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This article is about the primordial state in Tibetan Buddhism and Bön. For the monastery, see Dzogchen Monastery.
Tibetan name
Tibetan རྫོགས་ཆེན་
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 大究竟、
Simplified Chinese 大究竟、

According to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen or Atiyoga) is the natural, primordial state or natural condition, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition. Dzogchen, or "Great Perfection", is a central teaching of the Nyingma school also practiced by adherents of other Tibetan Buddhist sects.

According to Dzogchen literature, Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment.[1]


The Tibetan term dzogchen may be a rendering of the Sanskrit term mahāsandhi,[2] and is also used to render the Sanskrit term ati yoga (primordial yoga).[3]

The term dzogchen also designates a school of Tibetan buddhism, with a distinct practice and a body of teachings aimed at helping an individual to recognize the Dzogchen state, to become sure about it, and to develop the capacity to maintain the state continually.[4][note 1]

Origins and history[edit]

According to one Nyingma tradition, the first master of the Buddhist Dzogchen lineage in our world was Garab Dorje (Wylie: dga' rab rdo rje, Sanskrit *prahevajra) from Uddiyana (Wylie:. o rgyan).[5][6]

Indian originators[edit]

According to late mythologies, Dzogchen is said to have been passed down as listed following. Often, practitioners are said to have lived for hundreds of years, and there are inconsistencies in the lifespan dates given, making it impossible to construct a sensible timeline.

  1. Prahevajra (Tib. Garab Dorje, Wylie: dga' rab rdo rje) 184 BCE to 57 CE
  2. Mañjuśrīmitra (Tib. Jampal Shenyen, Wylie: 'jam dpal bshes gnyen) 2nd century BCE (elder contemporary of Prahevajra)
  3. Śrī Siṃha (Tib. Palgyi Senge, Wylie: dpal gyi senge) 3rd century CE (500 years before Vimalamitra)[7]
  4. Padmasambhava (Tib. Pema Jungne or Guru Rinpoche) fl. mid-8th CE
  5. Vimalamitra (Tib. Drime Shenyen, Wylie: dri med bshes gnyen) fl. late 8th CE
  6. Vairotsana (Tib. Nampar Nangdze Lotsawa, Wylie: rnam par snang mdzad lo tsa ba ) fl. late 8th CE.


Padmasambhava (Tib. Pema Jugne or Guru Rinpoche, Wylie: padma 'byung gnas, gu ru rin po che) is considered the source of the Buddhist Dzogchen teachings in Tibet (Tib. bod), which are the heart of the Nyingma (Wylie: rnying ma) tradition, with which they are primarily associated. Dzogchen has also been practiced in the Kagyu (Wylie: bka' brgyud) lineage, beginning with Milarepa (Wylie: mi la ras pa) and most notably by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (Wylie:. rang byung rdo rje). The Fifth, Thirteenth, and Fourteenth (present) Dalai Lamas (Wylie: ta la'i bla ma) are also noted Dzogchen masters, although their adoption of the practice of Dzogchen has been a source of controversy among more conservative members of the Gelug (Wylie: dge lugs) tradition.[8]


The essence of the Dzogchen teaching is the direct transmission of knowledge from master to disciple.

Relationship with sutra in Nyingma[edit]

Koppl notes that although later Nyingma authors such as Mipham attempted to harmonize the view of Dzogchen with Madhyamaka, the earlier Nyingma author Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo did not:

Unlike Mipham, Rongzom did not attempt to harmonize the view of Mantra or Dzogchen with Madhyamaka.[9]

Rongzom held that the views of sutra such as Madhyamaka were inferior to that of tantra, as Koppl notes:

By now we have seen that Rongzom regards the views of the Sutrayana as inferior to those of Mantra, and he underscores his commitment to the purity of all phenomena by criticizing the Madhyamaka objectification of the authentic relative truth. [10]

Three principles[edit]

The Vima Nyingtik epitomized the Dzogchen teaching in three principles, known as the Three Statements of Garab Dorje (Tsik Sum Né Dek):

  1. Direct introduction to one's own nature (Tib. ngo rang thog tu sprod pa)
  2. Not remaining in doubt concerning this unique state (Tib. thag gcig thog tu bcad pa)
  3. Continuing to remain in this state (Tib. gdeng grol thog tu bca' pa)

Three series[edit]

The Vima Nyingtik retroactively classified previous Dzogchen literature into three categories:

  1. Semde (Wylie: sems sde; Skt: cittavarga), the series of Mind, that focuses on the introduction to one's own primordial state;
  2. Longde (Wylie: klong sde; Skt: abhyantaravarga), the series of Space, that focuses on developing the capacity to gain familiarity with the state and remove doubts; and
  3. Menngagde (Wylie: man ngag sde, Skt: upadeshavarga), the series of secret Oral Instructions, focusing on the practices in which one engages after gaining confidence in knowledge of the state.

Three aspects of energy[edit]

Sentient beings have their energy manifested in three aspects:

  1. "dang" (Wylie: gDangs)
  2. "rolpa" (Wylie: Rol-pa)
  3. '"tsal" (Wylie: rTsal)
letter A gDangs Trekchö Kadag Dharmakaya
Thigle Rolpa Thögal Lhungrub Sambhogakaya
**** rTsal Yermed Thugs rje Nirmanakaya


All teachings have energies that have special relationships with them. These energies are guardians of the teachings. The energies are iconographically depicted as they were perceived by yogis who had contact with them. The dharmapalas most associated with Dzogchen are Ekajati (Wylie: e ka dza ti), Dorje Legpa (Wylie: rdo rje legs pa) and Za Rahula (Wylie: gza' ra hu la) in the Nyingma and Sidpa Gyalmo in the Bön tradition. The iconographic forms were shaped by perceptions and also by the culture of those who saw the original manifestation and by the development of the tradition. However the guardians are not merely symbols as the pictures show actual beings.[11]


According to Klein and Wangyal:

[...] the essence and base of self-arisen wisdom is the allbase, that primordial open awareness is the base, and that recognition of this base is not separate from the primordial wisdom itself [...] that open awareness is itself authentic and its authenticity is a function of it being aware of, or recognizing itself as, the base [...] The reflexively self-aware primordial wisdom is itself open awareness (rigpa), inalienably one with unbounded wholeness."[12]

This open awareness of Dzogchen, or rigpa, is said to lie at the heart of all things and indeed of all Dzogchen practice and is

[...] primordial wisdom's recognition of itself as unbounded wholeness [...] the incorruptible mindnature.[13]

The analogy given by Dzogchen masters is that one's true nature is like a mirror which reflects with complete openness, but is not affected by the reflections; or like a crystal ball that takes on the colour of the material on which it is placed without itself being changed. The knowledge that ensues from recognizing this mirror-like clarity (which cannot be found by searching nor identified)[14] is called rigpa.[15]


The Menngagde or 'Instruction Class' of Dzogchen teachings are divided into two parts: Trekchö and Tögal (thod rgal). Ron Garry:

The practice is that of Cutting through Solidity (khregs chod), which is related to primordial purity (ka dag); and Direct Vision of Reality (thod rgal), which is related to spontaneous presence (Ihun grub).[16]


The practice of Trekchö means "Cutting through Solidity".[16][note 2]

Preliminary practices[edit]

Many lamas require their students to complete the conventional tantric ngondro before starting Dzogchen practice.[18] Trekchöd starts with nine preliminary practices, to prepare the student for the main practice.[19][18]


Trekchöd has a specific preliminary practice,[note 3], rushan,[note 4] which may be rendered into English as "differentiating saṃsāra and nirvāṇa".[18] Rushan involves "going to a solitary spot and acting out whatever comes to your mind."[20]


The Dzogchen preliminaries also include a series of exercises known as Semdzin (sems dzin).[21] Semdzin literally means "to hold the mind" or "to fix mind."[22] Semdzins are found in all three series of Dzogchen (Semde, Longde and Mennagde), but the twenty-one semdzins found in the latter are common; Longchenpa divides them into three series of seven.[23] According to Longchenpa as reported by Reynolds,

[T]he first group enables the practitioner to find him- or herself in a calm state, and thus the exercises are similar to the practice of Shamatha [...] [T]he exercises in the second group enable the practitioner to discover the relationship between body and mind. And those in the third group enable one to discover the nature of one's own condition."[24]

Exercises in the first category include "fixating on a white Tibetan letter A on the tip of one's nose. Linking the letter with one's breathing, it goes out into space with each exhalation and returns to the tip of the nose with each inhalation. This fixation inhibits the arising of extraneous thoughts . . . however, the second exercise in the same category involves the sounding of the syllable PHAT! which instantly shatters one's thoughts and attachments. Symbolically, the two parts of the syllable indicate the two aspects of enlightenment, that is, PHA signifies Means (thabs) and TA signifies Wisdom (shes rab)."[25]

Main practice[edit]

The main trekchö instructions in the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo state:

This instant freshness, unspoiled by the thoughts of the three times,

You directly see in actuality by letting be in naturalness.[26]

Drubwang Tsoknyi Rinpoche states:

Trekchö is the thorough cut of cutting through, cutting the obscurations completely to pieces, like slashing through them with a knife. So the past thought has ceased, the future thought hasn't yet arisen, and the knife is cutting through this stream of present thought. But one doesn't keep hold of this knife either; one lets the knife go, so there is a gap. When you cut through again and again in this way, the string of thought falls to pieces. If you cut a rosary in a few places, at some point it doesn't work any longer.[27]

Insight leads to nyamshag, "being present in the state of clarity and emptiness".[28]

Lhundrub Tögal[edit]

Lhundrub Tögal is the compassionate or skillful means aspect of rigpa.[web 1][29] Lhündrub Tögal[note 5] means "spontaneous presence",[30][31] "direct crossing",[32] or "direct crossing of spontaneous presence".[33] The literal meaning is "to proceed directly to the goal without having to go through intermediate steps."[34] It is a training to enhance the realization of the view,[35] the practice of the unity of appearance and emptiness.[36]

Thod rgal is also called "the practice of vision",[web 2] or "the practice of the Clear Light ('od-gsal)".[web 2] The practice entails progressing through the four visions,[37] using visual manifestations[36] and various kinds of light.[32] The tögal teachings in the Zhang Zhung Nyan Gyud describe the clear light and the natural arising visions, and how they can be used in the training.[38] Mandalas, tiglés, white points, circular rainbows, images of Buddhas, deities, and Buddha dimensions may also appear.[39]

Sleep yoga[edit]

Jigme Lingpa states:

After a session of prana meditation, I began sleep yoga.[40]

Dilgo Khyentse states:

You should sleep lying on your right side in the lion posture while visualizing a red four-petaled lotus in your heart center. In the center of this lotus, see your root guru in the form of Guru Rinpoche....Fall asleep while remaining in that state.[41]

Rainbow Body[edit]

Lhun grub practice may lead to full enlightenment and the self-liberation of the human body into a rainbow body[note 6] at the moment of death,[42] when all the fixation and grasping has been exhausted.[43] It is a nonmaterial body of light with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one's compassion.[16][44][45] It is a manifestation of the Sambhogakāya.[44]

Some exceptional practitioners such as Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra are held to have realized a higher type of rainbow body without dying. Having completed the four visions before death, the individual focuses on the lights that surround the fingers. His or her physical body self-liberates into a nonmaterial body of light (a Sambhogakāya) with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one's compassion.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ John Pettit: "Great Perfection" variously indicates the texts (āgama, lung) and oral instructions (upadeśa, man ngag) that indicate the nature of enlightened wisdom (rdzogs chen gyi gzhung dang man ngag), the verbal conventions of those texts (rdzogs chen gyi chos skad), the yogis who meditate according to those texts and instructions (rdzogs chen gyi rnal 'byor pa), a famous monastery where the Great Perfection was practiced by monks and yogis (rdzogs chen dgon sde), and the philosophical system (siddhānta, grub mtha') or vision (darśana, lta ba) of the Great Perfection.[4]
  2. ^ Karma Chagme associates Trekchö with Semde.[17] He further equates Trekchö with Mahāmudrā,[17] which is more typical.
  3. ^ Wylie: sngon 'gro
  4. ^ Korday Rushen; Tibetan: འཁོར་འདས་རུ་ཤནWylie: 'khor 'das ru shan
  5. ^ Tibetan: ལྷུན་གྲུབ་ཐོད་རྒལ།Wylie: lhun grub thod rgal
  6. ^ Wylie: 'ja' lus, pronounced Jalü


  1. ^ Keown, Damien. (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 82. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.
  2. ^ Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection by the [14th] Dalai Lama, Snow Lion, 2004. ISBN 1-55939-219-3. pg 208
  3. ^ Keown, Damien. (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 24. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.
  4. ^ a b Pettit, John Whitney (1999). Mipham's beacon of certainty: illuminating the view of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. Somerville, MA, USA: Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-157-2 (alk. paper) p.4
  5. ^ Nirmanakaya Garab Dorje
  6. ^ Joyful Vajra Garab Dorje
  7. ^ The Tantra that Reveals the Intrinsic Buddha Mind, translated in :- Erik Pema Kunsang (translator) : Wellsprings of the Great Perfection. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong Kong, 2006. p. 215
  8. ^ "The Shugden Affair: Origins of a Controversy (Part I)" by Georges Dreyfus. Official website of the Office of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.[1]
  9. ^ Koppl, Heidi. Establishing Appearances as Divine. Snow Lion Publications 2008, chapter 4.
  10. ^ Koppl, Heidi. Establishing Appearances as Divine. Snow Lion Publications 2008, chapter 4.
  11. ^ Norbu (1999), p. 129
  12. ^ Klein and Wangyal, 2006, p.109
  13. ^ Ray 2001, p. v.
  14. ^ Third Dzogchen Rinpoche. Great Perfection. Volume II. Snow Lion Publications 2008, page 152.
  15. ^ Namdak, Tenzin. Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings. Vajra Publications 2006, page 97.
  16. ^ a b c Dudjom Rinpoche. Wisdom Nectar. Snow Lion 2005, page 296.
  17. ^ a b Karma Chagme, Gyatrul Rinpoche & Wallace 1998, p. 180.
  18. ^ a b c Pettit 1999, p. 81.
  19. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001.
  20. ^ Germano, David F. (1994). "Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric History of rDzogs Chen". In The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol. 17.2, p 262
  21. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [2]
  22. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [3]
  23. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [4]
  24. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [5]
  25. ^ Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6 pg 81 [6]
  26. ^ Schmidt, Erik. (2001). The Light of Wisdom Vol IV. Kathmandu: Rangjung Yeshe Publications. p.77
  27. ^ Schmidt 2002, p. 38.
  28. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 87.
  29. ^ Dalai Lama 2004, p. 32.
  30. ^ Rinpoche Dzogchen Ponlop 2003.
  31. ^ Dalai Lama 2004.
  32. ^ a b Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 44.
  33. ^ Schmidt 2002.
  34. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 224.
  35. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 170.
  36. ^ a b Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 2004, p. 77.
  37. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 38.
  38. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2000, p. 166.
  39. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2000, p. 167.
  40. ^ Ricard, Matthieu. The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse Volume Three. Shambala Publications 2010, page 471.
  41. ^ Ricard, Matthieu. The Collected Works of Dilgo Khyentse Volume Three. Shambala Publications 2010, page 471.
  42. ^ >Dalai Lama 2004, p. 204.
  43. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 233.
  44. ^ a b Matthieu, Richard. 2001. The Life of Shakbar. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. pg. 153
  45. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 323.
  46. ^ Matthieu, Richard. 2001. The Life of Shakbar. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. pg. 153


Published sources[edit]

  • Anyen Rinpoche (2012), Journey to Certainty, Wisdom Publications 
  • Capriles, Elías. Buddhism and Dzogchen. Part 1 - Buddhism: a Dzogchen Outlook. Published on the web at [7]
  • Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche (1994), Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, Rangjung Yeshe Publications 
  • Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche (2004), The Bardo Guidebook, Rangjung Yeshe Publications 
  • Dalai Lama (2004), Dzogchen. Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, Snow Lion Publications, ISBN 978-1-55939-219-8 
  • Dudjom Rinpoche (1991). The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, Vol. 1. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 0-86171-087-8
  • Germano, David F.; Waldron, William S. (2006). "A Comparison of Alaya-vijñāna in Yogacara and Dzogchen". In Nauriyal, D. K.; Drummond, Michael S.; Lal, Y. B. Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the boundaries. Abingdon, Oxon.: Routledge. pp. 36–68. ISBN 0415374316. 
  • Jigmed Lingpa (2008). Yeshe Lama. Snow Lion. ISBN 9781559392945
  • Karmey, Samten G. (1975). A General Introduction to the History and Doctrines of Bon. Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, No. 33, pp. 171–218. Tokyo. (Especially Chapter 9 on rDzogs-chen on pp. 213–215).
  • Klein, Anne Carolyn; Wangyal, Geshe Tenzin Rinpoche (2006), Unbounded Wholeness, Oxford University Press 
  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai (1999). The Crystal and The Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-135-9
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  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai. The Essence of the Three Statements of Garab Dorje: Based on an Oral Advice given by Khyenrab Chökyi Özer. Shang Shung Edizioni.
  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai. The Mirror: Advice on Presence and Awareness (dran pa dang shes bzhin gyi gdams pa me long ma). Religions 2013;4(3):412-422.
  • Padmasambhava (1998). Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos. Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0861711314
  • Pettit, John Whitney (1999), Mipham's beacon of certainty: illuminating the view of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-157-2 
  • Reynolds, John Myrdhin (1996). The Golden Letters: The Tibetan Teachings of Garab Dorje, First Dzogchen Master. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-050-6
  • Reynolds, John Myrdhin (2005). The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung: An Introduction to the Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings of the Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung Known as the Zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud. Vajra Publications. ISBN 99946-644-4-1
  • Ray, Reginald (2001), Secret of the Vajra World, Shambhala 
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  • Surya Das (2007). Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Sounds True. ISBN 1-59179-612-1
  • Tarthang Tulku (1977). Time, Space, and Knowledge: A New Vision of Reality. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishing. ISBN 0-913546-08-9
  • Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2000), Wonders of the Natural Mind: The Essence of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet, Snow Lion Publications 
  • Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (2001), Het wonder van onze oorspronkelijke geest. Dzokchen in de bontraditie van Tibet (Dutch translation of "Wonders of the Natural Mind"), Elmar BV 
  • Wangyal, Tenzin (Rinpoche) (2002). Healing with Form, Energy, and Light. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-176-6
  • Wangyal, Tenzin (Rinpoche) and Klein, Anne C.(2006). Unbounded Wholeness: Dzogchen, Bon and the Logic of the Nonconceptual. Oxford University. ISBN 0-19-517850-5


External links[edit]