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Shamata/Vipassana vs. Dzogchen.

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From: johnc@cix.compulink.co.uk ("John Cleaver")
Subject: Re: Shamata/Vipassana vs. Dzogchen.
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Organization: Compulink Information eXchange
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Date: Wed, 1 May 1996 09:05:50 GMT
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>flipdanc@speakeasy.org  writes:
>       I would like to know the fundamental differences between
>       Shamata/Vipassana meditation techniques and Dzogchen in 
>       Tibetan Buddhist practice.

As I understand it:

Shamata is calm abiding, and also refers to any of a variety of 
techniques for achieving that calmness. The quiet mind becomes suceptible 
to insight, which is Vipassana.

Dzogchen is a complete system of tantric meditation and view, involving 
both formless and visualisation practices, as well as preliminary 
practices. All tantric Buddhist practices require an abisheka, in which 
the lama exposes to the student the nature of mind. The rest of the 
practice involves stabilising and strengthening what the lama showed. 
Dzogchen view can be quite startling - Dzogchen teaching presents 
subjects like abidharma, the five skandhas, the structure and origin of 
confused mind, the nature of perception and so on, in an unusual way.

Higher-level Dzogchen meditation instruction sounds a lot like Mahamudra 
instruction; the student is directed to 'rest the mind without doing 
anything'. However, prior to this the student will have recalled the 
realisation associated with the abisheka, and it is in this realisation 
that the mind rests.

This sounds like calm abiding, but it is different - calm abiding is a 
fairly ordinary state of mind, in which the constant stream of internal 
chatter has been slowed down a bit. Formless tantric practices are much 
more profound, and depend on a degree of realisation of emptiness; the 
instruction is very simple, because there is not very much you can say 
about them. When texts try to be more specific, the results are often 
rather odd, symbolic, and hard to make sense of.

Dzogchen is sometimes accused of being non-Buddhist, because it can be 
interpreted as asserting the existence of an absolute, and because it may 
have origins outside the Buddhist tradition. Even proponents say that 
Dzogchen is not specifically Buddhist, and is not the property of any one 
religious tradition. A form of Dzogchen is practiced by the followers of 
the Bon religion, the animist tradition practised in Tibet before the 
introduction of Buddhism.

Dzogchen is practised by followers of all Tibetan traditions, but it is 
the special responsibility of the Nyingma tradition to preserve the 
Dzogchen teaching lineages.

I've never come across a modern book on the Dzogchen tradition that does 
more than scratch the surface - everything I've read (other then terma 
texts, most of which aren't modern) seems to be an attempt to point to 
the nature of the profound realisation at its heart, a project that is 
ultimately doomed to failure. I've hardly seen anything printed about 
Dzogchen view or the Dzogchen glosses on abidharma.

Jack.

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