As a meditation teacher, many people have asked me about Dzogchen meditation. And in this guide, I am happy to share everything that you need to know about this wonderful technique and its corresponding philosophy.
You’ll soon see why Dzogchen meditation is so helpful when it comes to achieving enlightenment.
With this guide you will learn to enjoy Rig Pa, which is a clear and blissful mind. Indeed, that is the main purpose of Dzogchen meditation.
There are a few things I would like to mention first. Mostly, I’d like to make clear that this is a simplified guide to Dzogchen. Dzogchen has always been written about in overly complex ways that alienate newcomers. I want to make it possible for the average person in the West to practice this wonderful technique. And so, I a simplifying it from its original teachings. However, I will discuss many of the classical teachings as well. included notes on the classical methods as well. I hope this pleases both newcomers and traditionalists.
So, what is Dzogchen Meditation?
In a nutshell, Dzogchen means seeing the true nature of the mind. It is neither Nirvana nor Samara, both of which are purely states of mind. Rather, it is the quality of seeing the absolute truest nature of the mind.
Now, when we talk about seeing the true nature of the mind, we also mean seeing the true nature of reality itself, because in Dzogchen mind and reality are one. So, when you practice Dzogchen you will learn to see true reality.
What does that mean?
Usually, our view of reality is distorted by our thoughts, our emotions, and our believes. To see the actual, true nature of reality, we must move beyond all those thoughts and emotions. We must learn to be pure awareness, which is called Rig Pa.
And so Dzogchen is about achieving this Pure Awareness, this Rig Pa.
This will do wonders for your mental health because. So many of the issues we experience are caused because we do not see the true nature of reality. So, when you do the exercise (below), you can expect it to make you feel much better, more relaxed, more focused, more calm.
It will also help you to achieve enlightenment. Indeed, many masters have spoke of how powerful a technique Dzogech meditation is for achieving enlightenment, such as Prahevajra, Manjushrimitra, Guru Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra. Many even claim that Dzogchen can cause spontaneous awakening.
The Philosophy of Dzogchen – Core Concepts You Need To Know
Before we get into actually doing Dzogchen, it is important to understand the core concepts.
Firstly, there Rig Pa, which is pure awareness. This is the mind beyond the realm of thoughts and emotions. It is the purest form of conscious awareness. And this is not something that we achieve. It is something that is present in all of us at all times. But we need to quieten and calm the mind in order to experience Rig Pa.
Next, we should recognise the there is Dharma Body, which is the empty essence of the mind. Also, Enjoyment Body, which is the radiant mind and clear nature of the mind. And finally, Transformation-Body, which is the universal compassion of the mind. These are ideal states of mind. So, the mind is empty, radiant, and full of compassion. I will be discussing these are we get into our Dzogchen meditation.
How To Do Dzogchen Meditation (My Modern Way)
Start by saying to yourself that you vow to see with True Mind (Rig Pa) and that you vow to no longer be deceived be the lies of the mind. Essentially, this means that you will see the truth instead of seeing a warped version of reality based on fear / desire / emotions / untrue beliefs.
Next, we move into our meditation. For the majority of this we are practising a combination of Anapanasati and Vipassana, both of which you can learn in my guide to Buddhist Meditation. So, begin by closing your eyes, breathing mindfully for a minimum of ten minutes.
Once you feel calm and focused, investigate the nature of your mind. Because you have been meditating, you should be aware of an empty space within your mind. Tune in to that space. Investigate it. Notice how this true form of mind is empty and silent. It is pure. Acquaint yourself with that pureness.
Next, notice that radiant nature of the mind. Notice that energy that is like the sun, radiating its light outwards. As you become aware of this pure energy, realise that you can decide to use this energy in compassionate ways, for the benefit of all.
Spend a few minutes here, investigating the pure and radiant nature of the mind. Then gradually return to normal.
Aim to maintain clear awareness (Rig Pa) in your day to day life. One way to do this is with the Four Foundations of Mindfulness.
Decide that you are going to strive to live a life of good and of nobility. That is, you will do your best to always act from a place of compassion, being mindfully aware of your actions and their karmic influence.
Use compassionate ways to help others to enjoy Rig Pa. One way you can do this is by sharing this article.
This is my modern way of practising Dzogchen. I created this method because I believe that it embraces the most important practices of Dzogchen while also being simple enough for newcomers to try. That said, let us now look at traditional Dzogchen.
Traditional Way Of Doing Dzogchen Meditation
There are numerous ways of doing Dzogchen, which we will now look at.
For starters, some people (especially those with advanced experience in meditation) can immediately grasp Rig Pa (this is the Uncommon for of Dzogchen).
However, most people will need to be guided to Rig Pa through the Common form of Dzogchen, which incorporates various meditative practices. This practice should begin with Samatha (concentration meditation) and will include Buddhist Mahamudra practice (which is, in essence, the practice of acquainting ourselves with both the emptiness of mind and the infinite playful energy of the mind).
There are also many other exercises that are used to realise Dzogchen. They range from physical exercises such as QiGong to meditation. Traditional there are also special Dzogchen exercises, such as the contemplative practices of khregs chod (cutting through) and thod rga ‘leaping over’. Khregs Chod is the practice of existing in empty mind, of realising the pure empty awareness at the heart of our being. Thod Rga is a more complex system of exercises that includes body postures, breathing techniques, and methods of gazing.
After this we come to Auxillary Dzogchen, the goal of which is to maintain the Natural State (gnas lugs) at all times, even when sleeping.
Particularly important are the Nine Vehicles of the Nyingma Tradition. So let’s take a look at those.
The nine yanas of the Nyingma tradition
These are Nine “Vehicles” that aid us in the path to awakening. There are Three Outer Vehicles, Three Inner Vehicles, and Three Secret Vehicles of Powerful Transformative Methods.
They are as follows:
Three Outer Vehicles: These are the Sravaka Vehicle, the Pratyekabuddha Vehicle, and the Bodhisattva Vehicle. In this vehicles we begin by vowing to live with Rig Pa and to escape Samsara. We then aim to see true reality, the reality that is beyond form, and this includes seeing our true, formless self. Next we do meditative practices, which as mostly based on Samatha and Vipassana. We also practice the twelve ascetic practices and in particular we avoid over-indulgence and self-punishment (basically we practice The Middle Way). This then leads to one of the stages of awakening that you can learn about here. For the Boddhisatva Path, we also vow to dedicate our lives to acts of compassion and to ending suffering.
Inner Vehicles (Tantra Vehicles)
These are the vehicles of kriyā tantra, caryā tantra and yoga tantra. These are all about self discipline. They involve different external exercises. For instance, there are specific types of diets that we must have, as well as specific ways of keeping clean. The tantra vehicles do also include specific meditative practices, mainly centred around the four realities (reality of self, reality of the deity, mantras and rig pa mind). I will not attempt to give detailed advice on these vehicles as, truthfully, they are not a specialty of mine.
Vehicles of Powerful Transformative Methods
These are: the vehicle of mahāyoga, the vehicle of anuyoga and the vehicle of atiyoga. This begins with us visualizing that we are a great Buddha and that we are performing noble deeds to help others, as well as visualizing that we have complete Rig Pa and blissful mind. This visualization must be done with the utmost of concentration. After this we must strive to maintain Rig Pa. We do this in two ways. Firstly, through tsalung, which is where we are working on purifying the subtle winds in the body. Secondly, tummo, which involves a combination of breathing techniques and visualizations.
Dzogchen is a powerful way of achieving enlightenment.
Sadly, it is not as widely taught as other techniques. Indeed, most lamas in Tibet refuse to teach Dzogchen until their students have taken advanced training in self reflection, karmic purification, and compassion. However, there have been some notable exceptions, such as His Holiness Jigme Puntsok, who began teaching Dzogchen in the West in the late 1990s.
However, even these modern teachings usually overcomplicate the process.
I hope that with this guide I have produced a form of Dzogchen that even newcomers can try. I have done my best to honor the tradition while also making it accessible. I hope you have enjoyed this guide. To learn more about Dzogchen, book an online meditation lesson with me.
Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison
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