The Anuyoga System and Dzogchen Guruyoga

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

An excerpt from the first day of the Song of the Vajra Retreat, Hong Kong, May 16, 2012. Continued from issue 162 of The Mirror.

Rinpoche teaching in Hong Kong in 2012. Courtesy of Jing from China.

Anuyoga is a Vajrayana teaching originally transmitted by Guru Padmasambhava. He also transmitted superior Anuttara Tantras such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra and others. Later on at the time of the Kagyupa teacher Marpa and the Sakyapa translators, those Tantras still existed in India and were retranslated. For instance, we have two kinds of translations of the Guhyasamaja Tantra: one is the ancient translation and other is the modern translation. The meaning has not changed but the way of translating and using words is a little different. Modern translations are presented in a more intellectual way while the ancient translations concentrate very much on the essence, this is the only difference.

Guru Padmasambhava also taught  another method of Vajrayana transformation called Anuyoga. This tradition has only continued in the Nyingmapa school, not in other traditions, because when Marpa and the Sakyapa translators went to India, this teaching did not exist there. At the time of Guru Padmasambhava, he said that he received this teaching from some teachers from India. However, the origin of this teaching was a country called Trusha. Guru Padmasambhava advised his students to go there in the future to translate all the original Anuyoga texts. It doesn’t mean that Guru Padmasambhava taught an Anuyoga tantra but he transmitted knowledge of Anuyoga. Later, his students, and particularly Nub Sangye Yeshe, a very famous translator, went to Trusha. In any case all the Anuyoga original Tantras were translated into Tibetan from the language of Trusha, not from Sanskrit, or from Indian languages or from the language of Oddiyana. 

For this reason Trusha is very important as the origin of the Anuyoga  teaching. However, Trusha was not Oddiyana, not the famous Shambhala or even Shang Shung. Trusha was located in Russia, in present day Kyrgyzstan. We can understand that from these teachings and from their histories. However, later on, all those places in central Asia, including Trusha, Oddiyana and Shambhala were invaded by the Muslims and disappeared. 

Some of my Russian students live near the area that was Trusha and they have heard people say that there are still many statues of Bodhisattvas that can be found there, just like in Afghanistan. This is just a little history to give you an idea, but what is important is the Anuyoga teaching method. 

When we do Dzogchen practice, if we use some methods of transformation we always apply the Anuyoga system rather than the official Anuttara Tantra system because the latter is a little difficult for Dzogchen practitioners. When we do Anuttara Tantra practice we have to read the sadhana and start by thinking that everything is emptiness. Then we read how to develop the seed syllable of the elements from emptiness, and how to develop our dimension of the pure mandala.

When we finish constructing the whole mandala with its seed syllables we have to consider how we manifest as the main deity. What does it look like, what color, which kind of ornaments, how many arms, how many legs, and so on? This is called the development stage; we read and develop the visualization mentally. When we have succeeded with that visualization then we have to visualize the chakras, channels and so on internally and try to integrate with them. So the method of practicing is gradual, and we develop it until we are in the state of the non-dual two stages, working with our minds. We may spend years and years applying our minds, not going directly beyond mind. In Vajrayana this is, in general, the higher Tantra system. 

Anuyoga uses the transformation method, however, it explains how our real nature is. There is no difference between Anuyoga and Dzogchen. Anuyoga explains how our real nature is the three primordial wisdoms: essence, nature and energy. What is essence? It is emptiness, kadag. What is nature? Clarity. What is energy? Without interruption. When we explain about energy we talk about three primordial potentialities: sound and light and rays. Since the beginning all sentient beings have these perfected potentialities. But even though we have these potentialities from the beginning, we are ignorant of having that knowledge and because of this ignorance, there is no benefit. We are always in samsara. 

Anuyoga explains this in the same way as Dzogchen. How can we get in that state because in order to realize it we need to be in that state. We cannot realize it simply by being in our mental concepts. Those are not our real nature, just like reflections are not the real nature of the potentiality of the mirror. And so we use the method of transformation. 

Transformation has the idea of impure and pure vision. In Anuyoga we also have impure vision or the relative condition, but for transforming it according to Anuyoga we do not need to go step by step in a gradual way because there is no reason to construct anything. Since the beginning we have that self-perfected quality. What is important is that we receive the transmission. When we use transformation we consider our dimension to be like the pure dimension of a mandala. When we receive the introduction from the teacher, he or she shows us a mandala and then we imagine it. In the same way when we transform into the deity, the teacher shows us what the deity looks like, we receive that transmission and have that idea, and  instantly we are in that state. This is the Anuyoga system. For instance, a mirror has infinite potentialities so when reflections appear in the mirror, they do not need to develop slowly, from the feet gradually up to the head. The reflections appear immediately. In the same way everybody has that potentiality from the beginning and this is the reason we transform instantly in Anuyoga. 

Of course it is very important to receive that transmission. Even if we have learned transformation in a gradual way, Anuttara Tantra style, when we are thinking about how many arms there are, we are not thinking about how many legs. When we are thinking about which kind of ornaments, we are not thinking about how many heads the manifestation has. In the end we need to have a global idea, like a picture. For example, when we recall a very famous painting, we have an idea about it but we don’t recall all the details concretely. 

When we study logic in college, this kind of concept is called tonchi. Ton refers to everything we see and that our senses have contact with. Chi means a global idea that we have in our mind. When we say “horse”, immediately we have an idea of a horse but we don’t need to have all the details about a horse in our head. We do visualization that way with Anuyoga.

After we have received transmission, we use, for instance, HUM, the seed syllable of the Vajra family, sounding and visualizing the HUM to transform instantly, so when we chant the mantra and do the visualization it works. But we are not doing it in a gradual way. This is called the Anuyoga system and it is essential that we know this because in the Dzogchen teaching, all practices use the Anuyoga system.

So this is more or less a little idea of what you should learn from the Dzogchen teaching. However, the indispensable essence of the teaching is called Guruyoga. Guruyoga is a general name in all Vajrayana and each tradition has its own Guruyoga. This is because we receive initiations from a teacher, not from Avalokitesvara, or Green Tara, or Kalachakra, and so on. The teacher is called the Guru and so Guruyoga means we are in the state of what our teacher has transmitted to us. 

In order to apply that, different traditions use different ways. Some may use different kinds of  complicated visualizations, or different kinds of invocations, or use many things involving mental concepts for a long time and then remain in the essence only for a short time before finishing that practice. However, practicing in this way Guruyoga does not become very important. In the Dzogchen teaching we go directly to the essence so the way of doing Guruyoga in Dzogchen is different from others. We shouldn’t go after names because while the name is always the same the substance is not. 

How should we do Guruyoga in the Dzogchen teaching? We visualize a thigle, a five colored circle with the Tibetan letter A at the center. The letter A is the origin of all sounds; it represents sound. We have our primordial potentiality of sound and light and rays. Sound develops from  secret sound, which becomes inner sound, which becomes outer sound. We can understand outer sound because immediately we have the idea of hearing something with our ears. Outer sound is related to the material aspect. However, inner sound is something we cannot hear with our ears and may only discover through our energy or through vibrations. Secret sound is still more essential and when we discover our real nature in that moment we also discover secret sound. 

The symbol of sound is the letter A, which is white and represents light. Then the A develops into five colors. For Guruyoga we use the form of a circle because when there is any kind of potentiality its dimension is represented by a circle.

Guru Padmasambhava explained about the thigle chenpo, or total thigle, which means everything is in a perfect state, like a thigle, with no corners. If there is any kind of corner then it is no longer a thigle but a triangle, a square, or another shape. That is an example of limitations. Being beyond any kind of limitation is symbolized by the circle. 

We do this visualization at the center of our body because it is a symbol of our three primordial potentialities. It is not really our three primordial potentialities but appears in that way in order to give us an idea about them because we are living in our dualistic vision. For instance, we know that Samantabhadra appears as a human body sitting crosslegged, without ornaments, and we consider this figure to be the primordial Buddha. In the real sense, it symbolizes the Dharmakaya. The Dharmakaya is beyond form and color but this figure gives us an idea of the dimension of the Dharmakaya. We are human beings and live in the dimension of human beings and so Samantabhadra manifests with a human body. The color blue represents emptiness, just like the deep blue, empty sky. The figure is without ornaments because it is not a manifestation but simply represents the real condition of the Dharmakaya.

In the same way we also use this symbol of the thigle, and visualizing it we sound A. Why do we sound A? If we sound it while doing the visualization, the visualization becomes more alive. It is not essential that we always sound the A. We should work with circumstances and if there is no possibility to sound it, we don’t. We simply do the visualization. If we want to feel it a little more concretely we can also exhale deeply with the A. 

We start by using our minds, first of all thinking that we want to do Guruyoga, then using mind to do the visualization. However, we cannot continue always thinking that there is a white A in the thigle. If we continue that way we are not in the state of Guruyoga. In order to be in the state of Guruyoga after we have done the visualization we relax. Relaxing doesn’t mean that we cancel our visualization. In the  development stage in the Vajrayana teaching, when we have realized the visualization, we don’t need any effort or need to continue to think that we are the deity. We can just be in that presence. It’s the same with Guruyoga. We are just in that presence and relax in that state. This is the state of Guruyoga.

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