Mind is the source of all experience, patterned or free.
You wake up completely when you rest and do nothing at all.
Instead, you are dogmatic and single-minded in your belief
In the teachings of ignorance, interdependence, and samsara.
How pleased you must be, you self-reliant ones, with your artificial awakening!
- Jigme Lingpa1)Verse 1.5 from Jigme Lingpa’s Revelations of Ever-present Good , quoted from Ken McLeods „A Trackless Path“
Dzogchen is a path inviting practitioners to recognize and rest in their inherent Buddha-nature. It emphasizes the fruitional view – the understanding that enlightenment is not a far-off goal to be achieved, but rather an intrinsic aspect of our being waiting to be unveiled. ‚Perfection‘ in Dzogchen isn’t about an absence of flaws or defects. Instead, it conveys the concept of inherent completeness, much like a seed already embodying the full potential of a mighty tree. The task at hand is not to strive for some distant objective but to rest in our true nature, just as it is.
In this exploration, we’ll journey through a diverse landscape of psychological and philosophical perspectives, each of them expressing a fruitional view, using them as prisms through which to view Dzogchen teachings. This venture is not an attempt to merge these disparate fields but rather to employ these lenses to deepen our understanding and enrich our practice of Dzogchen.
The first part of this journey will take us through various approaches including the Law of Assumption, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), Focusing, the concept of self-efficacy. We’ll explore how each of these viewpoints, although from different fields, can resonate with and enhance our Dzogchen practice.
In the second part, we’ll revisit emptiness teachings and how they allow us to work with different „ways of looking“. We will present Rob Burbea’s notion of „create/discover“ as a paradigm which mirrors the move of the psychological approaches outline in part one.
The third part tries to resolve a paradox: The fruitional view points to the fact that we are already perfect, but we are not fully awakened yet. The focus here is on recognizing that working with the “prisms” which we use to view reality are part of our journey but should not become rigid frames limiting our direct experience.
By acknowledging where we are on our practice path, wholeheartedly embracing it, and using these lenses as ways of looking, rather than hard truths, we hope to bring to light the underlying unity within this diversity and further our journey on the Dzogchen path.
Part 1: The Prism of Psychology
The Law of Assumption: Reality, Manifestation, and Mind
Our journey begins with the Law of Assumption, as articulated by Neville Goddard, a metaphysical lecturer and author from the mid-twentieth century. Goddard’s teachings, born out of Western esoteric and metaphysical traditions, emphasize the power of the mind to shape one’s reality. The Law of Assumption suggests that an individual’s assumptions or deeply held desires have the power to manifest as their reality.
Although Dzogchen and the Law of Assumption operate within different philosophical frameworks, there’s a resonance between the two, particularly in relation to the fruitional view. This view in Dzogchen postulates that our enlightened nature is ever-present, and the task is to recognize, rather than acquire, it. Much like the Law of Assumption, Dzogchen seems to invite us to adopt a stance of living ‚as if‘ our enlightened nature is already manifest – because, in truth, it is.
Yet, it’s important to clarify that Dzogchen isn’t about creating a reality that does not exist, but instead revealing the reality that is always already present. The fruitional view isn’t about wishful thinking or delusion, but a profound realization of what is.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): Invoking the Power of ‚As If‘
Created by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) offers valuable insights into the transformative power of thought patterns and language. One concept central to NLP is the ‚as if‘ frame. This concept encourages us to behave ‚as if‘ the reality we desire is already in existence, thereby shifting our mindset and subsequent experiences towards our desired outcome.
The ‚as if‘ frame resonates with Dzogchen’s fruitional view. In Dzogchen, practitioners train to embody their practice ‚as if‘ their Buddha-nature is fully awakened, which indeed it is. This isn’t a form of self-deception or psychological trickery, but a way of aligning with the reality of our inherent enlightened nature. It involves using our imagination not to fabricate a reality, but to access and embody an experience that’s already within us.
Focusing: Tuning into the ‚Felt Sense‘
Turning to the realm of psychotherapy, we encounter the practice of Focusing, developed by psychologist and philosopher Eugene Gendlin. Focusing is a method of inward attention, a way of tapping into the implicit wisdom of our body or what Gendlin referred to as the ‚felt sense‘. This ‚felt sense‘ is a pre-verbal, often subtle, internal knowing that carries a wealth of information about our lived experience.
In the context of Dzogchen, the practice of Focusing offers another perspective for exploring our inherent Buddha-nature. By cultivating a rich, nuanced awareness of our ‚felt sense‘, we can become more attuned to the subtle yet profound experiences of our inherent Buddha-nature. Through this sensitivity, the recognition of our inherent enlightenment becomes a tangible, embodied experience, not merely an intellectual understanding.
The resonance of this practice with Dzogchen is not about adding a new technique or modality to our practice. Instead, it’s about recognizing the value of a more embodied awareness in revealing our inherent Buddha-nature. It calls us to listen deeply to our inner experiences, understanding that they too are part of the rich tapestry of our Buddha-nature.
Self-Efficacy: Confidence Grounded in Competence
The concept of self-efficacy, formulated by psychologist Albert Bandura, brings another facet to our exploration. Self-efficacy refers to an individual’s belief in their capacity to execute behaviors necessary to produce specific performance attainments. It reflects confidence in the ability to exert control over one’s motivation, behavior, and social environment.
How does this relate to Dzogchen practice? Recognizing our inherent Buddha-nature, as proposed by the fruitional view, is not an act of blind faith or wishful thinking. Instead, it’s a confidence grounded in competence. This competence emerges from our understanding of the teachings, our faith in the teacher, and, importantly, our own personal experience.
As we deepen in our practice, we see our confidence is not an inflated self-belief or egoic assertion, but a humble recognition of our potential and capacities. It’s a quiet knowing, a trust that our inherent Buddha-nature is always already present, and we have the capacity to recognize it. This underscores that the journey to recognizing our Buddha-nature is not only spiritual but also psychological, involving a transformation of our self-view and our understanding of our capabilities.
Part 2: The Prism of Emptiness
The Interplay of Freedom and Interdependence
In Buddhist philosophy, the teachings of emptiness and dependent origination bring a new depth to our discussion. Emptiness, or Shunyata, suggests that phenomena lack inherent, independent existence, while dependent origination posits that all phenomena arise in dependence on other phenomena.
In terms of Dzogchen practice, understanding emptiness frees us from fixed, rigid views about ourselves and the world. This freedom allows us to reverse causality in a way; instead of waiting to feel confident once we’ve recognized our Buddha-nature, we can invoke the ‚texture‘ of confidence and relief, which in turn, facilitates the recognition of our inherent Buddha-nature.
This is not to suggest we can manipulate reality according to our whims, but it points to the interplay between our inner experiences and our realization of Buddha-nature. It underscores that the recognition of our Buddha-nature isn’t a solitary endeavor but is deeply interconnected with our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our experience.
A Dance of Perspectives
Rob Burbea’s „create/discover“ teaching underlines this dynamic interaction between our personal interpretation and objective reality. It proposes that engaging with reality involves both molding our experience and uncovering what’s already present, like recognizing our Buddha-nature through cultivating mindfulness or using the ‚as if‘ frame of NLP. Simultaneously, we unveil what has always existed – our inherent Buddha-nature.
Maintaining balance in this process is key. Overemphasis on ‚creation‘ risks turning spirituality into a materialistic pursuit, while overstressing ‚discovery‘ may lead to passive expectation of enlightenment without proactive engagement.
The brilliance of Burbea’s paradigm lies in guiding us to balance this dance. It encourages a view of our spiritual journey as a continuous interplay between active participation and receptive openness. This dance keeps us rooted in the understanding that our Buddha-nature is constantly present, waiting to be revealed.
Ways of Looking
Burbea’s teachings also remind us that we can never not engage in ways of looking. We are always seeing reality through some lens or another. However, the recognition of emptiness allows for a certain flexibility, a reversal of causality that can be incredibly liberating. It offers us the freedom to be aware of how we see our lenses and consciously play with them, all while remaining rooted in the understanding that these ways of knowing do not define the ultimate nature of reality.
When we engage with the teachings of psychology, for example, we must remember that they are ways of looking. They provide a framework for understanding and navigating our internal landscape, but they do not constitute the landscape itself. We can engage with these teachings, use them to deepen our self-awareness and understanding, and all the while maintain a fluid and open relationship with them.
Part 3: The Pratyekabuddha Paradox: Moving Forward, Standing Still
The Dilemma of a Pratyekabuddha
The verse from the great Dzogchen master Jigme Lingpa echoes a stern reminder: the caution against becoming trapped in the intellectualization of the practice. We are called to stay awake to the risk of cultivating an „artificial awakening.“
The verse directs its critique toward the so-called ’self-reliant ones‘ – the Pratyekabuddhas. In Buddhist tradition, Pratyekabuddhas are spiritual practitioners who, driven by the inevitability of death, attain liberation primarily through their understanding of interdependence. They see the groundless nature of self but are not entirely free of the conceptual mind as they still hold onto the notion that experiences exist objectively.
For many of us engaged in Dzogchen practice, we might see ourselves mirrored in this category. We are actively seeking, learning, and applying various lenses to our practice, in an earnest effort to tread further along the path. However, we must not forget Jigme Lingpa’s cautionary words. According to Lingpa, there is a critique to be made – not of the Pratyekabuddha stage itself, but rather the risk of turning it into a fixed, immovable endpoint. In doing so, we might unwittingly trap ourselves in an ‚artificial awakening‘, ensnared within the web of our own conceptual understandings.
Jigme Lingpa, as elucidated by Ken McLeod, argues against the tendency to „interpret what arises in experience to confirm and reinforce what is already inside us.“ This does not mean we ought to reject the tools of modern psychology and Western philosophy in our practice. On the contrary, these modes of knowing can play a significant role in our spiritual journey, provided we use them wisely. If we rigidify and attach to a particular way of looking, we could limit the open, dynamic unfolding of our practice, potentially solidifying into a „self-reliant“ and complacent mindset.
But is there a way for us to be Pratyekabuddhas without falling into this trap? As McLeod points out, faith, or confidence, can easily degenerate into rigid belief, a belief that can obstruct our openness to the inherent groundlessness and fluidity of reality. What’s needed as antidote is a faith that enables us to wear different lenses without becoming entrapped in them, a faith rooted confidence, born of competence.
Competence, Confidence, and the Fluid Dance of Practice
This brings us back to the concept of self-efficacy, as put forth by Albert Bandura. Bandura emphasized the role of self-belief in one’s abilities as crucial to psychological well-being and success. The key here is the word ‚abilities‘. Self-efficacy isn’t about rigid beliefs or conceptual frameworks; it’s about the confidence in one’s ability to navigate different situations effectively.
When we apply this to our Dzogchen practice, we can see how the confidence derived from competence allows us to engage with various views, frameworks, and practices without becoming rigidly attached to them. We can take the Law of Assumption, apply the ‚as if‘ frame of NLP, bring in Focusing and its emphasis on the felt sense, and use all these as tools in our practice.
It is about the confidence in our ability to remain fluid, adaptable, and open, to dance between different ways of looking without losing our balance. To apply the lens of psychology without losing sight of the essence of Dzogchen practice – that of recognizing our innate awake awareness and resting in it.
Embracing Our Pratyekabuddha Nature
Acknowledging that we stand at the stage of a Pratyekabuddha can be a humbling realization. It is a reminder that we are still finding our footing, still exploring the territory of the path we’re on, still juggling different views and concepts as we seek to deepen our understanding of the practice.
As Pratyekabuddhas, our challenge is to not become entangled in these very lenses, not to mistake them for the reality they are intended to help us perceive more clearly. This is where the realization of ways of looking become particularly relevant. Mind is the source of all experience. We shape our world by creating and discovering it. This recognition cannot be forced but it can be invited by engaging in psychological, philosophical and spiritual practices which are, like Dzogchen’s fruitional view, built from fusing base, path, and goal. Each of the methods and approaches touched upon in earlier chapters point to the fact that there doesn’t need to be a movement towards a goal, an incremental striving. Our awake awareness is already perfect. We can rest.
Now, how does this inform our understanding of Jigme Lingpa’s teachings? By viewing Lingpa’s critique through the prism of this synthesis, we can see that the admonition is not against the lenses themselves but against rigidity and complacency. Lingpa’s warning is against believing that we have reached an endpoint, against the artificiality of believing that we have ‚made it‘. In essence, Lingpa’s teachings remind us to continually remain open to the freshness of each moment, to the newness of each experience, and to the ceaseless unfolding of the path.
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