Picture of Tonpa Shenrab


Dzogchen means perfection, accomplishment, or fulfillment that is great or complete. It is the highest spiritual tradition in Bon, the native religion of Tibet and Nyingmapa, the oldest Tibetan Buddhist school. Both traditions classify their teachings in the nine Ways or paths of practice leading to enlightenment. Both traditions classify Dzogchen as the ninth Way. It is said that by practicing Dzogchen, it is possible to reach enlightenment in one life and to die by achieving the rainbow body or body of light (no physical remains or rotting - you literally turn into light).

In Dzogchen it is said that self-liberation is like the peacock that eats poison. Spiritual traditions choose one of the following two viewpoints. Engage in everything and attempt to use and transform it or avoid that which cannot be handled. Dzogchen and Kundalini Yoga both instruct the student to have a real, messy, life experience including living in the world, doing various activities, and eating all kinds of foods while many other traditions teach refraining, renouncing, and abstaining.

From my experience of Dzogchen, the practice and those drawn to it resonate with masculine energy and mentalism or heady, intellectual concepts and practices. The teachings and practices are very powerful and intellectually rooted. The teachings include practices that almost no one I know is ready for or will be ready for in this life. To be able to reasonably do some of the practices, the student has to commit to an extraordinary discipline of practice and be talented enough to be successful at the practices to progress to the more advanced practices. The current lineage holders of Dzogchen are teaching very openly because they are concerned that the teachings may get lost on their watch (heavy karma no doubt). The problem is that they don't know how to reorganize the teachings for the Western mind and culture. They have not yet come up with a model for today's person to be able to understand or to be ready for the complete teaching. Imagine for example, a practice that takes you into a room like the one in the recent movie 1408. In that room, the students does their practices to see if they can hold themselves together while under an exceptionally fluid and stressful situation (anything you think up or have a memory of may surface and manifest in front of you). I got to a point like that without doing the advanced practices. I left the sanga, got counseling for a year, and slept with the lights on. Yes, if you can handle that you are on your way to enlightenment - talk about eating poison.

Having said that, I don't think the average person is going to get themselves into that much trouble. I don't want to scare anyone off from studying Dzogchen. I'm just describing my experience over a decade ago.

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