Training the Five Capacities

An excerpt from the morning session of day 4, December 31, 2017, of the Atiyoga Teaching Retreat given by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu at Dzamling Gar, Tenerife. 

Good day for everybody and everywhere. We start with our practice of Ati Guruyoga.

What are the principles of the more inner Teachings that I explained yesterday? This is something related particularly with the Three Statements of Garab Dorje. First of all, there is direct introduction. This is the base in Dzogchen Teaching. For example, if you are growing something in a field, it is not sufficient that you only work there, but first of all you need to plant a seed and then something can grow. If there is no seed nothing will grow. Even if something grows it is not necessarily what we need. In the same way, the first thing in the Dzogchen Teaching we should do is discover our real nature. At least we can receive that in a more general way with Ati Guruyoga when we relax.

I have told you that when we are relaxing – this is all contained in the series of Dzogchen Teaching Dzogchen Semde. Later when we are discovering our real nature, maybe we are not 100% sure of our experience. It is not sufficient that you go to the Teacher and say, “Oh, Teacher, tell me what to do so I do not remain in doubt.” Even if the Teacher wants to give you that, he/she cannot. Only you can discover that somehow. In this case, there is a series of Teachings called Longde that were collected by Manjushrimitra and combined with the second statement of Guru Garab Dorje.

When you have discovered your real nature and you are 100% sure, then you can do the practice of Dzogchen. What is the practice of Dzogchen? Dzogchen is not chanting mantras or doing visualizations of mandalas and deities, etc. These things are relative. The principle is that we are trying to be in the state contemplation as much as possible, and particularly when we have that knowledge we are integrating the aspects of our body, speech, mind, everything, in that state. To practice Dzogchen means that. So, it is not related with where we are living, which way we are sitting, which way we are chanting, or which way we are doing visualization; these are all mental concepts. So, we need to discover in which way we can develop and integrate from the beginning. I told you that the most important thing in order to be in the state of contemplation is to be present. Being present becomes more and more familiar to us and then there is more possibility to integrate. Integration in the Dzogchen Teaching is a very, very important practice. For example, if we want to arrive at a high level of inner practice to realize the Great Transference, for example, we should understand that the base is integration. If we do not know that, then there is no way to attain the rainbow body.

Four Visions

Some people think, “Oh, when we are dying somehow we become the rainbow body.” It is not that you become the rainbow body, but that you develop the state of the fourth level of the visions. In this case, when we are learning an inner teaching we can learn the four visions in a very precise way. So, that person is prepared and really ready to follow the inner Teachings and is very interested in that. Then you decide, “Oh, I want  to follow the inner practices of the Dzogchen Teaching.” You ask the Teacher and the Teacher understands that is the base of total realization. Of course, then the Teacher knows how your condition is and the Teaching goes ahead in that way.

In this case I explained this principle in Santi Maha Sangha. Santi Maha Sangha is very important for the inner understanding of the Dzogchen Teaching. First of all Santi Maha Sangha explains all the Teachings in a more general way, like the aspect of the Sutra, Tantra and then Dzogchen. But it doesn’t mean that we need to learn everything slowly and then we are developing. This is all information and a way to understand what are the arguments and the principles. Practitioners need to have a kind of background. When we start to study Sutra, for example, the principle teachings and applications are tawa, gompa, chöpa, etc.

Five Capacities

The characteristic of Sutra is that it is called the path of the renunciation. In Santi Maha Sangha there are all these explanations at the beginning the base of the Santi Maha Sangha. Then Vajrayana is slowly developing. It means that a person who has a little capacity higher than in an ordinary way, they can apply and can learn in that way. But you must understand capacity. 

It is not correct to observe which kind of capacity you have or think you do not have sufficient capacity for applying Vajrayana and stop with Sutra. We can and should construct capacity. Sometimes there are explanations of the capacities in Sutra, Vajrayana, Dzogchen, Anuyoga etc., in a slightly different way, but basically what Buddha Shakyamuni explained in Sutra is the understanding of our capacity. When you are studying Sutra teaching it says wangpo nga, wangpo nga which means, wangpo means principle, the five principles. In an individual condition the five principles are our five senses. You need to see, you need to hear, etc. Without this kind of relative condition you cannot understand anything. But with the same name and in the same writings, wangpo nga also means the five capacities.

First Capacity – Participation

You must understand then what is being explained. Sometimes it means the five elements, and sometimes it means the five capacities. The first capacity that Buddha explained is participation, faith or devotion. There are different aspects that you can also call by different names, but the conclusion is that when we are following a teaching the most important aspect is participation. If you are not interested and you have no desire to participate you will never receive that teaching and you can never get on this path. So, it is indispensable that the first thing is your participation. 

Participation is also considered particularly in Vajrayana and Dzogchen Teaching and this is also a high level of capacity. You see, for example, in this world how many people we have. All human beings have more or less the qualification of being human. But how many people are interested in the path, in realization? Even if people understand there is teaching like Dzogchen, which is very precious, not only precious for having realization but precious also for living in society quietly and comfortably, they are not interested. If you have knowledge of the Dzogchen Teaching you can have that benefit. But not many people are following or participating in that. Therefore participating is a very high level of potentiality. Even if you only have that potentiality of participation and you are missing all the others, you can construct them.

Second Capacity – Diligence

It is not always necessary to construct, but many people have the qualification of only having some of the these capacities. For example, if you think you want to follow a teaching, you have the capacity of wanting to follow the teaching. You have that capacity, but now you need a second capacity. The second capacity Buddha explained is tson, tsondu, tson, which means diligence. So, if you have no diligence, even if you have participation, nothing will be realized. in our condition some people are very diligent, everything they do they try to work and apply. Some people are lazy and are not doing anything. But if you are are present, then you can understand and discover. 

Third Capacity – Presence

In any case, we can construct diligence. So you have participation and diligence, but if you have no presence, you can deconstruct many things and you lose time. It is called trenpa, trenpa means presence. 

Fourth Capacity – Contemplation

So, you have diligence, participation, you are present; you have these kinds of qualifications and therefore you can realize a little better. Then Buddha explained the fourth capacity. It is called tingngendzin or nyamzhag, which means the contemplation state. It doesn’t mean we have knowledge of contemplation or we are immediately getting in that state. Having the capacity of contemplation means that first of all we know that contemplation is indispensable for total realization. We can follow any kind of teaching, Sutra teaching, Tantric teaching, Dzogchen teaching, etc. Through all these teachings we can have  realization sooner or later. Of course, in Sutra teaching we are still very far from real knowledge. 

Accumulation of Merits

I have said that when practitioners do not understand they are concentrated on accumulating merits, good actions, etc., and they think that is very important. Most of the faithful to the Dharma in Tibet are dedicated in that way. For example, if they are doing something for accumulating merits you ask them, “What you are doing?” They say, “We are doing Dharma.” Dharma means the path and we are following the path to have realization. 

When you go to Nepal, for example, near to Boudhanath, all the Tibetans are very busy going around the stupa. You can ask someone, “What you are doing?”, they say, “We are doing Dharma.” If you ask, “How is it Dharma when you are going only walking around?” It’s very difficult to find someone who can explain. Even some Lamas who are considered to have knowledge of the teaching cannot explain. They only believe in accumulating merits. You remember in the Mahayana teaching it says, “If you have good intention, you can produce good.”

Even if you have hundreds, thousands, millions of good intentions, you cannot have total realization only with intention. For having total realization with any kind of practice you do, at the end you should do tingngendzin, contemplation. For that reason Buddha explained capacity of contemplation; the state of contemplation is most important for the path to realization. I have given you before an example of how Buddha compared two people: one was accumulating only merits and one was in the state of contemplation. Buddha explained that if someone is in state of contemplation only for a short time, it is much more important than dedicating all your life to accumulating merits. For that reason, we need also knowledge, and most people are ignorant of that. 

When we study knowledge a little deeper, the relative condition and in an intellectual way, then we can understand relatively what we are doing by accumulating merits and how we can produce that benefit. There is always a reason with very precise explanations. But we are not doing this; we are only applying with our intentions. For example, when we are going around a Stupa, we make a khorlo and we are turning around, we are thinking that we are accumulating virtue. How does that happen? If you study Vinaya you can understand.

So, some people ask in which Vinaya book is this explained? There is not any specific explanation of what happens when you go around the stupa. But when you are studying, you are thinking, then you can understand. For example, in the time of Buddha Shakyamuni, Buddha gave Teachings that satisfied all the students, and at the end the students did prostrations for the Buddha. Prostrations are a means of paying respect. That is all. Then they went around Buddha seven times. What does it mean that this action is becoming a good action? Because in all the different countries there are different cultural attitudes. For example, in India’s ancient tradition when we put someone on our right side we are paying respect to that person. You can understand that when you study in Vajrayana teaching. the explanation of how students must pay respect to their teachers. There is a book which is called Lama Ngachupa – Lama fifty, fifty arguments. It is the way of paying respect to the teacher with fifty arguments. One of the these arguments, for example, says that when you walk and you are with your teacher, you must not be on the right side of the teacher because you are not paying respect. So, for that reason, we put the stupa on our right side and we turn one time, two times, etc., and in this way we accumulate merits.

When we think of Buddhist and Bönpo in Tibet, Tibetans say, “Bönpos do everything in the  contrary way.” Also when we go to Mount Kailash, we go around on the right side. That means we are paying respect and accumulating merits. Some Bönpos go in the contrary way. We always meet on the road. The Bönpos do that because the origin of Bönpo is Shang Shung and the tradition of Shang Shung is paying respect by putting on the left side, not the right side. Still this tradition continues in China; China and Shang Shung are the same. When there is guest, a very important guest, they put them on the left side. When you put the respected guest on the right side, India is the origin.

Fifth Capacity – Prajna

So, you see, we can understand if we are reading books, we are thinking a little, and then we can understand the reasons. This is not only about turning around the stupa, etc. but everything. So, it is very important we know the capacities. Buddha finally explained explained the fifth capacity, which is called the capacity of the prajna. Prajna means developing our capacity of clarity. Of course, if we are doing practice etc. then prajna develops. Prajna is necessary because if you are following teaching, sometimes the teacher is explaining using some Sanskrit words and if you are completely new to this teaching you have no idea what that is.

For example when I say dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya, kadag, lhundrub, and you may not know what these words mean. Most of my students know because I explained those words for forty years. So, when you see that there are some obstacles and that you need to learn and develop, then you can learn and this construction is called prajna. So, these are the Five Capacities as explained by Buddha in the Sutra teaching. We are not always jumping to a very high level or concept. We should understand that everything is very precise in the real sense. 

Transcription by Anna Rose
Edited by Naomi Zeitz
Tibetan with the kind assistance of Adriano Clemente

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