The Dzogchen Tradition Teachings – A parallel with the S.D. Cosmogenesis

By Jacques Mahnich on February 17, 2016 at 10:10 pm

The Theosophical Teachings have been identified as linked to the Northern Buddhist scriptures, and at the same time not being Buddhist Teachings (David Reigle’s recent article – Theosophy and Buddhism – printed in Studies in the Wisdom Tradition – Eastern School Press, 2015). Many important differences are observed between the two traditions. One hypothesis has been proposed to reconcile them : that the Buddhism which is presented in the Theosophical teachings is a pre-Buddha Shakyamuni Buddhism tradition, i.e. which existed thousand of years before the Buddha of our era. The substantiation of this claim remains to be published. The history of Tibetan Buddhism, a tradition which was imported from India in the 7th century of our era with the arrival of Guru Rinpoche (Padma Sambhava) in Tibet, reveals many different lineages of teachers and teachings. The main ones are known as the Nyingmapas, the Sakyapas, the Kargyutpas, and the Gelugpas. A fifth one, which was ostracized and almost extincted in Tibet at their time was the Jonangpas, which David considered recently as maybe the closest possible corpus of teachings, specially vis-a-vis the Theosophical fundamental propositions (see The Doctrinal Position of the Wisdom Tradition : Great Madhyamaka). Part of the differences to be reconciled are linked to the cosmogenesis of human beings and cycles (modes of birth and races).

Among these five traditions, there is one which has not really being deeply researched among theosophists : the so-called “red-hat”, the Nyingma tradition. The main reason being probably the strong statement of HPB, considering them as no more than sorcerers (dugpas). Most of the scholars of the 19th century had also this opinion that their teachings was totally degraded by a mixing with the local tradition pre-Guru Rinpoche (Bön). But this tradition has a corpus of doctrine which deserves some of our attention. A good starting point would be the History & Fundamentals of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, written by Dudjom Rinpoche. Many root texts are now surfacing in Western language translation, like the Guhyagarbha Tantra (2011).

Inside the Nyingma Tradition there are 9 teachings corpus which are considered as different steps on the ladder of spirituality, to culminate with what is called the Ati-Yoga or Dzogchen Teachings.

These teachings support some uncommon ideas which have some parallel with Theosophy. Let’s explore it a little bit.

Dzogchen, an abbreviation of Dzogpa Chenpo, is a Tibetan term that means total completion, or perfection… Dzogchen is one of the various names, and currently best known together with atiyoga, or “yoga of primordial knowledge” (gdod ma’i rnal ‘byor)…

The traditional texts assert that the promulgation of the Dzogchen teachings is not limited to the human world. For example, the tantra The All-surpassing Sound (sGra thal ‘gyur) explains that it is found in no less than thirteen solar systems (thal ba) as well as our own, and describes minutely, albeit cryptically, the location of these worlds and the characteristics of the beings that inhabit them1. Much better known, on the other hand, is the tradition that states that Garab Dorje (the first teacher of Dzogchen Teachings) was preceded by twelve teachers (ston pa bcu gnyis), described in the texts as nirmanakayas of the primordial Buddha Vajradhara.”

Note : The most ancient reference to the tradition of the twelve teachers (ston pa bcu gnyis) is found in the tantra Rig pa rang shar2, but the first source to list the names of the twelve teachers together with the teachings they transmitted, etc., seems to be the Lo rgyus rin po che’i mdo byang, a chapter of the Bi ma snying thig contained in the g.Yu yig can section3

The following is a short description of the different periods of existence where the twelve teachers appeared : (Source : Kunjed Gyalpo Tantra – The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde ; Namkhai Norbu/Adriano Clemente)

1) At the time when the life span was incalculable, in the divine dimension called Gaden Tsegpa (Joyous Pagoda), all beings had bodies of light composed of the substance of the elements. They were born miraculously, did not wear clothes, and shone by their own light. To transmit the teaching to them, Buddha Vajradhara manifested as a white, eight-year-old child. His name was Khyeu Nangwa Mikhyappa (Supreme Child Inconceivable Vision).

2) …Thus came the epoch when the life span was ten million years. In the dimension called Sahâ the beings were now born from five-colored eggs composed of the substance of the elements. They were perfectly endowed with the senses and all the limbs, and were vigorous as sixteen-year-old youths. Tall as arrows, they were dressed in leaves and surrounded by a luminous aura. They all had miraculous powers and few passions, did not encounter material obstacles, and their food was of the substances of the four elements. Buddha Khyeu Wöd Mitruppa (Child Imperturbable Light) manifestyed as one of them.

3)… and the life span shortened further to one hundred thousand years. At that time, beings born from heat and humidity fell victim to the first illness, caused by the imbalance of the elements, and started to eat plants. In a place called Trödsher Düpa Wödkyil Pungpa (Mass of Light that Gathers Humidity) there was born among them Buddha Jigpa Kyoppai Yid (Mind that Protects from Fear).

4) The life span became even shorter, and the passions were becoming ever stronger. Beings’ bodies lost their light and thus the sun and the moon appeared. When the average life span had become eighty thousand years, because of desire and attachment the sexual organs sprouted forth,… and finally beings coupled and procreated… In that epoch, in the place called Chagjung Ngaldu Nangwa (Apparition in the Womb of Conception), Buddha Zhönnu Rolpa Nampar Tsewa (Young Manifestation of Compassion) was born from the uterus, like everybody else, in the form of a ten-year-old child.

5) When the average life span became sixty thousand years, in the dimension of the Thirty-three Gods, the Buddha Sixth Vajradhara was born as a divine Bodhisattva. In the enchanting garden of the Young Doctor (Tsho byed gzhon nu) he transmitted to the seven heroic Buddhas of our epoch teachings on the six, three, and eighteen paramitas that embraces methods both with and without effort, including the tantras of Dzogpa Chenpo. After having remained among the devas for seventy-five years, he entered parinirvâna where he was absorbed in samadhi for seven thousand years.

6) After seven thousand years he reawakened, and moved by compassion towards beings, he was reborn as the son of a yaksa and a fierce dâkini in the dimension of the Cemetery of the Secret Manifestation in the terrifying place of the yaksas northeast of Mount Meru… His name was Zhönnu Pawo Tobden (Young Powerful Hero). He taught to the seven Bodhisattvas the Tantra of the Spontaneous State of Pure Presence (Rig pa rang shar) and other tantras4. He remained among them for a thousand years, and he entered parinirvana. He remained in samadhi for one hundred thousand years.

7) When the average life span had become ten thousand years, he reawakened from his samadhi and was reborn in the dimension of the râksasas on earth. He was called Trangson Tröpai Gyalpo (Wise Wrathful King) and he transmitted the “ten tantras to subjugate gross negativities” and other teachings5. At the end of his life he became reabsorbed in samadhi. He remained so for fifty thousand years.

8) The average life span became five thousand years, and in the place on this earth called Vulture Peak he was reborn in a royal family and was named Ser Wöd Tampa (Supreme Golden Light)… He transmitted the Vinaya and Prajnaparamita teachings to countless shravakas.

9) When the average life span became one thousand years, in the land called Yui Minmachen (With Turquoise Eyebrows) in northern Mongolia, Tsewe Rolpai Lodrö (Intelligence Manifestation of Compassion) was born. To his disciples, he transmitted the “seven special tantras”, including The All-creating King (Kun byed rgyal po) and Total Space (Nam mkha’ che)6. He remained there one hundred and twenty years.

10) When the average life span became five hundred years, from the world of the Thirty-three Gods, Buddha Kâsyapa the Elder chose to take birth in the human world to alleviate the suffering of old age. So in the place called Vulture Peak, he gave many teachings, including the anuyoga scriptures to seven disciples who had taken on the form of arhats. He remained there seventy-five years and then went to practice asceticism for seven years. At the end of his life, he left no mortal remains; dissolving into a body of light.

11) When the average life span became three hundred years Buddha Ngöndzog Gyalpo (Perfected King), the son of a brahmin expert in the Vedas, was born at Vajrasana (Bodhgaya). To the Bodhisattvas Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, and Vajrapani he transmitted all the teachings regarding the real conditions and other tantras. After having taught for twenty-five years, he entered parinirvana manifesting the ordinary signs of death in order to display to his disciples of lower capacity the truth of the suffering of birth, old age, sickness, and death.

12) When the average life span became one hundred years, Buddha Sakyamuni was born as the son of King Suddhodana. At Varanasi and other places he taught the four noble truths and the diverse gradual paths and accomplished twelve great deeds.

In this way, the primordial Buddha took on twelve forms in order to transmit the teaching in accordance with the infinite conditions and capacities of beings. (end of quote)


So, we have here references to various modes of human birth, cycles based on human life duration, and reference to the primordial Buddha (Adi-Buddha or Samantabhadra). He is described as : “Without beginning, middle or end, and indivisible, It is neither two, nor three, taintless and without thought.” (Supreme Continuum of the Greater Vehicle – Ch. 2, v.58ab).

Notes :

1Sgra thal ‘gyur (Rin po che ‘byung bar byed pa sgra thal ‘gyur chen po’i rgyud), in rNying ma’i rgyud bcu bdun, vol.I, pp. 1-205, Delhi 1973

2Rig pa rang shar chen po’i rgyud, in rNyinm ma’i rgyud bcu bdun, vol. I, pp. 389-855, Delhi 1989

3Lo rgyus rin po che’i mdo byang, belonging to the g.Yu yig can section of the Bi ma sNying thig, part two (Ja), pp. 162-233. In sNying thig ya bzhi, edited by Klong chen pa (Klong chen rab ‘byams pa) (1308-1363), vol. 8, Delhi 1971

4The Ma rig mun sel specifies that he taught the father tantra as the outer teaching, the mother tantras as the inner teaching, the Rig pa rang shar as the secret teaching, and the ‘Khor ‘das rang grol as the supreme teaching.

5Among the ten tantras to subjugate gross negativities (rags pa ‘dul ba’i rgyud bcu) the Ma rig mun sel mentions the tantras of Hayagriva, of Vajrakilaya, of Yamantaka, of Ekajati, etc.

6Although it does not mention the “seven special tantras” (phra bdun rgyud), the Ma rig mun sel quotes, among others, the following titles : Kun byed rgyal po, Khu dbyug rol pa, Sems lung chen mo, Kun tu bzang po che ba rang la gnas pa, Nam mkha’ che, Chub pas rol pa, Ye shes mchog, ‘Khor lo gcod pa, Thig le bra rgyud, ‘Bar ba chen po, Nor bu phra bkod.

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  • Nicholas says:

    In the Voice the usage of Alaya is suggestive of Dzogchen. Even the meaning of the ‘Two Paths’ may have a Dzogchen depth.
    “The two paths lead to the two different results of samsara and nirvana. There is the path of consciousness, which leads to the fruition of samsaric appearances and suffering, and the path of wisdom, which leads to the fruition of enlightenment that is the result of freedom from samsara.
    In other words, there are two paths connected to the two different aspects of the alaya. The first path is called the alayavijnana, which does not recognize its own basic state, its own manifestations. The second path is the alayajnana, which recognizes its own face, its own manifestations.”
    From Penetrating Wisdom, 49-50; Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

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