The Enlightened Activity


Written By Mila Khyentse

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

Blog | Dzogchen practice | What about me?

In the last post of this action series, ‘The Enlightened Activity’, Mila Khyentse talks about the universal compassion, enlightened activity.

« The Enlightened Activity »

The final article in the series on the meaning of action deals with the third level of action. After the external aspect with “Truth or Dare?” and the internal aspect with “Thought, the Mother of Action?“, we now turn to what tradition calls the secret level, i.e. enlightened activity.

First of all, why is it called the secret level?

Quite simply because it is not immediately perceptible: none of our senses, none of our thoughts can define it. It can’t be felt, it defies definition and vision, and ‘it’ is not something. From this perspective, it’s almost impossible to talk about it. But that’s what we’ll try to do…

As we have seen, an action usually requires a subject to initiate it, conditions under which it takes place, and one or more results showing that the action has taken place. More than anything else, for the Buddhist and Dzogchen traditions, there must be a basic intention, one that fundamentally determines the “type” of action and its result.

“Thus, the primordial meaning of action is universal compassion, luminosity-vacuity of mind, endless enlightened activity “until the universe is destroyed”, says the Dzogchen tradition.”

If this intention is “noble”, it becomes the basis of enlightened activity.

A “noble intention” is directed towards good. For these traditions, not just any good: the wish to enable all beings to reach the beyond of all suffering, beyond birth and death, and to free themselves (including me) definitively from the dream or illusion of existence in which all beings wander endlessly. This wish is initially made in a concrete, structured way: we think, for example, “May all beings attain ultimate happiness and the causes of ultimate happiness. May all beings escape from suffering and the causes of suffering”… In this perspective, I am no longer part of a reduced action driven by selfish intention, but of a universal vision, because I am not thinking of one or more beings in particular, but of “all beings”.

However, this is not yet the enlightened dimension of action, because it is still supported by a relative intention: even if I think of all beings, my intention is still included in the usual thought process, with someone making the wish (me), an object of receiving (the beings receiving the wish) and conditions (happiness and suffering).

Enlightened activity begins when all these elements disappear from my consciousness and the intention, the wish for enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, becomes completely natural. So natural that in the end there won’t even be a thought to remind me of it. This wish will be, will live on its own, whatever the thought or the absence of thought, the feeling or its absence, the presence of emotion or not. This is now the enlightened level of action, its deepest, most primordial meaning: enlightened intention and activity.


How did this transformation occur?

Through direct recognition of the empty nature of intention and action. Learning to generate a universal intention is not enough to set a universal action in motion. It is necessary to be able to perceive directly that true action is in fact devoid of subject, object, conditions and above all of relative intention, and that it is not action in itself. If this intention is related to something, it will automatically be limited. Perceiving the empty intention, the empty nature of the wish, the action and the one who produces it, is the gateway to the primordial meaning of action.

There’s only one way to unfold this: the immediate transformation of our entire vision of reality. In the Buddhist world, it is through meditative absorption, samādhi (tib.: ting nge ‘dzin, pronounced “tingnédzin”), sustained concentration, that we finally achieve this. In the Dzogchen tradition, this happens through an introduction to the primordial nature of our mind.

Through this “initiation” into the emptiness nature of all reality, we now enter the path of the “Beings of Enlightenment”, the Bodhisattvas (tib.: byang chub sems pa, pronounced “djang tchoub sèmpa”), who train continuously in enlightened activity until ultimate liberation, the primordial, perfect state of Enlightenment.

Thus, the primordial meaning of action is universal compassion, luminosity-vacuity of mind, endless enlightened activity “until the universe is destroyed”, says the Dzogchen tradition.

And it adds: “and another is rebuilt”. But that’s another story…




More Posts