Spacious Passion

Chapter 3 – Spontaneity


Questioner: I have heard that at a Buddhist conference in India it was said that people who hold Dzogchen view tend to be a little cold. I find it disconcerting that Dzogchen is a ‘higher’ view, but seems to lose the warmth of practices such as developing loving kindness that are found in Sutrayana.

Ngakma Nor’dzin: I would say that this has nothing to do with Dzogchen or with any of the vehicles. This has to do with people. There is nothing inherent in Dzogchen view which would lead to coldness – only the misunderstanding of Dzogchen view. All the vehicles can be misunderstood: Sutrayana can be misunderstood as being life and body negative; Vajrayana can be misunderstood as exotic or erotic. With regard to Dzogchen, it certainly wasn’t a cold intellectual approach that attracted Ngak’chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen – I think such an idea would amuse them. In fact it was their warmth and kindness that attracted me, and their patient willingness to answer my questions in terms I could understand. I find that remarks, such as the one you have quoted, to be somewhat questionable – as are many generalisations. It has been my experience that coldness afflicts many who would call themselves Buddhist, and that coldness can be found among the people who follow any religion.

It is important that a Nyingma practitioner does not lose sight of the primary motivation of practice. This primary motivation is the wish to realise non-duality in order to benefit all sentient beings. This primary motivation—Bodhicitta—remains as a fundamental ground of intention.

We do not let go of the motivation of ‘lower’ yanas when we are introduced to Dzogchen practice. The Dzogchen perspective can be misunderstood as dispassionate and divorced from concern for others – but only by people who see Dzogchen from the point of view of ‘personal growth’. This is actually a New Age distortion. Anyone approaching Dzogchen for their own realisation alone, is like an ill-disciplined follower of Pratyékabuddhayana (solitary realiser), who will therefore not achieve the goal of the Pratyékabuddhayana. Dzogchen view is expansive, embracing the motivation of the other yanas in the spontaneous realisation of all motivation and intent as instantaneously present. Thus we hold to the view that our own neuroses are illusions and not to be taken seriously, whilst treating other beings’ problems and unhappiness as real. This is a great source of compassion. Through holding to view, we try not to let ourselves continually spew our subjective emotional responses on those around us because we know they are incongruent. We try to help others as much as possible within the limitations of our capacity.

To a practitioner, Sutra, Tantra, and Dzogchen remain available and undivided as the texture of view, meditation and action. If we find ourselves in a situation where awareness is absent, we can still be kind. We generally know what is kind and what is unkind. It may be the more difficult choice, the more challenging action, but we know what is kind.