Excerpt from the book "The Dzogchen Teachings" by Dzogchen Master Namkhai Norbu
Following the teachings of Tantra or Dzogchen always involves the principle of transmission, which is not something we can receive through reading books, or only through the words of an oral explanation. That kind of approach is more characteristic of how we might follow the Sutra teachings.
In Dzogchen, transmission is the life of the teaching; we cannot attain realization without it. There are three kinds of transmission; direct, oral, and symbolic. Garab Dorje was the first human teacher of Dzogchen on this planet in this time cycle. Before he concluded his life with the realization of the Rainbow Body, he summarized his teaching in what became known as the Three Statements of Garab Dorje. The first of these statements is “Direct Introduction.” In this direct introduction, the teacher introduces the student to the state of contemplation through experiences of body, voice, and mind.
The second statement is “Not Remaining in Doubt.” The student experiences the state of contemplation through the transmission he or she has received in the direct introduction, and no longer has any doubt as to what contemplation is.
The third statement is “Continuing in the State.” This means that the student seeks to remain in the state of contemplation all the time, remaining in the natural condition of instant presence without correcting it, and applying practices as necessary according to circumstances to reenter the state when she or he has become distracted from it.
Thus, when we practice Guruyoga, what we are trying to do is to discover the state in which the teacher continually abides and has transmitted to us. When we are in the state of contemplation, there is no separation between the teacher and ourselves. Through Guruyoga we can enter the state of contemplation. In Dzogchen the teacher is indispensable, because without receiving direct transmission from the teacher, there can be no realization. Along with this method of direct introduction I have just explained, there are in fact two other kinds of transmission mentioned in the Dzogchen teachings. “Oral Transmission” refers to general explanations of the teachings, or to particular instructions relating to various methods, such as instructions for visualizations.
“Symbolic Transmission” refers to the use by the master of objects such as a crystal, a mirror, or a peacock feather as symbols to help the student discover the nature of the inherent potentiality of their own state, and how that potentiality manifests as energy in various ways. Practice enables us to discover within ourselves the state of contemplation through which we find the presence of the master, together with the experience of the knowledge that he or she is transmitting.
In contemplation we find ourselves beyond the distracted state of our habitually confused minds, completely relaxed in the naked awareness that is our natural condition. In this natural condition, thoughts or emotions can arise, but they do not disturb us; we remain in the nondual state, integrated with whatever arises, without accepting or rejecting anything. Practicing in this way, we are able to remain in contemplation, working with whatever situation or circumstance we find ourselves in.
In the state of nondual contemplation there is really nothing to do or apply. There is no need to struggle with anything; everything can be left just as it is, with nothing to purify or transform. Then we discover for ourselves what is meant by The Great Perfection, or Total Perfection, which are both ways that the Tibetan word dzogchen can be translated. When we discover the self-perfected nature of our own state, we understand that Dzogchen is a word that, rather than referring to a tradition or school, really refers to our own inherent condition, the self-perfected state that is always there in each of us, but which is only experienced in contemplation. So contemplation is the most important of the Three Sacred Principles.