Those who practice Dzogchen must realize perfect presence and awareness and, to that end, must truly have understood their own mind and succeeded in gaining control of it. Otherwise, explanations about presence and awareness will not get results and will amount to little more than ink on paper or topics for intellectual discussion. In the Dzogchen tantra, called Kunjed Gyalpo or The All-creating King, we read: “Mind is the creator of all: samsara and nirvana, therefore know this “all-creating king”!
Generally, it is explained that we transmigrate in the impure, illusory vision of samsara, but in reality, it is only our mind that transmigrates. Additionally, it is likewise only our mind that, purified, realizes the pure State of Enlightenment. The mind is, in truth, the sole base or root of all that is, of samsara and of nirvana, of sentient beings and of the enlightened ones.
How does transmigration in the impure vision of samsara begin? The nature of the mind, the essence of our own mind, is completely pure from the beginning, but due to adventitious obstacles caused by ignorance, we do not recognize our true State, which is pure non-dual presence. Without recognition of this State, our illusory thoughts, together with the impulses to act, caused by the passions, arise. In this way, we accumulate negative actions, and the result, since the maturation of karma is inevitable, is that we transmigrate in the six realms of samsaric existence with all the consequent suffering. Therefore, by not realizing that the cause of transmigration is our mind, we let ourselves be completely dominated by illusion and distraction, and not recognizing our State of pure non-dual presence inevitably, we get used to performing illusory acts.
The pure State of Enlightenment is our own mind, as well, not some sort of dazzling light coming from outside. If we recognize our primordial State of pure presence, pure from the beginning, albeit temporarily obscured, and we stay present in this recognition without getting distracted, then all impurities dissolve: this is the essence of the path. Now, the nature of the primordial State as total purity actually manifests, and recognizing it for what it is, we take hold of it forever. It is this decisive knowing, this pure presence of the true original condition, that is called nirvana. Enlightenment, too, therefore, is only our own mind, purified. That is why Padmasambhava said:
This mind has created both samsara and nirvana; Outside of it neither the one nor the other exists.
Understanding the mind to be the root of both transmigration and Enlightenment, we can be certain that all the solidity of material phenomena and of sentient beings is merely the illusory vision of our own mind. Due to the varieties of accumulated karma, in fact, the various types of beings have distinct illusory visions, which are unreal in the same way that a person suffering from a “bile”5 disease sees a white conch shell as yellow in color. Accordingly, if representative beings from the six states of samsaric existence were to meet on the bank of a river, the six different species of karma would cause the river to appear differently to each of them. The “fire hell” being would see flames, the “ice hell” being would see ice, the hungry ghost or preta would see blood and pus, the water animal would see a home, the human would see drinking water, the demigod or asura would see weapons and the god or deva would see nectar. The obvious point is that in truth, there is no concrete, objective reality.
Therefore, once we have understood that only through our mind, which is the root of transmigration, can we uproot samsara, and likewise only through our mind, which is the essence of Enlightenment—can we attain liberation—being certain that it alone is the basis of everything, we must resolutely decide to practice, which means working on our own mind.
– Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (a Dzogchen master, who was born in Derge, eastern Tibet. When he was two years old, Namkhai Norbu was recognized as the ‘mindstream emanation’, a tulku, of the great Dzogchen teacher Adzom Drugpa)
Photos: The Bhava chakra depicting six realms of samsara