nothing less, nothing
more, that recognition is metaphorically known as the
mother aspect o f sheer clarity. It is the indwelling
ground of being. Previouslyand this is speaking of
someone who is on this stage of the path at this point
when one's guru directly introduced one to one's own
self-cognizing, intrinsic awareness, to the view of sheer
clarity and one recognized that, that is termed the prac
tical experience o f sheer clarity. That in the context
of the spiritual path is termed the child aspect o f sheer
clarity. In the experience of settling in the true nature
of mind, there is what is termed metaphorically the re
union o f mother and child, or the meeting of mother
and child, in which the ground aspect of the inherently
indwelling ground of being as sheer clarity and the
practical experience of that in the context of your path,
the child aspect, are realized as being inseparable. You
cannot separate one from the other except in a most
conventional or nominal sense. When you realize the
utter inseparability of the mother and child aspect, this
is what is termed as the reunion o f the mother and
child o f sheer clarity. The root text states: What has
previously become familiar results in the meeting o f
the mother and child o f sheer clarity. And that's how
that term is to be understoodthe meeting of mother

and child, or the reunion of mother and child.

A key point to emphasize is that in ideal cir
cumstances, when the practitioner is never separate
from that recognition and is always in touch with that
recognition of view as the true nature of his or her own
mind, with that kind of mindfulness, that practitioner
always remains within that context of that recognition.
So, in regard to the thoughts and emotions that arise as
the dynamic energy of that intrinsic awareness, nothing
more need be done. There is no specific attempt that is
necessary to block those thoughts from happening or to
encourage and indulge them or to make any moral
choice whatsoever in ones own mind. One need not
think, Oh I shouldnt think this, I should think that.
They are all recognized for what they truly are, simply
the expression of this dynamic energy of intrinsic
awareness. This then is a very crucial point: The recog
nition alone suffices as the antidote, as the means of
dealing with the thoughts and emotions that arise. If
one holds to that authentic recognition, that alone con
stitutes the antidote. The root text in this regard states:
Simply settle in the context o f ineffable intrinsic aware
Just to recap then, we've already covered the
view of Dzogchen, the recognition of ones own inher
ently indwelling pristine awareness. Now, we are deal
ing with the stage of meditation, of how one maintains
that recognition.
When you are maintaining this recognition
over a period of time, for a beginning meditator there is
the tendency of certain experiences of a particular na
ture to arise and become the focus of the practice. Per
haps, it is an experience of bliss, perhaps an experience
of incredible mental clarity or lucidity, or an experi
ence of non-conceptual awareness where mind just

coasts without any particular thought going on but just

a kind of trance-like state arises. The trouble with these
ephemeral meditative experiences is that they are an
obscuring overlay. They obscure your ability to per
ceive your own true face, and they become unfortu
nately the point or the focus of your meditation.
What is necessary is to continually break
through to the experience of rigpa, of intrinsic aware
ness in all its nakedness, without this overlay of medi
tative experience getting in the way, so that this inher
ently indwelling quality of yeshe, primordial wisdom,
pristine awareness, becomes clear in the sense of being
elicited. It emerges from within so to speak. There is a
saying in the Tibetan tradition that as much as a yogin
can destroy his or her meditation, so much the better.
Just as when water falls from a great height, the more it
smashes against the rocks on its way down the better
the quality of water at the bottom.
The point of destroying meditation in the sense
of continually bursting through or cutting through that
shell, that obscuring overlay of experiences of bliss or
clarity or non-conceptual awareness, is to arrive at the
direct experience of intrinsic awareness in all its na
kedness. Otherwise, by getting caught up in one of
these meditative experiences and focusing upon that, as
a beginning meditator, you may make the fundamental
error of thinking you have arrived at some worthy goal,
and you remain stuck there. Some of these experiences
are of an extremely positive nature. You have an expe
rience of enormous mental and physical well-beinga
blissful, ebullient quality where you just feel wonder
ful. Then you think, Oh this is the point of meditation,
this is what it is all about. You become fixated upon
perpetuating that experience of physical or mental
bliss. Or you may experience, even as a beginning

meditator, incredibly vivid states of mental clarity

where it seems as though you can see through walls
and through mountains, You know what is going on
miles away without anything obstructing your aware
ness. You have the ability to be aware of very distant
events, almost like a clairaudient. It's almost as though
you can see right through things in a very penetrating
and clear way. Or you may experience states of nonconceptual awareness where you might meditate for a
week, and seems as if during that whole week you've
barely had a thought. Your mind has just been on a
completely even keel without a single ripple of
thought. As wonderful as these experiences are they
are only signposts. They are simply an indication that
you are on the path. They are in no way to be taken as
goals in themselves, or as states of mind that you want
to maintain or hold onto or create. Therein lies the
problem, not the fact that you have the experience, but
the fact that you cling to it, that you grasp at it, fixate
upon it and try to perpetuate it in, perhaps, even a very
subtle way. Because these experiences cloud or ob
scure the true nature of mind, according to Patrul Rinpoche, it is necessary to burst through this shell or co
coon of meditative experience. You must burst through
to the true experience of rigpa, intrinsic awareness in
all of its nakedness. Just as the water improves by
smashing itself on the rocks on the way down the val
ley, so the yogins meditation improves as that yogin
cuts through all of those experiences as they arise, re
fusing to become fixated upon them, but continually
cutting through to that experience of intrinsic aware
ness, stripped of all conceptions and overlays. That is
what is meant by the yogin destroying his or her medi
tation, not in a nihilistic sense or an anarchistic sense,
but in the sense of cutting through that tendency of the

mind to concretize a certain experience and think of

that as the goal.
For this reason, the root text of Garab Doije
states that you must destroy, again and again, states of
mental stagnation, of bliss, of lucidity or clarity, of
ebullience, any of these qualities, or meditative experi
ences that develop must be destroyedagain and again
and again. Now, if ypu wonder how to go about this,
imagine that you are experiencing a particular state of
meditative experience. Imagine that your mind seems
extremely stable, tranquil, almost stagnant or that your
mind or your body feels very blissful, very happy, very
wonderful. Imagine that you have an experience of
mental clarity or you have just a sense of almost effer
vescent, ebullient joy when you are meditating, so that
you kind of bubble over with this sense of joy or be
come very blissed out and everything appears just ab
solutely wonderful. You are totally fascinated with all
of these wonderful appearances that are manifesting
when you meditate.
When this kind of temporary meditative expe
rience begins to capture your attention, recall earlier
what Patrul Rinpoche said in his commentary of the
syllable PHAT as the means of cutting through. Here he
refers to this again, and he gives an interesting etymol
ogy. The PHA of the PHAT syllable is the syllable of
skillful means, which consolidates. So, as your mind
begins to scatter and get lost in these qualities, it is that
syllable that embodies that energy of consolidating.
Then the T on the PHAT, the sharp consonant at the
end is the cutting through. And that is the syllable of
wisdomskillful means and transcendent knowledge..
You collect the mind in a sense. You bring it back from
this scattered quality, cut through the fixation to that
particular experience, and again burst through into that

experience of intrinsic awareness in all of its naked

ness. The root text states that by using the syllables of
skillful means and transcendent knowledgeand thats
the cryptic reference to the syllable PHATusing this,
you literally come down suddenly on that particular
experience. In a sense, you pounce on that experience
by cutting through the tendency to become fixated in
bliss or in clarity or whatever.
In one of the venerable Milarepa's Songs o f Re
alization, he refers to the syllable PHAT on the outer,
inner and secret levels of significance. The outer sig
nificance or function of the syllable PHAT is that of
drawing the mind back into the sense of focus in medi
tation after it has been scattered and wandered off to
various objects of desire or attachment or interest. The
inner significance of the syllable PHAT is to cut
through the more inner problems. Above and beyond
outer distraction, there are the inner problems of laxity
or agitation that arise in meditation, when your mind
becomes extremely dull or torpid or becomes overly
agitated without necessarily being focused on any outer
object; it begins to just have that energy and be very
agitated and very tense and wild. So, cutting through
that syndrome of laxity and agitation is the inner sig
nificance. The secret significance of the syllable PHAT
is that of settling one-pointedly within the context of
the fundamental nature of reality and simply remaining
within that context. And so Milarepa said, T am the
yogin who understands and utilizes all three meanings
of P H A T He, in one of his Songs o f Realization ap
plied this technique, if you will, or this approach to
these three different levels of experience.
When you are practicing in such a way that you
are never separate from that key point, from this ineffa
ble state of transparent all-embracing intrinsic aware

ness, such that you maintain recognition of that in all

circumstances, under all conditions and at all times, no
arbitrary division is made between formal meditative
practice and post-meditation activity. The root text
states: There is no division between form al meditative
equipoise and post-meditational acts. This simply un
derlines the fact that this approach in meditation is not
one in which there is a specific technique that you em
ploy when you are sitting on the cushion and another
technique or approach that you try to be mindful of
when you are moving through your daily activities and
the post-meditation awareness. Rather, the single key
point of maintaining recognition of rigpa in all its na
kedness is, if you will, a technique that is to be main
tained in all circumstances, whether it is formal prac
tice or post-meditation activities. There is no distinc
tion to be made. Any distinction that you try to make at
that level is completely arbitrary and meaningless. For
that reason, the essential quality of the meditation that
you cultivate during the formal session and the kind of
meditation that you maintain in post-meditation is not
separate and distinct. There are not two techniques to
use. The root text continues: There is no distinction
between a formal session and the breaks between the
sessions. This merely emphasizes the same point in a
different way. There is no other technique to pick up
when you leave the cushion other than maintaining on
going recognition of intrinsic awareness.
What is being addressed here is the supreme
kind of meditation that is no meditation at all in the lit
eral sense of the word. It is one's own inherently in
dwelling pristine awareness that is uniformly the same
throughout all situations without specific states of
mind having to be applied in specific situations. It is
the ongoing flow of yoga, of yogic experience in which

there is not the hairs tip o f anything to meditate upon.

Yet, at the same time there is not a single instant of dis
traction from that ongoing recognition. As Guru Rinpoche states, at one point, There is no experience of
meditation, but no experience of being separate from
that recognition. This is not meditation in the ordinary
sense. One is never separate from the ultimate signifi
cance of what it means to not meditate. Now, of
course, this has to be understood not in a literal sense.
To say that theres no meditation doesnt mean that
theres nothing happening. What it means is there is
not a specific technique, there is no specific method of
deliberately trying to be aware of something so much
as simply maintaining that ongoing recognition. Hence,
there is no meditation. But this is the supreme medita
tion that is no meditation, because there is constant
recognition taking place in every moment. Ones own
inherently, indwelling pristine awareness is always evi
dent, is ever present in every moment like an ongoing
flow. From moment to moment there is no break in the
recognition. But as he is careful to point out, nowhere
is there a sense of some specific thing that you are sup
posed to be thinking, in terms of meditating on this or
that. At the same time, there is not even an instant in
which your mind wavers from that recognition. That is
what Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, is stating when
he said that there is no experience of meditation, yet no
experience of separation, of being divorced from that
recognition. One is never separate from the ultimate
significance of not meditating in the ordinary sense. In
order to underline this, the root text of Garab Doije
states: Remain continually in the context o f insepara
bility. In this there is never any separation of you as
the meditator from rigpa, from your recognition of in
trin sic a w a re n e s s .


If one is an individual who is a suitable recipi

ent of these teachings of this path that is particular to
the Great Perfection approach that is the inherent na
ture of everything, and is of the very highest level of
acumen, then one's awareness is capable of making
quantum leaps. If you are a person of that type, such as
Guru Rinpoche or King Indrabhuti, then there is per
haps no need for you to go through any kind of formal
process of meditating. The introduction is that which
triggers realization, and you are freed in the supreme
freedom of the ground of being, both its apparent as
pect as phenomena and the subjective aspect of mind
experiencing this phenomena. One is freed in the su
preme freedom of that ground of being so that what
ever arises is instantaneously perceived to be the vast
phantasmagoria of dharmakayathe dynamic energy
of dharmakaya displaying itself For a person of that
nature, who has that instantaneous leap, there is no
question of something to meditate upon and someone
to do something about that, because that leap has been
made. So, if you are an individual of that kind, fine.
But if you are like the vast majority of people, you
must approach it in a developmental way. So, the prac
tice of meditation is one of continually maintaining the
recognition to the extent of your abilities. As you will
fail in continuing to maintain the recognition, it is a
process that must be followed, because as one of these
developmental people, who doesn't have the good for
tune to be able to make these quantum leaps, your
mind is continually inclined to fall under the seemingly
external influences of your ordinary discursive thought
patterns about sense objects, ideas and so forth. Until
you have gained real stability in that recognition, you
need to attempt it again and again and again. The root
text states that until stability is reached meaning if

you are not a person who cannot make those quantum

leaps of understanding and realizationthen you have
to be practical by approaching it in a methodical way,
attempting to maintain recognition in all situations to
the best of your ability and continuing to improve that
ability to maintain recognition.
Given that one is not an instantaneous person,
who can make these quantum leaps, but must approach
it in a more developmental way, it is important to ar
range the circumstances in your life so that they are
supportive to your attempts to cultivate meditative sta
bility. If these supportive factors are not in place, you
will find that you expend a great deal of effort and time
without any sign of true meditative experience and true
realization awakening in your mindstream. So, as much
as you are able to avoid enmeshing yourself in business
and distraction in your life, that much you are assuring
yourself the best possible circumstances under which
to gain true meditative insight. The root text states: It is
crucial or ideal to meditate by avoiding or renouncing
busyness. Busyness is a generic term for all kinds of
distraction and factors in your life that rob your atten
tion from your practice. This is why people follow the
tradition of going into retreat in isolated or solitary
places because there is less of a chance of the mind be
ing robbed of its attention through distraction to other
objects or distraction to all kinds of worries, ideas, is
sues and so forth. If one is in as restricted an environ
ment as possible, then one has a very supportive envi
ronment for the pursuit of meditation.
Furthermore on a practical level, when as a
beginning meditator you are pursuing this approach in
meditation, even though it is true to say that there is
ultimately no distinction to be made between aware
ness gained in formal meditation and post-meditation,

practically speaking, until you have really literally

taken some stance in formal meditation, you dont have
any frame of reference to apply to post-meditation
awareness. The danger, as a beginning meditator, is in
accepting too quickly the idea that there is no distinc
tion between what goes on in formal meditation and
what goes on in post-meditation. You can become lost
in the plethora of distractions and very subtle states of
confusion that proliferate in post-meditation awareness
without first having taken your stance in formal prac
tice, which then can flow into post-meditation aware
The root text says: You should pursue a formal
practice, dividing your time into formal meditations
sessions. This means that, while it may be very well
and true to say that there is no distinction to be made
ultimately between the pristine awareness that you
maintain during formal meditation practice and the rec
ognition of that which is maintained in post-meditation
awareness, let us be realistic. When you are beginning
your practice, you have to have some perspective from
which to say that and to experience that statement.
First, you have to develop some sense in formal prac
tice of the stance, if you willthe place that you arrive
at in formal meditation. That recognition is then main
tained in post-meditation activities. Until you have
some stable experience of trek chod, cutting through
what is seemingly solid and dense and arriving at that
recognition of rigpa in formal meditation, it is unrealis
tic to expect that in ordinary, everyday activity you are
going to be able to experience what is ultimately the
casethat there really is no distinction between formal
meditative awareness and post-meditation awareness.
But to arrive at that, you have to begin with a formal

By establishing a schedule of formal medita

tive practice with specific sessions that are devoted to
formal practice of meditation, you gain a perspective.
As your mind settles in formal meditative equipoise,
you gain a perspective of what it is that you are main
taining both in formal meditation and in post
meditation. But you still have to be able to carry that
perspective from the formal state of sitting in medita
tion to your post-meditation awareness. Otherwise, you
are not able to blend the meditation that you discover
in formal meditation with your daily activities. You are
not going to be equal to the challenge of maintaining
that awareness. You are going to find that ordinary
thoughts just lead you astray and that things go very
well only as long as you are sitting on the cushion.
Then, as soon as you stand up and walk out of the door
and become involved in your ordinary thought patterns,
they start leading you off in all directions, and you end
up in a very ordinary state of mind again. So, it is ex
tremely important to maintain this transparent, free and
all embracing state of awareness that you experience in
formal practice as an ongoing subsequent state of rec
ognition in post-meditation awareness. That is why the
root text states that it is something that ideally you
come to apply at all times and under all circumstances,
having first gained some awareness of it in formal
Now, under all circumstances and at all times,
it is not as though there is anything other than this rec
ognition that you need to be seeking. It is not as though
there is any specific technique or any specific thing you
should be meditating about or meditating upon. Rather,
this view of dharmakaya that you experience in formal
meditative equipoise is something that is simply to be
maintained. There is no gimmick other than that; there

is no trick to it. You simply maintain that recognition,

such that you are never separate from that self same
view that is experienced in formal meditative equi
poise. In all activities, when all thoughts arise in the
mind, you maintain in such a way that you do not sup
press any of those thoughts, you do not indulge in or
encourage or give energy to any of those thoughts.
You simply hold to that recognition. The root text
states: At all times and under all circumstances, main
tain your awareness o f the phantasmagoria o f what is
the single state o f dharmakaya. Everything you en
counter in post-meditation is simply an expression of
that vast magical display of dharmakaya. Maintain that
single point of recognition.
This approach of practically applying the prin
ciples of meditation is a means of integrating shamata
and vipassana, the calm abiding quality of mind and
the penetrative insight into the nature of mind and of
all reality. This genuine state of yogic experience is un
contrived awareness that is coemergent with beingitself. It is free of all conceptual elaborations. Not in
any clumsy or deliberate sense, but simply maintain
recognition, hold to the recognition of one's own true
nature; that is the true nature of reality, the true nature
of mind-itself.
This recognition and the maintaining of this
recognition is the very essence of all the practices asso
ciated with all of the classes of tantra in the entire se
cret mantra path of Vajrayana. This is the ultimate pris
tine awareness that the fourth empowerment is pointing
out. This is the special teaching that is the wishfulfilling gem of the practicing lineages. This is the
unblemished enlightened intent of all the great masters
and siddhas of India and Tibet, of the old schools and
the new schools. But you must come to that decision in

your own experience as the practitioner. Then, as the

text indicates, you don't go drooling after other teach
ings. You dont think to yourself, Well, this is nice,
but I bet there is something better elsewhere. That is
just the same, as if you were eating in a restaurant and
somebody at the next table ordered some food that
looked even better, and you found yourself drooling
over their plate. When you come to the decision in
your mind that you know that you have found the very
essence of all of the practices of all of the classes of
tantra of all of the secret mantra path of Vajrayana, that
you have found the ultimate pristine awareness that the
fourth empowerment introduces you to in Vajrayana,
that you have found the wish-fulfilling gem of the prac
ticing lineages and the unblemished, enlightened intent
of all of the great siddhas and masters of all of the
schools of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, there is no
need to go hankering after anything else. What you
have is totally sufficient, it is all you need. But if you
do not have that kind of certainty in your mind, then
you are like the elephant keeper, who locks the ele
phant in the stable and then goes looking in the forest
for the elephant while the elephant is already in the sta
ble. Once you have come to that decision, you don't
need to look anywhere else for the elephant, you know
where the elephant is. You need that same kind of cer
tainty in your mind, but there is nothing to seek out or
seek for in your meditation. That single point is en
tirely sufficient. You come to the decision that it is en
tirely sufficient and you simply remain with that single
point of maintaining recognition of rigpa, of intrinsic
awareness. In recognizing that and in coming to that
decisive experience, you know without hesitation that
you are focusing on the essence of all tantric practice.
You are focusing upon the ultimate point of the fourth

empowerment. You are focusing upon the most special

teaching that is the wish-fulfilling gem of all of the
practicing lineages. But if you adopt the approach of
the elephant tamer, who locks the elephant in the stable
and then goes looking elsewhere, you will never find
the elephant. You will never satisfy yourself, and you
will never find what you are looking for. If you con
tinually seek with the ordinary rational mind, trying to
figure out something even more intricate, more pro
found and more special, that must be here or must be
there, you become caught in this web of contrived and
confused thinking. There is no point at which you will
find freedom within that. You must come to that deci
sion in your own mind about your own practice. That
is the single crucial point. The root text states: You
must come to the decision within yourself that there is
nothing other than that.
This naked pristine awareness, this inherently
indwelling awareness that is the dharmakaya, is the
awakened state of buddha nature that has never known
any confusion and is by its very nature pure and un
adulterated. Coming to the decision about that and sim
ply maintaining the ongoing awareness of that is the
second key point that Garab Dorjes testament ad
dresses. To emphasize the importance of it, the root
text of Garab Doije sums up at this point: The second
key point is coming to a decision in the immediacy o f
that single point o f naked, intrinsic awareness and
maintaining recognition o f that in all circumstances.
That is the decision that you arrive at in the immediacy
of that single point.
Just to recap briefly: What is being discussed
is a one-pointedness, but not in a contrived or deliber
ate sense of concentration, but simply through the rec
ognition and the conviction in the mind of the practi

tioner that all phenomenon of samsara and nirvana,

arises as nothing other than the dynamic energy of in
trinsic awareness, that and nothing more. The opportu
nity for freedom to occur arises simply with the ongo
ing recognition of that point. All of samsara and nir
vana is not just believed or assumed to be, but is un
derstood with conviction to be nothing other than the
dynamic energy of one's own intrinsic awareness aris
ing in that particular manifestation. That is the kind of
decision that is being talked about here. One comes to
that unswerving decision in the immediacy of that sin
gle point.
Of Garab Dorjes Three Verses that Strike the
Key Points of Dzogchen, of the Great Perfection, we
have covered the first two the first being the direct
introduction to one's own true nature that takes place in
the immediacy of that true nature, and secondly, com
ing to that decision in the immediacy of that single
point that all of samsara and nirvana is none other than
the display of the dynamic energy of intrinsic aware
Now, we come to the third point, which is the
gaining of a deep, indwelling confidence in the imme
diacy of the freedom that this recognition results in so
that one experiences everything as the dynamic energy
of dharmakaya, the dynamic energy of rigpa, intrinsic
awareness. All that arises, all attachment, all aversion,
all thought in motion, are decisively experienced to be
none other than the dynamic energy of intrinsic aware
ness, this leads to the third key point. This deep, in
dwelling confidence that you arrive at in the immedi
acy of that state of freedom that results from the recog
nition that all that arises as the display of the dharmakaya is freed in the dharmakaya.
Once, one has had a direct introduction to

one's own true nature in all its immediacy and from

that has arrived at that decisive experience in the im
mediacy of that single pivotal point, at this point, if you
do not have that deep, indwelling confidence of appre
ciating how that brings a state of freedom, then your
meditation is simply, in a certain sense, kind of taking
a breatheryour mind just relaxes or rests for awhile.
You maintain recognition, but somehow it doesn't lead
beyond that to any significant outcome. You really
haven't yet arrived at a level of meditation that takes
you beyond the higher realms of cyclic existence, the
form and formless realms. So, you are not really equal
to all circumstances that invoke your attachment or
aversion. You haven't really cut through the continuity
of karma or the causes that lead to specific effects on
the level of karma. You truly havent attained the deep,
indwelling confidence that's being discussed here.
When you feel a very intense desire for some object of
attachment, when you feel a powerful aversion or an
ger, when you encounter all kinds of circumstances
such as being very attached to and delighted by some
thing or finding yourself in situations where things
seem to be going against you, where you are sick or in
physical or mental pain, where things aren't meshing
and you are encountering a sense of frustration
regardless of what arises, at that point, it is important
to hold to the recognition of that pristine awareness
that is referred to as the ground of freedom. Otherwise,
you become lost in the dynamic energy of intrinsic
awareness. Even as you appreciate it as the dynamic
energy, you become lost in that dynamic energy. The
root text states: At that point, regardless o f what
arisesattachment, aversion, joy, sorrow, happiness,
sadness, any o f these adventitious, superficial discur
sive thoughts and experienceswithout exception and

under all circumstances, you must guard that recogni

tion. If you do not understand the key point of practice
so that even as a thought arises in your mind it is freed
in its own true nature, beyond the direct introduction,
beyond the decision that you arrive at, if you have not
gained that deep, indwelling confidence in the immedi
acy of the freeing of that thought in the moment of its
arising, then you have missed this third key point.
Then, all of the subliminal chatter in the mind, all of
the subliminal stirring of thoughts and mental activity,
continues to perpetuate the causes of cyclic existence,
and you truly havent transcended the more subtle level
of the mind being bound to cyclic existence. The key
point, to which the root text refers, is that regardless of
what arises, it is important to maintain on-going recog
nition, so that there is the arising of the thought and the
freeing of the thought; it simply vanishes without a
trace, dissolving into its own true nature. That is what
the root text refers to when it states that regardless of
what arisesattachment, aversion, happiness, sadness,
joy, sorrowall of these adventitious or superficial
patterns of discursive thought without exception are to
be dealt with, by maintaining that recognition so that
the arising of the thought becomes the freeing of the
thought in its own true nature.
Given this is the case, it does not mean that in
the face of all of these thoughts that arise, be they very
coarse or subtle, that you need to focus your mind in a
very tight or concentrated way to assure that you don't
slip under the influence of that mental activity. Rather,
it means the mind simply settles in a completely and
utterly relaxed way in its own true nature. That is how
you maintain recognition. Not because you are strug
gling by concentrating your mind to avoid slipping un
der the influence of any given thought, but simply be

cause in the context of that genuine mindfulness there

is no ground for the thought to take root and lead you
in any one direction or another. It is a question of never
being separate from that genuine state of mindfulness.
That is rang bap or self-falling, that is simply and ut
terly relaxed without any contrivance or deliberate at
tempt at all. It is a question of recognizing the true na
ture of the thought that arises regardless of its content,
and simply maintaining your awareness of the true na
ture of that thought. The way to maintain this recogni
tion is such that there is no gap between the arising of
the thought and the freeing of that thought in its own
true nature. Just like the image of writing on the sur
face of water: The moment that you draw the pattern on
the water it vanishes. The pattern is there, and then it
is gone. There is the arising of the thought and then it
is freed instantaneously without any gap or delay. The
root text states that in the context of this recognition
there is no prolonging or delay between the arising and
the freeing of the thought. The text literally states: In
the context o f recognition there is no prolongation,
there is no delay.
Not being able to effectively bring about the
natural freedom of a thought in its own true nature, that
perpetuates the confused mode of existence that is
samsara. With the recognition that a thought is occur
ring there must also be simultaneously, at the same
time, a direct, precise appreciation of the true nature of
what is taking place when thinking is occurring. This is
an important distinction because even in the Tibetan
schools there is a lot of loose language, such as: Just
look at thoughts as they arise and they are freed. That's
just not true. If you just look at the content of the
thought, you end up following the thought. What you
are looking at is the true nature of the thought, as it

arises, regardless of what the thought is. So there is an

important distinction to be made here: not looking at
the thought, but seeing the true nature of the thought as
the thought arises. That's what is being indicated. True
freedom can only result if there is the recognition of
intrinsic awareness, which is beyond ordinary subject/
object dualism, and to which you have been directly
introduced. So you are focusing not upon the contents
of the dynamic energy of rigpa as they arise as discreet
thoughts, but the essence of those thoughts, and the es
sence being that self-same intrinsic awareness to which
you were directly introduced at the first stage of these
three key points. Otherwise, if you are just looking at
thoughts, you are still involved in subject/object dual
ism, and the natural tendency is for the mind to play
out the thought. There is really no difference between
that and what we do anyway. Thats not Great Perfec
tion practice. Rather, one looks at the true nature of the
thought as it arises. At the same time of the recognition
that the thought is occurring, there is equally and si
multaneously the naked seeing of the true nature of that
thought. Then that pristine awareness due to your fa
miliarity with it from the direct introduction and the
process of meditation, whereby you maintain recogni
tion, is identified even in the moment of that thought
occurring and that thought arising. So, you remain
within that context of maintaining not just the recogni
tion of thought occurring, but the nature of what is oc
curring when that thought arises. Then the thought is
purified in the sense of being freed in its own true na
ture without a trace, without leaving any residue. That
is the key point. To emphasize this, the root text states:
You identify or hold to the recognition o f dharmakaya
as the state o f freedom.
To come back to this example of drawing on

the surface of water, the creation of the design and the

fading of the design are virtually simultaneous. It is as
though they happen in the same instant. In the same
way for a practitioner of Great Perfection at this level
of recognition, the arising of the thought in the mind
and the freeing of that thought in its own true nature
are virtually simultaneous. They occur at one and the
same moment. The arising of the thought is the freeing
of the thought in its own true nature. There is no inter
ruption to this process of self-arising, self-freeing,
naturally arising, naturally freeing. And so the text
states: It is, fo r example, like drawing on the surface o f
It is not a question of attempting to arrest the
arising of thoughts. If thoughts arise, let them arise.
There is no problem at that point that has to be ad
dressed, it is a question of maintaining an on-going rec
ognition of this genuine mindfulness vis a vis anything
and everything that arises in the mind. What you need
to hold to as the key point of practice is not any spe
cific technique for any specific kind of thinking that
may take place, but simply maintaining that on-going
awareness, what is termed, carrying on the path that
recognition of genuine mindfulness. Therefore, the root
text states: There is no interruption to this process o f
things naturally arising and being naturally freed.
By refining your appreciation of discursive
thinking as simply the dynamic expression of the en
ergy of dharmakaya, then, in response to any particular
thought that arises, your training is such that at this
point any thought simply arises as further fuel for that
appreciation. It constitutes grist for the mill and simply
fuels that appreciation that you have. Regardless of
how coarse, rough and obvious the thoughts of the five
emotional poisons that arise in your mind, you are al

ways imbued with this recognition of intrinsic aware

ness of this context of freedom in all of its directness,
all of its lucidity, all of its brilliance. Therefore, the
root text states: Anything that arises is food fo r the na
ked union o f intrinsic awareness and emptiness. It is
food in the sense that when you eat something, it sim
ply dissolves into your body and sustains your body.
By holding to this recognition and by freeing the
thought as it arises in its own true nature, at this point,
any thought that arises, any emotion that arises, is sim
ply fuel, in a sense, for one's on-going experience of
the naked union of intrinsic awareness and emptiness.
Any amount of discursive thought that stirs in
the mind simply arises as the inherent dynamic energy
of intrinsic awareness, arising within the context of
that free, transparent and all-embracing intrinsic aware
ness. By maintaining recognition of that fact, you do
not have to pick and choose which thoughts should
arise because they are okay and which thoughts need to
be suppressed because they are not okay. There is no
acceptance or rejection due to any conventional idea
about what should or should not be taking place in the
mind. Rather, there is simply the maintaining of that
fundamental recognition so that, even as the thought is
arising, it is being freed in its own true nature. It is
freeing itself in its own true nature by its very nature so
that nothing that occurs, nothing that arises in one's
awareness goes beyond this magical display of dharmakaya. For this reason the root text of Garab Dorje
states: Whatever stirring takes place is the majestic
display o f the dynamic energy o f dharmakaya.
All of the functioning of ordinary mind, all of
the ordinary thought patterns, all of the ignorance, the
non-recognition of intrinsic awareness, all of the reflec
tions of ones confusion arising as distorted perceptions

of the world in an impure manner are purified in a

sense. But not in a deliberate or clumsy way, but puri
fied in its very nature within this vast expanse of dharmakaya, which is to say the vast expanse of intrinsic
awarenessthe vast expanse of primordial wisdom.
Within the vast expanse of this on-going state of sheer
clarity, all of the stirring of discursive thought that may
occur in the mind is such that it is by its very nature
empty of any self-nature, empty of any inherent exis
tence. And so the root text states: It vanishes without a
trace, pure in and o f itself Ah la la! How marvelous!
How wonderful/
In carrying this kind of recognition on the path,
when you have gained sufficient familiarity over a pe
riod of time, what you experience is that all thoughts
arise as a state of meditation in this specific connota
tion of the word meditation. There is no longer any ar
bitrary distinction between mind at rest and mind stir
ringmind resting quietly without any thoughts going
on or mind stirring in the form of thoughts and emo
tions arising. Even the arising of a thought or an emo
tion cannot harm or injure the basic indwelling pres
ence of intrinsic awareness. At this point, the root text
says: The way in which things arise is just like they al
ways have. On that level there is no difference. What is
different is the way in which they are freed in their
arising. Things don't stop arising. There is no major
change at that point. It's just business as usual, things
arise as before. What is different is the freeing of those
phenomena, those thoughts, those emotions in their
arising, which previously did not take place because
one was bound in one's confusion.
Due to the dynamic energy of intrinsic aware
ness, dharmakaya, primordial wisdom arising in such a
manner, for the practitioner of the Great Perfection, it

is again not that things cease to arise. In a certain sense

there is no difference. Just as for an ordinary person
who has not undertaken this level of practice, various
thoughts arisepleasant thoughts, painful thoughts,
hope and fear. The way in which they arise for an ordi
nary person is not significantly different from the way
in which they arise for a practitioner of the Great Per
fection in the sense that they arise just as they always
have, as expressions of the dynamic energy of intrinsic
awareness. But an ordinary person relates to these
manifestations in a very clumsy way of attachment and
aversion. Certain things have to be suppressed or
stopped or blocked; others have to be indulged in and
craved and hankered after. So, there is a very clunky
approach to what arises in the mind. That is where the
whole problem of karma comes in because the person
is always reacting to what arises in his or her aware
nessreacting, creating, re-enforcing karma and fal
ling under the influence of attachment and aversion,
being taken out of yourself like an external force that
takes all of the power, all of the control. The practitio
ner, of course, is not approaching it from this point of
view. For the practitioner of the Great Perfection, the
arising of the thought or emotion in the mind is such
that, in its arising, it is freed.
Practically speaking for any given individual
on the path, this freedom occurs by going through spe
cific stages which we can identify. In his commentary
on Garab Dorje's Three Verses That Strike the Key
Points, Patrul Rinpoche notes the following about
someone who has a certain amount of experience in
this approach: The first noticeable stage of this free
dom taking place is one in which a thought arises, and
to this one applies ones recognition of pristine aware
ness, the intrinsic awareness that one has previously

been directly introduced to. This is compared to meet

ing an old friend. The thought arises, and one almost
says, Aha, this is the dynamic energy of pristine
awareness. It's not quite so deliberate or contrived as
that, but there's a sense of familiarity, a sense of en
countering something you have encountered before.
Following this, in what we might call the inter
mediate stage of this freeing process, the thought frees
itself. Even the recognition is no longer a conscious
element; there is simply the freeing of the thought by
itself as it arises. This is compared to the knot in the
snake. If you've ever had the opportunity to tie a knot
in a snake, you don't have to untie it afterwards; the
snake unties itself. It kind of slithers, and the knot is
freed. In the same way, the thought arises and, in aris
ing, frees itself. Whereas in the example of encounter
ing an old friend, the yogin meets the thought with the
recognition, However, in this stage, it is simply the
case that the thought, in arising, frees itself.
The final stage in this process of freedom that
Patrul Rinpoche discusses is that thoughts are simply
freed without causing any benefit or harm whatsoever.
The image here is of a thief entering an empty house
where there is nothing to steal; there's nothing to lose.
When the thief enters an empty house, there's nothing
for the thief to gain and there's nothing for the owner of
the house to lose. From the very moment the thief en
ters the house, there has never been any benefit or
harm that could ever accrue. In the same way, the final
stage of this freeing effect of recognition is that
thoughts arise in the mind with absolutely no beneficial
or harmful action or influence whatsoever.
These are the key points concerning what is
termed, literally, the mode of freedom or method of
freedom in Great Perfection. Just as the root text stated

earlier that although the mode of arising is similar, here

the mode of freeing is enormously different. For the
ordinary person and the Dzogchen practitioner the way
in which things arise is not particularly different. What
is different is that for the Dzogchen practitioner the
way in which those thoughts are freed, whether through
encountering an old friend, having the snakes knot un
tie itself, or having the thief enter the empty house, in
any of those ways, the mode of the freeing of those
thoughts in their own true nature is enormously differ
There is a saying in the tradition, which basi
cally states, that although you know how to meditate, if
you don't know how to bring about this freedom, in
what way are you different from a god of one of the
higher realms whose mind is blissed out in a state of
trance? The key point here is not just maintaining the
recognition, but appreciating how maintaining the rec
ognition brings about this freeing effect the mode of
freeing thoughts in their own true nature as they arise.
If you know how to meditate on some level, but don't
have that key point, you don't have a handle on that
third key point of the freeing of thoughts. Then, your
meditation is not significantly different from the kind
of meditative stability, that almost trance like state that
leads to rebirth in the higher realms of the form, form
less and gods realms. If you take your confidence in
the process of meditation without understanding how
that brings about freedom, without appreciating the sig
nificance of that recognition as the freeing factor, then
you have made an error, and you fall into a very subtle,
sophisticated kind of trance state.
Patrul Rinpoche says, Those, who hold that it
is sufficient to merely recognize whether the mind is
resting or is stirring, are really no different from ordi

nary confused people. They are making the same kind

of error although on a more subtle or sophisticated
level. Even those people, who practice using some kind
of contrived idea about emptiness or dharmakaya and
apply that like a seal to things, by thinking that this is
emptiness, this is dharmakaya, are making a fundamen
tal mistake. Because when they encounter negative cir
cumstances in their livesproblems, pain, frustra
tionthe invalidity and the lack of worth of this won
derful approach proves itself. With that recognition
they are not able to meet those circumstances genu
inely because they are used to just glossing over things
and saying, 4Oh, it's all empty, it's all dharmakaya.
Then, when actually confronted with something that
hurts, that falls away. The ineffectiveness and the hid
den flaw of their approach becomes evident, and they
are not able to meet the situation effectively. The root
text states: Anything other than this (what has previ
ously been discussed) is the path o f confused medita
tion. Anything other, in this case, means not only main
taining that recognition but appreciating the freeing ef
fect of that recognition.
There are any number of terms or phrases that
are used in the teachings to speak of this level of expe
riencearising and freeingsomething arising and
being freed in its own nature, or self-freeing or natu
rally free or something that is directly freed in all o f its
nakednessare all terms that are used. But regardless
of the particular term we may use to discuss it, Patrul
Rinpoche says that the fact remains that the mode of
freedom we are discussing is the experience in which a
thought is freed, purified in a sense, through being
freed in its own nature, in and of itself, leaving no kar
mic residue. Being emphasized here is the key point
that demonstrates, through your direct experience, the

natural freedom of mind and the natural freedom of all

thoughts and emotions occurring in the mind. This is
the special feature of the Great Perfection path, the
Great Perfection, which is the inherent nature of all re
ality. This is the extraordinary and special point of the
Great Perfection. If you are endowed with that key
point, if you have in your possession, in a sense, that
key point, then all afflictive emotions, all discursive
thoughts, whatever arises is immediately appreciated as
dharmakaya, so that all confused thinking is purified as
pristine awareness. All negative circumstances become
your friends and supports. All afflictive emotions forge
your path. Without samsara having to be deliberately
rejected or avoided, it is purified in its own ground so
that you are freed from the bondage both of confused,
conditioned existence and the mere quiescence of per
sonal salvation and personal freedom from suffering, a
merely limited form of nirvana. You are freed from the
bondage of either of those states. So, you make a leap
of understanding and realization to this context in
which there is nothing to be done, no effort or achieve
ment required, because the very nature of the experi
ence is free of all sense of anything having to be done,
of anything being incomplete or unfinished. For this
reason, the root text states: Endowed with this (this key
point, this leap of understanding) even though you
don't meditate you are within the context o f dharma
kaya. It is not a question, at that point, of having to
meditate in a deliberate sense. You don't have to main
tain anything at all because you have made the leap of
understanding and realization that has brought you into
the context of dharmakaya, even though you dont de
liberately make it happen or continue to maintain that
If you have not gained in an authentic manner

that indwelling confidence concerning this means by

which thoughts and emotions are freed in their own
true nature, then no matter how lofty your view, no
matter how profound and deep you think your medita
tion is, it really doesn't benefit your mind. It really
doesn't in any way address the emotional affliction in
your mind, and so it cannot be considered a true path.
If you on the other hand are a practitioner,
whose practice is imbued with this key point of the su
preme factor of recognition of intrinsic awareness
bringing about the freeing of the thought in its own true
natureif the self-arising, self-freeing nature of
thoughts and emotions, things that arise in and of
themselves and are freed in and of themselvesthen,
even though there is not a shred of holding to some
lofty view, even though there is no fixed point of refer
ence to define your so-called profound meditation, the
fact of the matter is that when you are endowed with
that key point, your own mindstream is freed from the
bonds of dualistic grasping. It is impossible for it not to
be freed of the bonds of dualistic grasping.
Patrul Rinpoche uses a metaphor as an exam
ple: When you journey to the mythical Isle of Gold
where everything is made of gold, no matter how much
you search for ordinary rock or stone, you won't find it.
On this level of experience, regardless of what takes
placemind at rest, mind stirring, thoughts arising
everything arises as meditation. Moreover, if you try to
look for confusion, even if you make a concerted effort
to find a shred of confusion there, you won't find it.
This is the key point upon which Dzogchen practice
hinges. The question of whether your practice is effec
tive or not effective hinges entirely upon this pivotal
point. Therefore, the third key verse of Garab Dorje
states: This deep indwelling confidence is gained in the

immediacy o f this mode o f freedom, this state o f free

In brief, Garab Doijes third key verse refers to
the fact that it is not significant what kind of thought
ariseshow powerful or subtle that thought is. It is a
question of recognizing not the content of the thought
particularly, but the true nature of what is occurring as
that thought arises. That thought does not go beyond
the context of this naked union of intrinsic awareness
and emptiness, and the experience, then is one of the
arising of the thought and the freeing of the thought in
its own nature. Again, it's not a question, when you are
a Dzogchen practitioner, that thoughts don't arise; that's
not the issue. Thoughts arise, things happen. It's a
question of not grasping at, clinging to, fixating upon
things, objectifying them and reacting to them out of
attachment and aversion. Things may arise in a pleas
ing way; things may arise in an unpleasing way. Things
may arise in an attractive way; things may arise in a
repulsive way, but the mere arising of the phenomena
is neither here nor there. It is how we are bound by our
fixation to react to those appearances; that is the issue.
When there is no grasping and fixation in our minds,
there is no perpetuation of the karma that binds our
minds to cyclic existence. The key point is to gain this
indwelling confidence in the immediacy of that state of
freedom, what is referred to as the freeing of the
thoughts and emotions and apparent phenomena that
are the dynamic energy of dharmakaya, freeing them in
dharmakaya, in their own true nature. The implication
is that this is without fixation. There is no fixation or
grasping in the mind to objectify those things and react
to them in the ordinary sense. This, then, is the third of
The Three Key Verses of Garab Doije. To sum it up in
a nutshell, the final line is: The gaining or arriving at a

state o f indwelling confidence in the immediacy o f that

freeing factor, that freedom, occurs through recogni
tion o f one's own indwelling pristine awareness.
These three key points that Garab Dorje ad
dresses in his testament known as The Three Verses
That Strike the Key Points constitute the key points
that sum up all of the view, meditation, conduct and
fruition of the Dzogchen approach, of the Great Perfec
tion that is the inherent nature of all reality. All of this
is summed up in the key point of maintaining recogni
tion of one's own intrinsic awareness, this free and allembracing, transparent state of intrinsic awareness. Not
only is this instruction on the view, but it also consti
tutes direct transmission instructions about meditation,
about conduct and so forth. All of these phases, if you
will, of the Great Perfection approach are complete
within this one treatment.
Now, in this particular approach, as was men
tioned earlier, the approach that is favored is not that of
more ordinary paths in which scriptural authority and
logic and reasoning are used to evaluate the nature of
reality, so as to come to some understanding of what
the true nature of those phenomena are. This rather
more linear process of coming to this definitive conclu
sion through the powers of reason, by relying upon
scriptural authority and so forth is not one that is par
ticularly favored in this approach. Rather, it is the view
with respect to the naked and direct experience of pris
tine awareness, that even thoughts that arise are, in
fact, that pristine intrinsic awareness. So, view and
meditation are not really in any sense separate from
one another. Only on the most conventional level can
we speak of a distinction between view and meditation
in the Great Perfection approach. There is no real prob
lem with speaking, as Garab Dorje does in his root

text, of all of this being view, even though he is also

really discussing meditation and conduct and fruition
and so forth. There is no real contradiction here. It's not
as though he has left something out or is ignoring
something; it is simply recognition of the fact that
these distinctions are purely nominal. So, the root text
states at this point: This is the view that is endowed
with these three key points. It isn't to say that this does
n't apply to meditation or conduct or fruition. It's sim
ply an acknowledgment of the fact that in the Great
Perfection approach view and meditation are of one
This approach in practice, these unerring key
points of this path of original purity that is unique to
the Dzogchen or Great Perfection approach, on one
level we can say is the very pinnacle of the nine yanas.
But, on the other hand, just as when a king approaches,
his retinue and courtiers approach as a matter of
course. So, in the same vein the key points of all of the
so-called lower yanas are incorporated in the key
points of the Great Perfection approach. No exclusion
is implied here. That the Great Perfection is the pinna
cle approach does not imply that the others are useless,
or no longer of any consequence. Rather, the essential
nature of those approaches are incorporated in the key
points of the Great Perfection path. They serve only as
supports or adornments of the Great Perfection.
When one directly encounters one's own true
face, this self-occurring lamp of transcendent knowl
edge, this intrinsic awareness that is by its very nature
originally, primordially pure, the dynamic energy of
that self-occurring lamp of wisdom expresses itself in
the kind of more conventional states of wisdom that
arise through one's pursuit of meditation. One's knowl
edge of specific topics or specific issues grows simply

as the dynamic expression of that more primordial

lamp of wisdom that is ever present. The expanse, the
breadth of ones knowledge begins to well forth like
rivers swelling with snowmelt in the springtime and the
early summer. What is described as the texture of emp
tiness is experienced or arises as supreme compassion,
so that the experience of emptiness is imbued with that
quality of supreme compassion. The very nature of
things is such that the experience of emptiness is im
bued with this supreme compassion that wells forth as
a compassionate empathy that is not based upon ordi
nary sentiments but is completely unbiased in its ex
pression. The root text states: Meditation is that which
unites knowledge and loving kindness or loving com
When this key point of the path, which is the
integration of emptiness and compassion, not in a
clumsy sense of putting them together, but realizing
their simultaneity, has become evident to the practitio
ner, then the path in terms of conduct is one that is in
corporated in the vast range of the bodhisattva's activi
ties in undertaking the Six Paramitas, the Six Perfec
tions. But these arise not in a contrived or deliberate
manner, but just the way the sun's rays arise from the
sun as a natural expression of the sun's nature. So this
conduct of pursuing the practice of the Six Perfections
is simply the natural outflow of the realization that
comes from experiencing emptiness imbued with this
essential texture or quality of compassion. Given that
this kind of conduct on a conventional level is tied in
with the accumulation of merit, the natural expression
of ones understanding, one's realization is such that
whatever one undertakes from this authentic perspec
tive is such that it becomes beneficial to others. It
brings benefit to others and is a support that in no way

causes one to deviate from the correct viewthe

authentic view of the nature of reality. The root text
states: All o f the conduct, in general, o f the Buddha's
children is supportive. This means that it is entirely
supportive of this realization because it is the natural
outflow, the natural expression of that realization, and
is in no way contradictory to it.
This approach to view, meditation and con
duct, these three phases or factors in one's practice of
the path, is at the very core of the enlightened intent of
all buddhas who have ever appeared, all buddhas that
appear at present and all buddhas that ever will appear.
The root text states: Even if the Victorious Ones o f the
three times were to comment on this, they would have
nothing more to say. If you were to summon all of the
buddhas of the past, present and future to a big confer
ence and ask them to comment about what Garab Dorje
has expressed in these three verses, they would say that
these verses alone stand as the key point of the path of
the vajra essence, the path of the heart drop or nying
thig, the pinnacle of all spiritual approaches, the con
summate stage of fruition. Because there is nothing
more than that to attain, they would have nothing more
to say. Even though all of these buddhas were called
upon for their critical appraisal of Garab Dorje's testa
ment, they would have nothing to add.
The significance of what is expressed in this
advice from Garab Dorje is such that it is definitely the
very quintessence, the distilled essence of all of the di
rect transmission instructions of the whole lineage. The
words that are used to express it are very few, but the
nature of this kind of expression in which such a pro
found point can be expressed in so few words is such
that it is not an ordinary composition where someone
sits down and thinks, Now what shall I write about?

Instead, it is something that arises as the dynamic en

ergy of intrinsic awareness. The root text states in con
cluding: This was composed by the terton, by the revealer o f hidden treasures o f dharmakaya. That is to
say by the dynamic energy of intrinsic awareness-itself.
Here, Patrul Rinpoche as the author of the
commentary on this text is being somewhat selfeffacing. He says, I, as the commentator, do not claim
to any direct experience due to my wisdom, due to any
practice I have done concerning the ultimate signifi
cance of what this text discusses. However, I have re
ceived oral transmission from sacred teachers, which I
have been able to understand without error, and so
there is a certain wisdom that has arisen through hear
ing these teachings, which has allowed me to cut
through any kind of speculation or wishful thinking I
might have about which these teachings are discussing.
The kind of wisdom that I have developed through my
contemplation has brought me to a more definitive un
derstanding of these. So, he claims that much. And so
he says, Even though I have not gained complete reali
zation of this, I have been able to take this treasure
from the vast expanse of knowledge and wisdom
gained through hearing and contemplating the ideas in
an intellectual way and have come to some precise un
derstanding of those. So, he makes that partial claim
for his credentials, if you will, to write the commen
tary, but falls short of claiming to have the actual reali
zation. We may take this as a very traditional form of
self-effacing that one encounters in the tradition where
people seldom claim to a realization that they may, in
fact, have.
This kind of treasure is not like an ordinary
treasure in the mundane sense, because an ordinary
treasure simply dispels for a period of time the suffer

ing of poverty. Patrul Rinpoche says that this treasure,

which has been taken from the vast expanse of tran
scendent knowledge, is in no way like ordinary treasure
taken from the quintessence of earth and stone, such as
gold or diamonds, or whatever one can take from the
earth. That kind of treasure is not what we are discuss
ing. This treatment of these three key points of view in
the Great Perfection approach, which are known as the
Three Verses That Strike the Key Points constitute the
testament of the nirmanakaya teacher, Garab Dorje.
When Garab Dorje attained nirvana, his body become a
mass of light in the sky in front of his student Manjusrimitra. As Manjusrimitra beheld this sphere of light in
the sky in front of him that was the last trace of his
teacher's physical presence, he received this transmis
sion of The Three Verses that Strike the Key Points. At
that point Manjusrimitra's enlightened intent and that
of Garab Dorje became inseparable. The text concludes
with the statement: This is the last testament o f Garab
These key points o f spiritual advice, are such
that they embody the quintessence of the three lineages
in Nyingma. The lineage of mind to mind transmission
of the Victorious Ones pertains to this transmission of
teachings, particularly in the case of the great Longchenpa, the omniscient king of Dharma, who in his
very lifetime completely realized this state of original
purity, the level of enlightened intent in which all ordi
nary phenomena fall away in the vast expanse of the
true nature of reality. Given that this became evident to
Longchenpa in his lifetime, he awakened to complete
and perfect buddhahood, thus perfecting this mind to
mind transmission of the Victorious Ones. This was
then further transmitted by Longchenpa, not in his or
dinary physical form, but through what is termed his

pristine awareness embodiment to the great holder of

intrinsic awareness, Jigme Lingpa. We know that this
was not the physical presence of Longchenpa because
lie and Jigme Lingpa lived several centuries apart, but
the pristine awareness embodiment of Longchenpa
centuries later appeared directly to Jigme Lingpa and
conferred the blessing of this realization upon Jigme
Lingpa in the manner, which is known as the lineage of
the transmission through symbols of the holders of in
trinsic awareness. Patrul Rinpoche notes that it was the
great Jigme Lingpa who transmitted these orally to my
own gracious root lama, thus completing the third line
age, that of the oral transmission from individual to in
dividual. When Jigme Lingpa transmitted these instruc
tions orally to Patrul Rinpoches guru, Jigme Gyalwai
Nyu Gu, he beheld directly the true nature of reality
through the oral transmission that he had received.
Since, Patrul Rinpoche said, I have received these
instructions from he who is the glorious lord protector
of beings, my own root guru, I can say with assurance
that these instructions constitute the quintessence of
the enlightened minds of the gurus of the three linea
Such instructions, Patrul Rinpoche says, are
like the purest essence of refined gold. I shrink from
presenting them to people who will not practice such a
path of the heart drop, because this is to impart infor
mation that is not going to be respected or appreciated
for the pure gold that it is. On the other hand, if there
is one who really takes such advice to be like his or her
life force or life breath and really implements these key
points in his or her practice, for such an individual who
is bent upon gaining enlightenment in this lifetime, I
shrink from not showing it, these teachings. What he
means at this point is they must be demonstrated to one

who truly is intent upon practicing them and realizing

buddhahood in this life. The root text concludes with
the line: These are conferred upon my heart children
with a seal. This means that the conferral is one of entrustment. When you receive such teaching, in this
situation or when anyone who has ever received this
teaching has received it, there has been a sense of entrustment, that you are being given something that you
hold very privately and use in your own practice. It is
not something for idle discussion or for broadcasting at
large. It is something that you take as heartfelt advice
from your teacher and hold and cherish it as the life
force of your practice, keeping it very private and sim
ply using it to nurture your own practice.
The text concludes with the further verse: This
is my heartfelt advice. This is the key point o f utmost
significance. May this key point o f utmost significance
not fade away or be lost and may these instructions,
may this advice not be wasted. With that, Patrul Rinpoche concludes his discussion of the testament of Garab
Doije. This completes the discussion of the direct
transmission instructions of Garab Doije, known as
The Three Verses That Strike the Key Points.
In imparting to you what I understand of these
instructions on the three key points concerning ground
and path and fruition and concerning view, meditation,
conduct, as embodied in the testament of Garab Dorje,
on whatever level you can utilize these teachings,
whether it is on the level of intellectual understanding,
on the level of meditative experience, or on the level of
true realization, it is my sincere hope that you will
practice them, that you will use these teachings in your
practice. Remember the text said previously that if you
do practice, who knows, you could attain enlighten
ment in this lifetime. That is a distinct possibility that

each and every one of you has before him or her. But at
the very least, even if you cant apply yourself on the
level of practice that might lead you to enlightenment
in this lifetime, at the very least, cherish these teach
ings. Continue to hold them in your heart with respect
for the profundity and purity of what they represent. In
this way you guard your samaya connection with these
teachings and you establish circumstances that may
very well lead to your liberation, if not in this lifetime
at the moment of death, when the mind is freed from
the physical body and there is the opportunity for dra
matic realization to take place. Or perhaps, in the bardo
state following death and before rebirth. At the very
least, by maintaining this samaya connection with these
teachings through your attitude of respect of cherishing
these teachings and what they represent, you assure
yourself circumstances under which your mind will be
reborn in favorable circumstances, into a family that
holds the values of the Dharma in high regard so that in
future lifetimes you can come into contact with the
teachings again. By establishing that kind of positive
relationship with such teachings, you assure that even
though you may not, through your diligence, gain en
lightenment in this lifetime that you certainly will be
fore a very long time has elapsedthree lifetimes, five
lifetimes, seven lifetimes in a very short time, you
will attain enlightenment. Such is the veiy special na
ture and blessing of such instructions. And so it is my
hope that you will not use these teachings just for idle
speculation about rigpa is this or rigpa is that or what
do you think of this or what do you think of that, but
really practice them on whatever level of understand
ing or experience or realization you are able. That is
my hope.
We find a lot of terminology being used in the

teaching, such as ground, path and fruition, or view,

meditation and conduct. Please understand that these
are really talking about the same thing from different
points of view. When we speak of the ground aspect of
Dzogchen, we are speaking simply of the inherently
indwelling intrinsic awareness that is the nature of your
mind. When we speak of the path, we speak of the pro
cess of recognizing that and maintaining that recogni
tion. When we speak of the fruition aspect, we speak of
what is already present simply becoming fully evident
to you. It's not as though there is a ground over here
and that somewhere else there is something else that's a
path, and, then, over here there is something else com
pletely separate that's the fruition. Ground, path and
fruition are one. It is simply a question of what is al
ready inherently indwelling, what is recognized and
maintained, and what becomes fully evident. And we
are talking about one and the same thing from different
points of view.
Another point I wish to make, as the lama who
is giving these instructions, is that we couldn't discuss
view, meditation and conduct, we couldn't discuss
ground, path and fruition without a translator. Thou
sands of lamas could come to this country, holders of
intrinsic awareness could appear before us, but if we
cant understand their language where would we be? In
Tibet, we had to rely upon great translators such as
Vairocana and others among the more than onehundred magnificent translators of the early translation
school who facilitated the transmission of the teachings
from one language and one culture into another. And
they were regarded in the Tibetan tradition as those to
whom you would bow with a sense of honor and to
whom you would make offerings with a sense of rever
ence. People say, Oh it's due to the kindness of the la

mas that we receive the teachings. And, yes, there is

kindness therethe lamas do give the teachings, but
without a translator it would be difficult. It is not sim
ply a question of a translator having to be technically
efficient in the language. Something of the spirit of the
teachings has to come through as well. It is important
that the translator be a practitioner, someone who has
some taste of what is being transmitted. O f course it is
necessary for the translator to know the Tibetan lan
guage in this particular case, but merely knowing the
Tibetan language is not enough, there must be some
flavor, some taste that comes through from the transla
tors own personal experience. I feel very fortunate that
on this occasion the auspicious circumstances came
together and a competent translator was present to fa
cilitate my transmission of these three verses of Garab
Doije dealing with the ground, path and fruition of the
Great Perfection approach. This is an important point I
want you all to appreciate.
I would simply like to conclude with my own
prayers that through the auspicious circumstances that
have been established on this occasion that all of us
may, as the teachings assure us, gain complete enlight
enment through our practice of the Great Perfection
path. Ideally, I would wish that all o f us are liberated in
this lifetime, but failing that if that does not happen to
be the case, I would add my prayers at this point that
we all meet together as one, as a group, and enjoy and
partake of the teachings of the Great Perfection path in
future lifetimes. With that, I leave you with my best
Let us join together in dedicating all of the vir
tue and merit that has been generated through the giv
ing and receiving of these teachings as the virtue and
merit that exemplifies all the virtue and merit that ever

has been amassed in the past, that is being gathered in

the present, that ever will be gathered in the future,
dedicating all of this as our single dedication with the
aspiration that this bring about the realization in this
lifetime for all beings without exception the realization
of their own primordial state of being, the state of the
primordial Lord Protector, Samantabhadra. And so
with this heart felt aspiration let us conclude with the
prayers of dedication.