Hitting the Essence in Three Words—The Commentary

Dzogchen | Tibetan MastersPatrul Rinpoche

English | Français | བོད་ཡིག

Hitting the Essence in Three Words

“The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King”

The Commentary

Homage to the incomparable lord of compassion, my root master, in all his kindness!

In order to explain, in a few crucial points, how to take to heart the practice of view, meditation and action, first of all, as the lama embodies completely the Buddha, Dharma and Saṅgha simply to pay homage to him alone is to pay homage to all sources of refuge everywhere. And so: “Homage to the master!”

Now for the main subject: If you take the practice to heart, while recognizing that the root and lineage masters are all inseparable from the true nature of your mind, this embodies the actual practice of view, meditation and action. So view, meditation and action are explained here by relating them to the meaning of the root and lineage masters’ names.

First, the View is the realization that all the infinite appearances (rabjam) of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, in their entirety, are perfectly contained and by nature equal within the all-encompassing space of the vast expanse (longchen) of buddha nature, which is the true nature of reality, free from any elaboration or complexity. And so: “The view is Longchen Rabjam: infinite, vast expanse”.

This view of the freedom from all elaboration is realized conclusively with the wisdom (khyen) that is the insight of vipaśyanā; and to rest evenly and one-pointedly in that state of śūnyatā, without ever separating from the skilful means of the śamatha of loving compassion (tsé), is the meditation that unites emptiness and compassion. So, “Meditation is Khyentse Özer: rays of wisdom and love”.

Action is to be imbued with such a view and meditation and then to practise the six perfections so as to benefit others, in keeping with the ways of the bodhisattvas, “the new shoots of the buddhas”. So, “Action is Gyalwé Nyugu, that of the bodhisattvas”.

To show how fortunate is the person who practises such view, meditation and action, “One who practises in such a way,”

Those who are able to seclude themselves in an isolated retreat, put aside the worldly cares and activities of this life and practise single-mindedly, will gain liberation—in their very lifetime—in the ground of primordial purity. So, “May well attain enlightenment in this very life”.

And in the next life you will go from happiness to happiness. So, “And even if not, what happiness! What joy! A la la!”

In order to explain, step by step, such a beneficial view, meditation and action, first I wish to set out at greater length how to take to heart and practise the view. And “As for the view, Longchen Rabjam,”

The entire meaning of this is imparted in this advice on the three words, for when they hit the essence of the practice, delusion is put to death. So: “Three statements strike the vital point”.

I. Introducing Directly the Face of Rigpa Itself

First is the method of introducing the view that has not yet been revealed. Generally speaking, there are many ways of bringing the view to realization. In the sūtrayāna path of dialectics the method of lung rig is employed; that is, using the scriptural authority of the teaching of Buddha and the great masters, and through logic and reasoning, arriving at the realization of the view.

According to the common approach of Secret Mantrayāna, by means of the wisdom of example in the third empowerment, one is introduced to the real, ultimate wisdom in the fourth empowerment. Here, according to the special approach of the great masters of the practice lineage, the nature of mind, the face of rigpa, is introduced in and upon the very dissolution of conceptual mind.

Amidst the churning waves of delusory thinking, the gross arising thoughts which run after the objects of perception obscure the actual face of mind’s true nature. So even if it were introduced, you would not recognize it. Therefore, in order to allow these gross discursive thoughts to settle and clear, “First, relax and release your mind”,

However, leaving your own mind relaxed and uncontrived is itself the wisdom of clear light. So paths that are contrived can never bring you to the realization of your true nature, and to signify that this uncontrived co-emergent wisdom is there, present within you: “Neither scattered, nor concentrated, without thoughts”.

When you are a beginner, even if you maintain mind’s fundamental state, resting naturally, it will not be possible for you to avoid fixation on the many experiences such as ‘bliss’, ‘clarity’ and ‘non-conceptuality’ that come in the state of calm and stillness: “While resting in this even state, at ease”.

To free yourself from the ‘cocoon’ of attachment-to-experience, lay bare the all-penetrating rigpa and reveal explicitly its true state, “Suddenly let out a mind-shattering phaṭ!”,

Since it is vital to cut through the flow of arising thoughts, and destroy meditation made by the mind, the sound ‘phaṭ!’ should be fierce, forceful and abrupt: “Fierce, forceful, and abrupt. How amazing (emaho)!”

At this moment, you are free from all fixed notions of what mind might be, and liberation itself is actualized: “There is nothing there: transfixed in wonder,”

In that state of dharmakāya, devoid of any reference or reliance whatsoever, all-penetrating, naked awareness dwells, just as it is, as the wisdom that transcends the mind, and so: “Struck by wonder (hedawa), and yet all is transparently clear (zang tal lé)”.

This all-penetrating, unimpeded awareness is the key point of inexpressible and naturally inherent wisdom, beyond all extremes such as rising and ceasing, existing and non-existing, and so beyond words and out of reach of mental enquiry. “Fresh, pure and sudden, so beyond description:”

The crucial point here is that rigpa, which abides as the ground of dharmakāya, is the primordial purity of the path of the yogins, the absolute view of freedom from all elaboration. Until you recognize this one point, then whatever meditation or practice you do, you can never get beyond a fabricated mind-made view and meditation. The difference between this and the approach of the natural Dzogpachenpo is greater than that between earth and sky, as it does not possess the essential point—the unceasing flow of clear light, which is non-meditation. So it is most important, first of all, to recognize this and this alone, and: “Recognize this as the pure awareness of dharmakāya”.

This, then, is the first of the three words which hit the essence. If the view has not been introduced and recognized, there is nothing to maintain in meditation. This is why it is so important, first and foremost, to be introduced to the view.

And since the natural, inherent wisdom is introduced as something natural and inherent in you, it is neither to be sought elsewhere, nor is it something that you did not have before, and that now arises newly in your mind. So: “The first vital point is: introducing directly the face of rigpa in itself”.

II. Deciding upon One Thing, and One Thing Only

Now to give a more detailed explanation of how to take the practice of meditation to heart:

In a natural state of rest, all the time and in any situation, let your meditation be like the continuous flow of a river.

Without cultivating stillness or suppressing the movement of thought, simply maintain the recognition that when stillness occurs, it is the dharmakāya’s own face, and when movement arises, it is the inherent power of wisdom. And: “Then, whether in a state of movement or stillness,”

From the energy of mind’s thinking come negative emotions like anger and attachment that constitute the truth of the origin of suffering, as well as feelings like happiness and sorrow, which constitute the truth of suffering itself. Yet whatever experiences arise, if you can realize that the true nature of these thoughts and emotions is the very nature of reality, they will be just the flow of dharmakāya. And so: “Of anger or attachment, happiness or sorrow,”

Furthermore, generally speaking, even though you may have recognized the view, if you do not sustain it in meditation, and you slip into the ordinary proliferation of delusion, the same old patterns of thought will bind you to saṃsāra. As a result, the Dharma and you become divorced, and you end up no different from an ordinary person. That is why you must never be apart from this supreme state of resting naturally in non-meditation, and why: “All the time, in any situation,”

Therefore, whether the mind is still, active or whatever, it is not a question of overcoming each individual negative emotion and thought with its own separate remedy. Instead, the sole remedy for whatever thought or emotion may occur, the one remedy for all, is the recognition of that view which was introduced before, and that alone: “Recognize that dharmakāya you recognized before,”

So, whatever thought or emotion arises, in itself it is no other than the wisdom of dharmakāya, and the true nature of these thoughts and emotions is the actual clear light of the ground of dharmakāya. When you recognize this, that is what is known as ‘the mother clear light present as the ground’.

To recognize your own nature in that view of the clear light of self-knowing rigpa introduced earlier by the master is what is known as ‘the path clear light of practice.’ To remain in the state where these two, the clear light of ground and path, are inseparable is known as ‘the meeting of mother and child clear light’. “And mother and child clear light, already acquainted, will reunite”.

In this way, always remind yourself of the view, which is the clear light recognized in you as your true nature. And as you are resting in that state, you should neither suppress nor indulge, neither accept nor reject, in any way, the thoughts and emotions that are its dynamic energy (tsal). This is a crucial point: “Rest in the aspect of awareness, beyond all description”.

When you maintain that state for a long time, as a beginner you will have experiences of bliss, clarity or non-conceptuality, which will mask the face of your true nature. So if you free it from this shell of attachment-to-experience, and lay bare the actual face of rigpa, then wisdom will shine out from within.

There is a saying:

The more its flow is interrupted,
The better the water in the mountain stream.
The more it is disrupted,
The better the meditation of the yogin.

So: “Stillness, bliss and clarity: disrupt them, again and again,”

“How to disrupt them?” you might ask. Whenever experiences of stillness, bliss or clarity arise, or feelings of joy, glee or delight, you must pulverize the shell of your attachment-to-experience, shattering it as if by a bolt of lightning, with the forceful sound of ‘phaṭ!’ which is the combination of ‘pha’, the syllable of skilful means that concentrates and gathers and ‘ṭa’, the syllable of prajna which cuts through. “Suddenly striking with the syllable of skilful means and wisdom”.

When you do not lose this vital point of personal experience, and you maintain that indescribable, all-penetrating rigpa, all the time and in every situation, formal meditation and post-meditation will no longer be distinct: “With no difference between meditation and post-meditation,”

That is why the meditation in sessions and the meditation when you are active during breaks are not separate: “No division between sessions and breaks,”

In this ‘great meditation with nothing to meditate on’, the continuous river-like yoga of inherent, even and all-pervasive wisdom, there is not even a hair’s breadth of anything to meditate on, nor an instant of distraction.

This is what is meant by the saying:

Neither do I ever meditate, nor am I ever separate from it;

So I have never been separate from the true meaning of ‘non-meditation’.
And that is why: “Always remain in this indivisible state”.

If someone is a suitable and receptive vessel for the unique path of Dzogpachenpo, just as the teachings themselves intend, and he or she belongs to the ‘instantaneous’ type of person who is liberated upon hearing the teaching, then, for such a person, perception and thoughts are the supreme ground for liberation, and anything that happens becomes the flow of dharmakāya. 

There is nothing to meditate on, and no one to meditate. Others, however, who are less fortunate and who still fall prey to delusory thinking must find stability in ‘gradual stages’. Until they do so, they must engage in the practice of meditation. Therefore: “But until stability is attained,”

That meditation must be practised when all the conditions favourable for meditative stability are complete; only then will real experience occur. No matter how long you spend meditating in the midst of busyness and distraction, true meditation experience will not arise, and so: “It is vital to meditate, away from all distractions and busyness”.

While meditating too, though there is no difference between practice in formal sessions and post-meditation, if you are not truly grounded in your meditation first, you will be unable to blend the wisdom you experience with your post-meditation. However hard you try to turn your daily life into the path, your vague and generalized understanding makes you prone to slip back into your old negative patterns and habits. Therefore: “Practising in proper meditation sessions”.

You might have the sort of practice which makes you confident that you can keep up this state of meditation in proper sessions. Even so, if you do not understand how to integrate that practice with the activities of post-meditation and how to maintain it continuously, then this practice will not serve as a remedy when difficulties arise. When some discursive thought leads you off, you will sink back into very ordinary things. This is why it is so crucially important to abide in that all-penetrating state of awareness after meditation: “All the time, in any situation,”

At that point, there is no need to seek for anything else on which to meditate. Instead, in a state of meditative equipoise that never parts from this very view of dharmakāya, maintain a carefree nonchalance towards all actions and all thoughts, without suppressing or indulging them, but letting things come and go, one after another, and leaving them be: “Abide by the flow of what is only dharmakāya”.

A practice such as this, which is the indivisible union of śamatha and vipaśyanā, the yoga of the natural state free from elaboration, the uncontrived and innate, the abiding by the face of the intrinsic nature of reality, is the heart of the practice of all the tantras of the Secret Mantra Vajrayāna. It is the ultimate wisdom of the fourth empowerment. It is the speciality, the wish-fulfilling gem, of the practice lineage. It is the flawless wisdom mind of all the accomplished masters and their lineages, of India and Tibet, of both old (nyingma) and new (sarma) traditions.

So decide on this, with absolute conviction, and do not hanker after other pith instructions, your mouth watering with an insatiable appetite and greed. Otherwise it is like keeping your elephant at home and looking for its footprints in the forest.

You walk into the trap of unending mental research, and then liberation will never have a chance. Therefore you must decide on your practice, and: “Decide with absolute conviction that there is nothing other than this—”

Make a decision then that this naked wisdom of dharmakāya, naturally present, is the awakened state, which has never known delusion, and abide by its flow: this is the second secret and vital word. Since it is so crucially important: “The second vital point is: deciding upon one thing, and one thing only”.

III. Confidence Directly in the Liberation of Rising Thoughts

Now, at such times as these, if there is not the confidence of the method of liberation, and your meditation is merely relaxing in the stillness of mind, you will only get side-tracked into the samadhi of the gods. Such a meditation will not be able to overcome your attachment or anger. It will not be able to put a stop to the flow of karmic formations. Nor will it be able to bring you the deep confidence of direct certainty. Therefore, this method of liberation is of vital importance.

What is more, when a burning attachment is aroused towards some object of desire, or violent anger towards an object of aversion, when you feel joy about favourable circumstances, material possessions and the like, or you are afflicted by sorrow on account of unfavourable circumstances and things like illness—no matter what happens—at that moment the power of your rigpa is aroused, and so it is vital to recognize the wisdom that is the ground for liberation. “At that point, whether attachment or aversion, happiness or sorrow—”

Besides, if your practice lacks the key point of “liberation upon arising”, whatever subtle thoughts creep unnoticed into your mind will all accumulate more saṃsāric karma.

So, the crucial point is to maintain this simultaneous arising and liberation with every thought that rises, whether gross or subtle, so that they leave no trace behind them. “All momentary thoughts, each and every one,”

Therefore, whatever thoughts arise, you do not allow them to proliferate into a welter of subtle delusion, while at the same time you do not apply some narrow mind-made mindfulness. Instead:

Without ever separating from a natural genuine mindfulness, recognize the true nature of whatever thoughts arise, and sustain this ”liberation upon arising” that leaves no trace, like writing on the surface of water. So: “Upon recognition, leave not a trace behind”.

If, at this point, the arising thoughts are not purified, dissolving as they liberate themselves, the mere recognition of thoughts on its own will not be able to cut the chain of the karma that perpetuates delusion. So at the very same instant as you recognize, by seeing the true nature of the thought nakedly, you will simultaneously identify the wisdom with which you are familiar from before. By resting in that state, thoughts are purified, dissolving so that they leave no trace, and that dissolution is a crucial point. “For recognize the dharmakāya in which they are freed,”

To take an example: writing or drawing on water. The very instant it is written, it dissolves—the writing and its disappearance are simultaneous. Likewise, as soon as thoughts arise, liberation is simultaneous, and so it becomes an unbroken flow of “self-arising and self-liberating”: “And just as writing vanishes on water,”

And so, by not suppressing the risings, but allowing whatever arises to arise, any thoughts that do arise are actually purified into their own fundamental nature. You must hold to this method of integrating everything into the path as the essence of the practice: “Arising and liberation become natural and continuous”.

By applying the ‘exercise of dharmakāya’ to your thoughts in this way, whatever thoughts occur only serve to strengthen the rigpa. And however gross the thoughts of the five poisons are, that much more vivid and sharp is the rigpa in which they are liberated. “And whatever arises is food for the bare rigpa emptiness,”

Whatever thoughts may stir, they all arise from the all-penetrating true face of rigpa itself as its own inner power. Whenever they occur, if you simply abide in this, without accepting or rejecting, then they are liberated at the very instant they arise, and they are never outside the flow of the dharmakāya: “Whatever stirs in the mind is the inner power of the dharmakāya king”.

Thoughts in the mind, the delusory perceptions of ignorance, are pure within the expanse of dharmakāya that is the wisdom of rigpa, and so within that expanse of uninterrupted clear light whatever thoughts stir and arise are by their very nature empty. So: “Leaving no trace, and innately pure. What joy!”

When you have become used to integrating thoughts into your path like this over a long period of time, thoughts arise as meditation, the boundary between stillness and movement falls away, and as a result, nothing that arises ever harms or disturbs your dwelling in awareness: “The way things arise may be the same as before,”

At that juncture, the way that thoughts, the energy [of rigpa], arise as joy and sorrow, hope and fear, may be similar to the way they arise in an ordinary person. Yet with ordinary people, their experience is a very solid one of suppressing or indulging, with the result that they accumulate karmic formations and fall prey to attachment and aggression.  

On the other hand, for a Dzogchen yogin, thoughts are liberated the moment they arise:

  • at the beginning, arising thoughts are liberated upon being recognized, like meeting an old friend;
  • in the middle, thoughts are liberated by themselves, like a snake uncoiling its own knots;
  • at the end, arising thoughts are liberated without causing either benefit or harm, like a thief breaking into an empty house.

So, the Dzogchen yogin possesses the vital point of the methods of liberation such as these. Therefore, “But the difference lies in the way they are liberated: that’s the key.”

That is why it is said:

To know how to meditate,
But not how to liberate—
How does that differ from the meditation of the gods?

What this means is that those who put their trust in a meditation which lacks this vital point of the method of liberation, and is merely some state of mental quiescence, will only stray into the meditation states of the higher realms. People who claim that it is sufficient simply to recognize stillness and movement are no different from ordinary people with their deluded thinking.

And as for those who give it all kinds of labels like ‘emptiness’ and ‘dharmakāya’, the basic flaw in their remedy is exposed when it fails to hold up under the first misfortune or difficulty they meet. So: “Without this, meditation is but the path of delusion”.

‘Liberation on arising’, ‘self-liberation’, ‘naked liberation’, whatever name you give it this manner of liberation where thoughts liberate themselves and are purified without a trace is the same crucial point: explicitly to show this self-liberation. It is the extraordinary speciality of the natural Dzogpachenpo,  

And so if you possess this key point, then whatever negative emotions or thoughts arise simply turn into dharmakāya. All delusory thoughts are purified as wisdom. All harmful circumstances arise as friends. All negative emotions become the path. saṃsāra is purified in its own natural state, without your having to renounce it, and you are freed from the chains of both conditioned existence, and the state of peace. You have arrived at such a complete and final state, there is no effort, nothing to achieve, and nothing left to do. And: “When you have it, there’s non-meditation, the state of dharmakāya”.

If you do not have the confidence of such a way of liberation, you can claim your view is high and your meditation is deep, but it will not really help your mind and nor will it prove a remedy for your negative emotions. Therefore, this is not the true path.

On the other hand, if you do have the key point of ‘self-arising and self-liberating’, then without even the minutest attitude of a ‘high view’ or notion of a ‘deep meditation’, it is quite impossible for your mind not to be liberated from the bonds of dualistic grasping.

When you go to the fabled Island of Gold, you can never find ordinary earth or stones, however hard you look. In just the same way, stillness, movement and thoughts, all arise now as meditation, and even if you search for real, solid delusions, you will not find any. And this alone is the measure to determine whether your practice has hit the mark or not, so: “The third vital point is: confidence directly in the liberation of rising thoughts”.

IV. The Colophon

These three key points are the unerring essence which brings the view, meditation, action and fruition, of natural Dzogpachenpo all together within the state of the all-penetrating awareness of rigpa. So in fact this constitutes the pith instructions for meditation and action, as well as for the view.

However this is not some abstract concept about which, to use the Dharma terminology of the mainstream textual tradition, a definitive conclusion is reached after evaluating it with scripture, logic and reasoning.

Rather, once you actually realize wisdom itself directly and in all its nakedness, that is the view of the wisdom of rigpa. Since all the many views and meditations have but ‘a single taste’, there is no contradiction in explaining the three vital points as the practice of the view. So: “For the View which has the three vital points,”

A practice such as this is the infallible key point of the path of primordial purity in the natural Dzogpachenpo, the very pinnacle of the nine graduated vehicles. Just as it is impossible for a king to travel without his courtiers, in the same way the key points of all yanas serve as steps and supports for the Dzogchen path. Not only this, but when you see the face of the lamp of naturally arising wisdom—the primordial purity of rigpa—its power will blaze up as the insight that comes from meditation. Then the expanse of your wisdom swells like a rising summer river, while the nature of emptiness dawns as great compassion, so infusing you with a loving compassion without any limit or bias. This is how it is, and: “Meditation, the union of wisdom and love,”

Once this key point on the path, the unity of emptiness and compassion, is directly realized, the ocean-like actions of the bodhisattvas, all included within the path of the six pāramitās, arise as its own natural energy, like the rays shining from the sun.

Since action is related to the accumulation of merit, anything you do will be for the benefit of others, helping you to avoid seeking peace and happiness for yourself alone, and so deviating from the correct view. So it: “Is accompanied by the Action common to all the bodhisattvas”.

This kind of view, meditation and action is the very core of the enlightened vision of all the buddhas who ever came, who are here now or who will ever come, and so: “Were all the buddhas of past, present and future to confer,”

The supreme peak of all the yanas, the key point on the path of the Vajra Heart Essence of the Nyingtik, the quintessence of all fruition—nothing surpasses this. And so: “No instruction would they find greater than this”.

The real meaning of what is expressed in this instruction is the heart-essence of the pith instructions of the lineage, it is certain; yet even the lines that express it, these few words, should arise, too, out of the creative power of rigpa. So: “By the tertön of dharmakāya, the inner power of rigpa,”

I have not the slightest experience of the actual meaning behind these words as a result of ‘the wisdom that comes from meditation’. Yet by hearing the unerring oral transmission of my holy master, I cleared away all doubts completely with ‘the wisdom that comes from listening’, and then came to a conclusive understanding through ‘the wisdom born of contemplation’, whereupon I composed this. And so it was: “Brought out as a treasure from the depth of transcendental insight,”

It is unlike any ordinary kind of worldly treasure, which might simply bring temporary relief from poverty. “Nothing like ordinary treasures of earth and stone,”

These three vital points of the view, known as ‘Hitting the Essence in Three Words’, were given by the nirmanakaya Garab Dorje, from within a cloud of light in the sky as he passed into nirvāṇa, to the great master Mañjuśrīmitra. These are the very pith-instructions through which their realization became inseparable. “For it is the final testament of Garab Dorje,”

It was through penetrating to the essential meaning of this instruction that the omniscient king of Dharma, Longchen Rabjam, during his life-time directly realized the ‘wisdom mind’ of primordial purity, where all phenomena are exhausted and so awakened to complete and perfect buddhahood. Actually appearing in his wisdom body to the vidyādhara Jikmé Lingpa, he blessed him in the manner of the ‘sign transmission of the vidyādharas’. From him in turn, by means of ‘the transmission from mouth to ear’, our own kind root master, Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu, received the introduction through this instruction, and encountered the true nature of reality face to face. And this is the instruction I heard from Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu, while he was present among us as the glorious protector of all beings. That is why it is: “The essence of the wisdom mind of the three transmissions”.

Pith-instructions such as these are like the finest of gold, like the very core of the heart. It would be a pity to teach them to people who would not put them into practice.  

But then again it would be a pity, too, not to teach them to a person who would cherish these instructions like his or her own life, put their essential meaning into practice, and attain buddhahood in a single lifetime. So:

“It is entrusted to my heart-disciples, sealed to be secret.
It is profound in meaning, my heart’s words.
It is the words of my heart, the crucial key point.
This crucial point, do not let it go to waste!
Never let this instruction slip away from you!”

With this brief commentary, ‘The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King’ is complete at this point. Virtue! Virtue! Virtue!

| Rigpa Translations, 2008.

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