To receive the teachings on Dzogchen you must first give rise to bodhicitta, by cultivating loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings and the wish to bring them to enlightenment. You should wish that they be free of suffering. And you should think what the cause of suffering is, non-virtue, and wish that they be free of it. Then recalling the vow that you will liberate them from suffering, you should think that you will never waver from that vow. And knowing that you cannot yet liberate them, you should pray with great fervor to your gurus so that with their blessings you will be able to liberate them.
In Dzogchen we speak of the primordial nature, which is perfect from the very beginning. It is obscured by confusion, even though by nature it is pure. It is like crystal, which changes color when placed on different colored cloth. Discursive thought, which appears in the form of the kleshas, needs to be purified and converted to virtuous thoughts. This is done by engaging in relative skillful means. Through the relative one sees the ultimate. If you think that you can reach the ultimate without engaging in the relative, it will be very distant. So you must remove the unvirtuous and cultivate virtuous thoughts.
We can train our mind to be as vast as space. As the great masters did, we can train so that everything becomes a companion in practice. Think of all beings filling space as our mothers. In this way we will make our compassion as vast a space. We should train our minds as athletes train for sports. But unlike training the body, there is no limit to training the mind.
Buddha taught beings of different capacities through the three turnings of the wheel of dharma. All are based on the teachings of relative and ultimate truth. In Tibetan the word relative literally means “all false.” What appears to us as real is unreal. All that seems permanent is not. This is what is meant by false. Seeing this falsity is the truth and is what is meant by relative truth. Anything within in the domain of confused mind is relative truth.
Ultimate truth is the original nature, which is the dharmadhatu, the suchness of phenomena. It is referred to as emptiness, mahamudra, or mahasandhi, the perfect nature. It is realized only by the noble ones. It is the self aware primordial wisdom. It is beyond the domain of thought, inexpressible, and incomprehensible. It cannot be expressed through speech, shown, pointed to, or demonstrated. The body cannot touch it, the speech express it, or mind think of it. It is known only by discerning the primordial wisdom. There is no duality of subject and object in it. It is inseparable appearance-emptiness. This emptiness is the dharmadhatu, the base of all phenomena. When it is realized, there are no concepts or kleshas. All impurities have been eliminated. But also there is no wisdom.
Milarepa was asked, “Is it true that in that state there is no wisdom?”
He replied, “I cannot say yes or no. You will have to see for yourself.”
This primordial wisdom is beyond the duality of subject or object. It is free of all mental elaboration. It is seeing what cannot be seen. There is not so much as a single thing to be meditate on. But is not a nihilistic void. It is not straying from the natural state.
To practice one needs to understand and practice both the relative and ultimate truths. One must rely on a qualified teacher and have the qualities of a good student.. We should listen and contemplate the teachings of the Buddha. These teachings are adopted to the differing capacities of sentient beings and comprise the philosophical teachings of the four schools. All these teachings point to the ultimate. I will briefly explain these schools.
The Vaibhasikas categorize all phenomena into the five aggregates. They appear to be solid and real, but ultimately they lack a self. They can be subdivided into ultimate particles, which truly exist. Consciousness can also be subdivided into individual moments of consciousness, which ultimately exist. The distinction between this and the higher schools is the higher schools do not accept these particles ultimately exist.
The Sautantrika school says all that appears but does not function is relative truth. That which functions is the ultimate truth. For example, a real cup functions, but a picture of a cup does not.
The Cittamatrin school divide phenomena into three kinds, the imputed, the dependent, and the truly established. The imputed is divided into variegated and the nonexistent. The variegated are concepts like cups and pens. The nonexistent are like sky flowers and son of a barren woman. The dependent are mistaken and unmistaken. The mistaken are all phenomena as they appear to our deluded mind. The unmistaken are the experience of a noble one in post-meditation, where phenomena are seen as dreams. The truly established is self cognizing awareness. It is free of the duality of subject and object and action. Its cause is beyond characteristics, its result is beyond aspiration, and its nature is emptiness.
The Madhyamika school is divided into the Svatantrika and Prasangika schools. Both assert all phenomena are empty But in post-meditation the Svatantrika posits emptiness by positive assertions, while the Prasangika does not. This is different than the distinction between the Rangtong and Shentong schools, which was developed after Madhyamika was introduced into Tibet. The Madhyamikas rely of the perfection of wisdom sutras. Both schools accept Nagarjuna and Aryadeva and Maitreya’s Abhismayalamkara. Our schools interprets Madhyamika though the teachings of Shantarakshita and Kamaliashia. There is both a mistaken and unmistaken relative truth. The unmistaken is that which appears to the senses and functions. That which does not is mistaken.
The ultimate truth is expressed through analogies and through that which is beyond analogy. The former is expressed through the statements of the perfection of wisdom, such in the Heart Sutra. When it says that “form is emptiness,” that statement goes beyond the extreme of positing true existence. The sutra continues by saying, “Emptiness is form,” which goes beyond the extreme of nihilism. It then says, “Form is no other than emptiness,” which goes beyond the third extreme, both existence and nonexistence. It then says, “Emptiness is none other than form,” which is beyond the fourth extreme, neither existence or nonexistence.
Our tradition does not posit any analogy. It abides in the view through meditation which apprehends the ultimate. Because it is beyond elaboration, one does not posit anything in post-meditation. So it is identical with the view of the Prasangika.
Q: in Nagarjuna’s Verses in Praise of Dharmadhatu, he seems to be saying that something positive could be said about the ultimate. Could you say something about this?
A: It praises the qualities, but this only his attempt to express the ultimate in the language of deluded beings. The ultimate is not in the domain of the mind.
Drikung Mahayana Center
September 20, 2008