Milestone in Transmission of Buddhism To the West

The following article is from the Spring, 1989 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

Buddha Mind by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche is a milestone in the transmission of Tibetan Buddhism to the west. It is the first systematic effort to expound the Dzongpa Chenpo (Dzogchen) philosophical standpoint and meditative practice. It presents the whole range of vision of Kunkhyen Longchen Rabjam (1409-1463), the most respected enlightened adept and scholar in the history of the Nyingma school, from his teachings on the origin of delusion in beings to the attainment of the Buddha essence.

Dzogchen meditation practice is the way to realize the Buddha essence or Buddha Mind present within one's own mind. It is as if a poverty-stricken person were to discover a hidden treasure in his own home. It is to realize all phenomenal appearances and activities as the manifesting power of the Buddha Mind. If you are properly centered in yourself, in your innermost peaceful, balanced, infinite, enlightened and self-realized Buddha Mind, then you can deal with phenomena on your own terms, the terms of spontaneously present Buddha wisdoms and Buddha manifestations, instead of being soaked in concepts, emotions, and feelings, on others' terms, and as the slave of external objects.

The Tantras are difficult and obscure, and can easily be misinterpreted. Longchen Rabjam made them accessible and provided a means of practicing them through his systematic vision of Dzogpa Chenpo. Buddha Mind conveys his vision through an anthology of texts by Longchen Rabjam preceded by an introduction by Tulku Thondup Rinpoche. The book situates Dzogpa Chenpo within the Buddhist doctrinal divisions and explains how it is unique in being the summit and essence of all the Buddhist teachings.

Buddha Mind shows how Dzogpa Chenpo embodies the most essential aspects of the Mahayana teachings: it brings about the intrinsic awareness of the mind (Rig-pa), the Buddha essence which is expounded in Cittamatra scriptures. This intrinsic awareness is free from all conceptual elaborations, and this coincides with the Prasangika analysis of emptiness, the absolute truth. The intrinsic awareness of Dzogpa Chenpo is the primordial wisdom realized in the anuttaratantra training as the result of employing the channels, energy, and essence of one's Vajra body. Thus the author shows how the teachings of Buddhism can become the support of or steps to Dzogpa Chenpo.

Written in a spirit of sincere devotion, Buddha Mind relies entirely on original scriptures and traditional writings. In Tibet the innermost esoteric philosophy and meditation training was only whispered into the ears of heart-disciples by the learned masters. The Dzogchen teachings are here presented as they are in Tibetan: the author does not impose himself as a judge to determine whether or not the Dzogchen masters were right or wrong, as many scholars do today. Buddha Mind conveys the meaning of Dzogchen to western readers in traditional terms, and in order to communicate its true flavor, the book recounts how Dzogchen meditators do the practice and what are the results they achieve. These are not confined to enlightenment of the mind, for at death a perfectly attained Dzogchen yogi dissolves his or her mortal body into the rainbow body, or in some cases transforms it into a light body in the presence of many witnesses. It is not only here, in the accounts of Jalu pas or yogis who have transformed their bodies into light that the authentic atmosphere of the tradition is evoked. Reading Buddha Mind, one is constantly struck by the very flavor of the Dzogchen view and practice, and one has the sense of coming into direct contact with a transmission of Buddhist wisdom which in Tibet has clothed itself in necessary secrecy for a thousand years. At various moments in the intellectual history of the west, a new planet swims into our ken. And with the presentation of Dzogchen in Buddha Mind, this could be another such moment.

Buddha Mind is a spring title from Snow Lion Publications.

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