In Translation: The View of the Conquerors

The Great Image is the biography of the great Tibetan translator Vairotsana1, one of the earliest translators of tantric texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan and an important figure in the Nyingma tradition, the oldest of the four schools of Buddhism in Tibet. Recorded by his foremost disciples, this biography contains not only the details and events of Vairotsana’s life, but also the history of the Ati Yoga (Dzogchen) doctrine in general and the historical background of the Buddhist doctrine in detail, including how it appeared in the celestial and human realms through the mind lineage of the conquerors, the symbol lineage of the vidyadharas, and the hearing lineage of individuals.

This excerpt traces the Dzogchen lineage of the human realm, in India, beginning with Prahevajra (Tib., Garab Dorje), who received the transmission directly from the sambhogakaya buddha Vajrasattva. Brief biographies of each lineage holder precede short spontaneous songs (dohas) through which the teacher transmits the Dzogchen view, followed by the student’s expression of his or her realization.

King Helu Bhadhe and his wife, the Brahmini Effortful, had a son, King Dhahena Talo, who was a direct disciple of the nirmanakaya Prahevajra 2 from whom he had received the transmission of mind essence. Dhahena Talo also supplicated Manjushrimitra to give him the complete transmission. This is when Manjushrimitra condensed the meaning for Dhahena Talo in a song:

Enlightened mind is the five major elements:
Not manifest and all pervasive, it is space.
Wisdom earth produces buddhahood in the mind.
Wisdom water washes away habitual tendencies.
Wisdom fire burns up dualistic fixations;
Wisdom wind carries you to the unshakable state.
The nature of mind itself also appears as the five elements;
When you clearly realize their source as being no different from mind,
Rest in the uncontrived training of self-manifesting and self-subsiding.

Thus he sang. Then King Dhahena Talo perfectly understood what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Dhahena Talo,
Whose mind is like the expanse of space.
The expanse of space has neither center nor limit,
And enlightened mind has neither center nor limit.
To remain undistracted within that nature
Without limit or center is meditation.

Thus he sang. He realized the essential truth and gained mastery over longevity.

King Dhahena Talo and his wife Queen Victorious Effort had a son, the elder Prince Rajahasti, who received the transmission of mind essence from the nirmanakaya Prahevajra and who also requested it from his father, King Dhahena Talo. Dhahena Talo summarized the essential meaning for his son, the elder Rajahasti, in a song:

Enlightened mind is the buddhas of the three times:
From there the past buddhas came,
There the present buddhas abide,
And there the future buddhas will be awakened.
The intent of the buddhas of the three times is your own mind.

Thus he sang. The elder Prince Rajahasti understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am the elder Prince Rajahasti;
Having realized enlightened mind to be nonarising self-knowing,
I hold the lineage of Samantabhadra and Vajrasattva.
Without progressing in the three stages I instantly reached buddhahood;
My mind is equal to the buddhas of the three times.

Thus he sang. Princess Parani had received transmission of the mind essence from the nirmanakaya Prahevajra and also requested it from her elder brother Rajahasti. The elder Rajahasti summarized the essential meaning for her in a song:

As mind is without aggregates, it doesn’t grow or decay;
As mind is without birth or death, it can’t be wounded or killed;
As everything is contained in mind, mind itself is dharmakaya:
Realizing this is the wisdom of the buddhas.

Thus he sang. Princess Parani understood perfectly what this meant and expressed her own realization as follows:

I am Princess Parani,
For whom enlightened mind does not arise or cease.
Once you realize that mind is free of arising and ceasing,
You attain the view of the conquerors of the three times,
Beyond meeting with or parting from the expanse of realization.

Thus she sang.

Naga King Takshaka, an emanation of a bodhisattva who benefited the nagas 3, perceived that the wondrous essence of the doctrine, the Great Perfection, had appeared in the human realm. He took birth as the son of the outcaste Apar Dharmu Jnana and his wife Sagara and was called Naga King or Nagaraja Sitrita. He met the nirmanakaya Prahevajra in person and heard his words. He received the maturing empowerment from the elder Prince Rajahasti and requested Princess Parani for the essence of the teachings. The princess summarized the essential meaning for Naga King thus:

Don’t block the six sense fields, enjoy them at ease and with joy,
So that whatever you enjoy enhances enlightenment.
Confident in mastering this king of awareness,
The training is to let the six senses remain free.

Thus she sang. Naga King understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Naga King Nanda,
For whom the unrejected emotions are the five great wisdoms.
Not giving up the three poisons, I perfect them as body, speech, and mind.
Not indulging in samsara, it is the great bliss path of enlightenment.
The realization of the buddhas of the three times has arisen in me!

Thus he sang.

The daughter of King World Guard, Yakshini Changchubma, who was qualified, intelligent and very devoted, requested Naga King Nanda for the essence of the teachings. He fully bestowed it and summarized the essential meaning in a song:

Enlightened mind is the never-waning banner of victory.
Unchanging throughout the three times, it is a swastika 4;
It is the standard of triumph over the battle with samsara:
To understand this is the king of realization.

Thus he sang. Yakshini Changchubma understood perfectly what this meant and expressed her own realization as follows:

I am Yakshini Changchubma,
Whose mind is awakened from the beginning,
The great self-existing bhagavan.
Samsara has always been utterly pure;
Realizing the nature of mind, I found the intent of the Buddha!

Thus she sang.

A man of low caste called Rahuta and his wife, Joyful Dhari, had a daughter called Barani, who was a prostitute. She was very clever and intelligent and definitely the Mahayana type. She requested the essence of the teachings from Yakshini Changchubma, who gave it and summarized the essential meaning in a song:

Buddhas and sentient beings are inseparable from the beginning;
That is the essential point to understand.
Once you fully realize your nondual mind as dharmakaya,
There is nothing else to train in.

Thus she sang. The prostitute understood perfectly what this meant and expressed her own realization as follows:

I, the prostitute Barani,
Have realized the king of views, enlightened mind.
As mind is neither male nor female, union does not intimidate me.
Mind is without birth or death; it won’t die through killing.
Since all phenomenal appearance is nectar, nothing is clean or unclean from the beginning.

Thus she sang.

The son of the Kashmiri king Bhibhi Rahula and his wife, Shila Kumara, the Kashmiri abbot called Rabnang, a pandita who had reached the highest degree in learning, requested the essence of the teachings from the prostitute Barani. She bestowed it in full and summarized the essential meaning in a song:

The result of enlightened mind does not depend on a cause.
The instruction of enlightened mind does not depend on the statements.
The awakening of enlightened mind does not depend on mind.
Nonapparent and causeless, enlightened mind is like space;
Devoid of color, it has no reference point.

Thus she sang. Rabnang understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, the abbot Rabnang,
Have realized the self-existing, naturally calm great dharmakaya.
All phenomenal existence occurs from the nature of this great being.
However it occurs, mind does not diminish or increase.

Thus he sang.

In the country of Oddiyana, Shri Raja and his wife, Renowned, had a son called Maharaja, who was a scholar in Oddiyana. He was learned in the five sciences and became a great pandita in the Topknot area in Oddiyana. He was interested in the essential truth and requested it from the Kashmiri abbot Rabnang, who transmitted it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

The nature of mind is awakened from the very beginning;
There is nothing else to do but get used to it.
This training can’t be understood through reason.
Not to be distracted from the nature of mind, that is meditation.

Thus he sang. The abbot of Oddiyana, Maharaja, understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Maharaja,
Who meditated on mind and transcended the meditation object.
Watching the mind, there is nothing to see,
But seeing that there is nothing to see is the real seeing.
To be undistracted from this nature of non-seeing is meditation.

Thus he sang.

At that time there was a princess called Gomadevi, who was qualified and very inspired by the essential truth. She requested transmission of the essential meaning from the Oddiyana scholar Maharaja, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

The nature of the single sphere is indivisible from the three times;

In that nature of self-liberation, there is no path to be traveled.

The nature of things is free from the limitations of words and can’t be engaged in;

Realizing the unlimited, there is no other object of meditation.

Thus he sang. Princess Gomadevi understood perfectly what this meant and expressed her own realization as follows:

I am Gomadevi,
For whom the five elements are the five families of consorts
And the aggregates the five buddha families.
The constituents and sense bases are the male and female bodhisattvas,
The all-ground is Samantabhadri,
And mind is Samantabhadra.
Nondual union of these buddhas with their consorts is the accomplishment.

Thus she sang.

It was then that the Rishi Paratsa and his wife, Enchanting Maiden, had a son called Atsantra Aloke, who became a master in the teachings based on cause and effect. He was extremely inspired by the essential truth and requested the essence of the teachings from Princess Gomadevi. She bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

Hoping for bhumis and liberation postpones enlightenment;
Hoping to attain bliss is great suffering;
Hoping for nonthought is itself a thought:
When you realize this, give up seeking.

Thus she sang. Atsantra Aloke understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, Atsantra Aloke,
Skilled in the means of liberation, have cut the flow of arising;
Skilled in the means of union, have removed the limit of cessation;
Skilled in the means of activities, have achieved effortlessness;
Skilled in the means of accomplishment, don’t depend on others.
Skilled in the means of meditation, I rest in the uncontrived state.

Thus he sang.

At that time Kukkuraja Gatu and his wife, Chandra Rahu, had a son called Kukkuraja the Elder, who was a monk skilled in the five sciences. He was especially learned in the Eighteen Maha Yoga Tantras of the Secret Mantra and inspired by the essential truth. He requested transmission from Atsantra Aloke, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

Understanding through the dualism of mind and object is thought.
Realizing that these two are nondual is original wakefulness.
Comprehending freedom of origin and function is meditation.
Perceiving without clinging is the view of self-liberation.

Thus he sang. Then Kukkuraja resolved that his mind and all appearances were self-liberated; he understood the nature of the view and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Kukkuraja,
Whose mind is Vajrasattva, free of birth and death.
Vajrasattva’s form pervades everything;
Even the metaphor of the sky is inadequate.
To be undistracted in the realization of that nature is meditation.

Thus he sang.

Rishi Bhashita, the son of Rishi Kumara and his wife, Dhari, possessed the seven branches of the Vedas, and in order to perfect the strength of original wakefulness he was interested in the essential truth. He requested the essence of the teachings from Kukkuraja, King of Dogs, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

Enlightened mind is without arising and ceasing,
Appearing while having no self-nature.
Enlightened mind cannot be cultivated;
Yoga is to rest at ease in that free state.

Thus he sang. Rishi Bhashita then realized his mind without any effort; he understood the essential truth and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, Rishi Bhashita,
Have perfected the five elements within the expanse of space.
The summit of the vehicles is complete within Ati Yoga;
The source of the buddhas of the three times is complete within enlightened mind.
Realizing enlightened mind is the awakening of the Great Perfection;
Free of seeking and trying, mind itself is the Buddha.
This mind, without limit or center, is the great immensity.
This mind, beyond arising and ceasing, is total accomplishment.
There is no nature in which to train apart from this.

Thus he sang.

Because all phenomena abide within the profound secret center of the consort, the prostitute Dagnyima was inspired by the essential truth. She requested the essence of the teachings from Rishi Bhashita, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

When there is no mental activity,
The greatest wisdom is realized.
When there is no clinging to anything,
That is the sign of having mastered meditation.

Thus he sang. Then the nun Dagnyima understood the essential truth and expressed her own realization as follows:

I am the prostitute Dagnyima,
For whom the five elements are the space of the five buddha consorts.
That itself is the expanse of Samantabhadri.
I realize the ground of all, Samantabhadri,
To be inseparable from the secret center.
Enlightened mind is like the sun shining in the sky;
Realizing mind essence is the greatest meditation.

Thus she sang.

At that time the monk Nagarjuna, an expert in the five sciences who fully understood the meaning of the Tripitaka and knew a great deal about the Secret Mantra teachings based on the result, was in search of the meaning of the effortless Great Perfection. He met the nun Dagnyima and requested the essential truth. She bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

While reflecting, even realizing emptiness is deception.
While clinging, even attachment to the deity fetters.
While thinking, even understanding dharmakaya is thought.
While meditating, even cultivating nonthought is a concept.

Thus she sang. Nagarjuna understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, Nagarjuna,
Am at ease because unborn dharmakaya is free of aggregates.
I am at ease because unspoken unceasing speech is free of attributes.
I am at ease because mindless wisdom mind is free of birth and death.
I have realized enlightened mind as great bliss.

Thus he sang.

At that time Gyuhe Nagatama and his wife, Pure Mahina, had a son called Kukkuraja the Younger, who was very devoted and extremely intelligent. He became an abbot who knew all the teachings on cause and effect without exception and was interested in the essential truth. He requested the essence of the teachings from Nagarjuna, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

To be devoid of subject and object is emptiness.
To be free of names and designations is realization.
If there is no clinging to this, it is emptiness.
Remaining in this state is the training in emptiness.

Thus he sang. Kukkuraja the Younger understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, the abbot Dhahuna,
Have realized the five aggregates and the five elements
As male and female deities, the buddha families and their consorts.
Their nonduality is the all-ground of enlightened mind;
The purity of all that appears and exists is the mandala of the conquerors.

Thus he sang.

Rishi Lahina and his wife, Highest Grace, had a son called Manjushrimitra the Younger, who was learned in the vehicles based on cause and effect and interested in the essential truth. He requested the essence of the teachings from Kukkuraja the Younger, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

Though it is called mind, it is beyond all concepts of names.
Though illustrating mind with examples, it is beyond analogy.
It is nondual, inconceivable and free of observed object.
To be undistracted in the expanse of realization, without reference point, is meditation.

Thus he sang. Manjushri understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, Manjushri Bhadra,
Continuing the training in the tantras of the two sciences,
Have accomplished my aim, cutting mind at its root.
At this very moment the fruition of perfect enlightenment
Is simply my own nature, totally beyond mind.

Thus he sang.

Rishi Bhahi and his wife, Bhagula Royal Ocean, had a son called Devaraja, who was very qualified and highly intelligent. In search of the essential truth he met Manjushri Bhadra, from whom he requested the essence of the teachings. Manjushri Bhadra bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

The extent of space is beyond center and extreme,
But even this example can’t point out enlightened mind.
When you realize enlightened mind, which can’t be defined,
Resting in that effortless state is meditation.

Thus he sang. Devaraja understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I, Devaraja,
Have put this instruction on great bliss that derives from the scriptures
In the depth of my mind; it won’t leave my mouth.
By realizing the perfectly free view of Ati Yoga,
I have attained the unchanging dharmakaya.

Thus he sang.

At that time there was a monk called Buddhagupta, learned in the five sciences and expert in the meaning of Maha Yoga of the Secret Mantra, who was in search of the essential truth. He met Devaraja and requested the essence of the teachings from him. Devaraja bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

The indivisibility of mind itself is the great eternity.
Since awareness manifests within mind, it is the supreme presence itself.
Since mind is free of samsara, it is the supreme nectar.
Since mind is beyond center and extreme, it is the great mandala.

Thus he sang. Then Buddhagupta understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Buddhagupta,
Whose mind is primordial great bliss.
Hidden from all the ignorant, it is totally secret.
To realize effortless enlightenment is the greatest training;
Being beyond meditation and nonmeditation, it is the awakened state.

Thus he sang.

At that time King Hetu and his wife, Nantaka, had a son called Shri Singha Prabha, who had studied with five hundred panditas. He was a great monk, learned in the five sciences and interested in the essential truth. He requested the essence of the teachings from Buddhagupta, who bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

This nature of mind does not manifest
But is always present in apparent phenomena.
Once you discover the root of this unchanging mind,
Enlightenment is not accomplished elsewhere.

Thus he sang. Then Shri Singha understood perfectly what this meant and expressed his own realization as follows:

I am Shri Singha,
Whose enlightened mind is beyond conceptual extremes.
Not perceived directly, it pervades all that appears and exists.
This self-cognizing wakefulness, free of limitations,
Can’t really be pointed out, even by Vajrasattva.

Thus he sang.

At that time Chamka and his wife, the prostitute Patu, had a daughter who was a nun called Kungamo. She was learned in the five sciences and felt inspired by the essential truth. Determined to find it, she met Shri Singha and requested the essence of the teachings from him. He bestowed it in full and summarized the meaning in a song:

Remain with the same attitude
As someone who has abandoned an activity.
When this is endowed with the strength of presence,
It is definitely the buddha mind.

Thus he sang. Then nun Kungamo understood perfectly what this meant and expressed her own realization as follows:

I am the nun Kungamo.
Just as a great river
Includes all smaller streams,
The teachings of the nine gradual vehicles
Are included within the Great Perfection.

Thus she sang.

At that time, King Dhahena Chadu and his wife, Singha Shipitika, had a son called Vimalamitra, who was a monk skilled in the five sciences. He was inspired by the essential truth, met Shri Singha, and requested the essence of the teachings from him. Shri Singha gave him the complete transmission and summarized the meaning in a song:

When not rejected the five poisons are the five great wisdoms.
When not renounced samsara is primordially pure.
When you understand the fact that the Buddha is your own mind,
There is no enlightened mind other than that very realization.

Thus he sang. Hearing this Vimalamitra understood the essential truth and expressed his own realization as follows:

The innate nature, being inconceivable, is great space.
The space of mind itself is free of all thought.
Within the inconceivable enlightened mind
The innate nature is not found through meditation.
Even without meditating it is primordially empty and never apart.
Meditating means abiding in the nature of nonthinking equality.

Thus he sang.

These stories relate the general history of the lineage masters.

[Footnotes]

1. Vairotsana was regarded as an emanation of Buddha Vairochana, one of the five transcendent buddhas. Thus Vairotsana is sometimes referred to as “Vairochana.”

2. According to the Dzogchen understanding of the origin of its lineage, twenty-eight years after Buddha’s Parinirvana, the second emanation of the Buddha, Prahevajra (Tib. Garab Dorje), entered this world and received teachings directly from Sambhogakaya Buddha Vajrasattva. Prahevajra taught Dzogchen to various beings for many years in India and in seventy-five mystical sacred places. His main disciple was Manjushrimitra, whose main disciple was the renowned Dzogchen master Shri Simha.

2. Naga in Sanskrit means serpent or dragon. The nagas are semi-divine beings. In Buddhist lore, they are water beings who preserve Buddhist teachings in their sea palaces until human beings are ready to receive them.

3. The swastika, from the Sanskrit root, svasti, meaning well-being, is an ancient Indo-Aryan symbol that became in Buddhism a symbol for the wheel of dharma (dharmachakra) or simply the dharma in general, the complete teachings.

From “The View of the Conquerors,” translated by Ani Jinpa Palmo. Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, Winter 2004.