The Principle of Transmission

An Explanation by Adriano Clemente

on the  Anniversary of Adzom Drukpa, November 10, 2020

principle transmissionGood day to everyone everywhere. Today we are going to do the practice of Guruyoga for the anniversary of Adzom Drukpa, but before that, I will explain a little about the principle of transmission and how we do this practice.

Rinpoche started to give this transmission of Guruyoga around 2000 in order to give the opportunity to people who did not have the possibility to meet him personally. Many of you may remember that at the beginning there was only a video recording and Rinpoche would do the practice at the same time and the transmission took place that way. Then, after a few years, when the Internet connection started, it happened more in real time and Rinpoche would do this transmission in three different periods of the year.

When we say “transmission” we need to understand what the real principle is. It is not like a schoolteacher or a music teacher who transmits knowledge to their students. The real sense of transmission refers to that state which is beyond dualism and all concepts of samsara. Once this has been experienced and integrated in oneself then the teacher can transmit that knowledge. That is why in the Dzogchen Teachings we follow the three testaments of Garab Dorje from the beginning.

The first of these statements is direct introduction, which means the teacher tries to transfer his state of knowledge to the state of the student through various methods. How can this come about? There are two aspects that are very important: the first is called chinlap in Tibetan while the second is the student’s devotion. If one of these is lacking the transmission cannot take place.

The Tibetan word chinlap can be translated as “blessing” or at times “empowering flow” although these words cannot truly express its real meaning. Chin means a power that is linked to a state beyond dualism, lap is a verb meaning one transfers or gives this chin or power so that it changes or transforms the condition of the student.

Where does this chinlap originate? It is the natural outflow of our primordial state. First of all we must recognize or have knowledge of our primordial state. Secondly we must stabilize that state, and the third step is to develop it, which means complete integration with it.

At the beginning of a session all practitioners always do Guruyoga because Guruyoga in particular is the practice for receiving this chinlap. When we become familiar with this state of knowledge, our own chinlap develops naturally and once this happens we can give transmission to other students and help them to enter the real transmission.

It is very important to understand this point because at the moment there is a great deal of discussion and confusion about who can give transmission, who is authorized and who is not authorized to give it. So if we understand transmission to be some kind of method or instruction such as visualization, we might think that we can do it. However it will not work if we have not developed that chinlap, that power, within ourselves. Chinlap is not a kind of magical power with which realized beings are able to free all beings. It doesn’t work like that. This is why the second aspect is the devotion of the student.

Devotion relates very much to our individual capacity and condition and also to our karmic history. For instance, there might be a very important Lama who everyone considers to be a great Lama, a holy being, but when we visit him we don’t feel any connection. This Lama may have some chinlap but our devotion is lacking, there is no connection and we cannot receive that blessing. Then the other way around, we may have devotion for someone who is not a real teacher and try [to connect with them] but in the end it doesn’t really help.

We have all had some experience of what chinlap means, such as going to a holy place, like a sacred mountain. There are many holy places. But what does a “holy place” mean? It is a place that has the capacity of chinlap. Sometimes we have devotion and may want to go to a place such as Mt. Kailash because we know that it is a sacred place. If we have that intention, that devotion, then we can receive that blessing. But if we don’t have devotion or participation and go there like a tourist, we will not receive anything like that. This is an important point.

You may recall a famous saying by Pha Tampa Sangye, an important Mahasiddha, who when one of his students asked, “Please give me your chinlap”, replied, “Why are you asking for this? Instead give me some devotion.” It’s not that the Mahasiddha needed the student’s devotion for his own benefit, but to communicate to him the real way to receive chinlap.

So even though Rinpoche is not here, he has left this world, and somepeople say that we are now a sangha without a driving force, we still have the possibility to contact this chinlap. Even though Rinpoche is not alive, the places where he has been, the energy when we practice together, this is his chinlap that is still continuing. When we go to a sacred place or meet a master, what effect does it have? Immediately our mind is calmer. We may have many doubts and problems and worries in our daily lives, but when we are in the presence of a holy master in that moment they almost completely disappear. With this chinlap, this spiritual power, nothing is lacking, and we find complete fullness of our being.

I remember many years ago, during the first years of Merigar, when Rinpoche was still teaching at the university in Naples, whenever he had time he would come to Merigar, once a month or once every two months. There was a practitioner who was mainly in charge of the Merigar Letter at the beginning. One afternoon we were at the Yellow House and Rinpoche was upstairs. I don’t remember very well but I think we were having a picnic and this practitioner said, “When Rinpoche is here it is almost like one single heart that is opening, that is expanding. When Rinpoche is away slowly, slowly we become closed again.” I mention this just to explain the effect of being in the presence of a holy being.

Now we are still alive and need to develop our capacity so the practice of Guruyoga is extremely important for receiving and developing this chinlap. The Nyingmapa practice refers to the three roots: the root of the chinlap is the Guru. The root of the siddhis is the yidam, because if we wish to achieve some particular kind of realization then we need to do yidam practice, transformation, and so on, related to the four actions in the mandala, and that is relative. Then the root of spiritual activity is the dakinis, because they always protect the teaching at the Nirmanakaya level. When a teacher gives transmission the dakinis always help for the success of the teacher’s activities. This is the meaning. You may remember how Rinpoche always followed his dreams and advice from the dakinis such as whether he should give a teaching or not, where to teach, and so on. When a teacher is at that level he has contact with dakinis.

When we consider the practice of Dzogchen what should we do in general? We should continue in the state of instant presence that we have recognized by means of this transmission or direct introduction. However, there is not only one way to receive direct introduction. Many people think that direct introduction is rigpai tselwang, that they are one and the same, but they are not. Rigpai tselwang is one way to give direct introduction. If you read Longchenpa’s explanations in the Dzogchen Upadesha series there are sometimes four ways, eight ways, different ways to give transmission. We should not create limits and consider that there is only one way.

The most important thing is that through direct introduction we have had recognition of that state. Then once we have this recognition, we need to be certain about it, without having doubts. What does it mean to have doubts? It means that our minds are very conditioned by concepts, ideas and habits and are always grasping at objects. That is how the mind functions, so even if we are in this instant presence, which is a state beyond concepts and dualism, immediately after thoughts can arise, such as, “Oh, that was instant presence”, or “No, it was not instant presence”. So we may not be certain about it. This is dealt with in the second statement of Garab Dorje: not remaining in doubt. We have knowledge of our state and it is one. We clearly recognize that single state without doubts.

The third testament of Garab Dorje means that now we have complete confidence in our capacity of liberation. This means we are at a level where our thoughts and emotions automatically self-liberate and do not leave a trace in our consciousness.

So this is, in general, an introduction to what the principle of transmission means. Transmission means that the teacher who has this knowledge, this capacity, tries to transfer his knowledge to the student’s consciousness by means of this empowering blessing called chinlap.

Even though we are not dealing with direct transmission or transmission, if we do any Guruyoga practice on our own, when we visualize a form in front of us, we are always asking to receive this chinlap. For example, in the invocation of Garab Dorje we say randrol chenpoi chinphop la, “Please transmit your chinlap to me so I can find myself in the state of self- liberation. I need that chinlap because without that power it is difficult for me.” I am asking for help. When we do the Chöd invocation to Machig Lapdron, we say karpo omgyi chingyi lob, meaning, “Give me your blessing or empower me through the white Om” and so on. Also with Guru Padmasambhava, chingyi lapchir shegsu sol, “Please come and give me your chinlap”Chinlap means we really feel this devotion within even if we are doing the practice on our own. Devotion is like a secondary cause for receiving chinlap through our visualization and our intention. So in general when we do a practice of Guruyoga we should apply it in that way.

And particularly on a day like today, one of these three anniversaries during the year, we need to work very much with that aspect. The original practice that Rinpoche wrote in Tibetan is called tusum chinbep meaning the transference of chinlap in three periods of time.  It means that this chinlap is very important. In the text he explains gongyud chinlap. Gong means the enlightened state of the teacher, and gyudmeans the mindstream or consciousness, so gongyud refers to the state of contemplation, the state that is the essence of Guruyoga. Through the gongyud the teacher transfers that and we receive it.

What does it mean that we receive it? It means that we experience it in our condition and in that moment we have a kind of awakening. The state that is awakened within us is the state of the Guru and in that moment our state and the Guru’s state are inseparable. That means the unification of the state of the Guru and our state is the essence of Guruyoga practice and so every time we do Ati Guruyoga we should be in that state.

Of course sometimes it is not easy. We may ask ourselves why we are not succeeding, or if we need more chinlap. If we need more chinlap it means we need more devotion on our part. Then it is good to do more visualization of the Guru, asking very deeply from the heart to receive that blessing of knowledge. In that way it works better and more easily.

I think this is important for all practitioners in general and also for new practitioners. There may be somebody who has never met Rinpoche, but somehow they have a strong connection with him, strong devotion and a strong interest in his teaching. Perhaps they have had some dreams. I have heard of people having dreams of him even though they haven’t met him. It is important in the Dzogchen Community that we try and integrate these people. Especially on occasions like this, they can join, and through the Guru’s blessing which is always present, we Dzogchen practitioners all do practice together, and these new people may have some benefits.

We cannot limit this because it can also be a way in which they somehow awaken, also by reading Rinpoche’s teachings and so on. There can be many ways in which Nirmanakayas can benefit beings so we should also not limit that. Rinpoche was a great source of blessing and teaching and transmission, still is and always will be, so it is important that we try not to limit ourselves in this sense.

However at the same time each one of us, especially the instructors, should observe their condition and check their capacity, knowledge, whether it is stable, and how it is integrated in daily life. This is easy to observe by oneself. If we sincerely try to do that and work according to that principle, gradually our capacity will surely develop and then Rinpoche’s wish to spread the Atiyoga teachings will be fulfilled. This is my wish and this is also how I feel we should go ahead.


Transcribed by Naomi Zeitz
Edited by Liz Granger.




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