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Atiyoga

Atiyoga, also known as the Great Perfection or Dzogchen, is a profound and advanced spiritual practice and philosophy within the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. It is considered the highest and most direct path to awakening, emphasizing the innate nature of mind and the immediate recognition of one’s true nature.

Origin and Nature:
Atiyoga is believed to have originated in ancient India and was transmitted to Tibet where it became a prominent practice within the Nyingma school. The term “ati” means “supreme” or “beyond,” indicating the transcendental nature of this practice.

Teachings of Atiyoga:
Atiyoga focuses on recognizing and resting in the natural state of mind, referred to as Rigpa or primordial awareness. It emphasizes the innate clarity, openness, and non-dual nature of mind that is beyond conceptual elaboration.

The teachings of Atiyoga emphasize direct introduction to the nature of mind through the guidance of a qualified teacher or guru. The practitioner is encouraged to directly recognize the nature of mind, free from conceptual constructs and discursive thoughts.

Practices in Atiyoga:
Atiyoga employs various meditation practices, including “direct crossing” (thogal), which involves advanced techniques of contemplation and visualization. These practices aim to support the direct recognition of the true nature of mind and the integration of that recognition into every aspect of life.

Central Themes:
Some central themes in Atiyoga include:

  1. Direct introduction: The direct introduction to the nature of mind by a qualified teacher is considered crucial for realizing the true nature of reality.
  2. Naturalness and spontaneity: Atiyoga emphasizes the non-conceptual, effortless, and natural state of mind beyond effort and striving.
  3. Non-duality: The non-dual nature of mind and reality, where subject and object merge into inseparable unity, is emphasized.
  4. View and conduct: The recognition of the innate nature of mind informs and guides one’s behavior and actions in the world with wisdom and compassion.

Nine Yanas
Sutrayana
1. Sravakayana 2. Pratyekabuddhayana 3. Bodhisattvayana
Outer tantrayana
4. Yana of kriya tantra 5. Yana of charya tantra 6. Yana of yoga tantra
Inner tantrayana
7. Yana of mahayoga 8. Yana of anuyoga 9. Yana of atiyoga

Atiyoga (Skt.; Tib. ཤིན་ཏུ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་, Wyl. shin tu rnal ‘byor) — the highest yana within the classification of nine yanas of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. Atiyoga is synonymous with Dzogchen.

The vehicle of Atiyoga

Alak Zenkar Rinpoche explains the vehicle of Atiyoga according to the system of nine yanas as follows:

The vehicle of Atiyoga, or ‘utmost yoga,’ is so-called because it is the highest of all vehicles. It involves the realization that all phenomena are nothing other than the appearances of the naturally arising primordial wisdom which has always been beyond arising and ceasing.

The following is a brief explanation of the entry point, view, meditation, conduct and results of this vehicle.

i. Entry Point

One’s mind is matured through the four ‘expressive power of awareness’ empowerments (rigpé tsal wang), and one keeps the samayas as explained in the texts.

ii. View

The view is definitively established by looking directly into the naturally arising wisdom in which the three kāyas are inseparable: the empty essence of naked awareness beyond the ordinary mind is the dharmakāya, its cognizant nature is the sambhogakāya, and its all-pervasive compassionate energy is the nirmāṇakāya.

iii. Meditation

The meditation consists of the approach of cutting through resistance to primordial purity (kadak trekchö), through which the lazy can reach liberation without effort, and the approach of the direct realization of spontaneous presence (lhundrup tögal), through which the diligent can reach liberation with exertion.

iv. Conduct

The conduct is free from hope and fear and adopting and abandoning, because all that appears manifests as the display of reality itself.

v. Results

Perfecting the four visions of the path, one gains the supreme kāya, the rainbow body of great transference, and attains the level of glorious Samantabhadra, the thirteenth bhūmi known as ‘Unexcelled Wisdom’ (yeshe lama).[1]

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