In the Bon tradition, Dzogchen practice is the highest teaching. Through the practice of Dzogchen one can attain enlightenment in this very lifetime. Dzogchen is a Tibetan term that is made up of two words. The first word is ‘Dzog’, the second word is ‘Chen’. ‘Dzog’ means complete, and ‘Chen’ means great. In the West, Dzogchen is known as The Great Perfection. Dzogchen practice is found in Bon teaching and also in the Nyingmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

There are three lineages of Dzogchen in Bon tradition.
  • Dzogchen
  • A-Khrid
  • Zhang Zhung Nyengyud

Be a Dzogpachenpo every moment of life

Dzogchen teaches that every being has the inherent potential to be a Buddha. However, we are often not aware of this innate potential. Not being aware of our potential, we fail to manifest it. We empower our conditioned nature rather that our Buddha nature. We easily turn our face away from the this truth, from the reality that we encounter in our lives, because of our deep-seated conditioning.

The Dzogchen practice is to face each moment of our lives as it is without fear, and without judgment. In order to do this we need a heart that has the quality of love and compassion, and the wisdom of understanding. When we turn away from things as they are, we are creating a wall between the reality and the nature of our mind. This is one of the major reasons for the suffering in our lives.

Dzogchen is the practice of Open Presence. Openness and presence are the inherent aspects of Dzogchen. The unification of openness and presence is its essence. Openness reveals the nature of emptiness, or the interdependent nature of all beings. Presence reveals the true nature of awareness. The practice of Dzogchen can be just an idea, a philosophy. But if we actualize its meaning and integrate it with our experience of the world outside and inside of us, we become a Dzogpachenpo.

When we practice Dzogchen, we manifest its essence by living in the present moment. We neither hold on to our concept or understanding of emptiness or awareness. Otherwise our concepts or judgment begins to dominate our mind and distance it from its true nature. When we are free from grasping imposed by conditioning, we make it possible to experience reality as it is. When we practice Dzogchen, we manifest this unified nature of emptiness and awareness within the continuum of each moment that is clarity. Emptiness and awareness are not separate. They are co-arising.

For instance in the art of ‘deep listening’ or ‘Bearing witness’, what would be the qualities of openness and presence in this act of listening? Openness is the ability to provide space for another person to speak by giving non-fear. It is also providing space for what we are hearing and not letting it pressure or stimulate our conditioning of judgment or disagreement. When the listener is open, this gives strength to the speaker to be more open. The quality of presence is our ability to decide that we do not have to take care of, respond to or fix everything all the time. Sometimes it is so valuable just to bear witness and leave things as they are. Dzogpachenpo witnesses every situation without being distracted by the external object or demands, or by internal conditioning. Often our rational mind thinks that we have to respond, to give advice or suggestions, or to correct others.

Sometimes we encounter a situation where people are not listening to us. Then we start blaming the other person for not listening, or we start judging ourselves. For Dzogchen practice, this is a basic obstacle caused by our unmet psycho-emotional needs. We lose contact with our innate wisdom and our capacity to be non-judgmental, and we lose contact with our innate qualities of acceptance, forgiveness, love, and compassion. We need to ask ourselves: Would it be possible to accept the situation that the other person is in with genuine compassion? When we do this, we are connecting to our basic human nature of goodness. We are manifesting love and openness. We are becoming Dzogpachenpo.

Sometimes we live in the relative world and practice for the world of the absolute. We live on this earth, and pray for heaven. The practice of Dzogchen helps us not to fall into the extremes of both the relative world and the absolute world, of both heaven and earth. To the Dzogpachenpo two are not separate. They are one. Dzogchen practice is to realize the absolute nature within the relative, so that we do not wander in search of the absolute truth riding the board of the relative.

We approach our lives with many expectations based on our insecurity or pride, on uneasy past experiences or projections about the future. These expectations limit our openness, our ability to be aware, and to accept each situation as it unfolds. In Dzogchen, the emphasis is on clarity or awareness. Many situations that we encounter may be unexpected and we may not be prepared for them. As a consequence, we are not fully aware of them as they happen, and of their effect on us. It is this lack of awareness along with the instability of our mind that makes us react with a state of distress or shock, and that renders us vulnerable to separating ourselves from the situation that we are encountering. Such small incidents of daily life can cause subtle feelings of stress, exhaustion, fear, or anxiety in us and make us feel hurt or disturbed. Sometimes we are so disturbed by an incident that we lose control of ourselves and disconnect from the wisdom of our mind and compassion of our heart. We make things worse for ourselves and for other through self-judgment, blame, self-justification, or guilt. Our mind continues to return and become caught up in the subtle negative emotions, which arose in us in response to the situation. Because we are inclined not to notice such reactions, we may think that they do not matter much, or we hold on to them because we want to feel safe and protected. This instinct toward protection can be so strong that it completely overshadows the presence of awareness. Yet the totality of these small, negative reactions, and the unconscious habits or conditioning that they create in us is what separates us from our inherent Buddha nature.

Awareness, on the other hand, keeps our mind clear and enables us to see clearly what is going on. Awareness as a form of penetrative wisdom cuts through the afflictive emotions that are present in us in the process of reacting. It protects us from insecure conditioning and reacting with unwise compassion. It is possible that we experience distress or pain as we respond to a situation with compassion. As we see another’s suffering, we might become hard on ourselves and invite pain into our own life. In this case, our compassion is not supported by wisdom. It is attached to our insecurities rather than to wisdom. When compassion is attached to insecurities, our feelings for the other cannot become true compassion but become the expression of our own conditioning. Anything that we do with a lack of awareness will strengthen our afflictions. It will not allow us to see reality as it is.

Dzogchen teaches us how ten thousand things every day, every hour, and every moment distract us. Many things, such as external objects that we perceive through our sense fields constantly influence us physically, emotionally and mentally. Some of these are shocking, some are pleasurable, and some are joyful. The tendency of our conditioned human nature is that we are only attracted to something that is beautiful, that is comfortable, and that we feel familiar with. But if there is something that makes us feels uneasy, we react differently. This can be the way somebody behaves, or something that somebody is saying to us that we cannot relate to, or that is opposed to our feelings. Or it could be an unpleasant sight, smell, taste, or touch. When we encounter an uncomfortable perception through our sense fields, including our mind, this distresses us. Dzogchen practice prepares us to live with the moment without distress or fear.

Dzogchen is the practice of open presence or self-liberation. It is our potential to be able to liberate ourselves from the suffering of every moment. At the heart of self-liberation is the question of how we can respond to every situation that we encounter in our lives from the true nature of our mind, rather than with a deluded or afflicted state of mind. The practice of Dzogchen empowers us to leave the things as they are. When we leave things as they are, we are providing a space for them to manifest their true nature. We are allowing them to change, to manifest their quality of who they are. It is our stable awareness that sees without judgment, and understands what the other person needs and what we need. We may not be in the position to meet the need of that moment, yet we can do our best to remain compassionate, loving, accepting and forgiving. The power of being in touch with awareness reduces the causal conditions upon which suffering will arise.

Due to our conditioning we tend to interrupt situations before they can manifest their true nature. It is that very interruption that obscures our wisdom and our compassionate heart from reaching out to others. In Dzogchen practice, our wisdom manifests in the form of clarity. Clarity allows us to become aware of the situation without any distraction. Our compassion keeps us stable and allows us to reach out with equanimity so that we are at ease; no matter how things may manifest. When wisdom and compassion are both present, we are able to make clear decisions that will work best for the particular situation at that very moment, without being governed by our preferences.

Sometimes we encounter situations that upset us or make us feel afraid. We might also feel hurt by a situation or the circumstances. For instance, we may be in a situation where a friend, or our spouse, becomes angry with us. The Dzogchen practice is to be aware, noticing the situation fully. If your friend or spouse or boss, is angry with you, you notice that with stability and clarity and bring your awareness to it. Stability helps us to witness the state of our mind, our feelings and the situation. Clarity empowers us to manifest love and compassion. At that moment we draw strength from our love and compassion to forgive or accept our friend or the situation. If we approach the situation with the presence of awareness or clarity, our unconditional love for our friend or for the situation can manifest and express itself in how we respond. It will manifest whatever is necessary at that very moment of our life. When we feel clear and secure, the energy becomes calm. Everything falls into the field of awareness, and this protects us from unskillful reactions. Noticing the situation with the quality of Open Presence allows us to face the situation more skillfully. This is Dzogpachenpo, the Great Perfection.

Dzogchen practice gives us a clarity that is powerful tool to recognize that whatever emotion we experience; be it anger, depression, fear, jealousy, or joy, it is not separate from the true nature of the mind. This recognition is wisdom. It gives us the strength to leave things as they are. Our ability to leave things as they are reduces our subconscious attachment to the conditioning that judges or manipulates our emotions. We are accepting our feelings. We are becoming aware of what we are feeling right now, and we stop them right there. We don’t allow that emotion to take over our life. We do not allow it to obscure the true nature of the mind or to become an obstacle. We make our peace with whatever emotion we are feeling. If we feel disappointed, this may give rise to anger. If we feel angry, it may give rise to hatred, or to depression. This is unnecessary. If we can accept what we are feeling, we are manifesting the essence of self-liberation. We are leaving each thing as it is. We are creating a conditioning to become a Dzogpachenpo. By nature, everything is self-arising, and self-luminous, and self-dissolving. It arises, abides and then departs. It does not stay forever. But this is only possible if we allow it to manifest this nature.

If we are able to accept that our emotion is not separate from the nature of our mind, this will allow us to touch our healing wisdom. Our healing wisdom is our primordial potential to heal ourselves, to free ourselves from suffering. We all have this potential. If we have anger, we also have love and compassion within us. Emptiness reveals the truth that nothing lasts forever. Awareness points us toward this truth and allows us to experience it. And their unification, clarity, enables us to act skillfully. This gives us the strength to live with the constant demands of our everyday life with ease and joy.

©Tempa Dukte Lama (excerpt from The Intimate Mind)