Sometimes new practitioners have powerful and profound experiences when they start to practise. Glimpses of rigpa can arise spontaneously through the initial cessation of struggling to maintain the processes of samsara and relaxing into a more open view.
We relax and discover with a jolt that the nature of mind is non-dual. We relax and discover in a flash that the nature of view is realised. We relax and discover with surprise that there is a flicker of harmonious natural congruence in activity and being.
In these moments, refuge is both complete and unnecessary. It is ‘complete’ because confidence is total, present and unfabricated. It is ‘unnecessary’ as there is nothing from which to seek refuge, nowhere to go to seek it, and no ‘one’ who is seeking. In such moments it is important to recognise the Lama. Such sparks of insight arise from empowerment, inspiration, and indication.
The path of Vajrayana relies utterly on the Lama. The Lama transmits the experience of non-duality to the student through empowerment, transmission, and through everything they enact. The Lama acts as a medium for the continual reflection of the student’s potential. The Lama enables students to see the constricted pattern of their neuroses. The empty devotion of students enables them to engage with form with the ‘safety net’ of the Lama’s presence. The Lama is the source of inspiration and transmission. Through transmission the Lama gives us the opportunity to experience awareness-beings8 directly, and to experience the non-dual state embodied in the communicative symbol of awareness-beings.
The Lama provides the ‘implicit instruction’, ‘mere indication’ or ‘pointing-out instructions’9 which initiate direct experience of reality. Without the Lama it is not possible to gain such experience. ‘Lama’ also refers to the inner Lama – our own beginningless non-dual mind.
Non-duality sparkles through, whether we are practitioners or not, but it is only through the wisdom and kindness of the external Lama that we learn to recognise the sparkling of non-duality and learn to increase its frequency. If we rely too heavily on the internal Lama without having actualised the internal Lama, we fool ourselves and follow the ‘Lama of our own neuroses’. This then condemns us to a spiral of increasing self-referentiality and delusion. If we believe we can find our way by instinct in an unknown town and refuse to ask directions, we could spend our entire lives walking round in circles, perhaps occasionally glimpsing our destination, but never managing to arrive there.
If I am about to attend my first job interview it might be useful to have the advice of someone experienced in such situations. They may be able to advise me on appropriate dress for the occasion, and on the hidden ruthless question behind the apparently friendly enquiry. They may offer techniques to overcome nervousness and methods of ensuring that I communicate the information I wish to give, within the limitations of the interviewer’s questions. Our expert could give me mock interviews and comment on where I went wrong and where I did well. Such help and advice may make the difference between being short listed and being appointed.
The Lama offers the chance to discover realisation again and again with increasing frequency and with intention, rather than remaining in the realm of experiencing haphazard flashes of potential.
8. Awareness being: yidam (yi dam) (Tibetan), ishtadeva (Sanskrit). The yidam is practised as a symbol of the Lama’s realisation in Sambhogakaya form.
9. The terms ‘implicit instruction’, ‘mere indication’ and ‘pointing-out instructions’ belong to different traditions of Dzogchen. ‘Implicit instruction’ and ‘mere indication’ belong to the Aro gTér Dzogchen systems and ‘pointing-out instructions’ belongs to the Longchen Nying-thig and other Nying-thig lineages.