Malcolm wrote:The preliminaries are for those who have not yet understood what the primordial state is. Tregchö and thogal are inseparable: sometimes however, tregchö is parsed as "sudden" and thögal as "gradual", but this too is in reality misleading.
So, there is a gradual path for those who have not yet attained understanding. And once there is understanding, one should still follow through tregcho and thogal practices, so again, it seems gradual.
Dzogchen is not a "path" in the sense that one goes from here to there, as alpha pointed out to you. There is no path like "first train in śamatha, then train in vipaśyāna; first train on path of accumulation, then application, then seeing, etc., first do creation, then do completion," etc.
Tregchö and thogal are not "practices" in the sense that one is making effort to generate a result from some cause. Tregchö and thögal are how one continues in the confidence of liberation, or as CHNN parses it, how one continues in the state.
Malcolm wrote:The long and short of it is that Dzogchen teachings did not fit in the mold of gradual and sudden dichotomy [which is a conversation is only tangentially relevant to Dzogchen due to the conflict in Tibet over Indian and Chinese approaches to Mahāyāna sūtra]. They also do not fit into the mold of ultimate and relative truths. They do not fit into the mold of paths and stages.
Sudden means direct access to the ultimate. If there are stages involved in the path, it is necessarily gradual. So, if Dzogchen were just recognising the primordial state, then it would be a sudden method. If preliminaries and follow up practices are also included, it is gradual.
"Ultimate and relative" have no meaning in Dzogchen. Dzogchen is not "a method of directly accessing the ultimate," if it were, it would be Chan. Because this is so, Dzogchen is not a "sudden" system. One does not need to have realized emptiness in order to have knowledge [rig pa
] of their primordial state [thog ma'i gzhi
, a.k.a. original basis]. There is no need to gather accumulations and so on.
To the extent that there are stages in Dzogchen, there is only one stage and everyone is already on it. The Rig pa rang shar
tantra likens it to being on a lake. No matter where you go on a lake, you never leave the lake.