Dzogchen Meditation: Mixing Mind with Space

Training in the Four Yogas at Dzogchen Meditation Center

by Tashi Armstrong

In order to genuinely walk on the path it is important for us to engage in a progessive approach to meditation training. One system common to both the mahamudra and dzogchen meditation traditions is known as “The Four Yogas.”

The four yogas are : one pointedness; nonelaboration; one taste and nonmeditation. The instructions on the four yogas give us both methods for training and instructions on what to look for in our experience as we develop in our practice. In terms of our meditation experience and our experience at different levels of the path we have distraction and awareness. The four yogas show the path of infiltrating that boundary – i.e. the boundary between taking our projections as solid and waking up in spontaneous nonreferential awareness. In the beginning of our journey we work with one-pointedness to make a hole in the continual programing of habitual thought. From the experience of freshness and direct seeing that new perspective allows us we then start to see the self-existing simplicity of what arises in awareness regardless of whether we associate that with pleasure or pain. This is simplicity or nonelaboration.

Through training in tantric discipline the boundary of confused appearances is further eroded through the transformative practices of ngondro and deity yoga. The boundaries or reference points are transmuted into the five wisdoms of the mandala principle. This is the level of “one taste”

Finally, in “nonmeditation” the boundaries and the habitual reactions to what arises are fully dissolved. Everything arises as the manifestation of the Guru’s mind-- which is fundamentally "mahavipashyana." Everything which arises has no reference to habitual reference points. At Dzogchen Meditation Center we continually work with these instructions in both a linear and nonlinear fashion. We return again and again to develop our experiential understanding of these four yogas.

The method of "one pointedness;" Shamatha and Mindfulness of Effort:

"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."

Trungpa Rinpoche

How we develop recognition of "ordinary mind" [Tibetan: Thamel Gyi Shepa] which is awareness stripped of any habitual reference point  through descriminating the "boundaries" and move into "conquering the mainland" through Sadhana Practice-- i.e. Coemergent Wisdom:

"[Ordinary Mind] is the experience of the jnanasattva, or the ocean, and the boundaries of the mainland, the samayasattva. In fact, the jnanasattva is what TGS sees—the ocean of dharmakaya. Samayasattva is the edge of the mainland, the boundary. However, the boundary is also 'Ordinary Mind', especially later on.

The beginner’s approach is to work on the boundary. Later the mainland becomes your scene. It’s like Milarepa’s practice: first he sat for years and years to increase contrast, and he discovered 'Ordinary Mind'. Second, he mastered the elements and conquered the mainland. First defense and then offense. That offense, or development of powers, is connected with the wrathful action of the sadhanas. It is offense on the mainland.”

Chogyam Trungpa