DZOGCHEN in the Nyingma and Bon Traditions


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"Since the second propagation on the Buddist doctrine in Tibet, in which teachings of non-Indian origin were dismissed, the ancient Nyingma teachings had been severely suppressed. Therefore the teachings of the Dzogchen system of the Nyingma [and Bonpo] traditions received the greater attention of the three great Rimay masters." (Kongtrul:1995..pg 28)..."The rimay movement began in Kham and leaned more to the shamanic and popular rather than to the centralized, clerical, heirarchical, and academic of the central Tibetan school. (Samuel: 1993..pg 543)..."


..."Dzogchen is not something to be limited by any narrow-minded sectarianism, for it pertains directly to the Nature of Mind, which, in its own terms, is unbiased and transcends all cultural limitations and conditioning, not only among humanity, but among all sentient life-forms on this planet and elsewhere in the universe. Dzogchen belongs to all humanity and to all life."........John Myrdhin Reynolds....'The Oral Traditions From Zhang-Zhung'....Page xx.


"Shenrab Miwo, the founder of Bon was the first to teach Dzogchen, which was then known as "the Bon of the Perfect Mind' (Yang-dag-pa'i sems bon)....."

DZOGCHEN....."The Dzogchen presentation of the origin of cyclic existence is unique in that it defines the universe as primordial purity. Kongtrul clearly states that the Dzogchen system stands at the summit of spirituality." (Kongtrul: 1995..pg 54)..

"Dzogchen is not simply a teaching, not another philosophy, not another elaborate system, not a seductive clutch of techniques. Dzogchen is a state, the primordial state...that is the heart essence...of all spiritual paths....Dzogchen was not widely taught in Tibet...this is the time for Dzogchen to spread." (Sogyal: 1992..Pg 150-151)...

"The Dzogchen teachings are neither a philosophy, nor a religious doctrine, nor a cultural tradition. To practice Dzogchen it is not necessary to convert to either Buddhism or Bon." (Norbu: 1996..pg 28)...

."Dzogchen is like a homeopathic, rather than an allopathic process. The state of immediate present awareness is the sole antidote." (Reynolds: 1996..pg 151)...

"Both the Nyingma and Bon lineages of Dzogchen originated in the Iranian Central Asian borderlands (Uddiyana and sTag-gzig)." (Reynolds: 1996..pg 227)..

"From the 11th century onwards in Tibet, Dzogchen remained an ever controversial subject." (Karmay: 1975..pg 214)...

Photism, the interation of darkness and light, plays a major role in Dzogchen...

SEMINAL HEART MOVEMENT...."Began in the 11th Century in Tibet and was systematized in the 14th Century by Longchenpa (1308-1363). A reformulation of Dzogchen. "The Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle" is a veritable encyclopedia of Seminal Heart thought and practice." (Lopez: 1997...pg 293)...

RIMAY (Rime, Ris med) : "Jamgon Kongtrul's (1813-1899) background was Bonpo (his father was an illustrous lama of the Khyungpo, or Garuda clan..[Kongtrul: 1995..pg 15]) and both he and Jamyang Kyentse were particularly open to the Bon tradition. The most significant Bon teacher in the Rimay movement was Shardza Trashi Gyantsen (1859-1935)". [Samuel:1993..p.542]....

"Since the second propagation on the Buddist doctrine in Tibet, in which teachings of non-Indian origin were dismissed, the ancient Nyingma teachings had been severely suppressed. Therefore the teachings of the Dzogchen system of the Nyingma [and Bonpo] traditions received the greater attention of the three great Rimay masters." (Kongtrul:1995..pg 28)...

"The rimay movement began in Kham and leaned more to the shamanic and popular rather than to the centralized, clerical, heirarchical, and academic of the central Tibetan school. (Samuel: 1993..pg 543)...

"You might want to know why it is that lowering your gaze pacifies thoughts. The reason is most clearly explained in Dzogchen commentaries, where it is explained that there is a physical connection between the channels or nerves of the eyes and the channel of the heart. The channel that goes from the heart to the eyes is called the crystal kati channel. Because of the physical connection between the eyes and the heart, there is a particularly intimate connection - if one considers all the various sense organs - between the eyes and conceptual thought. Therefore, your eyes in a sense are the gates for conceptual thought, as well as for visual perception. This is also why, in the practice of Dzogchen itself, when working with the visions of the forty-two peaceful and fifty-eight wrathful deities, these visions can arise in the first place."

Buddhist and Bonpo Dzogchen Meditation

1. Self-Liberation by John Myrdhin Reynolds Nova Spivack says: "A good text on Trekchod meditation, by my friend John Reynolds, a wonderful Dzogchen scholar and yogi."

2. Naked Awareness by Karma Chagme Nova Spivack says: "The only Nyingma translation in English to provide complete details on Togyal practice, including the stages of the visions and how to develop them. Dense and challenging reading for advanced students"

3. The Practice of Dzogchen by Longchen Rabjam Nova Spivack says: "Advanced, essential, not-for-beginners introduction to theory of Dzogchen by Longchenpa, the most brilliant scholar and Dzogchen master, one of the most complete in-depth Dzogchen sourcebooks"

4. The Philosophical View of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon Religion (Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy) by Donatella Rossi Nova Spivack says: "Detailed presentation of the correct philosophical view of White Bon Dzogchen -- Very useful for all Dzogchen students regardless of lineage!"

5. Heart Drops of Dharmakaya: Dzogchen Practice of the Bon Tradition by Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen Nova Spivack says: "Essential advanced reading for serious Dzogchenpas---if you can find a copy---details the methods and path of Togyal and higher practices"

6. Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos by Padmasambhava Nova Spivack says: "Wonderful text on Dzogchen, includes unusual Trekchod training methods not found in other texts, also includes Dzogchen teachings on Togyal, and practices for death. This book is essential reading."

7. The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Nova Spivack says: "A fundamental, previously very secret text, on the philosophical view of Semde, the "mind series" of Dzogchen teachings: Advanced text!"

8. Buddhahood Without Meditation: A Visionary Account Known As Refining Apparent Phenomena (Nang-jang) by Dudjom Lingpa Nova Spivack says: "Visonary account of secret mind-terma transmissions of Trekchod view and methods: Advanced"

9. Primordial Experience: An Introduction to rDzogs-chen Meditation by Manjusrimitra Nova Spivack says: "Detailed, precise teachings on Dzogchen from one of Garab Dorje's main Indian disciples -- more essential reading."

10. As It Is Vol. 1 (As It Is) by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche Nova Spivack says: "Practical and direct teachings on how to apply Trekchod by a great Nyingma-Kagyu master"

11. As It Is, Vol. 2 by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche Nova Spivack says: "The second volume of the above collection, even better than the first!"

12. Lady of the Lotus-Born by Gyalwa Changchub Nova Spivack says: "Spiritual autobiography of the greatest female Dzogchen master, full of useful advice for advanced students"

13. Wonders of the Natural Mind, New Edition by Tenzin Wangyal Nova Spivack says: "Experiential biography of a leading Bonpo lama's early Dzogchen training, including dark retreat, nature of mind, and visionary practices"

14. Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light by Norbu Namkhai Nova Spivack says: "Dream yoga from the Nyingma+Bonpo perspective with Norbu's special methods"

15. The Golden Letters by John Myrdhin Reynolds Nova Spivack says: "Garab Dorje's Three Statements that sum up the Dzogchen path: This text focuses on Trekchod but there's a good footnote or two on Togyal!"

16. The Flight of the Garuda: Teachings of the Dzokchen Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism by Keith Dowman Nova Spivack says: "Poetic songs of heart-advice for Trekchod view and practice"

17. A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga by Karma Chagme Nova Spivack says: "Introductory teachings on Trekchod with extensive practical commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche"

18. Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection by The Dalai Lama Nova Spivack says: "Scholarly lectures on Trekchod view by the Dalai Lama, a true non-sectarian master: Another fascinating and impressive gem from his brilliant mind"

19. The Dzogchen Primer: An Anthology of Writings by Masters of the Great Perfection by Marcia Binder Schmidt Nova Spivack says: "A collection of begginner and intermediate level talks and texts by various masters, providing theory and advice for aspiring Dzogchen students"

20. You Are the Eyes of the World by Longchenpa Nova Spivack says: "Poetic verses on Trekchod view; good intro to Dzogchen view for beginners; heart-advice for advanced students"

21. The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen (Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy) by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Nova Spivack says: "Norbu's fascinating and entertaining spiritual biography including stories of his masters and explanations on the difference between Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen approaches."

22. The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol Nova Spivack says: "A spiritual autobiography of a great Dzogchen yogi, gives the flavor of old-Tibet and his life as a wandering sage immersed in realization"

23. Natural Great Perfection by Nyoshul Khenpo Nova Spivack says: "Songs of realization and heart-advice from a great recent scholar and yogi who spent many years just wandering aimlessly around India in a state of high-realization"

24. Carefree Dignity: Discourses on Training in the Nature of Mind by Tsoknyi Rinpoche Nova Spivack says: "Beginner text on applying Trekchod contemplation to daily life"

25. Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Nova Spivack says: "A good beginner introduction to the view and practice of Dzogchen"


"The Kagyu Tradition did not have the Dzogchen teachings."..Chogyam Trungpa

"Tibetan Buddhist schools seem to have a slightly condescending view toward the Bon. They tend to claim that everything good in the Bon was borrowed from Buddhism and everything bad was - well, Bon-po! I have often heard the Nyingmapas say that even the Bon termas were actually hidden by Padmasambhava, using Bon symbols, so that later they would be revealed and practiced by them. Those who are sympathetic to the Bon sometimes call it the fifth school of Tibetan Buddhism. They mean it as a positive but again, it implies that only by being labelled "Buddhist" can the Bon aquire some measure of respectability.
However, to a traditional Tibetan Buddhists it was, and is a serious charge, because it is tantamount to declaring the Nyinma Pas heretical. Wars were fought in Tibet over much less than that.
there is a strong doctrinal opposition, among some Gelugpas, to the Old Tantras in general and to the Dzogchen teachings in particular. Without going into details, one of their objections to the Old Tantras is basically that those may not really be Buddhist as one cannot find proof of their existence in India, from which, as we know, all good came. When it comes to the Dzogchen teachings, it's even more serious. They consider them as not Buddhist at all but as some disguised way of bringing back into play some concept of a self, however subtle, with the notion of Rigpa. Therefore, in their view, Dzogchen is almost a theistic teaching, borrowed from the Bon. Hence the scandal about the Great Fifth (and to some degree about the present Dalai Lama, a strong advocate of the Dzogchen path).
Of course the Nyingma Pas have plenty of refutations to those charges, the main ones coming under the writings of Mipham Rinpoche. There are also some very beautiful ones in Dudjom Rinpoche's history of the Nyingma Pas, (which I'd love to quote but I don't want to make this even longer). Nevertherless it puts the Nyingma Pas in a difficult position where they always take great pains to integrate the Dzogchen teachings within the framework of Buddhism and to prove an unbroken filiation both in lineage and doctrine within Buddhism.
Now comes along Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche who says in a very public way: look, it's true that the Dzogchen teachings as preserved in the Nyingma school evolved within the Buddhist lineages but there is another lineage for Dzogchen, it came into Tibet before the Buddhist one, through the Bon. Thefore Dzogchen is not nessessarily Buddhist, or rather it could exist and be integrated within other traditions. That is like waving a red flag in front of a bull for the Nyingma Pas, because it seems to suddenly give credibility to those Gelugpas who attack Dzogchen as non-Buddhist and borrowed from the Bon. Of course this is not what Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche is saying at all but they fear it can be used in that way.


September 2012


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