Progression (from TAN16 Then and Now (class) 00:57:47.50 - 01:03:52.00) (download into iTunes)
Ken: Most of you here, and I know you have, Susan, have been exposed to teachings of mahamudra and dzogchen. These are advanced teachings, even they're given out to all kinds of people. But a lot of people who receive them don’t appreciate their subtlety or where they fit in the progression that I'm describing.
I can describe the progression in another way and that is in terms of attachment to ideas about the world.
So, we start off, think, well, you know, life isn’t bad, but I'm having a certain kind of difficulty and if I could just learn a few skills then everything would just be great, you know. If I could learn not to react so much, then my life would be great. So, sit down and learn how to meditate. And it's true. I learn how not to react so much. But in the process of learning how not to react which is basically letting go of thoughts and feelings as facts and just experience them as thoughts and feelings.
In developing that ability we become aware of a much deeper problem. That all of that reactivity is organized around a sense of self, and serves to protect that sense of self. And so we go, "Ah, there's more of a bigger problem here, didn't realize this. Well if I could just let go of the sense of self, you know, then I wouldn't react at all. That'd be so cool."
So, now meditation and one's practice takes on a different tenor. And you begin to develop not just a calm mind, a mind which is less reactive, but you also develop a certain ability to see into the nature of things because an intellectual understanding that there is no self doesn't change anything as you well know. It has to be a direct experience. So you're beginning to move into the realm of direct experience and direct awareness, which is a beginning to approach rigpa and awareness and all of those things. And so, you come to a point where you go, “Wow, I don’t exist as a thing.” Then, that’s a very definite experience. Some people say, “That’s totally cool,” some people say, "This freaks me out.” People have different reactions to that experience. But, it opens up more possibilities.
But again, it reveals a deeper problem. And that is "Well, if I don’t exist as a thing, then what is all this? And where does confusion arise? And where does being awake arise? If there's no entity which is me what do all of these things mean?" That's a really difficult question. This leads to another level of exploration which is basically what bodhicitta, and mahamudra, and dzogchen, middle way is more bodhicitta, are about is: there is just this experience which is simultaneously vivid and empty. When one can actually experience that moment to moment in a completely non-conceptual awareness that's what you're calling rigpa. That's what mahamudra and dzogchen. Now, that's the progression as a progressive letting go of more and more.
This Gampopa's writing when you get The Perfection of Wisdom you'll see he does write about mahamudra and matyamaka. He doesn't write explicitly about dzogchen. It's implicit in this approach but here this is a path, a graded path, a step-by-step path where the dzogchen and mahamudra teachings in the vadjrayana take the perspective this is present in us right now. It doesn't have to be grown, you don't have to go through a process, you can relate to it right now. That’s a different approach. It's a very effective approach. And usually in the Tibetan tradition one worked with both approaches simultaneously because there were abilities that needed to be cultivated, as you well know, one has to have a certain ability in attention otherwise one simply can't practice dzogchen. One can think one's practicing dzogchen but you're not. That's where a lot of people are today. Does this answer your question?