Till today one of the biggest challenges most of us face is managing our own minds. When I say mind – It is the fluctuating emotions that you experience every moment and a continuous flow of thoughts that often drives you nuts. In this post, I am going to discuss with you an ancient Buddhist practice that will help you in freeing your mind that is constantly burdened with non-stop chatter, stress, pain & grief. You will learn today what is Dzogchen Meditation & how it trains your mind to remain stable as you experience life.
What is Dzogchen Meditation
The word Dzogchen is an abbreviation of the Tibetan word “Dzogpachenpo”. It is made up of two root words namely ‘Dzogpa’ which means ‘complete’, and ‘chenpo’ means ‘great’. So Dzogchen is often translated as “Great Perfection” or “The Great Completeness”.
The “Great Perfection” here is referring to a perfect state i.e. the “perfect nature” that we all are born with and is already with us. It is also known as the Buddhahood qualities such as wisdom, insight, compassion, bliss & harmony which are within all of us. However, as we experience life we lose contact with this “perfect nature” as it often gets overshadowed with negative feelings like stress, anger, frustration, greed, fear, and grief.
Dzogchen provides an advanced system of mediation through which you can go deep and access your true nature. The reality is that our true nature can never diminish nor get distorted, it is always there. With this meditation practice, it is possible to access this true nature, achieve enlightenment, which is nothing but living a life that is aligned to our true nature.
How Does Dzogchen Meditation Work?
The Dzogchen meditation practice is based on the principles of the Four Noble Truths. This helps the practitioner to go to the source of the problem and eliminate it from its roots to experience complete freedom from his sufferings.
Dzogchen provides Nine Yanas (Paths) or Nine Vehicles that help you access the perfect state. These vehicles are a set of teachings, that includes a starting point, a view that the practitioner focuses on, a form of meditation, and actions that take the practitioner to achieve the desired outcome.
Interestingly, whichever vehicle you choose the ultimate destination is enlightenment and achieving the perfect state. The existence of Nine Paths provides all individuals with different capacities and inclinations to choose a path that helps them reach their destination.
It is important you take time to understand these paths, concepts, contemplate and implement these precious teachings. As you practice and put these teachings into action you gain realization. You are able to train your mind and remove the afflictions, impurities in your mind that make you weak.
The absence of these teachings, training will make your mind succumb to negative feelings and old mental patterns within you. You will often get caught up with these patterns and take actions that you later regret. You will start to believe stress, grief, fear are part of our nature – This is not true.
When you take the right steps and practice you understand that these negative feelings, emotions, thoughts are temporary in nature. You need not cling on to them, you understand the nature of the mind, you understand the law of impermanence that governs everything. You go beyond the mental afflictions and access your pure, powerful nature filled with wisdom & compassion – This is reaching our destination “The Great Perfection” where you are at peace, enlightened, and in alignment with your true nature.
The key part of this whole practice is to give yourself time to train your mind to calm down and gain mental stability. This stability helps you to build mental concentration through which you receive deep insights into the true nature of your mind and reality.
How To Do Dzogchen Meditation
At the very basic level, Dzogchen meditation trains your mind to observe the emotions, thoughts as temporary aspects that rise and fall in your mind. The practice of Dzogchen begins with understanding the seven stages of mind training. You can do this on your own by understanding the teachings or better under the guidance of a qualified Dzogchen master.
Here is a video of Dr. Allan Wallace laying out the broad framework of the Dzogchen at Gomde Retreat, Denmark
Seven Point Mind Training
First Stage – Your Foundation
The first step is to prepare your mind by contemplating the idea of impermanence. You need to develop an understanding and look at life as a series of events that unfold in front of you. Everything will eventually pass and change. This concept of change is difficult for many to accept & adapt to. This is one of the prime reasons for not experiencing true freedom.
As you get a grasp of impermanence you realize how you have conditioned your mind to situations, people, and experiences. As you continue to meditate on impermanence, you release the need for control, stop manipulating situations, and become more open to a changing environment.
Second Stage – Training In Enlightenment
In Buddhism, there is a term “bodhicitta” – This means an enlightened mind, it is the state of mind that is fully awakened and is helping others find freedom from their sufferings.
You can strive for enlightenment by meditating & understanding giving & taking. This principle can be understood by reflecting on the basic human activity i.e. breathing. While we breathe, we take in and give out air. Similarly in reality you must give happiness to end others suffering.
As you sit to meditate, you can think about your parents, who brought you to this planet. Be grateful to them by generating thoughts that create feelings of love & kindness. As you breathe out give all the love, happiness, and kindness to them. As you breathe in, you take all their sufferings that they may be experiencing now.
As you continue this practice you will develop a strong resolve to take all the sufferings & give out happiness. Slowly include other people in your meditation and continue this practice.
Third Stage – Transforming Adversity Into The Path To Awakening
Understanding the concept of “emptiness” helps you in transforming any mental suffering into a path that leads to freedom. Your mind does not have a nature of its own, it is simply nonexistent. You cannot hold your mind with your hand nor can you touch or see your mind.
This lack of substantial characteristics makes the mind “empty”. At the same time, this mind can think, understand and experience. Hence it is often said mind is empty as you cannot find it but at the same time, it has the capacity to know & understand. Mind is a union of wisdom & emptiness.
When you understand the nature of the mind, you realize that everything that emerges in the mind i.e. the thoughts, emotions, feelings all carry the same nature of “emptiness”. All the mental sufferings, afflictions are constructs of our minds, they do not have a trace of existence. Such insights lead to transformation & take you closer to the path to awakening.
Fourth Stage – Applying the Practice Throughout One’s Life
No matter how much you study the teachings, you must apply them in your life. If you don’t practice then you won’t gain any insights and the whole exercise will be futile. There are five strengths you make use of to apply the practice right through your life.
(i) Strength of Determination: You should decide the course of actions daily and stick with it. It can as simple as meditating for 15 minutes daily. You should strengthen the mind and not allow any distractions that would make you drift along the way.
(ii) Strength of Familiarization: As you engage with your meditation practice over and over again, you access the strength of familiarization. It becomes a part of your daily routine and your way of life.
(iii) Strength of Virtue: You should not develop a half-hearted approach towards practice instead should engage persistently to access the buddha nature in you.
(iv) Strength of Revulsion: You should reflect on the cause and effects of suffering and remind yourself of the negative consequences of clinging on to your insatiable desires. You should not let emotions rule your life, instead, have good control over them by realizing their true nature.
(v) Strength of Aspiration: You should aspire to attain enlightenment. Every time you practice, you make yourself capable to help others and free them from their suffering.
Fifth Stage – The Measure of Mind Training
You must continuously examine your own mind and see if your practice is leading to liberation from your suffering. The goal is to access the qualities of Buddha-nature that are already within you. If you happen to get distracted, you need not punish yourself, instead, go back to your teachings and implement them again.
Sixth Stage – The Commitments of Mind Training
As you train your mind you should not be careless, reckless, and stray from the commitments of mind training. As you practice, you must develop an attitude to help others. You must not take advantage of anyone’s vulnerability and rather be open & transparent. You must give your best and refrain from getting attached to expected outcomes or results for your actions.
Seventh Stage – The Precepts of Mind Training
Your intention is to free yourself from suffering and help others in their journey. You start your day with the right intentions and maintain it throughout the day. At the end of the day, you examine the activities, accept the faults and resolve to get better the next time.
Whatever happens in your life i.e. if you become rich remind yourself and recognize the illusionary aspect of your prosperous life and use it to help others. If you become poor, then recognize the illusionary aspect of your state and its impermanence. No matter what happens to you, be committed to your practice and do not fall into the trap of misunderstandings.
Learn Dzogchen Meditation From A Buddhist Scholar
If you are serious about studying and practicing Dzogchen then you should consider learning it from a teacher in Nyingma school. I would like to introduce you to an authorized lama and lineage holder in the Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism Lama Surya Das. He has nearly 50 years of experience in presenting immersive training in the art and practice of Dzogchen.
He created a program – Dzogchen Meditation Training. It is essentially a six-part series that is available for anyone who wishes to learn the exact steps to access the path to your true nature and scale the pinnacle of enlightenment in this lifetime.
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