The Real Meaning of Integration

real meaning integration

Photo by Igor Ustyzhanin

This teaching was transcribed from a private recording made by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche for The Mirror during his tour of Russia and Buryatia in 1992.

In the Dzogchen teaching, if you are in any kind of place and at that moment, you are in a state of rigpa, then that is your place, your sacred or holy place. In general people want to go to a holy place such as a temple to do practice. But when you are in instant presence, then wherever you are becomes a holy place, your temple.

We use the term “integration” widely in the Dzogchen teaching, but its real meaning is that first of all a Dzogchen practitioner should be in the state of Dzogchen which means his real condition. To be in the real condition you must discover it, and then you have knowledge of it. If you have experience or knowledge of the state which, in the Dzogchen teaching, we call the state of rigpa or the state of contemplation, then you have a possibility to integrate your contemplation into the circumstances of your normal condition or your normal condition integrates in the state of contemplation. 

Of course, when we reason with our intellect, integrating all our circumstances of normal life in a state of contemplation or integrating our capacity of contemplation in the relative condition, these seem to be two different aspects. But when you are in your real nature or condition there is no difference between them. 

Namkha arted 

How can you learn to integrate that knowledge? In the Dzogchen teaching there is a very famous practice called namkha arted (nam mkha ar gted). Namkha means space. Arted means you are gazing into space and at the same time you are that empty space. In your condition you have emptiness or inner space. At the same time you have outer space outside yourself. So when you gaze into empty space in the sky that means that you are gazing into outer space. Your presence is in empty space, that means that you are also in your inner space. There is no difference between inner and outer space if you are in the state of rigpa and you can have that experience when you do the practice of namkha arted. 


It is the same principle when you are in a state of contemplation. For example, you open your eyes and you can see objects. They could have a pleasant or unpleasant colour or form. It doesn’t matter. In any case you can see objects clearly and you notice their colour or shape. Before you start to enter into judgement, whatever you see is part of your clarity. But even when you receive that information through your mind if you are aware that you are in a state of instant presence, you are not distracted by it. At that moment some thoughts may arise. There can be a continuation of thoughts but you are not distracted by them. You are aware. Also in this case, what you see continues to be part of your clarity. 


Of course if you are distracted by thoughts and there is no continuation of your instant presence, then you cannot say that it is your clarity, because you are ignoring the real nature of clarity with your distraction and your concepts, because at that moment you are judging whether something is good or bad. If you have the idea that something is good then you also have the idea of accepting it. If you have the idea that something is bad then you have the concept of rejection. In Tibetan they are called chag (chags) and dang (sdang). Chag means attachment and dang means anger. 

In all our sense contacts with objects we have that kind of instant clarity and if we have, at that moment, our instant presence and the continuation of it, all sense contacts become part of our clarity. But in general, we are distracted by them and there is no more function of clarity. So when we say that we are in the state of integration it means that we are continually in instant presence. If we are in instant presence then there is no more consideration or concept of subject and object and there is no ordinary attachment and anger. That means as a consequence that there is nothing to accept or reject. Of course if you do not have the concept of accepting or rejecting then you do not have the possibility to produce negative karma. So that is the real meaning of integration. 


You can only discover what integration really means when you are in the state of contemplation or rigpa. For example, if you hear a sound, it may be pleasant or horrible. When you are distracted by the sound, then if it is pleasant you develop an attachment to it whereas if it is horrible then you reject it. In this way you produce karma and enter into action. If you feel that a sound is horrible and that you don’t like it, you have that concept then you also have its tensions which you accumulate day after day. For example, if you hear a horrible sound today, you will feel it is much more horrible tomorrow because you get charged up and develop your tension. Tensions are continually developing. In the end, if you cannot eliminate that sound then you will start to struggle with it. In this way tension becomes even greater.

But if you integrate with a sound, whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, it doesn’t matter, it means that you are in that clarity, in the real nature of sound. The sound is not something outside you that gives you a terrible feeling and you are not somewhere else receiving a bad sound. But if you are the sound, if you are present in the sound, there is no question of thinking or feeling that it is good or bad. In the nature of sound there is no good or bad aspect. Sound is only sound. So when you are in the state of contemplation and at the same time you are a sound and you are in integration, you cannot have any kind of tension. You automatically liberate that problem. That is the principle of self-liberation. You are not transforming a sound into something else. For example, you are not transforming bad sound into good and then enjoying it. But you are that sound and that is very different. So that is the principle of integration. 


We have five senses and, if we include our mind, they are six. In the same way we have six sense organs and the objects of the senses. When we have sense contact with objects, we do not remain in the dualistic condition but in instant presence without consideration of subject and object, in the real condition. This is the real meaning of integration. You have no more to discover. In the Dzogchen teaching we say that “when you discover one, then you discover all”. It means that when you discover this instant presence or the state of rigpa or contemplation, you discover the whole universe, all your consideration of subject and object in integration. If you have that experience, that principle, then there are many possibilities. 

We are human beings living in the relative condition. This means that all human beings have human karmic vision which is produced by collective karma. We have this collective karma because we have the same emotions and through these emotions we produce the same karma. Through that kind of karma we have the consequences of the same karmic vision which is the human condition. In our human vision and human dimension we consider things to be very real and concrete and important. We feel this way because we are humans, and this is a condition of human beings and their circumstances – everything is real and concrete. So that means that we are living in dualistic vision with subject and object. 

Relative condition 

Of course it is not so easy for a practitioner to be directly and continually in a state of contemplation from the beginning. In the relative condition we have a physical body and also the limitations of our energy and mind. In order to maintain our physical body, we need material elements: when we are hungry we need food and when we are thirsty we need to drink. All these things are very concrete for the karmic vision of a human being. But if you have knowledge of integration, then there is a way to relax without developing tensions and through this there is a possibility to integrate everything in the practice, in that knowledge. 

If you remain too much in your consideration of subject and object, good and bad, developing your concept that there is something to accept or reject, then, of course, tensions will develop day after day and there will be no possibility to be in the state of integration. If you have knowledge of integration, then there is something to learn, to develop that capacity. So one of the most important principles of the teaching is our real knowledge. It is not a principle which relates to something external. 


When the great master Tilopa gave advice to his disciple, the Mahasiddha Naropa, he said to him, “The problem is not impure visions but our attachment (to them)”. This is an example. 

If you have attachment, then you have consideration of subject and object, good and bad, pure and impure and you remain in this concept and you apply it rejecting or accepting. If you know that the problem is within yourself, in your attachment, then that means that the problem is not external and if you know that the problem is your attachment then you remember that attachment is the consequence of our judgement. Judgement arises through our sense contact with objects. 

Take for example our mind. The object of our mind is all dharma, all phenomena. So we think, we judge, we consider something is good or bad. If we consider something to be good we immediately consider why it is good and we try to make a justification. When we arrive at our justification then we consider that to be logical, something real. In this way we are distracted and we create attachment or anger and we are continually walking with attachment and anger as if they were two legs. In this way we go ahead in infinite samsara. If we discover that this principle is linked with our distraction, if we are not distracted and remain present in our real knowledge, our real condition, then we are in a state of integration and there is nothing wrong. In the Dzogchen teaching, that is called the principle of Samantabadra, Kuntuzangpo (Kun tu bzang po). Kuntu means all, forever, zangpo means fine.

Everything is fine and there is nothing which has no value and which you have to reject. Of course, if you have nothing to reject, then you have nothing to accept. Everything is fine. You can understand that everything is fine when you really get into the state of integration. 

In Tibetan we say ying rig yermed (bying rig dbyer med). Ying means dharmadhatu. Dhatu means the real condition of all phenomena which is emptiness. In the Dzogchen teaching we say kadag (ka dag). Kadag means pure from the very beginning, the pure dimension of emptiness. Rig means instant presence, Rigpa. If you are only in emptiness, that is only part of your experience, but it is not the state of rigpa. Being in the state of instant presence in emptiness, that is the state of rigpa. But then you discover, while you are in a state of instant presence, that it is non-dual. You cannot distinguish or separate emptiness from instant presence. This is called yermed, non-dual. Ying rig yermed, non-dual, the state of ying and rigpa. When we have that knowledge and enter into it, then we say ying rig dre (bying rig ‘dres). Dre is a verb and it means to integrate. In this case it means the dimension of emptiness is integrated in the state of rigpa. Or the state of rigpa is integrated in emptiness. So it is non-dual. 

As it is 

In the same way we can integrate our behaviour, our relative condition, everything. In the Dzogchen teaching, if you are in any kind of place and at that moment, you are in a state of rigpa, then that is your place, your sacred or holy place. In general people want to go to a holy place such as a temple to do practice. But when you are in instant presence, then wherever you are becomes a holy place, your temple. 

In the Dzogchen upadesha, the word chogshag (cog bzhag) is explained. Chogshag means remaining in the state as it is. That means that if you are lying down on your bed and you are in instant presence, in the state of rigpa, that is fine. If you are in a temple with a wonderful atmosphere, sitting in a correct position, in the state of rigpa, then that is fine, too. Or perhaps you are driving a car through the confusion of a city, but at that moment you are in a state of contemplation, then that is fine. There is not much difference between driving a car, lying on the bed or being in a temple. It is all kuntuzangpo. 

So it not necessary to reject something like the place you are in and try to get to a more interesting place, or reject your consideration of your worldly situation and take refuge in a nice quiet place or a monastery. This is not the principle. The principle is being in your knowledge and being able to integrate.

Giving value 

There is a saying of Milarepa, “All movements such as walking and doing things, everything is yantra yoga”. If a practitioner, a yogi, is in the principle of yoga, or knowledge, or understanding, that means that he can integrate everything in his normal condition. Of course, sometimes we need a quiet place for a short time such as a week or a month, or even three months in order to do practices like rushen (ru shan), shine (zhi gnas), semdzin (sems ‘dzin) or zernga (gzer lnga). All these are very important practices for experiencing with our emotions and understanding the difference between mind and the nature of mind. Also to experience the state of rigpa. They are important when you start the practice of Dzogchen so that you can enter into the real nature of the teaching. Or if someone has already had experience of these then they can start to realize them. But this doesn’t mean that the principle of the practice is only finding refuge somewhere and escaping from the ordinary world. The principle is to learn to integrate and to give value to every thing which is related to our normal condition. 

Daily life 

So if you are really a good practitioner of Dzogchen, it is not necessary that you manifest that you reject or accept or change something. Today there are many people who have this kind of attitude. They are trying to show something. But the principle of the teaching is not for showing something or making an exhibition but automatically manifesting your realization through your behaviour, your daily life. For example, if you are a good practitioner, then you automatically manifest that you have less tensions because you have the capacity to integrate. If you have some problems, you don’t feel that they are really heavy because you do not have the consideration that they are something very important. There is always the possibility to integrate. 

There is a saying in a tantra of the upadesha, “Fire cannot burn fire, and the air element cannot destroy itself”. This means that if you are in your real nature, there is no problem. When you are in that integration, then that is called realization. So you must understand what is the real meaning of integration that way. 

Principle of integration 

Many people have the idea that integration means mixing something. Some people want to integrate different methods and then they make a kind of mixture. Somebody asked me if they could integrate some methods of teachings that are not Dzogchen with the Dzogchen teaching. I always say that if you know what the real meaning of integration is, you can integrate everything, not only some methods, Buddhist or other. It doesn’t matter. But you can integrate everything in the relative condition, the whole universe. There is no limitation. But if you don’t understand what integration means, then you only create a kind of confusion, putting two different things together and creating a mixture or transforming them considering this to be integration. This is not the real meaning of integration. It means you are changing things or creating problems. 

For example, if you are learning a method, it has its principle so you must learn and use that method in a precise way. If you change, transform or modify that method, it will no longer have its function. If you are using any kind of tantric method, you must use the correct form and colour for the visualization. Everything is a fixed symbol since the method was first transmitted and you can never change even the smallest part of that. If you change something at this point, it doesn’t mean that you are integrating. 

Some people say that they are Westerners and that they use five angels instead of the five Dhyani Buddhas. They consider that they are integrating because this is Western knowledge or culture. But this isn’t so. They are changing a tantric method and if you change this then there is no transmission. These people are only inventing in an intellectual way. That is not teaching. Teaching has always had its transmission since the very beginning which must be continued in a pure way. Integrating means being in that true sense. In that case, if you want to use five angels, you can use five Christian angels but in a Christian practice. It doesn’t mean you can’t use Christian practice in Dzogchen. There are no limitations. But then you must use these symbols as they are taught in the Christian tradition without changing or transforming. This is integration. You can integrate everything, but in the correct way, maintaining the principle of knowledge and integration from the very beginning. 


If you understand integration in that way then it has sense and there is also something for you to do with the real meaning of this word; and you can understand that integration is the state of contemplation. In Dzogchen when we are in a state of contemplation we say that we are in a state of total integration or in a totally relaxed state. This means that when you are in a state of rigpa, this represents total integration. If there is not total integration in that state, even if you are using the word “integration”, you cannot understand what it means, in the same way even if you consider that you are relaxed, if you don’t discover and find yourself in your real nature, even if you are using this word, you are not in a state of total relaxation. 

First published in The Mirror issue 16, July/August 1992.

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