Original Perfection - Selections
A beautiful, lyrical translation of the first five Dzogchen texts with crystal-clear commentary.
The Cuckoo’s Song of Pure Presence
In Tibet’s ancient shamanic tradition, the cuckoo was a magical bird, the king of birds. As the cuckoo’s first call is the harbinger of spring, so the six lines of the Cuckoo’s Song of Pure Presence introduce the reality of Dzogchen. In this seminal transmission, Samantabhadra defines himself as spontaneously complete and perfect nonaction. It incorporates the precept of undiscriminating joyous activity. This is the root text of the Dzogchen Mind Series.
Hey, Mahasattva, Magnificent Being, listen!
The nature of multiplicity is nondual
and things in themselves are pure and simple;
being here and now is construct-free
and it shines out in all forms, always all good;
it is already perfect, so exertion is redundant
and spontaneity is ever immanent.
All experience, the entire phantasmagoria of the six senses, the diverse multiplicity of existence, in reality is without duality. Even if we examine the parts of the pure essence of mind in the laboratory of the mind, such specifics are seen to be illusive and indeterminate. There is nothing to grasp and there is no way to express it. The suchness of things, their actuality, left just as it is, is beyond thought and inconceivable, and that is the here and now. Yet diversity is manifestly apparent, and that is the undiscriminating, all-inclusive sphere of the all-good buddha, Samantabhadra. Total perfection has always been a fact, and there has never been anything to do to actuate this immaculate completion. All endeavor is redundant. What remains is spontaneity, and that is always present as our natural condition.
If the six lines are divided into three pairs of verses describing Dzogchen vision, meditation, and action respectively, the first two lines express the view that luminous mind is an ineffable singularity and cannot be analyzed; the second two lines indicate nonmeditation as the natural state of Samantabhadra’s display; and the third couplet shows action as the nondirected action—nonaction—of spontaneous awareness.
Samantabhadra’s radical creativity is the miracle of illusory display emanated in every instant. It lies in the free-form field of reality, driven by the dynamic of nonaction. In a more limited sense, however, radical creativity is evident here in the soft touch of Samantabhadra’s breath of inspiration that informs these pith instructions. This is a transmission that embodies specific instruction. It teaches that there is no path to traverse and no distinctions to be made in luminous-mind reality.
Hey, Mahasattva, Magnificent Being, listen!
All and everything emanates from me, so all and everything, whatever appears,
is revealed as transmission,
revelation of timelessly pure basic spaciousness.
The path is the process of unfoldment of Samantabhadra’s entire emanation in a timeless moment. In this respect every moment is identical and complete in itself, and there can be no progress or development in or of luminous mind. There can be no gradual increase or decrease of realization through time. Further, if all is one in the moment, how can there be any valid differentiation of luminous mind from reality or, indeed, any distinctions whatsoever? Samantabhadra’s all-inclusive momentary emanation is the nonreferential field of reality, which is his transmission and his instruction. The here and now is luminous mind, the field of reality, and Samantabhadra’s complete transmission. There is nothing else.
All outer and inner is the timeless field of spacious reality,
and in such an immaculate field of play,
buddha and sentient beings are not distinct—
so why try to change anything?
Luminous mind and reality are one in basic spaciousness, and it is quite impossible to make any distinction. We say that all phenomena, whatever exists, composed of earth, water, fire, air, and space, is external and that luminous mind and the nature of reality are internal. But this is idle speculative thought imputing mere nominal meaning where there is no real basis for it. The field of reality is an all-inclusive unity. In this timeless sphere of activity there is no distinction between buddha and sentient beings. It is impossible to improve on the timeless moment—it is already perfect and complete, the all-good Samantabhadra. It cannot be altered or transformed because it is the immutable Vajrasattva.
There is no ambition in effortless, fully potentiated creativity,
and such free-form spontaneous perfection is always the same;
in the pure field of reality, where the conception and the act are one,
however misguided, how can we innocents do any wrong?
A moment of bodhi reality is primordially perfect and lacks any goal orientation or ulterior intent; it has no desire. It is free of all aspiration. It is uncontrolled and uncontrollable free-form display. Every moment of reality is the same in the ultimate sameness of luminous mind. The heart meaning is always the same. Since it is complete and perfect as it stands, there is nothing at all to do, and there never was anything to do, and thus activity is free-form display. All strenuous practice is rendered ineffective. Here, both impulse and its simultaneous actualization, and both immaculate subject and object, are the pure field of reality. In this milieu it is impossible to err, regardless of our naive beliefs and intractable habits. Nothing we fools can do can defile this pure space.
The pure-pleasure union of sentient behavior,
conceived by the deluded as a perverse path,
is identical to the pure modality of Samantabhadra:
whoever understands such sameness is buddha, lord of all.
Pure-pleasure union, sensory or sexual, whether as an integral part of human conduct or as a tantric path, is reviled as immoral or perverse by the ignorant. But the course of human behavior, from the beginning, is inseparable from Samantabhadra’s transmission as revealed above—freeform play. These two paths are actually one. The “lord” of past, present, and future, buddha is the realization that these apparently incompatible modes are identical.
All dualities, all dualistic structures, are spontaneously resolved in the ultimate sameness of Dzogchen. This includes the duality of the delusive path of gender union and the luminous mind modality where the vision and the act are one. The apparent duality of the gender principles of skillful means and insight united in pure pleasure is actually always a unity from the beginning, a primordial unity, pulled apart (in anuyoga) only in order to recognize it as a unity and always for the first time.
On the delusive, extremist path, thinking, “I” and “mine,”
deluded innocents enter a structured path of Dharma practice
with no chance to realize that it leads nowhere:
How can reality ever be found by seeking?
The teacher who talks in terms of “I” and “mine” implies the existence of a substantial self—or soul—in others who therefore must strive to gain and hold something that they lack. This conventional way of thinking is called “extremist” because of its lack of a sense of middle way where the “I” is deconstructed and the notion of possession becomes a fallacy. Such a teacher draws his students into a conceptual, progressive, goal-oriented dharma practice, where there is a presumption that the graduated path has an attainable goal and that realization can be obtained through analysis and where there is no possibility of spontaneous realization. The path of ritual performance and religious practice has no end. In the great perfection there is no path—only the timeless modality of momentary unfoldment. Thus the nature of reality cannot be found by seeking; it is already present. The mind cannot objectify its own nature, so reality cannot be found by searching for it. Seeking it would be like a dog chasing its own tail.
The instruction of monkey-like masters who lack direct insight
is fraught with false concepts of preparation and technique;
so the master who cleans the tarnish from pure gold,
the authentic teacher, the most precious resource,
he is worth a ransom of any vast price.
Like a monkey who mimics without understanding is the teacher who gives precept and transmission without the valid basis of understanding that is direct insight into the nature of mind. Such teaching induces in the mind of the disciple a conceptual notion of the path, a specific starting point and a goal involving preparation, supports, and technique. The master who sees the nature of mind has eradicated any implication of a conditioned path. This is likened to removing any fine film of tarnish from pure gold through the application of black alum—a traditional practice. No refinement, like separating the dross from pure gold, is necessary. The teacher’s transmission of this pathless path is worth to his students whatever price must be paid. In early times the student proved his commitment by offering gold to the master.
How to cite this document:
© Keith Dowman, Original Perfection (Wisdom Publications, 2013)
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