Recent comments

Teaching models

David Chapman 2022-10-04

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

most teachers of Dzogchen and Mahamudra require the traditional 4 Thoughts/100,000’s ngöndro first. Or, if they don’t, they’re looking to inspire you over a weekend, rather than follow you through the process over time

Yes, that’s true I think. There’s both cultural and economic reasons for that, but it’s unfortunate.

Thanks for that

Sam Reed 2022-10-04

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

It seems like most teachers of Dzogchen and Mahamudra require the traditional 4 Thoughts/100,000’s ngöndro first. Or, if they don’t, they’re looking to inspire you over a weekend, rather than follow you through the process over time. It’s good to know that between Aro and Evolving Ground there are a couple of teachers who thread the needle. Thanks again.

The New Vajrayana

Cheryl Kass 2022-10-04

Commenting on: Approaching Vajrayana

There is resonance with the Teachings of the Venerable Chogyam Trungpa.
New cannot replace old as they co-exist.
Worm holes can get very claustrophobic.
Myth of Freedom and Cutting through Spiritual Materialism are good starting places.
I chuckle if you have encountered his work, I am the fool.
Said with care and compassion for all struggling beings, may your path be clarified with peace and self knowledge.

Dzogchen Ngöndro

David Chapman 2022-10-02

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

Hi Sam,

The description of the four practices as “Dzogchen ngöndro” may be unique to the Aro gTér. (I am not certain of this). However, more-or-less the same set of practices are taught (with some variation) in other systems—for instance elsewhere in Dzogchen, and in Essence Mahamudra.

My spouse Rin’dzin/Charlie teaches them in the Evolving Ground community. “Opening Awareness” is their version of shi-ne, taught as the “foundational practice” (ngöndro, effectively) for Dzogchen.

Shi-ne is more-or-less the same across Vajrayana systems, actually. Lhathong (= shamatha) methods vary much more. This makes sense, because Shi-ne is about emptiness, which is devoid of characteristics, whereas lhathong is about form, which is endlessly diverse!

Desperately Seeking Dzogchen

Sam Reed 2022-10-02

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

Hi David,

Once again, I’m a latecomer to this site but am really glad to have found it. So much resonates that I’ve not found written elsewhere.

Regarding the Dzogchen ngondro–who the heck teaches it? All my online searching has turned up only Aro. Is that about right? Not that I wouldn’t go with Aro, maybe I would, but it might be nice to know what my options are. Any tips?

Thank you,


Kegan's 'communal mode' solution is wrong

udh 2022-09-14

Commenting on: Developing ethical, social, and cognitive competence

The honeymoon example Kegan gave and the ‘communal’ solution is wrong because

a) Randomly springing (i.e. without asking) a holiday on your spouse and kids means you didn’t take into consideration spouse & kids needs.

b) Go to places like Ikaria. This dilemma never shows up to begin with because everyone lives nearby and possibly in the same house.

Finally, I cannot see why you would not just say: - we (me & spouse) planned this holiday for just us. If all of us (me, spouse, parents, kids) want to get together; let’s plan something together - a holiday, picnic etc.

you get your couple holiday and also make it clear if you want to do an ‘all-together’ then its going to be another time, and planned by all of you (well maybe not kids).

Lotus Buddhas

Lotus Buddhas 2022-09-13

Commenting on: The Making of Buddhist Modernism

Buddhists today are too attached to the Dharma. They spend too much time arguing about things they haven’t really experienced. Like the story about the raft, you should leave it when you’ve crossed to the other side.

Building it up to tear it down

Sam Reed 2022-09-04

Commenting on: Some preliminaries: ngöndro

Thanks for that, David. Makes sense. I’m fairly certain he does not, or did not, mix the two.

The quote you include is timely. It’s funny–approaching Vajrayana in my 40’s, I can dimly see that the work ahead is to undermine the very self I’ve spent the last couple decades working to strengthen, in however healthy a way. Or it’s to experience that self as made more of space than of particles. Or something.

Also intrigued by Aro Ter, I’ll have to check that out. Anyways–thoughtful stuff, all around.

Different flavors of enlightenment

Andrew Skotzko 2022-09-03

Commenting on: Epistemology and enlightenment

Hi David,

First off, thank you so much for your writing. I devoured the whole Vividness site over the last 1-2 weeks and found it extremely interesting. I’m grateful to you for giving language to some of the discrepancies I’d struggled with and been unable to articulate.

Regarding the possibility that there may be multiple “flavors” of enlightenment, I thought you may be interested in this study.

I haven’t finished going through it, but one of the ways it was framed to me by a teacher I’ve worked with is that the evidence suggests the various maps of practice are in fact leading to different awakenings. For example, the hinayana map leads to neural changes that tend to shut down the sense of self, whereas the vajrayana tend toward changes that shift the seat of “self” from a more local to global sense of identification (e.g. identifying as lively spacious awareness itself).

I’m new to my explorations of vajrayana/tantra—I’m using those words as synonyms, which I think is how you do as well—but thought this was a fascinating bit.

Daniel P. Brown and psychotherapy as ngöndro

David Chapman 2022-09-01

Commenting on: Some preliminaries: ngöndro

Hi, Sam, I’m glad you found this helpful!

I know only a little bit about Daniel P. Brown’s work. I do know a couple of clueful people who speak highly of it.

From what little I’ve heard, I’m slightly wary of his synthesizing psychotherapeutic ideas with Vajrayana. (If it’s the case that he does that.) I don’t think those are compatible.

However, psychotherapy as a preparation for Vajrayana, or as a complement to it, does make sense. Not technically as ngöndro, but as maybe a precursor or supplement to ngöndro.

In my spouse Rin’dzin‘s Evolving Ground system, the three-part “base” for Vajrayana practice consists of opening awareness meditation, ethical maturity, and personal autonomy. Psychotherapy could definitely be helpful in establishing the last of those, and probably ethical maturity as well.

They write:

Many therapies facilitate self-confidence. Therapies often consolidate boundaries and personal identity, self-worth, personal agency, and autonomous activity. They rely on narrative and commentary to clarify personal processes. This is valuable for skillful, emotionally mature relationships. Knowing yourself, your preferences, and your limits is important!

Opening awareness leads to another, complementary sort of confidence, based in a clear mind, free from commentary. This experience does not eliminate personal boundaries and emotions—neither does it consolidate them. It brings relational habits into view such that more choices and self-possibilities are available. In everyday experience this confidence leads to fluid, responsive activity.

Depending on your circumstances, you may want to practice self-confidence and self-worth in therapy before or alongside starting a meditation practice. If you have unprocessed trauma or difficulty dealing with your emotions, therapy can be a valuable complement to opening awareness.

Somehow, somewhen, someone benefitted

Sam Reed 2022-09-01

Commenting on: Some preliminaries: ngöndro

I just wanted to submit a note of appreciation for the uncommon perspective of this page and the site as a whole. I had been planning to start the traditional ngondro of one of the Nyingma lineages this fall, but I admit that what I read here gives me pause.

I’d be curious to know if you are familiar with the late Harvard professor and meditation teacher Daniel P. Brown and his Pointing Out the Great Way method. Apparently students are guided through Mahamudra and Dzogchen without a ngondro requirement, which seems unusual. He says in an interview that psychotherapy is like a ngondro for Westerners–an intriguing notion (not to mention, for this well-therapized Californian, a convenient one).

Thanks for your time.

Zen transmission

David Chapman 2022-08-30

Commenting on: Beyond emptiness: Zen, Tantra, and Dzogchen

Thanks, that’s useful and interesting… I know Zen only from reading, and the more I did of that, the less I understood it, so it’s very likely that you are right and I am wrong!

What I’ve read is that in Zen “transmission” is formal authentication as a teacher, which maybe notionally equates to an instantaneous recognition of wisdom mind, but is basically a ceremony. Maybe this is a degeneration of the Real Thing. The use of dbang (empowerment) in Tibetan Buddhism as a generic ceremony is certainly such a degeneration.

Notionally, a ceremony that includes the vajra master empowerment gives you the ability and right to serve as a guru yourself, and most modern ceremonies do, but they no longer have that function.

And although “empowerment” is sometimes equated with “transmission” (I did in TFA) this is not accurate—certainly not from a Dzogchen POV, where transmission is any moment in which rigpa jumps from teacher to student, and can be entirely informal or accidental.

Zen Transmission and Tantric Transmission

Nicky D 2022-08-30

Commenting on: Beyond emptiness: Zen, Tantra, and Dzogchen

In Tantric initiations (I’m acquainted with Sakya Kriya and Nyingma Mahayoga/MahaAti) there is a point where the Lamas give transmission of wisdom mind. I have always understood that as the same as dharma transmission in the Zen tradition. In the Korean Zen tradition (what I’m acquainted with) there’s dharma combat between teacher and student and when the students realization is the same as the teachers it’s the transmission of wisdom mind. Maybe the semantics are different but to me seems like the same shit!

No Strings Attached Budhism

Kevin 2022-08-02

Commenting on: Buddhism shattered

Another way Tolle makes his system attractive is that anyone can practice it and improve their life right now, in their living room, no strings attached. I think Budhism has a much higher perceived entry barrier. It scares people away thinking you have to find a teacher/Guru and practice for 100 hours to even know if this thing is working, and even then you wont know for sure it wasn’t just your bad Guru.

A Budhism Lite that required less input but didn’t distort the teaching could be attractive.


Adam 2022-07-31

Commenting on: Buddhist morality is Medieval

I’m actually pretty disgusted to hear that the sangha accepted slaves as gifts. It would be more than fine, if they accepted them and freed them. But to keep them in bondage is something I strongly disagree with.

I believe in the golden rule, do not do something to someone if you don’t want them to do it to you. I don’t want to be a slave, so I could never enslave someone.

I’m unsure of these scriptures, since they were written hundreds of years after the Buddha. Who knows what he really said.

Dangers, redux

SusanC 2022-07-21

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

So, I recently mentioned to my friend S. that I was thinking of trying mindfulness, and she said I should be careful of that. From this site, I was already aware of potential risk, but was a little curious about how she knew. It turns out, she knows some Buddhists (via the Extinction Rebellion movement) who communicated to her this very useful piece of information.

Well, my problem is that I’m too much in my own thoughts most of the time, and a little being-in-the-present might do me some good.

Lucid dreaming on the other hand … no, just no. I haven’t tried lucid dreaming in a long time, but back when I did I had a very bad experience that I did not recognize as such as the time. There were several potential causes, of which lucid dreaming is just one (having PTSD was one of the others). The lucid dreaming might have been nothing to do with it.


Be careful with this stuff.

The thought “my life sucks, being in a dream I can control sounds like it would be much more fun” is, I think, a dangerous one. It is also probably not what motivated traditional Buddhists, but seems present in the contemporary lucid dreaming community.

Bad experience #2 was finding out what happens when I’m isolated for an extended period during covid lockdowns. This made me re-evaluate bad experience #1.

Naked truth

Jeff 2022-07-20

Commenting on: Some preliminaries: ngöndro

Dear David, there is so much truth and light in your posts! Thank you for speaking out, you are the hero for many of us sincere practitioners!

I felt huge relief from loneliness when I stumbled upon your blog. I’m happy I’m not the only one who thinks this way.

As for ngondro, I believe we have already developed a method to replace it - Enligthened Intensive by Charles Berner.

It’s the first method that really gave me a taste of enlightenment. I didn’t make it on my 1st seminar, but I did on the 2nd. And because of how its done, I find it to be the perfect preparation for tantra.

Its really one heck of a violent method but it works so well.

Lucid dreaming risks

SusanC 2022-07-14

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

I have changed my mind about lucid dreaming. I now think it can be very dangerous. The risk is that you lose contact with reality without realizing that that is what has happened.

Blocking out

SusanC 2022-07-05

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

I have had a sudden thought about this:

What CBT calls “blocking out”, or using some distraction to avoid thinking about the thing that’s worrying you, might in the long run be extremely bad. Presumably just as bad if the blocking out activity is meditation, rather than surfing the Internet or some other distraction.

At this point, commenters may say “people who do that are doing meditation wrong”. Quite possibly. The main idea in this thread is that doing meditation wrong might be bad for you.


Possible things people might be blocking out at the moment: trying to suppress their fear of covid19.

(Lots of people I know have had covid19 in the past few weeks; all of them are ok, including one vulnerable person with previous history of respiratory infections.)


Dawn Martin 2022-05-19

Commenting on: Beyond emptiness: Zen, Tantra, and Dzogchen

Humourous, lighthearted wisdom, so often sadly lacking among the more orthodox, thank you for this.

Wakeful Awareness

Drew 2022-03-25

Commenting on: A Trackless Path: Dzogchen in plain English

I find your description of Dzogchen as “simply wakeful awareness” interesting, if not frustratingly simple. In the context of the four naljors, could it be said that shi-ne is discovering the wakefulness of awareness just by itself, and that lhatong is integrating that wakefulness with phenomena?

As an aside, I love McLeod’s books. He’s probably my biggest influence in terms of practice, particularly the book Wake Up To Your Life. He has described that book as being about the the sutric path, but the final two chapters always seemed Dzogchen-ish to me.


Drew 2022-03-09

Commenting on: Sutra and Tantra compared

Thanks, that is interesting. Coincidentally, just after posting that comment, I remembered that I have a Mahamudra book called ‘Mind at Ease’ on my kindle and started re-reading it. I do recall from before that the chapter on insight practices mostly deals with observing the nature of thoughts.

The essence of enlightenment

David Chapman 2022-03-08

Commenting on: Sutra and Tantra compared

Ah, yes, thank you very much—I should not have left a dangling loose end like that for a decade!

It’s a quote from scripture. I can’t actually remember the context, and I’m not sure exactly what the traditional explanation is. (So don’t take the following too seriously, although it’s probably not far off.)

Are they the essence of enlightenment insofar as all phenomena are the essence

Right! Excellent!

But also…

Thoughts are insubstantial in a way that coffee mugs aren’t, which makes it easier to recognize that they partake simultaneously of the natures of emptiness and form, inseparably.

My (perhaps mistaken) recollection is that the quote is from an Essence Mahamudra text. That system deals more directly with the nature of thoughts than perhaps any other. I don’t know the system well, but my impression from a distance is that it is a path to realization through non-conceptually apprehending the relationship between thoughts and awareness.


Drew 2022-03-08

Commenting on: Sutra and Tantra compared

David, could you elaborate at all on thought being the essence of enlightenment in Tantra? Are they the essence of enlightenment insofar as all phenomena are the essence, or is there something special about thoughts?

"Politically correct"

David Chapman 2022-03-06

Commenting on: Inclusion, exclusion, unity and diversity

I wrote this page in 2008… much has changed since then. Ideally I would revise everything on Vividness to reflect that, but it would be a big job and other things seem more important.

Ngak’chang Rinpoche didn’t get the phrase “politically correct” from me—he was using it long before I became an Aro gTér student—but he started teaching in America in the mid-1980s and presumably picked it up from audiences or students in that country.

“willing to be offensive” not “actively politically incorrect/racist/transphobic”. But a Gen Z reader might not understand that.

Yes and yes.

the writing about vajra romance and teaching couples feels like 1st-gen boomer feminism.


Zoomers don’t like it when you assign attributes to gender, and it doesn’t apply very well to gay couples.

… and yes.

My spouse is gay and non-binary-with-they-pronouns, so we have talked a lot about how to reinterpret (or reject) traditional Buddhist teachings on gender. We keep saying we’ll record a discussion about it, but it never seems to happen.

terminology update

a s 2022-03-06

Commenting on: Inclusion, exclusion, unity and diversity

When I read this page before I got the intended meaning of “politically correct” so didn’t have a problem with it. (Helps that I’m old enough to remember the 90s and half-British enough to know not everything is about America.)

But more recently I was reading the Aro site and saw Ngak’chang Rinpoche describe himself that way. That’s confusing - honestly didn’t know British people said that. Did he pick it up from you?

Aro isn’t, like, problematic so presumably it’s still in the sense of “willing to be offensive” not “actively politically incorrect/racist/transphobic”. But a Gen Z reader might not understand that.

Actually, Aro seems perfectly acceptable as something I could do, though I have to say the writing about vajra romance and teaching couples feels like 1st-gen boomer feminism. Zoomers don’t like it when you assign attributes to gender, and it doesn’t apply very well to gay couples. I’d survive but am hesitant to be the youngest member of any communities…

Marketing Tantra

a s 2022-03-06

Commenting on: Sutra, Tantra, and the modern worldview

I started going through your writing from Meaningness, but kept on here because of dissatisfaction with secular mindfulness my Silicon Valley ADHD psych recommended (with an EEG mind reading headband and everything).

At first I was surprised because the meditation technique definitely does something, but their own reading material isn’t very impressive - it’s sensibly rational but a bit shallow, and when they try to expand the worldview a bit they get some random untrustworthy types like Deepak Chopra when I vaguely knew it came from Buddhism.

More importantly, the concept is sold with terms like “stress reduction” “relax” “calmness”, but what it produces is closer to “awareness” or “flow” along with other lessons (like that thoughts appear on their own without you deciding to think them). And that seems a lot more appealing personally. After everyone’s been stuck at home for a year or two, do we even want more relaxation? I’d rather learn to be more active.

Probably their “stress” is secularized samsara, and if so, that’d be a way to market the secular Tantra you’re writing about. Hopefully the audience wouldn’t see it as those “for men” brands that’s just the same thing with edgier labels.


a s 2022-03-06

Commenting on: Yes

It’s as you say. What I should’ve said is that the above comment did deserve to be here, but didn’t deserve to be the final word - it feels too authoritative that way, and while I’ve been reading the site the comments have been equally valuable (which is rare!).

I’m here because of dissatisfaction with secular mindfulness, which certainly is consumerist but that’s not my critique of it - so let me continue on a more relevant page :)

Allowing confusion

David Chapman 2022-02-26

Commenting on: Yes

Well, what they wrote doesn’t make much sense to me either. At a guess, this was a person who was experiencing significant emotional pain, leading to substantial conceptual confusion. Or, put less charitably, they were seriously depressed and slightly delusional.

I usually leave comments like that up. I hope they can be a reminder of readers’ own pain and confusion, and also our own OKness and sanity. We all experience all those things.

Saying “Yes!” to reality as a whole entails affirming darkness too.

^^^ what's with that guy

a s 2022-02-26

Commenting on: Yes

Enjoyed the page, but I feel like it detracts from the arguments if you let random megalomaniacs leave death wishes against you as the last comment for a whole decade. Don’t think much of his argument either; even if you don’t believe in a bear chasing you, it still believes in you.


Danton 2022-02-25

Commenting on: The futile quest for certainty

“Serious spiritual practice does require committing to a single tradition.” Mu! Learn what you need from traditions, go your own way, free yourself. The answers are then right there.

If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

On spectres

a s 2022-02-21

Commenting on: Naturalizing Buddhist tantra

I couldn’t tell if the above comment was from a Buddhist or a Satanist, but I recommend having this picture open while you read it.

Broken links

David Chapman 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

Thank you very much for letting me know about these!

This site is a merger of four earlier ones, leaving messes that I have neglected. At some point I may clean it up. I am running a link checker right now to find all the problems, and I’ll find out how much work a general clean-up would be, and if it seems worth it.

So, I appreciate your effort so far, and there’s no need to continue reporting other ones.

Link to /terma-overview does not lead to (meaningful) content.

dreieck 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?


in a previous comment there is a link to the page /terma-overview. However, it is inaccessible; for me it displays only

Sorry, you are not authorized to view this page. It’s probably just a draft.

Since it seems that it has already been there: Can you re-enable it, so that the links that lead to a deeper understanding of some writings and comments actually work?


Fruit of Tantra and Dzogchen?

dreieck 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Why Dzogchen?

You talk about the base, path, and fruit of the yanas.

But only for the Sutra(yana) you give the fruit. I miss a sentence or parapgraph on the fruit of Tantra(yana), and I miss a sentence or parapgraph on the fruit of Dzogchen.

I think this is important as you state that a practice should only be taken if the fruit is what one wants, so at least one has to know what the fruit is.

Inadequate data

David Chapman 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

just much more datapoints

Yes, that’s why I said “we don’t know that.”

Broken link to Nine Yanas.htm.

dreieck 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Yana slip

In your page, you link to Nine Yanas.htm.

This site seems broken, for me it just displays

Error. Page cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider for more details. (19)

Same with the root site

But there is actually a copy on The Wayback Machine, you could link to: → Here.

Risk of Dzogchen not assessable due to lack of data?

dreieck 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

Could it be that there is more to say to the dangers of Vipassanā-based practices than about dangers of the four naljors because there are just much more datapoints for the first?

So your claim “I don’t know of anyone having serious negative consequences.” might just be because of low overall number of practicioners who are in a society encouraging data collection and data analysis?, meaning in the end we have to collect more data to make qualitative and quantitative assesments about the risks of Dzogchen practice?

Cheetah House broke their links (fixed)

David Chapman 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

Thank you for letting me know! They reorganized their site and broke their links. I’ve updated my page to point to the new ones. broken: No DNS resolution.

dreieck 2021-12-29

Commenting on: Meditation risks, safety, goals, methods

You have some links to That server does (currently) not work (anymore), DNS resolution fails.

Since you seem to link to valuable comment: Can you somehow “repair” the links, pointing to other place(s) where that content is, maybe also to archived page(s) on The Wayback Machine?