Trekcho: Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism

by L. Ron Gardner on September 9, 2017

[This is  a raw, unedited excerpt from my forthcoming Dzogchen text, which, barring unforseen circumstances, will be published in late 2018.]
You’ve described Trekcho as “cutting through spiritual materialism to get to Spirit itself.” Can you describe this practice in more detail?

Trekcho, typically defined as “breakthrough,” is the implementation of one’s consciousness as a “cutting tool” to break one through to the “Other Side,” which is Spirit, or the Sambhogakaya. How does one transform one’s consciousness into such a cutting tool? By assuming, and maintaining, the asana, or “position,” of direct, immediate presence. Hence, Trekcho is simply Rigpa applied as a “cutting tool.”

I’m not clear on what you mean by “direct, immediate presence”? Can you clarify it for me?    

I’ll explain it a couple of ways. One way to understand it is as awareness-oneness. In other words, the yogi isn’t just aware, he’s also plugged into the abstract whole, at-one with existence. Think of it this way: Awareness is like turning a lamp on, but without plugging it in, there is no light or power. Trekcho can be likened to consciously plugging in, but until one cuts through his spiritual materialism, a direct connection to the Source, meaning Spirit, isn’t possible. Awareness becomes plugged-in presence when one, whole-bodily, lives as it in relation to life. Plugging awareness, as embodied presence, directly into life transforms it into a penetrating force that cuts through the dross separating one from Spirit. This penetrating force of consciousness, when experienced as a dynamic “pressure,” “pushes” the yogi through the dross until he “breaks through” to the “Other Side,” meaning Spirit, or the Sambhogakaya.

A second way to explain presence is to understand it as relationship. In other words, plugged-in presence is relationship. To be directly, immediately present is to be as relationship. As J. Krishnamurti says, “to be [unqualifiedly] related is to be. Although relationship implies dualism, when it is direct and unobstructed, it spontaneously morphs into non-dual being (awareness). And when one’s consciousness (as relationship) is Blessed by the descent of Divine Power into one’s Heart-center (located, or felt-experienced, two digits to the right of the center of one’s chest), then one’s State is that of Divine Being-Awareness.

In my own meditation practice, I employ the self-enquiry “Avoiding relationship?” whenever I become aware that I have retracted from the asana, or “psycho-physical posture,” of plugged-in presence. This self (or relational)-enquiry serves to instigate my resumption of the asana of relationship.

Trekcho is about generating the consciousness-force to “break through” to the “Other Side.” Because relationship, when consciously lived, generates maximal consciousness-force (or pressure), it is the definitive Trekcho practice.

So, relationship is the epitome of Trekcho?

Yes. The asana of direct relationship immediately “organizes” one’s consciousness into a penetrating force that, most intensely, cuts through spiritual materialism. Hence, in the words of the great spiritual adept Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008), “Relationship is the discipline.”

Relationship implies relationship to something. What is one supposed to be in relationship to?

Everything and anything. Relationship can be to the abstract whole, to empty space, or to objects (gross or subtle) arising or abiding within space, including one’s body and mind. Ultimately, one cuts through all these and encounters the ultimate Object, Spirit Itself. And when one’s consciousness unites with Spirit, relationship morphs into non-dual Being-Awareness.
Practically speaking, empty space is an ideal object for one’s contemplative (or relational) focus, which I why Dzogchen emphasizes it. Basic Dzogchen practice often begins with simple “gazing into space.” Once one’s attentional “gaze” is stabilized, one should then practice being in direct relationship to space.

What’s so special about empty space as an object of contemplation?

First, it functions as a mirror that reflects your mentation back to you. In the context of relationship to empty space, you can clearly and objectively view your thoughts. And most importantly, you can see and feel them as formations of consciousness that contract the field of open awareness into enclosed states of self-constriction. When you see and feel this, the obvious response is to let go of the grasping mind-forms that contract the field of awareness into the “clenched fist” of consciousness, which is the essence of suffering.

Secondly, empty space functions as a doorway to Spirit, the Sambhogakaya. When empty space begins to “dance,” to come alive as “gift waves” of Shakti, this Blessing Power, or Clear-Light Energy, literally en-Lightens you, outshining your thought-forms. Conducting and resting in this Light-Energy continuum is the essence of Togal, which we’ll consider in more detail in a forthcoming discussion [see…]. 

What is empty space?

It is the Akasha (Sanskrit akasa), the formless, universal Space element, a.k.a. the Ether. The Akasha, or Ether, is the primal ethereal “substance” that underlies and pervades the cosmos. It is the root element from which the four derivative elements (fire earth, air, and water) stem. Tibetan Buddhists err when they conflate emptiness or empty space with the Dharmakaya, which is timeless, spaceless Awareness. Space is a created substance or element, whereas the Dharmakaya is uncreated Being-Consciousness.

Interestingly, Akash, which is the corresponding word to Akasha, means “Sky,” hence when Dzogchen students are instructed to gaze into the open sky in front of them, this is tantamount to focusing one’s attention on the Ether.

In Dzogchen, three different ways of thoughts self-liberating themselves are described. What can you say about this?   
First off, thoughts don’t self-liberate because thoughts aren’t bound and in need of liberation. Liberation pertains to the self, meaning the individual or yogi. That said, the three ways of liberating oneself from thoughts described in Dzogchen are valid and represent a continuum of reduced effort. The first, or most “effortful,” of the three ways is that of bare or naked attention, wherein the yogi looks directly at the thoughts, thereby dissolving them. The second of the three ways is that of indirectly vanishing thoughts by neither accepting nor rejecting them. This approach, which is akin to J. Krishnamurti’s choiceless awareness, involves some effort, because one must practice allowing thoughts to just be. The third, or effortless way, is that of Self-liberation itself.  When one is being the Self, or Buddha, superfluous thoughts are spontaneously incinerated in the radiant Intensity of the Clear Light, and functional thoughts are let go of as soon as they have done their work.  

Beyond thoughts, what are the obstructions to uniting with Spirit, the Clear-Light continuum?
Besides the mind (sub-conscious, conscious, and super-conscious), the obstacles, or sheaths, of spiritual materialism, that one must cut through include the gross, or physical, body, the subtle, or individual pranic (etheric), body, and, ultimately, Spirit, or the Sambhogakaya, itself (when it is objectified as a Dimension or Body separate from Being-Consciousness, the  Dharmakaya. 

Beyond the “monkey,” or discursive, mind, Dzogchen texts pay scant attention to the other sheaths of spiritual materialism, which are more deeply considered in the Hindu Yoga traditions. Because the subject of cutting through all the sheaths between oneself and Spirit necessarily involves Togal as well as Trekcho, we’ll pick it up again after we discuss Togal.

Can you summarize, and elaborate further, what you’ve said so far about Trekcho?

Trekcho is Rigpa functioning as a “cutting tool” that “pierces the veils” between oneself and Spirit. It is Rigpa, direct naked presence, applied to “breaking one through” to the “Other Side.” The asana of this “plugged-in” presence “organizes” one’s consciousness into an adamantine intensity that penetrates through the obstructions to the Spirit-current, which one then contemplates, conducts, and unites with in Togal.

Plugged-in presence is a synonym for direct, immediate relationship. When relationship, or plugged-in presence, is unobstructed, one’s consciousness intersects the Sambhogakaya, the radiant Spirit-current, or Clear-Light continuum, and one proceeds, progressively, through the Four Visions, via Togal.  

In Tilopa’s Song of Mahamudra, Tilopa sings, “The void needs no reliance, Mahamudra rests on naught.” Likewise, the void, or empty space, needs no reliance in Dzogchen, but one can freely use it as an object of contemplation, for it serves as an ideal “backdrop,” or “something” to focus one’s attention on.  This is so because thoughts tend to dissolve when one “stares into space,” and as the pranically charged Ether, the void serves as a direct portal to Spirit. A recommended adjunct practice is to consciously breathe (or inhale and exhale) the empty space, which, in an initiated yogi, will suffuse his body with prana and intensify his connection to space and Spirit. A final word on empty space: One can freely gaze into it, but real Dzogchen practice is to be in relationship to, and through, it, to the “Other Side,” a.k.a. the Sambhogakaya, or Holy Spirit.

Within the context of direct presence, or relationship, one can obviate thoughts by staring at them, or by volitionally neither accepting nor rejecting them, which also dissolves them. But when one’s presence is penetratingly powerful, no thought-removal “strategy” is necessary, for the force of one’s consciousness consumes the monkey mind.

Finally, even though “cutting through spiritual materialism” is usually viewed as a matter of just penetrating through thoughts and attachment to the “Other Side,” in reality, the process also involves cutting through several sheaths, and is best considered in a context that includes Togal as well as Trekcho.  

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