Preserving Dzogchen

Preserving to Adapt. Adapting to Share. Sharing to Preserve.

Dzogchen, the direct experience

When we talk about preservation, the first thing that immediately comes to mind when we talk about Dzogchen, the tradition of the Great Perfection, is to preserve its teaching on the nature of the mind and its mastery.

This is the heart and the strength of this tradition: its really impressive and very fine knowledge of the functioning of the human mind, of its relationship with the body, with what surrounds us and with the whole universe, and the possibility to master it perfectly.

In the Dzogchen tradition, this knowledge and mastery are at the same time an intellectual, theoretical and gradual knowledge, but also and above all a direct knowledge. We could call it “meta-intuitive”, which is transmitted most often without words, as an immediate and direct experience, and which is preserved as the most precious treasure through lineages still living since its founder Garab Dorje.
The second important thing to preserve in Dzogchen is the original texts, which are divided into three series of teachings: the Semdé texts – 21 in total and of which “The King Creator of All Things” is the root text – the Longdé texts, 13 in total, of which “The Royal Tantra of the All-encompassing Immensity of Samantabhadra” is the root text; and the Menngagdé texts – which number 17, sometimes 19, of which “The Tantra of the Reverberation of Sound” is the root text.

All of these texts include explanations of the nature of reality, mind, and tangible; ways to master these three aspects, which are called “practices”; commentaries on the two previous points; and crucial instructions that are usually a compendium of the most crucial advice a teacher can give to his students.

The third important thing to preserve is the framework of transmission inherited from the Tibetan world – the closest to us -, the Indian world – further away -, and perhaps the Central Asian world, – but more difficult to determine. This framework constitutes all the oral knowledge transmitted in various forms because they had to adapt notably to the changing conditions of the different eras, but also to the various cultures encountered along the way of the propagation of the teachings of the Great Perfection. This last point is the most delicate in terms of preservation because keeping oral knowledge alive is always more difficult than the written words.

Finally, the fourth and last important thing to preserve – and which is intimately linked to the previous one – is the ritual, or rather the rituals, because not only does each practice have its own particular ritual with its own gestures, its own objects, its own specific materials, but also each region or lineage of teachings has a ritual that is different from those next door. From the perspective of our modern Western civilization, this last form would certainly fall into the category of museology, but that is not all we are talking about here. Of course, it is important to keep objects, testimonies, etc. and to exhibit them, but it is much more important to preserve the living part of the act, so that it can be perpetuated, because it is also giving the opportunity to a whole civilization to continue to exist. This is why the Dzogchen Today! project is linked to a large number of traditional lineages in the Himalayan world.

The preservation of traditional Dzogchen is a crucial issue for us today, if only because there is so much that is being lost at the moment, that it is good to be concerned about what can be saved from destruction, especially when we are talking about such a precious tradition. Moreover, one can only adapt and transmit what has been preserved.

This is the first step of the Dzogchen Today! project: preserve to adapt.

Written by Mila Khyentse

Mila Khyentse is a French teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen and the Dzogchen Today! project initiator.

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