What is Lokhel?

Lokhel as defined by Ron Garry, a scholar of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism.

By Ron Garry

Lokhel, usually translated as “trust,” is a simple, ordinary Tibetan word used for a simple, extraordinary Vajrayana experience. In fact, it is the basis for all practice, from the ground of the preliminary practices to the lofty heights of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. In fact, realization of the Great Perfection is not possible without trust.

Trust is related to the heart, not just the mind. Having trust, conviction, and faith in the teaching and in the wisdom teacher makes one’s spiritual experience go deep. Trust refers to the certainty and conviction gained through actual experience, when you know in your heart something is true. That gives you the freedom to trust the teachings and your teacher as you venture into unknown territory. Mind and feelings fluctuate as circumstances shift, so without trust our spiritual experiences are weak and tenuous.

One of the most sublime masters of the twentieth century, His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche, describes the central importance of trust in his introduction to the retreat manual Essential Advice for Solitary Meditation Practice. He says he wrote this instruction manual for practicing the Great Perfection for all “fortunate individuals.” Does “fortunate individual” refer to those with high social status or those who are wealthy, well-educated, famous, or well-connected? Or does it refer to those who are teachers or to practitioners who have spent years in retreat?

No, not at all. According to Dudjom Rinpoche, a fortunate individual is simply someone with heartfelt trust (lokhel) in the teaching of the profound, secret Great Perfection and in the wisdom teacher who reveals it, and who also has the wish to take his or her practice to completion.

In the Great Perfection, heartfelt trust in the teachings is vital; without it, full enlightenment is impossible. If we think about it a little, it is obvious that we must trust in something we want to utilize. Who would take a flight without the belief that the plane could get off the ground, fly, and land safely?

Doubt in the Great Perfection’s view, meditation, and conduct is an obstacle that keeps you from achieving any result. When practicing within the context of the eight vehicles of the Vajrayana path that precede the Great Perfection, we use dualistic mind as the path-either to reject, apply antidotes, or transform the passions-but in practicing the Great Perfection, we use awareness itself (rigpa) as the path. In awareness, there are no activities of ordinary dualistic mind. If doubt occurs, that is dualistic mind, and not the practice of Great Perfection.

In Heart Advice of My Always Noble Spiritual Master, the great nineteenth-century teacher and yogi Patrul Rinpoche quotes Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava):

Confident faith allows blessings
to enter you.
When you are free of doubt, whatever you wish will be

According to Dudjom Rinpoche, it is also crucial to trust the wisdom teacher who reveals these precious Great Perfection teachings. Dudjom Rinpoche writes in The Chariot for the Path of Union, his commentary to the preliminary practices:

All spiritual accomplishments of the profound Secret Mantra arise from nowhere else but through reliance on the guru.

Patrul Rinpoche explains the importance of a notion related to trust, having faith (daypa) in your guru as a means of realizing the Great Perfection:

It is not taught that the profound truth is established through the process of analysis and logic as is done in the lower vehicles. Nor is it taught that common accomplishments are relied upon in order to obtain supreme consummation, as in the lower tantras. It is also not taught that you should emphasize reliance upon the illustrative primordial wisdom of the third empowerment to introduce ultimate primordial wisdom, as it is in the higher tantras. In the Great Perfection tradition, you rely upon prayer made with fervent devotion to the supremely realized guru alone, whose lineage is like a golden chain untainted by the defilement of broken tantric commitments, and consider him to be an actual buddha.

If you simply pray to him in this way, your mind will merge inseparably with his wisdom mind. By the power of the transference of his blessings to you, it is said that realization will arise within you.

The mahasiddha Saraha, a great and unconventional eighth-century Indian teacher, said:

Taking to heart what your guru says
Is like seeing a treasure in the palm
of your hand.

We can see, based upon the words of these sublime wisdom teachers, the importance trust (lokhel) plays in Vajrayana Buddhism. Developing genuine and sincere trust in a wisdom teacher is essential if we want to receive the profound teachings of the Great Perfection. Trust based upon experience gives us the conviction necessary to move through our limitations into our limitless, spacious nature.

Ron Garry

Ron Garry is a scholar of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism and the translator of Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche’s Heart Advice (Snow Lion Publications).