The Chapter on Direct Perception
from the Guhyagarbha-tantra
Samantabhadra and sentient beings are gathered indivisibly in immaculate
existential space, and in order to demonstrate experientially the direct
perception of Vajrasattva's face, deliberately, Samantabhadra speaks:
In direct perception of this mundane world, where things are never what
they seem, where all is delusory enchantment, like hallucination, seeing
all and everything as a continuity like the reflection of the moon in water,
that is the buddha's pristine awareness, and a flash of undivided recognition
of that gives us a unitary experience of total presence. A finger snap
of ungrounded limitless space, in timeless existential space, the here
and now, that is Vajrasattva wielding an utterly inviolable vajra. When
vision and conduct are in sync with direct perception, we see his face
in the intrinsic purity of the mandala.
That boundless existential space is oneself in a union of utter purity,
and all is spontaneously awakened. Whoever experiences this realization
he is seeing with the eye of pure awareness and he sees the immaculate
matrix of being, and he is utterly inviolable, adamantine, imperturbable.
Intrinsic existential space radiates clear light which is the immaculate
voice of pristine being (sattva). In that recognition is direct perception
of his face.
With this spontaneity of perfect equipoise, the mind is filled with the
magnificent self-sprung mandala of the Five Tathagathas, the five aspects
of awareness, and in this unitary mind free of subject and object contemplating
the buddhas' radiance as nothing at all, without seeing or hearing or any
sensation, here is the clear light of pure awareness of intrinsic presence
and everything is realized as intrinsically empty and in reality there
is no substance whatsoever.
Just as the victorious Buddha sat as a focus in the middle of the hosts
of Mara all gathered around the bodhi tree, miserable in their state of
malignancy trying to cut the tree but quite unable, so is Vajrasattva:
when oneself is at one with samadhi that is direct perception of the vajra-face.
The mind filled with Vajrasattva, samadhi saturated with radiance, everything
becomes his vajra-nature, and since he is everything, nothing can harm
him; with oneself and sattva inseparable action accords with whatever appears,
and the vision and activity of oneself and sattva are one and that is direct
perception of the vajra-face.
Now, the immaculate mandala of reflected images: conjoined by means of
the coarse and tangible (thabs) apprehending sensory distinctions, perfect
insight (prajna) is realized and the non-dual connection of means and insight
is sublime skilful means. All and everything as the space of that manifold
insight, all appearances and existence, everything whatsoever, unmoving
from the intrinsical here and now, are neither existent nor non-existent
and their being and non-being are indivisible: all is gathered into the
space of existential sameness and such a communion never coming into being,
everything, in that way, inseparable from sameness, is inviolable. That
is the abode of sattva and the supreme order who realize that, their status
in accord with sattva, they see directly the vajra-face.
All transforming illusion, the psycho-organism and the elements of perception,
is one in the suchness of the ground of being, and illusory appearances,
all reflected images, lack any substance in their very nature; yet that
very absence of substance displays multiplicity: the five aspects of the
psycho-organism are the Five Tathagathas, sense organs and conciousnesses
are the bodhisattvas, the objects and times are the goddesses the four
concepts of the self are the four wrathful male guardians, the four extreme
views of eternalism and nihilism are the four wrathful female guardians.
That awakened mind – known as intrinsic presence – all as existential
space, Samantabhadra, that is Vajrasattva. Whoever recognizes that, his
buddha-mind in harmony with sattva, He sees the vajra-face.
All things, all experience without exception, can be expressed by representational
name, word, letters and sound, but like all those letters, names and sounds
nothing whatsoever has any substance. That very absence of substance appears
as multiplicity, the nature of appearances is nothing at all; although
there is a constant stream of creativity it is no-thing and that is immaculate.
The utterly inviolable here and now is not insensate matter; it is radiantly
clear light, and Vajrasattva abides there. Whoever recognizes that is a
member of the supreme order, and indivisible from the vajra-order he has
direct perception of the vajra-face.
The eminent man or woman with high creativity can realize the meaning
of such universal identity; but the result is intangible, for the place
in which enlightened mind exists is like a womb or an egg. Although unreal,
obscurations do arise, and just as in the process of their creation they
dissolve so the forms of thought are abandoned instantaneously. In that
way he is empowered by all things and he becomes a being of the sublime
Identical to Vajrasattva, the supreme siddhis are perfected in him; he
attains the blissful pure land, supreme wisdom becomes his display, and
he is an exemplar to gods and men; he is empowered in body speech and mind
and whatever he imagines is actualized.
He is mastered by the four boundless states, his activity everywhere
is supreme awareness of bliss, and he has reached the place where suffering
has ceased – the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death.
Reaching the supreme vajra-status, through the blessings of great compassion
he leads all beings without exception into that vajra-order.
Annihilating the hosts of Mara, taming the passions impeccably he turns
the wheel of dharma; to all beings without exception he teaches the nature
of impermanence in a way compatible with their every path – to the
shravakas the way of the arhat, to the bodhisattvas the way of the self-born,
to the spontaneously originated buddhas of the unsurpassable approach,
inviolable existential space. Without moving from intrinsic existential
space he reveals to everyone immutability, and all paths without exception
are accomplished in that space.
Thus he spoke the vajra-secret word! The word spoken by himself to himself!
The thirty first chapter: "Direct perception of Vajrasattva's face
by high beings with creative minds: from the gSang ba'i snying po de kho
na nyid nges pa."
Translated by the Inje Nyomba Kunzang Tenzin at the behest of a sky-being
in the Orgyen Tsamkhang in the City of Buda, this version finished during
the auspicious visit of Chogyel Namkhai Norbu to the Kathmandu Valley,
21st September, 2000.
This text is taken from the rNying ma rgyud 'bum published in gTing skyes
dGon pa in Tibet by Dingo Khyentse Rimpoche, Thimbu 1973, Vol. 14, Pha,
the sGyu 'phrul le'u lag (Maya Appendix), Chapter Thirty-one, "Zhal
mthong gi le'u", pp. 534.1-537.6.
The Exalted Spaciousness of Vajrasattva
- Verses -
A full translation of this transmission is included in
Eye of The Storm
The Revelation of All Things As One:
The Root of All Experience
As one, completely free of attributes,
the yogin is like the flight-path of a bird in the sky;
in the unstructured, unoriginated, matrix
how can there be any inflated projections?
The Identity of Samsara and Nirvana:
The Fallacy of Inner and Outer
Inner and outer are one, the inner the outer itself,
so there is no ulterior field to realize;
under the power of a mistaken dichotomy,
samadhi lacks ultimate sameness.
The Reality of Vajrasattva
Vajrasattva, vast exalted spaciousness,
in the all-good expanse of existential space,
is the utterly pristine, dynamic process of liberation,
never begun, never-ending and conceiving nothing.
Complete and Perfect Dzogchen
Totally complete, nothing excluded,
unchanging, Dzogchen is simply present;
boundless, like space,
nothing is dependant upon anything else.
Immediate and Spontaneous Enlightenment
In the field of ordinary understanding lies pure pleasure,
which itself is the pristine purity of mundane existence;
through the concentration of finite light focused therein
the entire ten directions of space are illuminated.
These are the first five verses of the Dorje Sempa Namkhache Lung in the
order given in the Dochu and translated accordingly to the Dochu commentary..
The Namkha Che is the realization of Garab Dorje who recited it when a
child. It was given to Pagor Vairotsana by Shri Singha in Oddiyana and
was one of the first five translations of the Semde tantras made at Samye
in Tibet. It is considered to be the root text of the Semde Series.
First we do the four ordinary foundations, also known as the 'four ways
of changing the mind,' because they turn our mind away from worldly preoccupation
and towards the path of the Dharma. They are a series of reflections:
Reflecting on how rare and precious our human life is. We often take for
granted our freedom of choice and how many opportunities we have as a human
being (as compared to an animal). To help us put this in the right perspective,
a properly valued human life that is used in the right way is compared
to seeing a star in the daytime.
Reflecting on the impermanence of everything that exists and becoming aware
of the fragility and unpredictability of our lives. This helps us focus
on the importance of applying ourselves to spiritual practice right now.
Reflecting on karma, the law of cause and effect, and acknowledging that
we shape our lives through how we act. This helps us focus on the importance
of acting in wholesome ways and avoiding unskilful actions.
Reflecting on the all-pervasiveness of suffering in life. This reflection
is not to make us morbid or depressed, but rather to help wake us up to
the way things really are and motivate us to practice the Dharma for the
good of all living beings.
Having reflected deeply on these four truths and absorbed them right to
the core of our being, we then embark on the four special foundations or
Prostrations and Taking Refuge. This involves taking refuge in the Three
Jewels and Three Roots and generating bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment.
It is accompanied by doing full prostrations, while reciting a refuge prayer
and imaging the sources of refuge in front of us, symbolically portrayed
on a lineage tree. This practice deepens the experience of refuge and purifies
harmful actions connected with the body.
Vajrasattva (or Dorje Sempa) purification practice. This involves visualizing
the deity Vajrasattva above our heads and reciting his hundred syllable
mantra, while imagining that all our harmful actions of body, speech and
mind are purified in the process.
Mandala Offering. During this practice we symbolically offer the entire
universe to the sources of refuge again and again, while reciting a special
offering prayer. The purpose of this practice is to accumulate merit, which
means to generate a force of positive energy within our mind.
Guru Yoga. The preceding purification and accumulation practices lay the
ground for the devotional practice of Guru Yoga, during which we open our
mind to the blessing of our guru and his spiritual lineage. Blessing is
the connection between student and teacher whereby the student opens his
mind to the wisdom of the teacher, and through this compassion, the teacher
opens the door to his spiritual lineage transmitting the living experience
of enlightenment directly into the heart of the student.
Having completed the preliminary practices there are two main ways to go,
which are often combined these days. The first way is described as a
path of skilful means and it involves doing practices that use mantra
and visualisation, generally known as 'deity practices'. The second way
relates directly to the nature of mind and is a graduated system of practices,
involving calm abiding and insight meditation, leading to Mahamudra realisation
of the true nature of mind. In general deity practices are developed
to their fullest in the long term retreats (such as four year retreats),
while the second way is found in Mahamudra courses offered by high lineage
teachers in the Karma Kagyu tradition.
With regard to deity practices, it is important to explain that the concept
of 'deity' in Buddhism is different to its traditional usage in the West.
It does not refer to a separate, external, supernaturally powerful being
that we pray to in order to receive grace and favour. Instead 'deity'
in this context refers to different facets of the enlightened mind that
are within us - for example, limitless compassion. Deity practices normally
involve meditating on a particular form, which is an expression of a
quality of enlightened awareness. To use an analogy, if our Buddha Nature
is likened to a translucent diamond composed of light, then the different
deities, like Tara and Chenrezig, are like different facets of this diamond,
expressing different qualities of the enlightened mind. When we meditate
on a deity, it is like establishing a mind link (yidam) with these qualities;
and through meditating on the deity, these qualities gradually manifest
in us. For example, Chenrezig is regarded as the embodiment of limitless
love and compassion, and through meditating on his form and reciting
his mantra, limitless love and compassion gradually arise in us.
Normally our teacher will recommend a practice to us as that will be most
effective in purifying our particular type of negativity and bringing out
our unique, positive qualities. Each deity practice requires an empowerment,
which is a formal ceremony that opens the door to that particular meditation
practice. It is both an authorisation to do a practice and it initiates
us into the main elements of the practice. After having received the empowerment
(called 'wang'), we then receive the scriptural transmission to recite
the text of the practice (called 'lung') and then detailed instructions
on how to do the practice.
At its most profound level an empowerment can confer upon a student, whose
mind is ripe and open, a direct experience of the true nature of mind
through the doorway of that particular practice. This happens by way
of a ritual that bypasses the sceptical rational mind and transmits directly
the heart essence of the practice. In order for an empowerment to be
effective the teacher needs to have been authorised to confer empowerments
by his teacher, who must hold an authentic spiritual lineage, and the
student needs to be open and receptive and have faith in the process
Our everyday mind is like a curtain obscuring sunlight coming through a
window. The sunshine represents our Buddha Nature and the curtains are
our limiting habitual tendencies. At its most profound level, during
the ritual of empowerment it is as if our spiritual teacher walks over
to the window and pulls back the curtain so that the sunlight streams
into the room, illuminating everything. Previously, we had just heard
about the sun, but we had never seen it or experienced it for ourselves.
Now, even if it is just for a moment, we see it with our own eyes and
feel it on our skin. At first, this experience of the sunshine is short-lived.
Our old habits of thinking and reacting flood back and the curtain closes
again. But at least we have seen the sun. We have perceived our Buddha
Nature behind the curtains of self-centred thought patterns. Then, on
the basis of having experienced the sunshine directly, we do the deity
practice for which we have received empowerment, and this gradually stabilises
the experience until it finally matures into full blossoming of our Buddha
Creation and Completion
Vajrayana rituals or sadhanas work at two levels. At the level of everyday
reality, they use a variety of different visualisation methods to transform
our mundane perception of ourselves and the world. This is called 'the
phase of creation'. On a more profound level, the rituals involve directly
recognizing and resting in the true nature of the mind without any thinking
at all. This is called 'the phase of completion'.
The phase of creation uses our imagination to break down our solid and
fragmented perception of ourselves and the world. In these practices,
we take on another identity by imagining ourselves in the form of a deity.
In so doing we are aligning ourselves with who we really are - our Buddha
Nature. We also imagine the external environment to be a pure realm of
the deity, which is not another place, but our everyday world viewed
through pure eyes. In order to immerse ourselves in this different way
of seeing things, the sadhana employs all sorts of skilful means, such
as visual mandalas, physical gestures or mudras, ritual music and so
What we are really doing with these practices is breaking down the tendency
to see ourselves and the world as being solid and fixed - instead we
are training ourselves to see things as being transparent and radiant.
Also, through imagining in this way, we break down the false sense of
separation we have between ourselves and others and between ourselves
and the environment. When we do Chenresig practice, for example, and
imagine ourselves to be Chenrezig, we see all form as the body of Chenrezig,
all sound as the sound of his mantra and all thoughts and emotions as
the play of his enlightened awareness. We see everything as the manifestation
of the wisdom and compassion of the deity. This is referred to as 'pure
appearance' in Vajrayana Buddhism. When everything and everyone is perfect,
how can we possibly entertain thoughts of friends and enemies, or what
I like and what I don't like?
At the end of the sadhana, we dissolve our visualisation of the deity into
emptiness and then simply rest in that state for a while. This is the
completion stage. Here we let the mind relax in its true nature and simply
remain in this space for as long as feels natural. Mind knows mind with
great stillness and precision until finally the total truth of who we
really are reveals itself to us, just as it is.
This total realisation of truth, the very summit of the spiritual journey
within the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, is known as 'Mahamudra'.
It means 'Great Seal'. Everything is stamped with the seal of ultimate
truth. When we realise Mahamudra, we see the ultimate truth wherever we
look. It is beautifully expressed in an extract from a prayer written by
a great master of the Kagyu tradition, the Third Karmapa:
"When looking again and again at the mind, there is nothing to look
The 'nothing to be seen' is seen vividly just as it is.
This is what cuts through all doubts of 'being' or 'not being'.
May I recognise myself unmistakenly.
When looking at objects, there are no objects - they are seen as mind.
When looking at the mind, there is no mind - it is devoid of essence.
Looking at both, the dualistic belief is automatically dispelled.
May luminous clarity which is the natural state of mind be understood."