“Somehow, one day, you can discover your real nature.”
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
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.
If you learn and understand what is contained in Santi Maha Sangha, you might not become a teacher, but even so, you will become a treasure of knowledge of the Dzogchen Teaching. It is very important to understand that. Related to teaching Santi Maha Sangha, I told you already yesterday, it is the same with Yantra Yoga and Vajra Dance. Vajra Dance is something very important. In Vajra Dance we are dancing and dealing with the Song of the Vajra.
The Dzogchen Tantra of the Upadesha says that if you received direct introduction in an authentic way, but you remain in doubt, then what can you do to overcome that? You remember how the Teacher gave direct introduction; you repeat this many times by yourself. And somehow one day you can discover your real nature. Then the Upadesha Tantra says, “If you do not discover your real nature, despite a lot of effort, then what should you do?” In this case, it is not sufficient that you repeat the practice you learned with direct introduction. You should do Ati Guruyoga and be in the state of Guruyoga; you should sing the Song of Vajra and integrate with it.
The Song of Vajra is not like ordinary mantras, it’s not the same. For example, in higher tantras such as the Kalachakra, there is a root mantra. The root mantra is HAM KSAH MA LA VA RA YA. That is the Kalachakra mantra. Similarly, maybe you follow Hevajra or Chakrasamvara, or any of these kinds of high tantras. To succeed in realizing the development stage, the accomplishment stage, and the non-dual development and accomplishment stage, you need to chant a great quantity of mantras. By doing this, you can get in the non-dual state called Mahamudra. In order to do this, it is very important to know how it works in general with those mantras. But the Song of Vajra is different from those kinds of mantras, which are for chanting for that purpose. It is explained that there are three ways of learning and knowing the function of the Song of Vajra.
First, the Song of Vajra is from the Oddiyana language, or some language of other dimensions. Those who have knowledge, realized beings, for example, can understand a kind of translation of the words. We have a translation of the Song of Vajra in Tibetan done by Longchenpa. This translation shows the meaning of the Song of Vajra – it introduces the knowledge of Dzogchen in a very essential way. This is one way we can study the Song of Vajra.
Another way to study the Song of Vajra is to understand all of the seed syllables. E MA KI RI KI RI, etc, governs our Vajra Body. The Song of Vajra represents our Vajra Body; the principle of the Song of Vajra is very important for understanding the Vajra Dance. When we learn the Vajra Dance, and when I learned this Vajra Dance in my dreams in the beginning, I understood and also introduced that we need to dance on a Mandala.
There is a Mandala that is a symbol of the globe where we live. There is also a Mandala of the solar system, which is a little bigger and is also danced on a little differently. Then there is an even bigger Mandala of the universe. So then we know how the Mandala corresponds to our existence. You see in the center of the Mandala, there are six or seven circles of different colors. After the circles there are many triangles and corners, etc. In particular, the triangles and corners are even more developed in the Solar System Mandala. The Mandala of the Universe is very big. All of this is in our chakras and in our physical body. We have a chakra of the head, chakra of the throat, chakra of the heart and other chakras. These chakras correspond to the circles in the Mandala.
Also we can understand that in the globe, for example, we have the north and south. We have the Northern Hemisphere with a North Pole and we have the Southern Hemisphere with a South Pole. So there are two different dimensions. When it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter in the South. We know very well these situations are different. But we know only the idea of this kind of difference intellectually, not concretely. When we are dancing on the Mandala of the Vajra Dance, however, we can understand this completely.
For example, in our dimension, everything is more developed in the North. Our official calendar represents the North more than the South. We say, “Oh this is the period of the Natale – Christmas time” and we know there is falling snow. People who are from the Northern Hemisphere don’t need any effort to imagine this – there is always snow at Christmas. In the Southern Hemisphere, however, when they have Christmas, people put out fake snow as a decoration. It’s the same moment, but why don’t we have two different calendars for the two different experiences in these dimensions? Today we cannot do that because the North dominates the South. We can understand that also the Mandala is configured with a Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Each Mandala has a Northern and Southern Hemisphere can fit on top of a globe. The center of one Mandala is the North Pole, the center of the other Mandala is the South Pole and where they meet is the Equator.
All of this is very important in order to understand our individual condition and this is all related with the Mandala. In the Dzogchen Teaching it is very important. Why is it important? It is important because you know very well when we have knowledge of Dzogchen, beyond doubt, and we have discovered our real nature, what should we do? We integrate. So how do we integrate? I told you already that it is not so easy to integrate on the material level. So we have knowledge of the Vajra Mandala when we are dancing, little by little, step-by-step, we are walking. What does it mean? It is a method of integrating and in that way we can develop much more with the Mandala. This is the second argument and it is very important.
This is the third argument. The Mandala, which is a symbol of chakras, OM A HUM SVAHA, is all governed by seed syllables. Each of these chakras contains secondary chakras for the head, for the throat, etc. All are dominated by the seed syllables of the Song of Vajra. For example, when we are pronouncing E MA KI RI KI RI, there is a shorter sounding KI RI, then a longer sounding KI RI. Our bodies have a right and left side – solar and lunar. We have a front and a behind. Also this is connected with solar and lunar. So for that reason, there are longer and shorter sounds. It is not necessary that we do visualizations for that. We are not working with a Vajrayana type situation of the Teaching where we create something. We don’t need to create anything – it already has its real nature. We need to understand and discover that nature. There is this outer Mandala and there is also the Mandala of our inner side. It is not sufficient that we understand this intellectually, in a dualistic way. We are here and something else is there – that is dualistic vision.
You remember, any kind of real realization, high level realization, is with integration. I’ve explained the teaching of the Four Visions before. I can’t explain it all again now, but it is necessary I explain the First Vision to you. In the Dra Thalgyur Tantra it says that for someone fortunate to be able to follow the Dzogchen Teaching, even if it is outer, not the inner teaching, but the Teacher has knowledge of chönyi ngönsum (chos nyid nmgon sum) – chönyi in Tibetan means “dharmata” in Sanskrit, or how the real nature of the mind is, ngönsum means a concrete experience, what we see, we hear, or we have some experience of through the senses – that Teacher should introduce what that is to the students. It is not said in the Dra Thalgyur Tantra that we need to keep this secret. It is very important that when we have chönyi ngönsum, when we really have that experience, then we have a very high level realization compared to experience related to Sutra teaching.
When we are following Sutra Teaching, first we say, tsoglam (tshogs lam), which means Path of the Accumulations. We start with the lower tsoglam, then medium, and then we arrive at the higher one. After, we advance to what is called jor lam (sbyor lam), which means the Path of the Application. First there is drö (drod), then tsemo (rtse mo), then zöpa (bzod pa), and then chökyi chog (chos kyi mchog). We are going slowly, step-by- step. By doing practice we are having experiences and we are getting in that level. The third level is called zöpa, which means something like patience. This means something like a Bodhisattva in Sutra Teaching. Until we arrive in zöpa, this third level of the Mahayana Sutra, we are not free from samsara. Normally we are just like a bird’s feather floating in space; whether we go west, east, etc., depends on the wind. Here the wind is an example of our karmic potentiality. But when we are getting n this third level called zöpa, Sutra Teaching says that we will not be reborn in the three lower states. So we will not be reborn in the realm of the animals, or with the preta, hungry ghosts, and we will not be reborn in hell. So this is the concrete fruit, the effects of the three root emotions. So, in Sutra Teaching that is considered to have arrived at a little higher level, but in Dzogchen Teaching, if you have knowledge of the chönyi ngönsum and you are getting in that state, then you will no longer fall down to the three lower states. But just because you aren’t reborn in the three lower states doesn’t mean that you are realized. What it does mean is that you have the possibility to follow the Teachings and develop.
So how is chönyi ngönsum explained and how can we have that experience? For example, in the evening, during sunset, you can look at the sunrays. The sunrays are not strong in that moment. It’s not necessary to look directly at the sun, but rather you gaze a little lower at the sunrays and you look at the sunrays with half closed eyes. And in these rays there will be many manifestations of many thigles; thigles of the five colors, sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller, sometimes not only one, can be many. It doesn’t matter. Something is manifesting in front of us, but it doesn’t mean the thigle is physically there. We might think, “Oh this is a production of the sunrays!” Sunrays do not produce the thigle. Sunrays are only the secondary cause. The real cause is that everybody has the condition of the self-perfected state of lhundrub (lhun grub). So that qualification, which is related to our nature of mind, is now manifesting something like an object. For example, when you are seeing this, its potentiality, you will no longer transmigrate to the lower states. This is called chönyi ngönsum. You can have this experience. It’s not necessary to gaze only at sunsets, it’s also possible when you are looking into the sky, you can have this experience then also.
In the real sense when we are developing the four states, which are called the Four Visions, when we arrive at the fourth level called chöze (chos zad), in this state when we are dying, our body will no longer remain. Instead, our body manifests the rainbow body. Why is it manifesting this way? You remember that when we are introducing chönyi ngönsum, when you are seeing thigles in the sunrays, this is the potentiality of your real nature. And when you are gazing in this thigle, and your practice is developing slowly, slowly, you will have the capacity to integrate your impure body production of the five elements. When you succeed to integrate into this thigle when you are dying, you will manifest the rainbow body.
In general, in traditions like the Sakyapa and other traditions, sometime people say, “Oh this is a rainbow body, that is a rainbow body.” Even some practitioners may have their physical bodies disappear and they consider this a rainbow body. But that is not a rainbow body. In the Dzogchen Teaching this is called lü dultren du tengpa (lus rdul phran du dengs pa). That means the physical body is entered into dultren, very, very, very tiny atoms, and we cannot see it. Someone is at a high level of the practice and they can reach the state of the dharmakaya. That is the reason it is becoming that kind of lü dultren du tengpa and rainbow means it is active, something concrete manifests. You see there is a painting of the Guru Padmasambhava and at the center of the Guru Padmasambhava there is a small thigle. From this thigle the lights of five colors come out, bigger and bigger, until the dimension of the Guru Padmasambhava has become filled with this light. Most people like this thanka, or painting, very much. This painting was originally painted by someone in the Sakyapa tradition. But whoever painted this has no knowledge of the rainbow body. The rainbow body isn’t like that. The rainbow body means our physical body, for example, our nose, our face, our front, everything is integrated with the five elements.
Some people may have the capacity to see someone who has attained the rainbow body. The nature of our bodies, when they are truly integrated with the five colors or five elements in the rainbow body, appear in just the same way for these people as our bodies would appear in the physical or relative dimension. For example, the rainbow body of Guru Padmasambhava would appear to someone with sufficient capacity just as he is, and without his dimension being filled the five colors. So it is very important you should know that. Nobody knows if some one of you will realize the rainbow body. When the rainbow body manifests, only the hair and nails remain. Everything else disappears. This is very good because if there is no body, then there is no problem with the police! So why then do the hair and nails remain? It is because these are the two aspects of our impure physical body. Hair is always growing. We are cutting it again and again, and still it is always growing. The impure aspect of our physical body is like that. It is the same with the finger and toenails. So this is the symbol of the impure. This is very important to understand. If you realize the rainbow body then you have no problems! Ok, now we finish and dedicate merits.
Transcribed and edited by Edmond Hayes
Tibetan editing with the kind assistance of Jim Valby
Photo by Daniel Ibragimov
This excerpt was originally published in The Mirror in May 2018. It is the continuation of The Mirror’s ongoing transcription project of the last complete retreat given by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu.