Rigpa: Primal Presence

by L. Ron Gardner on August 26, 2017

[This is an excerpt from the Dzogchen book I'm now writing. It will be finished and published in 2018.]

Q: Rigpa is the prescribed practice in Dzogchen. How would you describe it?

A: Rigpa is the practice of primal presence, which bestows radical (or gone-to-the-root) gnosis (or spiritual knowledge) and whole-body en-Light-enment (or Spirit-current irradiation). It is commonly described as naked, or intrinsic, awareness, but because one is be-ing (or attempting to be) present as this awareness, it is better described as direct and immediate presence.

When one is directly and immediately present, the pressure of one’s (consciously “plugged-in”) presence generates a force that wants to move. When this force begins to move as palpable, even visceral, energy in a yogi, he has been “initiated” into the “awakening process.” When this force is experienced in its “higher” form as descending (or “crashing-down”) energy into one’s spiritual Heart-center (located two digits to the right of center of one’s chest), the yogi has awakened to the Sambhogakaya, the Dharmakaya (the Dimension of universal Being-Awareness) in the form of Divine Power, or Clear-Light Energy.

Radical gnosis (or understanding) grows from “standing under” and contemplating the Sambhogakaya, the Clear-Light Continuum from on high. The yogi understands that his connection to the Clear Light is what en-Light-ens him, and this gnostic understanding prompts him to re-establish (or to attempt to re-establish) his connection to it whenever he becomes aware of his disconnection from it. Permanent union with the Clear Light means that the yogi has acquired a Light Body. It signifies that as a fully En-Light-ened Nirmanakaya (or Buddha), the Sambhogakaya and the Dharmakaya have become one in, and as, him.

Q: Your description of Rigpa sounds just like Hindu yoga, wherein the yogi attempts to unite with universal Spirit, which you equate with Clear-Light Energy, the Sambhogakaya.

A: Yes, I equate the two, and I contend that by explaining Rigpa (and Dzogchen) in non-Tibetan contexts, including Hindu yoga, I am furthering their understanding and dissemination.

Q: Rigpa is sometimes described as “knowledge of the Ground.” How does the yogi acquire this knowledge?

A: The Ground is Mind, universal Consciousness or Awareness. It can only be “known” (or yogically realized) in the spiritual Heart-center (termed Hridayam in Hindu yoga, and Tathagatagarbha in Mahayana Buddhism). The only way to the Heart-center, or “Womb of Buddhahood,” is through the descent of Divine Power, the Sambhogakaya, which is the same “Body” as Hindu Shakti and the Christian Holy Spirit. The descent of this Divine Power, or Light-Energy continuum, into the Heart-center “produces” the Four Visions of Togal, which are four progressive states of Realization of Dharmata (universal Suchness, or Being-ness).

Q: How do Trekcho and Togal figure into your view of Rigpa?

A: Trekcho and Togal are the two fundamental (and complementary) components of Rigpa. Trekcho is the “consciousness” aspect of Rigpa, wherein the yogi, applying his conscious presence like a diamond-cutter, attempts to cut through spiritual materialism (meaning all that is not Spirit) to get to the “Other Side,” which is Spirit, the Sambhogakaya. Togal is the “conductivity” aspect of Rigpa, wherein the yogi, who is connected to Spirit, channels, or conducts, its radiant Light-Energy current.

In our discussions of Trekcho and Togal, we will further consider their roles in Rigpa and the en-Light-enment project.

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