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What is Dzogchen? (part 2) by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

#Dzogchen & Buddhism

by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

- excerpt from the book "Dzogchen Our Real Condition"


As for conduct in Dzogpa Chenpo, for a practitioner who is in a state of contemplation beyond the limits of dualism, or who, with view and conduct inseparable, has realized the knowledge in which no duality exists between contemplation and post-contemplation, the The Mirror of the Heart of Vajrasattva states (op. 5, 373.6):

Spontaneity and absence of corrections is what qualifies conduct.

And Longchenpa (op. 9, 28.6):

The only conduct is beyond action and accepting and rejecting.

And Jigmed Lingpa (op. 12, 120.21):

This conduct of self-liberation in which there is no target overpowers negative circumstances and [concepts of] pleasure and suffering.

Such conduct, then, is not improved by virtuous actions or harmed by negative deeds, because both virtuous and negative actions are only mental concepts with no existence outside the mind. The main point of Dzogchen conduct is therefore the attitude by which whatever arises self-liberates, totally beyond the limit of accepting virtuous actions as positive and rejecting harmful ones as negative.

However, it is of utmost importance that this so-called “conduct of self-liberation without a target” is not misunderstood. It does not in any way mean that Dzogchen practitioners can do whatever comes to mind under the pretext that neither good nor bad exist.

As Nagarjuna said in his Precious Garland (op. 13, 3.18):

As long as the aggregates are conceived,

The concept of I exists.

When the I is conceived, karma arises,

And from karma, rebirth


Accordingly, as long as the karmic vision following a session of contemplation exists for the Dzogchen practitioner, inevitably he or she must enter the karmic dimension of samsara produced by dualism. Once this has happened, since for a human being the common human vision is absolutely real, while for a spirit, for example, the only real vision is the karmic vision of spirits, one has to inevitably follow the karma of positive and negative actions. This being the case, it is necessary that we adopt the attitude of accepting and rejecting by accumulating good actions and renouncing bad actions, paying close and careful attention to the law of cause and effect. In this regard the mahasiddha Saraha said (op. 14, 142.1):

He who abides in a state of emptiness without compassion

Has not discovered the supreme path.

But one who meditates only on compassion

Remains in samsara and does not attain liberation

Thus, realization of the profound condition must be endowed with the essence of compassion. By not recognizing the profound condition and developing dualism more and more through the

cause of ignorance, we sentient beings have accumulated countless karmas and habitual patterns, and the impurities of these karmas and habitual patterns have obscured the authentic condition, causing infinite and involuntary transmigration in samsara.

Once we become aware of the causes and conditions that have produced the infinite transmigration of all sentient beings, we cannot but feel infinite compassion toward them, beyond distance and attachment and hatred. If we understand the profound condition that is empty and clear without duality, all virtuous accumulations of merit occur naturally, as Atisha explained (op. 15, 293.1):

All the dharmas of the path can be summarized in the six

paramitas. If you unmistakably understand the meaning of

emptiness, you feel no wish or attachment for anything outside

or inside, and thus you continuously possess the paramita of

generosity. Having no attachment, you are unsullied by the

impurities of nonvirtuous actions, and thus you continuously

possess the paramita of morality. As a consequence, you do not

have any anger related to the concept of I and mine, and thus

you continuously possess the paramita of patience. Feeling the

joy of discovering that [condition], you continuously possess

the paramita of diligence. Not being distracted by belief in the

reality of phenomena, you continuously possess the paramita of

meditative stability. Not having the consideration of subject,

object, and action in any circumstance, you continuously possess the paramita of prajña (supreme discernment).


Concerning the application of conduct, in terms of view, meditation, conduct, or fruit, Dzogpa Chenpo is always defined as “self-perfected” and “self-liberated.”Simply put, these expressions refer to a state of authentic freedom, of not being conditioned or dominated by others. Clinging to an ideological position, whether as a result of being conditioned or of a conviction based on external factors, inevitably means to have fallen into a limited position, and once caught within such limits there is no way to be liberated from the trap of dualism. For this reason, the Self-Arisen Instant Presence says (op. 16, 424.5):

Apply the conduct according to others.

And (op. 16, 409.1):

A behavior free of attachment and clinging

Is the conduct of Dzogchen Ati.

Thus, if a Dzogchen practitioner acts according to the other person’s behavior, with an inner awareness of which actions are pos[1]itive or negative, beneficial or harmful, it will become possible also during the post-contemplation activities to avoid the separation between the view and conduct of Dzogpa Chenpo. As Karma Pakshi said in his Boundless Ocean (op. 11, 186.7):

Atiyoga conduct is beyond accepting and rejecting. If you apply

it there is no flaw, because it is spontaneous. Even if you do not

apply it there is no flaw, because it remains spontaneous.

The spontaneous conduct of self-liberation sets you free from

the demon of intentional behavior

Even though conduct that restrains from the outside may have the benefit of planting the seeds of virtue and controlling negative actions of body and voice in individuals lacking adequate intellectual capacities, at the same time it is true that due to varying circumstances of place and time such conduct often proves unsuitable. From the perspective of place, for example, many actions considered religious in India and Tibet may be viewed as negative or unpleasant in other countries. From the perspective of time, people of today, immersed in the frenetic pace of this age of technology, do not have the leisure to engage in many of the activities that people pursued in the past, when the rhythm of life was slow and relaxed. Moreover, the mind-set then was different than now. For this reason, there is a danger that due to the changes that have occurred over time, people no longer wanting to be restrained by rules of conduct based on external factors may distance themselves from the fundamental essence [of the teaching] or completely abandon it, denigrating it and nurturing a contrary view about it. In practice, a situation may arise like the one described by Drugpa Kunleg when he was asked (op. 17, vol. KA, 43.17):

“At present who acts in accord with the Vinaya?”

His response was:

“For sure the Buddha, the six ornaments, and the two supreme

ones, and certainly the ink and paper used to write the letters.”


In the histories of Dzogpa Chenpo it is written that in the degenerate age of Kaliyuga the Dzogchen teaching will become more profound and widely spread, and that it will last until the time when the average lifespan is ten years. The only reason for this explanation is that Dzogchen is a profound path of self-liberation, without separation between view and conduct. Summarizing the gist of this supreme mode of conduct, taking as a basis what Buddha said, “All freedom is happiness, all subjection is suffering,” we should train our mind according to the words of Shantideva (op. 18, 56.3):

All happiness in the world

Comes from wishing for the happiness of others;

All suffering in the world

Comes from wishing for one’s own happiness.

Then, as Jigmed Lingpa said (op. 19, 99.1):63

If the intention is good, the bhumis and the paths are also good,64

If the intention is bad, the bhumis and the paths are also bad.

Since everything depends on intention,

Always commit yourself to good intentions!

Thus, if in all the activities following a contemplation session we are governed with the good intention to benefit others, our con[1]duct will never give rise to conflict with anyone.

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