Out here in the blissfully desolate windswept mountains of the southwest, the night skies shine with the storm-like luminosity of the moon and stars. Makes me think of wearing my shades even deep into the night, as I strum guitar strings pondering the strange elusive beauty of the dance of darkness and light. Still, for me there is something that glows much much brighter. Over the years, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to study with Garchen Rinpoche, even feigning a bit of practice on the side. I’m quite endlessly grateful that he has not only indulged my relentless curiosities about his understanding of reality, I’ve felt nourished and encouraged. Out of gratitude, I’d like to share something kind of dear to me.
What follows is a short personally curated collection of a few instructions on the dzogchen practices of cutting through (tregchö) and direct crossing (thögal) that have come from my personal interviews with Garchen Rinpoche. The word dzogchen refers to the “great perfection” of reality. According to these instructions, ultimately, all reality is immaculately complete and spontaneously present within the nature of our minds. When we grasp onto concepts of a self and others, we temporarily fragment the true nature of reality into our own personal dream-like realities. The dzogchen teachings are like a mirror that shows us our infinite true selfless reality. First, by cutting through the streams of discursive thoughts we are able to see the underlying nature of the mind, the primordially pure basis for all reality. Then, once that practice is stabilized, through the techniques of direct crossing, we can swiftly come to perceive the spontaneously present pure dimensions of luminous appearances and beings that were hidden by our conceptual dualistic dreams.
To really practice these types of instructions, a good guide is essential. Without someone being there to point out our hidden conceptual delusions and sneaky ways of clinging onto limited perceptions, it can be easy to go astray in practice. As we go deeper into the journey of discovering the nature of our mind, it’s so nice to have someone there who has traveled the path before. Essentially, the following instructions are for those that are already practicing dzogchen under the guidance of qualified teachers, like Garchen Rinpoche or someone similar. These instructions are not meant to be definitive scholarly statements on dzogchen practice or history. They are personal guidance for someone who sincerely is interested in discovering the underlying nature of the universe, all reality, for the benefit of all within it.
Back to the discussion of light, it does interesting things out here in the mountains where you can see for miles and miles. The light of the sun, moon, and stars definitely cuts through the darkness, hence the serious need for shades even at midnight. Still, being out in the desert mountains isn’t a cure for all kinds of darkness. I’ve found that no matter how bright the celestial bodies are in the sky, I still have days and nights where confused thoughts and powerful emotions drift in and out of my mind. What has helped is trying to figure out what dwells in Garchen Rinpoche’s mind. It’s like hanging out with someone who notices all these hidden mirrors all over reality, who’s like “Hey, check it out, that’s us in the mirrors. Wave. Do you notice that thing shining through us and everything else in the universe? That’s our mind.”
For those that are interested in furthering their understanding of dzogchen practice and more, there are a number of materials on this site and available through the bookstore that might be useful. In particular, there are two new publications of translations of works by Longchenpa Drime Özer. These come from his famous mind treasure collection called the Khandro Yangtig, the Innermost Essence of the Dakinis, which builds upon and explains the tantras and instructions revealed by his predecessor, Padma Ledrel Tsel, in the Khandro Nyingtig, originally taught by Padmasambhava to the dakini Yeshe Tsogyal.
First, the Trilogy of Space from the Khandro Yangtig is a collection of three poetic pieces on the dzogchen practice of cutting through (tregchö). There is Infinite Space, Vast Expanse of Space, and Immaculate Space. In these three poetic compositions, Longchenpa, elegantly details the practice of cutting through from the perspectives of the view, meditation, conduct, and more. Reading these, they are reminiscent of Longchenpa’s other famous poetic composition on cutting through, the Chöying Dzö, or Treasury of the Expanse of Reality. Unlike the Chöying Dzö that Longchenpa wrote a wonderful extensive scholarly prose commentary for, the Trilogy of Space survives alone as Longchenpa’s naked unelaborate poetic mind treasure. It bears the characteristics of Longchenpa’s other works in the Khandro Yangtig in that they are directly intended for sincere practitioners of future generations and were not composed to merely satisfy intellectual pursuits.
Second, the Hidden Keys to Enter Luminosity from the Khandro Yangtig is a collection of five texts that focus on the dzogchen practice of direct crossing (thögal). There is the Wheel of Luminosity, Entering the Sphere of Luminosity, Entering the Sphere of Dreams, Keys to the Essential Points of the Profound Meaning, and Precious Golden Web of Visionary Appearances. The translated portion of the Wheel of Luminosity begins with a very clear style of self-introducing the beginning of the appearances in the practice of direct crossing and then proceeds to explain very subtle technical aspects of the practice not found in other instructions. Longchenpa revealed these instructions to help future practitioners understand a number of practical key points related to direct crossing that are often not explained or taught. These instructions are only meant for sincere practitioners. Entering the Sphere of Luminosity contains profound sections on the introduction to the luminosity of the ground, practice of the luminosity of the path, and way the luminosity of the fruition arises. Entering the Sphere of Dreams is a rare detailed teaching that covers how to bring the state and understanding of dreams onto the dzogchen path in the greater context of the practices of cutting through and direct crossing. Keys to the Essential Points of the Profound Meaning is a profound teaching on how to recognize and fully realize the three kayas in the context of direct crossing practice. Last, the Precious Golden Web of Visionary Appearances covers the entire spectrum of visions, signs, dreams, and experiences that one might have while doing general dharma practice and also when practicing dzogchen in particular. Together, this collection is designed to help sincere practitioners access Longchenpa’s unfathomable mind treasures on these rare key instructions to directly cross into the luminous reality hidden within us all.