Dzogchen: Bon

Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 2/17/15 7:47 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/1/15 12:06 PM

Dzogchen: Bon

Posts: 22 Join Date: 2/1/15 Recent Posts
I've an eclectic background in the Dharma and the most comprehensively integrated set of theory and practice that I've encountered come from the Bon teachings of Geshe Tenzin Wangyal.

I'm interested in the possibility of discussing these teachings from a more open perspective than would be possible within the constraints of a teacher's sangha that's more focused on receiving those specific teachings (as opposed to more independent exploration and integration of anything that works).

As I'm not really sure if this is an appropriate venue, I'd like to experiment with this a bit and I'd welcome any feedback.

With Metta,
T DC, modified 9 Years ago at 2/1/15 3:53 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/1/15 3:53 PM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Sounds interesting!  Do you have any specific questions, or a source?

Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 2/2/15 10:09 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/2/15 9:53 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Perhaps I'd better say a bit more?

What first caught my eye was something about the mythological aspects of Bon that I found in Unbounded Wholeness: Dzogchen, Bon, and the Logicof the Nonconceptual (Anne Carolyn Klein and Tenzin Wangyal).

I'd been contemplating the balance between the direct (nondual) and the progressive, (practice-based/dualistic) approaches to happiness (i.e.the ending of suffering/stress) and the importance of spiritual belief systems and archetypal mythology to psychological wellbeing.

Coming from a western background and having a childhood saturated with Greek mythology, I find it difficult and unnecessary to buy into the eastern mythology that seems to be a vital component of Hindu/Tibetan Buddhist/BuddhistDharma. For some people, these religious components are very important but for others they can also be seen in a less concrete way. To recycle a common analogy: if you want to enjoy the film, you need to balance your belief/disbelief appropriately.

Furthermore, there are some things within these teachings about which I remain completely skeptical. The centrality of a belief in the actual physical dissolution of the body at death being a good example of something that I feel is an absolute barrier to a complete nondual realisation.

Despite several of these apparent deal-breakers, I view much of the theory and many of the actual practices of this system to be the most insightful and useful that I've encountered to date and that Tenzin Wangyal is an outstanding example of metta in action (although perhaps not Self-realised himself).

In replying to you I went back to Amazon and noticed this review, which is, I think, fair.

Good root text but overly philosophical/difficult commentary

This is a translation/commentary of"Authenticity of Open Awareness"--a Bon 8th c. Dzogchen(Dz) terma (discovered treasure--like the Dead Sea Scrolls). BonDzogchen is like Tibetan Nyingma Buddhist Dz; p. 308: "Bon &Dharma differ only in terms of their disciples; their meaning isinseparable, a single essence." The fine Preface discussesrelationships among consciousness, cultural development, myths, &logic--p. viii: "logic alone cannot authenticate wholeness &it need not," p. 7: "Open awareness cannot validly orarithmetically be known conceptually," & p. 34: "Theultimate is...`immune to logic.'" This appropriately limits thevalue/applicability of rationalism epistemology (way ofknowing/believing) as p. x: "The intended readers of this workwere practitioners as well as scholars." But most of the book iscommentary (287 pp. vs. 88 of root text) with some fineobservations--p. 154: "Authentic scriptures are the directexpression from--not about--reality," p. 157: "God becomesGod when creation says God, observed Master Eckhart," p. 171:"Tibetan literature has not been thematized along the lines offact & fiction, & p. 182: "'Authenticity' can be read asa story of language." The authors provide web sites p. 332:comparing similar texts & history but say p. 146: "At thisstage of our knowledge, we remain embarrassingly speculative."They elaborate on differences between insiders' (emic) &outsiders' (etic) views but overlook Jeffrey Rubin's Eurocentric vs.Orientocentric views ("Psychotherapy & Buddhism"). Theysay p. 162: "Reason is the fulcrum on which objectivity turns"w/o identifying it as the epistemology of rationalism (though using"epistemology" ad nauseam). But, science utilizesempiricism/data & rationalism/theory as checks/balances whilePhilosophy (rationalistic logic) lacks self-regulation. Most of thecommentary is extremely academic, philosophical, boring, &difficult reading. The best part is its fine Tantra/Sutra quotationse.g. pp. 121-2: "Mirror of Miraculous Primordial WisdomSutra--Even the 84,000 afflictions are without ultimate production orcessation, hence the 3 poisons are neither abandoned, transformed,nor purified"--strongly differentiating Dz from other Vajrayanavehicles.The root text relies onscripture=tradition/authority, direct perception=phenomenologicalempiricism, & logic=rationalism epistemologies. To the authors'credit, p. 229 note 66: "Here & elsewhere some liberties aretaken with line arrangements for a more felicitous presentation inEnglish" & p. 230 note 68: "As elsewhere, poeticlicense permits loose translation of non-technical terms." It isa dialog of Objections & Responses. The former IMHO are at alower Level of Abstraction than the latter, like a Rinzai Zen Master(Response) & student (Objection) koan-like interview--a teachingmode more than a defense of Dz. The Objections have incorrectassumptions (see Elgin's "The Gentle Art of VerbalSelf-Defense"). The first ½ of the text is more philosophical &difficult reading, but the 2nd ½ is far better--e.g. p. 245:"According to the Mindnature or Great Completeness system,objects are not included within mind...Therefore, we are not likethe...followers of Madhyamika tenets" & per p. 280 note 317:"Madhyamika logic depends very much on the idea that if youaccept one thing, you have to reject its opposite" per theObjections. This is an exclusive OR vs. inclusive OR (where a bothcondition is allowed e.g. exclusive OR parent: "Do you wantwaffles or eggs for breakfast?" Inclusive OR child, "yes"or "both"). Dz is inclusive & rejects pervasive,ingrained assumptions: p. 279: "Scripture of the BlissfulSamantabhadra--Like a caterpillar ensnared in the thread it unravels,through the main & ancillary vows & so forth, thoughts arise& bind one ever faster! Asceticism & holding vows counter theprinciple of completeness." Per Master Eckhart's quote above, p.269: `Song of Truth Sutra'--"Whatever the conventional nature,that itself is the ultimate meaning"--we make meaning (it'sconvention)--according with modern Knowledge Management, there's nomeaning in data or information, only in contextual knowledge. And, p.282: "If one does not have an eye for identifying jewels, theymight as well be ordinary rocks."
Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 2/3/15 9:43 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/3/15 9:42 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Victor: "Furthermore, there are some things within these teachings about which I remain completely skeptical. The centrality of a belief in the actual physical dissolution of the body at death being a good example of something that I feel is an absolute barrier to a complete nondual realisation."

In what way would this be a barrier to realization?

I agree that the book is pretty academic. My understanding is the text is a debate manual, so that makes sense.

Tenzin Wangyal's material in general is pretty solid, practice-wise. Have you checked out any of his other works that are more practice oriented?
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 4/19/15 6:08 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/4/15 7:57 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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I've been a unclear: I should have said that the belief in Rainbow Body (a.k.a. Body of Light), as it is mythologised, is an absolute barrier to integration of nondual realisation.

It seems to be a case of magical thinking creeping into the teachings due to a misunderstanding about the nondual nature of the body as a perception (which can be investigated directly by anybody) or possibly the mythology of the dissolution of the body at death leaving hair and nails first arose as a deliberate deception and now it's just unexamined dogma?

I've also seen teachers (and I'm not refering to Tenzin Wangyal incidentally) ducking questions to which they had have no answer by invoking dogma. I've found Tenzin Wangyal remarkable for the lack of dogma in his teaching. For example, in one teaching video, I've seen him explaining the Buddhist realms as being present in this world rather than in some otherworldly dimension.

In any case, I can't see any need to believe (or to disbelieve) any particular dogma - it's when someone asserts the centrality of any belief to their worldview that I start to question integration or validity.

As far as his book (Unbounded Wholeness) is concerned, I'd have given it 4-stars myself and I'm a very big fan of his other teachings, as I said in my opening post.

Unbounded Wholeness is certainly academic and Klein gets pole position as author because it's an academic text written under the auspices of an academic grant. As far as the intellectual philosophy of nonduality is concerned, I prefer the Ashtavakra Gita myself.

But, from my perspective, Bon takes the winner's rostrum due to its variety of integrated practices (not everyone is suited to samatha and/or vipassana). There's something in Bon that could be useful for everyone. There's also the  nondual aspect to these teachings that's quite hard to find in the Theravada tradition.

And I'm not saying that Theravada doesn't work - just that my own preference is Bon practices (with Vedanta philosophy, which can also be found in Bon - but I just don't fully trust the translations of the Tibetan texts and I'm not keen on their rather verbose and stylistic language).

With Metta,
(perhaps the best and the most important practice? emoticon ).
Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 2/4/15 9:57 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/4/15 9:57 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Hmm, OK, yes i knew you were referring to the Rainbow Body stuff, still not sure what your point is about integration though. Unless it is simply a general point that integration can only go so far as long as there are any strongly held beliefs not personally validated by direct experience? however, that seems like a very high bar, if that is what you are saying. Although probably due to living in this time and place I am kind of sympathetic to that view, instinctually ;)

If you are talking about the wealth of practices such as Semdzins, Rushans, etc. in adddition to the more 'straight-laced' shamatha-vipassana I agree, the Dzogchen traditions, both Buddhist and Bon, have an aweful lot to offer in terms of praxis. I also appreciate the whole practice ethos of Dzogchen in which the practitioner is encouraged to experiment (through short personal retreats of a day or a few days) with a broad variety of practices and then implement those practices in a well-rounded way based on their own sense of what is needed at any given time. Personally, i also find the integration of shamanic, tantric and dzogchen practices to be a potent mix for working with all the dimensions of life and experience.

I'm not sure about the relation between Vedanta and Bon; in Tibet, dzogchen in general has often been critiqued as a non-buddhist practice, variously attributed to: Chan, Vedanta, Shaivism or Bon depending on who happens to be writing the polemic against it. I am not super familiar with Vedanta outside of having read some of the greats from the 20th century like Nisargadata and Ramana, but whatever the relation between Vedanta and Dzogchen I suspect it is pretty tangential as they seem like very different traditions at this point. I may be wrong about that however.

Sounds like you have a lot of experience with Vedanta?
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 2/10/15 9:18 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/10/15 8:14 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Thanks for your input. It's really appreciated, as it's led me to consider my point more carefully.

To (hopefully) answer your questions: I consider that pre-awakening and post-awakening practices are equally important, although, paradoxically, it should be self-evident that there is no cause and effect in nonduality. The inability to address this skillfully is one of the main reasons for the failure of the the western advaita scene.

On the other hand, I have found that the original eastern teachings which you mention (Chan, Vedanta, Shaivism and Bon) as well as "Buddhism" sometimes rely on cultural context and a further barrier is that their texts need to be properly translated by a native speaker (of the translation, as opposed to the original, which is one of several basic professional translation standards). Of course, it's best if the translator is bilingual both linguistically and culturally. The translator would also need to be Self-realised and, in the case of more practice-based texts (e.g. Patanjali or the Vijnanabhairava Tantra), they need to be familiar with those practices or closely analogous practices because those texts are crib-sheets rather than detailed instruction manuals.

As far as Ramana and Nisargadatta are concerned, I've found Ramana reliable but impractical without either personal instruction or prior enlightenment. Nisargadatta is either wrong in some instances or badly translated in those instances. If you resonate with Ramana, he was very fond of the Ashtavakra Gita himself.

However, to return to Bon, I'm exploring ways of integrating Bon practices into my own understanding, starting with the Five Elements practice, which I found freely given online.

So, I downloaded the video and converted it to a guided practice mp3 (and a Q&A mp3) and tried it out.

Having been very impressed, I've just started reading Healing With Form, Energy, And Light: The Five Elements In Tibetan Shamanism, Tantra, And Dzogchen out of interest.
Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 2/10/15 9:39 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/10/15 9:39 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Oh, very cool! That's a cool book. You might also appreciate Chogyal Namkhai Norbu's more 'buddhist' take on Dzogchen. It is equally as practical as Tenzin Wangyal's I feel. Also, they have had a lot of crossover.

So: the paradox of post-awakening practice when cause-and-effect are seen not to apply on the ultimate level: OK, I might see where you are coming from now.

There is a famous Padmasambahava quote from the Buddhist Dzogchen tradition which goes something like 'my view is as open as the sky yet my attention to cause-and-effect is as fine as flour' which maybe addresses this paradox, albeit, perhaps from a provisional point of view. I gather he means something like this: just because one has awakened to the timeless nature and sees that nothing leads to or from it, still, within the scope of the functioning of experience, there is *apparent* cause and effect within which 'we' as dreamlike characters still operate and much more importantly, within which the other characters with whom we interact operate; thus, our behaviors and their conseqequences, however dreamlike, do matter in a very down to earth, phenomenal sense.
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 2/14/15 10:14 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/14/15 10:12 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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I struggle with ChNN's teaching style; particularly the secrecy that's integral to his teaching methods (e.g. supposedly "restricted" texts).

I've never encountered the Padmasambahava quote but it's certainly a good way of viewing this paradox. It's also covered comprehensively by Nagarjuna's Two Truths doctrine.

Relative or common-sense truth (Sanskrit saṃvṛti-satya, Pāli sammuti sacca, Tibetan kun-rdzob bden-pa), which describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and

Ultimate truth (Sanskrit, paramārtha-satya, Pāli paramattha sacca, Tibetan: don-dam bden-pa), which describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics.
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 2/23/15 9:30 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/23/15 9:27 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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I'd hoped that by now I'd have finished reading Healing With Form, Energy, And Light but due to a post in sawfoot's currently unavailable Meta-cognitive meticulous engagement practice log, I've just taken a large detour that's turned out to be very interesting and probably very useful from a practical perspective.

As the thread's currently unavailable and I can't remember the specific quote (from Secrets of the Vajra World by Reggie Ray), I can't say what it was that rang the bell so loudly for me in  sawfoot's quote. However, it led me into looking at Ray's approach to bodywork, which is tending to confirm a working hypothesis that I started to formulate around 1998/1999 but put on the back-burner until very recently.

It's also led me to start listening to Ray's Mahamudra for the Modern World (which could take about 40 hours if I listen to the whole course).

Incidentally, I've noticed that Tenzin Wangyal published a pdf entitled The Five Elements and Their Characteristic Qualities, which might be of interest to the Fire Kasina investigators. (I also took a very interesting and useful detour into the two audio files about the Fire Kasina retreat.)

(pdf here -

I also saw that Tenzin Wangyal is running a free year-long "Soul Healing" course, so I've decided to explore Bon more thoroughly by taking up those practices for a year but possibly adding some more intensive bodywork, probably using Reggie Ray's approach as a basis and possibly including a sensory deprivation element via a float tank as a "dark retreat" analogue, as I don't think that there would be a compatibility issue if I go down that route.
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 3/24/15 9:08 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 2/27/15 8:39 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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I've decided to put Reggie Ray's material aside, while I organise my thoughts and practice around Bon.

I'm concentrating on the 3 Doors, the Tibetan Yoga and the Sound Healing practices for now, as learning these practices and doing them will probably consume about two hours a day. I'm hoping that ongoing practice will take considerably less time, as I'd like to finish a first run through Mahamudra for the Modern World and look into the bodywork in detail via his Your Breathing Body course and his adaptation of Eugene Gendlin's invaluable Focusing theory and practice.

I'm finding that the sheer volume of material that Tenzin Wangyal has made available is quite daunting, as is the absence of any clear overview of how it all fits together. Nevertheless, it's starting to look as though the core principles are emerging.

However, at present, it seems that one major problem with the Dzogchen philosophy (as it is institutionally understood and taught) is that instead of being able to collapse the teachings into nonduality, there's an intellectual grasping that leads to conflation of direct experiencing with the 5 Pure Lights theory and other religious dogma. In this respect, it's useful to refer back to Nagarjuna's Two Truths and to consider that the practices that are taught sometimes refer to duality and that those parts form part of a gradual path, as opposed to a direct path.

Mixed in with this potentially useful progressive path are some pretty good nondual pointing instructions (direct introductions) and I find it astonishing that he remains clinging to any concepts, let alone the deeply mistaken idea that footprints in stone and "rainbow bodies" exist in the way that he seems to imagine.

It's a huge mistake to believe that successful path completion is about developing some sort of comic-book-hero superpowers, especially as the Buddha was absolutely clear that completion is all about attaining the cessation of suffering, which is the only reliable marker.
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 3/24/15 9:10 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 3/20/15 8:56 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Ironically, this recently released promotional video serves to demonstrate clearly the dangers of organised religion and illustrates why swallowing this stuff whole without exercising appropriate discrimination can end really badly (e.g. with people sacrificing not only their own autonomy but that of their children to help to propagate these feudal Tibetan cults).

The Light of the Golden Sun -
Victor, modified 9 Years ago at 4/21/15 6:35 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 4/21/15 6:14 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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I think that this will probably be my last post in this thread and I want to summarise my conclusions.

Firstly, I think that Tenzin Wangyal and Reggie Ray are kind, decent and loving people doing their best to share what they believe works and that the practical aspects of the 5-elements/soul retrieval practices and the bodywork are potentially very useful. Nevertheless, I can't buy into the belief system that goes along with these practices and I'd teach them with a very different slant myself.

However, my biggest concern remains that derogating autonomy generally has unfortunate repercussions for both parties. There are of course exceptions. For example, if you've sustained traumatic injuries, it would be very unwise not to hand over a substantial proportion of your autonomy to A&E staff (temporarily). So, if someone has read this thread and is thinking of trying out any of these practices themselves, I'd strongly suggest that they also study The Guru Papers: Masks of Authoritarian Power by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad, because although I certainly don't agree with everything that they say, it's valuable food for thought and it might save you considerable grief.

Here are a few pertinent reviews from Amazon.

Provocative and thorough.… Unmask the countless manifestations of authoritarianism in our contemporary culture. Cover vast territory … raises all the vitally important questions …It should definitely be placed in the hands of anyone who has been, or is, or contemplates becoming involved with a guru.” - Georg Feuerstein, Yoga Journal

Spells out … the dangers of becoming addicted to another’s authority in any sphere of life.” - Times Literary Supplement (London)

“Don’t be deceived by the title. The Guru Papers is about much more than cult groups. A profoundly important critique of the covert authoritarianism of most religions … and of such cultural values as unconditional love, addiction, and 12-step programs … Thought-provoking and radically important …Extraordinarily rich and complex … An important contribution to changing [old paradigms].
” - Liberty.

Finally, despite the minimal response (or perhaps because of it), posting on DhO was very useful and it's helped me to decide where I'll go from here. I may return and edit some of these posts (again) for clarity or in the light of further experience and I certainly don't want to leave the impression that what I've written is set in stone or closed to comment or to criticism.

Thank you Daniel and everyone else here for your hospitality. I wish you all the very best.

With Metta,

Jake , modified 9 Years ago at 4/21/15 8:27 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 4/21/15 8:27 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Thanks for stopping by ;)
I've enjoyed listening to your reflections, and I agree r.e. autonomy and critical engagement with this material and with meditative traditions generally. These are very important points.
Victor, modified 8 Years ago at 8/3/15 8:54 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 8/3/15 8:25 AM

RE: Dzogchen: Bon

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Thanks Jake, sorry about the long delay in replying. Unfortunately, I had nothing of any value to add until quite recently when I came across something very interesting! However, I should probably have taken the time to acknowledge your last post. Sorry about that.

I understand that in the interim, you've stepped-up as a moderator. Wise appointment, I think. I hope it's not too onerous. emoticon

However, to get back on-topic, or as it transpires, off-topic as far as Dzogchen: Bon is concerned but not off-topic as far as what I was hoping that I'd find in Bon, which was relatively dogma-free Dzogchen.

Nevertheless, I think that I'll start a new Practice Log to discuss what I've just found and my experiences with it (Les Fehmi's approach to Dzogchen, which he's labeled "Open Focus" training).

So the new log will be "Dzogchen: Open Focus training" and I'm very much hoping that this will also be dogma-free because it will be possible to approach any dogma that arises from a first-hand investigator's perspective (either mine or anyone else's who might choose to comment).