November 14, 2006

Lives and insights of the early masters in the Dzogchen lineage

I would like to take this opportunity to intruduce Wellsprings of the Great Perfection, a book on the early Dzogchen masters and their poetry. It's a labor of love I've been working on over the last twelve years. Here are some excerpts:

Throughout history great individuals have appeared to inspire others. They formulate their insights to help others transform their lives, and find meaning and happiness, even liberation and enlightenment. The philosophy and stories of these great ones, passed down by the first recipients, often have such a force and strength that thousands of years later, their lives and values continue to be sources of inspiration. The present recipient—always at the end of a long line, like at the water tap from a pipe originating at a mountain spring—must hear of the origin of the teaching and its teacher, to know and have trust in its authenticity, before turning on the water and drinking. This book contains the origins and early history of the Dzogchen lineage in the hopes that it will inspire trust and confidence in those who are fortunate enough to meet the present holders of this remarkable lineage. Wellsprings of the Great Perfection is the culmination of aspirations formed over many years. In the 1970s, the emissaries of Padmasambhava—Dudjom Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and the Karmapa—blessed the West with their visits. At that time, my Dharma friends and I repeatedly received Prahevajra’s Three Words from these kind lineage masters. Some years later, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche explained the three lineages of Dzogchen and how these extraordinary teachings were taught in three divine realms before reaching this world. These auspicious coincidences gave rise within me to a recurring deep and heartfelt wish to document the original sources that explain how the Dzogchen teachings came into this world: who of the early masters in India and in the country of Uddiyana received them; and through whom they passed. One of the first translations of Dzogchen scriptures to reach the English language was Padmasambhava’s concise meditation advice in the Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation, showing how to see awareness directly, and the more famous Tibetan Book of Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo. Both of these appeared via a lama from Sikkim who dictated a translation to W.Y. Evans-Wentz, an Englishman, and had a tremendous impact. Since that time the Dzogchen teachings have continually spread throughout the West. In fact now it is not uncommon for people interested in Tibetan Buddhism to attend seminars and lectures on the Great Perfection. Over the last couple of years I succeeded in locating a vast number of original documents, all written in classical Tibetan—some were old handwritten documents, some wood carvings and some recently published books from India and China. Several years went by while comparing and selecting the manuscripts that are now included below. Wellsprings not only documents the lives of the early masters in the Dzogchen lineage; it also contains selections of songs of realization by a good number of them. Many of these incredibly beautiful songs are still used today during tantric feast gatherings and during empowerment ceremonies. With this collection I have attempted to help fill a gap that other translated works in English have missed. Many short segments have been published already and these were additional catalysts that triggered undertaking this project. However, we have not yet seen a comprehensive selection that documents not only the early Dzogchen masters’ lives and what they taught, but also the transmission of the Dzogchen teachings that took place before it entered the human realm. In many of these early documents, I was able to find narrations of events that took place on the summit of Mount Sumeru, inside the palace of Indra the king of gods, and some even earlier than that in the various Buddha realms. Sometimes it felt as if I were a witness to intimate conversations between celestial beings, buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Slideshow of drawings included in Wellsprings of the Great Perfection.

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