Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

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DesertDweller
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Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by DesertDweller » Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:07 am

(Prefatory note: I have posted this question in the Ch'an/Zen (we'll just call it "Zen") forums because I specifically and sincerely want to hear what Zen practitioners think about this, from their own (i.e. non-Vajrayana) perspective, and based on their own experience, comparisons, readings, etc.--I already know exactly how such a question would be received in the Vajrayana forums, and while I completely respect their point of view, I want to hear from people who aren't bound by that tradition. Vajrayana practitioners are of course emphatically welcome to contribute as much as they want to this discussion, but please keep in mind that I posted here for a reason.)

I have listened to a few Dzogchen pointing-out-instructions online. Specifically,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHKI3nJZ1BU

and

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i34IuGJUj30.

I know the traditionalist Dzogchen practitioners will say, "These aren't authentic, or effective" etc. However, putting aside for now the question of "the validity of recorded empowerments," if indeed such instructions do not differ substantially from those given by a master "live," then would you say there is the substantial difference between these and what we learn in Zen about the nature of the Mind, for instance in the Platform Sutra or Bodhidharma's sermons? :namaste:

amanitamusc
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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by amanitamusc » Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:47 am

It seems you are looking for the answer that you want to hear and don't care where
that verification comes from.No?

DesertDweller
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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by DesertDweller » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:00 am

Actually, no. I'm not looking for verification, proofs, permission or arguments about anything. I'm more interested in a casual intellectual discussion with other Zen practioners who make use of Dzogchen stuff. Obviously, any such thing will be without "validation" from the Vajrayana or traditional Dzogchen tradition (which again is why I posted here, not there). But I should have clarified that I personally already believe that, at least in terms of the Mind that is "pointed out," Zen and Dzogchen are identical. I know others will disagree and that's fine. But even the pointing-out instructions--if the clips I posted are true--seem the same as things commonly encountered in Zen discourse; however I am more cautious on this point since I have no way of verifying that the contents of the clips are in fact "all there is" to the pointing out in Dzogchen. But it was the clips which prompted my post: I had some familiarity with Dzogchen, but before I happened to see these I had somehow expected that pointing-out instructions would be something else--I don't know what exactly. So maybe it's more of an academic discussion?

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Astus
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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by Astus » Wed Jun 13, 2018 9:34 am

DesertDweller wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:07 am
would you say there is the substantial difference between these and what we learn in Zen about the nature of the Mind, for instance in the Platform Sutra or Bodhidharma's sermons?
All Buddhist schools agree that the nature of the mind is insubstantial.

"Those who wish to become the Sugata’s Disciples,
Or Pratyekabuddhas, or likewise, Kings of the Dharma –
Without resort to this Patience they cannot reach their respective goals.
They move across, but their eyes are not on the other shore."

(Ratnagunasamcayagatha 2.38)

"The Buddha’s offspring, the Disciples and Pratyekabuddhas,
The gods, and the dharmas which lead to the ease and happiness of all the world, -as many as there are,
They all have issued from wisdom, the foremost perfection,
And yet wisdom does not ever get exhausted, nor does it increase."

(28.466)

"Whether one wants to train on the level of Disciple, or Pratyekabuddha, or Bodhisattva, - one should listen to this perfection of wisdom, take it up, bear it in mind, recite it, study it, spread it among others, and in this very perfection of wisdom should one be trained and exert oneself."
(PP8K 1.2)

"Since thus, in ultimate truth and as things stand, such a dharma which could constitute a being whose heart is set on enlightenment cannot be apprehended, where do you get the idea that “this one belongs to the vehicle of the Disciples, that one to the vehicle of the Pratyekabuddhas, that one to the great vehicle”?"
(16.4)

"There is really no establishment of various vehicles, and so I speak of the one vehicle; but in order to carry the ignorant I talk of a variety of vehicles."
(Lankavatara Sutra, 2.56)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Aryjna
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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by Aryjna » Wed Jun 13, 2018 6:35 pm

DesertDweller wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 7:07 am
I know the traditionalist Dzogchen practitioners will say, "These aren't authentic, or effective" etc.
It is not a matter of tradition, if it doesn't work it doesn't work. Also, I think this is not supposed to be watched by people who have not received the transmission, maybe even specifically the transmission from these specific teachers. Then again it is on youtube.

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jun 13, 2018 8:07 pm

Such comparisons are usually a waste of time, but if you wanted to make them, the closest comparison is gradual shamatha/vipaysana with the goal of recognizing the nature of mind via pointing out instructions.

Again, I don't think it's quite the same thing, but this is the best comparison to Zen, in my experience. I did also practice Zen for some time, though I was not as heavily involved in it as I have been in Tibetan tradiitons.

Also in Zen, I think there are probably many teachers that would tell you to connect with a teacher through more than Youtube videos, if you wanted transmission, regardless of where they came out officially. Despite modernity and it's "DIY" attitude about things, plenty of Zen teachers recommend a relationship with a teacher, not just watching a video.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by SunWuKong » Thu Jun 14, 2018 5:37 am

I'm always confused as to why Dzogchen is likened to Zen. Zen, it's mean all I have to do is Google it, and its simple and clear. Dzogcen, I have no idea what that is. There's no reference points to it for me. In general i never listen to contemporary teachers for very long. They start droning on after the first few words and i lose track of the point. Give me the Dzogchen old text and i could respond. I can't bear to hear another opinion on Youtube

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by DesertDweller » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:50 am

@Astus:
These are great quotes: thanks!
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Wed Jun 13, 2018 8:07 pm
Also in Zen, I think there are probably many teachers that would tell you to connect with a teacher through more than Youtube videos, if you wanted transmission, regardless of where they came out officially. Despite modernity and it's "DIY" attitude about things, plenty of Zen teachers recommend a relationship with a teacher, not just watching a video.
You are assuming a lot here about my background and motivations for watching the clips, I think. Anyway, these sermons on modernity and its evil ways, however well-intentioned, are beside the point: I had always assumed that the pointing-out instructions would be something fundamentally different in form from what we commonly find in Zen discourse. Since this doesn't seem to be the case, then it would seem that, in Dzogchen, such instructions are simply ritualized in a way different from Zen, where they tend to be continuously repeated in different ways until the student "gets it."
It is not a matter of tradition, if it doesn't work it doesn't work. Also, I think this is not supposed to be watched by people who have not received the transmission, maybe even specifically the transmission from these specific teachers. Then again it is on youtube.
Even if you are correct in your idea that such clips require permission to view (and I have no reason to believe that they do), the question of permission is really not relevant to this discussion since we are not situating ourselves here from within the tradition in which such permission has meaning. But the question of whether or not such instructions, on YouTube as they are, "work", does in fact come close heart of the matter. To be clear--I'm not a Dzogchen practitioner, and nor do I plan to become one. I'm not seeking any Dzogchen transmission or initiation. Rather, I'm interested in the essential difference, if any, between the Dzogchen pointing-out and Zen's.

To phrase it slightly differently: what is it about these Dzogchen instructions that makes them "work"? And do they "work" differently than they do in Zen? The best I can come up with is to suggest that in the Dzogchen tradition there is a critical element involving a master's initiatory "blessing" that is especially emphasized, as a central ritual. I guess we could just leave it at that and move on. But then again, do the pointing-out instructions in Dzogchen actually "work" as an "initiation" (empowerment), or merely as an effective means, accompanied by a certain grace, of directing the student to his/her Mind? If it is the former, then this would indeed be a significant difference between the two traditions' "pointing out." But if the latter, perhaps not so much.

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by Astus » Thu Jun 14, 2018 9:45 am

DesertDweller wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:50 am
I'm interested in the essential difference, if any, between the Dzogchen pointing-out and Zen's.
Pointing out instruction can have different meanings in Vajrayana. First of all, it is useful to differentiate between the instruction given and the instruction received. The instruction given can have various forms, including the common threefold set of mental, symbolic, and verbal transmission. The instruction received can have three main forms, as something learnt, as something understood, and as something recognised. Ideally a pointing out happens when the listener gets a taste of the so called natural state. Practically I'd say it's more often the case that one receives the instructions as a teaching, then goes to comprehend and realise it on one's own.

Zen does not have any formal set of pointing out instructions, because on the one hand it is always up to the situation, and on the other the student has to make the journey on his own (i.e. the teacher's job is not to feed people with more ideas, but to assist in overcoming pre-existing concepts).
what is it about these Dzogchen instructions that makes them "work"? And do they "work" differently than they do in Zen?
Both Zen and Vajrayana have prajnaparamita as their essence. What distinguishes them are the assisting methods applied. Vajrayana focuses on devotion, hence guruyoga is the core practice. Zen is somewhat more diverse and flexible, but taking the most common method of Kanna Zen (看話禪), there are three essentials (三要): great faith, great determination, and great doubt (大信根, 大憤志, 大疑情), from which the feeling of doubt is emphasised the most, thus the saying: Great doubt, great awakening. Small doubt, small awakening. No doubt, no awakening. (大疑大悟。小疑小悟。不疑不悟。) The feelings of devotion and doubt are somewhat on the opposite sides, however, they are equally understood to be important emotional supports for gaining insight, even if they don't function the same way (that is, in Zen doubt is eventually broken through, while in Vajrayana devotion is perfected to the highest level where the guru is the nature of mind).
do the pointing-out instructions in Dzogchen actually "work" as an "initiation" (empowerment), or merely as an effective means, accompanied by a certain grace, of directing the student to his/her Mind?
Empowerment is itself an effective means of directing the student to the nature of mind. A pointing out instruction is not exactly an empowerment in the sense that it focuses only on showing the student the nature of mind, but does not provide a whole set of creation and completion practice of a deity. That's why a pointing out instruction is equated to the fourth empowerment, but not the first three.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by Aryjna » Thu Jun 14, 2018 1:07 pm

DesertDweller wrote:
Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:50 am
To phrase it slightly differently: what is it about these Dzogchen instructions that makes them "work"? And do they "work" differently than they do in Zen? The best I can come up with is to suggest that in the Dzogchen tradition there is a critical element involving a master's initiatory "blessing" that is especially emphasized, as a central ritual. I guess we could just leave it at that and move on. But then again, do the pointing-out instructions in Dzogchen actually "work" as an "initiation" (empowerment), or merely as an effective means, accompanied by a certain grace, of directing the student to his/her Mind? If it is the former, then this would indeed be a significant difference between the two traditions' "pointing out." But if the latter, perhaps not so much.
That is easy to find out even in books. But what does it matter if you are not interested in practicing it.

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Re: Pointing-Out-Instructions and Zen

Post by DesertDweller » Fri Jun 15, 2018 1:28 pm

Thanks for your detailed post, Astus. That clarifies a LOT for me. As I mentioned above this was more of an academic question. I've never felt particularly inclined to pursue Dzogchen formally, but I find the similarities interesting all the same, and examining these helps me to understand my own preferred East Asian Mahayana current more deeply.

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