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Buddhadharma : Winter 2006
buddhadharma| 67 |winter 2006 as “self-occurring awareness unaffected by duality, like the nature of sky free from being born, free from ceasing, and free from abiding.” Showing that the six paramitas arise spontaneously from this state of openness, he quotes a sutra verse that illuminates them with startling simplicity: Not grasping is generosity; Not remaining is morality; Not guarding is patience; Not trying is diligence; Not thinking is samadhi; Not aiming is wisdom. Between meditation sessions, one should not be deluded by appearances but should experience all phenomena like a dream or magic. This alone makes libera- tion possible. As well as being the source of all Mahayana qualities, all the attain- ments of Vajrayana arise from this state of openess: the five kleshas are naturally transformed, and the wisdom deities spon- taneously manifest as one’s true nature. Certain key points emerge as recur- ring themes in the book. Most important of these, and fundamental to the whole work, is the view of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. According to this view, the alaya is the primordial ground of being, the source of everything, beyond time and place, neither samsara nor enlightenment. Within it, the pure energy of awareness arises as dharmakaya, the formless empty essence of all existence. The primordial buddha, Samantabhadra (Kuntuzangpo in Tibetan), always rests unwavering in that state of awareness and therefore per- ceives whatever arises as pure manifesta- tions of the awakened nature, vivid yet insubstantial, like a magical display. But sentient beings grasp at appear- ances as real, solid, and substantial. Thus duality is born and the mind creates the ordinary five skandhas and five elements. However, since in essence we are no differ- ent from Samantabhadra, there is always the possibility of returning to our stain- less, original nature and of seeing things with pure perception. In essence, there is no difference between the buddhas’ wis- dom mind and the mind of sentient beings. They appear either as buddhas or sentient beings only through recognizing or not recognizing appearances to be the natural display of “great empty original purity.” Mahayana is known as the causal vehicle, the path on which the aspiring bodhisattva practices so that the seed of buddhanature ripens into enlightenment over a long period of time. Vajrayana is called the vehicle of result, since its practice rests on the confidence that the result is already accomplished: one’s own mind is buddha from the very beginning. Dzogchen is the quintessence of Vajra- yana, teaching not purification, nor even transformation, but simply the recogni- tion of our true nature. Of course, in their wisdom and compassion, the great mas- ters know that very few sentient beings are capable of such a direct path, and they never reject the innumerable skillful methods of dharma. Nevertheless, when these methods and practices are inter- preted and illuminated by the Dzogchen view, they can be understood in a new light. It is a wake-up call, a tremendously powerful glimpse of what Buddhism is all about; it is truly the transcendent wis- dom, gone completely beyond. The significance of the lama or guru is a major theme of the book, first introduced in the commentary on the opening line of the root text, an homage to the guru, and later in the practice of guru yoga. Thinley Norbu quotes the great Dzogchen master Longchenpa as saying that guru yoga is “only the essence of the path itself” and “more profound than all other paths.” Many people find it hard to understand the necessity of having a guru. In Vajra- yana, one is not striving toward a goal in the far distant future but is discovering and expressing the ever-present natural state. Although it has been there from the beginning, we have never been able to see it for ourselves. Therefore empower- ment by a guru, who is regarded as Bud- dha himself, is necessary. It is said that “the lama is greater than all buddhas and shows us the greatest compassion, because although we have lived countless lives in periods where there have been buddhas, we have never before been able to perceive them, so our guru in this life is the only one who is actually caring for us.” Some people think it is wrong to regard another human being as buddha, and oth- ers may wonder how it is even possible to do so. Thinley Norbu gives a very simple answer. The world is a reflection of our own mind; the way we experience it is simply our deluded perception, the result of our habitual tendencies. The only solu- tion is to change our perception. So we make a start here and now by thinking of the guru as buddha. It is, as he says, “training one’s mind to have pure per- ception,” for if we cannot even see our teacher as a buddha, how will ever be able to see all sentient beings as buddhas? At the conclusion of guru yoga, the practitioner becomes one with the awak- ened mind of the guru and rests in the absolute, nonconceptual state. A quota- tion from a Dzogchen text, given near the end of the commentary, beautifully encapsulates the whole matter: “Because it is so easy, it is not trusted and remains the secret of the mind. May it be seen through the strength of the Lama’s pre- cious teachings.” Another of the author’s particular con- cerns is the danger of the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism. As he says, in order for our practice to be successful, we must have the correct view, so it impor- tant to understand exactly what is meant by these two extremes and what the Bud- dhist view really is. Eternalism is the belief in some kind of eternal, unchanging deity who is separate from ordinary beings yet can bless or pun- ish them. From the Buddhist perspective this is a positive view, and Thinley Norbu mentions several beneficial aspects of the world’s main religions. But ultimately it is mistaken because it contains the notion of a permanent self or essence. As we so often see, with tragic results, “almost all eternalists decide that the ulti- mate basis of truth is believing only in their own god.” Nihilists, on the other hand, think that everything ceases at death. They believe only in what can be perceived by the senses, and they do not accept karmic causes and results beyond donfarber