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This article is about knowledge in Buddhism and Dzogchen. For the organization, see Rigpa organization.
Tibetan letter "A" inside a thigle. The A, which corresponds to the sound ‘ahh’,[1] represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub.

In Dzogchen rigpa (Tibetan: རིག་པ་Wylie: rig pa; Skt. vidyā; "knowledge") is the knowledge of the fundamental ground[note 1] or Buddha-nature.[3][4] The opposite of rigpa is marigpa (avidyā, ignorance).


Rigpa is the "self-reflexive awareness that cognizes Buddha-nature."[4] It has also come to mean the "pristine awareness" that is the fundamental ground itself.[5] Erik Pema Kunsang translates a text which provides basic definitions of rigpa and marigpa in a Dzogchen context:

Unknowing (marigpa) is not knowing the nature of mind. Knowing (rigpa) is the knowing of the original wakefulness that is personal experience.[6]

Kadag and lhungrub[edit]

Rigpa has two aspects, namely kadag and lhun grub.[7] Kadag means "purity" or specifically "primordial purity".[8][9] Lhun grub in Tibetan normally implies automatic, self-caused or spontaneous actions or processes.[10] As quality of rigpa it means "spontaneous presence"[8][note 2] It may also mean "having a self-contained origin", being primordially Existent, without an origin, self-existent.[10] This division is the Dzogchen-equivalent of the more common Mahayana wisdom and compassion division.[7]

Rigpa and mind[edit]

In Dzogchen, a fundamental point of practice is to distinguish rigpa ("pure awareness"[11]) from sem (citta, (grasping) mind).[12] Sem is the mind which is temporarily obscured and distorted by thoughts based on a dualistic perception of subject and object.[11] Rigpa is pure awareness free from such distortions.[11] Cittata, the nature of mind, is the inseparable unity of awareness and emptiness, or clarity and emptiness, which is the basis for all the ordinary perceptions, thoughts and emotions of the ordinary mind.[web 1]


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).[13]


The practice of Trekchö means "Cutting through Solidity".[13][note 3]

Preliminary practices[edit]

Trekchöd starts with nine preliminary practices, to prepare the student for the main practice.[15] Trekchöd has a specific preliminary practice,[note 4], rushan, which may be rendered into English as "differentiating saṃsāra and nirvāṇa".[note 5][16]

Main practice[edit]

The main practice starts with zhiné, concentration meditation.[17] Zhiné develops from a forced practice into a natural, effortless state.[18] There-after the "true nature" is pointed out[19] by a qualified teacher,[5] and leads to insight.[20] Thödgal represents more a fruition than a practice itself.[21]

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.[22]

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.[23]

Insight leads to nyamshag, "being present in the state of clarity and emptiness".[24]

Lhundrub Tögal[edit]

See also: Ösel (yoga)

Lhundrub Tögal is the compassionate or skillful means aspect of rigpa.[web 2][7] Lhündrub Tögal[note 6] means "spontaneous presence",[8][25] "direct crossing",[26] or "direct crossing of spontaneous presence".[27][note 2] The literal meaning is "to proceed directly to the goal without having to go through intermediate steps."[28] It is a training to enhance the realization of the view,[29] the practice of the unity of appearance and emptiness.[30]

Thod rgal is also called "the practice of vision",[web 3] or "the practice of the Clear Light ('od-gsal)".[web 3] The Clear Light is a phenomenological description of the true nature, and a positive counterweight against the negatively perceived "emptiness" of the Madhyamaka philosophy.[31] The practice entails progressing through the four visions,[32] using visual manifestations[30] and various kinds of light.[26] 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.[33] Mandalas, tiglés, white points, circular rainbows, images of Buddhas, deities, and Buddha dimensions may also appear.[34]

Rainbow Body[edit]

Lhun grub practice may lead to full enlightenment and the transformation of the human body into a rainbow body[note 7] at the moment of death,[35] when all the fixation and grasping has been exhausted.[36] It is a nonmaterial body of light with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one's compassion.[13][37][38] It is a manifestation of the Sambhogakāya.[37]

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.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ kun ghzi; Skrt. ālaya[2]
  2. ^ a b See also rywiki, lhun grub
  3. ^ Karma Chagme associates Trekchö with Semde.[14] He further equates Trekchö with Mahāmudrā,[14] which is more typical.
  4. ^ Wylie: sngon 'gro
  5. ^ Korday Rushen; Tibetan: འཁོར་འདས་རུ་ཤནWylie: 'khor 'das ru shan
  6. ^ Tibetan: ལྷུན་གྲུབ་ཐོད་རྒལ།Wylie: lhun grub thod rgal
  7. ^ Wylie: 'ja' lus, pronounced Jalü


  1. ^ Norbu 2002, p. 56.
  2. ^ Schaik 2004, p. 5.
  3. ^ Khenchen Trangu Rinpoche 1998, p. 148.
  4. ^ a b Newman 2004, p. 46.
  5. ^ a b Batchelor 2010.
  6. ^ Kunsang 2006, p. Chapter 15.
  7. ^ a b c Dalai Lama 2004, p. 32.
  8. ^ a b c Rinpoche Dzogchen Ponlop 2003.
  9. ^ Dalai Lama 2004, p. 30.
  10. ^ a b Hookham 1991, p. 49-50.
  11. ^ a b c Dalai Lama 2004, p. 31.
  12. ^ Kunsang 2012, p. 154.
  13. ^ a b c Dudjom Rinpoche. Wisdom Nectar. Snow Lion 2005, page 296.
  14. ^ a b Karma Chagme, Gyatrul Rinpoche & Wallace 1998, p. 180.
  15. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001.
  16. ^ Pettit 1999, p. 81.
  17. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 75-86.
  18. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 65.
  19. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 66, 83-86.
  20. ^ Newman 2004, p. 54.
  21. ^ Ray 2001, p. 318-319.
  22. ^ Schmidt, Erik. (2001). The Light of Wisdom Vol IV. Kathmandu: Rangjung Yeshe Publications. p.77
  23. ^ Schmidt 2002, p. 38.
  24. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2001, p. 87.
  25. ^ Dalai Lama 2004.
  26. ^ a b Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 44.
  27. ^ Schmidt 2002.
  28. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 224.
  29. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 170.
  30. ^ a b Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 2004, p. 77.
  31. ^ Garfield & Edelglass 2011, p. 272.
  32. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 38.
  33. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2000, p. 166.
  34. ^ Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche 2000, p. 167.
  35. ^ >Dalai Lama 2004, p. 204.
  36. ^ Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche 1994, p. 233.
  37. ^ a b Matthieu, Richard. 2001. The Life of Shakbar. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. pg. 153
  38. ^ Reginald Ray, Secret of the Vajra World. Shambhala 2001, page 323.
  39. ^ Matthieu, Richard. 2001. The Life of Shakbar. Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications. pg. 153


Published sources[edit]

  • Batchelor, Stephen (2010), Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, Random House LLC 
  • 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 
  • Garfield, Jay L.; Edelglass, William (2011), The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy, Oxford University Press 
  • Hookham, S.K. (1991), The Buddha Within: Tathagatagarbha Doctrine According to the Shentong Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhaga, SUNY Press 
  • Karma Chagme; Gyatrul Rinpoche; Wallace, B. Alan (1998), A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga, Snow Lion Publications 
  • Khenchen Trangu Rinpoche (1998), The Practice of the Tranquility and Insight: A Guide to Tibetan Buddhist Mediation, Snow Lion Publications 
  • Kunsang, Erik Pema (2006), Quintessential Dzogchen, Ranjung Yeshe 
  • Kunsang, Erik Pema (2012), Perfect Clarity, Ranjung Yeshe 
  • Newman, Bruce (2004), A Beginner's Guide to Tibetan Buddhism, Snow Lion Publications 
  • Norbu, Namkhai (2002), Dream Yoga Revised, Snow Lion 
  • Pettit, John Whitney (1999), Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, Wisdom Publications, ISBN 0-86171-157-2 
  • Ray, Reginald (2001), Secret of the Vajra World, Shambhala 
  • Rinpoche Dzogchen Ponlop (2003), Wild Awakening: The Heart of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, Shambhala Publications 
  • Schaik, Sam (2004), Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Dzogchen Practice in the Longchen Nyingtig, Wisdom Publications Inc. 
  • Schmidt, Marcia Binder (Ed.) (2002), The Dzogchen Primer: Embracing The Spiritual Path According To The Great Perfection, Shambhala Publications, Inc., ISBN 1-57062-829-7 
  • 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 


Further reading[edit]

  • Schmidt, Marcia Binder (Ed.) (2002), The Dzogchen Primer: Embracing The Spiritual Path According To The Great Perfection, Shambhala Publications, Inc., ISBN 1-57062-829-7 
  • Guenther, Herbert V. (1992). Meditation Differently: Phenomenological Psychological Aspects of Tibetan Buddhist (Mahamudra and Snying-Thig Practices from Original Tibetan Sources). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers (repr. 2005). ISBN 81-208-0870-3 (hardbound).
  • Surya Das (2007). Natural Radiance: Awakening to Your Great Perfection. Sounds True. ISBN 1-59179-612-1

External links[edit]