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main practices




khregs chod. (trekcho). In Tibetan, lit. "breaking through the hard" or "breakthrough"; one of the two main practices in the SNYING THIG tradition of RDZOGS CHEN, the other being THOD RGAL, "crossing the crest" or "leap over." Khregs chod is paired with the essential purity (ka dag) of awareness; the practice of khregs chod leads to thod rgal; it cuts through the stream of obscurations and reveals awareness (RIG PA) devoid of object-subject bifurcation (GRĀHYAGRĀHAKAVIKALPA). Sustaining this awareness uninterruptedly while involved in ordinary sense perception is the essence of the practice. It cuts the stream of past and future thought and uses the gap of the unfindable present to contact the primordial pure awareness. It is oriented toward the emptiness (suNYATĀ) aspect free from conceptual proliferation (NIsPRAPANCA). Both thod rgal and khregs chod are concerned with the natural light ('od gsal; PRABHĀSVARA) of pure awareness; but whereas the former leads to the total dissolution of the body into light in a vision of transcendental consciousness (ye shes; JNĀNA), the practice of the former leaves the practitioner as a small particle of dust, as it were.

rdzogs chen. (dzokchen). A Tibetan philosophical and meditative tradition, usually rendered in English as "great perfection" or "great completion." Developed and maintained chiefly within the RNYING MA sect, rdzogs chen has also been embraced to varying degrees by other Tibetan Buddhist sects. The non-Buddhist Tibetan BON religion also upholds a rdzogs chen tradition. According to legend, the primordial buddha SAMANTABHADRA (T. Kun tu bzang po) taught rdzogs chen to the buddha VAJRASATTVA, who transmitted it to the first human lineage holder, DGA' RAB RDO RJE. From him, rdzogs chen was passed to MANJUsRĪMITRA and thence to sRĪSIMHA, and the Tibetan translator Ba gor VAIROCANA, who had been sent to India by the eighth-century Tibetan King KHRI SRONG LDE BTSAN. In addition to Vairocana, the semimythical figures of VIMALAMITRA and PADMASAMBHAVA are considered to be foundational teachers of rdzogs chen in Tibet. Historically, rdzogs chen appears to have been a Tibetan innovation, drawing on multiple influences, including both non-Buddhist native Tibetan beliefs and Chinese and Indian Buddhist teachings. The term was likely taken from the GUHYAGARBHATANTRA. In the creation and completion stages of tantric practice, one first generates a visualization of a deity and its MAndALA and next dissolves these into oneself, merging oneself with the deity. In the Guhyagarbha and certain other tantras, this is followed with a stage known as rdzogs chen, in which one rests in the unelaborated natural state of one's own innately luminous and pure mind. In the Rnying ma sect's nine-vehicle (T. THEG PA DGU) doxography of the Buddhist teachings, these three stages constitute the final three vehicles: the MAHĀYOGA, ANUYOGA, and ATIYOGA, or rdzogs chen. The rdzogs chen literature is traditionally divided into three categories, which roughly trace the historical development of the doctrine and practices: the mind class (SEMS SDE), space class (KLONG SDE), and instruction class (MAN NGAG SDE). These are collected in a group of texts called the RNYING MA'I RGYUD 'BUM ("treasury of Rnying ma tantras"). The mind class is comprised largely of texts attributed to Vairocana, including the so-called eighteen tantras and the KUN BYED RGYAL PO. They set forth a doctrine of primordial purity (ka dag) of mind (sems nyid), which is the basis of all things (kun gzhi). In the natural state, the mind, often referred to as BODHICITTA, is spontaneously aware of itself (rang rig), but through mental discursiveness (rtog pa) it creates delusion ('khrul ba) and thus gives rise to SAMSĀRA. Early rdzogs chen ostensibly rejected all forms of practice, asserting that striving for liberation would simply create more delusion. One is admonished to simply recognize the nature of one's own mind, which is naturally empty (stong pa), luminous ('od gsal ba), and pure. As tantra continued to grow in popularity in Tibet, and new techniques and doctrines were imported from India, a competing strand within rdzogs chen increasingly emphasized meditative practice. The texts of the space class (klong sde) reflect some of this, but it is in the instruction class (man ngag sde), dating from the eleventh to fourteenth centuries, that rdzogs chen fully assimilated tantra. The main texts of this class are the so-called seventeen tantras and the two "seminal heart" collections, the BI MA SNYING THIG ("Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra") and the MKHA' 'GRO SNYING THIG ("Seminal Heart of the dĀKINĪ"). The seventeen tantras and the "Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra" are said to have been taught by Vimalamitra and concealed as "treasure" (GTER MA), to be discovered at a later time. The "Seminal Heart of the dākinī" is said to have been taught by Padmasambhava and concealed as treasure by his consort, YE SHES MTSHO RGYAL. In the fourteenth century, the great scholar KLONG CHEN RAB 'BYAMS PA DRI MED 'OD ZER systematized the multitude of received rdzogs chen literature in his famous MDZOD BDUN ("seven treasuries") and the NGAL GSO SKOR GSUM ("Trilogy on Rest"), largely creating the rdzogs chen teachings as they are known today. With the man ngag sde, the rdzogs chen proponents made full use of the Tibetan innovation of treasure, a means by which later tantric developments were assimilated to the tradition without sacrificing its claim to eighth-century origins. The semilegendary figure of Padmasambhava was increasingly relied upon for this purpose, gradually eclipsing Vairocana and Vimalamitra as the main rdzogs chen founder. In subsequent centuries there have been extensive additions to the rdzogs chen literature, largely by means of the treasure genre, including the KLONG CHEN SNYING THIG of 'JIGS MED GLING PA and the Bar chad kun gsal of MCHOG GYUR GLING PA to name only two. Outside of the Rnying ma sect, the authenticity of these texts is frequently disputed, although there continue to be many adherents to rdzogs chen from other Tibetan Buddhist lineages. Rdzogs chen practitioners are commonly initiated into the teachings with "pointing-out instructions" (sems khrid/ngos sprod) in which a lama introduces the student to the nature of his or her mind. Two main practices known as KHREGS CHOD (breakthrough), in which one cultivates the experience of innate awareness (RIG PA), and THOD RGAL (leap over), elaborate visualizations of external light imagery, preserve the tension between the early admonition against practice and the appropriation of complex tantric techniques and doctrines. Extensive practices engaging the subtle body of psychic channels, winds, and drops (rtsa rlung thig le) further reflect the later tantric developments in rdzogs chen. ¶ RDZOGS CHEN is also used as the short name for one of the largest and most active Tibetan monasteries, belonging to the Rnying ma sect of Tibetan Buddhism, located in the eastern Tibetan region of Khams; the monastery's full name is Rus dam bsam gtan o rgyan chos gling (Rudam Samten Orgyan Choling). It is a major center for both academic study and meditation retreat according to Rnying ma doctrine. At its peak, the monastery housed over one thousand monks and sustained more than two hundred branches throughout central and eastern Tibet. The institution was founded in 1684-1685 by the first RDZOGS CHEN INCARNATION Padma rig 'dzin (Pema Rikdzin) with the support of the fifth DALAI LAMA NGAG DBANG BLO BZANG RGYA MTSHO. Important meditation hermitages in the area include those of MDO MKHYEN RTSE YE SHE RDO RJE and MI PHAM 'JAM DBYANGS RNAM RGYAL RGYA MTSHO. DPAL SPRUL RIN PO CHE passed many years in retreat there, during which time he composed his great exposition of the preliminary practices of Tibetan Buddhism entitled the KUN BZANG BLA MA'I ZHAL LUNG ("Words of My Perfect Teacher").

thod rgal. (togel). In Tibetan, "crossing the crest" or "leap over" (in the sense of skipping over one or more of the stages in a sequence); a special practice of ATIYOGA and one of the two main practices in the SNYING THIG tradition of RDZOGS CHEN, the other being "breakthrough" (KHREGS CHOD). Falling specifically within the "instruction class" (MAN NGAG SDE) of rdzogs chen, thod rgal follows khregs chod, in which the experience of innate awareness or RIG PA is cultivated. With this foundation, in thod rgal, the meditator uses specific physical postures to induce visions that reveal the luminous nature of external phenomena. Whereas thod rgal signifies a type of cultivated spontaneous imagery culminating in visions of MAndALAs of buddhas, and is paired with the spontaneous energy (lhun grub) of pure awareness (rig pa), khregs chod (literally, "breaking through the hard") is paired with the essential purity (ka dag) of awareness. It is said that thod rgal is a method of contemplating light that enables rdzogs chen practitioners to attain the 'JA' LUS (rainbow body) without leaving any bodily traces at death. The term also renders the Sanskrit vyutkrāntaka, described in the ABHIDHARMA as jumping at will from one meditative state (a DHYĀNA or SAMĀPATTI) to any other without having to go through the intermediate stages. Thod rgal ba is also used in Tibetan commentarial literature to describe a type of meditator who does not go sequentially through each of the four fruitions of the religious life, viz., the stream-enterer (SROTAĀPANNA), once-returner (SAKṚDĀGĀMIN), nonreturner (ANĀGĀMIN), and ARHAT, but rather jumps over the intermediate results to the final goal. Some sources suggest thod rgal may also be a translation of the pluta (sometimes rendered "floater"), a meditator who jumps over the intermediate heavens in the subtle-materiality and immaterial realms and proceeds directly to the AKANIstHA and BHAVĀGRA heavens.

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