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Dzogchen's Four Great Modes Of Liberation

taiyakitaiyaki Veteran
edited January 2012 in Buddhism Basics
Primordial Liberation

When a moment of passion arises in a vivid and sharp manner, the nature of that passion is primordially liberated. In this sense, "primordial" refers to the ground, to the fundamental state of emptiness of that passion. At the moment when passion arises, it is already in the state of selflessness, or shunyata. Its nature has never been tainted by any trace of samsaric confusion. It is already free from concepts; therefore, it is primordially and utterly free. We do not need to re-create that ground of emptiness, because it is already there. That basic state is simply a brilliant experience of unceasing clarity. That is primordial liberation.


With regard to self-liberation, that vivid passion is not liberated by anything outside of itself. Like a snake that simply uncoils itself from its own knot, passion returns to its natural state independent of any external antidotes. It is self-liberated. It is already in the nature of transcendence, of rigpa, the true nature of mind. Even in the relative sense, passion arises, changes constantly and ceases by itself. As much as we may desire to solidify and hold on to it for another moment, it will not stay. That is why, from the Vajrayana perspective, it is taught that we cannot purify or transform passion except through passion itself. This is also the meaning of self-liberation.

Naked Liberation

Naked liberation occurs when the mind observes itself. When passion arises and we look at it nakedly and straightforwardly, we do not see anything that truly exists in a substantial way. The bare experience of passion is simply the "isness" quality that is left when we look at passion without concepts. It is called naked liberation because when we look nakedly and directly at the passionate mind, that very process of looking liberates the experience of passion. The true nature of rigpa is naturally free from the dualistic experience of consciousness. In the absence of our solid concepts, there remains a sense of vivid energy and movement, like the flickering of a flame. That vibrant, radiant quality shows us the actual insubstantial nature of mind, which is not what we generally experience in our mundane, relative world. That is what we call naked liberation.

Complete Liberation

Complete liberation occurs when passion is further liberated as mind observes the experience of passion again and again. In the first moment of the arising of passion, we look at it directly, and it liberates itself. In the second moment, we look directly again and it liberates itself further. As we continue to look nakedly and straightforwardly at this world of passion, moment after moment, it liberates itself further and further, or more completely. This method needs to be applied repeatedly and in short sessions. In this way, we can see that the essence of rigpa does not abide in any of the three times-past, present, future-and is perfectly free. This process is similar to working with "the watcher" in shamatha practice. The watcher is the self-conscious aspect of mind that participates in our practice as an "observer." When we look at the watcher, it dissolves. Then it returns again, and we look it, and it dissolves again. Eventually, the watcher does not return. That is complete liberation.

Fundamentally, these are the instruction on the nature of mind and how we look at it. As far as primordial liberation is concerned, it is important to look without artifice of further fabrication. For self-liberation, it is important to look without engaging too much in concepts and mental discernments, such as labeling thoughts "good" or "bad." At certain times it is necessary to engage conceptual mind, or to apply analysis, and at other times it is important to withdraw from that activity. Knowing the right time for each is what we call skillful means. When you are actually in a session of Dzogchen or Mahamudra meditation, it is important to disengage completely from all movements of conceptual mind and simply rest. For naked liberation, it is important to observe the nature of mind while resting naturally. Whatever arises, let it rest in its own place. For complete liberation, it is necessary to go through all the stages of the path and their meditation practices. Therefore, the pointing-out instructions for these practices become essential. These should be received directly from your individual teacher, a master who holds the genuine lineage transmission of those teachings.

-from the book, "mind beyond death" by Dzogchen Ponlop


  • i thought you wrote all of this until the last line

    thought you had something great going on ;)

    anyway thanks for the text, it helped me today.
  • ZeroZero Veteran
    Thank you
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