Written By Mila Khyentse

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

Blog | Dzogchen | History of Dzogchen | The Dzogchen basics

For the Dzogchen Tradition it all goes back to Garab dorje who, according to tradition, appeared 160 years after the Buddha’s parinirvana.

It all goes back to Garab Dorje (who, according to tradition, appeared 160 years after the Buddha’s parinirvana) who transmitted to his disciple, Manjushrimitra, the sum of his teachings in 6,400,000 verses (Doha), his spiritual testament. Among these verses were the three precepts, “The Three Penetrating Precepts » (tib.: Tsig sum nedeg, Tshig gsum gnad rdegs1), the essence of dzogchen.


Ngo rang thog tu sprad: The direct presentation that reveals the essential nature.
Thag gcig thog tu bcad: The direct decision in certainty.
gDeng grol thog tu bca’ : To establish oneself directly in the Confidence of Liberation.


Dzogchen is a tradition that is still fully alive thanks to the past generations who have never forgotten their predecessors and their teaching.


Manjushrimitra divided these verses into three series, that of Spirit, that of Space and that of the Primordial Instructions (the latter divided into oral and explanatory sections). He left his disciple, Shri Singha, his spiritual testament called the “Six Meditative Experiences”. In turn, Shri Singha divided the explanatory series of the Primordial Instructions into external, internal, secret and ultra-secret cycles in an increasingly concept-free explanatory progression. He conditioned their transmission with a fourfold introduction (to the nature of mind): elaborate, simple, very simple and ultimately simple. Shri Singha had two disciples, Vimalamitra and Jñanasutra. The latter, who received more teachings from Shri Singha, was also Vimalamitra’s teacher to whom he bequeathed his testament, “The Four Profound Methods”. Vimalamitra was invited to Tibet by the translators Kawa Paltsek and Chokro Lui Gyeltsen, where he stayed for thirteen years before disappearing to Wutaishan (China). Together with a translator from Eastern Tibet named Yudra Nyingpo, they translated a great number of Dzogchen texts, which was one of the introductions of Dzogchen in Tibet.

Another transmission was made by Vairotsana, a Tibetan by origin, who went to India to collect transmissions from Shri Singha, from whom he received the Mind and Space series. Wanting to receive more transmissions, he stayed in India and eventually received the entire 6,400,000 verses of the Dzogchen. He then returned to Tibet and taught everything he had collected. Finally, a master from northwest India named Padmasambhava, who is extremely well known in the Tibetan world, is said to have propagated part of the series of Primordial Instructions received from Shri Singha.


Very quickly in Tibet, it was the teachings of the Primordial Instructions that became widespread. These texts are now known as the “Seventeen Tantras”.
A great 14th century Tibetan master, Longchen Rabjampa, compiled almost all the earlier Dzogchen literature into three sums: “The Seven Treasures,” “The Trilogy of Natural Freedom,” and “The Trilogy of Natural Ease”. He tackled the definitions, making them clearer and more refined.
Since the 11th century in Tibet, the Dzogchen teachings have been enriched by texts discovered in the minds of realized practitioners. In the 14th century, the cycle of the moment of death called Karling Shitro (after its discoverer Karma Lingpa) appeared. At the end of the same century Rigdzin Gödem discovered “The Penetrating Wisdom”. In the 17th century, Terdak Lingpa discovered “The Heart of the Deep Meaning of Ati”. In the 18th century, Jigme Lingpa unveiled the cycle of “The Essence of the Heart of Immensity” which became the most widely practiced Dzogchen teaching of the last three centuries.

Longchen Rabjampa systematized the methodological approach2. According to him, it is tripartite and structures the whole path.
1- Bliss (dewa, bde ba)
2- Radiance, clarity (selwa, gsal ba)
3- Non-conceptuality (mitogpa, mi rtog pa)
These are three qualities (emerging from the practice of the dzogchen path) and natures (immanent to the mind) which represent the basis of a tripartite path:
1- preliminaries
2- main practice
3- completion phase
This three-part path can be summarized as the Tshig sum Nedek.

In Dzogchen, as in most traditions of the Asian world, the lineage of transmission from generation to generation is of paramount importance: it allows one to authentically connect with the origin of the realization, because it has been kept alive since the beginning.
Dzogchen is a tradition that is still fully alive thanks to the past generations who have never forgotten their predecessors and their teaching.

1-When Tibetan is noted, the first term is the oral pronunciation and the second term, in italics, is the wylie transliteration. Back  

2– Longchenpa, translation and comments by Herbert V. Guenther, Kindly bent to ease us: the trilogy of Finding comfort and ease, Ngal gso skor gsum, vol. 2 Meditation, Dharma Publishing, 1976.


 "In a hundred years, all the people you know will be dead and gone" DustIn the subway, my eyes fell on some dust in the corner of my suitcase. It was like a click, a door that opened on the sudden realization that even a suitcase doesn't last forever. "Even Mona Lisa...

The Toy Train

In this article Mila Khyentse makes a railway parallel between the ascent to Darjeeling with the toy train and the path of Dzogchen.

The hermitage of the mandarin and the apartment of the yogi

From the caves to the the skyscrapers… this is always Great Perfection.

Life and death, Dzogchen Style

In this article, Johanne emphasizes that the practice of Dzogchen is always done with our living conditions.

Sharing Dzogchen

In this article Mila Khyentse talks about the importance to share the Dzogchen tradition and how to transmit it. This may help today!

Adapting Dzogchen

In this article, Mila Khyentse talks about the need to adapt the Dzogchen teachings to the thinking and cultures of today and tomorrow.

Preserving Dzogchen

In this article, Mila Khyentse addresses the issue of preserving the Dzogchen heritage today in the modern world.

The Mountain Yeti and the cup of tea

In this article, Johanne talks about the encounter with Dzogchen: how it can happen and what the introduction can look like. A bit like the mountain yeti with a cup of tea!

Having (deep) Me Time

It is essential to have “me time” quite often. In this article, Mila Khyentse tells us how we can reconnect with ourselves, Dzogchen style…

Translation as Adaptation

In this article Gregoire explains us what it is to translate Dzogchen, a few of its pitfalls and a sip of its endless possibilities.Rigpa - the essence of the tradition The translation of Tibetan texts into English is a direct application of...

Join Our Newsletter

Subscribe to receive the Latest News, Updates and Brand New Articles from Dzogchen Today!