Survey of Nyingtik Yabzhi and Longchen Nyingtik

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Dezhung Rinpoche


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A Survey of the Fourfold Heart-Essence (Nyingtik Yabzhi) and the Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse (Longchen Nyingtik)

by Dezhung Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche[1]

Homage to the guru!

Generally, what is called the Heart-Essence in Four Parts consists mainly of the teachings of Vimalamitra, Padmasambhava and Vairotsana, pioneers of the teachings of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) in the land of Tibet. The teachings that Vimalamitra gave to the Dharma-king Tri Songdetsen and Nyang Tingdzin Zangpo are referred to as the oral tradition (nyengyü). The teachings that were given to Bé Lodrö Wangchuk and Drom Rinchen Bar are referred to as the textual tradition. The teachings that were hidden at the Temple of the Hat in U were extracted by Dangma Lhundrup. He also received the oral tradition, and thus kama and terma were combined into a single stream. He taught Chetsün Senge Wangchuk, who also revealed four profound volumes of treasures at Chimphu and was guided by Vimalamitra himself in visions. The lineage that came about in this way is the (1) Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra (Vima Nyingtik), the quintessence of which is the (2) Guru's Quintessence (Lama Yangtik). These two are referred to as the mother and child texts of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra.

Guru Rinpoche taught the (3) Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs (Khandro Nyingtik) to hundreds of thousands of ḍākinīs headed by Yeshe Tsogyal at Zhotö Tidro.[2] Furthermore, Pema Ledrel Tsal received it as a treasure. This is referred to as the mother. Its profound and crucial points are contained in the (4) Quintessence of the Ḍākinīs (Khandro Yangtik), a mind treasure of Longchenpa, which is referred to as the child.

Longchenpa’s Profound Quintessence (Zabmo Yangtik) is considered to be a synopsis of both Heart-Essences. These sections together are known collectively among the Nyingmapas in general as the Fourfold Heart-Essence (Nyingtik Yabzhi).

Another way of counting, favoured by Katok Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu and others, is as follows: the mother and child of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra are counted separately, then the mother and child of the Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs are counted as one and to this one adds Künkyong Lingpa’s Heart-Essence of Vajrasattva (Dorsem Nyingtik), making four. The main lineage of the Heart-Essence of Vajrasattva comes from Vairotsana.

Moreover, Karmapa Rangjung Dorje also had a vision of Vimalamitra on the basis of which he set out the Heart-Essence of the Karma[pa] (Karma Nyingtik). For most Kagyüpas this then replaces the Heart-Essence of Vajrasattva to form the Fourfold Heart-Essence.

The Great History of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra says:

The life-force and essence of the wisdom intent of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra's mother and child texts is the Heart-Essence of Chetsün (Chetsün Nyingtik).

The Quintessence of the Guru includes the Guru Practice of Vimalamitra (Vima Ladrub), a longevity practice based on the meditational deity of Amitāyus and a short sādhana of the ḍākinī Krodhakālī, but other than these there are no elaborate cycles of generation-phase practices. There is also a general preliminary practice by Khyentse Wangpo which accords with the Mindroling tradition.

For both the mother and child texts of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra there are four empowerments: elaborate, unelaborate, very unelaborate and extremely unelaborate. There is a tradition of granting the empowerments for mother and child cycles separately. The tradition of empowerment for the Quintessence of the Guru and the explanatory tradition of the distant lineage of the further commentary on both the breakthrough (trekchö) and direct leap (tögal), the Great Expanse of Space,[3] which existed in Kham, and the later close lineage of Khyentse [Wangpo] Rinpoche[4] were combined into a single stream in the commentaries of Khenpo Ngaga.[5]

According to Minling Terchen, the four empowerments of the Quintessence of the Guru can substitute for the others. He brought together the instructions of the mother and child texts, as in the commentary The Excellent Path of Great Bliss composed by his daughter Jetsün Mingyur Paldrön. The principal commentaries on the Quintessence of the Guru are referred to as the three instructions on the meaning.[6]

Later, Khyentse [Wangpo] and [Jamgön] Kongtrul together initiated the lineage of the commentary on the mother and child texts of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra called the Stainless Words, which was composed by Kongtrul Rinpoche himself.[7]

As for the empowerments for the Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs, one is matured through the symbolic empowerment of the ḍākinīs, vase empowerment, secret empowerment, insight empowerment, word empowerment, guru empowerment, empowerment into the the dynamic play of awareness, ḍākinī empowerment, approval to act for others’ benefit, entrustment of the teachings and empowerments related to the dharma protectors. There is an elaborate generation-phase practice of the peaceful and wrathful deities and an elaborate guru practice together with specific sādhanas for the Eight Manifestations. The main commentary is that written by Minling Terchen. Khyentse Wangpo also revealed a guru sādhana, the Heart-Practice of the Blessed Guru, which is like a rediscovered treasure.

As for the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra, Vimalamitra is said to emanate uninterruptedly, and there have been seven successive emanations. Minling Terchen and Jigme Lingpa both had visions of Longchenpa. Khyentse Wangpo Rinpoche also possessed close lineages of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra and the Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs. The Vajradhara Jamgön Khyentse Tulku Chökyi Lodrö also brought together the transmissions for the empowerment and instruction traditions of both Minling Terchen and Jigme Lingpa.

The protectors of the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra are Ekajaṭī, Za Rāhula and Vajrasādhu.[8] For the Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs and the Profound Quintessence they are Sokdrup Nakpo and Dorje Yudrönma.

Jigme Lingpa's Yeshe Lama Instruction Manual combines the wisdom intent of both the Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra and Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs. When we speak of earlier and later Heart-Essence lineages, the earlier refers to that of Longchenpa and the later to that of Jigme Lingpa.

From the point of view of the kama, the mind and space classes were mostly taught by Vairotsana, whereas the pith instruction class was taught by Vimalamitra and Padmasambhava. Yet among the treasures, there are also many texts of the pith instruction class taught by Vairotsana. The three classes of the Great Perfection of the kama can still be found today in the Treasury of Precious Instructions.[9] There is also a treasure by Tertön Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa known as the Three Classes of the Great Perfection.

Some old manuscripts are extremely important, such as the five arrow-length volumes found in Khyentse Rinpoche’s library in Dzongsar, Derge.

It is among the treasures of Guru Chöwang, Rigdzin Gödem, Sangye Lingpa, Dorje Lingpa, Pema Lingpa, Karma Lingpa, Künkyong Lingpa, Jatsön Nyingpo, Düddul Dorje, Longsal Nyingpo, Terdak Lingpa, Taksham, Chöling, Lhatsün Namkha Jikme, Namchö Mingyur Dorje, Khyentse Wangpo, Chokling and Do Khyentse Yeshe Dorje that one finds the most elaborate transmissions of the Great Perfection. Drugu Tokden Shakya Shri also had many mind treasures of the Great Perfection, as did Adzom Drukpa Pawo Dorje; they belong to the lineage of Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgön Kongtrul. In the family lineage of Dudjom Lingpa and his sons there are also many treasures with special sections of Great Perfection teachings. Then there is also the tradition of Khyentse Rinpoche's commentary on the close lineage of the Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs and the root text of the treasure coupled with the Golden Garland commentary.[10]

The Profound Quintessence also has the four empowerments—the elaborate empowerment and so on.

The Heart-Essence of the Ḍākinīs and Heart-Essence of Vimalamitra can be identified as earth treasures, while the Quintessence cycles can be identified as mind treasures.[11]

Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse (Longchen Nyingtik)

Among the mind, space and pith instruction classes, the Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse belongs to the pith instruction class. The pith instruction class can be further divided into outer, inner and secret sections, among which it belongs to the secret, heart-blood-like section. Among the kama, treasures and pure visions, it is a treasure of the mind. Since Jigme Lingpa's realization was equal to the sky, it is said, there is not a single treasure comparable to his. Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa gained instantaneous realization on account of his devotion. He understood all phenomena without studying and was able to perfect the inner yogas. Through the interdependence of this, these teachings can be practised as the guru vidyādhara himself, as a peaceful or wrathful yidam deity, as a ḍākinī or as a protector.

There are the following divisions. The outer practice is the guru yoga), the elaborate version of which is a practice for making offerings to the guru.[12] The inner practice is The Gathering of Vidyādharas (Rigdzin Düpa). For this guru practice there are both elaborate and concise empowerments, a longevity practice and a long-life empowerment. The blue wrathful aspect is The Gathering of Awesome Ones (Palchen Düpa) practice of the Eight Great Maṇḍalas (Kagyé). Because here one practices Guru Drakpo and Mahottara Heruka (Chemchok) inseparably, it is the Eight Great Maṇḍalas of the Guru. There is both a main empowerment and preparation (tagön) and four specific practices of Yamāntaka, Hayagrīva, Viśuddha and Vajrakīlaya, who each have their own empowerment. The red wrathful aspect is Hayagrīva and Garuḍa (Takyung), which has three empowerments, both elaborate and concise. The secret practice is The Great Compassionate One, Natural Liberation of Suffering (Dukngal Rangdrol), for which there is an empowerment, and the wrathful aspect of this practice is a practice of Hayagrīva, for which there is no empowerment. The utmost secret practice is The Sealed Quintessence (Tikle Gyachen), in which Vimalamitra and Longchenpa are indivisible. The empowerment for this practice was revealed as a mind treasure by Khyentse Wangpo Rinpoche.[13]

For the Female Practice of the Queen of Great Bliss (Yumka Dechen Gyalmo), both the outer practice of Yeshe Tsogyal and the inner practice of Tārā are contained in a single sādhana. Although there is only one empowerment from Jigme Lingpa, there are also the general and specific permission blessings for the inner practice of the Twenty-One Tārās, which arose from the wisdom expanse of Khyentse Wangpo.[14] The wrathful aspect of the secret practice is the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī,[15] which includes an empowerment, a torma averting ritual and a ritual to avert curses.[16] The Ritual of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities Which Empties the Lower Realms contains an actual empowerment and preparation, a guidance practice[17] and a ritual to cremate bones. There is an entrustment for Magön Chamdral and for Tseringma. It is said that because all these practices of the yidam deities and ḍākinīs were revealed through the interdependent circumstance of Jigme Lingpa's heartfelt devotion, they can be practiced as a guru practice, or as a yidam deity or ḍākinī practice. Each of these practices has its own recitation manual.

For instructions on the generation phase there is Staircase to Akaniṣṭha, as well as the commentary on its difficult points by Patrul Rinpoche.[18]

Later, Khenpo Ngaga wrote a commentary on the perfection-phase practices[19] of the inner heat (tummo), the practices related to one's own body and those related to another's body, and the twenty-one yogic exercises (trulkhor).

For the Great Perfection, there is the tantra The Expanse of Samantabhadra's Primordial Wisdom, the āgama Samantabhadra's Wisdom Mind Experience and the upadeśa The Subsequent Tantra of the Great Perfection. The great instruction manual Yeshe Lama is a practical guide that includes the experiential know-how. There are also several minor instructions that are considered supportive background teachings.

The extensive text on the preliminary practices is the Words of My Perfect Teacher,[20] to which Khenpo Ngaga composed a Guide, the intermediate version is the text by Jigme Lingpa himself,[21] and the concise version is the text by Khyentse Wangpo.[22]

For the severance practice (chöd) of The Ḍākinī's Loud Laughter (Khandro Gegyang) there are commentaries by Dodrupchen and Patrul Rinpoche, which are said to contain all the profound points of Sūtra, Māyā and Mind from the kama tradition.[23]

The Tantra System Vajrakīlaya (Gyüluk Phurba) is a very elaborate practice that includes the higher rites leading to awakening and the lower rites that liberate enemies and obstructive forces. This practice, for which Sakya Dakchen Drogön Wangdü Nyingpo[24] was the renowned custodian, is said to integrate kama and terma teachings.

The inner female practice of the Queen of Great Bliss features a collection of activities related to the twenty-ones Tārās, including a longevity practice, a practice to ransom the soul,[25] a guidance practice for the deceased, a wealth practice, fire offering and more. The practice of Amitābha, the lord of the family of the female practice (Yumka), includes empowerment, longevity practice and guidance for the deceased. The Gathering of Awesome Ones contains a practice for consecrating medicinal amṛta. For the female practice of the Lion-Faced Ḍākinī there is a ritual to avert curses and for the wrathful practice of Hayagrīva and Garuḍa a torma averting ritual. There are fire offerings related to the four enlightened activities, a guidance practice for the Peaceful and Wrathful deities, a ritual to cremate bones, a text to consecrate pills for the Great Compassionate One, a crossed-thread ritual for Magön, a ritual for the application of wrathful enlightened activities and, based on Magön, a crossed-thread ritual for averting war.

Here I have followed the index written by the all-knowing Khyentse Wangpo.

| Translated by Han Kop for the Longchen Nyingtik Project, 2023. With many thanks to Khenpo Yeshe Gyaltsen and Sean Price for their kind assistance.


Tibetan Editions

bkra shis dpal 'byor. "snying thig ya bzhi dang klong chen snying thig gi rnam bshad/" in gsung 'bum/_rab gsal zla ba. 25 vols. Delhi: Shechen Publications, 1994. Vol. 13: 194a–198a

sde gzhung kun dga' bstan paʼi nyi ma. "snying thig ya bzhiʼi rnam bshad." In gsung 'bum kun dga bstan paʼi nyi ma. Dharamsala: Library Of Tibetan Works & Archives, 2005. pp. 169–179

Secondary Sources

Dahl, Cortland. Entrance to the Great Perfection: A Guide to the Dzogchen Preliminary Practices. Boulder, CO: Snow Lion 2009.

Jackson, David P. A Saint in Seattle: The Life of the Tibetan Mystic Dezhung Rinpoche. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

Jikme Lingpa and Getse Mahapandita Tsewang Chokdrub. Deity, Mantra and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, Trans. Dharmachakra Translation Committee. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2006.

Version: 1.5-20231108

  1. David Jackson writes that this text "was written in Seattle in the early 1960s in reply to a question from Gene Smith. In order to clarify doubtful points, he first wrote to Dilgo Khyentse, who also later checked this and added a few supplementary notes." See A Saint in Seattle, p. 562.  ↩

  2. Zhotö Tidro is a cave complex situated in Drikung, Central Tibet.  ↩

  3. The Light of the Sun, Explanations of the Great Expanse of Space, A Further Commentary on Both, of the Great Perfection Quintessence of the Guru (rdzogs pa chen po bla ma yang tig las gnyis ka'i yang yig nam mkha' klong chen gyi rnam par bshad pa nyi ma'i snang ba)  ↩

  4. A reference to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo's reception of the Sealed Quintessence (Tiklé Gyachen) guru sādhana as a pure vision.  ↩

  5. Khenpo Ngawang Palzang (mkhan po ngag dbang dpal bzang, 1879–1941)  ↩

  6. According to Khenpo Yeshe Gyaltsen, these are Instruction on the Meaning of the Preliminary Practice of the Seven Points of Mind Training (sngon 'gro sems sbyong bdun gyi don khrid), Instruction on the Meaning of the Main Practice, the Heart of Luminosity (dngos gzhi 'od gsal snying po'i don khrid) and Instruction on the Meaning of Primordial Rest and Settling in Cutting Through (khregs chod ye babs sor bzhag gi don khrid)  ↩

  7. Stainless Words, An Instruction Manual for the Mother and Child Texts of the Great Perfection Heart-Essence (rdzogs chen snying thig ma bu'i khrid yig dri med zhal lung)  ↩

  8. Tib. Damchen Dorje Lekpa (dam can rdo rje legs pa)  ↩

  9. Tib. Damngak Dzö (gdams ngag mdzod).  ↩

  10. Probably the zhus len bdud rtsi gser phreng  ↩

  11. Following the Dezhung edition here.  ↩

  12. Ocean of Siddhis: A Practice for Making Offerings to the Gurus, the Embodiments of all the Maṇḍalas (dkyil 'khor thams cad kyi ngo bo bla ma mchod pa'i chog dngos grub rgya mtsho)  ↩

  13. Bestower of Supreme Wisdom: The Ripening Empowerment for the Innermost Secret Guru Practice, the Sealed Quintessence (yang gsang bla ma'i sgrub pa thig le'i rgya can gyi smin byed ye shes mchog sbyin).  ↩

  14. This text might be lost. However, there is the empowerment manual called The Excellent Wish Fulfilling Vase, The Deity Empowerment of the Twenty-one Tārās, Connected with the Vase Empowerment of the Female Practice of the Queen of Great Bliss, by Drodul Pawo Dorje (probably Adzom Drukpa) (yum ka bde chen rgyal mo'i bum dbang gi rjes 'brel sgrol ma nyer gcig gi lha dbang dgos 'dod bum bzang), written in the Water Hare year (1903).  ↩

  15. The Secret Female Practice of the Lion-faced Ḍākinī  ↩

  16. Tib. chedrol (chad grol)  ↩

  17. Tib. nelung (gnas lung)  ↩

  18. Both texts can be found in Deity, Mantra and Wisdom: Development Stage Meditation in Tibetan Buddhist Tantra, Jikme Lingpa and Getse Mahapandita Tsewang Chokdrub, Snow Lion, 2007.  ↩

  19. This must be The Stainless Crystal Mirror, Practical Guidance from the Vidyādhara Lineage on the Yogic Exercises (Trulkhor) that Remove Hindrances, from the Prāṇa-Based Perfection Stage of Bliss and Emptiness of the Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse (klong chen snying gi thig le'i bde stong rlung gi rdzogs rim gyi gegs sel gyi 'khrul 'khor rig 'dzin brgyud pa'i phyag bzhes dri med shel gyi me long)  ↩

  20. The famous commentary on the preliminaries of the Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse by Patrul Rinpoche.  ↩

  21. The Application of Mindfulness: Instructions of the Unique Great Perfection Preliminaries of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse, in Entrance to the Great Perfection, translated by Cortland Dahl, pp. 61–80.  ↩

  22. A Profound Concentration of Nectar: Essentialized Stages of Visualization for the Preliminary Practices of the Heart-Essence of the Vast Expanse  ↩

  23. I.e., Guhyagarbha-Māyājāla (sgyu 'phrul drwa ba), Sūtra of the Gathering of Intentions (mdo dgongs pa 'dus pa) and the Great Perfection Area of the Mind (rdzogs chen sems phyogs), scriptures that are representative of the Mahāyoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga.  ↩

  24. Wangdü Nyingpo (1763–1809), the 32nd throne-holder of the Sakya School.  ↩

  25. Tib. Lalu (bla bslu)  ↩

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