Im not really a scholar to explain such things in great detail, although Ive still written a wall of text which just shows how much could be said on the subject. Dudjom Rinpoche in his Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism lays it out very nicely in the chapter on the Divisions of Ati Yoga though, and as hes a huge source of inspiration for me so I recommend reading that book for anyone who is serious about the Nyingma tradition.oldbob wrote: If you are comfortable to do so, can you please comment on the three classifications of space, mind and pith instructions, explaining the the slightly different view and emphasis on different points of practice and where Rainbow Body fits in within these classifications. Perhaps the clarification of the traditional presentation structure of Dzogchen would help many people who might benefit from this information, myself included.
The three classes of Dzogchen instruction can without question all lead to liberation. Calling Pith Instructions "Superior" in no way is meant to imply that a Dzogchenpa practicing other levels of Dzogchen are either not practicing Dzogchen or they cant be liberated without receiving pith instructions. Pith instructions are however known for their special blessing and swiftness regarding attainment if the proper conditions of Guru and Student are met. In the above mentioned book, Dudjom Rinpoche says:
Each class actually has subdivisions, which are explained in that book as well. Each subdivision relates to a specific realization about reality or an aspect of the true nature of mind. However, from the perspective of pith instructions every aspect and every possible realization is already present in its natural expression, its only prior to that point that the experiences and realizations arise separate from one another as distinct things happening in ones field of perception.H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:Thirdly, there is the Esoteric Instructional Class (The Pith Instruction Class): This holds distinction over the two lower classes of space and mind. The Mental Class, by referring positively to the mind, has mostly achieved the area of profundity rather than radiance, and yet , by not realizing the expressive power of radiance to be reality, it almost clings to mental scrutiny. The spacial class, though equally achieving profundity and radiance, rather than the mental scrutiny which apprehends reality, almost lapses into a deviation point within the range of emptiness. The Esoteric Instructional Class, on the other hand, is actually superior because it gathers within the expanse of reality that is free from conceptual elaboration, all apparitions of reality which appear through self manifesting, spontaneously present and natural, expressive power. As such [these apparitions] are the tone of the primordially pure, inexpressible essence, the supreme transcendence of intellect.
Profundity basically means that practitioners of the mental class have recognized minds true nature, they've received direct introduction. More specifically it relates to recognizing the innate purity of phenomena, since this is the severance which ends Samsara. You cant have Samsara if Nirvana and Samsara are equal in the one taste, what happens to any experiences if that point is realized? So recognizing the minds true nature is to rest into the one taste for a moment. That acts as a catalyst for further refinement of habit and karmic perception into its true, innate, spontaneously arising purity.H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:The Mental Class, by referring positively to the mind, has mostly achieved the area of profundity rather than radiance, and yet , by not realizing the expressive power of radiance to be reality, it almost clings to mental scrutiny.
Without actually having experience in what the pith instructions are describing, its actually very difficult to apprehend the meaning of these words. Not only do words that point to the heart essence of reality always fall short due to the ineffability of the heart essence, but also due to the presence of different kinds and levels of obscurations in the minds of practitioners who are still working on attaining this naturally abiding state there may be numerous concepts, attachments and projections regarding pith instructions.
Practitioners of the mental class are still in a stage where they are mentally taking objects of the mind, such as an idea or concept, and analyzing it in order to determine it to be inseparable from the minds true nature, to be empty, to be luminosity, and so forth. In other words one is falling into a habit of mentally scrutinizing specific events and phenomena and while this scrutiny leads to resting into the minds true nature, one is resting only for a moment before the mental scrutiny begins again. Like many things in Dzogchen we use a tool, such as this scrutiny, to attain a higher awareness and then once we are secure on that higher ground, we can abandon that tool all together and rest more easily and naturally into an uncontrived state. When we fail to abandon that tool when the time comes, it becomes an obstacle to further progress.
Therefore the danger here is a reification of mental objects, experiences, feelings, and thoughts. On the one hand the practitioner is spending a lot of time conceptualizing and thinking about phenomena, and on the other hand there is also a risk that the experiences of the natural state might be reified as well. These are simply obstacles to be worked through as they arise, and there is no reason to worry about them before or during their arising but simply to work with a teacher because the Guru is the one who can help you overcome these obstacles.
He says that practitioners of this class have not "realized the expressive power of radiance to be reality". This is a difficult passage because it deals directly with the way of arising of the heart essence of reality, how phenomena appear in that context. Namely that radiance is spontaneously present with or without conceptualization. To a practitioner of the mind class what is happening is that the person is looking at the natural radiance of the true nature of mind, which is nothing but indeterminate non-descript light as radiance, and reifying a specific object that is seen with the naked awareness. This is actually the essential problem of all karmic experience, this is all thats ever happening to anyone anywhere no matter what they are doing if they are gathering karma. In other words they are using the imputing, intellectual power of projection that the mind holds to first project a mental form onto the naturally arising radiance of minds true nature, and then to subsequently analyze their own creation back into its natural state (that is, practitioners are doing this not ordinary people). Whether or not that person does ANYTHING, everything is radiance no matter what. They do not create it, cannot alter it, and cant stop it. Yet rather than resting naturally and letting that be, because they havent realized this radiance to be inherent and natural, they keep projecting onto that radiance different concepts, which they ironically then set about refining away back into radiance. Due to having received DI already though and engaging in practice, rather than accumulating more karma they are actually in the process of purifying their mind of karmic traces. However a point is eventually reached when one needs to recognize that EVERYTHING THAT ARISES is going to be the same and stop engaging phenomena conceptually. The outcome is always the same. There is no amount of conceptual math you can do where the outcome is different. So letting that be and knowing that is confidence in the natural state.
One can see why this is done though, its like flexing a muscle. You are learning over and over again that the mind really is this way, and this process is builds confidence.
The spacial class is considered superior because one is now really learning to rest into the natural radiance of mind. In other words all that grasping at objects and refining them away into the one taste is gone. Now things are more naturally arising as a radiant expression of minds potential and the mind is more at rest. The lapse of the spacial class is really not being aware of the natural expressive power of the minds true nature. Its devoid of direct abiding in spontaneous presence. There is still a kind of tension, a kind of focus on non-conceptuality, a kind of contrivance to ones state. Furthermore experiences of bliss, clarity and no thought might arise alternately or all at once, but they are still experiences and there are still periods of apparent distraction and abiding in minds true nature. The radiant heart essence is not being rested in fully.H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:The spacial class, though equally achieving profundity and radiance, rather than the mental scrutiny which apprehends reality, almost lapses into a deviation point within the range of emptiness.
The pith instructional class is a display of ineffable reality itself, it still falls short of the actual thing but its as good as anyone has done so far in describing the ineffable. Practitioners of the pith instruction class have realized the naturally present, naturally radiant heart essence of reality. The words which are used to describe this state are trying to point to the fact that its already present. The key to Dzogchen is really recognizing what is naturally present and how it naturally arises, and to rest in that truth. He says self manifesting, then spontaneously present, then natural, expressive power. These are all different terms for the same principle- it arises without us having to do anything to make it arise, without us being able to do anything to stop its arising, and without us being able to move away from, separate ourselves from, or otherwise stop its arising. However if an attitude assuming this truth is taken prior to actually realizing this naturally arising essence and resting in that, it constitutes a deviation and can cause a lot of obstacles and accumulation of negative karma.H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche wrote:The Esoteric Instructional Class, on the other hand, is actually superior because it gathers within the expanse of reality that is free from conceptual elaboration, all apparitions of reality which appear through self manifesting, spontaneously present and natural, expressive power. As such [these apparitions] are the tone of the primordially pure, inexpressible essence, the supreme transcendence of intellect.
A lot of controversy in Dzogchen discussion happens because of the differences in the capacity and stage of a Dzogchen practitioner or because Dzogchenpas are hearing and studying texts from different classes and ultimately are doing different kinds of practices or holding slightly different views. Mostly practitioners of the mind and space class still experience karmic consequence, periods of distraction and abiding, and so forth. They might use any number of conceptual practices as anti-dotes for their obscurations and obstacles depending on their capacity, intentions and goals.
Practitioners of the pith instruction class have realized the naturally arising heart essence of reality, the vajra-heart of unchanging bliss, and they are totally released and free within that expanse. They have realized the state totally free from elaboration, mental conceptualization, analysis, imputation of self and other, reification of experiences of bliss, clarity or no-thought. Even those things no longer apply or arise, but only the heart essence arises as the perfect non-dual totality of all things, and all things are "gathered" within its unfathomable expansive radiance.
May all beings swiftly attain such a state!