In Translation: Nothing to be Discarded or Kept

Heart advice by Dzogchen masters, from the newly translated collection of teachings, Quintessential Dzogchen.

By Lion’s Roar

Bell and Dorje. Photo by Olivier Riché.

Mirror to Reflect the Most Essential: The Final Instruction on the Ultimate Meaning

By Longchen Rabjam

Single embodiment of compassionate power and activities
Of infinite mandalas of all-encompassing conquerors,
Glorious guru, supreme lord of a hundred families,
Forever I pay homage at your feet.

Ema! Listen here, you fortunate yogis.

At present we have achieved the perfect human body of freedoms and riches. We have met the precious teachings of the greater vehicle. We now have the independence to genuinely apply the sacred dharma, so do not squander your life on pointless things. Instead, pursue the lasting goal.

The categories of teachings are endless. The entrance doors to the vehicles are innumerable. The words to be explained are extensive. Even if you succeed in memorizing millions of volumes of dharma scriptures, unless you are able to practice the essential meaning, you can never be sure that they will help you at the moment of death. And even if your education in studies and reflections is boundless, unless you succeed in being in harmony with the dharma, you will not tame your enemy, negative emotions. Even if you succeed in being the owner of a trillion worlds, unless you can curtail your plans from within with the feeling that nothing more is needed, you will never know contentment. Unless you prepare yourself with the attitude that your death could happen at any time, you cannot achieve the great aim that is surely needed at the time of death.

You must tame your own shortcomings and cultivate impartial pure perception, for a biased attitude will not let you shoulder the Mahayana teachings. Since all the sentient beings among the six classes in the three realms have without exception been your own parents, unless you make pure aspirations with ceaseless compassion and bodhicitta, you cannot open the jewel mine of altruistic actions. Unless you generate a devotion toward your kind guru exceeding even that of meeting the Buddha in person, you will not feel the warmth of blessings. Unless you genuinely receive the blessings, the seedlings of experience and realization will not sprout. Unless realization dawns from within, dry explanations and theories will not help you achieve the fruit of enlightenment.

In short, unless you mingle your mind with the dharma, it is pointless to merely sport a spiritual veneer. Keep to the bare necessities for sustaining your life and warding off the bitter cold; reflect on the fact that nothing else is really needed. Practice guru yoga and supplicate one-pointedly. Direct every spiritual practice you do to the welfare of all sentient beings, your own parents. Whatever good or evil, joy or sorrow befalls you, train in seeing it as your guru’s kindness.

Within the vastness of spontaneous self-knowing, let be freely, uncontrived and free of fabrication. Whatever thoughts arise, be sure to recognize your nature so that they all dissolve as the play of dharmata. Even though you practice in such a way that there is not even as much as a hair tip of a concrete reference point to cultivate by meditating, do not stray into ordinary deluded diffusion, even for a single moment. Instead, make sure that every aspect of your daily activities is embraced by an undistracted presence of mind. Whatever occurs and whatever you experience, strengthen your conviction that they are all insubstantial and magical illusions, so that you can experience this in the bardo as well.

In short, at all times and in every situation, make sure that whatever you do turns into the sacred dharma and dedicate every virtuous action toward enlightenment. By doing so, you will fulfill your guru’s wishes and be of service to the buddhadharma; you will repay your parents’ kindness and spontaneously accomplish the benefit of yourself and others. Please keep this in your heart.
Even if you were to have met me in person, I would have had no superior advice to give you, so bring it into your practice in every moment and in every situation.

The History of the Heart Essence of the Dakinis

By Padmasambhava

Homage to all the sublime masters.
In order to create trust and authenticate the source, here I shall briefly mention the succession of lineage masters. To quote the Union of Sun and Moon Tantra:

Unless the meaning of the history is explained,
The flaw of distrust will develop
Toward these teachings of the Definitive Great Secret.

As for the history of how this transmission occurred,
this same tantra continues:

Through blessings the teacher Samantabhadra with consort
Entrusted the sovereigns,
Who are the Sattva recipients not inferior to himself,
So that all dharmas were liberated by knowing one,
Beyond the confines of bondage and liberation.

Through the blessings of Vajrasattva
They arose in the mind of the self-appeared Garab Dorje,
Who entrusted the tantras to Shri Singha.
The Tantras That Liberate by Wearing of the utterly perfect fruition
He entrusted to Padma of Uddiyana.
Reveal them to the fivefold disciples.

Thus it was said.

To explain, in the dharmadhatu palace of Akanishtha of the utterly pure space, the glorious Bhagavan Samantabhadra with consort, the dharmakaya beyond defilement, is not made out of any entity whatsoever but is manifest in a form with face and arms. From within this unconstructed state of dharmakaya, in the realm of Akanishtha, he taught glorious Vajrasattva by means of natural blessings.

Glorious Vajrasattva, the sambhogakaya adorned with the major and minor marks, in the celestial palace of the Blazing Fire Mountain charnel ground, taught, with few words, the emanation Garab Dorje, the one who though remaining in the world of men is equal to the buddhas in realization. Garab Dorje taught the master Shri Singha in the charnel ground of Wild Jungle by establishing the actuality in Shri Singha himself. Shri Singha then taught the great vidyadhara known as Padma Totreng Tsal, the one whose vajralike body is beyond birth and death, passing and transmigration, in the great charnel ground of Sosaling, by revealing the natural state free of assumptions.

Padma Totreng Tsal then taught Tsogyal, the Lady of Kharchen, the one who received the prophecy from all the dakinis, in the Tidro Cave at Upper Zho, by divesting her of deluded meditation, assumptions, and mental darkness and revealing the fivefold wisdom essence by establishing it as a self-luminous actuality. I, the Lady of Kharchen, then acted as the compiler and gave my blessings that these teachings may be transmitted to the minds of those in the future who are endowed with a karmic link. Thus I entrusted them to the dakinis and concealed them as a precious earth treasure. May they meet with the destined one in the future!

Samaya. Seal, seal, seal.

The Spontaneous Vajra Manifestation of Awareness and Emptiness:An Aspiration of the Great Perfection of Manjushri, the Inseparable Nature of the Ground, Path, and Fruition

By Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche

You assume the nondual form of being the wisdom body
Of the sugatas and their sons throughout the ten directions and the four times.
Ever-Youthful Manjushri, within your state of equality,
May we be spontaneously perfected in the nature of nonaction.

By devotion to the Primordial Lord, the glorious master,
And regarding him as the dharmakaya of equality,
May we obtain the great empowerment of awareness display
Through the blessing of the realization of the ultimate lineage being
transmitted to our hearts.

Present since the beginning, it is not dependent upon being cultivated,
Nor upon such things as differences in one’s capacity.
May this vital point of mind, not trusted since it seems too easy,
Be recognized through the power of the master’s oral instructions.

To elaborate or to examine is nothing but adding concepts.
To make effort or to cultivate is only to exhaust oneself.
To focus or to meditate is but a trap of further entanglement.
May these painful fabrications be cut from within.

Because it is beyond thought or description, not a thing is seen.
There is, however, nothing extra remaining to be seen.
That is the profound meaning of resolving one’s mind.
May this nature, hard to illustrate, be realized.

Because it is primordially pure of all constructs,
the extreme of existence has been discarded.
As the manifestation of awareness is spontaneously present,
it is free from the extreme of nonexistence.
Although described as two aspects, these are but the labor of conceptual mind.
May we perceive this inseparable nature of equality, beyond description.

Although it is initially grasped through intellectual statements,
Just like a finger pointing to the moon,
The natural state of dharmata lies beyond the reach of assumptions.
May we take this to heart and perceive it ourselves.

In this there is nothing seen to be discarded,
Nor is there anything to be kept or established.
May this state of dharmata, unspoiled by acceptance and rejection,
Be perceived as the spontaneously present nature.

Although attaching attributes, the ground to be known,
The path to be journeyed, and the fruition to be attained
Are but like levels in space in the actual nature.
May we spontaneously abide in the nature of nonaction.

Samsaric impure phenomena, imputed through confusion,
As well as its opposite, pure perception,
Are but constructed attributes, named in dependence.
May we perceive their nonexistence in the unfabricated essence.

In its way of being, the nonconceptual essence of dharmata
Is only obscured by concepts or spoiled by having a view and meditation.
Looking into the ordinary essence, while being free from a view and meditation,
May we spontaneously rest in the genuine nature.

Whatever one is focused on is poison for the view.
Whatever is embraced by effort is a fault of meditation.
Whatever is adopted or abandoned is a defect of action.
May we perceive the nature free from all shortcomings.

If we are not trapped in the mire of mental constructs,
The manifestation of awareness is directly seen, free from concepts.
Without tying knots in the air with the rope of speculation,
May we be skilled in spontaneously resting in the genuine nature.

At that very moment, may the light from the lamp of self-existing knowledge,
The wisdom aspect of the self-cognizant Youthful Vase Body,
Manjushri of Natural Cognizance,
Overcome the dense darkness of the obscurations.

Since the unfabricated and uncompounded dharmata
Has nothing new to be obtained through the path of fabrications,
May the nature of the ultimate fruition, which does not result from a cause,
Be perceived as being primordially present within us.

Being covered up by words of speculation is the path of confusion.
Whatever is expressed is but a web of concepts.
May the profound instruction to be individually cognized, which does not result
from statements,
Be practiced within our hearts.

The mind that holds subject and object is, by nature, mistaken.
It is never exactly like what one imagines.
May the self-existing wisdom body that does not result from dualistic mind,
The buddhahood of true meaning, be accomplished.

Within the cognizant space of awareness and emptiness,
All phenomena are in a state of equality.
In this single sphere the hopes and fears of samsara and nirvana have collapsed.
May we, in this nature, attain the kingdom of nondwelling dharmakaya.

Whatever is perceived as one’s body or as a sense object
Appears like a visual aberration produced by conceptual thought.
By the natural radiance of the great nonconceptual wakefulness,
May it be purified in the primordial space of exhausted dharmas.

The wisdom body, equal to the sky,
Is a wish-fulfilling jewel yielding well-being and happiness.
May we obtain this unobscured and ultimate fruition
For all beings, in all times and directions, till the end of existence.

Song of Fruition

By Lama Shabkar

Once more, fortunate and only heart-children,
Listen joyfully to this vajra song!

When you have gained realization in this way,
The whole phenomenal world is the book of oral instructions and the real mandala.
On the multicolored parchment of appearances,
Awareness, the bamboo pen of self-existing wisdom,
Inscribes the letters of nonfixation that are groundless and primordially free.
This is read as the nonduality of appearance and emptiness.

On this spontaneously perfect mandala of the three-thousandfold universe
Is sprinkled the water of naturalness.
The pathways are the natural lines of the design,
And your footsteps are the drawings in colored powder.
Your own appearing yet empty body is the form of the divine yidam.
Your speech, resounding and yet empty, is its vajra recitation,
While your naturally freed and unfixated thoughts are the mind of the deity.

The movements of your arms and legs are mudras,
And eating and drinking is the dharmata offering.
All appearance of form is the body of the deity.
All sounds and speech are musical offerings.
Beyond keeping and breaking, this is the naturally fulfilled samaya.

Whatever else such a practitioner does,
He does not need to depend on the teachings of effort, cause and effect,
Because in the state of the luminous dharmata,
The instructions, the stages of development, and the samayas are all complete.

The special quality of the Great Perfection, fortunate heart-children,
Is the swift and effortless attainment of the marvelous and wondrous siddhis.

If you truly practice in this way,
All the concepts of samsara and nirvana are liberated into the primordial ground,
Like clouds vanishing into the sky.

When you realize this luminous dharmakaya of self-existing awareness,
Radiant as the unobscured sun,
You will be able to revive the dead, to comprehend all secrets,
And to convert beings by displaying various miraculous powers.

Having perfected the virtues of all the paths and levels,
People of superior capacity are liberated in this very life.
Those of mediocre capacity are liberated at the moment of death.
The ones of inferior capacity will be liberated into the ground of primordial purity in the intermediate state.

Thereafter, continuously remaining in the inner space without separation from the wisdoms of the three kayas,
They will display emanation bodies to tame whoever needs taming in whatever ways are necessary,
Thus ceaselessly benefiting beings.

Keep the meaning of these words in your heart,
And the sun of happiness will surely arise from within.

The one who composed this realization in songs
Is the renunciant Tsokdrug Rangdrol.
By its virtue, may many fortunate disciples
Swiftly purify the stains of ignorance, emotions, and concepts
Into the original space of primordial purity
And attain fruition in this very life.


Reprinted from Quintessential Dzogchen: Confusion Dawns as Wisdom. Translated and compiled by Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schmidt. Published by Rangjung Yeshe Publications, September 2006.

Lion's Roar

Lion’s Roar

Lion’s Roar is the website of Lion’s Roar magazine (formerly the Shambhala Sun) and Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Quarterly, with exclusive Buddhist news, teachings, art, and commentary. Sign up for the Lion’s Roar weekly newsletter and follow Lion’s Roar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.