An excerpt from Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s teachings during the Atiyoga Retreat, Dzamling Gar, December 30, 2017. The final part of the afternoon session
There was a very famous Tibetan master called Patrul Rinpoche who wrote a book called Khepa Śrī Gyalpoi Khyechö (mkhas pa shrI rgyal po’i khyad chos). When I was in college my teacher gave this teaching to all the students at the college. Later I discovered that this is a very important text because it is the commentary of the Three Statements of Garab Dorje.
How are these Three Statements of Guru Garab Dorje explained? First of all it explains in what way we should receive direct introduction: the Teacher gives the introduction to the students, they apply that method, and then somehow, sooner or later, they discover their real nature. If someone has good karma or good fortune, when they receive direct introduction they can discover their real nature, but this is not so easy for everybody. At least we can remember what the Teacher did and repeat that.
Patrul Rinpoche explains very clearly how we should do this. The text says we should relax which means that if we have any kinds of thoughts or emotions, we should recognize that they are related to our mind. Particularly when some strong thoughts arise, we are easily distracted by them. When we are relaxed and observe these kinds of thoughts arising, at that moment we shout a very strong PHAT.
PHAT is a kind of mantra that has the potentiality to eliminate negativities. There is an explanation of the non-dual nature of this sound consisting of the two letters PHA and T. PHA is a Tibetan letter that is a consonant. T is not a consonant because it is only combined with the PHA. If T was also a complete consonant we would say PHATA, but PHAT is only a single sound.
Of these two letters, PHA represents concrete essence, which, in Vajrayana, is symbolized by the vajra. T it is not complete and represents energy. When we consider Samantabhadra/Samantabhadri in yab and yum union, Samantabhadra sits in a precise meditation position and represents method. Samantabhadri is on top of Samantabhadra, not because she manifests her position but because she represents the energy of Samantabhadra. In the real sense, Samantabhadra/ Samantabhadri are non-dual in that state, just like the non-dual nature of kadag and lhundrub. The sound of PHAT represents that.
When we use PHAT in practice it has the potentiality to communicate to all sentient beings, particularly to powerful beings like the Eight Classes, and so we can eliminate negativities through the use of PHAT. When we relax, thoughts arise and we pronounce PHAT strongly, how do we feel? There is no concept; we are totally in emptiness. This is the function of PHAT.
When they first learn about this, some practitioners think that since PHAT is good for eliminating thoughts during practice, they should shout “PHAT!” each time thoughts arise when they are walking in the street or doing other activities. That is wrong. We should pay respect to the transmission. We only use PHAT in our practice. For instance, when we do Chöd practice, with PHAT we invite, we offer, we transform; we do many things with PHAT. So there is a very precise principle, and we use it in that way. Otherwise, if we shout PHAT everywhere according to how we feel, we can create many problems.
In Tibetan we have a saying, “Drenyal phaṭgi lang”(‘dre nyal phaṭ gyis lang), which means a bad spirit is sleeping. When this spirit is sleeping it doesn’t create problems, but when we shout PHAT it wakes up because the sound of PHAT has the potentiality of the mantra. Then this bad spirit comes to ask if we called it and what we want. It talks to us but we don’t even see it and it becomes more and more angry and creates problems for us. This is a Tibetan saying, not particularly related to the teaching, but this aspect of the teaching corresponds to that.
We cannot use PHAT at any moment, but when we try to get in our real nature, then it can be necessary to use it. When we shout PHAT strongly, there are no thoughts, and before thoughts arise again, we are in our naked presence. When we repeat it once, twice, three times somehow we gradually discover that.
In this way Patrul Rinpoche explained that when we have strong thoughts, we should pronounce PHAT. When we sound PHAT, the real condition of the dharmakaya, the state of emptiness, arises within us. Dharmakaya or dharmadhatu refers to the state of emptiness. Once we understand that we have been present in the dharmakaya we are very happy and consider it to be fantastic. Patrul Rinpoche used EMAHO, which means “fantastic”.
In the traditional Tibetan way, when we pray to Guru Padmasambhava, for example, at the beginning we have EMAHO meaning “wonderful.” Here we repeat EMAHO to say that “it is fantastic”, and then we chant these syllables.
Patrul Rinpoche’s words have been translated in that way but this is not the correct translation. We relax and when a thought arises and we shout “PHAT” there is the experience of the dharmakaya and then we repeat EMAHO. But Patrul Rinpoche did not say that EMAHO should be repeated like a prayer, over and over. After the PHAT we are in the dharmakaya, it is fantastic and we can understand that. This is Patrul Rinpoche’s method of the Khepa Śrī Gyalpoi Khyechö.
Second statement of Guru Garab Dorje
The second statement of Guru Garab Dorje is not remaining in doubt. Most people understand or decide that their real nature is the state of Dzogchen. However when we “decide” something it means that our minds are deciding and this is wrong understanding. Many translations are like that, but in the real sense it does not mean that. In Tibetan, there are different words such as thagchö (thog gcod), which refers to when we do the practice of Chöd. Machig Labdron called this practice Chöd but what does it mean? We know that everything is unreal. Whatever we see with our dualistic vision, whether good or bad, everything is illusion. The practice of cutting through the root of this illusion is called Chöd, which means we are doing something with our mind.
There are two Tibetan words: chö (gcod) and chö (chod). Chö (chod) does not mean thagchö. Thagchö and chö (gcod) have two different meanings. Chö (gcod) means breaking itself. With chö (chod) no one is cutting or doing any action. In the Dzogchen Teaching when we apply that method, then experiences arise and we do not remain in doubt. So, when we are studying we should study in a perfect way. In any case, the Three Statements of Guru Garab Dorje are very important.
Relatively, when we do practice, we should at least apply Ati Guruyoga and with that experience we know in which direction we should go. Otherwise, we may become like some Vajrayana practitioners who only realize the development stage – the visualization doesn’t need a lot of effort for our dimension to manifest as a mandala while we manifest like deities. If we do not develop the accomplishment stage, we have not integrated our energy level in that manifestation and only have a kind of realization of the development stage.
The story of Khenpo Samten Lodrö
There is a very nice story from East Tibet, my country, about this. There is an area called Trayab (brag yab) and one year the crops were very bad and people had no food. On the top of the mountain a practitioner from the Sakyapa tradition had been doing a retreat of the development stage for a long time. He had a very strong ability to transform into the whole mandala of Hevajra but he still had not arrived at the accomplishment stage.
Some people knew that this practitioner had accumulated a lot of barley for many years because the weather is cold in the mountains and you can keep barley for a long time without it going bad. The local people went to him and asked him to lend them some of his barley saying that they would give it back when they had some crops. This practitioner refused to lend the barley saying that they could walk around and find barley elsewhere while he could not because he was committed to doing a retreat in that place.
One night a group of people, who were not very good people, went and killed this practitioner very quickly. They were afraid that if they did not kill him quickly, he could still do some magic. Then they took all his barley. However, even though this practitioner had done the development stage for a very long time, at the moment they killed him he was very angry and when a person is angry as they are dying, they can receive the influence of the class of gyalpo. They become like servants of the gyalpo for many centuries and so this practitioner became a very powerful bad spirit.He created a great many problems in our area and brought many important teachers and prominent people into his group when they died.
Then Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul, two very famous lamas of that period, affirmed that the bad spirit Trayab Drenyen(brag yab ‘dre ngan) was very dangerous and should be conquered and his energy controlled. In a place called Chusumdo (chu gsum mdo), where there is a confluence of three rivers, they built a very big stupa under which they tried to place all the energy of that bad spirit. However, after they finished the consecration, they discovered that the bad spirit was not under the stupa and was still creating many problems.
In the area where I lived there was a big monastery, where the King of the Derge lived, that was considered to be one of the most important Sakyapa monasteries. I lived in this monastery from when I was three years old until I was almost nine. In the monastery there was a khenpo, a Sakyapa and a practitioner of Yamantaka, who was very powerful.
One day some people invited him to come down from Derge Gönchen.On his way down he saw Trayab Drenyen surrounded by many important lamas and other people who had died and they were coming up. This Khenpo, who was called Samten Lodrö, thought, “Oh, this is good opportunity. I have the potentiality of Yamantaka at a very high level. Today I need to conquer this bad spirit.”
When Khenpo Samten Lodrö arrived quite near this place, he manifested a gigantic Yamantaka because he wanted to conquer this bad spirit. The bad spirit noticed this Yamantaka and manifested an even bigger Hevajra. In the Sakyapa tradition Yamantaka is a secondary practice, but Hevajra is a main practice. Then Samten Lodrö was upset, “How is it possible that one who has the capacity of the development stage can manifest like this and become a bad spirit?” and he could only feel compassion for him. But he understood that he would not have been able to conquer him. In that moment all these manifestations disappeared.
I read this biography of Khenpo Samten Lodrö written by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, I am not inventing it. So, you see, even though someone may have a very high level of the development stage in Vajrayana if they still have not integrated their energy they have not arrived at that non-dual state of the development and accomplishment stage.
When we are doing practice it is very important to understand that the final goal of all Teachings is to go beyond limitations. When we get in that non-dual state of kadag and lhundrub, the non-duality of mind and the nature of mind, we are in the state of contemplation. In the term saltong yerme(gsal stong dbyer med), sal (gsal) means clarity, what manifests, and tong (stong) means emptiness, also non-dual. When we are in the non-dual state, then we have that realization because our real condition is non-dual. When we study intellectually we cannot discover that.
View, meditation, behavior – tawa, gompa, chöpa
In the Dzogchen Teaching we have our tawa, gompa, chöpa.Tawa means point of view, not looking outside or analyzing. If we remain in the dualistic condition, only analyzing things, we will never get in our real nature. We need to understand how our real nature is by observing ourselves. In the Dzogchen Teaching the correct tawa for understanding is to discover our real nature.
On the other hand in all the Buddhist monasteries of the Sutra teaching, they want to make their tawastable and try to establish that by discussing how things can be understood in an intellectual way.
Gompa means meditation. In Gampopa’s Four Naljor(rnal ‘byor) or Four Yogas, at the end he used the term gomme (sgom med), whichmeans that when we understand how our real nature is there is no meditation. In the Dzogchen Teaching, in the same way we say lhundrub, which means we discover that our quality is self-perfected and that its nature is emptiness.
Then there is chöpa or attitude. Whether we follow Sutra teaching or Vajrayana teaching, we should learn what our chöpa is, what we can and cannot do. For example, in the Dzogchen Teaching there is no chöpa that we should learn because rules and reasoning are all related with mind and do not correspond. And even if they correspond in that moment to the circumstances, or in time and space, they do not correspond completely.
In the Kangyur there are many volumes called Dulwa (vinaya,‘dul ba), meaning that at the time of the Buddha different rules of behavior were established one by one, day by day.People who are following Buddhist teaching think that they should do things in a certain way, with the correct attitude, but how can we understand if they [those rules of behavior ed.] really correspond to our time? That was 2000 years ago. Now even if only two or three years have passed, things do not necessarily correspond to the situation today, which is related to time. For instance, in the East we may consider something positive that is not positive in the Western world. And something that is considered negative in the West may not be considered negative in the East. Everything is related to the attitude of the country, the way of seeing, and so on, therefore no kind of rule really corresponds.
In the Dzogchen Teaching, which kind of behavior corresponds to the attitude or chöpa? We should try to be present and work with circumstances. The Dzogchen attitude is that we should work with circumstances in the best way possible. These things are very important.
In the relative condition, when we study, we follow the three logics and if they correspond, then we believe something is real. The three logics are what we see, hear, and touch when our senses have contact with an object. They are something concrete. For example, if I show you this [crystal, ed.], you know that it is a crystal. Or this vajra. You know what the objects are because you can see them. Or if you hear something, you can discover what it is. This is direct logic. If there is direct logic, we believe.
Then there is also indirect logic. We can understand that there is a body of water in a place when we see water birds flying there. This is indirect logic. We cannot see the water, but we can understand there is water nearby.
Then people talk about the logic of belief. What do you believe? If those who are discussing are Buddhists, they believe the words of Buddha. If we ask why, the Buddhist will say because Buddha said it in this book and he accepts it. This is the logic of belief. If I speak with Muslim people and say, “Buddha said that”, it has no any value for them. For Muslims, the Koran is logic. Even if I don’t believe that, the Muslim does.
So, when we establish things through these three types of logic we believe them to be true. In Dzogchen, this approach does not have much value.
Transcription by Anna Rose
Edited by Naomi Zeitz and Liz Granger
Tibetan with the kind assistance of Fabian Sanders and Adriano Clemente