Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dzogchen, Chán And Hashang Mahāyāna: Addressing Misconceptions

Jackson Peterson:
Here is a brief quote that differentiates Dzogchen from the Theravadin view:

"To clarify the Dzogchen view: "We are just what we are, the Natural State which is like a mirror. It is clear and empty, and yet it reflects everything, all possible existences and all possible lifetimes. But it never changes and it does not depend on anything else." 

Bon Master Lopon Tenzin Namdak
Like ·  · Unfollow Post · April 24 at 9:59am
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Steven Monaco likes this.

Din Robinson: short, but sweet 
April 24 at 10:17am · Like · 2

Kyle Dixon: I wouldn't say this quote defines a separation between theravada and dzogchen at all. Further, Lopon Tenzin Namdak certainly says much more about these things which aren't elucidated in this short quote...

"In the practice of Dzogchen, we do not find it necessary to do visualizations of deities or to do recitations like the Refuge and Bodhichitta. Some would say that these are not necessary to do at all, but this is speaking from the side of the Natural State only. They say in the Natural State, everything is present there already in potential, and so there is nothing lacking and nothing more to do to add or acquire anything. This is fine. But on the side of the practitioner, there is much to do and practices such as Refuge and Bodhichitta are very necessary. In its own terms, Dzogchen has no rules; it is open to everything. But does this mean we can do just what we feel like at the moment? On the side of the Natural State, this is true and there are no restrictions or limitations. All appearances are manifestations of mind (sems kyi snang-ba), like reflections seen in a mirror, and there is no inherent negativity or impurity in them. Everything is perfectly all right just as it is, as the energy (rtsal) of the Nature of Mind in manifestation. It is like white and black clouds passing overhead in the sky; they equally obscure the face of the sun. When they depart, there are no traces left behind. "However, that is speaking only on the side of the Natural State, which is like the clear, open sky, unaffected by the presence or absence of these clouds. For the sky, it is all the same. But on the side of the practitioner, it is quite different because we mistakenly believe these clouds are solid, opaque, and quite real and substantial. As practitioners we must first come to an understanding of the insubstantiality and unreality of all these clouds which obscure the sky of our own Nature of Mind (sems-nyid). It is our Tawa (lta-ba), or view, our way of looking at things, which is basic and fundamental, and we must begin here. Then we must practice and attain realization. So on the side of the practitioner, practice and commitment are most certainly required. The Natural State in itself is totally open and clear and spacious like the sky but we, as individuals, are not totally open and unobstructed.”
- Lopon Tenzin Namdak

“When we begin as practitioners on the path of Dzogchen, we first need a direct introduction to the Natural State from someone who has directly experienced the Natural State personally. But just meeting it for one time, like meeting a new acquaintance, is not enough. We must discover the Natural State within ourselves over and over again, so that we have no doubt about it. For this reason we do practice…”
- Lopon Tenzin Namdak

"...we may practice and have an experience of emptiness and no thought, and then we may conclude that ultimately nothing exists. All mind, all bliss, all karma, and so on, simply vanish. If we pursue this experience, it is possible that we may fall into a nihilistic view This is not correct."
- Lopon Tenzin Namdak

“In early Tibetan texts, we also find these contradictions between Dzogchen and Shamatha. The Dzogchen texts insist that clarity and awareness must be inseparably present with the empty state; Shunyata alone is not Dzogchen. Not understanding this is a cause of confusing the two, Dzogchen and Shamatha. This is a key difference between Dzogchen and Ch'an Buddhism, which is usually expounded in accordance with the Sutra system. In the empty state, there is nothing special there in terms of focusing, but with Dzogchen, clarity must be present. Shamatha maintains that it is sufficient just to stop the arising of discursive thoughts and to refrain from creating new thoughts. We simply remain in that gap between thoughts and expand the gap. What is the characteristic of this gap? It is just an empty space where no thoughts are present Shamatha has stopped the past thought and impeded the arising of the next thought. The mind then grasps that empty space and dwells in it. So there is a perception here, the result of grasping.”
- Lopon Tenzin Namdak
April 24 at 1:40pm · Like · 2

Acharya Babananda: Kyle: From which source are these quotes from?
April 24 at 2:45pm · Like

Kyle Dixon: They're from Lopon Tenzin Namdak's book "Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings".. 

He's a brilliant teacher, other good books by him are: 

"Masters of the Zhang Zhung Nyengyud"

"The Practice of Dzogchen in The Zhang Zhung Tradition of Tibet"

"Heart Essence of the Khandro"

"Heart Drops Of Dharmakāya"
April 24 at 2:58pm · Like · 2

John Tan: And definitely very different from anatta, the Anatta State is like reflections turn alive when the mirror disappears. Reflections are vividly clear yet empty. Everything, all possible existences and all possible lifetimes are simply reflections, they appear but are nothing real, ungraspable, un-originated, unborn.
April 24 at 3:24pm · Unlike · 7

Stephen Metcalf: I have both "Masters of the Zhang Zhung Nyengyud" and "Heart Drops Of Dharmakāya". Great books! Some of the Heart drop is a little strange but a great book.
April 24 at 4:41pm · Like

Soh: "This is a key difference between Dzogchen and Ch'an Buddhism, which is usually expounded in accordance with the Sutra system." 

Disagree. Obviously there is no lack of emphasis on 'clarity and awareness' in Ch'an and Zen. If you're telling me Dzogchen has unique methods like Thodgal, I can accept that. If you're telling me Dzogchen utilizes clarity and awareness while Ch'an doesn't, nah...

If they want to explain what makes Dzogchen and Ch'an distinct, they have to be more convincing than that. Those Dzogchen teachers should do some research on Zen first, as in real life living Zen tradition (and not rely on an ancient text on Hashang Mahayana that nobody can verify). This prevents making strawmans out of others.

That's the good thing about modernity. Now we have access to information and teachers from all traditions so we can come to greater understanding. In the past, Tibet is Tibet and China is China.
April 24 at 6:22pm · Edited · Unlike · 5

Kyle Dixon: Apparently there's some controversy as to whether there are misconceptions regarding the nature of ch'an and zen in the eyes of the Tibetans. I don't know ch'an or zen well enough to comment. But there's been a history between the traditions. More info here... 

The Great Perfection and the Chinese Monk: Nyingmapa Defenses of Hashang Mahāyāna:
April 24 at 6:25pm via mobile · Edited · Like · 3

Kyle Dixon: Lopon Rinpoche seems like he might be referencing the Hashang view. Since he's suggesting that the ch'an practice is extending a blanked out state of non-clarity. Don't want to put words in his mouth but that's how it appears.

I posted those few because they were on the thread yesterday and I knew Lopon was giving a more in depth account of his view. Had no intention of posting the quotes to make any jabs at zen or ch'an (for the record), those statements just happened to be included.
April 24 at 6:33pm via mobile · Edited · Like · 4

Soh: If that is indeed how Hashang view is seen as, then the whole text about Hashang Mahayana should be disregarded and not treated seriously as representing any living Buddhist tradition today.
April 24 at 6:37pm · Like · 3

Soh: This is the essence of Zen:

"In total exertion, a blink of my eyes, the universe trembles. Zennith drinks the coffee, Thusness gets the taste! That is the depth of intimacy with the 10 thousand things." - Thusness
April 24 at 6:58pm · Edited · Like · 3

Kyle Dixon: Yeah that would be how Hashang is perceived it seems, which is odd because supposedly Vairotsana (disciple of Padmasambhava and Shri Singha) spent some time in China receiving teachings from Hashang, so not sure where that might've gone wrong. 

That misconception of Hashang has almost become a cautionary tale which is taught to prevent attachment to the experience of emptiness (meaning the space between thoughts and not the realization of emptiness). It's taught that attachment to that capacity causes the practitioner to delve into deep unclear states of absorption (referencing deep samadhi states) which can last for lengthy amounts of time. Stories are even told of yogis who have come upon caves where practitioners are found frozen in these mindless states of absorption to the point that their respective lifeforces have been rendered dormant for years on end, and they need to be revived. So yes that is unfortunate that Hashang is mistakenly associated with that. 

It appears some Dzogchen masters did have doubts about the fairness of the allegations directed towards Hashang's view, for example in one of his texts, Jigme Lingpa expresses doubt regarding the authenticity of the widely held perception of Hashang. I also found a section in one of Tulku Thondup's books on Longchenpa which does a fairly in depth comparison between Dzogchen and Hashang Mahāyāna, although it states that it's specifically addressing Hashang Mahāyāna and not Ch'an, so apparently some difference is perceived.
April 24 at 7:50pm · Edited · Like · 4

Jackson Peterson: Yes, the argument was more political than substantive as China's influence even then was an issue. There is no discernible difference between Dzogchen trekchod, mahamudra and Chan fruit. Even all the phenomena of thogal begin to arise spontaneously as vipassana is allowed to develop undisturbed. Vimalamitra taught that a practitioner of Dzogchen trekchod can also experience the Four Visions of thogal, but they appear in reverse order. Sufi's and Taoists also experience Thogal phenomena in the maturation of practice. Its best not to consider any of these paths as the only complete path.
April 25 at 8:32am via mobile · Like

Jackson Peterson: Many considered the Hwashang to be the 7th Patriarch of Zen after Huineng. I guarantee you that the master was extremely competent in his teaching. Also more than one Dzogchen master was known to also be a Chan master. Some claim Shri Singha was also a lineage Chan master.
April 25 at 8:49am via mobile · Like · 1

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