Teachings

A Song to Introduce the Unmistaken View of the Great Perfection by Khenpo Gangshar

Placing my head at the feet of the Dharma King, I offer homage: Bless me that I might see natural luminosity.

Hey, you of great fortune!

Sit without moving,
like a tent peg driven into hard earth!

Gaze with your eyes neither open nor closed,
like the eyes of a deity in a fresco!

And let your mind settle, loose and relaxed,
like a woollen blanket spread out on the ground…

At times like these, while resting in the utter brilliance that is the space beyond thought, which may be likened to a cloudless sky, you will experience unimpeded translucence like a faultless crystal.

This is none other than the view of the ultimate, the luminous Great Perfection. Resting in equipoise within the pure luminosity, vividly clear like the sky, dullness and agitation are naturally voided and do not arise anew – a faultless, brilliantly clear non-conceptual meditation. When thought arises, be it good or bad, it is recognized for what it is and will not disturb. Focus upon this method and view your genuine nature; effortless, it arises by relaxing into the expanse, and thoughts are pacified on their own ground.

When you are able to practice for longer periods, it can be like, for example, when muddy water is stirred up and then allowed to settle – the innate lucidity of the water becomes clearer. Similarly, when myriad appearances arise and are realized to be like reflections, they cause the natural clarity of mind itself to become ever clearer. This in turn leads to the effortless arising of various qualities, such as the various types of clairvoyance and so on.

Should even the Great Master of Oḍḍiyāna appear before you, he’d have nothing greater than this to say on the view of the Great Perfection.

Should even Longchen Rabjam appear before you, he’d have nothing greater to teach you on the practice of taking thought as the path.

Should even the twenty-five exalted disciples appear before you, they’d have nothing greater to say concerning this practice.

As for myself, a yogin, this is my practice, and I have no greater meditation instruction to offer you.

You may analyze meticulously, but when a wind blows it naturally disperses the clouds and the sky can be seen. Endeavour to see empty clarity, mind itself, in the same way – there is nothing greater than this understanding. If you don’t stir up the silt, the water will remain clear; as such, don’t analyze. Simply rest without contrivance and you will come to see the emptiness of mind itself. There is nothing greater to see than this!

There are many views, but that of the emptiness of mind itself, devoid of all grasping, is the unmistaken view of the Great Perfection. When death comes to yogis of this method they are able to seize the clear light of death.

Hearing about it is beneficial, but I pray the actual experience of clear light will become evident.

Written by the old ignoramus, Gangshar Wangpo. May it prove meaningful!

Translated by Sean Price, 2015

 

Maha Ati: The Great Perfection

From the teachings on "The Way of Maha Ati" by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
From notes taken by Michael Hookham

 

THE ALAYA

The ground of Samsara (1) and Nirvana (2), the beginning and end of both confusion and realization, the nature of universal Sunyata (3) and of all apparent phenomena, more fundamental even than the Trikaya (4 ) because it is free from bias toward enlightenment, is the alaya (5), sometimes called the pure or original mind. Although prajna (6) sees in it no basis for such concepts as different aspects, yet three fundamental aspects of complete openness, natural perfection and absolute spontaneity are distinguished by upaya (7) as useful devices.

 

COMPLETE OPENNESS

ALL ASPECTS OF EVERY PHENOMENON ARE COMPLETELY CLEAR AND LUCID. THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS OPEN AND UNOBSTRUCTED, EVERYTHING MUTUALLY INTERPENETRATING.

Since all things are naked, clear and free from obscurations, there is nothing to attain or realize. The nature of things naturally appears and is naturally present in time-transcending awareness.

The everyday practice is simply to develop a complete acceptance and openness to all situations and emotions and to all people, experiencing everything totally without mental reservations and blockages, so that one never withdraws or centralizes onto oneself.

This produces a tremendous energy which is usually locked up in the process of mental evasion and generally running away from life experiences.

Clarity of awareness may in its initial stages be unpleasant or fear-inspiring; if so, then one should open oneself completely to the pain or the fear and welcome it. In this way the barriers created by one's own habitual emotional reactions and prejudices are broken down.

When performing the meditation practice one should develop the feeling of opening oneself out completely to the whole universe with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind, ridding oneself of all protecting barriers.

Don't mentally split in two when meditating, one part of the mind watching the other like a cat watching a mouse.

One should realize that one does not meditate in order to go deeply into oneself and withdraw from the world. Even when meditating on cakras (8 )in Buddhist Yoga there is no introspective concentration-complete openness of mind is still the keynote.

 

NATURAL PERFECTION

EVERYTHING IS NATURALLY PERFECT JUST AS IT IS, COMPLETELY PURE AND UNDEFILED.

All phenomena naturally appear in their uniquely correct modes and situations, forming ever-changing patterns full of meaning and significance, like participants in a great dance. Everything is a symbol, yet there is no difference between the symbol and the truth symbolized. With no effort or practice whatsoever, liberation, enlightenment and Buddhahood are already fully developed and perfected.

The everyday practice is just ordinary life itself. Since the underdeveloped state does not exist, there is no need to behave in any special way or to try to attain or practice anything.

 

ABSOLUTE SPONTANEITY

ALL PHENOMENA ARE COMPLETELY NEW AND FRESH, ABSOLUTELY UNIQUE AND ENTIRELY FREE FROM ALL CONCEPTS OF PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, AS IF EXPERIENCED IN ANOTHER DIMENSION OF TIME.

The continual stream of new discovery and fresh revelation and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of the eternal youth of the living Dharma, and its wonder, splendor and spontaneity is the play or dance aspect of the universe as guru.

Learn to see everyday life as a mandala in which one is at the center and be free of the bias and prejudice of past conditioning, present desires and future hopes and expectations.

The figures of the mandala are the day-to-day objects of one's life experiences, moving in the great dance of the play of the universe, the symbolism by which the Guru reveals profound and ultimate meaning and significance. Therefore be natural and spontaneous; accept and learn from everything.

See the ironical, amusing side of irritating situations.

In meditation we see through the illusion of past, present and future. The past is but a present memory or condition, the future a present projection, and the present itself vanishes before it can be grasped.

Just plunge straight into meditation at this very moment with one's whole mind, and be free from hesitation, boredom or excitement.

 

THE PRACTICE OF MEDITATION

It is traditional, and best if possible, to sit cross-legged when meditating, with the back erect but not rigid. However, it is most important to feel comfortable, so it is better to sit in a chair if sitting cross-legged proves painful.

One's attitude of mind should be inspired by the three fundamental aspects, whether the meditation is with or without form, although in the latter case the three aspects constitute the whole meditation itself, with particular emphasis on complete openness.

Meditations with form are preceded by, followed by and contain periods of meditation without form, and similarly it may often prove desirable, if not essential, to precede a period of formless meditation by a period with form.

To provide for this eventuality many preliminary meditations have been developed over the centuries of Buddhist practice, the most important classes being meditations on breathing, mantra repetitions and visualizations.

The second and third of these classes need personal instruction from one's Guru before they can be attempted, but a few words on the first would not be out of place here, since the method used varies little from person to person.

First, let the mind follow the in and out rhythm of the breath until it becomes calm and tranquil; then rest the mind more and more on the breath until one's whole being seems to be identified with it.

Finally, become aware of the breath leaving the body and going out into space, and gradually transfer the attention away from the breath and towards the sensation of spaciousness and expansion.

By letting this final sensation merge into complete openness, one moves into the sphere of formless meditation proper.

Meditation is always perfect, so there is no need to correct anything. Since everything that arises is simply the play of the mind, there are no bad meditation sessions and no need to judge thoughts as good or evil. Therefore one should not sit down to meditate with various hopes and fears about the outcome-one just does it, with no self-conscious feeling of "I am meditating," without effort, without strain, without attempting to control or force the mind, without trying to become peaceful.

If one finds that one is going astray in any of these ways, stop meditating and simply rest and relax for a while before resuming.

If one has experiences that one interprets as "results," either during or after meditation, do not make anything special of them, but just observe them as phenomena. Above all, do not attempt to repeat them, since this opposes the natural spontaneity of the mind.

There should be no feeling of striving to reach some exalted goal or higher state, since this simply produces something conditioned and artificial that will act as an obstruction to the free flow of the mind. One should never think of oneself as "sinful" or worthless, but as naturally pure and perfect, lacking nothing.

When performing meditation practice one should think of it as just a natural function of everyday life, like eating or breathing, not as a special, formal event to be undertaken with great seriousness and solemnity. One must realize that to meditate is to pass beyond effort, beyond practice, beyond aims and goals, and beyond the dualism of bondage and liberation.

Sometimes in meditation there is a gap in normal consciousness, a sudden complete openness. This only arises when one has ceased to think in terms of meditator, meditation and the object of meditation. It is a glimpse of reality, a sudden flash which occurs at first infrequently and then gradually more and more often. It may not be a particularly shattering or explosive experience at all, just a moment of great simplicity.

Do not make the mistake of deliberately trying to force these experiences to recur, for this is to betray the naturalness and spontaneity of reality.

In all probability the above descriptions of the three fundamental aspects and the meditation practices involved will seem very vague and inadequate.

This is inevitable since they attempt to describe what is not only beyond words but beyond thought and invite practice of what is essentially a state of being.

The words are simply a form of upaya (i.e. skill in means), a hint, which if acted upon may enable the innate natural wisdom and naturally perfect action to arise spontaneously.

His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche was considered one of the great lamas of this century and at the time of his death in 1991 was head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, whose specialty is the practice of maha ati, or dzogchen.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, author of Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior and Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, was a close student and friend of His Holiness Khyentse Rinpoche. Trungpa Rinpoche collaborated in this translation with Michael Hookham, one of his earliest Western students.

Footnotes:

  1. The cycle of birth, death and rebirth
  2. The state of liberation from cyclic existence
  3. lit. "emptiness," "void"; the truth that all conditioned existence is impermanent and empty of permanent identity
  4. lit. "three bodies"; the bodies through which a buddha is both one with the absolute and manifests in the relative world
  5. lit. "storehouse consciousness"; the basic or ground consciousness from which all experience arises
  6. Wisdom, founded in the realization of sunyata
  7. Skillful means
  8. Wheel- or flower-like centers of subtle energy (prana) in the human body.