Sally Gross wrote:Oy vey Maria ....
Much depends on what you mean by "Nikaya Buddhism". I assume that the term "Nikaya" refers to the Nikaayas of the Sutta Pitaka, the Pali canon of discourses (the Digha Nikaaya, the Majjhima Nikaaya, the Samyutta Nikaaya, the Anguttara Nikaaya and so on), to their counterparts preserved in Chinese translation from Sanskrit originals in the Aagamas, and to cognate discourses and fragments of discourses preserved in other languages such as Gaandhaarii. Are you claiming that the teaching found in these discourses bears little resemblance, if any at all to what the Buddha actually taught, that the methods expounded in what you might be claiming to be corrupt forgeries of the word of the Buddha are therefore inefficacious, and that the teaching in these discourses reflects a corrupt and degraded version of the Buddha's actual teaching? Should this indeed be your contention, I'd imagine that a good many people -- not excluding some on this sub-forum -- would disagree with you. What, on your account, did the historical Buddha really teach? Are the first three Noble Truths and the Fourth Truth, the Noble Eightfold Path, distortions of the teaching of the Buddha Sakyamuni and his immediate disciples? I hope that I have got you wrong, because I fear, if I have not misconstrued what you say, that you are chucking out the baby with the bathwater. Dzogchen teachings, being free of limitations, afford ample space for appreciating the best available sources for the overt, exoteric teachings of the historical Buddha.
I feel like I shouldn't leave this hanging. I'll try to be reserved. For example, tanha doesn't mean desire. It means urge. Avijja doesn't mean ignorance. It means unawares. When understood correctly, Buddha explained a way to make the twelve fold process of urging to come to a stop. However, the Theravada methods of vipassana and shamatha don't approach it this way. In my opinion, they are in error. Even the word ariya doesn't really mean noble, it means sublime. It refers to a non-ordinary consciousness, to nibbana, rather than something laudable.
You will see how dharma is such a moving target even by listening to ChNN. ChNN explains that Hinayana deals with desire by taking a vow. But this approach is not Theravada. So when ChNN lectures about the relation of Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana and Dzogchen, he isn't talking about the Hinayana that most of us know about. Taking a vow to control desire comes from one of the other 18 schools of Hinayana. He will never mention a particular Hinayana meditation practice, because in whichever particular school that was, it left Hinayana meditation styles behind in favor of the Mahayana flavors more prevalent in the North. You mention Gandhara and Chinese Agamas and so these are many different takes on dharma. The fact that there were 18 schools of Hinayana sort of show how many different interpretations of Buddha's words there were even just a short time after his death. Not all of them can be right. Perhaps none are. That's just logic.
Then, if you look at Mahayana and Vajrayana you will see so many variations on practices. Some Vajrayana lineages incorporate Mahayana more than others. Some maintain a monastic tradition, and others let that go. What's the real Vajrayana? It's hard to know. This is where Dzogchen, and particularly, ChNN's approach is particularly incisive, relevant and timely. Introducing you directly to the natural state takes you directly into the "ariya" nature that Buddha taught via 4NT, N8FP and 7FE, etc., with the added bonus that you don't need any particular sitting method, practice sessions, etc. It's really amazing. It really is free of limitations, which is the reason why Mr. Jnana isn't entirely correct about Nikaya Buddhism. Sure explaining the points of dhamma-vinaya is helpful education. But, the methods there are very difficult to implement these days. And when a method of direct introduction cuts directly to the core of it all, why would anyone fiddle with them?
Basically, Dzogchen and Guru Rinpoche's point is that Dzogchen is here at a time when we will have an extremely difficult time sorting out dharma from adharma. That is precisely why he has emanated as these Dzogchen masters who are equipped to point out the fruit from day one. Then, no matter what arguments or history are presented, in whatever manner that tradition provides, it will be impossible to become confused. Once your real nature has been clearly recognized, no explanations can take it away. This is what is mean by beyond explanations. No particular practice can enhance or diminish it. And this is what is meant by free from limitations. These are just some of my wandering thoughts.