The 33rd Menri Trizin on Tantra and A-khrid Dzogchen Practice in Bon

Highest Tantra

In general, voidness (emptiness) means unfindability (rnyed-rgyu med-pa), the absence of self-established existence (rang-bzhin ma-grub-pa). In highest tantra, you join this with blissful awareness to constitute the joined pair of blissful awareness and voidness (bde-stong zung-‘jug). On one level, this entails merging the blissful awareness arising from a pure awareness partner (rig-ma) – referring to the pure awareness nature of mind itself ­– with the voidness of the mind. Or, on another level, you join the blissful awareness produced from meditation on the energy-channels and creative energy-drops with the understanding of voidness. In these ways, the nature of attachment (chags-pa) is made into the nature of the path.

In generation stage (bskyed-rim) practice, you generate yourself as a deity as an antidote for disturbing emotions. You see that the essence of anger is peacefulness (zhi-ba-nyid). This means that by seeing the unfindability of self-established anger, you pacify anger and, through this means, it is transformed into a peaceful deity.

On the complete stage (rdzogs-rim), your see illusory nature of own body according to eight metaphors. In seeing this, you see the fundamental nature (gzhi-lugs) of the mind.

The Three Bon Traditions of Dzogchen

There are three traditions of dzogchen (rdzogs-chen, great completeness) in Bon. Two of them, the Zhang-zhung ear-to-ear transmission line (zhang-zhung snyan-rgyud) and the Dzogchen line, were taught by the Bon founder, Tonpa Shenrab Miwo (sTon-pa gShen-rab mi-bo). The third, A-khrid (a-khrid, the line of the discourse on the primordial “a”), derives from the discourses of Meu Gongdzo (Me'u dGongs-mdzod) (1038-1096).

Preliminary Practices – Ngondro

The preliminaries (mngon-‘gro) for these Bonpo dzogchen practices are ninefold. They entail 100,000 repetitions of each of the following:

  • A verse for the generation of bodhichitta
  • A verse for taking safe direction (refuge)
  • A verse for openly admitting your previously committed destructive actions
  • A verse for offering a mandala
  • A verse for guru-yoga
  • Prostration
  • The mantras of the three heart aspects (snying-po rnam-gsum).

The mantras of the three heart aspects are:

[1] The heart mantra for a Bon Body (bon-sku snying-po) – om a hum ā a dkar sale ‘od a yang om ‘du. This is the mantra of Shenlha Odkar (gShen-lha ‘od-dkar), the deity of compassion, who is an aspect of the Bon Body – the Bon equivalent of the Dharmakaya. The repetition of these syllables is for purifying the mind.

[2] The heart mantra for a Complete Body (rdzogs-sku’i snying-po) – om ma tri mu ye sale ‘du. This is the mantra of Tonpa Shenrab Miwo. The Complete Body is the Bon equivalent of Sambhogakaya. The syllables between om and ‘du represent the means for gaining liberation from rebirth in any of the six rebirth states of samsara. This is by transforming and thus purifying away the six disturbing emotions that cause rebirth in these states. To purify away the cause for rebirth:

  • as a hell being, you transform anger and hatred into love
  • as a clutching ghost (preta), you transform longing desire and greed into generosity
  • as an animal, you transform naivety and ignorance into deep awareness (ye-shes)
  • as a human, you transform envy and jealousy into spaciousness (yangs-pa)
  • as an antigod (asura), you transform pride and arrogance into calming down (zhi-ba)
  • as a god, you transform laziness and self-preoccupation into perseverance and vigor.

[3] The heart mantra for an Emanation Body (sprul-sku’i snying-po) – a dkar a rmad du tri su nag po zhi zhi mal mal sva ha. This is the purification mantra of the thousand Buddhas. It is for purifying away negative emotions and karmic force.

Opening the Mind

Once the mind has become ripe through these preliminary practices, then you need hold that mind with the force of bodhichitta aimed at your not-yet-attained enlightenment with the intention to attain it and thereby to benefit all limited beings. Once that bodhichitta aim is stable, then you need to remain in the experience of boundlessness that comes from this.

After that comes the direct introduction to the ultimate meaning of the actual state as it is. Later, this can be done through receiving the four empowerments – outer, inner, secret and ultimate secret. With the attainment of  these four, your mental continuum is opened up and thus it will ripen quickly into an enlightened state.

A-khrid Practice

A-khrid practice requires a special empowerment. Before receiving it, you need to wash. The ritual starts with a protection wheel practice to ward off conceptual thoughts (rnam-rtog). Then, as an empowerment, the lama, whom you see as Samantabhadra, touches you with a written letter “A.” You imagine light-rays from Lama Samantabhadra’s heart come into your heart and, with them, feel that the primordial “A” comes to your heart and resides there.

Then in meditation, you place a written “A” in front of you and, looking down at it, see nothing else. Feel that your mind mixes inseparably with it and becomes non-dual. The see-er of this is Samatabhadra – your own clear light mind itself, rigpa – pure awareness. Its essential nature is voidness; its functional nature is the clarity of appearance-making (rang-bzhin gsal-ba); tts deep awareness is all-pervasive (ye-shes kun-khyab). It is all-permeating (zang-thal), permeating the limited minds of all sentient beings.