The etymologies of the terms, Dzogchen and Tai Ji, seem to be identical. Dzog and Ji both denote the state dissolution, completion or finalization/terminus and the Chinese word Tai is synonymous with the Tibetan word Chen. One of the curious things about the term, Dzogchen, is its conspicuous absence from early Dzogchen literature. The fact that this term has not been found in any of the pre-Tibetan Dzogchen texts has sometimes been offered as a argument against the validity of Dzogchen as an authentic orthodox teaching. The issue of Buddhist orthodoxy based on the criterion of extant Indic source material may seem peripheral to our subject but, in some ways, it is that very issue that has exposed the possible connection between Dzogchen and Tai Ji. To my knowledge, even the Sanskrit/Prakrit retro-fit term for Dzogchen, Maha Sandhi, has not been found in any pre-Tibetan Dzogchen texts. (Regarding the use of the Indic term, Maha Sandhi, as the presumed antecedent of the term Dzogchen, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu has informed us that in the syntax of the language of Uddiyana it would have been, Sandhi Maha).
I became curious about this possible connection years ago in the late sixties after meeting a very enigmatic Chinese man in New York City. In the course of our initial conversation, he referred to himself as a practitioner of Tai Ji and I right away assumed that he meant Tai Ji Quan. I met with him a number of times in the following weeks and came to understand that my assumption was very wrong. He was not using the term Tai Ji as an abbreviation for Tai Ji Quan. He was using the term to name a particular psycho-spiritual viewpoint/practice that had nothing whatsoever to do with martial art. I became informed by this gentleman that Tai Ji Quan is rather like a fossil of the true Tai Ji. In his explanation, the Tai Ji principle inspired and to some degree flavored the art of Tai Ji Quan, but remains a vastly more profound practice in its own right. Since I was at that time a novice student of Tai Ji Quan and also an aspiring practitioner of Dzogchen, this interested me very much.
Over the course of about three years, I had many meetings with this man. We never even once had a scheduled meeting but nevertheless always happened to meet each other, week after week, usually in one of the Chinatown coffee shops. The information that I received from this man was broad and deep. He assured me that Tai Ji was not philosophy but rather a “condition”. The main characteristic of this condition was described by him as “complete without ever having been completed”. When I first inquired about the lineage history of Tai Ji, the question was met with laughter. History, he said, was a fictional notion associated with the equally fictitious notion of time. Tai Ji, he explained, was an atemporal condition but could be experienced and known in some sense by its immunity to time. In other words, our common experience of time could serve as a symbol of our misunderstanding of Tai Ji. Being very attached to intellectualism as I was, I continued to press for information about the concrete history of how this wisdom tradition came to him specifically. Only after many jousting-like discussions about species-specific vision (karmic vision), he reluctantly admitted that there was a long human lineal transmission history of Tai Ji that claims to have originated in another star-system. Specifically, the wisdom tradition of Tai Ji was originally brought to Earth by a master whose home was a realm called, The Deity in Charge of Monsters.
It is well established that Guru Padmasambhava founded the teachings of the Vajrayana in Tibet and taught Dzogchen to select disciples. Historically, Padmasambhava received the transmissions of Dzogchen from the master, Sri Singha, who was Chinese. One of the reasons that the Dzogchen teachings were not wholeheartedly accepted as orthodox by the Tibetans had to do with this Chinese connection which presented politically troublesome considerations. This is further evidenced by the famous debate at Samye between the Chinese master Hwa Shang and Kamalashila (which some scholars now believe to have been a hoax). The greater reason however was that Dzogchen, although presented as the pinnacle of Buddhism by the followers of Padmasambhava, was at the same time conspicuously independent from Buddhism, particularly in its apolitical character. It is also very interesting to note that Padmasambhava is believed by many to have been anything but a normal human being. His life history spans many centuries and, according to his biographies, he departed Tibet by mounting the rays of the sun and flying off to relocate in the realm of the Yakshas (monsters?).