Limitless undefinable spaciousness, consummate autonomic clarity and perpetually radiant wholesomeness are concepts used in Dzogchen teachings. These three concepts, each having multiple layers of meaning, are used in amalgam as a holistic view of objective reality. However, Dzogchen teachings are intended to engender Dzogchen practice, and Dzogchen practice is not based on concepts. So why are there so many concepts being presented? There are three answers.
1. Our innate Buddhanature, with all its inconceivable qualities, goes unnoticed because of the mental fibrillation of believing that our perceptions and judgements are real. If we want to realize our Buddhanature, we must first learn to not be mesmerized by our habitual patterns of taking our perceptions and judgements to be real. In Dzogchen there are specific ways to do this. The teacher will first arrange a context or situation in which the student can have an actual experience of one of the three principal aspects of objective reality. The initial experience usually works with spaciousness (emptiness) but there is no rule concerning this. It depends on the specific teacher/student situation. The teacher can give the student a practice or the teacher can do a kind of guided meditation. In any case, the purpose of the work is for the student to have a certain experience in the domain of objective reality. If the target experience is “spaciousness”, for example, then the student can develop a concrete experiential basis for working with that. Specifically, concrete experiences of transcendent spaciousness will serve as the media for ultimately realizing the non-dual (Tib. zung ‘jug) states of appearance/emptiness (Tib. snang stong), bliss/emptiness (Tib. bde stong), luminosity/emptiness (Tib. gsal stong), and cognizance/emptiness (Tib. rig stong). The concept of “Limitless Undefinable Spaciousness” is merely a label … like the words Chanel No.5 on a bottle of fragrance. It is very important to understand that Dzogchen is not a philosophy and is therefore not interested in either promulgating the idea of Limitless Undefinable Spaciousness or any other idea. The experience of essential spaciousness-purity, however, is one of the fundamental factors of Dzogchen practice. So, we have an important use for that concept as a referent of practice.
2. We should consider our present individual condition carefully. It is necessary to clearly and soberly discern the difference between our pure primordial potential and our present state of dualistic habituation. Our present state is manifesting as a confluence of physical body, dynamic prana and mental reification. As we begin to do Dzogchen practice, we experience ourselves and our environment in a kind of transition from apparent density to apparent spaciousness. As this happens energy is released, specifically, energy that has been encapsulated and attenuated by materialization. If the release of this energy exceeds our capacity to tolerate it, certain auto-regulatory changes immediately occur. In the case of the mind, insufficient capacity to tolerate the energy release of directly encountering the totality of spaciousness results in a conceptual reflex. This reflex is like a circuit breaker in the fuse-box of our ordinary mind. Although they will always be mere concepts and nothing more, the specific tripartite concepts presented above can function as Dzogchen-specific circuit breakers that offer great advantages over whatever random concepts our minds would otherwise default, if untrained by Dzogchen methods. Sometimes Dzogchen teachings are presented in the style of Vajrayana, in terms of View, Meditation and Conduct. The View, then, is none other than this conceptual presentation of essence-emptiness, nature-clarity and compassion-manifestation. Again, the advantage of working directly with the specific transmission of a teacher cannot be overemphasized.
3. There is a subtle and vitally important distinction to be understood between experience and realization. The operative principle of Dzogchen practice is the primordially inherent purity of the individual. This purity can be concretely experienced by an individual, in any circumstance, if one has the frame of reference for such. The realization of this purity is the actual release of all the tension that can only afford sporadic, periodic experiences of purity. Once completely released and in the absence of that tension, realization is being in the timeless continuum of pervasive purity. Since Spaciousness is the utterly ineffable emptiness that is the essence of everything, if our experience is not utterly ineffable then we are not experiencing the essence of which Dzogchen refers. Since Clarity is the intrinsic luminosity that is the nature of everything, if our experience is not fundamentally characterized by luminosity then we are not experiencing the nature of which Dzogchen refers. Since Compassionate Wholesomeness is the true meaning of how everything spontaneously and unceasingly unfolds, if our experience lacks total goodness as its obvious ultimate significance then we are not experiencing the Bodhicitta that is the real meaning of Dzogchen. The direct knowledge of Bodhicitta, the real meaning of non-dual cognizance/emptiness, is readily available by aligning oneself perfectly with the teacher. This is the essential practice of Ati guruyoga.
The Dzogchen teaching is unfailingly protected by the totally enlightened queen of furious compassion, Ekajati – the supreme singularity. Even with just the slightest connection to Dzogchen it becomes not possible to escape her scrutiny. She protects all aspects of Dzogchen including those individuals who, like myself, merely pretend to practice it. No one gains entry into the treasure-vault of Dzogchen teachings without her permission and any teachings removed from the treasure-vault through deceit won’t work. This is because she alone has the encryption key. In her left hand she holds a ruby lasso that controls the beating of your heart. In her right hand she waves the sapphire wand of cosmic rotation which emanates countless packs of rust-colored she-wolves whose minds are melded to hers, exacting her every intention. Knowing this, I sleep easy.