Spiritual work is the quest for the realization of consummate primordial wholeness. That is to say, to not be realized is to seem to be not-whole, fragmented or, worse than simply fragmented … missing a few pieces. Many people may relate to a special quality possessed by mothers. They are usually the very best finders. When we were searching and searching for a lost item of some kind, and becoming very frustrated, we would call out to our mother in desperation. She would say, “Did you look in the clothes hamper?” or, “Did you look in your school backpack?” If still you could not find the item, she would find it herself, often right where you had previously looked and right where it was supposed to be. Finding the missing ontological pieces whose apparent absence seem to sabotage our realization can have a similar resolution. Often, everything was right where it was supposed to be, but not always. Sometimes we need to do a deep cleaning, re-organizing everything as we proceed. Some people may think that spiritual cleaning and organizing is not necessary on the Dzogchen path. Well, if you think that, you are correct … as far as thinking goes.
As has been the case with all previous civilizations, twenty-first century humanity exists in a context of specific knowledge mixed with specific misunderstandings. Some of these constraints may prove much more critical to those seeking liberation than in previous civilizations, some much less. To be a Dzogchen practitioner means to be consciously engaged in an ontological dance of integration with all phenomena. To be a good dance partner we need to have a deep understanding of, and personal intimacy with space, energy, friction, motion and rhythm. Our dance partner already possesses these aspects to a degree that seems infinite. So, as to not be such a klutz in the beginning, why not consider lessons? In the Dzogchen method the first dance lesson is to relax and try to understand that everything is already moving. It is not possible to stand still. Our planet is rotating at a speed of about 1000 miles-per-hour. As we continue with that perpetual pirouette, day after day, we simultaneously orbit around the sun at about 67,000 miles-per-hour. Of course, our entire solar system is itself simultaneously orbiting around the galactic center of the Milky Way at about 483,000 miles-per-hour. So, to be realistic in a 21st-century mode, we need to consider our own space, energy, friction, motion and rhythm at least on this scale as a starting point. The point here is not to suggest that everyone begin studying astrophysics. The point is that as we begin to study and apply the teachings of Dzogchen, it is very important to not abandon our knowledge of scale in the process of adopting new modes of relaxing the tensions of confusion. If you do not have a serviceable understanding of scale, great confusion and fear can interrupt the process of harmonizing in the practice of integration.
There are numerous ways to develop a working knowledge of scale. Some methods take longer than others to yield practical results. In hearing something like this we always immediately assume that the fastest methods are best, and that we are certainly ideal candidates for these fastest methods. Consider, however, the following scenario. Suppose you urgently needed to travel to another city that was five hundred miles away, time being of the essence. Four vehicles are available but you may not hire a pilot, you must go by yourself. The four available vehicles are capable of increasingly fast, top-end speed, however, you only know how to operate the one of lowest speed. You can learn how to drive the faster vehicles but it takes some time to develop that knowledge — the faster the vehicle, the more precise one’s knowledge must be. It is possible that if you don’t waste any time at all, the time spent learning the operation of a faster vehicle would be significantly made up by that vehicle’s capacity for greater speed, resulting in your earlier arrival. But in each case, any errors in operation, whether due to failures of understanding or performance, could result in not arriving at all. Assuming all that, what would you do? (FYI, the fourth vehicle transports you to your destination in an instant) In plain English, we ourselves are simultaneously the vehicle, the driver, the roadway and the destination. So, what we need to study and understand is ourselves. Although there appear to be different types and levels of spiritual paths, their actual differences are to be found in the individual who is following that path, not really in the path itself. So, in Dzogchen the most important thing is to understand how we ourselves are Dzogchen, rather than just chasing after the names of practices that are associated with Dzogchen.
When we practice Yantra, we work with our actual breath — not the idea of breath. We also work with our actual movement — not with the idea of movement. Likewise, when we work with integration we work with actual phenomena — not the idea of phenomena. In order to really do any kind of spiritual work in the Dzogchen way we need to be aware of what we are doing. Doing things unconsciously or ignorantly is not the Dzogchen way. The first order of business is to be aware of how our own human system works. In the big picture we have a triune mode of being: Body, Voice and Mind, where Voice is both a manifestation of our vital energy and also its metaphor. At a more delineated local level, we have various function-centers that are capable of operating within specific parameters — the lowest level of operation being “looping” (either positive or negative) and the highest being creative. There are different ways of working with these centers to achieve their highest functionality. The extraordinary methods of Semde, Longde and Mangagde are exemplary of how the global, vajra-aspects of Body, Voice and Mind can be realized as primordially perfected from within the human function-centers of Intellect, Emotion, Movement and Instinct.
Although plagued by almost entirely negative reputations resulting from a fundamentalist view of Buddhism, the emotions are in fact innocent. They are carrier-waves that can convey meaning that is either negative, positive, ambivalent or conflicted. When we say that someone is being emotional, we usually mean that they are being upset or crying, etc. But being elated, joyous, optimistic, and yes, compassionate, is equally emotional. Due only to the prevalence of our original ignorance and its resulting confusion, fear and alienation, the negative expressions of emotion have become their most notorious definitions. However, to be fully functional beings, capable of full consciousness and self-liberation, we need to discover the purity of emotion, as well as of all our other aspects of being. It is on the carrier-wave emotion of desire that the desire to awaken arises. When we speak of being inspired to do good, it is precisely on the wave of the emotion of optimism that this inspiration is possible. And it is the emotion of appreciation that enables us to resonate with the goodness of others. We would not be able to recognize our own spiritual Master if not for the purely emotional signals of love and appreciation. The intellect is able to logically conceptualize a plan only after there is a sufficient emotional inclination to do. The movements of the body are spasmodic and perfunctory unless enlivened by emotional impulses to become the magic and mystery of dance. As fear transmutes into courage, what we feel most distinctly is the previously un-felt rhythm of our own heart, now fully felt, surging for a conscious purpose. And even the most hidden and inaccessible aspects of our instinctive selves leap into full view when the emotional waves associated with pleasure literally bring them out for all to see.
In the same way that someone who has studied music can have a deeper appreciation of its virtuoso performance, someone who has studied mankind’s emotions can recognize their primordial source. In Buddhism one studies the five principal negative emotions of craving, anger, jealousy, arrogance and ignorance to discover their pure origins as the Primordial Buddhas: Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava and Vairocana. In Dzogchen we can study emotions in this way if we like, but we can also learn to simply allow the natural innocence of emotional waves to rise and fall, informing and energizing our human functions without any compulsive neurotic expression. By neither suppressing these natural waves nor indulging in their seductive content, consciousness eases into its own natural sphere. In the absence of any reification, liberation is the absence of anything needing to be liberated.