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Bonpo and Nyingmapa Traditions of Dzogchen - Page 3
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Bonpo and Nyingmapa Traditions of Dzogchen
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The teachings of Bon revealed by Tonpa Shenrab are classified differently in the three traditional hagiographical accounts of his life. In general, Tonpa Shenrab was said to have expounded Bon in three cycles of teachings:

I. The Nine Successive Vehicles to Enlightenment (theg-pa rim dgu);
II. The Four Portals of Bon and the fifth which is the Treasury (sgo bzhi mdzod lnga); and
III. The Three Cycles of Precepts that are Outer, Inner, and Secret (bka' phyi nang gsang skor gsum).

These Nine Ways or Nine Successive Vehicles to Enlightenemnt are delineated according to three different systems of hidden treasure texts (gter-ma) that were put into concealment during the earlier persecutions of Bon and were rediscovered in later centuries. These treasure systems are designated according to the locations where the hidden treasure texts were discovered.
1. The System of the Southern Treasures (lho gter lugs): These were the treasure texts rediscovered at Drigtsam Thakar ('brig-mtsham mtha' dkar) in Southern Tibet and at Paro (spa-gro) in Bhutan. Here the Nine Ways are first divided in to the Four Causal Ways, which contain many myths and magical shamanistic rituals, and which are principally concerned with working with energies for worldly benefits. Then there are the five higher spiritual ways known as the Fruitional Ways. Here the purpose is not gaining power or insuring health and prosperity in the present world, but realization of the ultimate spiritual goal of liberation from the suffering experienced in the cycles of rebirth within Samsara. The final and ultimate vehicle found here in this nine-fold classification is that of Dzogchen. [25]
2. The System of the Central Trasures (dbus gter lugs): These treasure texts were rediscovered at various sites in Central Tibet, including the great Buddhist monastery of Samye. In general, this classification of the Bonpo teachings is rather similar to the system of the Nine Vehicles found in the traditions of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Some of these Bonpo texts are said to have been introduced from India into Tibet by the great native-born Tibetan translator Vairochana of Pagor, who translated works from both the Buddhist and the Bonpo traditions. [26]
3. The System of the Northern Treasures (byang gter lugs): These treasure texts were rediscovered at various locations north of Central Tibet. However, according to Lopon Tenzin Namdak, not much is currently known regarding this system. [27]

The Four Portals of Bon and the Treasury which is the fifth (bon sgo bzhi mdzod lnga) represent another and probably independent system for the classification of the Bonpo teachings into four groups known as the Four Portals (sgo bzhi), together with an appendix known as the Treasury (mdzod). These groups or classes of teachings are as follows:
1. The Bon of "the White Waters" containing the Fierce Mantras (chab dkar drag-po sngags kyi bon): This collection consists of esoteric Tantric practices focusing the recitation wrathful or fierce mantras (drag sngags) associated with various meditation deities. Within this class are included the Chyipung cycle or "General Collection" (spyi-spungs skor), that is to say, the practices associated with the Father Tantras (pha rgyud). [28]
2. The Bon of "the Black Waters" for the continuity of existence (chab nag srid-pa rgyud kyi bon): This collection consists of various magical rituals, funeral rites, ransom rites, divination practices, and so on, necessary for the process of purifying and counteracting negative energies. This collection would seem to correspond, by and large, to the Four Causal Ways described above. Here the term "black" refers not to the practitioner's intention, but to the expelling of negativities, which are black in color symbolically. 3. The Bon of the Extensive Prajnaparamita from the country of Phanyul ('phan-yul rgyas-pa 'bum gyi bon): This collection consists of the moral precepts, vows, rules, and ethical teachings for both monks and ordained lay people. In particular, the focus is on the philosophical and ethical system of the Prajnaparamita Sutras which are preserved in the Bonpo version in sixteen volumes known as the Khams-chen. This collection basically represents the Sutra system, whereas the Chab dkar represents the Tantra system. [29]

4. The Bon of the Scriptures and the Secret Oral Instructions of the Masters (dpon-gsas man-ngag lung gi bon): This collection consists of the oral instructions (man-ngag) and the written scriptures (lung) of the various masters (dpon-gsas) belonging to the lineages of transmission for Dzogchen. 5. The Bon of the Treasury which is of the highest purity and is all-inclusive (gtsang mtho-thog spyi-rgyug mdzod kyi bon): This collection contains essential material from all Four Portals of Bon. The Treasury which is the fifth (mdzod lnga) is decribed in the gZer-myig, "As for the highest purity (gtsang mtho-thog), it extends everywhere. As insight, it belongs to the Bon that is universal (spyi-gcod). It purifies the stream of consciousness in terms of all four Portals." [30}

The Three Cycles of Precepts that are Outer, Inner, and Secret (bka' phyi nang gsang skor gsum) are as follows:
1. The Outer Cycle (phyi skor) contains the Sutra system of teachings (mdo-lugs) relating to the Path of Renunciation (spong lam).
2. The Inner Cycle (nang skor) contains the Tantra system of teachings (rgyud-lugs) relating to the Path of Transformation (sgyur lam), otherwise known as the Secret Mantras (gsang sngags).
3. The Secret Cycle (gsang skor) contains the Upadesha teachings (man-ngag) relating to the Path of Self-Liberation (grol lam), otherwise known as Dzogchen, the Great Perfection.

3. New Bon (bon gsar-ma) arose since the fourteenth century, relying upon the discoveries of a different Terma system than the above. As a whole, this system is quite similar to the Nyingmapa one and here Padmasambhava is also regarded as an important figure. Indeed, some Tertons, such as Dorje Lingpa, discovered both Nyingmapa and Bonpo Termas. In a text such as the Bon-khrid, rediscovered by Tsewang Gyalpo, it is asserted that Padmasambhava went to Uddiyana and received the Dzogchen teachings directly from the Sambhogakaya Shenlha Odkar (gShen-lha 'od-dkar) himself. Later he transmitted these teachings in Tibet, concealing many of them as Termas meant for the use of the future generations of Bonpos. According to Shardza Rinpoche also, the New Bon Movement began in the fourteenth century and continues until today. The Termas revealed to such masters as Lodan Nyingpo, Mizhik Dorje (otherwise known as Dorje Lingpa), Kundrol Dragpa, Dechen Lingpa, Sang-ngag Lingpa, Khandro Dechen Wangmo, and so on, are all considered Tersar (gter-gsar) or recent treasure text discoveries. The New Bon has flourished mainly in Eastern Tibet. [31]

The Origin of Dzogchen

Just as in the case of the Nyingmapas among the Tibetan Buddhists, the Bonpo tradition possesses as its highest teaching the system of contemplation known as Dzogchen, "the Great Perfection," (rdogs-pa chen-po). These teachings reveal in one's immediate experience the Primordial State (ye gzhi) of the individual, that is to say, the individual's inherent Buddha-nature or Bodhichitta, which is beyond all time and conditioning and conceptual limitations. This Natural State (gnas-lugs) is spoken of in terms of its intrinsic primordial purity (ka-dag) and its spontaneous perfection in manifestation (lhun-grub). Both the Buddhist Nyingmapas and the Bonpos assert that their respective Dzogchen traditions were brought to Central Tibet in the eighth century, the Nyingmapa transmission from the Mahasiddha Shrisimha in living in Northern India and the Bonpo transmission from a line of Mahasiddhas dwelling around Mount Kailas and the lake country of Zhang-zhung to the west and north of Tibet. Thus there appear to exist two different historically authentic lineages for the transmission of these teachings.

Subsequently, the Nyingmapa transmission of the Dzogchen precepts was brought to Central Tibet principally due to the activities of three teachers: the great Tantric master Padmasambhava from the country of Uddiyana, the Mahasiddha and Mahapandita Vimalamitra from India, and the native-born Tibetan translator Vairochana of Pagor. According to tradition, the latter came originally from a Bonpo family. [32] It is said that he and Vimalamitra were responsible for the first translations of the texts belonging to the Semde (sems-sde) or "Mind Series" and the Longde (klong-sde) or "Space Series" of Dzogchen teachings. However, some scholars, both Tibetan and Western, dispute that Vairochana actually made the many translations attributed to him. [33] Moreover, some contemporary scholars assert that the Dzogchen Tantras, which represent the literary sources for the Dzogchen teachings, were actually fabricated in the tenth century by certain unnamed unscrupulous Bonpo and Nyingmapa Lamas who then anachronistically attributed them to earlier numinous figures like Padmasambhava and Tapihritsa in order to win their acceptance as authentic scriptures. They therefore represent a kind of Buddhist and Bonpo Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Modern critics cite the fact that, with the exception of two short Dzogchen texts, the Rig-pa'i khu-byug and the sBas-pa'i sgum-chung, the texts of the Dzogchen Tantras have not been found in the Tun Huang library on the borders of Western China, which was sealed in the tenth century. But simply noting that these texts were not discovered at Tun Huang does not prove that they did not exist elsewhere at the time or that they must have been composed after the closing of that library. On the basis of the extant evidence and in view of the lack of a thorough analysis of all the texts in question, it would appear that this conclusion unwarranted. [34]

It has also been asserted by some scholars that Padmasambhava, although he may have been an actual historical figure, certainly did not teach Dzogchen, but only the Tantric system of the sGrub-pa bka' brgyad, the practices of the eight Herukas or wrathful meditation deities. This system forms the Sadhana Section (sgrub-sde) of Mahayoga Tantra. [35] However, eminent Nyingmapa Lama-scholars, such as the late Dudjom Rinpoche, reply that although Padmasambhava may not have taught Dzogchen as an independent vehicle to enlightenment, he did indeed teach it as an Upadesha (man-ngag), or secret oral instruction, to his immediate circle of Tibetan disciples. This private instruction concerned the practice of Dzogchen and the interpretation of the experiences arising from this practice of contemplation. In the context of the system of Mahayoga Tantra, Dzogchen is the name for the culminating phase of the Tantric process of transformation, transcending both the Generation Process (bskyed-rim) and the Perfection Process (rdzogs-rim). In this context, Dzogchen would correspond in some ways to the practice of Mahamudra in the New Tantra system (rgyud gsar-ma) of the other Tibetan schools. An old text, the Man-ngag lta-ba'i phreng-ba, traditionally attributed to Padmasambhava himself, does not treat Dzogchen as an independent vehicle (theg-pa, Skt. yana), but only as part of the system of the Higher Tantras. [36] When taught as an independent vehicle, Dzogchen practice does not require any antecedent process of Tantric transformation of the practitioner into a deity, and so on, before entering into the state of even contemplation (mnyam-bzhag). [37] So it would appear that, according to the Nyingmapa tradition at least, Dzogchen originated as an Upadesha that elucidated a state of contemplation or intrinsic Awareness (rig-pa) that transcedended the Tantric process of transformation alone, both in terms of generation and of perfection. Therefore, it became known as the "great perfection," that is to say, the state of total perfection and completion where nothing is lacking.