Tsele Natsok Rangdröl indicates otherwise. The Circle of the Sun:...
Honestly, I think this analysis by this master is a bit misleading -- he is trying to assert that gzhi described by Dzogchen has an equivalent counterpart in the kun gzhi of the Mahāmudra system. However, if you read any straight mahāmudra manual, for example, Dagpo Tashi Namgyal's texts or Sakyapa presentations and so on, for them the basis [gzhi] is the all-basis [kun gzhi], the clear and empty nature of the mind. It is called the all-basis because when it is not recognized, it is the basis for samsara, and when it is recognized, it is the basis for nirvana.
On the other hand, you have Dzogchen texts that systematically differentiate between gzhi and kun gzhi. The reason for this is not arbitrary and have everything to do with the path of Dzogchen. These topics are not mentioned at all in any system of Mahāmudra since they form no part of Mahāmudra practice. The system of differentiating mind and wisdom (sems and ye shes) in Mahāmudra is not the same as differentiating between mind and vidyā in Dzogchen and does not have the same intention.
I cautiosly tend to agree with what Malcolm says here, based on what Berzin writes on the two systems. First, Berzin writes:
Whether on the gross, subtle, or subtlest clear light level, the nature of mental activity remains the same. Mahamudra (phyag-chen, great seal) practice, found in the Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug/Kagyu traditions, focuses on this nature. [...]
Rigpa shares the same nature as the three levels [gross, subtle, subtlest clear light] of mental activity analyzed by the non-dzogchen schools. Dzogchen practice, however, is exclusively done on the highest level of tantra and deals only with the subtlest level of mental activity. Moreover, dzogchen does not focus merely on the conventional and deepest natures of rigpa, but also on its various aspects and facets.
So far, so good. We learn that Mahamudra works with all levels of mind up to Clear Light. Dzogchen on the other hand works with Rigpa. This is an important distinction.
The Differences between Rigpa and Clear Light
Further, rigpa is not an exact equivalent of clear light. Rather, it is a subdivision of it.
Now, the logical conclusion is that Mahamudra and Dzogchen can by definition not be the same. One concerns levels of mind (up to) clear light and the other rigpa. As he will point out shortly, Mahamudra practice concerns both a stained or an unstained mind, whereas rigpa always concerns an unstained mind. Berzin goes on, listing three types of differences between Rigpa and Clear Light:
Different Degrees of Being Unstained
Difference in Terms of Recognizability
- The clear light level of mind is naturally devoid of grosser levels of mental activity, which are the levels at which conceptual cognition and the fleeting stains of disturbing emotions and attitudes occur. Before enlightenment, however, clear light mental activity is not devoid of the habits of grasping for true existence, which may be imputed or labeled on it. Nevertheless, when clear light is manifest, these habits do not cause clear light activity to make discordant (dual) appearances of true existence (gnyis-snang), nor do they prevent it from cognizing the two truths simultaneously (appearances and voidness), which they do when grosser levels of mind are active.
- Rigpa, on the other hand, is devoid of even the habits of grasping for true existence. It is the totally unstained natural state of the mind.
Clear light mental activity and rigpa are similar in the sense that when each is operating, grosser levels of mental activity are not functioning simultaneously.Difference in Terms of Reflexive Deep Awareness
- To access and recognize clear light mind requires actively stopping the grosser levels of mental activity, through dissolving the energy-winds that support those levels.
- Rigpa is recognizable without actively stopping the grosser levels of mental activity and of energy-wind as the method to recognize it. When recognized and accessed, however, the grosser levels automatically stop functioning.
- The non-dzogchen systems, particularly Gelug, differentiate object clear light (yul) from cognitive (yul-can, subject) clear light. Object clear light is the actual void nature (chos-nyid) of clear light, while cognitive clear light is clear light mental activity itself, a phenomenon that has object clear light as its nature (chos-can).
Clear light mental activity is not necessarily aware of its own void nature, for example the clear light mind experienced at the moment of ordinary death. Even when the fifteenth-century Gelug master Kaydrub Norzang-gyatso (mKhas-grub Nor-bzang rgya-mtsho) explains that clear light mental activity naturally gives rise to a cognitive appearance resembling that which arises in nonconceptual cognition of voidness, still it does not automatically arise with an understanding of voidness, also as in ordinary death. Moreover, even when reflexive deep awareness (rang-rig ye-shes) of its own void nature is presented as a natural quality of clear light, as in the Sakya and Kagyu systems, still it is not always operational, also as in ordinary death. Therefore, anuttarayoga practice aims at achieving, in meditation, cognitive clear light that is fully aware of its own object clear light nature.
- Rigpa, on the other hand, is innately aware of its own void nature. When we access it, it automatically is fully aware of its own nature. In dzogchen terms, it knows its own face (rang-ngo shes-pa).
Claiming that the two systems are "basically the same" is therefore only true on a superficial level, but not in terms of various aspects of the practice - at least for the Kagyu, Sakya and Gelug-Systems. Unfortunately, Berzin does not elaborate on the Bons or the Nyingmas.