The mind-training practices contained in the Dzogchen tradition of Tibetan Buddhism have never before been presented in the English language. The main text translated here, The Steps to Liberation, will be of great interest to Western practitioners, since its instructions are pithy and direct, and experiential rather than scholarly. The contemplations on core Buddhist principles like impermanence and karma, intended for beginning meditators, unfold as dramatic stories in which the meditator is to vividly imagine himself or herself as the main character who undergoes a sequence of experiences that result in transformative realizations. They distill the most essential teachings of the Buddha into a practical system that can be easily implemented in a daily meditation practice. At the same time, they bring together the most foundational Buddhist teachings with the profound methods of the Vajrayana (the esoteric teachings of Buddhist tantra). This is the hallmark of Dzogchen mind training and what sets it apart from other mind-training lineages.
steps to the great perfection
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Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, is the highest meditative practice of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism. Approaching the Great Perfection looks at a seminal figure of this lineage, Jigme Lingpa, an eighteenth-century scholar and meditation master whose cycle of teachings, the Longchen Nyingtig, has been handed down through generations as a complete path to enlightenment. Ten of Jigme Lingpa's texts are presented here, along with extensive analysis by van Schaik of a core tension within Buddhism: Does enlightenment develop gradually, or does it come all at once? Though these two positions are often portrayed by modern scholars as entrenched polemical views, van Schaik explains that both tendencies are present within each of the Tibetan Buddhist schools. He demonstrates how Jigme Lingpa is a great illustration of this balancing act, using the rhetoric of both sides to propel his students along the path of the Great Perfection.
Blending contemporary and traditional perspectives, this groundbreaking work offers guidance on the profound foundational practices of the Great Perfection. It contains classic commentaries by the renowned Tibetan masters Jigme Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, alongside a lively contemporary discussion by filmmaker, author, and spiritual teacher Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse that discusses how to incorporate these ancient practices into the fast-paced lifestyle of the Western world. Also included are a lengthy introduction to the world of Tibetan Buddhism and its meditative practices, as well as the long and short preliminary practice liturgies and numerous appendices on the nine yanas and other topics. The ngöndro or preliminary practice is treasured in the Ancient School of Tibetan Buddhism as vital for effecting a profound inner transformation and as a foundation for the very highest teachings of the Great Perfection, or Dzogchen. In particular, the Longchen Nyingtik ngöndro—revealed by the great saint Jigme Lingpa following a series of visions in which he was blessed by the omniscient Longchen Rabjam and received the transmission of his wisdom mind—has long been cherished by followers of all traditions on account of its power, depth, and poetic beauty.
Previously published: London: Macmillan and Co., 1898.