Today Dzogchen is Practiced by More and More Lay People

Hungkar Dorje Rinpoche   [1]

14.10.2023, Vietnam



So how to start Dharma practice and why practice Dharma is the question? What kind of conditions one [need to have] to practice Dharma [well]? Well, these questions are pretty important for the people who want to practice Dharma.

A very common condition to practice Dharma well is to understand the nature of Samsara and Nirvana – [to have] renunciation. So, to practice renunciation is the first condition for us to practice Dharma well.

Yesterday I described the qualities, the unique part of Tantrayana and its nature. Tantrayana, the practice of Tantrayana is based on the Sutrayanas, on renunciation.

Without strong pure renunciation, it is difficult to practice both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. So, renunciation is to fully understand what is Samsara and its causes. Sometimes the nature of renunciation it described a little differently in the Sutrayana and Tantrayana.

In the Sutrayana, mostly it is said Samsara is full of suffering, because of the causes of bad actions and mental kleshas. In the Tantrayana, sometimes it says to understand the nature of everything, every phenomenon is like a great Bliss and Mahasukha. The unity of great Bliss and emptiness. So, sometimes it is different. They have different ways to describe the nature of things. The reason is that the main purpose [of practice] is to destroy attachments, grasping by understanding the nature, the reality of phenomena.

These are different ways of how to teach, how to lead the people on the path. We always have good reasons to understand that Samsara is full of suffering – this is a way to eliminate our attachments to this world, to everything in this life. So this is one way. And then when we talk about emptiness, the nature of phenomena is emptiness. Then emptiness means it’s beyond that [the capacity] of regular mind. It’s inconceivable. So, therefore, to understand, to realize the nature of phenomena, the great wisdom is also not belonging to the ordinary minds. So, our regular mind cannot really realize this great nature.

So, I think we can divide it into three things to understand the nature of phenomena: the outer nature, the inner nature, and the secret nature of phenomena. And the outer nature of, for example, Samsara is suffering, and the renunciation taught in the Hinayana and Mahayana teachings – Sutrayana recognizes the outer nature of Samsara well.

And then Mahayana teachings, like the Second Turning of Dharma Wheel, the Great Mother Wisdom, Paramita teach us how to recognize the inner nature of phenomena, which is emptiness; and then Tantrayana teaches the realization of the secret, the great secret nature of phenomena, which is more like awareness, a unity of awareness and emptiness.

When we say emptiness, and we most times we don’t see the difference between nothingness and emptiness; in fact they are very different, not the same. But emptiness is also reality. Nothingness is not a reality for anything. So, therefore, it is different.

So, I think the renunciation, there are different levels of renunciation. The renunciation taught in the Tantrayana teachings is more like a realization of the nature, the secret nature of phenomena. Because that realization or that renunciation has the nature to eliminate all the thoughts, all the emotions in our minds. The main goal for Dharma teachings is to teach us how to practice the path, how to achieve liberation.

From the viewpoint of the Buddhist teachings, especially Mahayana teachings and Tantrayana teachings, every single thought can be a troublemake because when you think of something then it arises, it creates more thoughts and more vicious [thpughts] and more fears. So, therefore, having a thought is not balanced. There’s no balance. It’s always this or that, and always good and bad and always happy and unhappy, something like that. So there’s no equalimity in that kind of state.

So Buddhist teachings, especially profound teachings, heart teachings, teach people how to be in a nature that is free from all thoughts so that there is no attachment, nothing, no attachment, not anything that creates imbalance. Our minds are always thinking and always trying to create something. And, so, when it tries to create something, then, of course, it has to face difficulties, always think, always think. And that is sort of tiring when you think. Even though you are thinking emptiness as long as you’re thinking, your brain is working, and it is tiring.

Dharma practice has the power to equalize, to have everything equally peaceful. This is how we achieve great liberation, I think, because liberation is free from all the thoughts, all the things that are unbalanced. Liberation means there’s nothing, but at the same time it’s a great peace. As for us, although we say, “I am thinking nothing,” – “nothing” means your mind becomes more like blank – like sleep. It is not awareness or emptiness. As well as aweraness is concerned, there is no attachment, no thoughts, no grasping but very peaceful. This is the nature of liberation. So, to practice the profound meaning of Dharma teachings, I always say we have to have a good foundation to realize the nature, to have a pure, profound realization.

So that’s why the great masters, especially in Tibetan Buddhism, teach, for example, ngondro preliminary practices. And they teach us to see the importance and the necessity of these preliminary practices. All Tibetan Buddhist traditions have the preliminary practices. Each tradition has its own preliminary practices, but the meaning is the same. The meaning is about the four dharmas that turn the minds into real Dharma. The essence of the practices are called differently. For example, in the Nyingma tradition, the essence of the Dharma practice is called Dzogpa Chenpa, the Great Perfection. And for Kagyupa is Mahamudra; and they have different titles of saying the name of their tradition’s Dharma practices.

As for the way Tibetan people practice Dharma – the monks and the nuns in Tibet follow a very good system. They study for many, many years, at least 20 to 25 years to graduate from the Dharma school, to become a Geshe or Khenpo or whatever. After that, most people go to meditation centers to study Tantrayana specifically and to receive training directly, getting the instructions from the Guru directly. And under the guidance of the Guru, they try to practice every day for three years, for four years. In our monastery, we have a four-year program to finish the practices of Dzogpa Chenpa.

The tradition of Dharma schools in Tibet comes from Nalanda in India. We try to follow this tradition and to keep the tradition of Nalanda, and to practice or to study the way the masters in Nalanda did. That was Nalanda, I think everyone knows, or at least heard about this. It’s no more there, we only see some remains of the constructions. But that was the biggest university at that time in Asia. And the panditas, the masters from Nalanda are very important people to spread, to keep the lineage, the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni. For example, we call eight very famous and important masters from Nalanda the Six Ornaments and two Supreme monks – Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, Asanga, and so on. They are the masters from Nalanda. And because of their wisdom, their activities, and their hard works, we are still able to meet, the study, the teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni on this earth.

And then Tantrayana was also taught in India. Some tantras were taught by Buddha himself, and some … he transformed into different deities and taught different Tantras. The eighty very famous Mahasiddhas from India accomplished their achievements on the path through the practice of secret Tantrayana. So, Tantrayana or secret Vajrayana was established in India and was also very popular. The history of the old translation tradition of Nyingmapa in Tibet was also established in India before it was established in Tibet. The first master, the lineage holder of the Dzogpa Chenpa, was Garab Dorje. And Garab Dorje, Jampal Shenyen, Sri Singha, Jnanasutra, Vimalamitra. All of these were Indian masters who practiced Dzogpa Chenpa, who accomplished great enlightenment through the practice of the Great Perfection, Dzogpa Chenpa tradition.

During the time of King Trisong Detsen, he invited Guru Rinpoche and many other scholars, more than 108 scholars from India to Tibet to spread Buddhism there and to translate all the texts, all the sutras and all the Tantras that existed at that time in India into Tibetan language. During that time, Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra also taught Dzogchen teachings to very close, very important students like Vairotsana and Yeshe Tsoyal and many others. Guru Rinpoche had 25 disciples, masters, mahasiddhas as disciples through the practice of Tantrayana.

Then one of the very important reincarnations of Guru Rinpoche, also one of the great treasure revealers in Tibet, Longchenpa, established the tradition of Dzogpa Chenpa in Tibet. This is the lineage, the tradition that we follow, we practice, we study. As for the Dharma lineage we practice, it is very important to have a pure and unbroken lineage, because only in that way Buddha’s teachings are [preserved] pure and powerful.

I explained about the lineages of Tibetan tradition. Generally speaking, there is an unbroken lineage from Buddha Shakya Muni up to us. And because of some special wisdoms there are some special ways of establishing lineages, for example, the lineage of the treasures established by Guru Rinpoche. For example, Longchenpa was an reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche and one of the great treasure revealers in the history of Tibet. He had many visions of Guru Rinpoche and in the visions and in meditation, he received many teachings from Guru Rinpoche directly. So, we called this a special, unique lineage.

The treasure lineage is a very intersting, very profound lineage. For example, Lama Sang – some of you have met Lama Sang in person – and His lineage of treasures came from Guru Rinpoche. If we count how many years between Guru Rinpoche and Lama Sang, there are many years. He had crazy wisdom – wisdom that is beyond, that is much more profound than many sorts of wisdom. He received teachings of this lineage directly from Guru Rinpoche in His previous lives and in this life, too. Take for example his treasures like Vajrapani and Dzambala that many people who are here are practicing. There is only Lama Sang between Guru Rinpoche and us. But the lineage was established by Guru Rinpoche. This is very interesting. The other Tibetan traditions, for example Nyingmapa’s traditions, also have very long lineage history of long lineages and short lineages. So, we need to have both very profound and very completed tradition as well.

So, for the lay practitioners in Tibet, especially who have connection to Nyingma tradition, it is becoming more common that lay people can practice Dzogpachenpo and it is becoming more and more popular; and more and more people get into practice. As I said earlier, monks, nuns, and some yogis study, follow the system of the monastery many, [spend] many years of study and many, many years in meditation. And that’s the system for inner students of Buddha Shakya Muni – the monks and the nuns. Now lay people are practicing the preliminaries practices; especially the older are very very enthusiastic about Dharma practices and about the practice of Dzogpa Chenpa. And they’re very diligent so they complete many times of these 500.000 preliminary practices. So, this is what is going on, and how we practice, how we study the Dharma in Tibet.

This great secret teachings of Dzopa Chenpo were kept in a secret way, not taught to the public very much; but according to some of the predictions given by Buddha Shakya Muni – and Vajrasattva and some deities saying that – there will be more people practicing Dzogpa Chenpa and it would be more obviously practiced by many lay people during the time like degeneration times like now and it is coming. The prediction is coming alive. And recently just before I left Golog to come here, they requested me to give a three-day teaching on this great subject written by Patrul Rinpoche called “Three Lines That Hit on The Key” or “the Final Words of Garab Dorje to Manjushrimita”. And there were one thousand lay people and about 1000 monks, nuns, and yogis. So, this is something new and I have not seen that before much, because there were very few, used to be very few, like some people who are very special and very faithful and practiced many, many, many preliminary things – they are the only ones who have the authority to attend this kind of teachings. But now everyone who actually is pretty qualified because of their understanding and their efforts put into the preparation practice [can get the teachings].

What I’m trying to say is not trying to advertise something, but also lay people in Tibet are becoming more serious Dharma practitioners and they’re trying very hard. They have more chances to practice very profound teachings nowadays than before. So, as I said yesterday, there are many instructions and very completed and very practical and very profound in Tibetan traditions for the lay people because the lay people usually are busier than the monks and nuns. Because they have to take care of many, many, many things for their lives and for their family members so they don’t have much time. But if one is being diligent, there are always chances to practice Dharma, to do both the worldly dharmas and the real Dharma.


It’s often mentioned that the great teachings are like snow, like milk or something so special that regular containers cannot contain – it leaks. So, to be a practitioner of these great profound teachings, we have to be a great container like [that is made of] jewel, gold or something very special quality. Otherwise, we’re not able to keep the Dharma, the instructions in the mind and it would be destroyed by negative thoughts. So, there is a high requirement for us to be a practioner of these profound teachings.

Our work is to wash, to clean the container, [which is] our minds. Our minds [will be] the containers of this profound teachings. Right now, because of our habitual tendencies and mental distractions, the container is very dirty. So, we need to clean it through the preliminary practices so that it will be a good container for this kind of instructions; and this is called Pracrice of Preliminary. We understand what is preliminary. It is basically to prepare to be ready [container] to receive some special teachings. Before receiving teachings, we have to have a good mind, clean mind and a good foundation. Some people receive teachings before having any preparations and then they change their mind and they become bad people or something like that. So, [this is] to make sure that will not happen with us and to make sure that one will be able to receive these teachings without obstacles.

If we look closely, for example, at the followers of the Tibetan traditions in Tibet and in India, there were many householders, lay people who achieved high realization and were great masters, great practitioners through these special practices. So, there is always a way, always an opportunity for lay people to practice profound teachings. While you are where you are, do not have to leave home, abandon many things but [you can] work with the mind to develop the inner wisdom through these Dharma practices.

But still, we need to try a little harder. It is true to not have to give everything up, but still we need to give up some of the attachments, otherwise there will be no changes to be made. So, we need to have some real and strong renunciation, and compassion. And we have to have a good habit to practice diligently because our habits are not good. Because of our habits, I think we are pretty lazy and that’s true. And so, we have to change this bad way, then to be more diligent so that Dharma is always available. It’s not that Dharma is not available, and if you are being enough diligent, there is always time for you to practice Dharma. So time is available. Whenever you are being lazy and busy with the things that are not that necessary and not that meaningful, then the time is not available. It’s up to us how to make arrangements for your life, for your Dharma practice.

I hope that everyone will get the points and understand better and to arrange a better way for your life, for your Dharma path so that you will get benefits from Dharma practices. When I say ‘lazy’, I think we are very lazy. This is not something to criticize us, but I think it’s the truth of our life. So therefore, we need to make changes with being very lazy. Ignorance and laziness go together. Because there is ignorance, there is laziness; and there is laziness, because there is ignorance. They go together all the time. We may say, “I’m a very hard worker. Oh, I try to work many many hours a day. I make a lot of money.” This way is different from [the way I explain about] ‘laziness’. This [hard work] is more like attachment, so it also goes with ignorance. So “not being lazy” means always doing something about Dharma. Practicing Dharma is “not being lazy”. How much you try to accomplish something through worldly [way of] understanding then it is not diligence. If you are interested in the Dharma, and you are doing the Dharma, you are diligent. And if you are doing the opposite of that, even though you maybe hard worker for your business or for your life, but it’s not what we want. So we have to understand the definition of the nature or the of laziness.

Diligence always something to do with the Dharma, with understanding and with the mindfulness. To make it clearer, I think if we are being mindful for one minute, for example, then this minute we are diligent. Although you are sitting there and reciting some mantras, doing your [turning] prayer wheels, but if your mind is sitting there blindly and that is not diligent, that is not mindful. So mindful is always diligent. We have to understand that Dharma practice is always something to do with your understanding, always something to do with your awareness.


End of teaching on 14.10.23


Transcribed by Rigzin Tara & Dieu Hue.

Rewritten by: Lotsawa.

Excerpt from MP 3 Hungkar Dorje Rinpoche teaching on 14.10.23:


[1] This is Hungkar Dorje Rinpoche’s teaching on October 14, in Vietnam. English transcript, Vietnamese translation and the title have been sent to Rinpoche for approval and blessing.