Comments on “Dzogchen”

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Dzogchen a yana of Budhism,

Anonymous 2012-02-03

Dzogchen a yana of Budhism, not at all the Great Perfection is not an ism

read the Kunjud Gyalpo the primary text of the Semsde series
not a word in there about Budhism

Dzogchen and Buddhism

David Chapman 2012-02-04

Hmm. This is a question about which reasonable people might disagree; but I think you would find that nearly all scholars and practitioners of Dzogchen disagree with you.

I have heard that some people teach that Dzogchen is not part of Buddhism, but don’t know who says that. I’d be curious if you could tell me where you got this idea?

“Dzogchen” does name a state, which is self-existing, and independent of any conceptual apparatus or practice.

However, it does also name a system of texts, practices, historical lineages, and so forth. In that sense, it is a system, or even an -ism.

These usages are inseparable in practice, although perhaps separable in theory.

It is also true that Dzogchen is found in Bön. Bön has an ambiguous relationship with Buddhism—half in and half out. Is that what you are referring to?

The Kunjé Gyalpo doesn’t mention “Buddhism” because “Buddhism” was invented in the 1800s by Europeans. No Buddhist scripture, of any yana, mentions “Buddhism”.

The Kunjé Gyalpo does discuss the other eight yanas of Buddhism in detail. (See for example pages 142-145 in the Norbu-Clemente translation.) It also discusses many specifically Buddhist concepts at length.

More generally, if you understand how Shantarakishita unified Madhayamaka and Yogacara, and how Tantra grew out of Tathagatagarbha, and how the Tantric completion phase (Dzog-rim) works, then it’s quite clear that Dzogchen is a logical development out of the Buddhism that was prevalent in the 800s-900s. Dzog-chen is the endpoint of Dzog-rim, combined with a sophisticated reconcilation of Madhyamaka and Tathagatagarbha.

Good points all David,

Anonymous 2012-02-05

Good points all David, although I sometimes think the case that “Buddhism” was invented is made a little too strongly. There was in fact a Sanskrit word for “Buddhist” - - Bauddha – and for “Buddhism,” more or less – “Buddhadharma.” There is also some sense among monks Xuanzang encountered in Buddhist monasteries, despite their myriad differences of doctrinal orientation and nationality, there was some sense among many or most of them that they were correligionists who could be demarcated from the rest of the Indian religious milleu. So I think there is at least a strong emic precedent for the later etic judgments of the British.

Regarding Tantra growing out o Tathagatagarbha, I would make the opposite point. I think it’s clear that Tantra grew out of Tathagatagarbha opened the way for Tantra, but Tantra coalesced as a pan-Indian phenomenon that owes as much to Shaivism as to anything else.

Buddhadharma, Tantra, Shaivism, and Dzogchen

David Chapman 2012-02-05

Thanks—correction accepted re the invention of Buddhism. Overstatement is my most glaring fault.

I am curious about “Buddhadharma”. The Tibetan translation, sangs rgyas gyi chos lugs, does appear in one dictionary I have, but not others, and I suspect it’s rare and/or a modern import. The common term is nang pa’i chos, “the Dharma of the insiders,” as opposed to the false Dharma of outsiders (such as Hindus). I think that’s an informal term, not something you’d find in scripture, though.

So anyway, I am wondering whether “Buddhadharma” might have been invented recently as a translation of the European “Buddhism”. I don’t read Sanskrit or Pali, so I’m totally ignorant here, and the answer may be “Buddhadharma” appears frequently in the Sutras?

I agree that Tantra owes a lot to Shaivism—and many other sources. The ones I mentioned are the key ones for understanding how Dzogchen grew out of Tantra, however. The Shaivite influence is key in Mahayoga, much less visible in Anuyoga, and is almost entirely absent in Dzogchen/Atiyoga.

The big issues in Tathagatagarbha, it seems to me, is “so what is this gharbha, then?” and “how do we make it turn into a tathagata?”.

In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, the gharbha is affirmed to be the atman. The rest of the Tathagatagarbha literature seems to experiment with various unconvincing explanations for how the garbha is not an atman. This problem carries over into Tantra, and Dzogchen claims to have a resolution.

Tantra itself is the answer to the question “how do we turn the garbha into tathagata”. Dzogchen starts at the endpoint of Tantra: it takes Buddhahood as the base and goes forward from there. But it also claims that you can skip all the quasi-Shaivite Mahayoga folderol and go straight to real thing.

You may be correct that the

Anonymous 2012-02-06

You may be correct that the term “buddhadharma ” is not often found in sutras, and it may not be frequently used in medieval Indian literature, but I’m fairly confident it isn’t a neologism. In any event your broader point about why the Kunjed Gyalpo allegedly doesn’t mention “Buddhism” is quite correct. A Buddhismless Dzogchen may or may not be a desideratum for the modern age, but there is no point advancing the case with specious arguments.

Regarding tathagatagarbha and tantra, I don’t particularly disagree with anything you say about, I just was objecting to the possible suggestion that the former grew out of the later exclusively. More of a quibble really, as you did not mean to suggest that.

Violent agreement

David Chapman 2012-02-06

Good, it sounds like we are in violent agreement, then!

If anyone else knows about the history of usage of “Buddhadharma”, I’d love to hear it.

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