Kyle Dixon wrote:

And to put this “great self” thing on ice:

Depending upon which system of Dzogpachenpo you are using there can be between seven and nine positions one can take in relation to the basis [gzhi]. 

Vairocana's view of choice was bdag nyid chen po, however that is only one facet of the basis and therefore grasping at that definition as an all encompassing view which speaks for the basis would be akin to the blind man grasping the elephants tail and proclaiming that the elephant is actually a rope. It is an incomplete view. 

Further, the only definitive view of the basis is held to be ka dag i.e. original purity, which is emptiness free from extremes. Ka dag as such therefore completely forbids any type of substantial self.

As stated by Dylan Esler on this issue, 'integral being' [bdag nyid chen po] (what Jackson is fixating on as a “Great Self”) is nothing more than the inseparable emptiness and clarity [stong gsal dbyer med] which is experienced upon recognizing the nature of mind [sems nyid] and does not refer to an eternal, great or "true" self of any kind. He states "The fact that it is explicitly described as being both empty and luminous excludes reification into a monolithic self."

The point of bdag nyid chen po is to illustrate that the nature of one's mind is not to be found elsewhere, that it is one's immediate condition, however it is the the wisdom which ensues from recognizing the non-arising of one's mind [skt. citta, tib. sems]. This term is therefore pointing to that nature, and only that nature which is completely empty and free from extremes.

Esler continues:

“...the tantric and rDzogs-chen notion of integral being [skt. mahātman] should not be misconstrued to contradict the orthodox Buddhist insistence on selflessness [skt. anātman], simply because of the use of related words with different shades of meaning. As mentioned above, the terminology used is sufficiently precise to ward off misunderstanding, and that is to say nothing of the contextual meaning, which leaves no trace of doubt.”


“It is precisely when egocentric apprehension, the mistaken moment-by-moment reification of a self [skt. ātman], falls aside that one can speak of integral being [skt. mahātman], without this notion contradicting more normative Buddhist ideas of selflessness [skt. anātman].”

Malcolm writes:

“In Dzogchen, the term bdag nyid chen po and bdag nyid accompanies the terms ngang and rang bzhin. This true in both Buddhist and Bon texts. 

For example, in the Zhang Zhung sNyan rGyud, we find:

‘State [ngang], nature [rang bzhin] and identity [bdag nyid] are a trio. The state is the total clarity of rig pa. The nature is the total emptiness of rig pa. The identity is the nonduality of clarity and emptiness. Everything is understood as pure consummate mind [byang chub sems] through the axiom of total identity [bdag nyid chen po].’

I have many similar examples from Buddhist texts. So here, I would prefer to render this term as ‘total identity.’”
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