Four doorways to home (rigpa)
Five years ago I wrote a book called Four Houses of Enlightenment which is an explanation of the so called four dantiens (ch. dantien, jap. tanden) known from Taoism (and it's various practices), and their relation to natural awareness (rigpa). Since then, my understanding of these four doorways has changed and developed. This text is a concise version of this topic.
Inside the space of the physical body there are three (non-physical) areas that act as doorways to natural awareness. I like to call this natural awareness, or rigpa, simply as ”home” because that is what it is, our home as clear, calm, loving and knowing awareness, devoid of me, yet having a will.
Each of these doorways are areas about the size of one's own fist. First is at the lower belly, slightly under the level of the navel, deep in the gut. Second is deep inside the chest and is sometimes referred to as the ”spiritual heart”. Third is inside the head at the level of the eyes. Fourth is not inside the body (and is not the size of one's fist) but relates to the three highest of the seven chakra-centers above the head. These three chakras also relate to what in Open Heart Bhumi Model are known as mahasiddha bhumis. Through all four of these one can access home, if the instructions are correct. I say that the instructions need to be correct because there are many teachings that basicly teaches about this and yet doesn't.
The way how one can use any of the doorways is to bring one's attention to the mentioned location and just be openly aware of what happens in one's body and mind. The doorways are sort of like balls or bubbles that one's awareness has to penetrate and unite with. This is something that cannot be done with force, but rather with gentle attention. The way how you know ”you're in” is that seeking, questioning and selfing stops. Your mind becomes clear, lucid and subtle brimming with life. At first it will be short moments until it grows on you but even short moments make a difference.
In the beginning it doesn't matter which door you choose as your main doorway. Essentially all the doors ”get you to the same location” even though they have subtle distinguishing characters as well. In the long run, I feel, it is importat not to get stuck in using only one doorway because this has the potential pitfall of onesided interpretation.
The four doorways are not four separate things, but one underlying whole. As is taught in orthodox dzogchen, there is one special energy channel (tib. kati, skt. amrita nadi*) that goes from the eye balls to the crown and to heart, similarly there are these four doorways. These doorways are not ”made of” ordinary energy channels but of extraordinary ones that are beyond cause and effect. These areas do not store karmas but are ever pure and clear. They are doorways to home for anyone. And everyone is invited.
*according to Machig Labdron
When we are talking about these four doorways, we are really talking about the most profound essence of all yogas. This is the teaching of great perfection or dzogchen. There is nothing more profound than this.
About two years ago I was taught a series of meditation practices by mahasiddha Vimalamitra. This series is known by the name of Wisdom Meditations or Vimalamitra sem dzin in Open Heart-teachings. We have an ongoing 3-year meditation course that focuses on these practices.
However, I have to admit that regarding the mentioned first doorway, I didn't understand it until very recently. You see, the way I understood this doorway was how it is cultivated and applied in Japanese rinzai zen buddhism. I trained in that tradition for a couple of years back in the day and always remained a big ”tanden” or ”hara” fan. However, at some point I started to feel that essentially it is mistaken to teach about the energetic tautness of the lower belly or hara because then one is really stil working with the ordinary channels and energetic sensations arising from them. I feel that the way it, gut practice, has originally been in zen buddhism must have been the way I am presenting it here but whether this is historically true or not doesn't make a difference. When going in through the doorway of the gut, there is no tautness and there is no need to cultivate or build a ”strong hara” with special kind of body posturing and breathing techniques as the Japanese traditions say. One is not working with ordinary pranic energies here. Therefore, I feel, that at some point in history some mistakes lurked in into zen buddhism and probably taoism also. But gee... The zen-priests of the ancient times must have been amazing if they applied the gut-door the right way. You know, zen-people sit hours and hours on end on daily basis. This cannot but have a great and tasty fruit.
Regarding the second and third doorways it is necessary to emphasize that they are not the heart and forehead chakras that are commonly known. These two centers, again, are made of ordinary channels and therefore they don't do so well as doorways. If you are working with the ordinary channels, you mind keeps busy with thoughts, forms and lights and there is no profound clarity of home. In both cases one has to go deep inside the body to access them. Deep inside the chest, deep inside the head.
Fourth of these doorways is a bit more tricky to locate because the mentioned centers are high above one's crown, floating high up there. It is not impossible but one needs to have very good concentration and attention skills to be able to differentitate between the higher centers. But a simple and functional way to do go in through this door is to relax, open up and surrender to it. Tibetan Heart Yoga has techniques for this, as well, but essentially all one needs to do is to surrender to the rain that falls on you.
Here, as with all doorways, it is important to recognise the three characteristics: 1. calmness and clarity, 2. aliveness, lovingness, compassion and 3. knowingness, cognizance that is selfless.
So there. I hope you found this useful.