The “finger-pointing” Instruction
Pointing at the Moon
Do you know the story of the man who points at the moon? The proverb says that if the wise man looks at the moon, the fool looks at the finger… Garab Dorje, the first human master of Dzogchen, according to the Nyingmapa tradition, is shown sitting with his finger pointing straight ahead. Now we know that it is not a question of looking at his finger, but the question remains: what is he pointing at?
To really see what Garab Dorje is pointing out, we would have to put ourselves in his place, change our point of view… And that is precisely what Garab Dorje is inviting us to do: to turn around and observe, as in a mirror, our own face.
The “finger-pointing” Instruction
Let’s imagine ourselves in front of Garab Dorje’s image and observe it, together, for a moment: Garab Dorje’s head is slightly tilted to the side. His face has a compassionate expression. His body emanates a luminous radiance. Sitting with his right leg slightly forward, he seems to be resting in relaxation. And at the level of his torso, his right hand is pointing his finger, straight ahead… As we stare at the image, we feel, right now, that Garab Dorje is pointing his finger in our direction, straight at us, don’t we? We could even say that he is pointing at our heart… But is this really the case?
To really see what Garab Dorje is pointing out, we would have to put ourselves in his place, change our point of view… And that is precisely what Garab Dorje is inviting us to do: to turn around and observe, as in a mirror, our own face. He invites us to turn around, and turn around again… to finally manage to look through his eyes, to feel through his heart, to become one with his mind.
The image of Garab Dorje pointing his finger straight ahead is, in fact, much more than an image. It is an instruction, without words: a direct introduction to the nature of our mind, both symbolic and effective. For when Garab Dorje points to our heart, he is pointing to the heart of reality, its essence, empty and luminous. And in the mirror he holds up to us, it is the face of Rigpa, the self-recognizing nature of the mind, that he offers us to contemplate. The tradition speaks of ‘liberation through sight’, Tongdröl, as one of the five forms of liberation through contact, corresponding to the five senses, including touch, taste and hearing…
His mind, our mind
Through his gesture, Garab Dorje shows us where to look. He shows us the basis of our mind, present from the beginning. As we contemplate Garab Dorje’s image, we contemplate our own face and realize that there is neither subject looking nor object being looked at, that the duality is an illusion.
As it is written in the magnificent text of “The Instruction of the Pointing Stick”, by Padmasambhava, a great Dzogchen and Buddhist master, from the 8th century:
“The view of the Great Perfection lies within you,
So be absolutely sure of it and look nowhere else.”
Guided or alone, novice or long-time practitioner, let our eyes and hearts receive the ‘finger pointing’ instruction… Then, the deep meaning of the Sanskrit name of Garab Dorje, Prahe vajra, the Diamond of Joy, will be revealed in all its splendor.
In ” The Friend of Good 3″, Grégoire talks about the place of the master in some traditions of the ancient near east.
In “The Friend of Good 2, Dzogchen and its relation to Western traditions”, Mila Khyentse talks about the figure of the master in the West.
In this article, “The Friend of Good part 1”, Mila Khyentse talks about the Asian cradle of the spiritual figure of the Friend of Good.