The Origin of the World 3: Universal Phenomena


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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In this article “The Origin of the World 3: Universal Phenomena”, Mila Khyentse talks about the origin and death of universal phenomena.

The Origin of the World 3: Universal Phenomena

For Dzogchen, our universe, our world, our physical reality does not exist independently of our mind. As we have seen in the previous articles (The Origin of the World 1 and The Origin of the World 2), the nature of mind manifests itself in five luminosities which are “interpreted” by our consciousness as external to us: the five elements. These are the essential building blocks of our perception and understanding of the Universe and the beings that inhabit it. At the base of the cosmos, they represent the great forces of reality such as gravity, time and space. Their cosmic dance gives birth to dimensions (10 in total), to the infinity of universes, to the countless galaxies of space. The phenomena that unfold within these galaxies and universes, resulting from the churning of the elements, are infinitely innumerable, just as a ray of sunlight striking a crystal can refract into a multitude of rays. Yet despite this magnificent, magical and hypnotic dance of reality, we must never forget that it is we who perceive it, and that it takes place within our own mind. It is there, truly, that the ballet of the elements takes place and the dance of the reality of the universes unfolds.

“The birth and death of the universe also take place between each of our thoughts, and we train ourselves to perceive this dance without error on the path of Great Perfection.”


Thus, in the first place, our experience of reality is based on a sensation of solidity, of tangibility: we walk on the earth which is solid, we catch objects which are solid, we see solid, material and individual forms, thanks to the earth element – the yellow luminosity – interpreted by our consciousness as the tangible basis of all our experience. This is what corresponds to material reality for us Westerners and to the world of forms for the Buddhist or Dzogchen traditions.

Then, within our experience of the Universe, there is fluidity, relationship, exchange, which comes from the reality of the sensations from the water element – the white luminosity – which determines everything we feel and hear.

Then, it is the fire element – the red luminosity – that allows our consciousness to interpret the reality of the universe as life, warmth, existence, and allows us to individually determine beings or objects. It is also this element that drives us to continue to be, to live, because it is the force of desire. It is associated with smell.

Next is the element of air – the green luminosity – which contains the vital energy that moves the reality of the universe and our will, consciousness or the stars. This element allows us to interpret reality in terms of taste and texture (touch).

Finally, it is the element of space – deep blue in color – which is the seat of our consciousness, the infinite and impalpable basis of all our reality, from which the other elements and therefore all phenomena unfold.


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For Dzogchen, this dance is the dance of universal compassion, the dance of the unfailing and endless generosity and love of the true nature of our own mind. It is as if, at every birth and death of reality, all phenomena show us that there is no fear, no suffering, but only a beautiful, magical play of creation and fulfillment of ourselves within the multitude of universes. Of course, we are human beings, but our mind knows no other limit than the one imposed by forgetting this natural dance of the universe. This dance is that of the earth, water, fire, air and space.

This is exactly how our experience of the universe, of the world, of reality, dissolves at the moment of our death, according to the Bardo Thödöl (bar do thos grol), the famous Tibetan Book of the Dead (which is actually a Dzogchen treasure text). The element of earth dissolves into water, water into fire, fire into air and air into the element of space or consciousness. The universal phenomena that represented a global outer reality become the inner reality of the empty luminosities of our own mind that we encounter at the last moment, if we have not had the opportunity to perceive them during our existence.

Thus, for Dzogchen, universal phenomena are born in the nature of our mind and return to it with every cosmic breath, every time Brahma, the god of the gods of reality, dies and is reborn. The birth and death of the universe also take place between each of our thoughts, and we train ourselves to perceive this dance without error on the path of Great Perfection. If we manage to perceive it truly, directly, then we know where and how the universe is born and we also know how and where it ends its pas de deux, the dance of duality.

Our universe, our world, our reality will no longer have the same flavor…

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