This post attempts to outline what does it mean to practise the Dzogchen teachings as one’s spiritual path.
Dzogchen is the pinnacle of all yanas, the Great Perfection. That means all paths and fruits of other vehicles are automatically perfected within it. Despite the fact that Dzogchen is called an ‘effortless’ path, one vital point must not be overlooked, namely the difference between Dzogchen and Dzogchen-pa, or between the Nature of Mind and a practitioner of Dzogchen. Dzogchen-pa is not Dzogchen. Dzogchen-pa is the practitioner who tries to purify his or her obscurations by following Dzogchen methods. Hence at all times one must be aware of one’s own level of realization.
From the point of view of Dzogchen there is no need to practise Refuge, Bodhichitta, Compassion and so on separately as these are realized spontaneously in the Natural State of Dzogchen. This is known as the ‘View from the Base’.
A Dzogchen-pa must soberly know his or her own capacity. If one is unable to remain in the Natural State at all times then one must perform virtuous actions, accumulate merits and use any methods needed in addition to practice sessions where one is immersed in the contemplation of the Natural State. Gradually, as one’s capacity increases, one will naturally be able to integrate any kind of activity with one’s realization of the Nature of Mind and so conduct will change automatically without effort. This is called the ‘View of the Practitioner’.
Also, for those practitioners of Dzogchen who have correct experiences, those experiences automatically increase their compassion. That is the right sign. If certain extraordinary experiences take place, but the person does not find a positive effect on compassion, then the experience of awareness is not correct.
There is the belief that since Dzogchen is the Supreme Source a Dzogchen practitioner doesn’t need to engage in virtuous actions and so on, and can even manifest all sorts of erratic or negative conduct. This sort of view has nothing to do with real Dzogchen.
There are stories of realized Dzogchen yogis or Mahasiddhas who behaved very strangely and often seemingly incongruently, going beyond the social norms of ‘acceptable’. Some may try to emulate this kind of behaviour or so called Crazy Wisdom without realizing that the underlaying base behind it is the complete realization of the Natural State, the ability to remain in it at all times of day and night while engaging in any kind of activity of body, speech and mind. Until this capacity is reached, merely emulating the external facets of Crazy Wisdom conduct without realizing the inner background is extremely negative and will lead to the accumulation of vast store of negative karma rather then its purification.
The spontaneous self-liberation of one’s own natural behaviour is not something to engage in with intention. The state of equality of whatever arises is not maintained by means of antidotes. When one’s knowledge is stable and secure there is nothing to refute in behaviour, but someone who does not have this realization should not engage in this behaviour.
Apart from the Master’s oral teachings, sources for this post are:
'Masters of the Zhang Zhung Nyengyud'
by Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak,
'The Healthy Mind Interviews, His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama'
by Henry M. Vyner,
'The Precious Vase'
by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu.