An excerpt from the afternoon session of day 3, December 30, 2017, of the Atiyoga Teaching Retreat given by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu at Dzamling Gar, Tenerife.
Kangyur and Tengyur
Then Guru Garab Dorje taught the Dzogchen Teaching. For example, when we say the Dzogchen Teaching is the teaching of the Buddha and therefore it is Buddhist, that could be true, but Buddhist doesn’t mean that Buddha Shakyamuni taught Dzogchen Teaching. It is very important that when you are following a teaching that you understand what the teaching of the Buddha is, otherwise you remain limited, like in Hinayana. In Hinayana it is said that Buddha taught Hinayana in India for a certain period, and therefore Hinayana is the only teaching of the Buddha. Buddha also taught Mahayana. But most of the Buddha’s Mahayana Teachings are from different dimensions, like the dimension of naga or deva, and then later, realized beings like Nāgārjuna introduced these teachings into the human condition. We have so much Mahayana Teaching, but Hinayana does not accept it. They refuse Mahayana Teachings because they believe that the only valid Buddhist Teachings are what Buddha taught in India.
If you understand the teaching of Buddha in this way, it is not complete. In order to really learn the teaching of Buddha, we should understand different aspects. For example, today in the Tibetan language we have a collection of the Kangyur (bka’ ‘gyur). The Kangyur is the teachings of the Buddha translated from ancient Sanskrit into the Tibetan language. The collection of the Kangyur is more than one hundred volumes. Then there is Tengyur (bstan ‘gyur). The Tengyur is the commentary on the Kangyur; some scholars wrote and explained the words of the Buddha. Also these are translated from the ancient Sanskrit of India. In the collection of the Tengyur there are more than two hundred twenty to two hundred thirty volumes. All these teachings are considered as the Teachings of the Buddha.
This doesn’t mean that the Hinayana way of seeing is the only teaching of the Buddha or that everything Buddha taught was taught in India. Many of the these Teachings, like the Mahayana sutras, were taught from the dimension of the deva and naga. For example, we have a very famous teaching called Lhai Ngawochei Do (lha’i rnga bo che’i mdo). Ngawoche means drum, a big drum. This kind of teaching is not what Buddha taught orally. Hinayana texts and Mahayana sutras taught in India or also other dimensions are called Shalne Sungpai Ka(zhal nas gsungs pa’i bka’), which means that Buddha taught them orally.
When Buddha gave oral teachings, he used different kinds of language. Sometimes the teaching of the Buddha manifested when the circumstances required it. A qualification of Buddha is that he is omniscient. Omniscience means seeing the relative condition in time and space. So, for that reason, Buddha has the quality and quantity of wisdom, Buddha can manifest and Buddha can empower. It is not necessary for Buddha to travel in the naga and deva dimensions. For example, lha i nga ba che mdo, when a certain kind of teaching is necessary, the teaching in the dimension of the deva requires a very big drum. In general someone is beating the big drum and making sound. One day it is not necessary to beat the drum to produce the sound, the sound comes naturally. The sound that naturally comes out is the teaching of the Buddha which is called a sutra, complete from the beginning until the end. There are eighty or ninety pages, I don’t remember precisely, and there is an explanation of that. This is one of the very famous Mahayana sutras. Mahayana teaching also follows how it is explained in this sutra for example, that there is not only one but many kinds of teachings that Buddha empowered. This kind of teaching is called Jyinki Labpai Ka(byin gyis rlabs pa’i aka’). Jyinki Labpai means Buddha empowered and introduced that teaching.
In the Kangyur, if we observe, we read many of the these sayings that Buddha empowered that came from rocks, trees, some mountains, and there are these related titles. All these series, all these teachings, are called Jyinki Labpai Ka. Then there is also another kind of teaching which is called Jesu Nangwai Ka (rje su gnang ba’i bka’), which means that Buddha also gave permission for his students to teach and at that moment Buddha empowered that teaching and his students’ teaching manifested in a very perfect way. A good example of this teaching is called Jesu Nangwai Ka, which is called Prajnaparamita Hridaya (prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya), and the essence of the paramita is this short sutra. So in Mahayana they consider this sutra the most important of all the sutras. This sutra is explained that when there was Buddha Shakyamuni in the state of contemplation, Śāriputra – a kind of arhat with a high level realization of Hinayana and not only that, but he had such knowledge of the teaching of the Buddha – asked Buddha, “Buddha, how can we explain the principle of the total shunyata in the Mahayana principle?” Then Buddha said, “You ask the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.” At that moment Avalokiteshvara was also present. Śāriputra asked Avalokiteshvara and Buddha was in the state of contemplation.
When Buddha was in the state of contemplation in that moment, there was no difference between the state of Avalokiteshvara and Buddha. Avalokiteshvara explained all the Prajnaparamita Hridaya (prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya) Sutra. You remember, when we watched the film “Little Buddha”, there is a monk chanting a kind of sutra that says, “There are no eyes, there are no ears” etc., repeating that. Nothing exists because all is emptiness and there are basically eighteen kinds of emptiness. So, this sutra is the sutra of the Prajnaparamita Hridaya (prajñāpāramitāhṛdaya). At the end of this sutra, the conclusion says lammed, yeshemed, thobpamed mathobpayangmed (lam med| ye shes med| thob pa med| ma thob pa med). Then there is the mantra of the TADYATHĀ OṂ GATE GATE PĀRAGATE PĀRASAṂGATE BODHI SVĀHĀ. This mantra is the real sense of the Prajnaparamita. What does lammed, yeshemed thobpamed mathobpayangmed mean? Lammed (lam med) means there is no path, yeshemed (ye shes med ) means there is no wisdom. Thobpamed (thob pa med) means there is nothing to obtain and there is no obtainment. Mathobpayangmed (ma thob pa yang med) also means there is nothing remaining to obtain. So, in that way, this sutra finishes with totally emptiness. This kind of teaching, this Prajnaparamita Hridaya, is very short and many Tibetan practitioners in the monastery and of all traditions have this sutra in memory. In the same way, in the Chinese and Japanese Mahayana tradition, they read this Prajnaparamita Hridaya. They consider it the most important sutra of Mahayana.
This is just an example of Jesu Nangwai Ka, and there are many other Jesu Nangwai Ka in the Kangyur. You see then there exists Shalne Sungpai Ka, those that the Buddha taught directly; those the Buddha empowered (Jyinki Labpai Ka) and those he gave permission to be taught (Jesu Nangwai Ka), they also became the teaching of Buddha. There is also Lungdu Tenpai Ka (lung du bstan pa’i bka’) , Lungdu Tenpa means that Buddha says, “This kind of teaching will one day appear.”
For example, someone asked Buddha Shakyamuni, “How can we go beyond time and space?” Buddha said, “This kind of teaching will be taught by a teacher just like me one day.” That teacher was Garab Dorje. That teaching is the Dzogchen Teaching; beyond time and space.
Buddha, in the time of the Buddha, started with the cause of suffering. What are the cause and effect of suffering? This cause and effect relationship is called karma. Buddha’s teaching is basically related to that. In the time of the Buddha it was necessary to have that kind of teaching. Later when there were positive circumstances, Dzogchen appeared. For example, when Garab Dorje was a very small boy, he was not a normal being. From the beginning he was an emanation of the Buddha.
Dorje Sempa Namkha Che
Garab Dorje manifested in a very special way. When Garab Dorje was very small he was always chanting an important Dzogchen root text called Dorje Sempa Namkha Che. We have this Dorje Sempa Namkha Che translation in English, Italian, etc. Also I prepared a kind of calendar of Dorje Sempa Namkha Che for our practitioners to study the text step by step. People are not really studying this text because Dorje Sempa Namkha Che is not easy to study; there is a root text and commentary by Shri Singha and Vairocana, and we have translated both. So, reading one verse of that you can go more deeply into the knowledge. Through the commentary of Sri Singha and Vairocana you can understand and develop. In this case, you should work just a little more. People don’t like this kind of effort.
In any case, this is how Guru Garab Dorje’s teaching came out. Guru Garab Dorje was chanting Dorje Sempa Namkha Che when he was very small. It doesn’t mean that he learned it from someone and was chanting. When Garab Dorje asked, “I want to debate with the teacher of the royal teachers of the king of the Oddiyana”, his mother said, “Oh, you cannot discuss with the royal teachers because you are small boy and you have not even changed your teeth.”
Garab Dorje was around six or seven years old; very young. His fame arrived in India in this way, “There is a very special boy in Oddiyana who is chanting some teachings called Dorje Sempa Namkha Che. Dorje Sempa Namkha Che explains how we should go beyond cause and effect. We must be careful because the teaching of Buddha is about cause and effect. What should we do?”. Then they said, “We need to go to Oddiyana to discuss this with Garab Dorje.” Then Manjushrimitra, one of the most famous from the Yogachara School at Nalanda University together with a group of the pandits, traveled to Oddiyana. It took a long time, not like today, there was not even a road. In the end, somehow they arrived in Oddiyana and there they met Guru Garab Dorje. Then Manjushrimitra started to ask some questions of this small boy, Garab Dorje. Garab Dorje immediately explained. When Garab Dorje explained to Manjushrimitra, Manjushrimitra realized that Garab Dorje was a very high level scholar and he understood that this is really the essence of the teaching of the Buddha. Then Manjushrimitra had faith and he said, “I am sorry, I was wrong to debate with you. How can I purify all these bad actions that I have accumulated?” Guru Garab Dorje said, “What you understood now, you must write down and introduce to the Buddhists.”
The Three Statements of Guru Garab Dorje
Then Manjushrimitra wrote a text called Chang-chub-gi sem Dola Sershün, which is one of the very important texts of Dzogchen. They sent these books to Nalanda University so all the scholars could understand that Garab Dorje was an emanation of Buddha. Then Manjushrimitra became the number one student of Guru Garab Dorje. Also later Manjushrimitra made a collection of all the teachings of Guru Garab Dorje. When Garab Dorje manifested the rainbow body, in that moment Manjushrimitra received the Three Statements from Guru Garab Dorje. The Three Statements represent the essence of all the Dzogchen Teachings. The Three Statements of Garab Dorje are considered a key to how we start to learn the Dzogchen Teaching, how teachers teach to the student, how we can have realization and what realization is. Everything is related with these three statements.
In Garab Dorje’s three statements, what is the first one? The first statement is direct introduction. The Teacher directly introduces from the beginning, but if we are not able to do a high level direct introduction in a Dzogchen way, then we introduce with Ati Guruyoga. That way we can understand the essence of the practice of Dzogchen, and in which direction we should go. So, for that reason, first we have this introduction. There is no need for an initiation, a vow, and no need for training in something. But we should do direct introduction.
When you are following the teachings today, all traditions say that first of all you should do preliminary practice or ngöndro. Preliminary practice means preparation. The ordinary idea is that if you do not have at least a little preparation, you cannot understand. This idea is very much diffused in the traditional schools. When I started to teach Dzogchen Teaching in Italy, I started direct introduction in a very simple way, with Ati Guruyoga. I never taught Dzogchen Teaching without that principle. I am not asking anyone to do ngöndro practice. Ngöndro is not indispensable in all Teachings. Sometimes it can be useful. When I am giving Dzogchen Teaching to people who didn’t do ngöndro, many Tibetan lamas criticized me and said, “Namkhai Norbu is giving Dzogchen Teaching, a high level teaching, to people who did not do ngöndro“. This is not my fault because I am following the Dzogchen Teaching taught by Garab Dorje. If ngöndro is indispensable, then why are there not four statements of Garab Dorje instead of three? Maybe the first statement should be ngöndro, and then direct introduction. Sometimes I reply a little, because they are not thinking in the correct way. So, I say, “If you want to criticize, please criticize Garab Dorje, not me.” Garab Dorje is not presented in that way, therefore, direct introduction means knowing what Dzogchen is. Dzogchen is not a book, a tradition, or a religion. Dzogchen is our real nature, so we need to discover that and be in that state. For that reason then there is the first statement of Garab Dorje.
The second statement of Garab Dorje is not remaining in doubt. Even if we have received something formal, like an inner teaching of Dzogchen, sometimes we know, “Now I have discovered that my real nature is Dzogchen.” But it is very difficult that we are one hundred percent sure, and then we remain in doubt. If you remain in doubt about any kind of practice it doesn’t work, and the same is true for a practice like the Dzogchen Teaching. I will give you an example. When we are first learning the Vajrayana teaching people say, “We are receiving many negative actions and someone is doing black magic directed at us and then we have problems.” In this case, in the Vajrayana teaching, if you are afraid of some black magic you should do the practice of the Simhamukha. There are fourteen syllables in the mantra A KA SA MA RA TSA SHA DA RA SA MA RA YA PHAT, and you chant this with the visualization and in that way you can overcome black magic. The potentiality of the mantra is called creme bumthub (byad ma ‘bum thub). Cyema means black magic, not only one black magic or two black magics, but bum, which means one hundred thousand or something like that.
When we receive this provocation and we chant the mantra of Simhamukha and do the visualization, we can also eliminate negativity or we can send it back. You remember that the manifestation of the Guru Padmasambhava has eight different aspects, and one of these aspects is Guru Padmasambhava, who had many problems with Indian traditions. They were judging and having debates and, of course, Guru Padmasambhava did not lose those debates. Even if he did not lose, the others did not accept. They said, “Now we will do a black magic directed at you and in one week we will destroy you completely.” And then Guru Padmasambhava waited for one week. He did the practice of Simhamukha, her manifestation with the lion’s face, which is called called Sengge Dradrog (seng ge sgra sgrogs ). Instead of receiving those negativities that they sent, Guru Padmasambhava sent back those negativities and when the negativities arrived back, those who prepared them were destroyed. So, they produced that karma and also the effect matured. This is the value of Simhamukha. Therefore I say that you should do the practice of the Simhamukha mantra. Some people say they did the Simhamukha mantra but it didn’t work. It is not working because of how you do the practice, and because you do not have sufficient faith and devotion in this teaching. If you have no doubt and you do it in a perfect way, it always works.
I have done personal retreats of Simhamukha, not only for eliminating negativity but for many actions, and when I applied these actions they manifested one hundred percent. If it works for me, why doesn’t it work for you? It is very important to understand that we must not remain in doubt regarding any kind of practice. Particularly in Dzogchen Teaching, this is very important. It is not sufficient to go to the teacher, and say you did practice and you discovered how you feel. You can explain for hours, but the teacher cannot decide if you have really discovered anything or not. You should discover by yourself. For that reason, in the Dzogchen Teaching, we have the series of Dzogchen Longde. Dzogchen Longde is not the principle of direct introduction; direct introduction is used in Dzogchen Semde. In all of Dzogchen Semde sometimes there is direct introduction, and sometimes it works in a very precise way, step by step, and then we can discover. This teaching called Dzogchen Semde, sem means mind and and semnyi means nature of the mind. De means a series of this kind of teaching; many different kinds of tantras. This is for direct introduction, for discovering our real nature. If you are following the Dzogchen Teaching, it is indispensable to discover your real nature.
Otherwise if you are only doing formal practice with the thun book, and you are thinking that every day you are doing a practice from the thun book, it is only valuable when you understand how to get into your real nature. If you are only going after words and mantra, mudra, visualization and so on that is not the most important point. This is Dzogchen Semde. When I began to teach Dzogchen Teaching, I began with Dzogchen Upadesha. Upadesha is the last series. Traditionally, in Tibet, most teachers who give Dzogchen Teaching always teach Upadesha. In Upadesha there is no direct introduction. Upadesha is very detailed and works very basically. For that reason, Dzogchen Semde became very important. When I taught my students, at first they were very happy because for one or two years I taught Upadesha and they said this teaching was very profound and very nice. But this was only an idea, in the mind, and they were not manifesting anything concrete. After almost two years I discovered that. Then I thought I should start with the Dzogchen Semde and work more concretely with direct introduction. When we started to learn Dzogchen Semde, after a few months I already saw my students’ way of being and doing was more concrete.
After, there was Manjushrimitra, who basically worked with the second statement of Guru Garab Dorje, not remaining in doubt and becoming one hundred percent certain. In this method there is tantra and also many instructions of the series called Longde. What does long mean? Long means dimension, the dimension of space where everything can manifest. When we use the series of Dzogchen Longde with our chakras, channels, visualization, and we do everything in a perfect way, then we can also have visions. When we talk about visions, we can understand that we only see something with our eyes. But when we are learning about the sense of the visions, we must understand that all our senses function with objects so when there is that understanding, then it is an experience. The use of methods of visions and integration, that is the base of what is called the realization of the rainbow body. Most teachers of Dzogchen Longde have a history of how they realized the rainbow body. This is the second series of the Dzogchen Teaching related with the second statement of Garab Dorje. After we have trained very well in the Dzogchen Semde teachings, then sometimes I give the teaching of the Dzogchen Longde and we do this practice. Then, at the end, we have Dzogchen Upadesha which means secret.
All practitioners need to have a base of something concrete. When they have a concrete base ie: they have learned that teaching, they have received that transmission, and they are applying it, then they can have realization more quickly. This is what is called in Dzogchen, thögal and yangti and this is related to the third statement of Garab Dorje. The third statement of Garab Dorje is when you are not remaining in doubt, you have discovered your real nature, you have automatic confidence in that knowledge, and you integrate your aspects of body, speech, and mind, everything, in that. So, in this case, how the explanation is developed one by one is called nangwa zhi, which means the four visions. When we arrive at the fourth level and we are dying, for example, then we have realization of the rainbow body, the body does not remain, it disappears. If we not only arrive at the fourth level, but complete all the fourth level, then we have accomplished the Great Transference. The protagonists of this realization are Guru Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra. The Great Transference means that death does not manifest. If they achieve the Great Transference, ordinary people cannot see them because our physical body has dualistic vision. That is how we have our body, speech, and mind.
When we are doing practice like thögal, we can also have visions of the pure dimension. That pure dimension, which is our potentiality, appears like an object. We are integrated with our potentiality of the practice. When we succeed to integrate totally, the physical body disappears. Ordinary people cannot see this, and this is called the Great Transference. This Upadesha is the last statement of Garab Dorje.
It is very important that you always remember Guru Garab Dorje’s three statements because this is something like a key for the Dzogchen Teaching. How you start, how you learn Dzogchen Teaching, how you apply it, everything is contained within these three statements. Sometimes people study and learn in a very intellectual way and they do not get the real sense.
Transcription by Anna Rose
Edited by Naomi Zeitz
Tibetan with the kind assistance of Fabian Sanders and Adriano Clemente