Dzogchen: Naked Mind





"Who you are is simply the unobstructed, spontaneous arising of awareness without origin." 

                                 Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin

"Suppose you are in bed-- all tucked in and cozy, asleep and dreaming.  And in this dream you are at a large banquet.  Everyone is dressed up.  People are dancing and having a good time.  And this is taking place in the banquet room of a large hotel.  And you are having a great time enjoying the party.  Above the banquet in this hotel there are a number of rooms for the guests.  So what I want to know is which room are you currently sleeping in and having this dream?"

Thrangu Rinpoche


When we speak of dzogchen we are talking about “ordinary experience.” What is ordinary experience? It is the experience of things as they are. In this case, it refers to seeing directly that awareness and what arises in awareness are indivisible and actually of the same nature.
Awareness is “knowing”--cognizance-- and when we examine our awareness as ordinary experience we see that our actual awareness has no beginning – no point of origin—that we can put our finger on. Nor does it have an end. In the same way, our memories of the past are just thoughts and our hopes or anxieties of the future are also simply thoughts arising in this present awareness.  In this way, everything which arises in our experience is considered "self display."
This understanding is referred to as the view. And when we talk about dzogchen practice and realization this "view" is the basis for the method of practice and the fruition of that practice.

Traditionally ordinary experience, dzogchen, is spoken of from three perspectives: the view; the practice; and the activity or conduct.  As I have already mentioned the view is simply the way things are from the perspective of nowness.  The practice is the method which illuminates this primordial nature of awareness in our direct experience so we can grow familiar with it as our true nature. The activity refers to how realization gained through practice infiltrates all of our experience -- whether we are in formal meditation or going about everyday life.  "  Activity" refers to the realization of Buddhahood--all dualistic confusion being worn out into realization.
When we look at our experience directly we have objects of perception seemingly arising in awareness-- this includes perceptions of form, sound and color and inner perceptions of thoughts and emotions.   Western science, philosophy and theistic interpretations of spirituality always split this experience into a subject and an object – the perciever and the object perceived -- the creator and his creation.  This  coincides with our habitual way of attempting to find solidity, meaning and permanence through experience .  That is, we react habitually to our experiences. This habitual, dualistic approach to experience always fails to provide the solidity, security and meaning that we are looking for which is the message of the Buddha's first turning of the wheel of Dharma and teachings on dukkha, basic anxiety. 

"The attempt to confirm our solidity  is very painful.  Constantly, we find ourselves suddenly slipping off the edge of a floor that had appeared to extend endlessly.  Then we must attempt to save ourselves from death by immediately building an extension to the floor in order to make it appear endless again.   We think we are safe on our seemingly solid floor, but then we slip off again and have to build another extension.  We do not realize that the whole process is unnecessary, that we do not need a floor to stand on, that we have been building all these floors on the ground level.  There was never any danger of falling or need for support.  In fact, our occupation of extending the floor to secure our ground is a big joke, the biggest joke of all, a cosmic joke.  But we may not find it funny; it may sound like a serious double cross."  Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche "Cosmic Joke"

  Direct experience or naked awareness is nondual in the sense that whatever arises as objects in the mind are inseparable from the awareness which percieves them.  This is the "ground floor" Trungpa Rinpoche is talking about.  From the dzogchen perspective this is the only meaning there is to our experience and to look for meaning elsewhere is a hopeless and deluded approach.

"Whatever appears as visible objects to the eye--

Everything in the outer universe-- 

Although it appears, rest without taking it to be real.

The purification of dualistic perception is the clear yet empty form of the yidam/deity."


      It is impossible to truly establish that the objects of experience have any external reality whatsoever-- which is a dangerous thing to say and should not be an invitation to consider everything to be an illusion.  As Padmasambhava said: 

My view is higher than the sky, but the cause and effect of karma is finer than powder.

However, in order to understand the view of dzogchen it is useful to flip our perspective in this way.  For instance,  we have all experienced dreams and felt during the dream that our dream-reality consisted of outer objects and a subjective experiencer.  Yet, when we wake up we realize that our dream was occurring in our mind and what we took to be external phenomena were also just manifestations of our mind.  This is similar to the experience that we have while awake. In both circumstances the main point from the Dzogchen view is that they are both manifestations of  “nowness ."  This "nowness" is "nondual”, which simply means that both awareness and the object of awareness demonstrate the same nature-- this nature is basic "knowing."   It is "not two." The "mirage" of duality comes about because we are carried away by discursive thought and conflicting emotions which are really just fragile attempts to establish a permanent point of reference through the habit of projection and fixation. For instance, we project a past for ourselves which is memory-- and memory is only a thought arising in this present awareness.  This is also the same for all of our future projects that we see ourselves engaging in.  These are also just projected thoughts.  We spend most of our "waking hours" living in these dream worlds.   And ultimately this way of being feels very unsatisfying.  It also always fails to provide the security we crave-- and it  always fails because the object is actually not separate from this experience of being present -- ultimately it is this experience of nowness that is like space attempting to split itself in two into a subject and a point of reference outside of that subject.  This is known as "co-emergent ignorance" ," the first skandha"--a moment of forgetfulness-- forgetting that this nowness/ awareness is where everything is happening.  On the other hand, when the outer object and inner subject are seen directly with the secret recognition of nondual awareness-- this is referred to as coemergent wisdom--  "space is seen in intercourse with space."

 This uninterrupted flowing innate mind

Is suchness, primordially pure.

Space is seen in intercourse with space.

Because the root resides at home,

Mind consciousness is imprisoned.

When I meditate on this, subsequent thoughts

Are not patched together in the mind.

Knowing the phenomenal world is the nature of mind,

Meditation requires no further antidote.

The nature of mind cannot be thought.

Rest in the natural state.

When you see this truth, you will be liberated.

Just as a child would, watch the behavior of barbarians.

Be carefree; eat flesh; be a madman.

Just like a fearless lion,

Let your elephant mind wander free.

See the bees hovering among the flowers.

Not viewing samsara as wrong,

There is no such thing as attaining nirvana.

This is the way of ordinary mind.

Rest in natural freshness.

Do not think of activities.

Do not cling to one side or one direction.

Look into the midst of the space of simplicity.

                  Marpa's Dream of Saraha from "The Rain of Wisdom"

     Confusion occurs because we mistake what arises in experience to be separate from this awareness. As ordinary sentient beings this is happening all the time in our experience.  Meditation practice can be very frustrating  in the beginning because it is our direct and unavoidable experience of this fundamental delusion.

     For instance,  if you are sitting in a practice period with a set time and other people you are in some sense stuck with yourself.  It is too embarrassing to jump up and run out of the room because your daydreams are so disturbing.  So we sit still on our cushion and if we have just had a big fight with our partner, then that is what will arise in our minds. And generally speaking, our partner isn't actually there-- but we live that experience again and again through dualistic fixation.  We relive the fight and think it is happening in the present moment--which it isn't.  That is the basic experience of coemergent ignorance.  It can happen on a very coarse level like reliving an intense emotionally charged event but usually it is just a subtle ongoing discursiveness. 
     We are "fooled by the mirage of duality" and unable to distinguish between reality and delusion moment to moment.  That is the fundamental confusion.    Of course, if you are just sitting on a cushion, you have a moment where you wake up from that delusion.  That is the key point.  Without some type of method or practice we never recognize delusion when it falls apart and so we never experience non reference point-- or the gap --which occurs there-- at that moment.

"Just as waves on the ocean subside again into the ocean, gain confidence in the liberation of all thoughts, whatever may arise.  Confidence is beyond the object of meditation and the act of meditating.  If is free from the conceptual mind that fixates on meditation."  Dudjom Rinpoche

       From the point of view of dzogchen practice the important element is to resolve this fresh, present awareness -- the "ground floor." In Tibetan this ground floor is called rigpa.  The ultimate meaning of our precious human birth is to recognize mind's true nature-- i.e. rigpa-- and not be deluded by our habitual reaction to what arises as experience.   That is the fruition of the path.

"Awareness is first pointed out by your master.  Thereby, you recognize your natural face, by yourself, and are introduced to your own nature.  All the phenomena of samsara and nirvana, however they may appear, are none other than the expression of awareness itself.  Thus, decide on one thing--awareness (rigpa)!"  Dudjom Rinpoche

"All experience is your own mind, and this mind, free from arising and ceasing, is the identity of the trikaya guru.  This guru is indivisible from your natural awareness.  It's cognizant radiance encompasses all that appears and exists."

 Tsele Natsok Rangdrol

      The way we resolve this is by practicing meditation which for a kusulu or 'simple meditator' means sitting in a room where nothing is happening, doing nothing. And when we start to do something recognizing that we are doing something and coming back to doing nothing again. This "doing nothing" is simply being nakedly aware. The “doing” is without any extra involvement. Even when thoughts arise or we hear sounds outside or have sensations in our body—we allow these objects of perception to arise as they are with no extra involvement of our habitual mind. When it happens that we are “carried away” by a memory or future projection, at some point we wake up out of that reaction and "let be" in this present awareness. The basic techniques of shamatha/vipashyana meditation are meant to accentuate this moment of recognition which, in fact, occurs naturally when any constructed phenomena falls apart or washes out. 
     The processes of the five skandhas are always falling apart-- moment to moment. The activity of habitual mind, "ego," is to try and speed over these gaps.  Therefore meditation practice in our tradition is simply accentuating and exploiting these gaps and throwing a monkey wrench  into the process of habitual mind so that we can recognize the basic background of rigpa.   Then through repeated training  we grow  familiar with this nonreferential awareness.

"Since all of appearance and existence is the magical display of this single expanse of awareness, the 'ultimate view' is to see your mind in utterly naked naturalness.  'Meditation training' is to remain in this continuously.  'Ensuing cognition' is when a thought is projected.  'Post-meditation' is to recognize that projection. 'Conduct ' is to mingle walking, sitting, and all other activities with the state of awareness."

 Tsele Natsok Rangdrol


When your past thought has ceased, and your future thought has not yet arisen and when you are free from conceptual reckoning in the present moment, then your genuine and natural awareness, the union of being empty and cognizant, dawns as a state of mind which is like space.

Yanpa Lodey ( Carefree Vagrant)

Shechen Gyaltsap Pema Namgyal


Generally speaking, the word ' meditation' means sustaining the continuity of awareness with natural and innate mindfulness, resting in undistracted nonfixation and growing accustomed to the innate nature. 

As for growing accustomed,' when meditating and a thought arises, just let it arise-- relax  in its arising.  If no thought arises, don't try to make it do so-- just rest in its nonarising.'"

Dudjom Rinpoche

     Even though reality is this unconditioned, nonreferential awareness and, if we are lucky, we have had it pointed out to us by a genuine master -- without effortful practice we will remain caught in the cycle of habitual hope and fear and be blown about by the winds of karma. From the samsaric point of view this same experience of impermanence --which is nonreference point experience, the gap-- seems to be the cause of our suffering.  We constantly use projection and fixation  in a futile attempt to solidify our experience running away from this feeling of impermanence and groundlessness.  Trungpa Rinpoche refers to this as "the cosmic joke."  From the point of view of authentic Dharma this is coming at things from the wrong end of the stick.  From our samsaric point of view this is the cause of basic and fundamental anxiety--dukkha.  So now that we know this it is necessary to engage in meditation training to stabilize our realization of nonreference point experience and to realize this fundamental ground as our true nature--  basic sanity. 

     Meditation training is a way to recognize this nonreferential awareness of ordinary experience and grow familiar with it as the basic ground of being.

"You haven't arrived at the state of liberation simply by recognizing Rigpa.  For beginningless lifetimes, we have been enveloped within the cocoon of deluded tendencies.  Up until now, we have been spending our lives deep under the shit of this conceptual thinking.  At the time of death, you aren't certain where you will go, but you must follow your karma and undergo more suffering.  Therefore, you should now practice sustaining the continuity of the awareness that you have recognized, and nothing other than that."  Dudjom Rinpoche

     An aid to this practice – what we might call "dzogchen shamatha/vipashyana"—is to sit in a room where nothing is happening. We sit very still with the body, not fidgeting or moving around. We keep our eyes and ears open – not blocking perception particularly.  It is recommended to use the outbreath as a neutral reference point.  The breath is not something we concentrate on in order to block the arising of thoughts to dwell in a peaceful state , or something we focus on to enter into a trance state-- those are big misconceptions about meditation.  The outbreath is a neutral  event in the sense that we don't react to it with habitual hope and fear.  Yet it is something which is continually happening and is very subtle and close to us.  Flashing a momentary awareness on the outbreath and then letting that attention relax during the inbreath is the key training for knowing experience directly and nakedly --which is rigpa.  Once we recognize that through "one-pointedness" --shamatha in sanskrit or shine in Tibetan-- the result of doing that is that recognition expands into all areas of our experience in the sense of insight into the true nature of phenomena.  This is called vipashyana in Sanskrit or lhakthong in Tibetan.    This expansion is "clear seeing" -- seeing without the clutter or overlay of habitual, discursive thinking-- "namtok" in Tibetan.    The ultimate expression of the vipashyana experience is that we can leave what arises in awareness "in its own ground", as in Padmasambhava's root instructions: 

"Whatever occurs in the realm of the mind-- such as thoughts of the five poisons-- one should neither lead nor follow.  Just let it remain in its true state and reach the liberation of Dharmakaya."

     The key point in doing this practice is to understand the view that whatever arises in the mind is simply the movement of awareness itself.  This is much easier to recognize as true when you are sitting in a room where nothing is happening, doing nothing which is the purpose of a meditation retreat.    Whatever arises can be left as it is without further embellishment or backstory.   It should also be understood that what arises in the mind , whether pleasant or unpleasant, is not an obstacle to this realization at all.  For instance, experiences we have such as thoughts, bodily sensations, sights, smells or sounds are not the problem.  This is especially true in meditation with the experience of discursive thought because many people attempt to suppress thoughts with a meditation technique thinking that the thoughts are the problem.  They aren't the problem.  The problem is that in an instant we are distracted by a memory or thought of a future event and we are habitually carried away and forget that we are sitting in a practice room.  

     Again, because of our discipline, we awaken from that dream and for a moment we recognize or notice that we are back.   That moment where our involvement in one daydream falls apart and we haven't gotten caught up in the next is a gap in our habitual referencing system is called "knowing the one."   In formal meditation we can notice these moments quite clearly because of our discipline of holding our body still and coming back to the outbreath.  But this experience is not something that can be contrived or conceptualized.  We have to do it simply and directly.   That is how we practice-- we simply practice that again and again.  Each time we spontaneously awaken from our daydream we notice that fresh, present awareness.

    It has no origin and no dwelling place which is what is meant when we say, "non reference point experience."   When looked at it directly it is co-emergent with whatever thoughts or experiences arise.  In fact, what we call "nondual awareness" is simply seeing things directly -- "seeing things as they are."  This is not attempting to hold on to a thought-free state. -- or push away unpleasant thoughts and holding on to pleasant ones.  It is simply waking up spontaneously to where we are again and again.  Or noticing that we were daydreaming.  In this way meditation should be seen as a very natural activity no different from all of our other activities.  

     In a way, we only realize this by wearing out our habitual reactions by seeing them arise again and again as we sit there "doing nothing."  This is called "shinjang" in Tibetan.  Habitual reaction is thoroughly processed out.  And yet it is very important to realize that this does not mean that those "unpleasant" thoughts are now gone forever because we have done shamatha correctly.  As one Dzogchen saying puts it, " Whether reborn in heaven or hell, it doesn't matter.  Practice the essential point!"
      Shamatha simply turns up the lights so that we ,as practitioners , can differentiate between habitual projection (sems) and nonreferential awareness (rigpa).  It is not like some "holy" activity that we only do on Sundays between 9 am and 12 noon during "sits."

                                        The more thoughts the more dharmakaya. 

                                                       Dzogchen Pith Instructions  

"Awareness is the body of meditation as is taught.  Whatever arises is fresh-- the essence of realization.  To this meditator who rests simply without altering it, grant your blessings so that my meditation is free from conception."

Supplication to the Takpo Kagyu

     Shamatha meditation entails not reacting with body, speech and mind which is the discipline of learning how to rest in nowness -Tibetan- "dhatarwai shepa" -- or "the mind of immediacy"   In order to engage this practice it is important in the beginning to be guided by a competent, authentic lama-- someone who manifests the blessings of this lineage-- with some face to face engagement and experience the environment they live in.  It is not enough to read books on the subject or attend online classes. 

     The reason why it is important to have an authentic teacher and lineage is because it is so easy to substitute our assumptions based on our conceptual ideas of science, happiness, psychology, etc. for the real view -- which is beyond conceptual mind.  Having lots of conceptual ideas about Buddhist philosophy is like having a map in our pocket of a country we have never visited.  We can end up arguing with a person who lives there about what it is like.

          "An ordinary corpse is often found in the bed of a scholar."

                                                                  Dzogchen Pith Instructions                                                   

"One pointedness means that mind is still as long as one wishes, seeing the very nature of ordinary mind."  Jamgon Kongtrul 

    The four yogas of mahamudra provide an excellent framework for how to approach our practice.  One pointedness is the beginning of training--as in the foundation. In the same way that we cannot build a house without first building a strong foundation, without developing one-pointedness one can never really progress on the path. And this is not something that we do once and then move on to other higher more important practices.  One pointedness is necessary to revisit again and again.  It should be present in every practice we engage.  It is definitely the main attribute of shamatha meditation.  In this case, with reference to Trungpa Rinpoche's instruction, we continually come back to the direct experience of the outbreath and we continue to develop and refine this direct experience.  This experience does not depend on memory, concept, ideals or future hopes.  It is only through direct experience which is beyond habitual reference point that we meet the mind of this lineage.  So absolute trust and devotion are completely necessary.  The technique and the guru's instructions are how we do this.

    When we realize that we are distracted from being one with the outbreath we label that distraction "thinking" and come back to being one with the outbreath. Many approaches to meditation practice favor the use of antidotes.  "Lift your gaze if you are drowsy; lower your gaze if you are distracted," etc.-- but in this approach it is important not to use antidotes.  If you are tired or drowsy flash your awareness on your breath going out and then let go of any expectations about "meditation" practice.  If you are agitated flash your awareness on your outbreath and then let go of any contrived meditation practice.

     Don't try to establish a perfect sustained meditation-- just continue to come back to the awareness of the outbreath moment to moment regardless of your state of mind -- or whether you are having good thoughts or bad or are having a "good" meditation session or a "bad" one.  You are recognizing the same nondual awareness regardless of the pleasure or pain of your experience-- which is the point! 

     Everytime we return decisively to a sense of oneness with the outbreath we break the seeming continuity of our distracted habitual thinking.  This is like undoing the glue that holds the five skandhas together.  The power one develops is the power of "first thought best thought"  where our first thought is to be one with the outbreath rather than looking for something to fill the space.   It is very similar to Patrul  Rinpoche's instruction of yelling "phat" within a very settled shamatha meditation.  It should abruptly cut any subtle pre-occupation.  During the inbreath we dis-own any attempt to prolong a "meditative state" -- then with the next outbreath we flash a complete identification with the outbreath as it happens -- once again disrupting any distraction or engagement with habitual thought. 
     Keep it natural-- this is all about training your awareness rather than yelling or breathing heavily in the middle of the shrineroom. The key point is intentionally jumping into the direct experience of the outbreath with no strings attached.  Habitual mind can never keep up with this practice.  It does require a certain type of bravery, trust and intelligence to let go of our habitual tentativeness and just be one with the outbreath.

"We could use the phrase "touch and go".  You are in contact; you are touching the experience of being there, actually being there; and then you let go.  That applies to awareness of your breath and also your day-to-day living awareness.  The point of "touch and go" is that there is a sense of feeling.  "Touch" is a sense of existence, that you are who you are.  You have a name and you feel a certain way.  And you are that way...You are there, you are sitting, you are there, you are sitting.  That's the "touch" part.  The "go" part is that you are there and then you don't hang on to it.  You don't sustain your sense of being, but you let go of even that....I would recommend that you don't worry about future security, but just do it, directly and simply."  Trungpa Rinpoche

     The technique is purposefully very simple-- no counting of breaths; no visualizations-- this way you really are working on the essential "knowing" aspect.  The lack of continuity in the technique means that you need to repeatedly flash on the breath with no preamble and no post mortems-- no storyline.  This interrupts the speed and continuity of our habitual mind.  This is called "the union of shamatha/vipashyana" because it is focusing on that knowing aspect rather than repeating something like an automaton.  You have to actually do it-- be with the outbreath directly.

     The traditional analogies that illustrate how this practice deepens is that it goes from a torrential waterfall of distraction and discursive thoughts ;to a rushing stream; a gently flowing river; then a still lake and finally like an unmoving mountain.  We rest in 'cool boredom."  Experiences of well-being, clarity and stillness arise.  Fundamentally, one-pointedness is where we actually experience the gap between habitual thought-- "ordinary experience", rigpa, nonreference point experience.

"Between two thoughts, thought-free wakefulness"  Milarepa 


     There is a subtle problem that often arises as we become more adept at sitting still and practicing shamatha intensively in this way.  We can get hung up on the pleasurable meditation experiences which arise and mistake them for some sense of accomplishment.  Many non-Buddhist schools including the contemporary Mindfulness movement take this as the point of meditation.  The three boons of well-being, clarity and stillness are not the main part of practice.  They should be viewed as the same as any experience-- in this case, they arise from settling down in our meditation practice.  One pointedness is the moment of oneness with the outbreath which does not depend on prior conditions and is neither a memory or thought of the future.  The deep settling that can happen by engaging in shamatha practice should help refine our experience-- but the moment of oneness with the breath and dis-owning any attempt to cling to that experience is the main point of practice-- what we call "knowing the one which liberates all."  We should not be confused about this.

" For just a moment we meditate on unobstructed, pure dharmata.  This experience is vividly real but truly nonexistent, like waking from a dream.  To the guru of gurus, uninterrupted consciousness without a reference point, I prostrate."  

Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin

     The experience of  one pointedness  is how we recognize the nature of mind-- what is "pointed out" by the lineage guru.   And if we have a genuine guru we begin to develop faith and trust in their teachings and state of being through our experience of one-pointedness because we connect with their minds through the accomplishment of one-pointedness in our training.   

"Simplicity means the realization of groundlessness." Jamgon Kongtrul

 From doing this as a formal practice intensively during retreat we then develop the next yoga-- nonelaboration or simplicity.  What arises as appearances in our minds become transparant-- they manifest as a "quality".  They no longer carry a heavy back story of discursive thought and so we see things as having no root which is the feeling of groundlessness that we can actually relax with rather than run from.   This is the beginning of a higher vipashyana and the realization or insight into phenomena as arising without ground or root. This is the experience of nonreference point as what arises as appearances.   The further experiences of one-taste and nonmeditation arise developmentally from this direct insight.

"One Taste means liberating all possible dualistic fixations through insight."  Jamgon Kongtrul

 One taste is the experience of nonreferential awareness as an inescapable environment.  It is an atmosphere.  It feels like the presence of the lineage, meditation deity and your root teacher all together.  One cannot tell from where it originates-- it seems to be both internal, and external and completely inescapable. 
     Having disrupted the habitual process of projection and fixation through intensive practice -- whatever arises has a particular quality that we begin to identify with from a larger perspective.  From habitual mind's point of view,  nonreference point experience is completely terrifying and unsettling.   Space is solid and inescapable.  From the teachings on shamatha/vipashyana this one taste is the real experience of vipashyana -- clear seeing-- or mahavipashyana in this context.   This is where we encounter outer and inner experience as "self-existing wakefulness."  The outer world of local environments, trees, people, Dunkin Donuts franchises,  even those elements which we had associated with confused mind --like the five skandhas and emotional klesa activity-- become "liberated" from habitual referencing --i.e. they are not "patched together by subsequent thoughts" -- and in that way are manifestations of enlightened qualities.  This is where one can understand the activity of the four karmas.  When this quality becomes uninterrupted this is referred to as "nonmeditation."   This is where we meet the Guru's mind as the mandala of suchness.

"Nonmeditation means transcending all sophistries of meditation and nonmeditation, the exhaustion of habitual patterns."  Jamgon Kongtrul

"Once again , if you don't meditate, you won't gain certainty.  If you do meditate certaintly will be attained. What kind of certainty should be attaine?  If you meditate with strong diligence, the uptight fixation on solid duality wll gradually grow more relaxed.  Your constant ups and downs, hopes and fears, efforts andd struggles will gradually diminish as a natural sign of having become fully acquainted.  Devotion to your guru will grow stronger and you will feel confidence in his oral instruction from the very core of your heart.  At some point, the conceptual mind that solidly fixates on duality will naturally vanish  After that, gold and stone are equal, food and shit are equal, gods and demons are equal, good and evil are equal, buddha realms and helol realms are equal-- you will find it impossible to choose  But until that happens according to the perception that fixates on duality, there is virtue and evil, there are  buddhafields and hells, and there are joys and sorrows-- the effects of karma are unfailing.  This is why Padmakara, the great master, said:

"My view is higher than the sky but the cause and effect of Karma are finer than powder."

One might ask how long we need to train in order to develop in this way?  When do we arrive at a place of nonregression?  The short answer is that we train like this forever.  As Trungpa said at one point "meditation is life's work."  This is what we do-- it is the priority -- and it fulfills all of the vows we engage as hinayana, mahayana, vajrayana and shambhala practitioners. It is what taking refuge is all about.   We are  lucky to have a precious human birth where we encounter these teachings and have the opportunity to put them into practice.  What more could we want?  The goal or ambition of some further realization is an illusion in any case--simply another projection!

     I won't lie.  This is a difficult path.  We are swimming against the stream of our own delusion and what society tells us is important.  But if you have gotten this far in this text it probably means that you have a precious human birth capable of understanding these teachings.  Life passes quickly so do not waste this opportunity.

 "The experience of true insight is the simultaneous awareness of both stillness and active thoughts.  According to the Maha Ati teaching, meditation consists of seeing whatever arises in the mind and simply remaining in the state of nowness.  Continuing in this state after meditation is known as "the post-meditation experience."

Jigme Lingpa trans. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

 Accentuate the discontinuity of habitual mind and grow familiar with the recognition of wakefulness as the result.  This is the union of Shamatha-Vipashyana.  Develop faith in this view as both the result and the method of practice-- then one's entire experience -- whether meditating on a cushion or wandering in an aisle in Walmart--becomes a training ground.  Lead an ordinary life.

"Discovering real goodness comes from appreciating very simple experiences.  We are not talking about how good it feels to make a million dollars or finally graduate from college or buy a new house, but we are speaking here of the basic goodness of being alive--which does not depend on our accomplishments or fulfilling our desires.  We experience glimpses of goodness all the time, but we often fail to acknowledge them.  When we see a bright color, we are witnessing our own inherent goodness.  When we hear a beautiful sound, we are hearing our own basic goodness.  When we step out of the shower, we feel fresh and clean, and when we walk out of a stuffy room, we appreciate the sudden whiff of fresh air.  These events may take a fraction of a second, but they are real experiences of goodness.  They happen to us all the time, but usually we ignore them as mundane or purely coinciendental.  According to the shambhala principles, however, it is worthwhile to recognize amd take advamtage of these moments, because they are revealing basic nonaggression and freshness in our lives-- basic goodness."

Trungpa Rinpoche

 At DMC the basic approach is to create an environment of practice and discipline as taught by  Chogyam  Trungpa Rinpoche which is our path and how we trained with Rinpoche while he was alive.  Then within that environment of study and practice, face to face meetings can create the right situation in which ordinary experience can be pointed out as a mutual, shared experience between the teacher and student.  Transitions between intensive one pointed practice retreats within the context of a strict schedule  and the completely open schedule of "days off" in which practitioners have a day and a half of no community schedule are incredibly effective methods for recognizing experience beyond habitual reference point.   These are methods for recognizing and developing "the pointing out." Having a clear understanding of this "nonreferential awareness" allows you to flash it momentarily in your formal practice of shamatha.   This is where the rubber meets the road in practice -- or to put it in a more tradititional analogy -- "rock meets bone."  Without this genuine, personal recognition of this gap one's practice does not lead to fruition.   It should go without saying that this is great training for the moment of death-- when the physical body collapses and we lose that very big habitual reference point.  For practitioners who have recognized the nature of mind as "nonreference point experience" it is said that this is a tremendous opportunity.

"In any transition there is a gap where the absence of the previous reference point has not yet become the next one.  In that space, there is no time.  That is the Buddha''s time.  Buddha does not abandon appearance and experience; Buddha's mind is found in between hope and fear and birth and death."

                Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin 

 For a yogin of nonreference point experience one's main practice on a daily basis is simply to recognize that quality of experience either in the formal practice or during one’s regular activities-- in meditation or in the larger vipashyana atmosphere of post-meditation.  This vipashyana is also referred to as the "blessings of the lineage" or "chinlap;" a bank of energy that radiates without a radiator.  Self-existing.   It is basic reality...basic sanity.  Basic Goodness.  Crazy Wisdom.  Nonexistence.  Ordinary experience.  Trungpa Rinpoche and the Vajra Regent used many terms to point to this realization.

"A yogin moves toward nonreference point experience, an ordinary sentient being runs from it."

Activity – which is our third point—refers to this quality of “self-liberation”  in terms of whatever appearances arise in our awareness. This is dependent upon having the right view and putting it into practice by one’s own efforts. One can have an excellent guru and be a part of an authentic lineage but unless you are willing to really do it then the rubber never meets the road and the whole engagement with spiritual training devolves into "spiritual materialism."  As Dudjom Rinpoche says the guru ,who is the pipeline for the authentic lineage, points out the nature of mind to the student – from that point on it is up to the student to travel the path and reach liberation on his or her own.  The guru is not a savior who does it for the student.  Having done Level One with Trungpa Rinpoche does not give you any credentials.   He does not die for our sins.  This is very important to understand --deifying the Guru is a corruption of Dharma.  It is a fundamental corruption of the view.

"Recognition of rigpa, as Tilopa said, occurs through gathering the accumulations and purifying obscurations, and through the blessings of a qualified master.  Depending on other means should be known as delusion.  Have you heard of anyone who recognized nondualistic awareness simply through reading books?  Aside from receiving blessings, gathering the accumulations and purifying obscurations, no other technique exists for recognizing rigpa.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

The bottom line is that basic reality, basic sanity -- what arises as our experience-- is in itself non reference point experience.  All of our buddhist practices are yogas -- ways to realize this basic reality in experience.  They aren't idealistic beliefs, conceptual theories or external forms of worship.   Different people have differing capacities and so different methods work better for some.  However, it is important to understand that in each case the view is the same.  Once a practitioner has a glimpse or gap in their continuous experience of delusion or co-emergent ignorance then whatever they experience can become-- if properly understood and utilized-- a method to realize the manifestation of nonreference point experience as co-emergent wakefulness.  This is the essential theme in studying the stories of the 84 mahasiddhas in the Kagyu lineage.  "The primordial dot expands to fill the whole of space"...This is what we call 'crazy wisdom' or 'basic sanity.'  This is not some kind of accomplishment as in "one-upsmanship"-- it is recognition of the  basic nature of reality as not separate from the nitty gritty experience of our daily lives-- particularly as lay people yogins living in this culture and time.  

Like setting fire to combustible elements-- everything we encounter becomes a moment of combustion in which we experience the one flavor of crazy wisdom-- the essence of coemergent wisdom.    For the yogi of the authentic lineage of Trungpa Rinpoche and his Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin -- this one flavor is always the same and recognizable. It sets fire to the world of perception-- in a very ordinary way, of course.

     "This is Jamgon Kongtrul's basic synopsis of vipashyana experience.  He says that the phenomenal world is actually empty.  It doesn't have any form, any qualities, any perceptions, any anything at all.  It is general space that occurs to us fundamentally, basically.  Out of that non existence and because of it, we are able to shape forms, objects, colors and conceptualizations of all kinds, which are like firewood.  The existence of such firewood is discrimination and part of one's intelligence as well.  Such firewood should be burned so that there is no difference between the phenomenal world and the occupants of the phenomenal world.  They are one.  Therefore we have nothing to hang on to, which is the basic experience of vipashyana."   Trungpa Rinpoche

The Guru Principle: Enhancement Practice

The Kagyu and Nyingma lineages are known as the "practicing lineages."  We rely on direct experience in practice to resolve the view and attain realization.  This is opposed to the pundita or scholar's approach favored by the new schools.  The Kagyu lineage emphasizes the devotion path as the skillful means. This is the yoga of "mogu" a combination of two Tibetan words which correspond to the feeling of wretchedness and longing with inspiration.  These two emotions make connection with self-existing wisdom possible.  Dzogchen emphasizes the direct path of recognition of wakefulness in our experience directly.  Our lineage is the combination of both of these methods-- which actually seems to be how it works in reality anyway.  We experience the guru in the outer world of appearances but we recognize them as wakefulness and because it is our genuine experience that is how we recognize wakefulness in our direct experience.  Yet, as practitioners on the path we experience both the deluded confusion of dualistic fixation and the gap which follows.  The personal connection with an authentic guru is the bridge that leads us to the other shore.  

 "The sun in the morning sky.  The billions of stars that form a canopy at night.  The moon of awareness that reflects the true meaning.  All the elements together with space-- This is your kingdom.  For just a moment we meditate on unobstructed, pure Dharmata.  This experience is vivdly real but truly nonexistent, like waking from a dream  To the guru of gurus, uninterrupted consciousness without a reference point, I prostrate.   To mind itself, none other than your smiling face, I prostrate again and again.  May our minds be inseparable, like water poured into water."  The Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin-- Supplication to Vidyadhara Trungpa Rinpoche

There are many methods to recognize the nature of mind and train in sustaining that recognition.  Guru yoga belongs to the higher  methods of training within tantric practice because it is so effective.  The translation of "tantra" is 'continuity."  In this case it refers to a method of practice which enables the practitioner to experience the continuity of the recognition of the nature of mind, the recognition of "ordinary experience."  In order to engage this training it is essential to understand the difference between a theistic approach to the guru principle and a nontheistic approach and what "devotion" means in the context of the nontheistic view.  In order to do this it is necessary to resolve the view. 

"Devotion to the guru arises because we have understood the emptiness of self and phenomena through the practice of meditation.  You cannot conjure up or invent devotion.  It's not based on hope and fear.  Discriminating awareness brings the understanding that devotion is without second thought and is based on complete trust in your own mind.  You realize that your emotional behaviour makes you continually paranoid, fearful, afraid to live, afraid to be in love, afraid to die.  Your emotional behaviour continually makes you  confused.  At the same time you understand that you cannot discard emotional behaviour as though it were foreign or extraneous to your life.

Then you come to the vajrayana path, where you must actually use poison as medicine.,  You do that when you realize that the guru embodies the wisdom aspect of all the emotions.  The vajrayana view is that whatever appears in your mind is real in its emptiness and luminosity.  It is not in any way real due to conceptual content.  When you realize that, your mind is stripped completely bare of any sense of ego.  When you meet the guru on those grounds, you cannot help falling in love.  It is not simply a case of being in awe of or attracted to someone or something better or higher than you.  It's quite different.  You fall in love because your mind begins to recognize its own enlightened quality.  The guru is a complete and flawless mirror of that, which at times can be quite irritable.  We would prefer to see a distorted image and so deceive ourselves a little longer that things are not really as they are.  But things are as they are, and the guru embodies that.  The guru is the unconditional reflection of your awakened state of mind.  The guru reflects both qualities at the same time: distortion-- the longing to dwell in samsara-- and the aspiration to attain nirvana, the awakened state."

Vajra Regent Osel Tendzin

Once again we must try to understand experience from a nondual perspective -- i.e. that ordinary experience is the nonduality of awareness and objects that arise in that awareness.  An authentic guru appears in one's experience and they bring a message of awakened mind.  How did that come about?   It might be useful  again to use the example of the dream.  Usually our dreams are confused experiences of grasping and fixation on the objects which arise.  We  can have sexual fantasies or aggression fantasies based upon our confused habitual reaction to the objects that arise in our minds during a dream.  Yet, if we were to realize that we were really just experiencing these things while lying in bed and dreaming we would not be enticed or tortured by our habitual reaction.  It is the same with training in the recognition of rigpa. For instance, many students of Trungpa Rinpoche or the Vajra Regent have dreams in which they experience their guru and they feel the blessings as though they were actually present.  This is not some kind of ethereal being visiting us.  It is the way that mind can recognize it's true nature.   Through the training of guru yoga, in this case, we project an object onto which we imprint the expression of rigpa.  This is the expression of the trikaya guru-- our inherent wakefulness.  In this way our habitual mind is hijacked and transmuted.  All of our experience is transformed into an expression of "ordinary experience" because recollecting the guru sabotages our habitual reaction.   We then experience all objects arising in the mind as rigpa, which is the nature of the guru and our inherent naked awareness-- this is called the experience of "one taste," of "sacred world" or the "blessings of the lineage."  The 'outer guru' is the catalyst or agent but in buddhist practice ,which is nontheistic, -- it is all about utilizing this method--this 'yoga'-- to recognize "ordinary experience."  In the end, there isn't much difference between your realization of the nature of mind and your experience of the the primordial guru which is why we say that this is " beyond meeting and parting."

If there is no understanding or vipashyana experience happening for the practitioner then it is not appropriate to engage in this form of tantric training.  The real danger is for the student to validate their neurosis rather than their "basic sanity" through their relationship with the guru-- that is called vajra hell in the tantric literature.  As with all practices, as Trungpa Rinpoche said many times, "its up to you."

"All of whatever appears is the body of the authentic guru.  All sounds are heard as the speech of the dharma king.  All thoughts are the mind of the ultimate teacher.  Devas and gurus are one in the nature of insight.  Devotedly recalling your face, well-being, and the alertness of insight are one in the nature of unmanufactured ordinary mind.  By the longing and yearning of naked devotion,the doors to the treasury of wakefulness, dharani and confidence are opened.  When the great space of the knowable is known, the Jamgon Guru awakens in one's heart.  Padma Trime fulfills the nature of phenomena.  In the realm of vast bodhisattva action  the moonlight of maitri and compassion shines everywhere; the four behaviors are the self-liberated vajra dance; Sounds expressions and words are the vajra song; penetrating insight is the vajra self-sound of AH.  In the post-meditation is heard this continuous sonorous song of AH.

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche "The Sun of Wisdom .


Stillness, Occurrence and Noticing

Trulshik Rinpoche
“Correlating Mahamudra and Dzogchen"

When embarking on meditation practice in the Mahamudra tradition, the meditator is taught three aspects: stillness occurrence, and noticing.

The cultivation of stillness means to train in cutting off involvement in memories; you disengage from entertaining any thought about what has happened in the past. The same regards the future; you are not supposed to construct any plans about the next moment. And in the present, right now, simply and completely let go. Drop everything and settle into nowness. In the Mahamudra tradition, stillness refers to just being this way—not following thoughts about the past, the future, or the present, not churning out any new thoughts.

A beginner will notice that totally letting be without any thought involvement does not last that long. Due to the karmic force of the energy currents, new thoughts are formed—thoughts grasping at subject and object, at the pleasant and unpleasant. The activation of such patterns is known as occurrence.

When the attention is quiet and still, there is a knowing that this is so. When one is involved in thinking about this and that, there is a knowing that this is so. In this context of stillness and thought occurrence, this knowing is called noticing. These are the three aspects known as stillness, occurrence and noticing.

Now, the training is this: each time you notice that you are thinking of something, you disengage from it and pull back—suspending your attention—into being quiet, into being still, and simply remain like that. When after a while you notice that you are thinking about something, again simply return to the stillness. That is the training. By repeating this over and over, you become more familiar, more experienced. That is how to progress.

As you grow more capable, there comes a point when the thought occurrences no longer have such a strong hold on the attention. It becomes easier to arrive back in the quietness. Then later, every time a thought again begins to stir, rather than getting caught up in it, we are able to simply remain, until the force of the thought occurrence weakens and the aware quality grows and strengthens. The dividing line between stillness and occurrence fades away. That is the point at which we can recognize the actual identity of noticing what it really is. In other words, vipashyana can begin.

The great yogi Milarepa said, “In the gap between the past thought and the following thought, thought-free wakefulness continuously dawns.” This is the way it is whether you recognize it or not, so the difference is to recognize. The opportunity to recognize is there all the time, and that is the training. In the beginning, a thought vanishes; that is called stillness. Next a new thought arises; that is called thought occurrence, and one notices that these are happening. These three—stillness, thought occurrence, and noticing—have to do with becoming increasingly aware of the gap between thought. This aware quality grows stronger and stronger, which happens only through training; you cannot pull on the gap to make it bigger. You cannot artificially increase the power of training. At some point, once you recognize that which notices and what the awake quality is, that is the difference between shamatha and vipashyana in this context.

If your shamatha practice is simply training in being absentminded, remaining in a neutral, indifferent state without any thought activity whatsoever, this is known in the Dzogchen system as the all-ground. It is simply a way of being free of thought involvement. When attention becomes active with the expanse of the all-ground, according to Dzogchen, that activity is known as dualistic mind. But when the dividing line between stillness and thought occurrence fades away and instead the strength of the aware quality is intensified, that awake quality, according to Dzogchen, is known as rigpa. Depending on whether one is using the Mahamudra system of the Dzogchen approach, there are different terminologies, but the actual training