About zen, dzogchen and attainments
>It’s encouraging that you say that one can get to the 6th bhumi with classic vipashyana practices. Am I correct in saying that after awakening people in the group could carry on with their shikantaza practice?
For example. If a teacher of zen-tradition is awakened they usually are around 2-3-4 bhumis, opened not perfected. Zen-master Hakuin talked of his 18 kenshos but he was one among few exceptions. I've never seen anyone explain his kenshos. He surely did not have the same kensho again and again! I am pretty sure he was talking about bhumi openings, although he didn't use that word because bhumi opening feels like being awakened inside the awakened state, it just gets subtler and subtler, clearer and clearer. Then on the other hand I know soto zen teachers, famous ones, who after several decades of practice haven't even had the initial insight, opened their 1st bhumi. This is reflected in the way how they talk and describe things. I don't think there is a zen-teacher alive today who really knows what Dogen was talking about. I hope there was but I haven't met one. When they "just sit", they are more or less stuck in alaya vijnana. Have seen this with my own eyes.
Almost all great theravada-masters are 6th bhumis, opened not perfected. They seem to get stuck at this stage. Maybe it has to do with their motivation, lack of including all beings. Compassion is the key in opening bodhisattva bhumis, at least until 8th bhumi which is the abode of Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion. Vajrayana teachers, those who practice themselves and are sincere, are usually on bodhisattva bhumis, opened not perfected. Then there are many teachers of the Tibetan tradition who might have big organisations, fancy titles and everything yet are low in their bhumis, if even awakened. Then rarely someone on mahasiddha bhumis pops up but these are very rare. It's even more rare to meet someone who has all 13 bhumis open and the lowest 6 perfected and hence is a fully attained arhat. To meet a living buddha, who has all bhumis perfected is close to non-existent in physical body but it's great that Amma is there. This is just a brief comment. I think serious practitioners should take this stuff seriously. Any practically applicable system that can shed light on the level of attainments, either one's own or others can only be useful and of help.
By classic vipashyana I mean following some theravadan or mahayanan exposition of vipashyana. No, this assumption is not correct, in my view. Shikantaza is atiyoga. It is dzogchen, from the kadag/emptiness/selflessness perspective. Shikantaza is not a ”practice” and certainly not a practice of the generation/vipashyana stage. I am sorry to say this but I've seen many from zen "just sit". But they don't just sit, except for very brief periods, like glimpses of split seconds here and there. It actually seems that many people start taking back steps with zen. You know, common people with steady lives and basic morals might spend more time in selfless awareness (although switching back and forth with self-based mode) than zen buddhists during the first couple of decades of practice because the poor instructions become a barrier. They are given poorly analysed ways of practice. I've seen whole sanghas sit in the mud. By mud I am referring to alaya vijnana, substrate consciousness often talked about by dzogchen -masters. No real clarity. I am really sad to say this but that is how it is. There is no point to sit and sit and sit endless hours if you don't know what you're doing. I did so for over 20 000 hours. People rant and are in love with the idea of the natural state and ”just sitting” but they don't know what it means. They don't. No clue. So sorry to say this but I am just trying to help.
Someone wrote: "My first buddhist teacher was Kobun Chino Roshi. In one class, someone asked him how to get closer to his lineage or more involved with his lineage. His answer was to look into dzogchen." Another zen-teacher called John Denko Mortensen, who took up dzogchen after becoming a zen-teacher, said, "While zen-masters say weird things, dzogchen-people actually explain things". His excitement of a very different pedagogy in dzogchen which apparently was new to him, was audible.
The point is that one needs to know a whole bunch of things to really make progress on the path. One needs to understand the mechanisms, how the mind works, what the elements are and have a cataloque of various practices to be able to make progress. We need to acknowledge that when we are at the foot of the mountain or at the side of the mountain, we are NOT at the top of the mountain. Dzogchen-masters like Longchenpa make this perfectly clear. One needs to practice vipashyana, in one form or the other. Without this knowledge it is unrealistic to speak of "attaing buddhahood in this life". Entirely unrealistic. Dzogchenpas such as Jigme Lingpa, have been clear about the difference of the subtle mud one can sit in for decades thinking that it is awareness or rigpa. I know such cases who spent decades sitting, doing retreats every month all year around, and yet their practice was subtly coloured. Some clarity, yes, but not abiding at home, still travelling. One needs to know the difference of samsara and nirvana, to able to go beyond both.
>To really do atiyoga practices, does one really need a teacher qualified in these and a lot of preparatory insightful investigation?
- One thing I know for certain: One needs to get awakened asap and then open the consecutive bhumis up till 11th. Then you know what atiyoga is. 9th bhumi seems to be some sort of a turning point to most but as 11th is the first mahasiddha bhumi, it isn't until then when you really know it and live it, without the need to do this or that all the time to fix attention or remove something.
That question of a qualified teacher is a tricky one. I am saying this with respect to all concerned. A particular rinpoche who is considered one of the greatest dzoghen masters alive today, said last August (or July) in webcast that "during activity his rigpa-state lasts for 3 seconds at a time". He said this as a response to some people who came to him and claimed to be in rigpa 24/7.
According to my bhumi analysis of him, his bhumi is 10, so he hasn't yet opened his first ms bhumi. From my own experience, and that of my teacher colleagues, I can testify that during the terrain of 9th-10th bhumis it was precisely like that: a few seconds of rigpa and then something else and then a few secs of rigpa again. This changes when hitting 11th. But the questions was about qualified teachers. Thousands of people worldwide from the Dalai Lama to many followers say that the rinpoche in question is a "dzogchen master". He is a great authority on dzogchen. A reality check is needed here. He can not be a master of rigpa as he comes in and out so markedly, according to his own words. It doesn't make sense, does it? There really is a need for some profound reality checks in vajrayana buddhism and dzogchen.