Sunday, February 23, 2014

Awareness in Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Advaita

David Boulter<
Both Dzogchen and Mahamudra inquire into the nature of awareness. Does anyone know whether the concept of awareness as spoken of by these traditions is meant in the same was as is used in Advaita Vedanta?
Like · · November 14, 2013 at 5:00am near Normanton, United Kingdom

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    John Ahn
    November 14, 2013 at 5:20am · Like · 3
    Soh TLDR/In short: Advaita apprehends directly unfabricated Awareness/luminous clarity, then reifies it into a truly existing Self. Dzogchen and Mahamudra also leads to direct apprehension of unfabricated Awareness/luminous clarity, then proceeds to realize its empty nature.

    In long (something I wrote recently):

    I just read one of Peter Brown's article, which is quite good in some ways and points to the immediate radiance of all senses without subject-object division and objectification and also points to the spell of karmic traces or what he calls the 'mechanism of imagination, interpretation' (what he calls - ) - but it is still under the framework of what I call "substantial nondualism", which is not the same as having deconstructed Subject/Self via insight (anatta) but rather seen as an undivided reality (an inherently existing Self that is nonetheless indivisible, inseparable, from all its manifestation). This substantializing of Clarity is another form of the functioning of karmic traces or "mechanism of imagination, interpretation" but it is very difficult to "see" - it appears as one's reality, the karmic traces are completely manifest as one's entire experience like a dream that seems very real so one is unable to tell, it is a blinding and powerful magical spell (the spell that conceives of inherently existing self and phenomena).

    There comes a time when by self-inquiry, or other methods, that one is led to a direct immediate apprehension of the very Presence of one's Consciousness, the very realness of Existence, of luminosity.... where Consciousness/Awareness/Unfabricated Clarity in its glory and bliss draws complete attention onto itself without any extra thoughts and there is direct realization and complete certainty of one's luminous essence. There is direct realization of the Luminous Essence as the very Pure Presence or Consciousness itself that is more real, more certain and undeniable than anything. One touches the very core of consciousness itself. This is actually a correct realization and concerns the luminous clarity aspect of our Buddha-nature. The problem is not with the direct apprehension of the Luminous essence itself - the problem is that after that moment, due to ignorance and failure to realize the empty nature of luminous clarity, it is immediately being reified and wrongly understood, so it turns into a transcendental, metaphysical Self (with the capital 'S' in contrast to the egoic small letter 's' small self) behind everything. This metaphysical Self is seen as the Ground of Being - the substratum or container from which all phenomena arise and subside to, leaving the noumenon itself unaffected and unchanged, like the depths of the ocean. It is seen as an ultimate Source from which all objects owe its existence to - like the Sun and the reflected planets/objects in space.

    When there is complete certainty of Pure Knowing-Presence/Beingness, which is at first the direct realization of the luminous presence of the formless aspect of mind, one later investigates all the other sense fields, penetrate any illusions of a subject-object division until one sees everything as the manifestation of an undivided field of awareness without any objects (apart from being the non-objective expressions of field of consciousness itself, i.e. All is Self).

    Luminous essence is now no longer seen dualistically as in "I am I/Consciousness is Consciousness but everything/phenomena is external to consciousness/Consciousness is the eternal witness of phenomena". Rather than conceiving of Consciousness as a dualistic witness behind everything, consciousness is then seen as the source and substance from which everything manifests in and AS that consciousness itself, and consciousness is both the ocean (noumenon) and its waves (phenomena). Even though the view of subject-object duality may be seen through (but not really - it is an incomplete dissolving of subject-object view) in an insight into non-duality and the radiant clarity experienced in all senses, the view of inherency continues so one still conceives of Consciousness as truly and inherently existing as a metaphysical absolute or source and substance which is expressing indivisibly as every sight/sound/etc without subject-object division (this is where Peter Brown is at). This causes a continual subtle referencing back to a Self by subsuming all experience to be Self (as expressions of Self). I call this phase "one mind". This is the furthest that Advaita (both neo and traditional) has went to. Despite experiencing and realizing undivided clarity, there is strong attachment to a metaphysical, changeless, independent, inherently existing Absolute.

    Then hopefully with direct contemplation into no-self (with help of pointers and teachings, such as bahiya sutta), there can be a breakthrough into the seal-insight of anatta: always already, in hearing just sound hearing (hearing is the sound!) never a hearer, so complete, so gapless, the entirety of your reality (except there is no 'you') is fully just sound... in seeing only always just scenery, never a you seeing or seer... your entire reality is only and completely this whole universe (experiential universe, a.k.a. the seamless total exertion of seeing-hearing-smelling-tasting-touching-thinking as one whole marvelous limitless foreground activity giving its best to make this entirety) seeing itself, tasting itself, touching itself. It's like the behind (self/Self) is totally lost (it never existed! but certainly was a very strong delusion until seen through) and what's left is only the limitless and brilliant in front (whatever's appearing) which is your entire reality but there is no more in front or behind or up or down because there is no more a reference of a center or a boundary. Even this is not the end and there can be further deconstruction, and penetration, into the emptiness and non-arising of phenomena.

    After realization of no-self (anatman), one is freed from that "dual and inherent spell", there is no denial of luminous clarity and instantly one is in a non-dual state in six entries and exits, where scenery, sound, thought, scent is radiant (vivid, clear, bright, aware, alive) as itself without ground and references. There is no skewing to the luminosity of formless mind nor is non-dual clarity reified into a "All-Self" like in One Mind. One understands, as Ted Biringer said, "...According to Dogen, this “oceanic-body” does not contain the myriad forms, nor is it made up of myriad forms – it is the myriad forms themselves. The same instruction is provided at the beginning of Shobogenzo, Gabyo (pictured rice-cakes) where, he asserts that, “as all Buddhas are enlightenment” (sho, or honsho), so too, “all dharmas are enlightenment” which he says does not mean they are simply “one” nature or mind."


    Posts: 158
    Joined: Sun Jul 18, 2010 11:14 pm
    Re: Peter Brown and Dzogchenby lama tsewang » Tue Nov 12, 2013 12:17 am hmm , another person... - Dh
    November 14, 2013 at 9:47am · Like · 3 · Remove Preview
    Kyle Dixon Jackson will say yes. But no, and often when you see 'awareness' in Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā it's actually a translation of rig pa [skt. vidyā] which isn't 'awareness' in the way we usually think of the term. Some translate rigpa as knowledge, some as discernment, some leave it untranslated.
    November 14, 2013 at 11:21am · Unlike · 2
    Kyle Dixon Nosta wrote:
    After all what exactly is rigpa? Whats the difference between rigpa and nirvana?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Rigpa is just your knowledge of your primordial state.


    kalden yungdrung wrote:
    Tashi delek,

    Rigpa could also be awareness about the / "our" Natural State?

    Best wishes

    Malcolm wrote:
    There can be awareness without knowledge but there cannot be rigpa without knowledge. So no, rig pa is knowledge of our state, whatever adjective you wish to use to describe it.


    kalden yungdrung wrote:
    Tashi delek,

    - First how is knowledge seen of a State which is without recognizing or is more experienced in the sense of " self-iluminating "?
    - So i guess that "knowledge" has the meaning of be aware of that State by study or by realisation of the Natural State which is without "knowledge" of that State.
    So Rigpa can/ has also here above mentioned, the meaning of the knowledge which one must have to be able to regognize a certain degree in the Dzogchen Yogas / "meditations".

    Further is English sometimes not good enough to make some uusefull Dzogchen translations.


    Malcolm wrote:
    Knowledge comes from recognition. Without recognition, no knowledge.

    English is actually a very good language for Dzogchen translations -- it is very precise.



    muni wrote:
    Awareness with an added word. Like Selfsprung Awareness, Pristine Awareness, 'inner Pure Awareness and Knowledge', and other to express completedness.

    Malcolm wrote:
    I know what Sogyal says, and translating rig pa as "awareness" is passe.

    Further, just as a simple point of Tibetan grammar, rang gi rig pa means "one's own rigpa", not self-awareness.

    rang byung rigpa means "knowledge that comes from oneself i.e. it is based on one's own direct experience.

    Ye shes is normally translated as wisdom or primordial wisdom, but some people these days, following John Pettite and Richad Baron are liking primordial awareness for this.

    I back translate rigpa in Sanskrit generally, as vidyā unless it is being used as a verb "to know". Adriano Clemente has stopped translating it altogether, which I approve of. However, since we use terms like dharmakāya, etc., for Buddhist Dzogchen texts at any rate, vidyā is another word that is preferable.

    On the other hand, we are still very much in the experimental stage and every translator and and so on has their own ideas based on what they understand about the teachings.


    kalden yungdrung wrote:
    Tashi delek,

    Yes the term Rigpa, is a very difficult word to translate, sure when it is related to awareness.
    Also is it clear that Rigpa could also be inteligence, that was also one of my earlier suggestion.

    Malcolm wrote:
    In my opinion, translating rigpa as "awareness" is simply wrong. Intelligence is also not good, again IMO.

    In this case, knowledge is best. Why? Because rigpa is opposite to ma rig pa. Knowledge is the opposite of ignorance.



    muni wrote:
    Yes, the word what can help the most clear to express its' meaning, is what one can apply. No idea make wholes in "naked awareness", a word of Lama Surya Das.

    Malcolm wrote:
    IMO opinion the word "vidyā" does not mean "awareness", as I have explained. The term "shes pa" can mean awareness depending on context. It can also mean "to recognize" depending on whether it is being used as a noun or a verb.

    Having translated and read thousands of pages of Dzogchen texts, I am very dissatisfied with the use of awareness for rigpa. It should be deprecated, like HTML 1.0.


    tamdrin wrote:
    ...but I never saw you say anything about Namkhai Norbu's translation of rigpa as "presence" which is really a lackluster tranlation, many will agree.

    Malcolm wrote:
    He does not translate rigpa as presence, as I have explained before. The word he is translating for presence is dran pa, mindfulness.

    The word he uses for rig pa is knowledge.

    Why do I know this? Because I frequently follow him with the Tibetan text he is teaching in hand.

    But I am not saying that knowledge is the best translation for rig pa in general because he is using it. It is because I have been reading Dzogchen texts for 20 years and finally concluded on my own that "knowledge" was best.


    tamdrin wrote:
    While many of his other students who post around here think that he does translate rigpa as presence. Again awareness can be of relative objects (i.e. being aware of some object).. knowledge can also be of relative objects, having knowledge of such and such field of knowledge.

    Malcolm wrote:
    In this case, he is using the term rig pa to describe one's knowledge of the basis i.e. essence, nature and energy/compassion. When you have that knowledge (vidyā/rig pa) you no longer wander in samsara. When you do not have that knowledge (avidyā,ma rig pa) then you wander in samsara endlessly.

    As far as what other people may say who do not know Tibetan, and do not follow his teachings with text in hand, all I can say is that they are mistaken.

    Sometimes Rinpoche will translate "shes pa skad gcig ma" as "instant presence", because this uncontrived momentary awareness is the basis of tregchö etc. Then in this case one uses mindfulness as a support for uncontrived momentary awareness do that you do not wander in distraction. In this respect, there is basically difference between mahāmudra meditation, dzogchen and the Sakya "khordey yerme" i.e. the view of inseparability of samsara and nirvana -- they all are talking about the same thing in this respect tha mal gyi shes pa so called "ordinary mind" or "basis awareness".

    But rigpa is something else. Rigpa is the knowledge of your state. When you have recognized uncontrived momentary awareness, the knowledge that ensues from recognition is rigpa. When you have recognized the meaning of sound, lights and rays, the knowledge that ensues from recognition is rigpa. Why, because you are no longer in a state of ignorance. The opposite of ignorance is knowledge. The opposite of ma rig pa is rig pa, the opposite of avidyā is vidyā.

    Also rig pa can mean knowledge. As a verb, it means "to know" when it is used as a verb in Tibetan, never "to be aware". Then there is the rig gnas lnga i.e. the five sciences, the pañcavidyāsthana.

    The use of the term vidyā as the opposite of avidyā is very deliberate in Dzogchen texts and relates to the beginning of the cycle of dependent origination. When Samantabhadra knew his own state, the chain of dependent origination, which begins with ignorance, never started for him.
    November 14, 2013 at 11:36am · Unlike · 4
    Soh I believe Jax no longer holds the view that Advaita is the same as Dzogchen recently
    November 14, 2013 at 11:39am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Ah well that's good.
    November 14, 2013 at 11:40am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Some more:

    kalden yungdrung wrote:
    Rigpa in the sense of intelligence, could be equal to knowledge and this is the oposite to no intelligence,

    Malcolm wrote:
    The opposite of intelligence is absence of intelligence or in this sense, the insentient, the inert.

    kalden yungdrung wrote:
    But i cannot help it that many Geshelas, Khenpos, Lopons, Rinpoches etc. maintain the meaning of Awareness when in the Natural State as a word to express Rigpa

    Malcolm wrote:
    Sure, they do. They are not native English speakers. Not their fault. They do the best they can. The reason every one in the bon po world uses awareness is mainly due to John Reynolds.

    But now more and more people are moving away from that translation, in the Buddhist world at any rate.

    The bon world is much smaller, and therefore, it will more resistant to change. Also fewer western translators.


    muni wrote:
    Rigpa on it; knowledge for schoolstudents. There are many Rigpa's and combinations.
    In 'naked awareness' I see clear as emptiness and awareness. Pure awareness as Rigpa here.
    Maybe self-"arising" (already is) gnosis= empty awareness.

    Ma Rigpa = state sentient being. (not knowing)
    I think the linguistic meaning is less important. Also nature is not in text revealing.


    Malcolm wrote:
    HI Muni:

    One of the problems you will face if you insist on translating rigpa as a awareness, is that you will be able to differentiate Dzogchen, etc. from the hindus who are always waffling on about "pure awareness". In reality, "awareness" is a word in english which requires an object.

    "Awareness is the state or ability to perceive, to feel, or to be conscious of events, objects or sensory patterns. In this level of consciousness, sense data can be confirmed by an observer without necessarily implying understanding. More broadly, it is the state or quality of being aware of something. In biological psychology, awareness is defined as a human's or an animal's perception and cognitive reaction to a condition or event."

    I know you are not a native English speaker, and so you may not be tuned into usage of English terms. Awareness is always an awareness of something. The basis is not a something. If you are aware of the basis as a something, then you immediately fall into samsara. This is the problem with using the term awareness for rig pa.

    Knowledge in the other hand is more ambiguous word in English which actually involves real philosophical issues hence the discipline of epistemology i.e. the study of knowledge qua knowledge.

    Rig pa in every sense of the word as it is used in opposition to ma rig pa has to do with knowing as opposed to ignorance. Some have described as the intersection between belief and truth, or "a justified true belief."

    In this case, rig pa is justified, because it is based on a personal experience, true, because that experience can be verified by anyone, and a belief because in this case personal experience has lead us to a state personal verification of something that before hand be merely believed.

    Anyway, people are free to believe what they wish, justified or not. It is my belief, one I think justified and true, that the English word awareness is not an adequate translation of rig pa almost every case.

    The problem is that you and mudra do not fully understand what term "awareness" really means in English. So therefore, you are stuck on an obsolete translation.

    So, there is no point in further discussion.

    As long as you understand what rig pa means for yourself, you can call rig pa "george".
    November 14, 2013 at 11:47am · Like · 3
    Jackson Peterson Soh, I never saw the views as the same, because Advaita uses a term "Self". That "Self" is ok if it points to the spiritual nature of all experience as Self , without the sense of a background entity. Vairocana and Dzogchen Tantras refer to "Great Self" (Mahatman), Dagnyid Chenpo. But that "Self" is the result of insight into two-fold emptiness that finally reveals the empty and unestablished rigpa or wisdom consciousness as yeshe. It is a Buddha which is essence, nature-clarity and reflexive resonating concern. Leaving this Buddha unestablished and empty is the unique perspective of Dzogchen, Zen and Mahamudra without bias toward eternalism nor to nihilism.
    November 14, 2013 at 11:19pm · Like
    Kyle Dixon This just came up yesterday:

    Malcolm wrote:
    There is a long section discussing lhun grub in various ways in the fourth chapter of the klong drug commentary.

    "Natural" [lhun] is the state [ngang] because it is uncontrived; it is the primal nature [rang bzhin] because that never stirs; it is the absolute identity [bdag nyid chen po] because of abiding in that. "Perfected" is the the result since there is not need for accomplishment [bsgrub]; since that is not fabricated, it is the basis; and because there is no ground of change from that, it is the path."

    This is the section that caused me to change my mind.

    BTW, these three terms, state, primal nature and absolute identity are very important concepts in interpreting the bodhicitta texts.

    udawa wrote:
    absolute identity [bdag nyid chen po]

    Malcolm, could you say a bit more about 'absolute identity?' Presumably a more literal translation would be something like 'great self'?


    Malcolm wrote:
    The reason I use the term "identity" rather than "self" is to avoid confusion with nonbuddhist tenets. ChNN glosses this as "total state".
    November 15, 2013 at 12:04am · Like
    Kyle Dixon Mutsuk Marro wrote:
    The view of "great self' is discussed at length in the bSam-gtan mig-sgron, and on at least one occasion, it is glossed as "rig pa". A interlineary note also says that, among the nine views of the Basis, this "great self" is the view maintained by Vairocana.

    According to Nubchen, it seems that the expression is also used in a similar manner in Mahayoga tantras.

    Malcolm wrote:
    There is nothing controversial about this. Nubchen comments:

    "Grasping to appearances as self and other is purified by nature (ngang gyis dag pa); the great I without an I (nga med pa'i nga chen) is the great self (bdag nyid chen po)"

    dzogchungpa wrote:
    From "Talks With Sri Ramana Maharshi":
    D.: If ‘I’ also be an illusion, who then casts off the illusion?
    M.: The ‘I’ casts off the illusion of ‘I’ and yet remains as ‘I’. Such
    is the paradox of Self-Realisation. The realised do not see any
    contradiction in it.

    Malcolm wrote:
    It is not the same. Maharshi's comments make sense in the context of Samkhya/Yoga where there is a total cessation of citta vrttis, and yet Purusha remains. People deify Maharshi, but since they do not have a basic grasp of the Samkhya Yoga tradition, they really do not understand the context of his statements such as the above.

    Dzogchen teachings are not stating that there is an existing atman which is free from cittavrttis.

    Generally, we must not take such terminologies as implying something they are not. Otherwise, the Dzogchen tantras and upadeshas detailed refutations of the views of self found outside Buddhadharma will be rendered senseless.
    November 15, 2013 at 12:16am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon Malcolm wrote:
    What I am saying is that people are incapable of perceiving the difference in meaning between the two terminologies because they are unfamiliar with the basic premises of which underlie Ramana Maharshi's statements in general. I am sure they are not the same because I have received teachings in Dzogchen and I have received teachings in Yoga sutras, etc. And the premises underlying Ramana Maharshi's practice and realization and the premises underlying Dzogchen practice and realization are not the same.

    For example, these extracts are taken from the section of Nub's review of different views held by different Dzogchen masters enunciated. bDag nyid chen po is Vairocana's favored way of expressing Dzogchen view. Vimalamitra's was called gza' gtad dang bral ba, "freedom from reference points", Garab Dorje's view, so he says, was lhun grub., and so on.

    So the "great self" approach is one facet; the lhun sgrub view is another facet, etc. But one cannot get stuck on these views because it is very clearly explained in such tantras as sgra thal 'gyur and others that there are seven positions about the basis [gzhi] and only one of them (i.e. the basis is ka dag) is in the final analysis utterly faultless.

    Please do not lose sight of the fact that these views are partial attempts to describe the view of Dzogchen. So when we see things like the above citation we mustn't rush off and start proclaiming to everyone that Dzogchen teaching teaches the same things as Ramana Maharshi. We have to understand that Ramana is coming from the Samkhya/Yoga tradition. He says nothing that cannot be found in the Yoga sutras as interpreted by Shankaracarya.

    I am also pointing out that there is a long standing commentarial tradition based on the Dzogchen tantras own statement that will not allow one to interpret such terms as bdag nyid chen po as being in any way similar in intent to the sentiments of RM that you cite above.
    November 15, 2013 at 12:16am · Like · 1
    Kyle Dixon dzogchungpa wrote:
    So, are you saying that purusha is 'I' according to Ramana and the yoga tradition, and that the difference between this and the bdag nyid chen po discussed earlier is that the latter is not considered to be existent in the same way as the former?

    Malcolm wrote:
    Yes, I am saying that purusha is the self, according to Ramana and Advaita. The main difference between Advaita and Yoga is Advaita asserts there is only one self or purusha, but SamkhyaYoga asserts there are many -- otherwise, the path taught in Yoga and the path taught in Advaita are the same. When you look at Ramanas remarks about pratyakasha for example, these remarks are completely consistent with the way pratyaksha is treated in the Yoga sutras.

    You also have to understand that purusha excludes all phenomena from itself. It is pure consciousness, but prakriti is not part of purusha. Advaita too keeps the prakriti purusha duality in terms of relative truth, but rather than asserting that prakriti is real, it asserts that prakriti is actually unreal (maya). However, cit, is real, is brahman. Here, they understand that purusha actually means brahman.

    bdag nyid chen po in Dzogchen pretty clearly refers to the basis, not any kind of personal identity, transcendent or otherwise, which is why ChNN translate it as "the totality of one's state".
    November 15, 2013 at 12:17am · Like · 1

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