My journey into Buddhism began toward the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012.
I participated in the Discovering Buddhism program offered through the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT). It was a 14-module online program.
This was followed with two modules in the Foundation for Buddhist Thought program offered by Geshe Tashi Tsering.
Having been introduced to Mahayana Buddhism, I then spent time exploring Hinayana Buddhism (Theravada tradition) in more depth.
First Exploration of Dzogchen
At the beginning of 2015, I was accepted for an MA in Buddhist Studies offered by the University of South Wales. Based on my level of understanding at the time, I successfully completed one important, for me, semester of study entitled “Buddhist Traditions”. (However, as a foreign student, the tuition was high for me, especially when comparing comparative studies in my home country of Australia. Consequently, I chose to exit from the programme.)
However, through this program, I became interested in Dzogchen through one of my tutors. He reminded me that to practice Dzogchen, one needed to have a trusted teacher.
My tutor’s instruction, together with my interest in Dzogchen, was met through the Dzogchen teaching and writing of Lama Alan Wallace – in particular at that time through his annual eight-week retreats each year which focused on Dzogchen.
Chenrezig Empowerment, Dzogchen Pointing-Out Instructions, and Bodhisattva Vow
by Lama Alan Wallace
In 2015, Lama Alan Wallace conducted the following retreat: “Stage of Generation, Shamatha, Vipashyana and Mahamudra.”
Date and Location: 30 Jul 2015 – 24 Sep 2015, Araluen Retreat Center, Queensland, Australia.
Participants in the retreat needed to have a sound understanding of the Sutrayana teachings of Mahayana Buddhism, and have experience in the practices of shamatha, the four applications of mindfulness, and the four immeasurables.
They were asked to read the text, A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga, by the great 17th-century master Karma Chagmé (from the chapter “The Stage of Generation” up through “Mahamudra”).
In the context of this eight-week retreat, Lama Alan Wallace introduced the group to the Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezig) practice. He announced that he had received permission from Gyratrul Rinpoche to grant the empowerment which he had been requested to do on different occasions – and that the students had come together to sincerely request it. All the auspicious circumstances existed.
I was able to take part in the empowerment ceremony (it was well over an hour and a half) via online. As a result of this empowerment, I began to daily practice the “Shower of Blessings” sadhana.
During Lama Alan Wallace’s eight-week retreat the following year (in 2016), he presented Dzogchen Pointing-Out Instructions, and retreat participants could also take the Bodhisattva Vow.
Direct Introduction to the State of Dzogchen
by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu
On the 22nd of February, 2016, at 1 pm (GMT+10), Chogyal Namkhai Norbu gave a Direct Introduction to the State of Dzogchen via webcast during one of his three yearly worldwide transmissions. It was in a retreat setting at Namgyalgar (to which I travelled to), and there were about 20 other practitioners there that day. Namgyalgar is located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, in Queensland. The street address is 206 Glasshouse-Woodford Road, Glasshouse Mountains.
Namkhai Norbu was an accomplished master of Dzogchen and a lama with a large number of pupils in the West. His works have a genuineness which can only be imparted by an experienced master. An interesting work is his spiritual autobiography (edited by J. Shane), The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra, and Dzogchen (New York: 1986).
Vajrayana Online Program
led by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche (Tergar.org)
In July, 2016, I was accepted by Tergar.org to take part in the Vajrayana Online program, led by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche – whom I now consider to be my principal teacher.
Two courses offered by the Tergar E-Learning programme have been particularly transformative for me:
(1) Mahamudra: Exploring the Nature of Mind
(2) Dzogchen: An Immersion Course on Pure Awareness
Both of these courses have given pointing-out instructions.
Dzogchen Pointing-Out Instructions
by Lama Tashi Dundrup
On Monday, August 1st, 2016, I called the Kauai Dharma Center (http://www.kauaidharma.org/) and spoke with Lama Tashi Dundrup. (My wife was planning to attend a Christian retreat in Hawaii, and I was debating whether or not to accompany her, and to spend time at the Kauai Dharma Center.)
For me, the phone call was precious. I valued Lama Tashi Dundrup’s Rimé approach, because that is where I had come to myself. He mentioned a priceless book entitled Perfect Clarity. (Remarkably, I had the book.)
During the call, Lama Tashi Dundrup suggested a tip for a daily practice, with which I identified with immediately:
- Read a chapter of Perfect Clarity first thing in the day.
- Then, sit comfortably in a chair.
- Be mindful of the breathing – the inhaling and exhaling.
- Do nothing else.
- Realize that this is Dzogchen meditation!
Lama Tashi Dundrup then explained why we do nothing else. We are connecting with our true nature in this way – in fact, this practice is an entry into our true nature.
In faithfully sitting in the manner described, I would experience his instructions for myself, and so gain realization.
To this day, I am grateful for Lama Tashi Dundrup’s pointing-out instructions given in 2016. As he said, this is what the Lama does – he points us to the Lama within.
Heartfelt Closing Recommendation
In the Dzogchen tradition, it is highly recommended to be taught by a respected and trusted Dzogchen lineage teacher. One can only go so far in the intellectual reading and study of Dzogchen texts. From my own experience, I can personally testify that this is true. My tutor at the University of South Wales recommended two books on Dzogchen after I had requested some reading. These books were:
(1) Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. As It Is (Volume 1). Kathmandu, Nepal: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1999.
(2) Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. As It Is (Volume 2). Kathmandu, Nepal: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2000.
However, it was only after the direct teaching of Lama Alan Wallace, Lama Tashi Dundrup, and now, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, that I began to understand and treasure the depth of Dzogchen teachings.