Also see: Clarifications on Dharmakaya and Basis by Loppön Namdrol/Malcolm

The Degrees of Rigpa 




Posted by Kyle Dixon. Kyle Dixon = Krodha

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3 points · 16 days ago

An interesting topic coming off the heels of the previous post about “non-duality.” In the Rig pa rang shar non-duality is rejected, but not completely, and for specific reasons.

The type of “non-duality” that is rejected is a substantialist non-duality like that found in Advaita Vedanta, which asserts a singular, transpersonal nature that is solely valid. Dzogchen rejects this view (i) because it is substantialist and eternalist, and (ii) because relatively we do experience ontic dualities in the form of conventional juxtapositions.

Moreover, the “non-dual” view of Dzogchen is emptiness free from extremes. This is how the Cuckoo of Vidyā can state ”The nature of diversity is non-dual,” because while refraining from negating a diverse array of discrete conventional entities, we understand that each discrete entity, being empty, is free from the dual extremes of existence and non-existence, hence “non-dual.” Thus the rang bzhin aspect of our nature appears as a diversity while being completely and totally inseparable from ka dag, or original purity, which is the Dzogchen treatment of emptiness free from extremes.

As such, Dzogchen champions a “non-dual duality,” or a “dualistic non-duality,” as Malcolm says, “take your pick.”

level 1

thank you for posting.

level 1
2 points · 16 days ago · edited 16 days ago

“In Ati, the pristine consciousness — subsumed by the consciousness that apprehends primordial liberation and the abiding basis as ultimate — is inseparable in all buddhas and sentient beings as a mere consciousness. Since the ultimate pervades them without any nature at all, it is contained within each individual consciousness.”

Excerpt From: Ācārya Malcolm Smith. “Buddhahood in This Life: The Great Commentary by Vimalamitra”.

How is this pristine consciousness not functionally transpersonal? And why is "dualistic non-duality" not the same as Advaita? If the ultimate has no nature then why label it 'pristine consciousness that pervades'? I find this quite confusing and as much as I respect Malcolm he didn't really clarify these issues. Any ideas?

level 2
3 points · 16 days ago · edited 16 days ago

How is this pristine consciousness not functionally transpersonal?

A “transpersonal” jñāna would be a single, universal instance of jñāna that is shared by all sentient beings.

Instead jñāna is a generic characteristic like the heat of fire or the wetness of water, indentical in expression in each unique conventional instance but since the mind it represents the nature of is personal, belonging to a discrete entity, we do not say that there is a single, transpersonal, universal jñāna as an entity itself that is collectively shared.

If the ultimate has no nature then why label it 'pristine consciousness that pervades'?

It “pervades” consciousnesses in the same way wetness, as an identical quality, pervades each and every instance of water.

Ultimately there are no minds, no sentient beings etc., but conventionally we say there are discrete instances. When we negate entities from the stand point if the way things really are, we don’t then assert that there is a single extant purusa that is established in their place.

level 3

Ah o.k. So jñāna is a property of the individual. If you have a mind then you have jñāna. But then ultimately there are no minds? So ultimately there is no jñāna?

level 4
2 points · 16 days ago

So ultimately there is no jñāna?

Yes, ultimately there is nothing at all. This is the meaning of the exhaustion of dharmatā at the end of the Dzogchen path. Since all dharmas are realized to be non-arisen, their dharmatā or nature likewise cannot be said to remain. Jñāna [ye shes] is after all simply the dharmatā or nature of our mind. Our citta dharmatā or cittatā [sems nyid].

Nevertheless, at the time of the result there are still appearances that manifest as the non-dual expressions of one’s own primordial state. The exhaustion of dharmatā does not actually mean everything disappears into some blank void. It just means we are totally liberated from everything, even jñāna.

level 5

We are liberated because there is nothing at all?

level 6
2 points · 16 days ago · edited 16 days ago

Ultimately no dharmas at all, no conditioned phenomena. And in classic buddhadharmic fashion, Dzogchen considers that a dharmatā, a “nature,” is the nature of an apparently conditioned entity, a dharmin. Upon realizing the nature [dharmatā] of the dharmin, the dharmin is recognized to have never arisen in the first place, it cannot be found anywhere. That absence of arising is the dharmatā to be realized. And so we do not then state that the dharmatā as such continues to be a dharmatā. With the exhaustion of the dharmin, dharmatā is also exhausted because the objective to be realized in relation to the dharmin has been realized, and the absence of arising is now known.

This is a non-reductive system. Nothing is actually reifed as being established at the end of the path. Just an array of illusory appearances.

level 7

Ah o.k so it's like this:

“Since all phenomena are included within the mind, there is no phenomena that exists outside the mind. The mind, which is by its very nature unborn, is simply referred to as “actual reality.” Now, who is it that meditates on what? It has thus been stated:

'Just as space is without reality and therefore

Space as such is not meditated upon,

How could the mind, which is by its very nature unborn,

Meditate on the unborn as such?'

Yet, if someone asks, “Just how is it that the convention meditation is designated?” it is stated:

'All effort is eliminated after recognizing that

Problems and their remedies are indistinguishable;

Practice the simple convention we call meditation by

Settling within an uncontrived state of great equanimity.'

That is, when it is recognized that both the class of afflictions that should be eliminated and the remedies that should be taken up are indistinguishable by nature, all effort connected to bias is eliminated and one simply settles into a state of great equanimity that is only conventionally labeled meditation.”

Excerpt From: Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo. “Entering the Way of the Great Vehicle”.

level 2

If the ultimate has no nature then why label it 'pristine consciousness that pervades'?

Ultimate nature cannot be labelled as anything.

Ultimate nature cannot be labelled as pristine awareness, rigpa, nondual, emptiness free from extremes, or whatsoever.

Simply because ultimately there is no a single object or a single phenomena for you to describe.

level 3

It seems to have a function and characteristics.

level 4
2 points · 16 days ago

Yes, but it is a generic characteristic [samanyalakṣana], not a specific characteristic [svalakṣana].

level 5

There are no generic characteristic and specific characterisric in ultimate truth

level 6

So-called “ultimate truth” is a generic characteristic of phenomena. Not a specific characteristic of a relative entity like the blue color of a car. That is the meaning of this distinction.

level 4

Those function, those characteristics are simply continuous changes that look like interaction of multiple objects.


Ju Mipham Refutes the Misconception of a Singularity in any Conditioned or Unconditioned Phenomena : Dzogchen (

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OP·7d·edited 7d

The Dharmakaya isn't a phenomena though.

Dharmakāya is just emptiness, a lack of intrinsic nature, which is classified as an unconditioned phenomenon. Space, emptiness and two forms of cessation are the only unconditioned phenomena in Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna.

The Dharmakaya is primordial awareness without anything else to be perceived.

Dharmakāya is not primordial awareness. So-called “primordial awareness” is negated by dharmakāya. Mañjuśrī states in the Bodhisattvacāryavatārabhāṣya:

Since it is taught that the ultimate is emptiness, one states, “It is devoid of even the gnosis that realizes the ultimate.”

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OP·7d·edited 7d

The Dharmakaya is primordial purity as unbound and unborn awareness.

No, it is emptiness as a lack of intrinsic nature. Gnosis or jñāna is intimately related to dharmakāya, but even jñāna is said to technically be absent in dharmakāya.

The Ārya-trikāya-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra:

Son of a good family, meaning of the dharmakāya of the tathāgatas is the absence of intrinsic nature, like space.

Dharmakāya is precisely emptiness.

Sunyata is the emptiness of everything of any independent causation or origination, it is indeed an unconditioned phenomena that is a consequence of primordial purity but Sunyata is not that primordial purity itself.

This is not the case, Huangbo elaborates on the synonymous nature of dharmakāya and emptiness:

Emptiness is the Buddha's dharmakāya, just as the dharmakāya is emptiness. People's usual understanding is that the dharmakāya pervades emptiness, and that it is contained in emptiness. However, this is erroneous, for we should understand that the dharmakāya is emptiness and that emptiness is the dharmakāya.

If one thinks that emptiness is an entity and that this emptiness is separate from the dharmakāya or that there is a dharmakāya outside of emptiness, one is holding a wrong view. In the complete absence of views about emptiness, the true dharmakāya appears. Emptiness and dharmakāya are not different. The most important thing is your empty, cognizant mind. Its natural emptiness is dharmakāya, also called empty essence.

As such your container and contained view is inaccurate.

This is just reinforcing the point I was making about cognizing. In the Dharmakaya there isn't anything but awareness,

Again in the sūtras and tantras it is clearly stated that even jñāna ceases.

“Awareness” is a mental factor and not the right term to be using.

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The emptiness of the Dharmakaya is the unborn and unbound nature of the primordial awareness.

What is “primordial awareness?” You keep using this term but it isn’t clear what Sanskrit or Tibetan term you are glossing.

Yep, Huang Po knows what's up

Yes, he demonstrated that your container-contained view with dharmakāya and emptiness is nonsense.

I got some great Huang Po quotes to use if that's an authoritative source around here.

In certain, specific contexts, such as discussing traditional principles. However Zen is not Dzogchen and so we must be careful.





15 points · 12 days ago · edited 12 days ago

Here is an old post on this topic, just swap “Advaita” with “Upanisad” and it is the same deal.


I wrote this in the past, in the context of the definition of “non-dual” in these systems, but it describes how emptiness [śūnyatā] is different from the brahman or purusa of Advaita:

An ontological non-duality [advaita] is monistic, we find this type of non-dualism in teachings like Advaita Vedanta. Buddhism has a different type of non-duality [advāya], which is epistemic instead of ontological.

An ontological non-duality is where everything is reduced to a single substance that exists alone by itself, which is the definition of monism. For example if subject and object were merged and we then held a view that the union of the two as a single X is truly substantial and valid. This is an affirming negation, where an unconditioned purusa is affirmed via negation of phenomenal entities.

On the other hand, an epistemological non-duality is simply a recognition that the nature of phenomena is free from the dual extremes of existence and non-existence, hence "non-dual". This is a non-reductive non-duality, and a non-affirming negation because it does not leave anything in its wake, there is no X left over once the nature of phenomena is recognized.

In epistemic non-duality the nature of a conditioned phenomenon [dharma] and its non-arisen nature [dharmatā] are ultimately neither the same nor different, hence they are "non-dual", because the misconception of a conditioned entity is a byproduct of ignorance, and therefore said entity has never truly come into existence in the first place. This means that the allegedly conditioned entity has truly been unconditioned from the very beginning. And to realize this fact only requires a cessation of cause for the arising of the misconception of a conditioned entity, i.e., a cessation of ignorance. If dharmins and dharmatā were not non-dual then it would be impossible to recognize the unborn nature of phenomena because that nature would be rendered another conditioned entity.


Non-duality in Hinduism and sanatanadharma in general is a view that promulgates an ontological, transpersonal, homogenous, unconditioned existent. Which means that non-duality in the sanatanadharma is a substantial and reductive non-duality.

Whereas one's (ultimate) nature in the buddhadharma is epistemic, personal, heterogeneous and free from the extremes of existence and non-existence. This means that one's so-called "non-dual" nature in Buddhism is an insubstantial and non-reductive non-duality.

Regarding these differences, the Tarkjavālā states:

Since [the tīrthika position of] self, permanence, all pervasivness and oneness contradict their opposite, [the Buddhist position of] no-self, impermanence, non-pervasiveness and multiplicity, they are completely different.


You should read this to start, it was authored by a teacher who began as an Advaitin, and realized the result of Advaita. He was urged to teach Advaita by his contemporaries and master because his realization was considered profound. However he did not feel his realization was complete, and later discovered Vajrayāna, and continued to refine his insight and realized that the purusa of Vedanta can also be seen through.

His view is very clear, and he is extremely well informed. I heard of him because he came to my friend in a dream and invited him to receive teachings at his place in Nepal I believe. At any rate, he very thoroughly demonstrates the differences in view, and having mastered both paths, is adamant that they are very different in praxis and result. I agree with him wholeheartedly.

This one as well (which goes over advāya vs. advaita, and the real meaning of tathāgatagarbha): Enlightenment in Buddhism vs. Vedanta



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