GROUND, PATH AND
In the chilly, wet October of 1982, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited France for the first time. Over twelve days, in Paris, Strasbourg, Toulouse and Digne, he gave Buddhist teachings and interviews, met dignitaries of every description, and touched on all the points of contact between France and Tibetan culture, in what was becoming a blueprint for his visits to different countries. The France he encountered in 1982 was one gripped by uncertainty, with a new socialist government, terrorist attacks in Paris, and bread, petrol and public transport all rising in price. Yet this was also a France with a deep and serious interest in all things Tibetan, and where the public response to His Holiness's visit was tumultuous. Three articles splashed across the pages of Le Monde, excited yet baffled at discovering his "disconcerting, engaging personality", "disarming" and "always joyful". At his public talk in Paris, 'Universal Compassion and the World Crisis', a vast, ebullient crowd unable to gain entry to the hall spilled out onto the pavement in their hundreds, milling around in noisy abandon, as the police attempted to disembroil them.
The Pagode de Vincennes in the far south-east corner of Paris was the setting for the empowerment which His Holiness granted at the invitation of Rigpa and Sogyal Rinpoche. This exotic building dates back to 1931 and the Colonial Exhibition, held to celebrate the civilizing virtues of France's colonial past in Asia, Africa and Oceania. The Cameroon andTogo pavilion was designed as a replica of a tribal hut, but at sixty metres square and some twenty-two metres high and with a roof formed of 180,000 chestnut tiles, it was a lot more ambitious than its original model. After serving for forty years as a museum of wood, it lay empty till 1977, when Jean Sainteny, former French representative in Cambodia, requested it from the city of Paris as a site for an International Institute that would cater for all the ethnic Buddhist groups in France. A competition was launched for a large international looking statue of Buddha, which was won by a Yugoslav sculptor, François Mozes. His Buddha, crafted in the workshop of the Catalan surrealist painter Joan Miró, is made of fibreglass covered with twenty-three carat gold, and bears a face which is regarded as distinctly European. Inaugurated in October 1977 by Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, the Pagode has ever since remained a unique and important venue for major Buddhist gatherings. By 1982, large teachings and empowerments had already been given there by masters such as Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and Kyabjé Kalu Rinpoche. And it was here that, at 2pm on Thursday 7 October, hundreds gathered to receive His Holiness's empowerment and teaching.
THE FIFTH DALAI LAMA
As he explains, His Holiness chose to give the empowerment of Padmasambhava and his Eight Manifestations from the cycle of profound pure visions of the 'Great Fifth' Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso. Born in 1617 to descendants of the royal house of Zahor, the fifth Dalai Lama was one of the most dynamic, skilful and influential figures in Tibetan history. Out of the chaos of seventeenth century Central Asia, he emerged in 1642 with the whole land of Tibet from Ladakh to Tachienlu under his rule. Ten years later he was invited to Beijing by the emperor Shun-chih, where he was treated as an equal and offered an imperial proclamation inscribed in gold, calling him 'Dalai Lama, Vajra Holder and Master of the Teaching'.
The fifth Dalai Lama constructed the Potala Palace, pioneered the dual system of spiritual and temporal governance of Tibet, and is credited with establishing a national health system and educational programme. He was a prolific writer, his historical and autobiographical writings supplying a crucial source for historians of the period. He passed away in his sixty-sixth year in 1682 in the Potala Palace, while absorbed in meditation on Kurukulla, a deity associated with power and magnetizing. This was read as an auspicious sign of the power of his enlightened activity in the future.
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso occupies an important place in the transmission of the Nyingma teachings, and is included by Dudjom Rinpoche in his famous 'History of the Nyingmapas' among the biographies of the tertöns. This is particularly on account of his revelation of the 'pure visions' of the Gyachen Nyer Nga'Twenty-five Sealed Teachings'. The fifth Dalai Lama was prophesied in certain termas as an emanation of the enlightened activity of King Trisong Detsen. He felt a deep connection with the Nyingma tradition of Guru Padmasambhava, and had a number of important Nyingma teachers, such as Zurchen Chöying Rangdrol, Khöntön Paljor Lhundrup, and Terdak Lingpa, Minling Terchen Gyurmé Dorje. He was particularly close to the masters of the 'Northern Treasure' lineage of Rigdzin Gödem, who appear frequently in his visions. In his autobiography he also speaks of Pema Rigdzin, the first Dzogchen Rinpoche, whom he urged to found the Dzogchen monastery in Kham; he calls him "the great Dzogchenpa who has totally understood the Nyingtik". Dudjom Rinpoche writes:
Of particular interest is the manner in which the Dalai Lama received the teachings contained in the 'Profound Pure Visions', which was foretold in a prophecy in the termas of the glorious Tashi Topgyal:
You who are now king of the black-headed race,
Through pure aspirations, your fifth incarnation will reveal
'Twenty-five'with five special mind treasures.
In fact, when the fifth Dalai Lama went to glorious Samyé, the auspicious conditions arose for him to reveal actual termas. However, on account of the time, the place and the situation, he did not take possession of them. Later on, when the infinite deities of the three roots actually appeared to him in visions, according to the prophecies and empowerments he received, he wrote down the twenty-five sections of teaching called Sangwa Gyachen'Bearing the Seal of Secrecy'. Along with his orally composed additional commentary, they amount to two volumes. He bestowed the empowerments and instructions of all of them on a gathering of supreme beings, principally the holders of the tradition of the ancient translation school such as the sovereign of the dharma Terdak Lingpa and the vidyadhara Pema Trinlé. As a result, they came to spread far and wide, and their lineage has continued, unimpaired, up until the present day.
From the age of six, the fifth Dalai Lama began to experience a stream of visions which continued, almost uninterrupted, throughout his entire life. They are chronicled in his autobiographical writings. In the seventh month of the fire monkey year, 1656, at the age of forty, the Dalai Lama prepared to celebrate the tenth day offerings to Padmasambhava by collecting together an extraordinary group of nine terma images of Guru Padmasambhava, discovered by Nyangral Nyima Özer, Guru Chöwang, Sangyé Lingpa, Ratna Lingpa, Kunkyong Lingpa and Trango Sherab Özer. Not long after he had started the practice, along with the monks of the Namgyal College, a vision began to materialize, in which Guru Rinpoche appeared and conferred empowerment on him. He witnessed all the eight manifestations of Padmasambhava dancing in the mandala, and then dissolving into him. Yeshé Tsogyal appeared and led him to meet the Great Guru in his palace, surrounded by the eight manifestations. This was the vision that was the source of the empowerment which His Holiness the Dalai Lama would give in Paris.
As His Holiness explains in his introduction, the empowerment of Padmasambhava and his Eight Manifestations is the sadhana of the guruladrupfrom the Sangwa Gyachen cycle. This was the first time His Holiness had given this empowerment in the west, and he was to give it again in 1989 in California. In January 1992, at the request of the seventh Dzogchen Rinpoche, he began to transmit the complete cycle of empowerments from the Sangwa Gyachen on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Dzogchen monastery in Kollegal, South India. He gave the empowerments of Kagyé and Doric Drolö, during which he made this fascinating personal reflection:
I was quite young when I received the complete teachings of the secret visions of the fifth Dalai Lama. Although I did not pay too much attention at the time, I remember that I did have a number of very good dreams, and so it appears we have a special connection. Later, in Lhasa, I found the works of the fifth Dalai Lama, which had been preserved mainly, I believe, by the later Dalai Lamas. Among them are the very secret teachings which exist in the form of illustrated manuscripts ... Later, in India I obtained these scriptures and spent a few months in retreat, practising Kagyé, Hayagriva, Avalokitesvara and others. On my side, I feel that I am very fortunate: right from the fifth Dalai Lama, because of aspirations and prayers, I have been in the long line of those who hold the name of Lotus Holder. And it seems there is some particularly special connection with the fifth Dalai Lama.
Before beginning the empowerment at Vincennes in 1982, His Holiness explained the meaning of empowerment and then gave an outline of ground, path and fruition in Dzogchen. Here he unveiled a theme which appears throughout all these teachings: the affinities, differences and ultimate oneness, of the view and practice of the Highest Yoga Tantra in the new translation schools, and the ancient tradition of Dzogchen. He also underlined the importance of the introduction to the pure awareness of rigpa, preparing, in a way, for the teachings in 1984 and 1989.
His Holiness sat directly in front of the great golden figure of Lord Buddha, before him the crowded pagoda, and lamas representing all of the Buddhist traditions: Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, Lama Yeshé, founder of the FPMT, Dagpo Rinpoche, Taklung Tsetrul Pema Wangyal Rinpoche, Sogyal Rinpoche and geshes and lamas from all the Buddhist centres in France. Two days later, His Holiness returned to the Pagode to give a brief teaching for the Buddhist community. Then, in the centre of the front row, sat Jacques Chirac. At the end of the session, His-Holiness leant down and quietly asked him never to forget to care for the people of Paris.
HIS HOLINESS THE DALAI LAMA
THE PURE VISIONS
The empowerment I am going to give today is in response to a request I received some time ago from Sogyal Rinpoche. He asked that when I came to Europe I might consider visiting some of his centers to give empowerments, particularly from the cycle known as Sangwa Gyachen'Bearing the Seal of Secrecy'and I agreed that I would, as long as time permitted. Now, since my travels have brought me to Europe and to France, I have been invited once again by Sogyal Rinpoche to teach in Paris. From all the possible empowerments within the Sangwa Gyachen cycle, I have decided to bestow the empowerment for the "mind sadhana" known in Tibetan as Tukdrup Yang Nying Kundü'The Union of All the Innermost Essences', as I think this will be the most appropriate of them all.
As many of you know, this Sangwa Gyachen cycle forms part of a larger tradition, the Secret Mantra teachings of the Nyingma or Ancient school of Tibetan Buddhism. The rituals and practices of this school are transmitted in three waysthe extensive lineage of kama, the shorter lineage of terma, and the profound transmission through pure visionsdak nang. The Sangwa Gyachen cycle consists of transmissions which have their origin in these pure visions.
Now pure visions can be considered from two points of view. First, there are meditative experiences of a more ephemeral kind, known in Tibetan as nyam. Then there are the pure visions in which a master actually experiences receiving the transmission from a deity in a pure realm, and this is considered to be quite different from a meditative experience. This cycle of pure visions of Sangwa Gyachen comes down to us from the fifth Dalai Lama. What is remarkable about these visions is that, far from being simply meditative experiences that arose during practice, they were received on occasions when the fifth Dalai Lama actually went to pure wisdom realms, and was given the transmissions encoded in these empowerments. To a yogin of his stature, who is able to perceive directly enlightened forms or kayas, and realms of wisdom, the pure visions that occur will naturally belong to this category.
In the case of the 'Great Fifth' Dalai Lama, the predispositions from his previous lifetimes awakened in him at a very early age, and this allowed him to experience any number of such pure visions throughout his life. The most extraordinary of these are contained in the Sangwa Gyachen cycle, which is composed of twenty-five sections dealing with distinct visions. The accounts of the pure visions experienced by the fifth Dalai Lama can be found in his secret autobiography.
Among these twenty-five sections, the principal one focuses on the Kagyé, or 'Eight Commands', where all the deities appear in a single mandala. Individual practices also exist for each of these deities. The whole cycle of Sangwa Gyachen contains a number of empowerments, blessings, and permission ceremonies for different deities, both peaceful and wrathful, out of which I have chosen today to perform the empowerment of 'The Union of All the Innermost Essences'. This empowerment is based on the mandala of the guru as the vidyadhara. It is an empowerment which is easy to perform, and yet which at the same time transmits enormous blessing and the potential for great spiritual attainment. Generally speaking, very profound teachings can often take a considerable amount of time for a teacher to confer and for students to assimilate. The advantage here is that this empowerment is quite short and easy to transmit, and yet it does possess that profound depth. But even in saying that, I am aware of the fact that normally it would take some three or four hours to perform, if we had the time. This afternoon we only have an hour or so available, so we will be going even faster than would normally be the case.
The master from whom I received the transmission for this extraordinary Sangwa Gyachen cycle was Taktra Rinpoche. The main sadhana from this cycle that I have practised myself is the one associated with the mandala which unifies the eight deities of the Kagyé. I have also focused on several of the other practices to a certain extent, such as Vajrakilaya, Hayagriva, and Avalokitesvara. Generally speaking, if you are going to transmit empowerments for a given cycle of teachings in the Nyingma tradition, you should ideally have completed retreats on all the deities of the three roots for that cycle. However when I received these empowerments from my teacher, I also received permission from him to give them to others if there was benefit for them in my doing so. In addition, it was explained to me that the Kagyé practice is the principal focus of all the twenty-five sections of the Sangwa Gyachen cycle, and so to complete a full retreat on this particular practice constitutes the minimum requirement for a vajra master to confer the empowerments on others. So, while I have not had the opportunity to accomplish a more thorough practice of the other sections of this cycle, I have completed the Kagyé section and am therefore in a position to offer the empowerments of Sangwa Gyachen.
THE MEANING OF EMPOWERMENT
As for empowerment in general, what does the term wang, or empowerment, signify? To begin with, our fundamental naturewhat we term 'the buddha nature', or tathagatagarbha, the very nature of our mind, is inherently present within us as a natural attribute. This mind of ours, the subject at hand, has been going on throughout beginningless time, and so has the more subtle nature of that mind. On the basis of the continuity of that subtle nature of our mind rests the capacity we have to attain enlightenment. This potential is what we call 'the seed of buddhahood', 'buddha nature', 'the fundamental nature', or 'tathagatagarbha'. We all have this buddha nature, each and every one of us. For example, this beautiful statue of Lord Buddha here, in the presence of which we are now sitting, is a representation that honours someone who attained buddhahood. He awakened into that state of enlightenment because his nature was the buddha nature. Ours is as well, and just as the Buddha attained enlightenment in the past, so in the future we can become buddhas too.
When, at some future point, we do attain buddhahood, that subtle continuum of our awareness will awaken to a state of omniscience called dharmakaya. The nature of mind at that point is what we term svabhavikakaya. The fact that it is totally pure by its very nature is one aspect of the svabhavikakayathat of total and natural purity. The fact that adventitious obscurations have been removed and no longer obscure that true nature of mind is another aspect of the svabhavikakayathat of being purified of adventitious obscurations.
In any case, there dwells within us all this potential which allows us to awaken into buddhahood and attain omniscience. The empowerment process draws that potential out, and allows it to express itself more fully. When an empowerment is conferred on you, it is the nature of your mindthe buddha naturethat provides a basis upon which the empowerment can ripen you. Through the empowerment, you are empowered into the essence of the buddhas of the five families. In particular, you are 'ripened' within that particular family through which it is your personal predisposition to attain buddhahood.
So, with these auspicious circumstances established in your mindstream, and when you reflect on what is taking place and maintain the various visualizations, the conditions are right for the essence of the empowerment to awaken within you, as a state of wisdom which is blissful yet emptya very special state that is the inseparability of basic space and awareness. As you focus your devotion in this way, it allows this special quality of mind, this new capability, as it were, to awaken. There are three circumstantial factors that support thisthe ritual objects that are employed on the outer level, the mantras that are repeated by the vajra master, and the vajra master's own samadhi, or meditative absorption. When these three factors come together, they form a basis on which the mind can focus, and so become ripened.
As these three factors are so important, we should examine them a little more closely. The outer ritual objects, such as the vase and so forth, have already been arranged on the shrine, and are all in place. As for the mantras, while I cannot claim to have read them all in pure Sanskrit, I have done my best while reading and reciting them. So what is most important during the remainder of the empowerment is meditative absorption. For my part, I will be doing what I can to maintain a state of samadhi, and so at the same time each of you should focus your minds, step by step, on the explanations I will give, and rest, as much as possible, in a similar state of samadhi meditation.
THE GROUND, PATH AND FRUITION OF DZOGCHEN
Let us now consider the teachings particular to the Secret Mantra Vehicle of the early transmission school of the Nyingma tradition, and what these teachings say about the three phases of ground, path, and fruition. The way in which the ground of being abides, as this is definitively understood and described in the Nyingma teachings, entails its essence, its nature, and its energy, or responsiveness. In particular, the first two aspects define the ground for the Nyingma school, its essence being primordial purity or kadak, and its nature being spontaneous presence or lhundrup.
Nagarjuna, in his Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way, called 'Wisdom,' states:
The dharma that is taught by the buddhas,
Relies completely upon two levels of truth:
The worldly conventional level of truth,
And the ultimate level of truth.
All that is knowableall phenomena and all that is comprised within an individual's mind and bodyis contained within these two levels of truth, conventional and ultimate. In the Dzogchen context, the explanation given would be in terms of primordial purity and spontaneous presence, and this is analogous to a passage in the scriptures:
It is mind itself that sets in place the myriad array
Of beings in the world, and the world that contains them.
That is to say, if we consider the agent responsible for creating samsara and nirvana, it comes down to mind. The Sutra on the Ten Grounds states, "These three realms are mind only". In his commentary to his own work, Entering the Middle Way Candrakirti elaborates on this quotation, stating that there is no other creative agent apart from mind.
When mind is explained from the point of view of the Highest Yoga Tantra teachings and the path of mantra, we find that many different levels or aspects of mind are discussed, some coarser and some more subtle. But at the very root, the most fundamental level embraced by these teachings is mind as the fundamental, innate nature of mind. This is where we come to the distinction between the word sem in Tibetan, meaning 'ordinary mind' and the word rigpa signifying 'pure awareness'. Generally speaking, when we use the word sem, we are referring to mind when it is temporarily obscured and distorted by thoughts based upon the dualistic perceptions of subject and object. When we are discussing pure awareness, genuine consciousness or awareness free of such distorting thought patterns, then the term rigpa is employed. The teaching known as the 'Four Reliances' states: "Do not rely upon ordinary consciousness, but rely upon wisdom"? Here the term namshé, or ordinary consciousness, refers to mind involved with dualistic perceptions. Yeshé, or wisdom, refers to mind free from dualistic perceptions. It is on this basis that the distinction can be made between ordinary mind and pure awareness.
When we say that 'mind' is the agent responsible for bringing the universe into being, we are talking about mind in the sense of rigpa, and specifically its quality of spontaneous presence. At the same time, the very essence of that spontaneously present rigpa is timelessly empty, and primordially puretotally pure by its very natureso there is a unity of primordial purity and spontaneous presence. The Nyingma school distinguishes between the ground itself, and the ground manifesting as appearances through the 'eight doorways of spontaneous presence', and this is how this school accounts for all of the perceptions, whether pure or impure, that arise within the mind. Without ever deviating from basic space, these manifestations and the perceptions of them, pure or impure, arise in all their variety. That is the situation concerning the ground, from the point of view of the Nyingma school.
On the basis of that key point, when we talk about the path, and if we use the special vocabulary of the Dzogchen tradition and refer to its own extraordinary practices, the path is twofold, that of trekchö and tögal. The trekchö approach is based upon the primordial purity of mind, kadak, while the tögal approach is based upon its spontaneous presence, lhundrup. This is the equivalent in the Dzogchen tradition of what is more commonly referred to as the path that is the union of skilful means and wisdom.
When the fruition is attained through relying on this twofold path of trekchö and tögal, the 'inner lucidity' of primordial purity leads to dharmakaya, while the 'outer lucidity' of spontaneous presence leads to the rupakaya. This is the equivalent of the usual description of dharmakaya as the benefit that accrues to oneself and the rupakaya as the benefit that comes to others. The terminology is different, but the understanding of what the terms signify is parallel. When the latent, inner state of buddhahood becomes fully evident for the practitioner him or herself, this is referred to as 'inner lucidity' and is the state of primordial purity, which is dharmakaya. When the natural radiance of mind becomes manifest for the benefit of others, its responsiveness accounts for the entire array of form manifestations, whether pure or impure, and this is referred to as 'outer lucidity', the state of spontaneous presence which comprises the rupakaya.
In the context of the path, then, this explanation of primordial purity and spontaneous presence, and what is discussed in the newer schools of Highest Yoga Tantra both come down to the same ultimate point: the fundamental innate mind of clear light.
What, then, is the profound and special feature of the Dzogchen teachings? According to the more recent traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, collectively known as the Sarma schools of the Secret Mantra Vehicle, in order for this fundamental innate mind of clear light to become fully evident, it is necessary first of all for the coarser levels of ordinary mind, caught up with thoughts and concepts, to be harnessed by yogas, such as the yoga of vital energies, pranayoga, or the yoga of inner heat, tummo. On the basis of these yogic practices, and in the wake of those adventitious thought patterns of ordinary mind being harnessed and purified, the fundamental innate mind of clear light'mind' in that sensebecomes fully evident.
From the point of view of Dzogchen, the understanding is that the adventitious level of mind, which is caught up with concepts and thoughts, is by its very nature permeated by pure awareness. In an experiential manner, the student can be directly introduced by an authentic master to the very nature of his or her mind as pure awareness. If the master is able to effect this direct introduction, the student then experiences all of these adventitious layers of conceptual thought as permeated by the pure awareness which is their nature, so that these layers of ordinary thoughts and concepts need not continue. Rather, the student experiences the nature that permeates them as the fundamental innate mind of clear light, expressing itself in all its nakedness. That is the principle by which practice proceeds on the path of Dzogchen.
THE ROLE OF AN AUTHENTIC GURU
So in Dzogchen, the direct introduction to rigpa requires that we rely upon an authentic guru, who already has this experience. It is when the blessings of the guru infuse our mindstream that this direct introduction is effected. But it is not an easy process. In the early translation school of the Nyingma, which is to say the Dzogchen teachings, the role of the master is therefore crucial.
In the Vajrayana approach, and especially in the context of Dzogchen, it is necessary for the instructions to be given by a qualified master. That is why, in such approaches, we take refuge in the guru as well as in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. In some sense, it is not sufficient simply to take refuge in the three sources of refuge; a fourth element is added, that of taking refuge in the guru. And so we say, "I take refuge in the guru; I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha." It is not so much that the guru is in any way separate or different from the Three Jewels, but rather that there is a particular value in counting the guru separately. I have a German friend who said to me, "You Tibetans seem to hold the guru higher than the Buddha". He was astonished. But this is not quite the way to understand it. It is not as though the guru is in any way separate from the Three Jewels, but because of the crucial nature of our relationship with the guru in such practice and teachings, the guru is considered of great importance.
Now this requires that the master be qualified and authentic. If a master is authentic, he or she will be either a member of the sangha that requires no more training, or at least the sangha that still requires training but is at an advanced level of realization. An authentic guru, and I stress the word 'authentic', must fall into one of these two categories. So it is because of the crucial importance of a qualified and authentic guru, one who has such realization, that such emphasis is placed, in this tradition, on the role of the guru. This may have given rise to a misconception, in that people have sometimes referred to Tibetan Buddhism as a distinct school of practice called 'Lamaism', on account of this emphasis on the role of the guru. All that is really being said is that it is important to have a master, and that it is important for that master to be authentic and qualified.
Even in the case of an authentic guru, it is crucial for the student to examine the guru's behaviour and teachings. You will recall that earlier I referred to the 'Four Reliances.' These can be stated as follows:
Do not rely upon the individual, but rely upon the
As far as the teachings go, do not rely upon the words
alone, but rely upon the meaning that underlies them.
Regarding the meaning, do not rely upon the provisional
meaning alone, but rely upon the definitive meaning.
And regarding the definitive meaning, do not rely upon
ordinary consciousness, but rely upon wisdom
This is how a student should examine a teacher, using these four reliances. Our teacher, Lord Buddha, said,
O bhiksus and wise men,
Just as a goldsmith would test his gold
By burning, cutting, and rubbing it,
So you must examine my words and accept them,
But not merely out of reverence for me.
All of the foregoing comments have been my way of introducing you to the background to this empowerment. What is most important during an empowerment of this nature is that: as Buddhists, we place great emphasis on taking refuge; as Mahayana Buddhists, we place great emphasis on the bodhisattva vow and arousing bodhicitta; and, as Vajrayana practitioners, we lessen our fixation on perceiving things in an ordinary way, and rely upon pure perception. This is how you should receive an empowerment.