An Illiterate Attains Rainbow Body
When I went to my master Changchub Dorje, I was educated up to the hilt in the intellectual sense. My mind was filled with everything I'd learned in the monastic colleges. I thought that to receive transmission of the teachings, elaborate ritual initiations were essential and I asked Changchub Dorje to give me a certain initiation. I asked him every day for days and days, but he always refused.
'What's the use?' he'd say. 'You've already received so many of those initiations from your other masters; initiations like that are not the principle of the Dzogchen teachings. Transmission isn't only received in formal initiations.' But no matter what he said, I remained fixed on the kind of perfectly performed ritual initiations other masters had always given me. I wasn't satisfied with his replies, and I wanted him to put on a special hat, prepare a mandala, and pour a little water on my head, or something like that. That was what I really, sincerely wanted; but he always continued to refuse.
Finally, I insisted so much that he at last agreed. He promised that about two months later, on the day of Padmasambhava, the tenth day of the Tibetan lunar month1, he would give me the initiation I wanted, the empowerment of Samantabhadra and the peaceful and wrathful divinities of the Bardo. This initiation is actually not very complicated, and a master skilled in such things
could have completed it very quickly. But Changchub Dorje had never received a formal education, and he was not used to giving initiations. When the long-awaited day finally came, the initiation took him from about nine in the morning till midnight. To begin with, he had to prepare himself by performing a rite of self-initiation. This took him until mid-day to complete. Then he began the initiation for me. But, not being formally educated, not only couldn't he read the text himself, but on top of that I could see that he didn't know how to do all the ritual things he was supposed to do. He wasn't that kind of a master.
So Changchub Dorje had a disciple present as an assistant who was himself an expert teacher, and it was he who prepared all the mandalas and ritual objects. Then this disciple began to read the text to tell the master what he had to do next. But when he read out that a certain mudra, or gesture, should be done by the master giving the initiation, Changchub Dorje didn't know how to do it, so they had to stop while he learned it. Then there was a whole long invocation that was supposed to be chanted, invoking all the masters of the lineage, and while chanting it, the master is supposed to sound a bell and a damaru, or small drum. Someone who is used to rituals can perform all this very quickly, but Changchub Dorje wasn't used to such things, and the whole situation became outrageous, a complete farce.
First of all he worked out with his assistant what was written in the notes to the text. 'Ah!' he said. 'It says here that you have to sound the bell!' So he took the bell, and for about five minutes all he did was sound it over and over again. Then it was read out to him that you have to sound the damaru. So he sounded the little drum over and over for about another five minutes. Then he suddenly said: 'Oh, now I see! You have to sound the bell and damaru together!' So he did that. But by then he had forgotten what it was that he was supposed to chant, so he had to go through it all again with the help of the disciple who could read.
Changchub Dorje himself hadn't had the kind of education that involves study, but was a practitioner who had manifested wisdom and clarity through the development of his practice, and it was because of this wisdom and clarity that he was considered to be a master. So he hadn't received the kind of monastic training that would have prepared him to give all the various kinds of formal empowerment, and he stumbled through the initiation he gave me taking all day and a good deal of the evening to do it. By the time he had finished, I was almost in a state of shock, as, given my own background, I knew very well how an initiation should be done, and it was nothing like this.
But by then it was nearly midnight, and we were all very hungry. We sang the Song of the Vajra together many times. This is a short, slow, anthemic chant, characteristic of the way Dzogchen works with ritual, that leads the practitioner into contemplation through integration with its actual sound, the structure of its syllables and melody ensuring deep, relaxed breathing. Then we recited a short Gana Puja offering, and we ate. After the meal the master gave me a real explanation of the true meaning of initiation and transmission, and I realized that despite all the formal initiations I had received at my college, I had never understood or entered into the true meaning of them.
Then, without interruption, for about three or four hours, Changchub Dorje gave me a real explanation of Dzogchen, not teaching me in an intellectual style, but talking to me in a very straightforward and relaxed, friendly, conversational way. Despite all my education, this was the first time a master had really made such a direct attempt to get me to understand something. What he said, and the way that he said it, was exactly like a tantra of Dzogchen, spoken spontaneously, continuously aloud, and I knew that even a very learned scholar would not be able to speak like that. Changchub Dorje was speaking from clarity and not just from an intellectual understanding.
Copied from Crystal and the Way of Light by Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche.
Nyala Rinpoche led a community of Dzogchen practitioners in Nyalagar in the Dedrol area of Kham. He attained the rainbow body. Copied from here.