Whant to share and discuss few some interesting thoughts about recognition of rigpa from Jean Luc Achard - translator of the Bon texts and teachings:
Hi Jean Luc, in every text to talk about rigpa, there is the presence .There's the presence in "present time" (not to think about the future or past). The presence it is "transformed" automatically into rigpa? In Other words, if we must maintain the presence to be in rigpa? I've heard that we have many type of rigpa. It's true? Can you tell me more about this? Why we have many type of rigpa?
It's a subject that we've been discussing quite a lot in other Yahoo lists. I personally think that "Presence" is the worst word ever to use in order to translate Rigpa. Presence is a sensation, so it belongs to the aggregate of sensations. It, of course, involves consciousnesses (both sensory and mental) and that's precisely where the problem lies. Rigpa is beyond sensations and consciousnesses. It does not depend on these. It is the knowledge of the natural state. What does that mean really ? It means that the Natural State has two qualities : Emptiness and Clarity. Emptiness means absence of inherent existence and Clarity means that this state is self‐discerning ("it knows itself by itself", as Lopon often puts it). In other words, the Clarity of the natural state corresponds to what Rigpa is. This Rigpa is that through which one knows the natural state (when being introduced to it by the master) and that through which our natural state knows itself (just like a lamp illuminates both itself and what is around). And how does it knows itself since it's not a mental consciousness? It precisely discerns (rig) itself from the ordinary mind (sems), from consciousness (rnam‐shes), intellect (blo), intelligence (blo gros), mental (yid), etc. So when you are in the state of Rigpa, you clearly discerns (rig) what pertains to Mind (sems‐nyid, the ultimate nature of Mind) from what pertains to ordinary, conditioned mind (sems). In Thogel context, Rigpa corresponds to the fourth Lamp — the Lamp of the Self‐Arisen Sublime Knowledge (shes‐rab rang‐byung gi sgron ma) — which is, precisely, the Sublime (rab) Knowledge (shes) corresponding to the state of Trekchö. In all of this, there is a very active and dynamic aspect of total Discernment (rig‐pa) or real Knowledge (shes rab) of the natural state, not a mere state of sensing a presence (of what by the way?).
The use of Presence apparently came up about 15 years ago (in printed material, it must have been there orally sometime before, I actually don't know) in the context of the Dzogchen Community from some "translator" (known for indulging quite a lot in the use of smoking illegal substances and in mixing the teachings with other non‐Buddhist/Bon traditions) who put this essentially "New Age" concept into the brain of the masters. The success of the word is actually tragic: people identify inner sensations of quietness and pervasiveness as a state of Presence which they think is Rigpa. This is really far from what Rigpa is.
There exists 15 forms or modalities of Rigpa (which we may discuss in another post, right now I lack time to enter details), but basically when explaining what it is in Bon, we use mainly these three modalities :
1. Khyab‐rig (All‐Pervasive Discernment) which is the same as the Sugatagarbha, the potential for Buddhahood (it is nothing else, just this potential). What it pervades is the heart of all beings; in other words, all beings have this Pervasive Discernment which embraces each being endowed with a mind;
2. bSam‐rig (Knowing Discernment) which is the knowledge you generate when you study and get experiences of the teachings (it is a fluctuating phenomenon according to the capacities of the individual; the more you study correctly, the more you Knowing Discernment is developed);
3. Ye‐rig (Primordial Discernment) which is, precisely, the Rigpa that is referred to in Dzogchen texts. There exists three modalities indicating whether or not you are in this state : an outer one, an inner one and an intermediate one. According to the outer one, you know (you realize, you discern) that the outer manifestations are really non‐substantial (you realize their absence of tangible reality). According to the inner one, you are in the experience of Mind itself (sems‐nyid) and you realize it as being devoid of self (bdag‐med). In other words, you discerns your real nature as being empty of a conditioned self. Then according to the intermediate one, all discursive thoughts arise as Wisdoms. It does not mean that thoughts disappear; on the contrary they continue to arise but they are left as they are and we do not follow after them. At that time they simply arise but are seen as empty. Still their potential for arising is there and since it is not tainted by ego‐grasping, then this potential manifests its enlightened side which is that of Wisdoms. In other words, thoughts arise as Wisdoms. They are exactly the same as before, exactly and precisely the same as before, with the cosmic exception that there is no grasping at them anymore.
All this comes from the teachings of Shardza Rinpoche and the oral instructions associated with the Trekchö section of the Kuzang Nyingthik.
What are the correct ways to do Semdzin correctly?
The best way is to perform them during a specific retreat. In this manner, distractions are less likely to disrupt the flow of concentration. The idea is really to focus (concentrate, hold, master, the verb is 'dzin pa in Tibetan) the mind so that its ordinary flow of discursiveness is severed.
What are the errors commons of Semdzin but also Trekchö?
Well there are not specific errors in the practice of Semdzins. Applying the precepts in a wrong way by not understanding how to perform a Semdzin might certainly be an error. In my opinion, the main mistake that people do is to stop the practice before obtaining proper signs. This is the mistake nearly everyone does. For this reason, performing the Semdzins in retreat is important (you take a vow when you start a retreat, not to stop before such and such a date and if the date leaves you a sufficient or reasonable time to reach signs, then it's perfect).
For Trekchö, the mistake is certainly to try to integrate the experience in daily life right from the beginning.
How ever many Westerners fail to enter the rigpa? What's wrong on they?
Well I don't know if they fail, it's actually pretty easy to enter the experience of Rigpa but more difficult to cultivate it without artifice, outside of a retreat context. Most of the westerners I know do not do any retreat. They go to teachings when a lama is there and they call it a retreat. This is not like this that things have to be done. In particular with Dzogchen teachings. I've received a lot of teachings in Tibet and none of the masters ever said a word about integration into daily working life. This is something that a few Tibetan masters have made for the West. Traditionally, when you receive a Dzogchen teaching, you then go into retreat and generate some experience. This takes months at best. Then you come back to the master and relate your experience. Then you get further details on more advanced practice, etc., and you go to another retreat. So not doing any "real" retreat is probably a drawback that affects most people. For instance, the retreat of Trekchö in the Kunzang Nyinghtik (it's the same for those who follow the Yeshe Lama for instance) does not last less than 18 continuous months in a traditional context.
Another point that is related is misunderstanding some key point in Trekchö. For instance, all our masters repeat that once you have entered the state of Trekchö, then you must not do anything. And you consequently have people not doing anything for years! They just remain like that, glued in a state of total blankness, using vague words like "presence" to describe the actual fogginess of their experience. Actually, what texts say is that you don't do anything at first, not continually. "At first' means that it's simply the threshold of Trekchö practice. What you actually have to do is once you don't doubt anymore regarding the actual "flavour" of this state, then you have to cultivate it with artifice during specific sessions (that's the purpose of the 18 months mentioned above) after which you are quasi‐certain to reach a non‐regressive stability in this state. Most of the time, this stability is reached quite earlier during the retreat. It's actually easier to succeed in this during a retreat than during the daily working life when you have all the distractions of your ordinary social life. So during the retreat, at a certain stage, you train in integration. There are four things to integrate : 1. the activities of the 3 doors, 2. the activities of the six associations of consciousnesses, 3. specific intellectual activities of the mind, and 4. the variety of circumstances that life puts on your path. So the "doing nothing" is really something for beginners in Trekchö. Most people I know mistake it for the real practice. That's the worst mistake to make because one is never going to make any progress if one goes on like this.
Can you explain the 4 things to integrate in detail?
These techniques come in the teachings of the Conduct (spyod‐pa) in Trekchö context. The fact that it is a Conduct and not a behaviour, is demonstrated by the way the practice is actually done. It definitely has an ethical and religious approach to it. First you do a complete session of the preliminaries starting with the first and second of the three Excellences (which means it’s clearly in an ethical and religious
context; the 1st excellence is the development of Bodhicitta and the second the state of Emptiness or state of Guru‐Yoga, the third is the dedication which comes at the end of the practice). Then, remaining in the state of the Guru‐Yoga, you do your standard sky gazing practice of Trekchö. Then comes integration.
It is a little too long to enter the details of the actual practice, but I will give it a try with a very general presentation. The aim of the first practice of integration is to integrate to our virtuous Conduct (dge spyod, explicitly designated like this in the text) all the pure and impure activities of the three doors. Basically this means that one enters a state of equipoise (lit. “access to equality”, mnyam‐bzhag, which means accessing the condition of equality of the natural state) and then one has to mix it with the state of subsequent attainment (rjes thob, the post‐meditation period). So for instance, in order to integrate the activities of the body, you are going to try to remain in the experience of the natural state, quit your posture and perform circumambulations, prostrations, yantras, etc. This is the integration of the pure activities of the body. Then you got the neutral activities such as walking, sitting, eating, etc., including preparing your food. Then you train in the impure activities of the body, like raising wrath and becoming berserk, delighting in distractions (trying to raise distractions intentionally to see if your experience of the state is affected or not by it), etc.
In other words, you “test” your capacity to remain in the natural state in any condition.
You do the same with the pure, neutral and impure activities of the speech and the mind.
Then you train with the six associations of consciousnesses (outer objects + intermediate sense organ + inner sense consciousness).
Then you go on with the hordes of various conceptions that arise in the continuum on a more or less continuous basis.
Then, with the integration of the “multiple” (sna‐tshogs), namely the variety of circumstances that are likely to arise, you have three Conducts : 1. a secret Conduct for practitioners of lower capacities, 2. an ascetic secret Conduct for those of medium capacities, and 3. the impartial Conduct of the Perfect Victorious Ones for highly advanced practitioners.
All the instructions are taught when you reach chapter VI of the Chaktri in the Zhangzhung Nyengyü training.
So which translation for rigpa do you like?
Well, so far in English I haven't found anything I’m really crazy about. In the English translations i do i use Awareness because it's practically impossible to change the usage now. But, as we've discussed elsewhere, etymologically (the high‐German gewhar from which Awareness is derived) does not really fit with the context. In French I use another word. I use "Discernment" because it fits with the simplest definition of Rigpa found in the ZZNG where it is said that Rigpa discerns (rig) or distinguishes (phyed)
the pure (dag = Mind, the nature of mind) from the impure (ma‐dag = mind, the conditioned mind). In this discerning aspect (rig‐cha), there is no duality, simply the ever‐pure, lucid, vivid and fresh knowledge of the natural state. In such a state, the arising of thoughts is not a problem at all, on the contrary they may be more than welcome, especially for investigating the meaning of the teachings, spreading them, etc.
I always thought it's better not to translate rigpa, because this way there can't be as many concepts arising as to what it is.
In pure theory of translation (the famed Georges Mounin's theories), this is a mistake. When you don't have a word in the target language that fits with the original word in the source language, then the solution is to choose a word that comes the closest to the definition of the original word and then apply to it a semantic field that corresponds exactly to the original definition. That's what the Tibetans have done when they used "Rigpa" for the knowledge of the natural state. Rigpa/Discernment is the word/translation and "the knowledge of the natural state" is its definition. Then you have the semantic field with all that is related to the original word. The word you chose must also function in all the contexts that you see the original word in, in the original texts. Rigpa works also as a verb, so you have to be able to conjugate your choice. In an extreme sense, you can choose any word you like, provided it's close enough to the basic meaning of the original and you simply have to give it a special semantic field to work out fine. In standard Tibetan, Rigpa does not have the meaning it has in Dzogchen. This means that the Tibetans have rendered its semantic field "sensible" in order to encompass the meaning they wanted to give it in a Dzogchen context.
Yeah, for me I think the biggest obstacle can be confusing it for objectless shamatha. Is there any specific way in Bon for discerning the difference?
Well, in Dzogchen cycles such as the Chaktri, shamatha is used as a means to discover the nature of the mind, but in a special way. It is used in order to create a state in which the continuous identification with the inner discourse (which describes to itself what it is actually doing) has been severed or suspended, in order to enable the investigation of the nature of mind. The aim in shamatha is to induce a state of inner calm and peace in which thoughts are eventually discarded (in the 9th stage). In Rigpa, the presence or absence of thoughts is not a problem. If the Rigpai Tselwang has been given at the proper time and from a qualified master, then doubts regarding the nature of Rigpa should be easily cleared away. All that it takes then is time to intensify this experience, and then to stabilize it. That's the purpose of the Path.
When I try to suspend the continuum inner discourse, there is an empty state (it doesn't last for a long period) and a new inner discourse comes into my mind. I try to observe this new one and
there is another empty state. If I observe my present thoughts (observing, not judging) without going in the future or the past, and when my mind is empty, is a bad training for discovered the rigpa? Thanks
It does not really look like a bad training to me but you have a finer, better, easier method. In the ZZNG (but also in other Bon Dzogchen cycles), you first start by creating an inner condition of quietness and calm through fixation on a white A. This is the Shamatha aspect. With this practice, you create a kind of condition in which no thoughts are allowed to arise (it's actually easier than it looks and it just takes a little time to succeed). Of course, this does not last very long (at best a few minutes, really at best). Then, within that state, you allow a thought to arise or instead of allowing it, you just wait for a thought to arise spontaneously. As soon as it arises you look directly at it, which means you try to "turn" the mind back on itself, as if to see the thought arising. When you do this, you (the observer) and the thought (the observed) both vanish instantaneously (because they are the same thing) and you suddenly find yourself in a state of total, pure, limpid, vivid, fresh knowledge. It is a "knowledge" in the best sense of the word: it discerns (rig) itself and it also discerns the further thoughts and emotions that are likely to arise then (it's one of the reasons why "presence" is completely out of context in Dzogchen). What has happened is that you have shifted from a point of reference in which you were identified to the thoughts in a continuous ego‐grasping/dualistic mode, to a point of reference (it's actually not a point nor a reference but language limits the description...) which is the real nature of the mind. When doing so very carefully, you'll see that it's very, very, very easy to recognize this state. One sign that indicates a correct recognition is an indescribable "feeling" that one already knows that state. During the direct introduction, the master explains all this in more details and you get explanations on the real meaning of Emptiness and Clarity, but the actual procedure you have to follow after that is basically that described above.
I'm not breaking any seal of secrecy here, it's written in zillions of Dzogchen texts without any restriction to sincerely interested practitioners. There are also further aspects in the direct introduction that, this time, should be reserved for the occasion when the master gives it. In particular, in Thogel context, you have a set of 21 special introductions which are really important things. I'm not sure we can discuss these here. It's better if a master explains them to you when it's time for it.