Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche

a teaching on Buddha Nature

Sem-nyid né sang-gyé-pa’i rang-zhin
sems nyid ye nas sangs rGyas pa’i rang bZhin

Whilst oscillating between anticipation and doubt – when is the mind ever at rest? … is my practice as it should be … shall I ever progress … shall I ever attain the accomplishment of my Tsawa’i Lama? Today, practice is intense – tomorrow, it is absent – and all depending on mood. Drawn to agreeable experiences which accompany conceptual tranquillity – but preferring to abandon practice when namtogs (rNam tog – that which arises in Mind) flow unabated. That is no way to practise.

Whatever arises in Mind, we need to engender a sense of day-by-day application – observing the movement (gYo ba) of namtogs as they arise from and return to their source. It would be unreasonable at first to expect immediate capacity in terms of maintaining a flowing awareness throughout the day and night – so we should relax in practice.

When we begin finding presence of awareness in the nature of Mind (sem-nyid – sems nyid), short practice sessions—several times per day—are preferable. Then—with perseverance—the nature of Mind may be glimpsed. At this juncture, namtogs appear to decreasingly provide allure as reference points, and progressively realisation will increase in stability.

Chöku (chos sKu – Dharmakaya), the sphere of unconditioned potentiality, is not mere nothingness. It is intrinsically possessed of knowingness with regard to phenomena. This knowingness is the luminous cognizant aspect of emptiness – the spontaneous expression of non-duality. Chöku is thus the original nature of Mind rather than a phenomenon produced by causes and circumstances.

This is the primordial nature. Recognising this resembles distinguishing the rising sun of non-dual awareness from the night of dualistic derangement. Darkness is instantly dispelled. Chöku is the unchanging shiningness which is the centre of the sun. It does not wax and wane like the moon.

Whenever clouds gather, the nature of the sky is not obscured. When clouds disperse, the nature of the sky is not clarified. The sky is never greater or lesser in its vastness (kLong). It is changeless like the nature of mind. The nature of mind is not sullied by the arising of namtogs; nor is it enhanced by their dissolution. The nature of the mind is empty (sTong pa nyid) and its expression is unimpeded clarity (gSal ba).

Emptiness and clarity are not divisible – but are presented through these two words in order to describe diversity of the nature of Mind. It would be pointless, therefore, to grasp alternately at emptiness and clarity, as if they were independent. The nature of mind is beyond concepts such as definition and disintegration.

A child might declare: I can walk on clouds. However, were the child to be taken up to reach the clouds, the child would find no place to place a foot. In the same way, if we do not observe the nature of namtogs, they seem to display tangible appearances. If, however, we observe the nature of namtogs, we will find nothing that is either solid, permanent, separate, continuous, or defined. That which arises in mind is empty appearance.

Empty awareness, however, is not a blank torpor: it possesses—of itself—luminous knowingness or non-dual awareness (rigpa – rig pa).

Emptiness and awareness cannot be separated – they are indivisible, like the surface of the mélong (me long; mirror) and the image reflected in the mélong. Namtogs arise of themselves within emptiness and dissolve into emptiness again – just as a visage appears and disappears in a mélong. The nature of the mélong never changes. The visage has never existed in the mélong, and neither does the visage cease to exist when the reflection is no longer apparent.

Before entering the path of Dharma (chö – chos) we resided in so-called ‘impure’ samsara (’khor ba) which—in terms of its appearances—is ruled by unawareness (ma-rigpa – ma rig pa). When we commit ourselves to Dharma, we journey in a dimension in which awareness and unawareness are merged. At the moment of non-dual realisation, only pure awareness exists – but on our journey toward that realisation, appearances of transformation occur. The nature of mind, however, has never changed. The nature of Mind was not trapped by our entry onto the path, nor was it liberated at the point of realisation.

The infinite inexpressible qualities of kadag gi rigpa (ka dag gi rig pa)—primordial awareness—are inherent in Mind. It is therefore not necessary to try to create them or attempt to manufacture something. Practices of realisation only serve to reveal the qualities of kadag gi rigpa.

If we consider the qualities of kadag gi rigpa from a non-dual point of view, these qualities are themselves indivisible from emptiness.

Samsara and Nirvana (’das) are both empty, therefore neither are ‘bad’ and neither are ‘good’ – they are of equal taste in their nature (’khor ’das mNyam pa nyid). The tantrika who realises the nature of Mind is freed from the impulse to decline samsara and accept nirvana. Such a tantrika is like a child who contemplates the world with innocent simplicity – without conceptions of beauty or unsightliness, good or bad. This tantrika is no longer prey to the conflicted propensities: attraction, aversion, and indifference.

Worries concerning the melodramas of day-to-day life serve no purpose. To fret in this futile manner is to be like the child who is delighted at having built a sand castle, and distraught when the sea washes it away.

When we see how impatient we are to experience difficulties, we see that we are like moths plunging into the lamp’s flame. We are willing to burn to get what we love and to avoid what we loathe. It is better for us to lay down such imaginary burdens rather than to allow them to bear down upon us.

Buddhahood is self-aspected with five spheres of being: trülku (sPrul sku – Nirmanakaya), the sphere of realised manifestation; longku (longs sKu – Sambhogakaya), the sphere of realised appearances; chöku (chos sKu – Dharmakaya), the sphere of unconditioned potentiality; ngowo-ku (ngo bo sKu – Svabhavikakaya), the sphere of essentiality; and dorje-ku (rDo rJe sKu – Vajrakaya). These cannot be found aside from what we are. They are inseparable from the nature of being – from the nature of Mind. As soon as we are present in this recognition – confusion ends, and there is no further need to seek non-duality in methodologies. The skilled navigator who disembarks on an island constituted of fine gold will be unable to find nuggets of gold no matter how long the exploration – so we must not look for Buddha nature in this way. Buddha nature has always existed inherently as the nature of Mind.