Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
(Explanation of how important and indispensable the teaching of Thung-mong is in our relative condition, and how we start with the Refuge, cultivating Bodhicitta and so on.)
Importance of Correct Melody
When we do a practice, for example, like the thun, at least Guruyoga, the way we start with the melody is how we should continue. We should not change after a little while. For example, when we are doing Ati Guruyoga, I start “Ema…”, with this tone. When you are finishing “RA RA RA” etc., you are all lower. That means you have changed the tone somehow. I didn’t change it. For example in the thun you start with “Aaaa”, and then you continue with this melody, not “Aaa” [higher tone] or “Aaaa” [lower tone]. This is not the correct way because I have never heard that we change the tone in the middle. Most of the melodies that we use in practices, I learned mostly in my dreams. I try to do my best to sing how I learned and I apply in that way and I also teach my students that way. So, when we are following any kind of teaching, when you change and modify it, it doesn’t work because it’s related with transmission.
That’s why when we are doing practice, for example, like the Ganapuja, I don’t like it when someone else is leading and I am following because I get nervous. We have done these practices for thirty years and forty years. Even if you have not learned how to discover your real nature, at least you should have learned after many years how we do practice.
So, it is not really the main point, but it is related with transmission. We should always pay respect to the transmission. I want to explain this morning one of the most important aspect of the teaching is when we say thung-mong and thung-min; these are two words I wrote here.
What does thung-mong mean? Thung-mong means, for example, that the teaching of Buddha is for all sentient beings. It is not only for human beings, but also for animals, if they can understand, but animals cannot understand easily. That’s why, for example, in the biography and history of Buddha, it is said that Buddha manifested sometimes like a bird, sometimes a fish, etc. Buddha manifested in that way because if even we human beings cannot understand well the dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, or nirmanakaya manifestations, how can animals understand them? But if you are a small ant or a monkey and a teacher becomes a small monkey or an ant, it is much easier to communicate. Because animals have their own way of communicating and making things understood, that is like a language, etc. So, this is called thung-mong; it means the teaching is for all sentient beings, not only human beings or monasteries of monks and nuns.
You can observe that, for any kind of teaching we are following, not only for the Dzogchen Teaching, even if, in general, I am not explaining the thung mong aspect very much, we should apply thung mong and thung min in the correct way.
For example, if you want to do a practice like Yantra Yoga, it is related to the physical level and the energy level. You see, in Yantra Yoga we also have the open part of Yantra Yoga, which everyone can learn. There is also a part of Yantra Yoga that cannot be learned by everyone, it has to be learned and applied in a specific way. This is the distinction between thung-mong and thung-min. Thung-min means it is not for everybody.
In the same way, if you practice the Vajra Dance, in the Vajra Dance we have the Dance of the Three Vajras. We teach the Dance of the Three Vajras so that one can understand the essence of the body, speech and mind. Even in the Santi Maha Sangha I prepared for children, we teach and help them to understand OM, A, HUM, which represent the three existences. Of course, we have also the six syllables HA A HA SHA SA MA; these are more elevated and related to the state of contemplation.
One of the very important practice in Dzogchen and Anuyoga is the Purification of the Six Lokas. When we say A SU NRI TRI PRE DU, these syllables are the essence of the relative condition of our dualistic vision. We can get in the real state of that condition, for example through HA A HA SHA SA MA. So, these syllables have the quality of troldrug, which means the six liberations. For example, seeing those syllables makes cause for liberation, hearing them makes the cause for liberation, as in for in thödrol, tagdrol or nyongdrol.
These are related with our five senses and then all together they become liberation through the six senses. The senses are also the cause of samsara, just like the emotions. So, in that way, when we are pronouncing these syllables after we have received that transmission, they have that kind of function. For that reason also in Dance of the Vajra we have the six syllables of the dance.
These six syllables are not to keep particularly secret. So, when we make open, public these dances, everyone can learn and study. When we go a little deeper, we enter the Song of Vajra, for example. The Song of Vajra is the essence of the Dzogchen Teaching. So, you need to know its real sense, how it is related with the transmission, and how it is related with our existence. That is related with the Dzogchen Teaching, so we cannot diffuse it everywhere. So, this is called thung-min which
means not for everybody.
So, these two aspects of thung-mong and thung-min are very important. Why I am explaining this today? Because also in the Drathalgyur it is explained that this is important when we teach to all sentient beings. Particularly in the Longsal teaching, you know I am giving that teaching, there are three root texts of the Longsal at the beginning and thung-mong and thung-min are separated. I have given Dzogchen Teachings for forty years, and I have followed that in a perfect way. I have not disregarded that.
For that reason I tell my students who are Santi Maha Sangha instructors, “You should understand which kind of teaching you can teach, and which kind of teaching you cannot teach.” Of course we have not yet prepared a project, a program of how we can teach these, but the main thing is that we are going into this area, and that is something important.
For example, also in Dzogchen, we can receive the Dzogchen Teaching which is tung-min in general, not in any particular way. In Dzogchen there are three series —semde, longde, and upadesha — related to the statement of Guru Garab Dorje, so in this case we keep these very secret. We need to keep secret in order to receive those Teachings; we need to request and then we check the persons and after checking them, they can receive teachings like thögal and yangti.
People who have no knowledge or understanding, they think, “Oh, thögal and yangti are very special methods”, and they can have realization quickly. “The teacher doesn’t want to teach these methods to everybody. This is the reason for keeping them secret.” People have this idea, I know very well.
For example, when we went to visit Mount Kailash many years ago, we traveled from Lhasa in the direction of the Mt Kailash and on the way we we needed to cross the river that is the origin of the Brahmaputra. The river was very big and we couldn’t cross it. There was no bridge, so we had to cross on boats. We had many cars, many people, etc.
Then we waited there for the river to go down, and we were told we needed to wait one week; but after one week the river did not become smaller. While we were waiting there, there were many people who came to our retreat, and some of them asked me, “Oh,in these days we are free and you should teach thögal to us.” I said I could not teach thögal in that way. For teaching thögal I must understand if people have a base; knowledge, or not. So, when I refused to teach they were not satisfied. They thought my character is not very open and generous.
So we couldn’t go directly from Lhasa to Mt Kailash. Later we turned around and went to Chinghai, and from Chinghai we went to Western Tibet. We were traveling for many days on two big buses. There were many people in those buses. We also had Tibetan and Chinese drivers. A person had a thögal text translated by a Chinese person living in California. Someone had a copy. Every day that person read the text in the bus using a megaphone and many people were satisfied. You see, they thought, “Oh, even though Namkhai Norbu doesn’t want to teach this, we discovered.” You see, this is the attitude of the human being.
When I follow a teaching, I know why I follow a teaching – for having realization. We can only have realization when we follow a teaching in a perfect way; in a correct way. For that reason, without knowing the condition of an individual, it is not so easy we teach this kind of teaching. Then some people are teaching these teachings and when, for example, I am not teaching them then these people say, “Oh, come to me and I will teach you.” These people are not thinking about realization. They are thinking to get more students, “my students”.
Most people don’t understand and they are jumping there. I am always asking my students that to be really serious and open their eyes and do their best for following the teaching. Otherwise, we create so many problems. For example, someone is saying, “Oh, there is a very important lama, a reincarnation” and they do not know who it is, but they go and receive teaching. After one or two years they discover, “Oh, that teacher is not serious.” In that moment they are criticizing. You already received some kind of teaching and even it is not so perfect, it is a Vajrayana teaching. You have already created a relationship of the Vajra. So, even if you discover that the teacher was not serious, you should not criticize. If you criticize you are accumulating problems for you, not for that teacher. So, when I say this they do not accept and are continually criticizing.
Nine Vehicles According to Drathalgyur Tantra
So, it is very important that we open our eyes and follow the teaching in the correct way. When we are learning the Dzogchen Teaching, when we are learning tantra or instructions, first of all there is an explanation of how that teacher must be, how the student must be, and how their relationship must be. This is very serious, a very, very important point. So, for that reason it is very important to know which kind of Teachings we can receive. When we say Dzogchen Teaching, you know very well what the Dzogchen Teaching is; Dzogchen Teaching is the essence of the all Teachings. It is not only the essence of Buddhist Teachings, but of all Teachings.
We can understand that from the explanation given in the root text of the Dzogchen Teaching – the Drathalgyur Tantra – the most ancient origin of the teaching. In Buddhist tradition, for example, in the Nyingmapa, Anuyoga and Dzogchen Teaching we explain that we have Nine Vehicles. What is a vehicle? A vehicle is just the name of the teaching of the Buddha; the most important and complete teaching is called a vehicle. If you want to get to some place very far and difficult to arrive to, then if you have a car or airplane you can reach your destination. At least, if we have a bicycle we can reach our destination much earlier then if we are walking, for example. For that reason, the symbol of the Buddhist Teaching is dharmachakra. Chakra means vehicle.
When we classify something as a vehicle it means it is complete. Complete means has the consideration of how is the base, the path and the realization. In Buddhist tradition, in general, in Nyingmapa, etc., when we say nine vehicles, we say: “shravaka, pratyeka and bodhisattva”. This means that in Sutra the vehicles are divided in three: Hinayana divided into two (shravaka and pratyeka) and the Mahayana. Then we have the three lower or outer tantras. Then we have three inner tantras: Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga. That is presented officially in the Nyingmapa tradition.
I studied the Drathalgyur Tantra very well, and the Drathalgyur Tantra does not present the first three vehicles as just mentioned. It does not divide Hinayana in two vehicles. Hinayana is considered only one vehicle, but before Hinayana it presents a vehicle called jigten lha mi’i thegpa. Jigten means worldly in general. Lha means deity, that some people believe in. Mi means human, humans judge, think like in philosophy; they say, “The final goal must be something like this”, like we study scientifically. All these kinds of aspects are considered the base, path and fruit – forming one vehicle. In this case, we can understand that we have so many different kinds of religions, not only Buddhist, there are many different kinds of philosophies, etc. So, all of these are considered to be the first of the nine vehicles.
The final goal, the real essence of the Nine Vehicles, is Atiyoga. That is our real nature. So, this is how it is explained in the Dratalgyur Tantra, for example. You see, the Dzogchen Teaching is the essence of all the teachings, the final goal. We have all these different vehicles because we have different circumstances; time and space are different. In these dimensions the capacity of the individual is also different. For that reason we have different kinds of vehicles, but all the vehicles in the real sense deals with topics: the relative condition and how the real nature is.
When it becomes easier to get in our real nature, the vehicle we use is a little higher vehicle. If we have less capacity and it is more difficult to get in that knowledge, the method is lower. So, it is very important to know what thung-mong and thung-min mean. When I say, “Oh, I am teaching Dzogchen Teaching”, it doesn’t mean everybody who follows my retreats has the knowledge of Dzogchen. It also doesn’t mean I am communicating all Dzogchen Teaching. I am asking people that even if you cannot understand all the explanations, at least you should understand Ati Guruyoga. The application is also very simple, so you try to apply Ati Guruyoga. I am insisting on that because in the relative condition we have no capacity to understand how our real nature of the state of Dzogchen is. We cannot understand the state of Dzogchen only by judging, thinking or through logic and analysis, we cannot get in that knowledge.
Transcribed by Anna Rose
Edited by Naomi Zeitz with the kind assistance of Elio Guarisco