Update: On 13 February 2013, I added two more posts by Loppon Namdrol below.

The following recent post by Loppon Namdrol (Malcolm Smith) reminds me of Acharya Mahayogi Shridhar Rana Rinpoche, who said in his article Madhyamika Buddhism Vis-a-vis Hindu Vedanta, "However, the Buddhist Ultimate Truth is the absence of any such satta i.e. ultimately existing thing or ultimate reality. That is the significance of Shunyata - absence of any real, independent, unchanging existence (Skt. svabhava). And that fact is the Ultimate Truth of Buddhism, which is diametrically opposite to the Ultimate Truth of the Hindu Brahma. So Shunyata can never be a negative way of describing the Atman - Brahma of Hinduism as Vinoba Bhave and such scholars would have us believe. The meaning of Shunyata found in Sutra, Tantra, Dzogchen or Mahamudra is the same as the Prasangika emptiness of Chandrakirti i.e. unfindability of any true existence or simply unfindability. Some writers of DzogChen and Mahamudra or Tantra think that the emptiness of Nagarjuna is different from the emptiness found in these systems. But I would like to ask them whether their emptiness is findable or unfindable; whether or not the significance of emptiness in these systems is also not the fact of unfindability."

(Also see: Rigpa and Aggregates by Daniel M. Ingram)

Loppon Namdrol (Malcolm Smith):

There is no teaching in Buddhism higher than dependent origination. Whatever originates in dependence is empty. The view of Dzogchen, according to ChNN (Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche) in his rdzogs chen skor dri len is the same as Prasanga Madhyamaka, with one difference only - Madhyamaka view is a result of intellectual analysis, Dzogchen view is not. Philosophically, however, they are the same. The view of Madhyamaka does not go beyond the view of dependent origination, since the Madhyamaka view is dependent origination. He also cites Sakya Pandita "If there were something beyond freedom from extremes, that would be an extreme."

Further, there is no rigpa to speak of that exists separate from the earth, water, fire, air, space and consciousness that make up the universe and sentient beings. Rigpa is merely a different way of talking about these six things. In their pure state (their actual state) we talk about the radiance of the five wisdoms of rig pa. In their impure state we talk about how the five elements arise from consciousness. One coin, two sides. And it is completely empty from beginning to end, and top to bottom, free from all extremes and not established in anyway.

Dzogchen teachings also describe the process of how sentient being continue in an afflicted state (suffering), what is the cause of that afflicted state (suffering), that fact that afflicted state can cease (the cessation of suffering) and the correct path to end that suffering (the truth of the path). Dzogchen teachings describe the four noble truths in terms of dependent origination also.

Ergo, Dzogchen also does not go beyond Buddha's teaching of dependent origination which Nagarjuna describes in the following fashion:

I bow to him, the greatest of the teachers,
the Sambuddha, by whom dependent origination --
not ceasing, not arising
not annihilated, not permanent,
not going, not coming,
not diverse, not single,
was taught as peace
in order to pacify proliferation.

Loppon Namdrol:


First, one has to distinguish the general theory of dependent origination from the specific theory of dependent origination. The general theory, stated by the Buddha runs "w
here this exists, that exists, with the arising of that,this arose". The specific theory is the afflicted dependent origination of the tweleve nidanas. There is however also a non-afflicted dependent origination of the path. For the most part, Madhyamaka covers the principle general dependent originationi order to show that all dependent phenomena are empty. Since, according to Madhyamaka, there are no phenonomena that are not dependent, the emptiness of non-dependent phenomena is never an issue, like hair on a tortoise or the son of a barren woman, since there are no non-dependent phenomena at all.

Nagarjuna however does discuss the twelve nidanas, ignorance and so on, in chapter 28 of the MMK.

The basis in Dzogchen is completely free of affliction, it therefore is not something which ever participates in afflicted dependent origination. Unafflicted causality in Dzogchen is described as lhun grub, natural formation. However, since there is causality in the basis, it also must be empty since the manner in which the basis arises from the basis is described as "when this occurs, this arises" and so on. The only reasons why this can happen is because the basis is also completely empty and illusory. It is not something real or ultimate, or truly existent in a definitive sense. If it were, Dzogchen would be no different than Advaita, etc. If the basis were truly real, ulimate or existent, there could be no processess in the basis, Samantabhadra would have no opportunity to recognize his own state and wake up and we sentient beings would have never become deluded. So, even though we do not refer to the basis as dependently originated, natural formation can be understood to underlie dependent origination; in other words, whatever is dependently originated forms naturally. Lhun grub after all simply and only means "sus ma byas", not made by anyone.

Rigpa is not a phenomena, it is not a thing, per se. It is one's knowledge of the basis. Since it is never deluded, it never participates in affliction, therefore, it is excluded from afflicted dependent orgination. However, one can regard it as the beginning of unafflicted dependent origination, and one would not be wrong i.e. the nidanas of samsara begin with avidyā; the nidanas of nirvana begin with vidyā (rigpa).



Emptiness is the same thing in Dzogchen and Madhyamaka. Even rigpa is completely empty. But in Dzogchen we do not say that emptiness is dependent origination because of the way the term dependent orgination is used in Dzogchen. Not because Nāgārjuna is wrong.


The definition of lhun grub is "not made by anyone". Lhun drub is dependent origination free of afflictive patterning, thus it is pure process and transformation.
9 Responses
  1. Unknown Says:

    Zhi Rigpa does go beyond dependent origination.The teaching of form is emptiness emptiness is form as expressed in the Heart sutra is not the final state.In Dzogchen they refer to the aforementioned rigpa as being beyond mind- and hence dependent origination.

  2. Soh Says:

    Hi marcg,

    I'm not familiar with the term 'Zhi Rigpa'. Can you provide articles or info on this? What's the difference between 'Zhi Rigpa' and 'Rigpa' in general and how does 'Zhi Rigpa' go beyond D.O.?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Zhi Rigpa is Rigpa of the base or bzhi rig pa in tibetan. Rigpa of the base is inseparable of rigpe tsel or the play of rigpa, thus D.O. is inherent to Rigpa of the base, as rigpe tsel is D.O. Being rigpa beyond mind it does not mean that is beyond dependent origination. it means that is beyond any conditioning in the sense that is not a product.

  4. Soh Says:

    Thanks for clarifying, Anonymous :)

  5. Assuming something beyond Dependent Origination makes us to cling that entity as independent and inherently existing from it own side. This kind of subtle hypostasization of an absolute reality can give feeble minds some sort of security but it can generate a very subtle clinging and grasping that binds us to the rounds of the endless suffering.

  6. Unknown Says:


    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    I'm interested in this fragment:

    "the nidanas of nirvana begin with vidyā (rigpa)"

    Could you add some information about these nidanas?

    Thanks again!

  7. Soh Says:

    Kyle (asunthatneversets) informed me, "I'm pretty sure it just refers to the same phenomena being perceived in its pure form. I know Malcolm has said before.. Or perhaps I read it elsewhere, that once vidyā is completely stable everything arises as wisdom. So the structuring of relative experience can still occur but there's no danger of falling into afflicted dualistic experience. The same nidānas can 'link up' in a conventional sense but this time they never deviate from the explicit knowledge of the three kāyas. Which means there is no true 'nidānas' per se, just the lhun grub of primordial wisdom."

  8. Soh Says:

    More by Kyle:

    I'm pretty sure it was just Malcolm's way of saying that the same appearance is experienced in pure and impure vision

    And that lhun grub underlies dependently originated phenomena.

    Once the mind arises out of lhun grub and starts making abstractions its always lhun grub but unrecognized

    Not that the mind actually arises. It's just delusion about the nature of appearance.

    And lhun grub is always inseparable from ka dag, so totally empty and free from extremes. Ka dag and lhun grub are just like the moon in water metaphor. Lhun grub is the appearance of the moon, ka dag is the fact that it's not a moon or anything real.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    Such contorted obfuscation communicates nothing of value except the deep confusion of the speaker.