Advice for Hor Özer
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From the murals of Shechen Monastery. Used with permission of Rabjam Rinpoche.
Advice for Hor Özer
by Jigme Tenpe Nyima
Your nature cannot be pointed out through concepts;
It is the genuine reality of all, both animate and inanimate,
The single essential meaning of ocean-like classes of tantra—
In recognition of this, the glorious guru's essence, I bow down.
These questions, which you who have devotion for the Dharma
Of the Vajra Essence, the Supreme Vehicle, have asked,
Are difficult for someone with my mental skill to answer,
Yet I shall elaborate a little, on the basis of my guru's words.
Generally speaking, the profound features of the Dzogchen instructions are without limit, but the fundamental point is taught in the Treasury of Precious Qualities:
The pure awareness that is beyond the ordinary mind
Is the special feature of the natural Great Perfection.
As this states, the key point is the distinction between ordinary mind and pure awareness. As what you have written honours this key point, it unerringly adheres to the speech of past saints, and in this I rejoice.
Genuine awareness and the mind of vajra clear light are synonyms. This is emphasised in all the tantras of the Unsurpassed Mantra class, and there is nothing that is not explained there. There are many systems of meditation according to which we recognise clear light only at the point when conceptualisation ceases based on the instruction for bringing prāṇa-mind into the central channel. In this tradition, however, recognition occurs directly in the midst of conceptualisation, on the principle that there is clear light even there, just as oil is present throughout a sesame seed. There is also a great difference in the means of sustaining that recognition. On this basis, there is a great difference too in the degree and duration of effort required to accomplish the supreme wisdom.
There are many ways of introducing the ordinary awareness of the present moment or the uncontrived pure awareness of the present, such as the seven ways featured in the commentary to Treasury of the Dharmadhātu. For now, however, I shall describe only the method of introduction based on the view of emptiness.
In other approaches, having determined that one’s mind is beyond arising, ceasing and remaining, one focuses on that emptiness, without allowing the mind to become distracted from what has been ascertained. To practise in such a way is meditation. Nonetheless, here we do not practice like that. Instead, we investigate mind’s coming, staying and going, so that the focus upon object and subject is destroyed. We do not find anything at all to hold onto with the thought “This is it!” And, in that experience, there arises an unfabricated, naturally present state of awareness that is clear and empty, free from the proliferation and absorption of thought. This is known as “pure awareness of the fourth part without the three”. To settle into this very experience, in a relaxed way, unsullied by the stains of contrivance, is certainly what is meant by: “Settle in awareness without support, O yogi!”
Furthermore, the search for mind’s hidden flaws at the stage of the preliminaries and the introduction to awareness on the basis of such a search must not be in conflict. This is clear from the works of the omniscient Lord of Dharma (Longchenpa), Terdak Lingpa and others.
I must correct your statement, “All aspects of mind are determined to be awareness.” All aspects of mind arise as the self-expression of awareness, but they are not awareness itself. Otherwise, what we call the distinction between ordinary mind and pure awareness would become a distinction between pure awareness and pure awareness!
You asked: “Once we have determined that all objects and states of mind are the expression of awareness, if mental afflictions and thoughts do not diminish, can they still bind us?”
To such questions, we can reply that generally clear light has many degrees of strength. Therefore, at the first stage, even if you are not distracted from pure awareness, various virtuous and non-virtuous thoughts will still arise like waves in great number. Even though they arise in this way, you must remain unmoved from the natural resting place of the wisdom of pure awareness. Then, the force of that, will ensure that although conceptualisations suddenly arise in the first instant, they do not continue in the second. Instead, they will dissolve directly within the genuine sphere of clear light, and not bind the mental continuum.
The reason that they do not bind the mind is not simply that thoughts do not continue in the second instant. Rather, it is based on the key point of applying the seal of the realisation of clear light as soon as a thought arises in the first instant.
After all, it is taught that even mantra practitioners who remain at the mere generation stage apply the seal of deity yoga to all perceptions and activity, thereby transforming what would be neutral actions such as moving about, walking, sitting and so on. They thus create great opportunities for the twofold accumulations with mantra, mudrā and such means. What need is there to mention, then, that a similar principle applies here?
Nevertheless, without settling directly in pure awareness, merely to entertain the idea that all that arises is the self-expression of pure awareness will not bring about even so much as a semblance of genuine confidence in self-liberation. You will only end up under the sway of delusion as a result of karma and mental afflictions like an ordinary worldy person.
You asked: Must dualistic perceptions fade in such meditative equipoise? And: Is there no recognition of the pure awareness of the Great Perfection until dualistic perception fades?
When you arrive at the higher realisation of the four visions, the pacification of all elaborations of dualistic perception during equipoise does occur. Nonetheless, this does not occur in all forms of meditation on the pure awareness of the Great Perfection. This can be understood from what I explained earlier about clear light having many degrees of strength.
You said: I have heard from an oral tradition that by meditating while sustaining the continuity of mindfulness, at some point a form of mindfulness arises as a feature of pure awareness itself. However, I have not investigated the matter thoroughly. So, how is it?
The common concentration of resting the mind has an aspect of stillness , but involves a temporary support and is therefore weak. By contrast, the concentration of self-abiding pure awareness is an innate property of the genuine nature, so it is not separate from the ‘fluidity’ of dharmatā, as is taught in Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle and Chariot to Omniscience. This means that there is no deliberate recollection of an object of focus — what we call ‘conditioned mindfulness’ — within pure awareness itself. Instead, there is effortless, naturally present mindfulness or intrinsic, uncontrived mindfulness. That is to say, clear light is maintained and there is what we call ‘genuine mindfulness that prevents straying into the expressions of awareness’. This form of mindfulness comes about once pure awareness is made manifest through the strength of meditation; it occurs spontaneously like the radiance that accompanies gold. As long as you still need to rely upon deliberately cultivated mindfulness, you have not transcended the dimension of ordinary mind. Still, this does not preclude sustaining the essence of awareness through some form of conditioned mindfulness as a means of bringing about this genuine mindfulness. This point is explained in the Treasury of Pith Instructions, which states that “beginners achieve non-distraction through deliberate application”.
You asked: When someone who practises this path dies how do the stages of dissolution occur? Is it necessary to orient and propel oneself beforehand?
The various stages from the dissolution of the earth element into the earth element through to the dissolution of consciousness into space, space into clear light, clear light into union, union into wisdom, and wisdom into spontaneous presence, as well as ultimately how spontaneous presence is absorbed into the inner sphere, are taught clearly and in detail in Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle and in summary in Yeshe Lama, so consult those. Various statements have been made about whether it is necessary for the three experiences of appearance, increase and attainment to arise in the way that other tantras describe. In fact, the pure awareness of this system is identical to the wisdom of clear light. Therefore, the clear light that manifests at the conclusion of appearance, increase and attainment is the actual pure awareness of the Great Perfection. Still, it is uncertain that the pure awareness of the Great Perfection will manifest in precisely the way that the three stages of appearance, increase and attainment are explained. This is because there is apparently some variation in how clear light arises based on an individual’s distinct characteristics. And, accordingly, various stages of dissolution are taught in other hidden (or obscure) tantras, in the Kālacakra, and here.
For followers of this Dharma tradition, the stages of dissolution at the time of death are as outlined above. At that time, prior orientation is important. ‘Comprehensive transmission as if for a traveller about to cross a mountain pass’ means that one receives instructions on the bardos from one’s teacher or a vajra sibling, and these instructions are made clear. Similarly, it also means to die having become certain that you must retain these instructions without forgetting them during the intermediate state.
You asked me to explain, in a simple manner, how to act before meditative equipoise, during the main practice and thereafter.
No matter what virtuous activity you might be engaged in, it is important to carry it out having first eliminated worldly distractions. This is especially true when practising the Great Perfection. Here, you must let go of both dharmic and non-dharmic activity, completely setting aside all forms of restlessness, and exert yourself in the methods for slowing and pacifying the karmic wind-energies.
During actual meditative equipoise, you must first lay bare pure awareness. Then settle naturally, without making any attempt to adjust, transform, reject or adopt anything. Should thoughts arise, do not indulge them, but maintain your ground within awareness—this is a crucial point. No matter what positive or negative experiences might arise, including bliss, clarity and absence of thought, as soon as you follow them with a judgement, you have strayed from the natural resting place of pure awareness and are already lost in its expressions. As stated earlier, therefore, you must understand how it is key that you simply allow awareness to settle without support.
There is a difference in pure awareness during meditative equipoise and post-meditation, just as a mirror may be stained or unstained. But there is no difference in the way in which pure awareness is sustained. Thus, Patrul Rinpoche said: “With no separation between meditative equipoise and post-meditation.”
When the delusion of clinging to reality in objective appearances arises continuously, consciousness falls under the power of appearances. Then the enemies, which include karma and such afflictions as attachment and aversion, are victorious. If you do not lose the ongoing experience of pure awareness, the whole domain of your experience will arise as its self-radiance, and you will gradually attain the ‘warmth’ of yogic discipline.
Tenpé Nyima wrote this straight away for Hor Özer, who possesses the qualities of faith, devotion and diligence. May it be virtuous!
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2017.
'jigs med bstan pa'i nyi ma. "hor 'od zer gyi ngor gdams pa/" in rDo grub chen ’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma’i gsung ’bum. 7 vols. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 2003. TBRC: W25007, vol. 2: 110–117