“We should help and benefit beings in a very humble and simple way, but always with courage and commitment.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Opening the Door to Anuyoga (pg 39)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche and Lama Jomo Lorraine at Padma Samye Ling on April 18, 2018 during the 2018 Dzogchen Retreat on Lama Shabkar Natsok Rangdrol’s Togal Instructions.
Free Download: 2014 PBC Pema Mandala Magazine
This article is excerpted from the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches’ teachings on Tsele Natsok Rangdrol’s Lamp of Mahamudra given during the Self-Development Dzogchen Retreat at Padma Samye Ling in 2008.
“Search for your mind. Where is it coming from? Where is it now? Where is it going? When you use these three questions to try to pinpoint your mind, you’ll discover that there’s nothing substantial or solid to find. Our past thoughts are gone, our future thoughts have not yet arisen, and the present thought disappears the moment we look for it. These three investigations reveal that the past mind is empty, the present mind is empty, and the future mind is empty. When you don’t find anything, it’s time to relax. Now you’re not going to try to look for anything. Trying to find something just makes us tired; ultimately there’s nothing to find.
When we begin to relax in this state, we’re going to apply three techniques: (1) don’t get distracted, (2) don’t meditate, and (3) don’t change anything. These are the master Tsele Natsok Rangdrol’s pith instructions on how to meditate. Simply relax in the mind’s own natural state without doing anything. Just relax. This is practical advice on how to stay with the nature of mind. In order to make this pith instruction more meaningful, first we have to recognize the nature of our mind. Once we behold our nature, applying these three reminders becomes very useful.
The first instruction to not get distracted is very, very important. Once we behold the view, we have to try to maintain that with meditation. The biggest obstacle to maintaining the view is distraction. Therefore, be watchful of distraction and try to stay with what you’ve already recognized. Continually carry the view with mindfulness, but without being too forceful. Mindfulness itself can be a distraction if we apply it too much. Therefore, keep the strength of your mindfulness, but let the mind stay with the view without being distracted by any method. Many great Dzogchen teachings say to relax nakedly, relax freshly, relax in the natural state. Naked, fresh, and natural—these words have a lot of meaning. They are practical instructions we can use to remind ourselves and usher us back to what we’ve already recognized.
The second instruction, “don’t meditate,” means to relax. When we’re meditating or practicing, we have to relax. Many Dzogchen teachings say to relax all six senses: our eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Let the six senses rest in their own natural state—don’t follow after them. If we’re using any effort, we’re creating a little tension, and that tension is unnatural. The meditation we’re talking about here is more natural. Of course as beginning practitioners we need some effort, but after a few seconds or minutes of meditating, try to relax all your senses and muscles into their own natural rhythm. That is what it means here by “don’t meditate.”
The third instruction is “don’t change anything.” This means that during meditation, continually relax in the natural state and don’t try to change or construct anything. Don’t fabricate anything, and don’t add or subtract anything. Just let it flow continually as it is.
Whether we’re practicing Shamatha or Vipashyana meditation, we should always remember these three qualities. (1) Don’t get distracted. (2) Don’t forcefully meditate. (3) And don’t construct or change anything. This is practical advice we can remind ourselves of throughout our meditation. Keep this instruction near you so that you can use it as you continue to progress in your practice.
Once we’re relaxing our mind and abiding in the natural state, most of the time we cannot stay relaxed. Immediately, or after a few seconds, a thought will come up. Whenever a thought comes up, let it come and don’t follow after it. Instead of chasing the thought, look inward to that thought with your mind.
The Dzogchen teachings often say to look directly at the face of arising thoughts. This means the thinker of the thought will look at the thought itself. Right at that moment, the looker and what is being looked at merge and become one. Liberating that thought is enough. Now you have come back to the natural state. Continually relax in that way. Otherwise, if we start chasing thoughts, trying to reject or accept them, or use different antidotes, we’re distracted, constructing and changing the nature, fabricating, and being forceful, which means that we’re at the edge of duality. We’re back within the boundary of duality mind and can get carried away by it. Therefore, the most important thing is to relax, and as a thought arises, immediately let it dissolve. This is exactly what Dzogchen and Mahamudra meditation should do. Otherwise it’s not Dzogchen or Mahamudra.
The Great Brahmin Saraha said that most practitioners are deluding their meditation with effort. Really there is nothing to meditate on. And since there is nothing to meditate on, there is also nothing at all to be distracted by. Instead, by relaxing in the natural state, there is no distraction even for an instant. This is how meditation becomes perfect.
All the teachings of the Buddha and every great master taught in a single voice that when we’re meditating, we have to relax uncontrived without any grasping or holding. When it comes to Vipashyana, Dzogchen, and Mahamudra meditation, every master agrees that we have to maintain the nature. While we’re relaxing in the state of unimpeded realization without any grasping or holding, and without any effort, the teachings always mention that there are some hindrances we have to watch out for.
When we’re continually abiding in the natural state, many practitioners often think that we have to shut down our senses and go into a no-thought state, believing that is the ultimate meditation. If we’re holding onto that notion and not allowing or blocking the functional activity of our senses in order to stay in a state without any thinking, it becomes Shamatha concentration meditation—which isn’t bad, but it’s not Vipashyana.
When we’re meditating, there are a few different stages we may go through. Sometimes we reach a certain stage that is very neutral and without thoughts, but at the same time, there’s no clarity. It’s a very vague state of mind. This is not the ultimate meditation. It’s just an experience and is actually leaning more toward Shamatha.
Some practitioners have meditation experiences where they’re trying to stay focused on the present—no past and no future—which is good, but thinking about the present state too much is like dividing up and blocking out parts of the whole panorama of the nature. That is just another experience of partiality.
Some practitioners may think during meditation: “Oh, my nature of mind is the dharmakaya. My nature of mind is emptiness. My nature of mind is openness. All these perceptions are illusions or delusions.” Holding onto those thoughts all the time and trying to intentionally be in that state is contrived. It’s just an idea. We’re still standing in the ditch of conceptions.
Then there are some people who think that anything at all is meditation. Whatever thought comes, whatever one is thinking, whatever is appearing, all of it is just fine, it’s all good, it’s all meditation. Thinking in this way leads to many unbalanced things and our meditation becomes completely mixed up and crazy.
During meditation, some people might think that the movement of thought is always bad. They’re always trying to stop that movement, so there’s always a certain degree of hope and fear about trying to stop thoughts when they arise. This makes meditation so tight, and only creates more grasping and clinging.
Generally speaking, all of those experiences are good, but if we continually hold onto those different attitudes it will blur our realization of the nature and won’t help us to progress or achieve realization. For that reason, Tsele Natsok Rangdrol said that whenever those experiences happen, the most important thing we can do is relax in the natural state without any hope or fear, without trying to do anything, without any effort, and without thinking “this is good” and “this is bad.” The moment you notice or recognize any of those errors, let them free themselves into their own natural state. Try to continually relax as you originally started. Whatever arises is a display of the nature, so just continue to relax, fresh and uncontrived. The Dzogchen teachings say that whenever we notice these experiences are happening, we should try to release them, liberating them into their own natural state.
Together with our meditation, we should also highlight engaging in more meritorious activities such as Ngondro, bodhichitta activities, feeling joy and devotion, and doing purification practices. Those are all very, very important practices to accumulate merit. Do not ignore the relative truth goodness activities. Bring up a lot of heartfelt joy, love, and devotion, and do beneficial activities.
In addition to the accumulation practices, both before and during our meditation, we should always bring up more bodhichitta and devotion. Devotion and bodhichitta are very, very important because when we have these two qualities, they bring the power of the lineage blessings to our heart and fertilize the soil of our mind so that our realization will grow very beautifully. Devotion and bodhichitta are very important at the beginning, during, and at the end of meditation because with them the moisture of the blessings will come.
Along with this, we have to bring more confidence and joy to our meditation. When we’re meditating, who is meditating? It ‘s our mind. Every fabrication starts within the mind. The mind is the source of every fabrication, every exaggeration, and every deprecation. Everything starts from one’s own emptiness mind. We should have confidence in the view that we’ve already established and understand. With that confidence, during meditation we have to relax any kind of investigation, inquiry, doubt, and hesitation. This means that in the middle of our practice, bring everything back to the mind.
When it comes down to it, all these hindrances are happening because the teachings are not fully absorbed into our heart and mind. The Buddha said in the Mahayana Sutra of the Ten Wheels of the Earth Essence, Sanying Khorlo Chupa: “Not thinking about the law of karma and only thinking of meditation, not performing any meritorious activities, this is not the Buddha’s teaching.” Whenever we see these mistakes and errors during our meditation, we need to point them out to ourselves and continually re-strengthen and correct our meditation according to the instructions. If you continue to follow these instructions, your realization will shine.”
Edited by Amanda Lewis
“Vajrasattva practice begins with bodhichitta and refuge. Then visualize Vajrasattva sitting one cubit above your head. A cubit is about the length of a forearm, from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow. Guru Padmasambhava, all the lineage masters, and all enlightened beings— particularly the Five Dhyani Buddhas—are completely embodied in the form of Vajrasattva.
Vajrasattva is white in color, and can be visualized with or without a consort. In this version of the practice, Vajrasattva sits in the “royal relaxing posture;” his left leg is bent in, and his right leg is stretched out slightly. Although Shigpo Dudtsi does not specifically mention it here, other teachings say that Vajrasattva sits on a thousand-petal white lotus on top of a white moon disc. This instruction can be applied to this practice as well. Keep this visualization, and with strong devotion and concentration, begin chanting the Hundred Syllable mantra of Vajrasattva. As you chant the mantra, visualize that from the big toe of Vajrasattva’s right foot, bright white light descends like a stream. This stream of white light enters your crown chakra and gradually fills your entire body, from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, cleansing and purifying all your physical, emotional, and intellectual obscurations. After your body is completely filled, visualize the white light passing through the soles of your feet, descending into the earth. The white light goes to all karmically-connected beings, particularly those who harbor negative thoughts towards you because of unpaid karmic debts, real or imagined. Imagine that the white light transforms into whatever they want from you, and that this satisfies them completely. At that time you no longer have a body made of flesh and bone, but a body of glowing white light—you are Vajrasattva. Then, if you have time, recite the Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva mantra one hundred and eight times. This is a very high meditation; it will transform all your perceptions into the purity state of the true nature.
The next step is to visualize white, red, blue, and yellow multi- colored lights emanating from the third eye, throat, heart, and navel chakras of the Vajrasattva above your head, which enter your own chakras. Finally, Vajrasattva above your head dissolves into light, which descends through your crown chakra and into your heart. Shigpo Dudtsi says that when you are doing this practice you can also visualize Vajrasattva above the head of each and every sentient being. In this way, everyone is purified at the same time. And there is a third option. In some of Guru Padmasambhava’s teachings it says to visualize Vajrasattva as big as the sky, like a giant umbrella covering and protecting all beings. Chant the Hundred Syllable Vajrasattva mantra, and visualize all beings beneath Vajrasattva receiving his blessings and light. Finally, Vajrasattva dissolves into light, which dissolves into everyone’s heart, and everyone becomes Vajrasattva. Each of these three ways to perform the Vajrasattva meditation is excellent. You can choose the one that you find most comfortable and convenient.
Once Vajrasattva dissolves into light, and that light enters your heart, meditate as we instructed before. Look at your mind. The moment you look there is nothing to see. Simply relax in that state. Do not search for something better; in fact, do not search at all. Do not block thoughts. When a thought arises, do not play with it, analyze it, or manipulate it. Don’t reject it, don’t accept it, let it be, and let it go. Try to maintain the state you discovered when you first looked directly at your mind. Practice like this for as long as you have time, then at the end of the session, dedicate the merit. Pray for your family, friends, for those who are sick, for those who are struggling, and for those who passed away. Pray that all suffering will be completely eradicated, and that all beings will enjoy long life, health, prosperity, and full spiritual awakening. That is how to practice on Vajrasattva.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Beauty of Awakened Mind: Dzogchen Lineage of the Great Master Shigpo Dudtsi (pgs 31-32)
The Meaning of Dzogchen
by Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
In this video, Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche clearly defines the essential meaning of Dzogchen, offering strong advice about the importance of putting the teachings into practice.
One Month Dzogchen Retreat on Lama Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol’s Togal Instructions
Padma Samye Ling
April 11, 2018
“Meeting these teachings is not coincidental. We are soaked with so many great teachings. But this alone is not enough. We have to practice. Now is our time. Each person has to do their own share.”
Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Photo of the Sangha first greeting Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche on the 1st day of the 2018 PSL Togal Retreat on April 7, 2018.
What Is the Purpose of Going on a Meditation Retreat?
by Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche
One Month Dzogchen retreat on Flight of the Garuda
Padma Samye Ling
April 24, 2016
Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind from Samsara
1. Life is Precious
3. Cause and Result is inevitable
4. Life has a lot of difficulties
PBC 2018 Winter Dzogchen Retreat
Palm Beach Dharma Center
January 18, 2018
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche bestowing a Guru Dragpo empowerment at Padma Samye Ling in 2012.
Garland of Views
by Khenchen Palden Sherab Rinpoche & Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche
Edited by Alan Pope
Free Download: 2010 PBC Pema Mandala Magazine
Excerpted from the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches’ commentary on Garland of Views by Guru Padmasambhava, in West Palm Beach, FL, January 2005
“As we listen to this teaching, it is important to restrengthen our motivation of bodhichitta, joy, and appreciation, and together with that, our purity understanding of the absolute true nature. With this motivation, we will briefly discuss Garland of Views: A Collection of Esoteric Instructions (Tib. man ngag lta ba’i ’phreng ba),which was given by the great teacher Guru Padmasambhava, and is one of the most renowned works of philosophy in Buddhism. In this teaching, Guru Padmasambhava used the metaphor of a garland to represent the wide range of possible views that we can have.
What is the purpose of studying and knowing all these views? When we practice, three very connected elements are always present: view, meditation, and conduct. Among these three, our view is the most important. If our view is wrong, then our meditation and conduct will be wrong, and they will not go in the right direction. Therefore, knowing the perfect view is crucial. Try to strongly activate that view and meditate on it. Then, based on that view and meditation, good actions and conduct will naturally follow.
As Guru Padmasambhava stated in this teaching, we can summarize the vast number of possible views into two groups: (1) the worldly views of samsara and (2) the nonworldly, or Buddhist views. The worldly views are associated with the ways most of us think, believe, and act. They are known as “worldly” because they are always connected with some form of grasping or clinging.
These views are not developed outside of us—they are created by the mind and projected outwardly. Because people’s ways of thinking, seeing, and reacting to phenomena are so complex, the variety of possible worldly views is also complex. Even so, we can organize them so that every worldly view falls into one of four groups:
(1) flat views [phyal ba]
(2) rejecting views [rgyang ‘phen pa]
(3) dead-end views [mur thug pa]
(4) hanging-up views [mu stegs pa]
According to the Guhyagarbha Tantra, these four worldly views can be considered in two groups: the first two are far from the true nature, while the second two are much closer to the true nature, although they are still mistaken views of ignorance.
The first worldly view, the flat or blank view, is far from the true nature. With this view, you generally do not think about anything; you are entirely unreflective. You do not consider anything about form, foundation, or the process of cause and effect. You do not think about the past or the future, or even much about the present. You do not believe in virtues or nonvirtues. You simply are the way you are, without ideas or thoughts, enjoying this life, or struggling against it, with no real means of advancing yourself further. Because you have no ideas, you do not think that such things are of any importance. This is the basic character of the flat or blank view, although we should recognize that within this category there actually are many individual variations in views and ways of thinking.
The second group of worldly views, the rejecting view, or throwing-far-away view, is that of the materialist or hedonist. If you hold a view that falls into this group, you generally do not want to investigate or analyze too much, choosing instead to simply accept what you believe or have heard, giving complete power to “the authorities” for your knowledge and understanding. You do not believe that you can see anything beyond what the naked eye reveals; therefore, anything that you do not see, hear, feel, or sense, you reject or throw away as though it doesn’t exist. For example, you think that only this present life exists—there is no past and no future. Only this life matters. You do not think about whether there is a life before or after this one, and you therefore do not consider the past or future lives of yourself or others. You simply want to be rich and powerful in this life, and there is nothing more to consider than that. You reject or throw everything else far away.
The third view, the dead-end view, is closer to the true nature, although it is still a view of ignorance. This is the view of the nihilist. If you hold this view, you want to go far beyond to a deeper level, but you are stuck where you are. You believe nothing beyond what you can see for yourself. You investigate and analyze things, but when you do not find something, you say it doesn’t exist. For example, you do not believe very deeply in the past or the future, or in all the different types of causes, conditions, and results. You will challenge others to prove that there is a life after this one. You have no confidence in the virtues described in spiritual teachings because you have not seen good results from doing good things or bad results from doing bad things. You believe there are no reasons for things like the sun coming up because these things just happen naturally by themselves. Similarly, you would say that we are here in the same way, without reason or cause. There is nothing more than that.
The fourth classification of worldly views, the hanging-up view, is also closer to the true nature, but it falls short as well. This is the view of the eternalist. If you hold this view, you make exaggerated or extreme claims and hold onto them. You analyze and investigate all kinds of systems, but then fabricate something that you claim is there, such as the existence of a permanent ego or soul, or a principle force that has created everything. In addition, according to this view, things such as permanence, permanent existence, and causes and results are not really connected together. For example, the permanent ego or “I” has no cause, which implies that even though there is no cause, there can be a result, and that result is permanent. It is even believed that there can be a cause without a result. Although individuals holding this view are looking beyond the present to the past and future, and beyond where the five senses can go, they nominate the idea that suits their own beliefs or philosophy and then grasp onto it, even in the absence of logic or proof.
The nonworldly or Buddhist views are divided into two categories: (1) the views of the causal Sutrayana, which are the beginning or foundation of the Buddha’s teachings; and (2) the views of the Tantrayana or Vajrayana, the advanced teachings that are the most direct, detailed, and complete teachings. Either way, the teachings of the Buddha are liberative and lead practitioners beyond the world of samsara.
The Sutrayana is called the “Causal Yana” because in this practice you mainly focus on the causes and conditions required to produce a good result. Even though you may look forward to having a good result, it won’t come to fruition if you do not establish good causes and conditions. Therefore, in the Causal Yana teachings, Buddha emphasized that we should be wise with regard to causes and conditions. If causes and conditions are good, a good result will come without any difficulties. If causes and conditions are not good, a good result will never come even though you are looking for it. Therefore, it is important to be very wise and careful in gathering and activating good causes and conditions.
While the Causal Yana focuses mainly on the causes and conditions, the Vajrayana or Resultant Yana focuses principally on the result. In this vehicle, you connect directly with your innate awareness—the indestructible nature of mind that is beyond duality. For example, when you practice the Vajrayana, you instantly visualize yourself as an enlightened deity and see the universe as a pure land; in other words, you adopt the same vision as that of a buddha. Through these techniques and through your meditation, you try to jump into that state of awareness instantly. This does not mean that you are making up something that is not there; instead, you are going directly and forcefully, yet skillfully, through all of your habitual patterns to the inner state of your own true nature. This true nature is the original, authentic, pristine, enlightened state—which is the nature of all beings—yet only enlightened awareness fully recognizes this. Therefore, Vajrayana practice is the true and ultimate practice, direct and powerful. If you are able to continually maintain this view without doubt and hesitation, then you will achieve enlightenment very soon. For this reason, the Vajrayana is known as the swift diamond path. By residing in the free, brilliant awareness of our authentic nature, we chop down every habitual pattern and every bit of grasping instantly within its own natural state. This is known as the Resultant Yana.
Our view is very important in determining how our meditation and conduct unfold. In presenting and describing all of these different views, Guru Padmasambhava is not saying that you should do this or avoid doing that. He explains these views so that Buddhist practitioners can understand them better, so that, as Vajrayana practitioners in particular, we can refresh and restrengthen our Vajrayana view and realization.”
Photo of the Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches in Oregon in the 1980s.