The Purpose of Spiritual Training

by Peter Holleran

“Learn the rules so that you know how to break them properly.” - Dalai Lama

"Dzogchen practitioners must not be conditioned by anything, not even by the teaching, the practices, rituals, beliefs, and so on; they must discover the real condition, just as it is. This discovery does not mean letting oneself be conditioned, but emerging from one's limits, like a little bird that finally comes out of its cage and starts flying wherever it wishes."

"In the sutras
[Hinayana and Mahayana scriptures] they call the five passons something to avoid, to reject. Nevertheless, 'rejecting' the five passions still implies dualism, a limitation - i.e., accepting the positive and rejecting the negative - and this is by no means the way to overcome the dualistic condition. Conversely, [in Vajrayana] the higher tantras understand that poison can be used and transformed into medicine to transmute our impure vision into pure vision.

   ...Dzogchen does not stop even at this concept, instead adopting the principles of 'self-liberation'. The transformation of the poisons of the passions into wisdom requires the dualistic consideration of 'poison' on one side and 'wisdom' on the other. It is as if we were 'playing' at transforming something. As the dualism remains, this cannot be the ultimate solution. According to the principle of self-liberation, without necessarily maintaining the dualistic notion of 'poison' and 'wisdom', the practioner perceives passions and wisdom on a par. Whichever passion arises, the practioner remains in the natural condition, without creating or judging. This is the fundamental point of self-liberation, the final aim of Dzogchen. In the Kunjed Gyalpo, basically, all rules are automatically negated."
- Chogyal Namkai Norbu (1)

   This is an advanced practice.

Restaurant scene from Five Easy Pieces w/ Jack Nicholson

   Bobby (Jack) : I'll have an omelet, no potatoes. Give me tomatoes instead, and wheat toast instead of rolls. Waitress: No substitutions. Bobby: What do you mean? You don't have any tomatoes? Waitress: Only what's on the menu. You can have a number two - a plain omelet. It comes with cottage cheese, fries, and rolls. Bobby: Yeah, I know what it comes with, but that's not what I want. Waitress: I'll come back when you make up your mind. Bobby: Wait a minute, I have made up my mind. I'd like a plain omelet, no potatoes on the plate. A cup of coffee and a side order of wheat toast. Waitress: I'm sorry, we don't have any side orders of toast. I'll give you a English muffin or a coffee roll. Bobby: What do you mean "you don't make side orders of toast"? You make sandwiches, don't you? Waitress: Would you like to talk to the manager? Bobby: You've got bread. And a toaster of some kind? Waitress: I don't make the rules. Bobby: OK, I'll make it as easy for you as I can. I'd like an omelet, plain, and a chicken salad sandwich on wheat toast, no mayonnaise, no butter, no lettuce. And a cup of coffee. Waitress: A number two, chicken sal san. Hold the butter, the lettuce, the mayonnaise, and a cup of coffee. Anything else? Bobby: Yeah, now all you have to do is hold the chicken, bring me the toast, give me a check for the chicken salad sandwich, and you haven't broken any rules. Waitress: You want me to hold the chicken, huh? Bobby: I want you to hold it between your knees!).


   If the waitress was a sage she would not have had gone through such a rigid mental process but rather responded appropriately in the moment. Jack would have been spared his dramatic act-out, and all things would have worked out fine in the Unborn. Actually they did anyway, as we not only derived great pleasure from a classic movie scene but countless waitresses in the past thirty years have no doubt become more feeling and spontaneous in their service, and many passive male egos more assertive, attributes of the actualization of their ever-present enlightenment towards complete liberation!

   The Truth


1. Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, The Supreme Source (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1999), p. 112, 115

While humorous, this piece is actually an introduction to the 'view', which in Dzogchen - a 'pinnacle' practice among the Tibetan schools, for those who have fulfilled the 'purpose of spiritual training' - is a direct transmission of the non-dual condition from master to disciple, which then simply continues to ripen in an 'open' form of practice without any dualistic method or goal. Norbu's full statement was:

"In the Kunjed Gyalpo, basically, all rules are automatically negated. However, this does not mean that they are worthless; obviously, they are valid at the relative level. The point is, if we want to discover our true condition, it is important to identify our goal from the very beginning."

   He also cautions that such teachings, present although often 'secret' within all traditions, must not be given prematurely to those unprepared to accept them:

"Those persons who are heavily conditioned must ripen slowly. If one communicates the truth to them all of a sudden, they can get frightened and, consequently, stray far from the path. Since in terms in terms of karmic vision, the law of cause and effect, of actions, does exist, if such people were taught that the true condition is beyond cause and effect they would be overcome by doubts and turn against the teaching. Thereby they would block their progress and lose the opportunity to recognize the state of consciousness, thereby prolonging transmigration. So one must be careful about communicating these teachings. The Mahayana talks at length about the two truths: the absolute truth is deemed to be something to accept, while the relative truth, all things, considered, should be rejected. These analyses of the two truths may be necessary so long as one remains at the level of the mind, but when one transcends it and enters the state of consciousness, everything loses importance." (Ibid, p. 97-98)

   Take it all with a grain of salt, but we know that Jack, or sure, was a crazy guy, beyond the matrix of conventional, conditional existence!