Namdrol wrote:...I have been moving slowly toward the pov of view that for most people studying these lower yānas is a complete waste of time...
This is coming from a man who spent decades studying the lower yana.
My dear N. as it ever occurred to you that it was as a consequence of decades of causal path practices that you accumulated the merit to be able to fully understand and practice (and even teach) Dzogchen? Or maybe you don't believe in karma now either?
Is that why you are suddenly open to non-Buddhist practices and traditions? I mean a month ago you took Jax to pieces for saying something very similar (albeit that Jax also negated the need for a guru) and now you are suddenly sounding all new-age and ecumenical. It's been a while since you have seen your guru tete-a-tete, hasn't it?
Since Dzogchen tantras reject the body/mind dualism of the lower yānas, it makes it hard for people fed on the lower yānas to appreciate Dzogchen. Since this is so, the need to study in detail the lower yānas is limited. Someone who is planning to be a teacher needs to know these things, but practictioners, not necessarily. I have seen in my own studies how my Buddhist conditioning has made it difficult at times for me to understand certain keys points of Dzogchen teachings.
As far as the ecumenical thing goes -- I have come to the conclusion that Dzogchen is for all who are interested. Not a "Dzogchen without Buddhism" if you will. But I see no good reason why interested Hindus, Christians, Moslems, and so on cannot receive Dzogchen teachings and practice them. Dzogchen may have come from Buddhism, but as we see in Bon, Dzogchen is not just for Buddhists.
Dzogchen is for everyone who is interested to learn about it and then practice it. When someone comes to my teacher to learn Dzogchen, he never says "Now you must nominally become a Buddhist in order to study Dzogchen". He says "In order to study and learn about Dzogchen you must receive direct introduction", that is all.
The Buddha never said anywhere in the sutras "In order to study the Dharma, first you must take refuge". The whole refuge thing has been turned into a game of religious politics. When people took refuge in the Buddha they did so merely out of their gradtitude for teachings they received. You can read about this in many places in the Pali canon.
These days, refuge has been turned into a badge, a tool for conversion. It has been turned into a ritual. But how many people change their name into something nice like Kunga Namdrol, or Padma Tsering, etc., etc., without changing anything in their hearts? Refuge ceremonies have just become an empty baptisms that people think are hugely important but actually change nothing. It is the same with bodhisattva vow ceremonies and also empowerments.
But in Dzogchen there is nothing to convert or change or alter. Buddhahood is an innate attribute of all sentient beings, so what is the point of "becoming a Buddhist?"
People like to say "Did you go for refuge? What is your Dharma name?", "How long have you been a Buddhist?", "Who is your refuge teacher?" , "Did you take bodhisattva vows?", "Did you receive initiation?", etc. None of this is the principle of Dzogchen teachings as I understand it. None of these things taken in and of themselves are bad, BTW,there is nothing wrong with having gone for refuge to the Three Jewels, created bodhicitta, taken initiation and so on. But it is better to penetrate to the essence of these things rather than just leave them as empty forms, which sadly today they mostly have become.
But the principle of entering Dzogchen teachings is none of the above. The principle of entering Dzogchen teachings is solely direct introduction. And my teacher, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, will give that to anyone who is interested
in receiving the teachings of Dzogchen regardless of their race, color, creed, gender or gender orientation.
The principle of practicing Dzogchen teachings, according to my teacher, is integrating with your primordial state through Ati Guru Yoga and deepening your knowledge of that state through various kinds of practices. Anyone who is interested can do this without having to consider themselves a "Buddhist".
As far as being open to non-Buddhist practices -- it is the case that people who belong to other religions might become interested in Dzogchen teachings. I see no reason at all why they should give up those practices merely becauase they are interested in Dzogchen teachings. Granted, it is impossible to reconcile sacrificing animals with Dzogchen teachings, but apart from that, I do not see the problem. If some Christian is practicing Ati Guru Yoga, then they are practicing Dzogchen whether they consider themselves Buddhists or not.