Aa monk, Acarya Pramodavajra lived a purely monastic, disciplined life for many years. His discipline as a monk prepared him for the contemplative life. With time he more and more turned away from scholastic studies, to sit in quiet meditation. He meditated in his monastery cell and in the caves and forests of the Kingdom of Uddiyana.
At some point in the maturation of his spiritual evolution, he received the blessed Empowerment and Transmission of the profound Mahayoga teachings of the Secret Matrix Tradition (Guhyagarbha-tantra) from the renowned personal guru of the King of Uddiyana, the great white-robed saint Mahasiddha Kukkuraja. After that he retired into retreat on the slopes of Mount Suryaprakasa8 in the north, where he performed mantra practice in a small grass hut.
Kukkuraja's instruction had been very direct. "Everything without exception is the Divine Body-Speech-Mind," he had said. "The Divine Body-Speech-Mind is all-encompassing. Thus know your ultimate identity to be Vajrasattva, the Divine Body-Speech-Mind." As the Tibetan text of the Kulaya-raja Sutra (Kun.byed.rgyal.po'i .mdo) states: "When everything is seen as the Great Self-identity (bdag.nyid.chen.po), it is known as Atiyoga." Therefore Acarya Pramodavajra's spiritual practice (sadhana) consisted of meditating on the core of his being as ultimately the Absolute itself. For many years the meditation and mantra practice of the one divine Vajrasattva became his sole activity.
In his thirty-second year, Acarya Pramodavajra came face to face with Vajrasattva, the Divine: he attained complete Enlightenment. Simultaneously the earth quaked and the sky was filled with celestial sound.
Pleasure and pain lost their sway over him. The emotional strings of desire and fear fell away, and he found himself complete, in need of nothing. Utterly transformed by pure vision, his whole being was flooded with the grace of great bliss, and his mind awoke through the cosmic empowerment of primordial Awareness.9 Thus, in one instant, he grasped full insight into Absolute Totality, the omniscient state of Dzogchen. From that moment on, Pramodavajra belonged to that stage which, in Buddhist mysticism, is referred to as "no more seeking".
He saw from the perspective of the vast timeless totality of self-existing Awareness (svayambhu-vidya), like a joyous undulation on the surface of the ever emerging ocean of universal consciousness, the numberless waves of phenomena appearing as millions of beings and worlds, arising and subsiding since beginningless time. Identifying with consciousness, he knew every varied and finite experience of being as himself, while remaining immutably the Absolute (buddha), indivisibly no-thing (shunyam), indivisibly all-aware, and indivisibly all-love.
The ordinary human mind cannot comprehend the nature of such a Great Enlightenment until it is experienced for oneself.
Now, the holy enlightened sage Sri Pramodavajra held within his intellect all of the wisdom, all of the insightful understanding, all of the unique knowledge of what later became known as the Dzogchen Doctrine, and which, when finally written down, consisted of six million, four hundred thousand lines of Sanskrit verse. This Doctrine concerns the nature of Ultimate Reality (dharmata) and the means of acquiring Enlightenment by cutting through to a clear view of that Reality. This Doctrine, or optimal View, has been rightly called the innermost essence of Buddhism.
In a nutshell, the Dzogchen Doctrine points to our ultimate identity as nothing less than the Absolute itself. Since the Absolute, or Divine Being, is that which includes or encompasses all, for which there can be no "other", the absolute view must by definition be nondual. Although the phenomenal world appears relative, finite; and determinate—and, although human conscious experience arises in a manner always divisible, and hence bounded by subject and object—nevertheless the world and consciousness cannot ultimately be separate or "other", than the Absolute itself. This truth, i.e., the truth of nonduality, must finally be the only acceptable one. If there were a reality other than the Divine, the independence of such a reality would itself limit the absoluteness of this Divine. Since Divine Being cannot be limited, the natural corollary follows that the whole of appearance is not other than the ground of Awareness. The most important aspects of the Dzogchen tradition therefore concern the means whereby the ordinary conscious Seeker of the Truth can realize this Ultimate Reality.
What transpires from Sri Pramodavajra's insight is that Vajrasattva, Divine Being, is not , only the source of our reality, but is the sole reality. Divine Being stands at the genesis of Creation not only as our all-conscious common Father-Mother Endlessness, but far more literally as the whole of the totality of being and appearance born into the continuum of time.
Nondualism (advaya) means that God cannot be viewed as a somebody or something over there, divisible from we who are here. If Ultimate Reality (dharmata) is nondual, then our own common ultimate identity (maha-atmyata) cannot be other than God.
The world cannot be other than God. At the same time we are not able to simply accept this at face value. To do so raises all the obvious errors of pantheism and what is called idealism. Although it may be declared that Vajrasattva is the sole reality, what about the world—the very real world of suffering and ego-consciousness—which quite obviously is not Vajrasattva? How can one declare that God is the only reality, when this world of suffering and separation is so obviously lacking in compassion? And yet Dzogchen does teach that everything has always been divine and pure since the very beginning. Consequently all of these seeming paradoxes needed eventually to be explained in the Doctrine, so that the correct View could be achieved by the Seeker, for it is the spiritual duty of the one who has found the Truth to communicate it in a language that will benefit the ignorant.
But at first when the word went forth that the unique sage Sri Pramodavajra was teaching a new Doctrine, a non-causal doctrine, not everyone was pleased. A foreign king holding extremist views sent an assassin to kill the enlightened Master. For the foreigner the very concept of identity between creature and Creator seemed the worst blasphemy. In his narrow mind, it appeared that the assassination of the Master was a service to the Lord.
Indeed, the era during which we must suppose these events to have occurred was in fact one of great social upheaval and turmoil. In 690 A.D. the lady Wu Chao had managed to usurp the throne of China and have herself made Emperor (Huang-ti), after having been proclaimed, by an ambitious court monk, as an Incarnation of the future Buddha Maitreya. By 669 the Western Turks were undergoing considerable political turmoil and Tri Du-srong, the emperor of Tibet, was actively extending his power in Central Asia by means of continuous bloody warfare and pillage. The neighboring Turkish Shahi kingdoms of Kapisa (Shambhala) and Uddiyana were also both being hard pressed on their southwesterly flank by the inexorable expansion of the southern Arab Moslems.
Ramashankar Tripathi tells us that although "hardly anything is known of the Turki Shahis" during this era, nevertheless it is certain they were carrying on "intermittent wars with the Arab invaders from the seventh to the middle of the ninth century A.D."10
By 711 A.D. Moslem raiders would descend on Sind under the command of Muhammad ibn Qasim. The Middle East was in turmoil and continuous political tensions swept the settled regions of Central Asia. It need not be surprising, therefore, that in this time of crisis; an attempt was made on the life of the holy father of our sacred Dzogchen tradition.
It was around the same time that a wandering trader in fine cloth, from the Valley of Cina, came to Uddiyana. By chance the young trader met Acarya Pramodavajra and, impressed by the Master's saintliness, asked to receive transmission (agama) and empowerment (abhiseka). Perceiving that here was a vessel worthy to receive the most excellent teachings, Sri Pramodavajra initiated the young man into the meditation and mantra practice of Vajrasattva. The young man's name was Simha, the Lion. Later, as Sri Simha, he would be known as a main lineage holder of the Master's teachings.