Santi Maha Sangha Level One
The most important attitude in Dzogchen practitioners is Ati Kunzang Chopa, the attitude of the Samantabhadra. In order to have that attitude very precisely, we need to discover our real nature. So in the Dzogchen teaching the teacher introduces directly with some method or in a very simple way. You remember in the Three Statements of Garab Dorje that the number one statement is Direct Introduction. If we do not have that base, we cannot discover our real nature. Even if we think we are doing Dzogchen practice, we are not really applying it. We only having the intention of applying Dzogchen teaching; there is no seed in the field and nothing is growing. Just like a seed, we discover our real nature. This is indispensable in the Dzogchen teaching.
For that reason, you may not have a very precise experience when we do Direct Introduction. But even if you are not one hundred percent sure, you have still received that transmission and now you are connected with it. You know the method and you apply it until you have discovered that. So this is what you should do first thing. And when you do not discover, you can use the method explained in Nyi zla kha sbyor. Another method is to use the Song of Vajra. You increase your clarity with the Song of Vajra. Somehow, with some method, you discover and then get in the knowledge. When you succeed being in this kind of knowledge, you finally have integration.
Now you can understand what integrating means; integrating means we are living in time and limited space. This is our life. In this moment, if we have knowledge of the Dzogchen teaching, then we try to be beyond that. This is the practice of Guruyoga. When we are in the state of Guruyoga, of course this is not ordinary life. We are not in the state of Guruyoga for a long time, only for a few minutes or seconds. Then we live in an ordinary way – being present and not distracted is most important. You should learn this. Many people say, “Oh, I tried, you always say being present is very important, but it is not so easy for me. I try sometimes, but I am always distracted. It is not so easy.”
You must remember to read the biography of Milarepa. Milarepa sacrificed for many years for realization. He did not do practice just for a day or two to become the yogi Milarepa. How can we learn if when we try to be present sometimes and it feels difficult, we give up? This is practice, you know this is practice and you learn. The problem is that you do not consider that this is an important practice. Maybe you think: “Oh, the most important practice is being in the state of Guruyoga.” We cannot be in state of Guruyoga always. You think, “Now I should practice a thun or sitting practice. This is the practice.” When I ask, “Try to be present”, you think, “Oh yes, but this is not the thun book.”
But the application of trying to be present is much more important than a thun book. This you must understand. In the Dzogchen teaching, the most important thing is being in the state of contemplation. After that, most important is that you integrate your body, speech, and mind in that knowledge. How do you integrate? It is difficult. For example, if someone is making noise, or creating a problem, then you think, “Oh, I must not fall into dualistic vision. I am a Dzogchen practitioner. I want to integrate.” That person is making a problem, how do you integrate now? It is not so easy, even if you know what integrating means intellectually.
Integrating means you do not have dualistic vision. But how do you integrate this movement, or the person(s) creating the problem? For that reason we must start with being present. This is the number one step. If you succeed to be in this kind of presence, slowly, slowly you can integrate. We have the aspect of mind, then energy, and the physical level. We can easily integrate everything; the relative concepts of mind and then the energy level movements. In the end, we can also have the capacity to integrate the more material level, since we are living with dualistic vision.
For that reason, you should learn and do the practice of being present precisely. Some people say, “Oh, I am following Dzogchen teaching from you and you always ask us to be present, etc. For many years you have asked.” For many years and then we become old. The teacher is becoming old, and the students are also slowly, slowly becoming old. But it is not that we have no value when we become old. We are old just like good wine or something. So, we know that – particularly old students. You must really, successfully, integrate in the present.
I am not saying that most of my students are really very present. If you are present, presence manifests. It is not necessary for me to ask if you being present or not. Your way of seeing, way of living, way of doing, everything manifests, if you are being present. So it is very important in our life and therefore I am repeating this always, that presence is something important.
You must think that you are doing Santi Maha Sangha. You should know what Santi Maha Sangha is. Santi Maha means Dzogchen. Sangha means Community. The real meaning, if you translate Santi Maha Sangha, is Dzogchen Community. We have, in general, the Dzogchen Community as part of our dualistic condition. It is presented like a kind of association, or a social organization. But this is not really the Dzogchen Community. This is the relative Dzogchen Community, because we are living in limited society. If we deal with the limitations of society, we cannot do anything. This is called the relative Dzogchen Community. But my hope and my desire is that it becomes a serious Dzogchen Community because the Dzogchen teaching is very important.
I know very well, and this is how it is explained in the Dzogchen sGra thal ‘gyur tantra. It is important for all human beings, in general for all sentient beings, but particularly for human beings. A human being has more capacity, more possibility to learn, to apply, to study, and also for having realization. In this case, in our dimension we have this precious teaching. But even if there is this precious teaching, if we go after it in the traditional way, only through words etc, we will not get in its real sense. Of course, when we are not in the real sense, its function is not manifesting.
The Dzogchen teaching is very important and must manifest some benefit, particularly for human beings. You see how many limitations we have in our world. Firstly, we have many different kinds of ethnic limitations. Each group is different; each has different traditions, ways of seeing, ways of thinking, for example. Then there are so many geographic limitations. And then there are nations and groups, etc. Even if there is one country, in this country, how many political parties exist? No one can really agree, between person and person. Everybody is dominated by ego. So, we know this is and this is samsara.
Then, we have the very precious Dzogchen teaching going beyond that. If we really apply the Dzogchen teaching, we can go beyond. Dzogchen practitioners are starting to go in this direction. Then it must become something concrete; what we apply and follow. Then we are collaborating as a serious Dzogchen Community. Santi Maha Sangha is for learning that.
Some people think that they want to do Santi Maha Sangha because all the secrets of the Dzogchen teaching are revealed. This is not the main point. Even you are not doing Santi Maha Sangha, you can also have some secrets of the teaching of Dzogchen, of Ati Yoga. Some people also think that they want to become a teacher. This is also not the main point. It is not necessary to become a teacher. Some people already have the idea of wanting to be a teacher. This is bad. You never become a really serious teacher if you already have that intention and you want to dominate someone. So, you must go beyond that. It is not really a good idea. You should learn what the real sense of the teaching is.
My idea is that people doing Santi Maha Sangha will develop, one by one, to have real knowledge of Dzogchen. They will apply it and be concretely in that state. For that reason, I am also working very hard for Santi Maha Sangha all over the world. People who do Santi Maha Sangha need to understand that. Of course we need to continue this teaching seriously, how it should be. You remember that we have many teachers of Santi Maha Sangha. Firstly, they are participate in Santi Maha Sangha and we consider if they can become the really “perfect ones” of the Dzogchen Community. Then they present saying they want to be a teacher. Then we check and we say they can become Santi Maha Sangha teachers or not. So we work very slowly in that way. This is for continuation.
You remember that when I came to Italy for the first time, I came to study and learn a little culture and knowledge of Westerners. They offered me two years of work in Italy. I came for that. My interest was not only to work and make money. But I was also interested in learning a little more culture and knowledge of Westerners. After two years I remained in Italy because they asked me to work in the university. Of course, then, I remained. I had no idea of becoming a teacher and I had no idea that I wanted to be a teacher. When I was working at the university His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, the 16th Karmapa, sent me two letters saying that if someone is interested in his teachings I should go and teach at his [the Karmapa’s] dharma centers. I refused two times saying I was not a teacher, I was still a student and I still wanted to learn. I said this because I did not really feel I wanted to be a teacher. But then, at the end, I started to teach because there were so many people interested and they insisted that I teach something.
When I started to teach, I thought maybe I was satisfying these people just a little. I did not think I was becoming a teacher with students. But then, it developed automatically and I couldn’t stop it. And today, you see, I am going here and there, to satisfy people. Not only to satisfy them, but I understand how the situation of this world is and therefore I also know that it is very important to help people understand the principle of the Dzogchen teaching. I am working that way. It is not that I am working to have more students and have a position as the teacher, etc. I absolutely don’t care about these things. I prefer to be in a quiet place where no one is disturbing me. But we should work with circumstances, as Dzogchen practitioners. Circumstances are showing that it is necessary for me to travel and teach. So, it is very important you must understand that.
People who are doing Santi Maha Sangha today, nobody knows, that even if you have no idea to become a teacher, maybe you can also become a teacher. You should work with circumstances, not with your intention that you want to be a teacher. When you become a teacher, you must know then how you should work. If you are creating your personal position, all our teachers in the Dzogchen Community, Santi Maha Sangha teachers, Yantra Yoga teachers and teachers of the Vajra Dance and some other specific teachers, if you have the idea that you want to prepare and develop your position, please leave. You should not do anything with Dzogchen Community. This is not the principle of the Dzogchen Community. If you are dedicating totally for the Dzogchen Community, that means that the people who are interested for the future will evolve. Then everything you are doing is welcome. So it is really very important to be present. Sometimes I observe our qualified teachers, and some are manifesting their personal interest a little. This is not good. We don’t want anything of this kind created in the Dzogchen Community. Then it is better they leave the Dzogchen Community.
I don’t think I will live for a very long time. In order to finish more of this training of Santi Maha Sangha, I am always trying to live longer. This is my contribution for the Dzogchen Community and the Dzogchen teaching; that it continue purely on this globe. I have very much confidence in the Dzogchen teaching, with this knowledge, that it really contributes to the peace of the world. This is the best thing that exists on this globe. I am convinced of that and I am working for that. You also know that. So that is the reason I say we all have that responsibility because we are on the Dzogchen path. One by one we are learning Dzogchen knowledge.
In Santi Maha Sangha, for example, it says that we that we are learning the principle of Dzogchen Semde, Dzogchen Longde, and then Upadesha – everything. Even if there is no different understanding or knowledge presented in these three series, it becomes more complete, and we become rich in that knowledge. So, for that reason, I prepare Santi Maha Sangha trainings, books, and we always continue. Everybody should collaborate for that. It is not sufficient that I prepare books and sometimes I give Santi Maha Sangha trainings. The training is to produce people who have that kind of knowledge. When there is this knowledge, then it multiplies.
We are not missionaries, so we are not making publicity. In Sutra teaching they consider that being a missionary is positive. In the Dzogchen teaching it is negative; being a missionary means you are conditioning people. Even if that person is not participating, and you tell them to do like this or that, it is negative. You should respect others’ dimensions, how they are. It is not necessary to make publicity. Instead of making publicity, I am always saying in the Dzogchen teaching we have the six liberation method where we chant or sing mantras, and if a being hears it we can make a cause of the liberation for small animals, for example, and others, even if they have no intention to follow that teaching or to be on a path. This is an example, it is very important in daily life that we work that way. This is much better than publicity. Instead of publicity, we should pay respect. This is very important. Each person has his or her dimension, even animals. We know they have their dimension and we pay respect. This is part of our awareness, how we should work with circumstances. And it is very important that you are all becoming good Dzogchen practitioners. This is what I need.
So, you remember, it doesn’t mean that you are becoming a good Dzogchen practitioner if you are doing some formal practice every day. Of course if you are a Dzogchen practitioner, you know very well that formal practice is also useful. You can participate, and you can also develop that. But that is not the main point. The main point you already know, for Dzogchen practitioners, is to be in the state of contemplation and integrate. Integration is most important; integration means we are present. Some people ask what the method is of learning to be present. The method is that you are not distracted.
You already know that we are always distracted. I am always giving this advice: All Westerners know how to drive a car. So, when you are driving a car, you are present. When you were learning to drive a car, you remember how difficult it was. But after a little while, you drove and there was no difficulty. So in the same way, also, is being present. First you should learn, it is not so easy. Even if it is not easy, if you learn, then it becomes easy. This is not only about driving a car, but everything. You can learn to be present.
For example, when you have free time, dedicate it to the practice of being present. For some hours, for example, in one day, you take a commitment. You commit to not being distracted. Not being distracted means always knowing what you are doing. This is, in the teaching, called “being present”. Distraction does not mean how we think of it in general; it’s a little different. For example, if you want to be present for one hour, you start in this moment. After a little while, in your mind, you are thinking something. Or you remember that you should do something. In that moment, you must not be distracted with that. You remember: “Oh, I am thinking, I remembered some things”. In that moment you are applying that. But you know, “Oh, now I am remembering. Now I am applying that.” And then you finish applying that. You know – now it’s finished. So, you go that way until the end of one hour. You succeed and you learn how to be present for one hour. After that, you are free. But the next day, for example, you do it another time. Two times, three times, you do that way, and it becomes much easier to be present. At the end, you don’t need very much effort to be present. When you know you want to be present, you continue.
Then you remember everything and together with being present, it becomes very easy. Some people wonder how they can think and judge if they are always being present and checking. For example, someone says they have many complicated things to do. Someone else has to go to the office. There are many things to do. People wonder how they can apply this and think and talk with people. You can talk, you can think, you can do everything. When you are driving a car, you also think, you talk with people, but you are not distracted. In the same way, you can think and talk. There is no problem. When you really become more familiar being present, for hours and hours you can be in that presence, talking, working, etc., and it is not necessary that you are distracted. When you become something like that, being relatively present, you can really integrate many things, particularly mental concepts. Slowly you develop with your aspect of the energy level and you become a good Dzogchen practitioner. Everybody can try and learn that way.
Ok, these are the most important for this part of the teaching related to attitude. In the end there are some verses and a text I wrote for my students, so that they can easily have that kind of knowledge of the background. If you are trying to learn and you are integrating this knowledge in you, then it can arise concretely. This is the principle of the teaching and something very difficult to get and meet. So you know that and then you apply. That means you know how precious it [the teaching] is. When we have this fantastic teaching, and we are in that knowledge, there is no need to sacrifice or have difficulties in order to have realization. Also, we are not having realization only for ourselves, but we also apply benefits for all sentient beings. Then automatically everything manifests easily. That means that everybody finds his/her real nature and that realization. This is a dedication for all sentient beings to have this realization. These verses I wrote down in the style of a poem. There is the same syllable for each four verses. For example, the first says, A, A, A, A. The second, LA, LA, LA, LA. Then, another, also, LA, LA, LA, LA. Then when you put it altogether, A LA LA, A LA LA, it means fantastic. Then, E E E E. Then, MA MA MA MA. Then, HO HO HO HO. E MA HO, you know. This is a way of writing a poetic style.
So, this is my work for this First Level Santi Maha Sangha training. It is very useful for practitioners, and our Santi Maha Sangha people, because you don’t need to learn so many arguments from books. The most important points are concentrated here. If you know what is explained here, you are also becoming a scholar. You need sufficient background and knowledge. But not only that, you must integrate in the knowledge of Dzogchen. So, this you should know and you do your best.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu approved the use of the material from the Santi Maha Sangha training.
Transcribed by Vladimir Smirnov
Edited by Naomi Zeitz