The everyday practice of dzogchen is simply to develop a complete carefree acceptance, an openness to all situations without limit.
We should realize openness as the playground of our emotions and relate to people without artificiality, manipulation or strategy.
We should experience everything totally, never withdrawing into ourselves as a marmot hides in its hole.
This practice releases tremendous energy which is usually constricted by the process of maintaining fixed reference points. Referentiality is the process by which we retreat from the direct experience of everyday life.
Being present in the moment may initially trigger fear. But by welcoming the sensation of fear with complete openness, we cut through the barriers created by habitual emotional patterns.
When we engage in the practice of discovering space, we should develop the feeling of opening ourselves out completely to the entire universe. We should open ourselves with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. This is the powerful and ordinary practice of dropping the mask of self-protection.
One day the great master Padampa Sangye asked his students to express their realization. Lama Charchung said:
Discarding Guru and Buddha together,
I can’t find such a thing as faith or devotion!
Destroying both divine Dharma and worldly opinion,
I have no effort or practice!
Mixing Buddhas together with sentient beings,
I can’t find anything to accept or reject!
I don’t know how to speak of realization!
Ask those of Central Tibet to explain!
~from Lion of the Siddhas: The Life and Teachings of Padampa Sangye (trans. David Molk)
Lama Mipham (1846-1912), a great teacher in the lineage to which I belong, spelled out 4 stages of realization that apply to both Mahamudra and Dzogchen:
1. All appearance resolves into consciousness.
2. Consciousness resolves into emptiness.
3. Emptiness resolves into awareness.
4. The union of bliss and emptiness, or bliss and awareness.
In the talk reproduced below, inspired by the above quote from Lama Charchung, and working with Lama Mipham’s 4 stages, I attempt to speak experientially about consciousness resolving into emptiness and realization in Mahamudra. This talk and discussion occurred at Real Dharma Sangha on December 6, 2012.
The Mahasiddhas were unclassifiable and often eccentric yogis of medieval India and Tibet who pointed out ultimate reality in direct and unconventional ways. Non-monastic, and not depending on dogma or ritual, their approach toward Mahamudra and Dzogchen teaching may hold the key to the transmission of genuine awakening to the West.
Hal Blacker gave the following talk on Mahamudra, the Mahasiddhas and their inspiring example and potential significance for the modern West at Real Dharma on November 29, 2011. To listen, use the flash driver:
Since we recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, this might be a good time to briefly reflect on the relationship between our mother the earth and awakening.
Legend has it that when Lord Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree, he was challenged by Mara, the voice of limitation, death and delusion. Mara asked the Buddha by what authority he could claim awakening. In response, Buddha extended his right hand, touched the earth, and said, “The earth is my witness.” These words and this gesture have been immortalized by countless images of Buddha touching the earth, showing the earth-touching mudra.
The meaning of this symbolic story is profound. Many forms of spirituality claim descent from immaterial or “higher” spiritual realms, and set up an opposition between the spiritual and the material. In contrast, Buddha was a human being and he taught that his awakening came from the earth itself. This earthly orientation to awakening permeates the Buddhist teachings. For example, in contrast to the traditional yogic technique of withdrawing the senses—pratyahara, the fifth limb of ashtanga yoga as taught by the father of yoga, Patanjali—Buddhist meditative techniques commonly teach the development of mindfulness and awareness of the senses and their objects.
According to Buddhism, the earth and the objects of the senses are not themselves an obstacle to awakening. It is only a wrong relationship with them, based upon craving and ignorance, that creates our suffering. In the innermost essence of real dharma, the earth and all its forms, when seen without craving or ignorance, perfectly reflect and embody awakening. This wisdom teaching implicitly underlies Buddhism’s many manifestations—from the early Buddhist practice of mindfulness; to the Prajnaparamita teaching that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form; to the Third Turning teaching that Buddha Nature pervades everywhere; and beyond to the secret teachings of Tantra, Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
Seen with the eye of wisdom, the earth, its forms, all of its beings and we ourselves are embodied awareness, and are all worthy of reverence and love.
Meditation leading to liberation can be easy and natural. As the Buddha recounted:
“I thought: ‘I recall once, when my father the Sakyan was working, and I was sitting in the cool shade of a rose-apple tree, then — quite secluded from sensuality, secluded from unskillful mental qualities — I entered & remained in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from seclusion, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. Could that be the path to Awakening?’ Then following on that memory came the realization: ‘That is the path to Awakening.’—Majjhima Nikaya 36
The Buddha had engaged in yoga and in self-mortification, but his desire for liberation from suffering was not satisfied. Then he recalled how, as a young man, he had spontaneously entered a natural state of meditative contemplation while resting in the shade of a rose-apple tree. It occurred to him that such natural meditation might be more conducive to liberation than the yogic trances or self-denial he had previously pursued. As a result, he took some food, and proceeded to the Bodhi tree where he sat naturally and easefully, with the strong intention to sit still until he penetrated the matter of suffering. The sutras recount that the next morning, upon seeing Venus rising, Gotama became the Awakened One.
The most fruitful meditation is like that of the Buddha—natural, relaxed, awake and with the intention of liberation, but at ease. The great teachers of Dzogchen, such as Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa, also taught natural meditation. In meditation, as in life, too much force, concentration or fancy technique is counter-productive. Since one’s true nature is the natural state-the default state of rest when craving is relaxed-it is not hard to understand how meditation that is natural and full of ease is the most direct path to its realization.