The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen (Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy) Paperback – 1 Apr 2000
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Within Tibetan Buddhism, there is a little-known discipline called Dzogchen, the turbo path to liberation. In some traditions, the path to liberation extends over lifetimes of diligent practice, but Dzogchen is an accelerated way to self-perfection. After many years of formal study, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was initiated into this less formal practice, which is one of the highest, and yet most accessible, of Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Namkhai Norbu eventually made his way to Italy to teach, where John Shane transcribed and translated Namkhai Norbu's lectures, putting together what is now one of the most popular books on Dzogchen. Namkhai Norbu makes it clear that these teachings are not a handbook for practice but are instead an overview of dzogchen, notably, its three divisions--the base, the path and the fruit. The ultimate and immediate goal is to achieve the primordial state of non-dual awareness, the one taste, and to maintain it. With colourful anecdotes from his own experience (finding an ancient text manifest from a dream, for example, and visiting eccentric cave yogis), Namkhai Norbu's talks illustrate that dzogchen is not just theory but the way to a new, and almost incomprehensible, way of being. --Brian Bruya
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Direct, written teachings of Dzogchen seem to be highly concentrated and mind-blowing, for example "Self-Liberation through Seeing with Naked Awareness", an old text translated by John M. Reynolds and Norbu's own "The Mirror". Each of these texts is accompanied by less terse commentary. It seems to be the expectation that any student of Dzogchen would also receive instruction ("transmission") from a Dzogchen teacher, to account for individual differences between students and, presumably, to help clear up whatever confusion the written texts may have led to. Dzogchen seems to be a substantial challenge, said in not too many words but not unlikely leading to a wealth of questions. A book like this one, "The Crystal and the Way of Light", probably functions to lessen the intensity and make the teaching more comfortable, at least until one is ready to face the challenge of the core teaching.
Despite the formidable challenge of Dzogchen, it is a teaching that emphasizes relaxation and acceptance. I've had no personal instruction in Dzogchen and it may be for those who do it seems substantially less confusing and overwhelming than it has for me. Judging from the number of books by him and in which he has supplied commentary, Norbu seems to be doing a great deal to make Dzogchen more accessible. His Dzogchen Community has chapters around the world.
This book seems a good introduction to Dzogchen, which is a curious and perhaps contradictory mix of mindfulness (to the extreme) and magic (e.g. the rainbow body). The teaching seems well-packaged, with an emphasis on amazement.Read more ›
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The teachings are interwoven with delightful stories from the life of Norbu Rinpoche - his upbringing, education, relationship with his teachers, and events which occurred to him in later years. The stories give a flavour of the nature of transmission between Lama and disciple and encourage us to step outside of our conceptual boxes in which spirituality only occurs in a formal ritual context. The power of these stories lies in their ability to set Dzogchen in its traditional context, and yet allow it to be completely relevant to our lives today.
Readers familiar with the various standard phonetic methods for transcribing Tibetan terms will need to accustom themselves to the different spellings found in The Crystal and the Way of Light; however this should not discourage anyone from reading this excellent book.
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