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The Precepts of The Dharmakaya (Advanced Instructions on the Practice of Bonpo Dzogchen According to the Zhang-Zhung Tradition of Tibet)

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Item Code: NAS431
Author: John Myrdhin Reynolds
Publisher: Vajra Books, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9789937623155
Pages: 312
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description
About the Book

The teachings of Bon are organized into nine ways, or nine vehicles to enlightenment, the ninth and highest of which is known as Dzogchen, "the Great Perfection." Among the four principal traditions of B6npo Dzogchen, the oral tradition from the country of Zhang- zhung is of unique importance because it never became a Terma, or hidden treasure text rediscovered long after its original composition. The precepts of Dzogchen were said to have originated with the Primordial Buddha, Kuntu Zangpo, passing down at first through the Direct Mind-to-Mind Transmission and then later through the Oral Transmission of the Twenty-Four Masters, all of whom attained the Rainbow Body of Light. In Zhang-zhung in the 7th century, these precepts were communicated by the last in this line of masters to his disciple Tapihritsa, who subsequently attained Buddhaenlightenment through the practice of vision, or Thodgal. In the next century, he appeared on a number of occasions at the Darok Lake in Zhang- zhung, or Northwestern Tibet, to the Tantric master Gyerpung Nangzher Lodpo, who set down these precepts in writing for the first time in the Zhang-zhung language. In the next century, they were translated into Tibetan and thus these precepts have come down to our own day in an unbroken line of transmission.

The teachings of the Zhang-zhung Nydn-gytid, "the Oral Tradition from Zhang-zhung,’ are classified into four cycles of texts, which are designated outer, inner, secret, and exceedingly secret. Accordingly, these precepts are said to represent the actual words of the enlightened master Tapihritsa. The outer cycle focuses on the general view of Dzogchen, the inner cycle on the practice of contemplation, or Trekchdd, the secret cycle on the practice of vision, or Th6dgal, and the very secret cycle on the removing of doubts with regard to the Naturai State of the Nature of Mind being the source of all visions, both in meditation practice and in normal life. In this last class, there is found the text known as "The Twenty-One Little Nails," these representing twenty-one essential points of Dzogchen practice. Included here in this volume is the translation of the root text, and also that of the commentary attributed to Gyerpung. This represents one of the most important texts coming from early times for the understanding of Dzogchen Upadesha practice.

About the Author

John Myrdhin Reynolds (Vajranatha) is a translator of Tibetan, a scholar in the fields of Tibetan Studies, Buddhist Philosophy, and Comparative Religion, who has taught at a number of universities in the West. He was ordained as a Ngakpa Lama in the Nyingmpa tradition by HH Dudjom Rinpoche, and for more than ten years he has worked closely with Lopen Tenzin Namdak on the translation of early Bonpo Dzogchen and Tantra texts. His earlier works, The Golden Letters and Self-Liberation, published by Snow Lion, dealt with the origin of Dzogchen in the Nyingmpa Buddhist tradition from India and Central Asia. On The Bonpo tradition of Dzogchen he has published The Oral Tradition from Zhang-Zhung, Bonpo Dzogchen Teachings and The Practice of Dzogchen in the Zhang-zhung Tradition of Tibet available from Vajra Publications, Kathmandu, Nepal.


While visiting New Delhi, India, in 1991, I purchased a re-print copy of Bénpo Dzogchen texts from Dr. Lokesh Chandra at his International Academy of Indian Culture. The original block-prints had been earlier brought out of Tibet by Yongdzin Rinpoche, Lopon Tenzin Namdak, at present the most learned B6npo Lama of our day. He had obtained this block-print from his own monastery of Tashi Menri in Tsang Province, the foremost B6npo monastery and academic center in Central Tibet. As the result of their collaboration, this collection of the texts of the Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud was published in New Delhi as History and Doctrine of Bonpo Nispanna-Yoga (1968). This was my first contact with the B6npo Tradition of Tibet.

I had this copy of these texts in my possession for several years, but in 1987 while at Merigar in Italy, I became especially interested in this cycle of Bénpo Dzogchen teachings because of the inspiration of Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, the foremost teacher of Dzogchen practice to students in the West. In that year and the following year, I began to undertake the translation of a number key texts in this collection. Finally, in 1989 I met Yongdzin Lopon Tenzin Namdak in person at the retreat community in Conway, MA, during his first visit to the US. Subsequently, in San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as later in retreats in Austria and South Devon, UK, I continued to translate a number of texts from this cycle of Dzogchen teachings, including the two practice manuals for this tradition, the rGyal-ba phyag-khrid and the ‘Od-gsal bdun-skor. These latter translations have now been published by Vajra Publications in Kathmandu as The Practice of Dzogchen in the Zhang-zhung Tradition of Tibet (2011). Earlier we had published, also with Vajra Publications, a general survey of the Zhang- zhung Nyan-gyiid, entitled The Oral Tradition from Zhang-zhung (2005). This volume also included a translation of the preliminary practices text, or Ngondro, associated with this tradition.

The two Dzogchen texts translated here, the root text and its commentary of The Twenty-One Little Nails (gzer-bu nyi-shu rtsa gcig), belong to the fourth cycle of this Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud collection known as the exceedingly secret cycle (yang gsang skor), which focuses on the fruit or result of Dzogchen practice, and in particular on the removing of doubts with regard to the Natural State of the Nature of Mind (sems-nyid gnas-lugs) being the source of the Thédgal visions experienced in practice. In this tradition, the practice of contemplation, or Trekchod, is combined with the practice of vision, or Thédgal, so this question exists for the practitioner—What is the source of these visions which appear in contemplation practice, as well as the karmic visions which appear as our ordinary daily life? The practice of Thédgal gives us proof that these latter visions are also illusions lacking any inherent existence. Included here besides the translations of the root text and its commentary is the Tibetan of the root text in transliteration, and also further annotations to the translations drawn for the extensive oral explanations of Yongdzin Rinpoche given on a number of occasions. Hence, I have kept the final two chapters in a more informal style, where Yongdzin Rinpoche sometimes repeated matters, but from a slightly different angle.

I received the transmission of these precepts and instruction in them from Yongdzin Rinpoche on several occasions, most notably at Haarlem in the Netherlands and at Jemez Springs in New Mexico in the US. The latter retreat was organized by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche in the summer of 1995 and the transcripts of these retreat teachings have been published by the Ligmincha Institute (1996). While staying in Amsterdam in 1995, I translated both the root text and the commentary of The Twenty-One Little Nails and privately distributed these translations in a limited edition as The Twenty-One Little Nails: Advanced instructions in the Practice of Bonpo Dzogchen according to the Zhang-zhung Nyan-gyud, Dortmund, Germany (2005).

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