WHAT IS DZOGCHEN?
Dzogchen is a Tibetan word that means Great Perfection. On the outer level it refers to a method of meditative practice that enables us to recognize our true nature. Ultimately, great perfection is that very nature: the natural, primordially pure nature of mind.
Here, our ultimate nature is understood as pure, primordial, naturally-arising timeless awareness. Although this intrinsic awareness, called rigpa in Tibetan, has no form, shape or color, it is capable of perceiving, experiencing or reflecting all the forms of phenomenal existence. Though it reflects the forms, the experiences, the good and bad feelings of everyday life, this pure intrinsic awareness of rigpa--which is our true nature--remains unstained and unaffected by them. Thus it is said that one's nature is like a mirror: it naturally reflects all that arises with complete openness, but the mirror remains unaffected by these reflections.
The method of practice of the Great Perfection is designed to awaken us, to instigate a direct recognition of this pure, unstained nature--who we really are. It is a practice that is grounded in compassion and loving-kindness, bodhicitta in Tibetan. Compassion is both the motivation for embarking on the journey, and the natural, spontaneous expression of the awakened mind. In this way the Great Perfection is the union of perfect wisdom (the recognition of our true nature) and perfect compassion (the spontaneous activity that heals the suffering of ourselves and others.)
What prevents us from already being awakened is ordinary conceptual thinking, which is rooted in the obscuring emotions of desire, aversion, anger, self-grasping, and the misunderstanding of the way everything arises merely as the momentary result of ephemeral causes and conditions. These mental habit-formations obscure the truth that is so close that we can not see it.
The meditation practice of the Great Perfection is specifically designed to break up these obscuring mental habits of mind; at that moment what is revealed is what is really there: the pure mirror-like nature of intrinsic awareness, uncontaminated by the desire, aversion and frustration of conceptual thinking. In meditation we just relax and rest in that true nature. In this unlimited, sky-like mental space we can observe how thoughts spontaneously arise, abide, and disappear; we see that the exact same thoughts that cause us so much anxiety, aggravation and animosity when we cling to them, have no more reality to them than does writing on water.
In meditation we discover that no effort is required to dissolve thoughts. We discover that the very same thoughts that cause all of our problems actually arise by themselves and dissolve by themselves; all we have to do is relax and let them be.
In meditation we relax and rest in this state of the simultaneous arising, abiding, and disappearing of all mental phenomena: we abide in the natural state of the mind. We rest in the space between thoughts.
Because we merely recognize what is already there it is called the meditation of non-meditation. Because obscuring conceptual thoughts automatically disappear with their own arising—we do not need to make them disappear—it is called effortless.
Because cultivating this experience of the simultaneous arising and disappearing of thoughts undermines the negative emotions, and the negative actions that arise from clinging to those emotions, it is like a unique medicine that can cure all of our ailments. Lama Surya Das.
“Sentient beings, self and others, enemies and dear ones—all are made by thoughts. It is like seeing a rope and mistaking it for a snake. When we think that the rope is a snake, we are scared, but once we see that we are looking at a rope, our fear dissipates. We have been deluded by our thoughts. Likewise, mentally fabricating self and others, we generate attachment and aversion.” ~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche