Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Who We Really Are

In the Dzogchen teachings the primordial state of the base is not defined only as being void, but is explained as having three aspects or characteristics, called the "three primordial wisdoms": essence, nature, and energy.

The essence is the void, the real condition of the individual and of all phenomena. This base is the condition of all individuals, whether they are aware of it or not, whether they are enlightened or in transmigration. It is said to be "pure from the beginning" (ka dag), because, like space, it is free of all impediments, and is the basis of all the manifestations in existence.

The manifestation of the primordial state in all its aspects, its "clarity," on the other hand, is called the nature. It is said to be "self-perfected" (lhun grub), because it exists spontaneously from the beginning, like the sun which shines in space. Clarity is the pure quality of all thought and of all perceived phenomena, uncontaminated by mental judgment. For example, when we see a flower, we first perceive its image without the mind entering into judgment, even if this phase of perception only lasts for a fraction of a second. Then, in a second phase, mental judgment enters into the situation and one categorizes the perception, thinking, "That's a flower, it's red, it has a specific scent, and so on." Developing from this, attachment and aversion, acceptance and rejection all arise, with the consequent creation of karma and transmigration. Clarity is the phase in which perception is vivid and present, but the mind has not yet entered into action. It is the spontaneous manifestation of the individual's state. The same is true for thoughts: if we don't follow them, and don't become caught up in mental judgment, they too are part of our natural clarity.

The third of three primordial wisdoms is energy. Its characteristic is that it manifests without interruption. The explanation of energy in Dzogchen is fundamental to understanding the base. All dimensions, whether pure or impure, material or subtle, are manifestations of one aspect or another of energy.

[Chogyol Namkhai Norbu, Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State, Snow Lion Press]

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