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Introduction to Dzogchen
Dzogchen is the approach within Buddhism based on recognising our enlightened nature, through meditation. ‘Dzogchen’ in Tibetan means ‘utterly complete’. It is the most complete or inclusive teaching of Buddhism. From the point of view of Dzogchen, we are also each already complete. There is nothing we need to obtain or jettison in order to realise enlightenment. We need only recognise and allow ourselves to be as we actually are. This the path of immediate self-liberation.
To learn more about Dzogchen and self-liberation, start with our essay ‘An Uncommon Perspective’. There is much information about Dzogchen to explore elsewhere on this web site as well, particularly in the ‘Teachings’ section.
The Aro approach to Dzogchen
Dzogchen is ‘complete’ in that all other Buddhist teachings are contained within it. All Aro teachings—whether on Dzogchen, Tantra, or Sutra—are rooted in the Dzogchen perspective. Aro is quite unusual in teaching even basic concepts of Sutra, such as the Four Noble Truths and Five Precepts, from point of view of Dzogchen.
The base, or starting point, of Dzogchen is rigpa: instantaneous enlightenment. If one has not experienced rigpa, it is not possible to truly practice Dzogchen. For this reason, Dzogchen was not taught widely in Tibet. Most commonly, students were required to master Tantra before approaching Dzogchen. The result of Tantra is rigpa, so the practice of Tantra can bring one to the base of Dzogchen. Tantra however, as it has typically been taught, requires many years of full-time practice to master. Mastery of Sutra has often also been taken as a prerequisite to begin Tantra. Altogether this approach makes Dzogchen accessible only to those who can devote all their time to formal spiritual training. In practice, that means only monks and nuns.
Fortunately, the Dzogchen teachings contain a ngöndro—or ‘preparation’—which brings you to the base. This ngöndro is a series of four meditation practices whose result is rigpa. These practices have the style or texture of Dzogchen – although they are not strictly speaking Dzogchen itself. In this way it is possible to approach Dzogchen on its own terms, rather than via Sutra and then Tantra. This direct approach was traditional in Tibet not only for hermits – but for people with families and jobs. Aro was founded and practiced by such people in Tibet, and it is taught and practiced by such people in the West today.
The practices of this Dzogchen ngöndro are not easy – but they are not difficult or complex, either. They require no preparation or technical knowledge. Anyone may begin at any time.
Aro Dzogchen programmes
The Dzogchen ngöndro is the foundation for all other Aro teaching and practice. Our meditation site contains extensive resources and information on this ngöndro. We offer a free internet course, books, classes, audio guided meditations, retreats, and individual instruction.
Dzogchen itself is divided into three series: sem-dé (sometimes spelled semde), long-dé, and men-ngag-dé. Aro teaches all three series. However, each series contains less conceptual content than the previous, and requires greater experience of non-conceptual practice. Accordingly, most of our public programmes are concerned with sem-dé. Some aspects of long-dé are taught publicly. Generally men-ngag-dé is taught only to Aro apprentices.
Because the Dzogchen approach permeates the Aro teachings, all our programmes are effectively Dzogchen programmes. You can find talks, classes, and retreats on our events site.
The following weekend retreats are particularly relevant to those interested in learning about Dzogchen:
Dzogchen Wonderment & Sheer Vividness – a practical introduction to Dzogchen sem-dé – meditation on the nature of Mind
Reality – The Vivid, Vivacious, and Volatile Vision – the Dzogchen practice trčk-chöd – ‘exploding the horizon of conventional reality’
Singing Power into Being – Dzogchen gar-dang – the method whereby we discover rigpa within the dimension of sound
Spontaneous Becoming – the Dzogchen method thamal-gyi shépa – by which we instantaneously recognise our true nature
The Method of the Mahasiddhas – the means of integrating Dzogchen practice with everyday life
sKu-mNyé: moving being – from Dzogchen long-dé – exploring the kaleidoscopic patterns of vivid and powerful energy within ourselves
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