The instruction of the Pointing Staff
rGad po la mkhar btsugs kyi gdams ngag
Revelation (gter ma) of Nyangräl Nyima Özer (Myang ral Nyi ma ‘Od zer, 12th c.).
Written By Translation Committee
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The Instruction of the Pointing Staff is a Dzogchen treasure text rediscovered by Nyangräl Nyima Özer, translated by the DzogTod! Committee
The Instruction of the Pointing Staff to the Old Man
When the Great Master Padmasambhava was in Samye, Ngok Sherab Gyalpo, a man of sixty-one who had not studied much but who had extraordinary faith and great devotion to the Master, served him for a year at Drakpoche’s hermitage. Not once did he ask him for a teaching and not once did the Master give him one. At the end of that year, as the Master was about to leave, Ngok offered him a flower of one ounce of gold which he had placed on a mandala and asked him:
“Great Master, I beg you: out of compassion, grant me the awakened presence. First, I have studied little. Two, my intelligence is thin. And three, I am old and exhausted. Great Master, please grant me a teaching that is easy to understand, that cuts off all external and internal projections*, easy to realize, that has this great activity of the View**, easy to practice, that will benefit me in the next existence, I who am an old man near death.”
The Instruction of the Pointing Staff
“Old Man, practice this ascertained reality. Adopt a continuous practice. Do not confuse words with their meanings. Do not separate yourself from your friend perseverance. Maintain the nature of the mind by the thoroughness of recollection.”
The Instruction of the Pointing Staff
The Master then pointed to the old man’s heart with his walking staff and gave him the following instruction:
“Listen, Old Man! Look at the primordial evidence, the pure and perfect mind, It is without form or color, It has no centre or periphery. To begin with, it comes from nowhere, it is empty. To continue, it remains nowhere, it is empty. To end, it goes nowhere, it is empty. Empty, it does not exist in any way. If you know the essence of what you see as clear and limpid, you will know the natural empty essence by yourself. You will have understood the true nature of phenomena. You will see the fundamental nature of mind. You will ascertain the natural state of the ultimate reality of things, and you will have cut through the projections onto knowable phenomena.
Because pure and perfect mind cannot be defined as a thing, it naturally remains present within you. And because you never find it anywhere else, it is easy for you to realize the ultimate reality of phenomena. The reality of mind has nothing to do with subject and object, it transcends the limits of eternalism and nihilism. There is nothing that attains enlightenment, because the perfect enlightened one himself is simply the primordial evidence within you.
There is nothing that can go into the hells because it is a naturally pure presence. It has nothing to do with phenomena, its ultimate reality is naturally clear. Since this great natural state is within you, and you cannot find it anywhere else, understand it once and for all. Once you realize this view, once you want to put it into practice, your body will become your mountain retreat, the place that remains naturally free. No matter what appears outwardly, it is the appearances that naturally appear, the emptiness that is naturally empty. Leave them as they are, without complicating anything. In this way, the appearances being your friends, are pure in themselves, and you take them as your path.
So whatever thoughts appear within, whatever movements of the mind occur, they are devoid of their own essence*** and therefore empty. Whether they appear or are thought, they are pure in themselves. Once the clear nature of the mind is found, and the movements and thoughts are taken as a path, it is easy to practice! Whatever passions arise in secret, notice them and they disappear without a trace. Passions are pure in themselves, so it is easy to practice!
“Look at the primordial evidence, the pure and perfect mind, It is without form or color, It has no centre or periphery.”
Leave them (the appearences) as they are, without complicating anything.
Whatever passions arise in secret, notice them and they disappear without a trace. Passions are pure in themselves, so it is easy to practice!
“Since you understand that you have the ultimate Reality of phenomena within you, without partiality or category, no more studies to do!”
Once practiced in this way, gradual meditation is no different from contemplation. By recognizing everything as a friend, the clarity of experience is no longer obscured, the ultimate nature of phenomena is no longer interrupted, and your action knows no limits. No matter what the situation, there is no more going back and forth in the ultimate Reality of phenomena. Once this is realized, even if your body is old, in the pure and perfect mind there is no old age! Neither youth nor old age!
Because there is no partiality or category in the ultimate Reality of phenomena, when you know the essence within you, that primordial knowledge of the Reality of phenomena, the primordial evidence, it does not matter whether your sense faculties are sharp or dull. Since you understand that you have the ultimate Reality of phenomena within you, without partiality or category, no more studies to do! A body is just a reflection of matter and mind, whereas in the Body of Reality, the primordial knowledge, the primordial evidence, there is no interruption. Since unchanging stability is achieved, there is no more short or long life! So it is said.
Old Man, practice this ascertained reality. Adopt a continuous practice. Do not confuse words with their meanings. Do not separate yourself from your friend perseverance. Maintain the nature of the mind by the thoroughness of recollection. Take no pleasure in idle talk and gossip. Do not become entangled in worldly cares. Do not attach too much importance to family problems. Develop no great attachment to food and drink. Think of death daily. Life is short, generate perseverance! So practice this instruction for an old man near death.”
At the same time as giving this instruction, the Master pointed his staff at the old man’s heart, which is why it is known as ‘the instruction of pointing the staff at the Old Man’.
Ngok Sherab Gyalpo liberated himself and attained the accomplishments.
For the sake of future generations, the Princess of Kartchen**** wrote down these teachings, also known as ‘The Instruction of the Pointing Staff’.
RGYA RGYA RGYA (Sealed Sealed Sealed).
*Literally: an imputed exaggeration, a speculation (sgro) that one appends, that one superimpose (’dogs) on all phenomena. It is thus the mental projection. BACK
**(lta kham che ba): great activity of sight, great action through sight. BACK
***Own essence : in this context, it is the “substantial essence”, i.e. the existential notion as the basis of existence. BACK
****Yeshe Tsogyal. BACK
You can find the Tibetan text here: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/bo/tibetan-masters/nyang-ral-nyima-ozer/pointing-the-staff
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