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The Distinctive Mindfulness of Dzogchen: Jigme Lingpa’s Advice on Meta-Awareness and Nondual Meditation

Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University, Kyoto 606-8306, Japan
Contemplative Sciences Center, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Religions 2022, 13(7), 573;
Received: 25 April 2022 / Revised: 13 June 2022 / Accepted: 14 June 2022 / Published: 21 June 2022


For Indian Buddhists and their Tibetan successors, the faculty of “mindfulness” (Skt. smṛti, Tib. dran pa) has been interpreted as the foundation of the threefold development of wisdom (study, reflection, cultivation). Such a model was, in Tibet, the hallmark of the gradual approach to awakening, whereas in the simultaneous approach, the state beyond ordinary mindfulness was emphasized. The complementarity of both approaches has been an essential issue, especially for the Nyingma tradition, which holds the direct teaching of Dzogchen to be the penultimate. To elucidate the operations of mindfulness in this context, this paper analyzes two guidance texts on mindfulness by Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa (1730–1798), Ocean of Qualities: Advice on Mindfulness and Cudgel to Discern the Real: Advice that Shines from Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness, the latter translated into English for the first time in this paper. As this study shows, Jigme Lingpa articulates a twofold typology of mindfulness, first a mindfulness that is effortful and conditioned, and secondarily the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen that is inseparable from pure awareness or rigpa (rig pa). Jigme Lingpa thus applies mindfulness to integrate Buddhist teachings and make sense of alternative modes of practice along the Dzogchen path.

“Mindfulness that is equivalent to pure awareness is like a unique medicine for a hundred diseases.”
–Jigme Lingpa

1. Introduction

The present paper focuses on the faculties of mindfulness (Skt. smṛti, Tib. dran pa) and meta-awareness (saṃprajanya, shes bzhin) interpreted as the very thread of the threefold wisdom, the three steps of study, reflection, and cultivation that lead to a liberative insight beyond self-grasping, as well as the crux of the debate opposing gradual versus simultaneous awakening approaches, with a focus on the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. The main sources analyzed belong to the literary genre of spoken advice or spiritual instructions (zhal gdams) (Sheehy 2017, pp. 172–74) on the contemplative life, given by a teacher to a small audience of qualified students, and that can arguably be understood as forming the bridge between the content of exegesis (bshad), including study and reflection (thos bsam), and the application of practice (sgrub, that is, cultivation, sgom). We give attention to two brief but remarkable texts on mindfulness by Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa Khyentse Ozer (rig ’dzin ’jigs med gling pa mkhyen brtse’i ’od zer) (1730–1798), texts 56 and 57 among the Collection of Advice (gtam tshogs) located in his Collected Works.1 Jigme Lingpa is responsible for a major revival of the Nyingma tradition in eighteenth century Tibet, particularly with his revelation (gter ma) of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse (klong chen snying thig) (Goodman 1992). This revelation was largely diffused throughout eastern Tibet and has remained the most widely practiced system of Dzogchen or the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen), considered the penultimate spiritual vehicle in the Nyingma tradition.
There are only a few texts in the Dzogchen system devoted entirely to mindfulness and its closely associated faculty, meta-awareness.2 Jigme Lingpa’s two writings studied here comprise his advice that originated in oral discourses before they were formalized in written documents, and were directed to students who were learned and trained in sūtra and tantra. These two texts, Ocean of Qualities: Advice on Mindfulness3 and Cudgel to Discern the Real: Advice that Shines from Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness,4 which are the focus of this paper, explicitly articulate different levels and stages of progress toward perfect awakening according to the application and refinement of the faculty of mindfulness, highlighting different styles of mindfulness according to sūtra, tantra, and Dzogchen. These texts by Jigme Lingpa use the concept of mindfulness in the context of Dzogchen practice to envision a “distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen” (rdzogs chen gyi khyad chos dran pa). Deroche (2021b) has analyzed the different occurrences and levels of mindfulness (dran pa and dran- derivatives) in the Trilogy of Being at Ease (ngal gso skor gsum) by Longchen Rabjam Drimé Ozer (klong chen rab ’byams dri med ’od zer) (1308–1363), the compiler and synthesizer of the Heart Essence. Compared to Longchenpa’s Trilogy of Being at Ease, which restricts mindfulness to a mental factor (caitasa/caitasika/caitta, sems las ’byung ba) and thus to the dualistic mind (citta, sems) that is to be progressively purified by lower vehicles, Jigme Lingpa’s presentation on mindfulness is in the context of Dzogchen practices on the direct recognition, stabilization, and integration of the nature of mind (sems nyid) or pure awareness (rig pa).
Issues regarding the nuances of mindfulness meditation are not new. As Jigme Lingpa wrote in Cudgel to Discern the Real more than two hundred years ago:
Now, the Dharma terms ‘mindfulness, mindfulness’5 are the topic of conversation by ignorant people about their stupid meditation.6
These two texts by Jigme Lingpa and their creative language are thus important for understanding intricacies of two distinct styles of mindfulness practice, what Dunne (2015) has dubbed “Classical Mindfulness” and “Nondual Mindfulness”. Specifically, Jigme Lingpa’s advice to meditators details Nondual Mindfulness, which Dunne (2011) has discussed in reference to Mahāmudrā, a tradition historically in dialogue with Dzogchen. Through interpretation of Jigme Lingpa’s texts along with a full translation of Cudgel to Discern the Real, this paper discusses the constructs of mindfulness in Tibetan Buddhist discourses on meditation, especially within the Nyingma tradition, that articulate diverse modes of practice. To do so, we introduce mindfulness and meta-awareness in the context of the discourse on mindfulness in the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist contemplative literature, and the gradual versus simultaneous dichotomy which undergirds Jigme Lingpa’s advice. To situate Jigme Lingpa’s advice on mindfulness within the broader discourse on meditation, we highlight the tensions of effortful versus effortless practices in Tibetan meditation manuals. We consider the structure and key points of Jigme Lingpa’s two advice texts on mindfulness, synthesizing contents of each, to reveal Jigme Lingpa’s typology of mindfulness styles. To contextualize Jigme Lingpa’s advice, we analyze excerpts of Cudgel to Discern the Real with special attention to the interoperational dynamics of mindfulness and meta-awareness, and the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen. We conclude with thoughts on Jigme Lingpa’s typology and possible interdisciplinary pathways to advance the study of effortless and nondual meditation practices in the contemplative sciences. A translation of Cudgel to Discern the Real is included as an Appendix A.

2. Frameworks in Tibetan Meditation Manuals

2.1. Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness in Buddhist Meditation

In Tibetan Buddhist phenomenological and contemplative literature, namely, the extensive commentarial writings on the Abhidharma and meditation manuals, mindfulness is understood to be a discrete factor of the dualistic mind. While contemplative traditions, such as Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā, historically developed concepts and practices along their own trajectories in Tibet, meditation manuals employ and grapple with the technical vocabulary of the Abhidharma (Dunne 2011, pp. 73–75). Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam classifies mindfulness as one of the ten general concomitant mental factors (citta-saṃprayukta-saṃskāra); the Abhidharmasamuccaya classifies mindfulness as one of five object-determined mental factors (viṣayaniyatā), along with intention (chanda, ’dun pa), interest (adhimokṣa, mos pa), concentration (samādhi, ting nge ’dzin), and the discerning faculty of wisdom (prajñā, shes rab) (Guenther and Kawamura 1975, pp. 32–35). In the Abhidharma, object-determined mental factors are cognitive operations that apprehend phenomena, stay cognitively attuned to phenomenal objects, and make given objects explicit to consciousness. In the context of meditation manuals that detail instructions on the practices of calm-abiding meditation (śamatha, zhi gnas) and insight meditation (vipaśyanā, lhag mthong), mindfulness is coupled with the faculty of meta-awareness. Alternatively translated as “alertness” or “vigilance” or “clear comprehension”, meta-awareness is the capacity to monitor the ongoing processes within the body and mind, both interoceptive and exteroceptive. Meta-awareness is awareness of the contents of experiential consciousness, is considered a facet of the factor of discernment (samprajñāna/saṃprajña), and operates as an expression of wisdom to monitor and evaluate during the practice of mindfulness.7 Within the context of cultivating and balancing focused attention in meditation, meta-awareness is the degree of self-referential awareness that enables the recognition of a distractor and returns the mind to its chosen object (Apple 2015, pp. 251, 260). Operating synchronously with mindfulness, which is the capacity to retain attention on a chosen object, the dyad of mindfulness and meta-awareness function in sync to the extent that these two faculties are semantically expressed as a compound (dran shes). While mindfulness is the cognitive ability to stay focused on a chosen object, meta-awareness is the ability to observe the interruption of a distractor and attentively return to the object of focus (Guenther 1976, pp. 85, 124; Goodman 2020, pp. 110, 153–54). Oscillating back and forth, mindfulness and meta-awareness operate to balance attention, which iteratively calms the mind.
The canonical source that many Tibetan authors routinely cite in their discussions on meta-awareness, and which Jigme Lingpa references, is chapter V of the Bodhicaryāvatāra,8 titled “Guarding Meta-Awareness” (shes bzhin bsrung ba).9 In the opening stanzas (V, 1–3), Śāntideva states that those who do not guard their mind have no discipline, and without maintaining discipline, the mind is like a wild elephant (Śāntideva 1995, p. 34). The metaphor of the mind being like a wild elephant is employed throughout early Indian Buddhist literature and is eventually adapted in visual diagrams as an illustration of calm-abiding meditation (zhi gnas dpe ris). To illustrate the nine stages of calm-abiding (sems gnas dgu), a wild elephant represents an untamed mind that is tamed by an elephant trainer who uses the rope of mindfulness (dran pa’i thag pa) and the iron-hook of meta-awareness to progressively train the elephant-mind (sems kyi glang chen) along the precipitous meditative path up a mountain.10 The implication by Śāntideva is that without the tactful application of mindfulness and meta-awareness, the mind runs wild like an elephant causing all kinds of ethical, social, and emotional destruction. For Śāntideva, the application of mindfulness and meta-awareness acts like a guard that protects the mind but also ensures an ethical concern, thereby guarding the practitioner’s precepts, and restraining the actions of one’s body and speech. As he pleads his Buddhist readers, what is critical is to guard the mind. As stated in Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 23),
To those who wish to guard their mind,
With every effort,
Guard mindfulness and meta-awareness.
In this way, I plead with my palms together.11
In Cudgel to Discern the Real, Jigme Lingpa quotes three stanzas from chapter V of the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 25, 27, 33).

2.2. Effortful versus Effortless Mindfulness in Tibetan Meditation Manuals

Applications of effort or release into effortlessness represent a pervasive tension that is thematized throughout Tibetan contemplative literature, and, in many respects, is an extension of the gradual versus simultaneous dichotomy. While presented as a binary, this tension between effortful and effortless is more a descriptive framework for a spectrum of contemplative dynamics that unfold during meditative experiences, and which can be intentionally enacted by different practices. A classic way that this tension is articulated in meditation manuals is in discussions of laxity versus excitation in instructions on calm-abiding meditation. For instance, in the Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Awakening, Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa) (1357–1419) provides a detailed exegesis on the definitions and applications of mindfulness and meta-awareness in the context of calm-abiding meditation with an emphasis on balancing the tension of laxity versus excitation (Tsong-kha-pa 2002, pp. 48, 57–71; Apple 2015, pp. 258–60). Tsongkhapa regards excitement (rgod pa) and laxity (bying ba) to be the two major faults that impede the cultivation of meditative concentration, and that the antidotes to excitement and laxity are mindfulness and meta-awareness (Tsong-kha-pa 2002, pp. 62–66). As Tsongkhapa makes explicit in his introduction to calm-abiding meditation, his approach of progressive stages of the path (lam rim) is based on the Kadampa (bka’ gdams pa) tradition of achieving the meditative quiescence of calm-abiding through the application of antidotes (Tsong-kha-pa 2002, pp. 31–32). This antidotal approach is precisely what Jigme Lingpa references in his discussion of the exertion required for mindfulness to cultivate a skill, which he calls “antidotal mindfulness” (gnyen po’i dran pa). In the context of instructions on calm-abiding meditation, and Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition explicates this in detail, excitement is when the mind deviates from the object of meditation due to a distractor; in contrast, laxity is when the mind does not apprehend the object of meditation with vividness, resulting in a limpid mental state. In his explanation, Tsongkhapa emphasizes that laxity is not to be conflated with slackness or dullness (zhum pa), nor with lethargy (rmugs pa), which he understands to be a derivative of delusion and the cause of laxity (Tsong-kha-pa 2002, pp. 58–60). The art of the practice is to balance the tension between attentiveness that is neither too tense nor too loose, parallel to tensions between effortfulness and effortlessness. For Tsongkhapa, following Śāntideva’s classic presentation, mindfulness is the faculty that focuses on the meditative object while meta-awareness monitors the mind that is focused on the meditative object. He stresses the importance of distinguishing these two facets—mindfulness and meta-awareness—stating that if these two are confused, the result will be a confused state of meditative concentration (ting nge ’dzin) (Tsong-kha-pa 2002, pp. 61–62). While these two facets are necessary to focus the mind on its object of meditation, mindfulness must initially be cultivated to sustain attentional balance and achieve calm-abiding equipoise (Apple 2015, p. 256). In the approach presented in the Great Exposition, meta-awareness is only fully operationalized if mindfulness is stabilized without distraction, and therefore, a sustained flow of mindfulness is critical for meta-awareness. However, once mindfulness is stabilized, meta-awareness can detect with more granular nuance the subtleties of laxity and excitement, which indicates another level of refinement that meta-awareness has in contrast to mindfulness. This linear process of mindfulness being the cause and meta-awareness the result is the “conditioned mindfulness” (’du byed kyi dran pa) that Jigme Lingpa contextualizes in Cudgel to Discern the Real.
The causal relationship of mindfulness and meta-awareness is reiterated throughout contemplative instructions on calm-abiding meditation. For instance, while the practice of insight meditation was effectually restyled as a Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka technique of analysis in the Ganden Hearing Transmission (dga’ ldan snyan brgyud) of Geluk Mahāmudrā, this causal approach remained the normative presentation in calm-abiding instructions.12 Following Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition, Paṇchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen (paṇ chen bla ma blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan) (1570–1662), who was the first author to write down and publicize Ganden Mahāmudrā (dga’ ldan phyag rgya chen po), emphasized this causal dynamic between mindfulness and meta-awareness in his commentary Lamp So Bright.13 Kagyü Mahāmudrā instructions also emphasize a conditioned mindfulness for beginner practitioners, resembling Jigme Lingpa’s advice. In his textbook meditation manual, Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (dwags po bkra shis rnam rgyal) (1513–1587) introduces mindfulness as the capacity of the mind to not forget a familiar object, and again following Śāntideva, defines meta-awareness to be the capacity to guard and monitor the contents of consciousness.14 For beginners, the approach is again antidotal—apply mindfulness when the mind deviates from the object of meditation while meta-awareness monitors, recognizes distractors, and rejoins the mind to its object. Antidotal mindfulness is prescribed to abandon faults and apply remedies to the binaries of laxity and excitement or tenseness and looseness to achieve meditative equipoise.15 Once a practitioner is familiar with the nature of mind and has stabilized meditative equipoise, the practice shifts to sustaining Mahāmudrā meditation. While the definitions of these faculties remain the same, both mindfulness and meta-awareness are understood to operate with heighted salience. Because, at this point, the mind is refined by the practice of calm-abiding, distractors are diminished, and meditative experience is characterized by an appreciative acuteness to the phenomenal movements of mind.16
Reiterating the importance of mindfulness to the process of listening, reflecting, and meditating, and emphasizing the binary tension of effort within meditation, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal formulates a twofold typology of mindfulness, which he describes in two pairs: (1) mindfulness that induces mindfulness (dran pa ’dren par byed pa’i dran pa) and a mindfulness that focuses on mindfulness (dran pa la dmigs pa’i dran pa); and (2) an effortful mindfulness (rtsol bcas kyi dran pa) and an effortless mindfulness (rtsol med kyi dran pa).17 In a manner resembling the language of a “spy of mindfulness” (dran pa’i so pa) employed by the Ninth Karmapa, Wangchuk Dorje (dbang phyug rdo rje) (1556–1603), in his Ocean of Definitive Meaning manual on Mahāmudrā to articulate meta-awareness, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s twofold typology evokes the mindfulness of mere non-distraction (ma yengs tsam gyi dran pa) (Dunne 2011, pp. 83–84; Dorje 2006, p. 95). The first pair captures the intention to be mindful of the flow of mindfulness, and while in that flow, the mindfulness that is not distracted from being attentive.18 Dakpo Tashi Namgyal reiterates that, for a beginner, the former may be slightly more prevalent than the latter; however, after familiarization and eventual automatization, the two emerge in unison.19 On the second pair, he explains how the pervasive tension between the effortful and effortless in meditative traditions is expressed through mindfulness,
Furthermore, the practice lineage explains two styles: effortful mindfulness and effortless mindfulness. The former is a mindfulness that instantiates, a deliberate mindfulness, and a mindfulness that apprehends emptiness or mindfulness that recognizes [emptiness]. The latter is a perfected mindfulness or mindfulness of coalescence, which free from cognition, is a mindfulness that transcends cognition.20
As Dakpo Tashi Namgyal points out, effortful mindfulness is synonymous with “deliberate mindfulness” (’jur dran), the same technical phrase that Jigme Lingpa references in Cudgel to Discern the Real as being involved with deliberate reappraisal about distractions—that is, remembering “I must not be distracted”. Dakpo Tashi Namgyal makes clear that deliberate mindfulness involves cognitive effort to remember the instructions, refocus the mind on the object of meditation, and recognize emptiness. He describes this as the “mindfulness that apprehends emptiness” (stong nyid kyi bzung dran). In contrast, what Dakpo Tashi Namgyal terms “perfected mindfulness” (yang dag gi dran pa) is free from cognition, which resonates with Jigme Lingpa’s explanation that the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen is beyond cognition and its object.
The Nyingma scholar Sogdogpa Lodro Gyaltsen (sog zlog pa blo gros rgyal mtshan) (1552–1624), a contemporary with the Ninth Karmapa, picks up on some of these themes and tensions prevalent in meditation manuals that concern effortful mindfulness. In his Instruction Manual on the Mind Section of Dzogchen According to the Nyang Tradition, he remarks on the dialectic between these styles of mindfulness practice with special attention to the language of mindfulness in Dakpo Kagyü manuals,
According to the Dakpo Kagyü, this is called ‘collapsing the barriers between abiding and movement.’ In essence, this meditation is a cognitive construct. Since it requires that this not be divorced from mindfulness that recognizes [emptiness], the Kagyü call this ‘mindfulness that apprehends emptiness.’ By sustaining this flow and familiarizing with it, this apprehending mindfulness (gzung dran) becomes intrinsically lucid mindfulness. So, if you practice this without distraction, there will be observable progress. After only a month, you will be able to mingle [this mindfulness] with appearances while awake.21
The context of Sogdogpa’s comment is his discussion on the integration of calm-abiding and insight (zhi lhag zung ’brel), in which he is instructing on the practice of recognizing the essence of thoughts while observing thoughts fade, which he equates with being singular with abiding reality. He emphasizes that, in the Dakpo Kagyü tradition, which is clearly a reference to Dakpo Tashi Namgyal’s Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā, this dynamic is known as collapsing or erasing the barriers that prevent the singularity of abiding and movement of mind. He makes the point, which Jigme Lingpa later recapitulates, that mindfulness that apprehends emptiness necessarily involves effortful cognitive processes.22 With this reference to Mahāmudrā instructions in his work on Dzogchen, Sogdogpa spotlights the importance of sustaining mindfulness that apprehends emptiness, even though it involves cognitive effort, because eventually this practice will yield progress. In this way, the creative tension between the application of effort and release into effortlessness are made explicit for the practitioner, revealing how this tension is operative even at the subtlest levels of practice. Sogdogpa foregrounds the dialectic in these meditation manuals by instructing, “With your recognition of a prior meditative equipoise of calm-abiding, there is the process of the integration of calm-abiding and insight meditation, which is called ‘Mahāmudrā’ or ‘Dzogchen.’”23

3. Jigme Lingpa’s Advice on Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness

3.1. The Gradual Threefold Wisdom versus the Simultaneous Approach

Gethin (2015, p. 33) identified three areas of tension in Buddhist definitions of mindfulness: (1) memory, (2) conceptual and discursive types of thinking, and (3) ethical action. Jigme Lingpa’s texts deal precisely with each of these areas in an organized fashion. Definitions of mindfulness as covering aspects of memory, judgment, and ethics, as detailed in Abhidharma and Śāntideva’s Bodhicaryāvatāra for example, are generally in opposition with an understanding of mindfulness as mere or “bare awareness”, as emphasized in some Pāli scriptures (Anālayo 2003, pp. 112–17, 229–32), in Chan/Zen traditions that understand the mind as a mirror (Sharf 2014), and with Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen that teach liberation through “bare pure awareness” (rig pa gcer bu). Scientific and secularized mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs), implicitly rely upon these sources and mix them to different degrees, popularizing an operational definition of mindfulness as a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment (Dreyfus 2011; Bishop et al. 2004, p. 232). In this regard, Jigme Lingpa’s texts on mindfulness present an indigenous voice from 18th century Tibet that articulates various styles of mindfulness along a single progression. The path starts with an effortful and conceptual approach, but the nature of mind is then directly presented by the teacher as pure awareness. Its full experience is to deepen and expand on the Dzogchen path with the instruction according to which “meditating within this mindfulness of the present moment is sufficient”.24
The different definitions of mindfulness depend, thus, on the categories of gradual (rim gyis pa) versus simultaneous (cig car ba) approaches to awakening that have structured contemplative life in Tibet since the semi-legendary yet foundational debate at Samye Monastery. The exemplars of this debate were the Indian Buddhist monk Kamalaśīla who represented the gradual approach and the Chinese Chan monk Heshang Moheyan who represented the simultaneous approach.25 In addition, van Schaik (2004) has studied in detail the relation between gradual and simultaneous methods in Jigme Lingpa’s revelatory works, the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse. Arguably, the definition of the faculty of mindfulness represents the crux of the gradual versus simultaneous awakening debate, which is reiteratively framed throughout discourses in Tibetan meditation manuals. Jigme Lingpa makes clear distinctions between two styles of mindfulness—a gradual mindfulness and simultaneous mindfulness—while showing how they are concretely articulated on the path, in terms of an individual’s capacity, corresponding to stages of spiritual development and relevant methods of cultivation.
To introduce the model of progression on the Dzogchen path that articulates the gradual and simultaneous methods, chapter XII of Jigme Lingpa’s Treasury of Precious Qualities (yon tan rin po che’i mdzod) is a useful embarkation point.26 Distinguishing the usual three levels of capacity and the corresponding stages for a practitioner (low, medium, high), lowest being the most gradual and highest being the most simultaneous, this model is summarized according to the Table 1.
Calm-abiding and insight are the twofold Buddhist techniques of meditative cultivation. The threefold wisdom model that forms the lowest and thus foundational level is the hallmark of the gradual approach presented by Kamalaśīla in his Bhāvanākrama or Stages of Meditation (Adam 2016). Jigme Lingpa adopts this scheme as the unmistaken path; as he writes in chapter IX of the Treasury of Qualities, study is the foundation for unerring reflection and cultivation,
Therefore, if one at the level of an ordinary being
Does not rely upon the wisdom born from study,
The qualities of reflection and cultivation will be lost in unsuitable places.
The wisdom of study is said to be the cause for all.27
Jigme Lingpa defines wisdom born from reflection as analytical investigation on the nature of phenomena, which is co-dependent arising or emptiness as explained in the Madhyamaka school, leading to personal conviction,
That any given thing arises in dependence
Is the treasure of all teachings without exception.
The wisdom that reflects about it,
Is the key that perfectly penetrates it.28
Ultimately, this certainty born from reasoning is to be followed by a direct recognition through cultivation,
Therefore, appearances are unborn.
This is ascertained through reflection.
Then, the real condition of knowing such nature
Is called the wisdom of cultivation.29
Along this developmental process, mindfulness is the very thread that connects these three types of wisdom: study, reflection, and cultivation. In Cudgel to Discern the Real, based on the scriptural basis of the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 25), Jigme Lingpa explicitly asserts, “what is studied, reflected, and cultivated is established on the basis of mindfulness”.30 From this perspective, in reference to Vasubandhu who defines the essence of the four ways of applying mindfulness as the threefold wisdom,31 Deroche (2021a) has proposed a threefold model of mindful wisdom or presence that articulates the three facets of mindfulness according to the threefold wisdom progression, related with memory, judgment, and attention: (1) keeping Buddhist teachings present in mind, (2) formulating their adequate re-present-ation, and (3) cultivating a presence of mind. According to the gradual approach, mindfulness as presence of mind is cultivated in the twofold method of calm- abiding and insight. As we shall see, when insight is fully realized, mindfulness is transformed into the transcending virtue of wisdom. In the interpretation of the threefold-wisdom model, there is thus a continuity thesis and a discontinuity thesis; the latter considers the possibility of a radical shift into non-conceptual insight.32
Then, according to Jigme Lingpa’s model, among those of low capacity and who practice calm-abiding and insight meditation sequentially, there is a second subcategory: those who follow the “spiritual instructions” (gdams ngag, man ngag), which means the yogic practical instructions, especially that of Dzogchen. This approach seems to refer specifically to the Mind Series (sems sde), which represents an interesting mediation between the gradual and the simultaneous methods. The methods of calm-abiding and insight meditation are practiced differently in the classic Mahāyāna context (referred to as “threefold wisdom” by Jigme Lingpa) and in this Dzogchen context (referred to as “spiritual instructions”). The fundamental view of Dzogchen is that of the nonduality of primordial purity (ka dag) and spontaneous presence (lhun grub). In the Dzogchen context, abiding (gnas), movement (’gyu), and their inseparability are thus reinterpreted according to this fundamental framework. Abiding corresponds ultimately (but not at the level of a beginner in training) in the recognition of primordial purity; movement in the recognition of spontaneous presence (Namkhai 2014, pp. 25–38). Their nonduality is found in the very act of recognition (rig) of both the states of abiding and movement. Hence, according to the Dzogchen view, the conjunction of calm-abiding and insight meditation consists in fully recognizing the nonduality of abiding and movement. But again, the terms calm- abiding and insight are given a different meaning that is contextually specific to Dzogchen, and the methods are different from that of the classic Mahāyāna context referred to by Jigme Lingpa as the “threefold wisdom” approach. The approach of practicing the sequence of calm-abiding and insight meditation according to this category of “spiritual instructions”, seems to correspond to the first two of the four yogas of the Mind Series, a fourfold progressive system within Dzogchen (Sogdogpa 1999), which is a common feature of the Mahāmudrā of the Kagyü tradition, as discussed above. In Dzogchen, these four yogas are: (1) abiding (gnas pa), the absence of thought activity or movement, which is interpreted as calm-abiding meditation; (2) immovability (mi g.yo ba), which is defined as the immovable recognition of thought movement, and interpreted as insight meditation. In Jigme Lingpa’s presentation, those with medium capacity practice the conjunction of calm-abiding and insight meditation, and this corresponds to the third yoga of the Mind Series: (3) equality (mnyam nyid). Finally, those with high capacity, according to Jigme Lingpa’s presentation, which is natural settling without antidotes, would correspond to the fourth yoga of the Mind Series: (4) spontaneous presence. These latter two levels—equality and spontaneous presence—are more immediately reached according to the Instructions Series (man ngag sde) with reportedly further depth according to the method of tregchö (khregs chod) or literally the “spontaneous release of binds”.33 The distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen, as exposed in Jigme Lingpa’s two texts, belongs to the practice of tregchö. As expressed in the Ocean of Qualities, these practices are intended for people of the highest caliber, but again, mindfulness can be taken as the thread that connects these various levels and leads to the pinnacle realization of Dzogchen,
If renunciate meditators were to establish the entirety of expressions and Dharma language of the path into the definition of mindfulness, then among those of the simultaneous type with supreme intelligence who reside in meditative equipoise, the distinctive feature of natural Dzogchen is not settling mindfulness34 on top of meditative equipoise. Mindfulness itself is the perfect essence of meditative equipoise that is especially great for traversing the stages.35
This remarkable statement by Jigme Lingpa introduces the main point of his two texts: (a) integrating all Buddhist teachings up to Dzogchen, their pinnacle, into the concept of mindfulness; and (b) bringing this understanding into a direct realization through the instructions on the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen.

3.2. Analysis of Ocean of Qualities

At the outset of Ocean of Qualities, the circumstances in which the advice was given are reported. A meditator named Gelong Lama presents his past experiences in the contemplative life and how his “deliberate mindfulness” led him to experience obstacles and problems. Gelong Lama praises Jigme Lingpa for having taught him the “instantaneous mindfulness of natural awareness”,36 the “essence to be meditated”.37 The fundamental distinction between two styles of mindfulness is posited. Depending on if the view of Dzogchen has been understood, Gelong Lama asks whether “it is appropriate to directly increase such character only through mindfulness?”38 The text can be read as Jigme Lingpa’s fully developed reply to Gelong Lama’s question, which starts with the powerful statement: “You should know that the root of all the teachings relies upon mindfulness”.39 This statement would be familiar to Gelong Lama since it has a scriptural foundation in Nāgārjuna’s well-known Letter to a Friend (stanza 54). He then continues by stating that “without mindfulness, not to mention study, reflection, and cultivation, one cannot achieve anything even secular”.40 With this, Jigme Lingpa laments the tragic consequences of forgetting (brjed) due to the “deterioration of mindfulness” (dran pa nyams pa).
Contemplations of the four reminders, or mind-changers (blo ldog rnams bzhi)41, are understood to rely entirely upon mindfulness. If mindfulness is lost, virtue and non-virtue are forgotten, and a practitioner will err with unethical or mindless behavior. Because mindfulness is understood to guard the ethical precepts, compassion and morality deteriorate if mindfulness deteriorates. Drawing from the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the Ocean of Qualities follows a detailed discussion of the threefold system of precepts and their respective ethical transformations that necessarily transpire by maintaining codes of conduct with specific attributes of mindfulness. Also, without mindfulness, Śāntideva claims that there can be no patience. Śāntideva asserts that patience can be developed by being mindful that the deeper roots of suffering are actually caused by mis-knowing, afflictions and past negative actions, and that these nascent causes lie within oneself. Thus, from this perspective, annoyances caused by others are merely secondary factors for the experience of suffering. Being mindful that others, too, are under the power of ignorance, afflictions, and negative actions, one can develop a compassionate ethics.
Anticipating the period following his death, the Buddha reportedly advised his disciples, “take mindfulness and meta-awareness as your teacher”.42 Jigme Lingpa reiterates this dictum and reminds his audience that the essence of memorization (dhāraṇī, gzungs) is also mindfulness, which is discussed in relation to guarding the senses and avoiding sensory dissipation in phenomena. To punctuate his contemplative advice, he emphasizes that the essence of meditative stability (dhyāna, bsam gtan), too, is not different from mindfulness.43 Jigme Lingpa then discusses mindfulness within the classic Mahāyāna framework of the fivefold path theory that envisions a progressive application of the thirty-seven branches of awakening.44 In this way, mindfulness is featured among the “four ways of establishing mindfulness” (catvāri smṛtyupasthānāni, dran pa nyer gzhag bzhi), as a “faculty” (indriya, dbang po), a “force” (bala, stobs), an “awakening branch” (bodhyaṅga, byang chub yan lag), and, ultimately, as the “correct mindfulness” (samyak-smṛti, yang dag pa’i dran pa) that is part of the eightfold noble path. Aspects of mindfulness that are relevant to the first two paths of ordinary individuals (accumulation and junction) are categorized as conditioned mindfulness, which is a crucial concept for Jigme Lingpa’s presentation. Jigme Lingpa quotes Longchenpa’s Treasury of Spiritual Instructions (man ngag mdzod), which presents the progressive path from conditioned mindfulness up to perfect wisdom. Though Longchenpa does not use the term mindfulness to describe the entire path, Jigme Lingpa’s presentation, which is later followed by lineage holders including the Third Dodrupchen Jigme Tenpei Nyima (rdo grub chen ’jigs med bstan pa’i nyi ma) (1865–1906),45 specifically ascertains the progressive stages of the path according to a typology of mindfulness.
Essentially, Jigme Lingpa considers “two steps in the way of preserving” (skyong tshul gyi rim pa gnyis pa) through the cultivation of mindfulness. The first step or style is a mindfulness that transcends the duality of subject and object; watchful mindfulness and a watched distractor are of a single taste (ro gcig), said to be like fire and heat. For this style, mindfulness and conceptual thinking appear and are liberated concurrently. As for the second style, once meditative equipoise is achieved, mindfulness operates to subdue distractors. When a practitioner is in a flustered state of distraction, mindfulness is, however, carried away by conceptuality. In this case, when overwhelmed by distraction, the instruction is to effortfully re-establish mindfulness so that the meditator can re-enter meditative equipoise. This is a dynamic wherein conceptuality and mindfulness quarrel. When mindfulness effortfully gains strength through fortitude—literally through a “heart bone” (snying rus)—conceptuality and its discursive patterns of defilement are understood to no longer stand in the face of mindfulness, a recurrent phrase in Jigme Lingpa’s advice. This second level belongs to the style of conditioned mindfulness.
This twofold distinction is envisioned both as conditioned mindfulness and as its negation, which points to the realization of gnosis (jñāna, ye shes). Conditioned mindfulness operates to shift attention from distraction to concentration, while mindfulness itself can be converted into gnosis.46 The difference between conditioned mindfulness and gnosis is that, while the former belongs to the level of cognition (buddhi, blo), the latter transcends cognition and intellectual discursivity. Jigme Lingpa explains that mindfulness is thus sublimated into gnosis by disentangling the mistaken identification of the self to the five aggregates47 by means of supramundane meditative equipoise. In ways that read intentional, Jigme Lingpa retains the term mindfulness to refer to this sublimated stage, especially when integrated into post-meditative experience. He states,
The training of integrating into post-meditation the discriminating wisdom experienced in this meditative equipoise is called ‘mindfulness of the nature of reality’ (chos nyid kyi dran pa). This is the antidote that removes the root mental afflictions and their associated seeds.48
Such “mindfulness of the nature of reality” is the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen. This style of mindfulness is not developed along the path of accumulation and junction, but is rather mindfulness at the level of vision, beyond the dualistic mind, at the first level of a bodhisattva. Elsewhere, this is also called “gnosis that appears as mindfulness” (dran snang ye shes). This is an essential point that shows the articulation of Mahāyāna and Dzogchen path theories that have major implications for Jigme Lingpa’s typology of mindfulness.
In the context of Dzogchen meditation, Jigme Lingpa asserts that “mindfulness accompanied with concepts does not penetrate” (rtogs bcas kyi dran pa mi ’jug).49 In natural liberation (rang grol), which is salient for Dzogchen, there is no need for an antidotal mindfulness that would apply corrections to perceived faults or diversions. The advice instead is to forsake all mindfulness and attention. Here, the doctrine of “non-mindfulness” and “non-attention” exposes how conceptual distinctions (so sor rtog pa) and modes of fixation (’dzin stangs) are in contradiction with the ultimate. For Jigme Lingpa, “the wisdom beyond the cognition sees the nature of reality beyond mindfulness”50 since “wisdom appears as the insight that exhausts the basis of mindfulness”.51
Given that the level of buddhahood is characterized by the possession of “wisdom endowed instantly with all phenomena”,52 and that Dzogchen teachings are defined as directly pointing out such wisdom, it follows that, from the perspective of Dzogchen, the progressive doctrines of a linear succession of discrete stages and paths collapse (sa lam gyi grub mtha’ ’gyel). The view of Dzogchen is that of the inseparability of “primordial purity” (ka dag) and “spontaneous presence”; the first is emphasized through the practice of the spontaneous release of binds (khregs chod), while the second is with direct transcendence (thod rgal).53 Jigme Lingpa differentiates these two methods, respectively, to not rely on cultivation, that is “non-meditation” (sgom med), and relying on meditation (sgom yod). In this way, we can observe that the dialectics of effort and effortlessness play important functions even at the most spontaneous levels of contemplative practice.
Since the Dzogchen contemplative system works directly with the nature of the mind that has never been deluded, “there is no distraction or distractor”.54 Jigme Lingpa makes an important distinction between buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha, bde gshegs snying po) as approached progressively according to the Mahāyāna and immediately accessed as original purity according to Dzogchen. He distinguishes the “embryo of a buddha, the element that is present in the mind-streams of sentient beings together with adventitious veils” (such veils being gradually removed) from the “gnosis of the embryo to be realized” (rtogs bya snying po’i ye shes), the latter forming core Dzogchen as the self-perfected state containing all qualities.55
The text pivots to address the question: why is it that Dzogchen practitioners still appear to others mostly as ordinary individuals, far from the vibrant descriptions of the signs of the paths and stages of an advanced bodhisattva? Jigme Lingpa’s answer is that such attributes are not being progressively cultivated during a lifetime, but are simultaneously recapitulated at the moment of death, when the yogin who has stabilized recognition of the nature of mind gets to completely merge with that nature, free from obstructions related to material existence. Dzogchen yogins are thus traditionally compared to the mythical garuḍa bird who is able to fly in the sky as soon as it exits the egg; that is, they immediately attain buddhahood when leaving the physical envelop of body.56 This specific Dzogchen path theory serves to justify Jigme Lingpa’s powerful statement according to which the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen immediately and inwardly accesses the core lucidity of awakening, while outwardly, until physical death, no signs of the radiance of pure awareness are necessarily shown to others. The “gnosis of the embryo to be realized” is thus, so to speak, hidden in plain sight, in the invisible act of seeing itself. Holding that transparent (i.e., trans-apparent) wakefulness, so simple yet so profound, is the very function of the specific mindfulness of Dzogchen.

3.3. Analysis of Cudgel to Discern the Real

Cudgel to Discern the Real was composed in response to questions by a certain Gontse Tulku Rinpoche, for whom we find other texts of advice on mindfulness in Jigme Lingpa’s writings.57 Unlike the Ocean of Qualities, this text is not organized sequentially across the entire path but rather focuses on dynamics of meditative cultivation and the “distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen”, an expression coined by Jigme Lingpa. At the outset, Jigme Lingpa describes the experience of deliberate mindfulness (’jur dran) to be the intentional effort applied by a meditator to not be distracted. Before he introduces meta-awareness, Jigme Lingpa points out that this deliberate mindfulness in the context of calm-abiding meditation is the conscious application of mindfulness to reflectively note that “I must not be distracted”.58 For most meditators, though the application of mindfulness is a necessary starting point, it is important to relax the focus of attention while practicing. Jigme Lingpa states that this is called “loosely relaxing the focus while staying wakeful” (hrig gis bsgrims la lhod kyis glod), and while such effort is necessary to reach a state of meditative equilibrium—not too tense, not too loose—he is quick to point out that this is “not the same as Dzogchen mindfulness that goes into the essence of meditation”.59 He urges beginners, however, to apply an antidotal mindfulness to deliberately counteract or block thoughts. He names this “antidotal mindfulness”, to denote the remedial character of this mindfulness style and likens its effortfulness to the careful process of gradually learning a skill or art, such as writing or painting. As he notes, this application of an antidote operates according to the tensions of what is to be discarded and its antidote (spang gnyen) and is thereby necessarily a dualistic mindfulness. In this way, Jigme Lingpa’s advice is not dismissive of the foundational importance of a dualistic, effortful mindfulness. Very quickly, however, he pivots to present the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen that he describes to be “the perfection of the essence of one’s meditation”, which is beyond antidotes, and defined as “preserving the flow of natural settling”.60
Though not named explicitly, antidotal mindfulness is implied in the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 54), where Śāntideva implores those on the bodhisattva path to examine their minds with effort by observing upsetting emotions and futilities, and to apply the appropriate antidote.61 Glossing the double meaning of the Tibetan word “gom” (sgom pa; goms pa), which means both to meditate, habituate, and become familiar, Jigme Lingpa cleverly inserts the mnemonic for the meditator to remember the meditation instructions, “Not meditating is familiarization. Familiarization is attaining mastery”.62 With this, Jigme Lingpa captures the philosophy of meditation as habit-based skill acquisition—applying the attentive effort required to become a master artist, for instance—and summarizes the dynamics of dualistic mindfulness as applying an antidote and regular familiarization. The process described is to apply an initial effort to the extent that habituated familiarization of the practice yields automaticity, which, in turn, gradually conserves energy and reduces effort.63 Since mindfulness functions as the ability to remember a task—in this case the instructions to recall the object of meditation and return attention to that object—the practice is coordinating learned automatism. With effort, the performance of mindful meditation practice eventually reaches the point of full effortless or habitless automatization, what the contemplative traditions call “non-meditation”, which involves “non-mindfulness” (asmṛti, dran med) and “non-attention” (amanasikāra, yid la mi byed pa).64
Jigme Lingpa introduces the understanding that discursive thoughts can arise and be freed naturally so that what is to be discarded and its antidote are identical, or as he expresses in the experiential language of meditation, a single taste. The possibility of this equality, that thoughts can be experienced without the dualistic tensions of needing to be discarded or counteracted, he asserts is because thoughts lack an inherent nature (rang bzhin med), that is, because they arise due to emptiness. He advises that, although beginner practitioners do not experience this equality of mind for prolonged durations, by noticing the movements of mind, thoughts automatically dissolve in the face of mindfulness,
That, likewise, does not happen long for a beginner. For this reason, when you notice movement, these discursive thoughts cannot endure in the face of mindfulness. This process of dissolution into evenness and lucidity is the unmistaken point of the way to sustain the continual flow of mindfulness.65
Sustaining this continuity of mindfulness moment by moment without tensing or loosening, correcting or modifying, discarding or applying antidotes to thoughts, Jigme Lingpa calls “preserving the flow of natural settling” (rang babs kyi rgyun skyong ba). Once this possibility of recognizing the dissolution of discursive thoughts through mindfulness is introduced, Jigme Lingpa switches back to the dynamics of mindfulness and meta-awareness,
Alternatively, what are called ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meta-awareness’ are likewise distinguished as being the cause and its effect. Generally, there are numerous discussions in all the meditation manuals about what are called mindfulness and meta-awareness. I understand this mindfulness to belong to a conditioned mindfulness.66
The dynamic relation between the dyad of mindfulness and meta-awareness is described to be that of a cause and its effect, making it a conditioned mindfulness on par with the tensions of what is to be discarded and its antidote, attributed to antidotal mindfulness. This dualistic dynamic is necessary, especially for a novice meditator, to maintain the experiential flow of the practice while retaining the working memory of the instructions to practice. As Jigme Lingpa makes clear, mindfulness is the faculty that enables the practitioner to recollect one’s training, precepts, and the philosophical view.67 While the practice is to remain undistracted in the present moment, this requires that the practitioner be cognizant of the instructions and maintain the view while meditating. The meditation instructions are not, however, to enter a vacuous trance-like state or to suppress thoughts, but rather are to be at ease in nondual pure awareness, which requires an iterative recollection of how to practice.
To reiterate this back-and-forth relationship between mindfulness and meta-awareness, Jigme Lingpa quotes the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 33),
When mindfulness, at the gate of the mind,
Stands as a guard,
At this moment, meta-awareness arrives,
And even if it departs, it returns.68
If there is conditional mindfulness, meta-awareness is also present. Meta-awareness emerges in tandem with the presence of mindfulness and operates to sustain and continually monitor the experiential flow during meditation. As this stanza describes, meta-awareness monitors the mindfulness so that “even if it departs”, meta-awareness is regularly checking for potential distractions and evaluating the need to apply an antidote. For meta-awareness to return means that it comes back to monitoring mindfulness. In the context of meditation, this is a gesture of awareness back to the chosen meditative object, whether it be the breath, a visual image, a syllable, and so forth.
Having explained the dualistic dynamics of conditioned mindfulness and the monitoring operations of meta-awareness, Jigme Lingpa pivots to contrast those with the mindfulness applied during Dzogchen practice,
In Dzogchen, the view and meditation are of a single taste. This mindfulness does not guard as dual facets—the mindfulness of the view and the meta-awareness of meditation—since this is the perfect essence of meditative equipoise. Such meta-awareness is understood to be a cognitive obscuration. These appear to be the cause and effect, before and after. The reason is that if there is mindfulness, from that, there is residual meta-awareness that is a defiled cognition. If there is no mindfulness, since there is nothing knowable, there is only the knower.69
Jigme Lingpa distinguishes Dzogchen mindfulness from the dyad as defined in the Bodhicaryāvatāra to be based on cause and effect (rgyu ’bras), with mindfulness and meta-awareness, respectively, preceding and succeeding (snga phyi). An important distinction being made is that, while conditioned mindfulness is critical to maintain a philosophical or intellectually constructed view, within the context of Dzogchen meditation, the view is not intellectually constructed and is intimately integrated with the experience of meditation. In fact, the causal relationship between mindfulness and meta-awareness is understood to be a cognitive obscuration (shes bya’i sgrib).70 The logic is that, if there is effort applied through mindfulness, by the very tension inherent in that application, a linear and causal relationship emerges, as detailed in the discussion about conditioned mindfulness. Without mindfulness (asmṛti, dran pa med), the mind is freed from this dualistic dynamic. Devoid of the duality of the subject–object complex—the apprehender and what is to be apprehended (gzung ’dzin)—there is nothing knowable, only the knower (shes bya med pas shes byed). Since the mind is ordinarily oriented with an object, when the mind is not objectively or spatially oriented, this is nondual mindfulness. Dzogchen mindfulness is understood to transcend the linear cause-and-effect model of mindfulness and meta-awareness because this distinctive mindfulness is not confined to the operations of a subject–object duality. These dynamics of duality are implicit in the Bodhicaryāvatāra’s definition of mindfulness, which necessitates retained attentive focus on an object of meditation while meta-awareness monitors potential distractors to apply mindfulness to be corrective. The distinction made by Jigme Lingpa extends not only to calm-abiding but to insight meditation, especially when the provisional view of emptiness established first by deconstructive reasoning is taken as an object of focus, retained by mindfulness and observed by meta-awareness.
While conditioned mindfulness is suitable at the level of conceptual analysis, including analytical meditations (dpyad sgom) of insight meditation where emptiness is discerned through reasoning, this remains a conceptual approximation of emptiness. Contrasting Dzogchen meditation with analytical meditations, Jigme Lingpa states,
While it’s like that, when abiding reality is not realized to be as it is, view and meditation are intellectual speculation that impute a mindfulness that apprehends emptiness and meta-awareness that monitors whether there is a decline in that very flow [of consciousness]. Consequently, this is not free from the cognition of mental factors, the four omnipresent and two variable.71
The Abhidharma is concerned with a descriptive taxonomy of the mind that is necessarily oriented with an objective reference, and thereby does not articulate a nondual meditative state that is devoid of an object of meditation (Dunne 2011, pp. 73–75). Nonetheless, as is the case throughout Tibetan writings on nondual states of meditation, Jigme Lingpa references the Abhidharma to emphasize his point that discrete mental factors are operable for conditioned mindfulness to apprehend emptiness while nondual meditation is devoid of operative mental factors. Assuming that his audience is learned in the Abhidharma, he simply remarks that, during the process of analytical meditations, the mind is not free from the “four omnipresent and two variable”, a reference to the Abhidharmasamuccaya. In this Abhidharma taxonomy of fifty-one mental factors, there are five omnipresent factors (pañcasarvatraga, kun tu ’gro ba lnga) and four variable factors (anyathābhāva, gzhan ’gyur bzhi). Of the five omnipresent factors, Jigme Lingpa implies that the faculty of attention (manasikāra, yid la byed pa) is an operative cognition and of the four variable factors, both the factors of cognitive selectiveness (vitarka, rtog pa) and discernment (vicāra, dpyod pa), which function in tandem, are also operative during analytical meditations.72 Because these mental factors are operative in analytical meditations, conditioned mindfulness involves cognitive effort.
Even a subtle cognitive gesture towards an objective reference reconditions this causal dynamic so that meta-awareness is the result of mindfulness, and, consequently, there is the duality of “mindfulness that is knowable and meta-awareness that is the knower”. Summarizing this dynamic, Jigme Lingpa states,
If one asserts that meta-awareness is the result of mindfulness, at the moment of meditative equipoise in definitive meaning, it’s not possible to discard what obstructs the dual facets of the practice that proceed as mindfulness that is knowable and meta-awareness that is the knower. Nevertheless, in this way, conditioned mindfulness is suitable as a reflected image of the definitive meaning. Because there is mindfulness that is the object to be seen and meta-awareness that is the subject, both cognition and its object appear.73
Conditioned mindfulness, an expression of this causal duality, is understood to be suitable at the level of conceptual analysis to ascertain emptiness, and thereby is a conceptual approximation or, as Jigme Lingpa puts it, a “reflected image” of emptiness.

3.4. Dzogchen Mindfulness in Cudgel to Discern the Real

In contradistinction to deliberate mindfulness, through the application of Dzogchen mindfulness, cognition is progressively sublimated and operations of mental factors are neither pursued nor blocked. These cognitive operations are directly watched without distraction. As Jigme Lingpa puts it, in Dzogchen, “what is called a ‘distraction’ is co-emergent ignorance”.74 Therefore, the mere absence or protection from such distraction, distraction being defined fundamentally as the loss of awareness, is the essence of Dzogchen mindfulness.75 Jigme Lingpa is careful to differentiate his approach to Dzogchen mindfulness—characterized by fresh wakefulness in which all distractions naturally subside—from related Tibetan discourses that use the categories of calm-abiding and insight meditation. He criticizes some of his contemporaries for being confused about the actual nature of mental factors and for mistaking liberation with the karmically conditioned states of meditative stability, which Buddhism relies upon, but constantly warns about being potential dead ends. As discussed above, the debate revolves especially around the faculty of attention, the negation of which represents a hallmark of simultaneous approaches in their interpretation of the apophatic literature, especially of the corpus of the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras.
Jigme Lingpa intends to clarify the issue with a threefold theoretical scheme of meditative stability: (1) the first level is mundane, that is, within cyclic existence (saṃsāra) and thus subject to decay; (2) the second level corresponds to the bodhisattva paths of accumulation and of junction, that is, engaged with the path of liberation from cyclic existence and directed toward complete awakening; and (3) the third level concerns realized beings who have a direct knowledge of ultimate truth, starting from bodhisattvas on the path of vision, up to perfect buddhas. Dzogchen meditation is categorized into this third and supreme level, “Here, the natural Dzogchen is the virtuous meditative stability of the tathāgathas along the noble path”.76 At this point, Jigme Lingpa warns his audience not to take such an exalted statement about their meditative tradition as automatically granting realization or as completely dispensing of relative and ethical matters. The motive is to ensure that the two accumulations, merit (puṇya, bsod nams) and gnosis, are both perfected as they are the indispensable means to realize buddhahood in its two corresponding aspects: the formal dimensions or bodies (rūpakāya, gzugs kyi sku) that spontaneously benefit others, and the ultimate dimension or body (dharmakāya, chos sku) that consists in abiding ultimate reality. This framework, emphasized in the Madhyamaka school, seeks to avoid both the extremes of eternalism and annihilation. In the gradual versus simultaneous dichotomy, this approach forms the central critique set forth by Kamalaśīla in his Stages of Meditation, which is directed against his Chan opponent. Its usage here illustrates Jigme Lingpa’s strategy to reconcile the gradual approach of Indian Madhyamaka with the simultaneous method of his Dzogchen tradition. One may infer that the gradual method leads to obtaining the capacity to practice the simultaneous method. Even a practitioner of the simultaneous method, in order to stay on the right tracks, may, however, need to alternate the simultaneous method with the gradual method. So, for Jigme Lingpa, there is a constant movement back and forth between these two methods until the point that these both are totally sublimated into the inseparability of the two corresponding aspects of primordial purity and spontaneous presence, according to the nondual view of Dzogchen.
More broadly, this responds to critiques about tantric methods that act to manipulate the body and subtle energy, and that emphasize direct and powerful threshold experiences. Such responses occupy the latter part of Jigme Lingpa’s advice. Tantric practice is presented as a specialized method that enables the simultaneous emergence of gnosis to transcend discursive cognition, accelerating progress on the path. Jigme Lingpa warns that, after a profound and subtle contemplative experience, a practitioner can regress to ordinary modes of awareness. In tantra, meditative experiences of extreme heights and depths are both maximal. Along this path, the most difficult aspect may not be momentary access to gnosis—which is reportedly facilitated by skillful means and blessings—but is likely the extension, stabilization, and integration of gnosis. From the experience of gnosis to that of ordinary consciousness, including its subtlest dimensions, even without noticing the difference, the non-application of conditioned mindfulness and meta-awareness is understood to lead to ethical issues, erroneous meditation, and unfortunate outcomes. We can thus see how, in this text, Jigme Lingpa oscillates back and forth between a deliberate, conditioned mindfulness and the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen.
Jigme Lingpa describes two extreme conditions in which gnosis is obscured: firstly, that of misguided meditators who lack rigorous concepts and clear intentionality; and secondly, that of narrow-minded scholars who, too attached to the concepts of cause and effect, perceive contradictions between sūtra and tantra. The last part of the text concerns the fine line between the preservation of ethics based on the concepts of cause and effect, good and bad on the one hand, and, on the other, gnosis transcending all concepts and actions. The balance and integration of these two poles—compassion and wisdom, conduct and view, or meditation and post-meditation—constitute the practical dynamics of Madhyamaka. Jigme Lingpa’s text, close to the spontaneous form of spoken discourse, oscillates between insisting on ethical and conceptual guidelines, and pointing out their gnostic transcendence. For him, seizing any one aspect would lead to falling into an extreme. The attachment to ethical and doctrinal aspects is shown to be limited to the psycho-physiological conditions of the five aggregates (forms, affects, cognitions, volitional factors, and consciousness), ultimately all aspects of deluded perception. Nevertheless, for Jigme Lingpa, lacking the necessary ethical and doctrinal references due to the loss of conditioned mindfulness increases the saṃsāric structure of experience with a surge in mental afflictions. Ethical and doctrinal training is meant to reduce such psychic entropy. Nonetheless, transcendence of conditioned mindfulness is not to be confused with ordinary mental dispersion. The issue with such transcendence is that its experience must be sustained beyond a certain extent to become an irreversible realization. Until this definitive stage is realized, a practitioner is advised to alternate the practice of conditioned mindfulness with Dzogchen mindfulness, taming the mind first, then shifting from the dualistic mind to abide in the nondual nature of mind. While conditioned mindfulness operates at the level of mental factors that need antidotal solutions, the application of Dzogchen mindfulness is understood to operate beyond mental factors,
Even if there are multiple antidotes taken on the paths of renunciation and transformation, mindfulness that is equivalent to pure awareness is like a unique medicine for a hundred diseases. Also, there are distinct ways to recognize these two: (a) mindfulness is the mindfulness of the nature of reality that is free from the five aggregates; and (b) pure awareness is the gnosis of discriminative reflexive awareness that is the uncompounded non-collection of consciousnesses.77
This passage equates the mindfulness of Dzogchen with pure awareness while giving us precise definition for each term. The panacea referred to above is also “identified as the discriminative wisdom of the nonduality of mindfulness and pure awareness”.78 What matters for the Dzogchen practitioner is to extend the duration of such moment-by-moment vivid recognition that effortlessly transforms excitation and laxity—the usual faults meditators generally struggle with—into a state of clarity. In the end, the two styles of mindfulness exposed by Jigme Lingpa are not opposites of equal importance: conditioned mindfulness is both integrated and transcended in the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen. In the classical terms of Mahāyāna, mindfulness has its principle and ends in wisdom. This idea is supported by the Bodhicaryāvatāra (IX, 1) that explains that the different branches of practice, and we could say mindfulness, are ordered and oriented toward wisdom. Therefore, ultimately, mindfulness sublimated as wisdom, when directly introduced as such, is the very nonduality of mindfulness and pure awareness, Jigme Lingpa’s very definition of the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen.
In the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse,79 where the main practice of Dzogchen is concerned, conditioned mindfulness is negatively valued while Dzogchen meditation is described as “not being trapped in the cage of mindfulness”,80 remaining free “at this moment, whatever memories and thoughts arise”.81 Eloquent expressions are also found for the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen, such as the “mindfulness of reflexive awareness” (rang rig gi dran pa),82 unconditioned as “natural mindful awareness” (gnyug ma’i dran rig),83 and “knowing of the spontaneous release of ties in the present moment”.84 The Dzogchen path consists, then, in “preserving with a mindfulness that is simply not forgetting”85—however, “this is not a deliberate mindfulness, a mindfulness that purposely tenses”.86 In this way, as Jigme Lingpa instructs, a practitioner “enters into the citadel of the all-encompassing mindfulness”,87 the stronghold of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection.

4. Conclusions

4.1. Jigme Lingpa’s Typology and Creativity

To summarize Jigme Lingpa’s typology of mindfulness according to the two columns of the Table 2:
The insertion of the accumulations of merit and gnosis, conduct and view, here tries to encapsulate Jigme Lingpa’s constant movement back and forth between those two styles of mindfulness along the path. It shows that both styles of mindfulness are to be coordinated on the path while conditioned mindfulness is ultimately sublimated into the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen.
Emerging from oral advice by Jigme Lingpa to adept practitioners, these texts are rooted in Jigme Lingpa’s own experience, and endowed with a sense of spontaneity and creativity. New expressions such as the “distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen” are forged in these texts to mark important distinctions. Since such terminology is not directly found in the canonical literature of Dzogchen—the Dzogchen tantras and exegesis by Longchenpa—further research needs to consider other potential influential sources for Jigme Lingpa, such as the terma (gter ma) literature,88 including his own revelations,89 and related meditation instructions from traditions such as Mahāmudrā.
Fundamental questions remain about the continuity or discontinuity between these two styles of mindfulness, as distinguished by Jigme Lingpa. A common element consists in the “preservation” (skyong) of a state of “flow” or “continuity” (rgyun). The moment-to-moment application of conditioned mindfulness is intimately connected to the sudden shift into instantaneous pure awareness (rig pa skad cig ma). Present-centered awareness or presence represents, thus, the essential bridge between the succession of time and timeless simultaneity.90 In this way, Dzogchen sources offer important developments to the Buddhist doctrine of momentariness. But it is important to note here that, in Jigme Lingpa’s lineage, in addition to considerable preparations (the so-called preliminary practices, sngon ’gro), such conversion between two radically different modes of presence is possible through the receptive and devotional practice of integrating one’s mind state with that of the teacher (guru yoga, bla ma’i rnal ’byor), a method that takes place in the context of an interpersonal transmission. Thus, in the Dzogchen tradition, mindfulness cannot be understood in purely instrumental terms but is rather reverential,91 allowing an opening and expansion of awareness toward the recognition of a greater presence that is already perfect as it is. Moreover, the general dichotomy of effortful versus effortless is to be further differentiated with the recognition of a broader spectrum between these two poles within Dzogchen meditation according to the categories of the three types of liberation: “liberation through naked seeing” (gcer grol),92 “liberation upon arising” (shar grol), and “natural liberation”. These are different modes of watchfulness, varying from slight effort to total spontaneity, and are to be applied according to various circumstances and capacities.

4.2. Nondual Mindfulness in the Contemplative Sciences

With an increasing interest in empirical research on meditation, and the rise of the transdisciplinary contemplative sciences, accessing and interpreting Tibetan meditation literature can inform current understandings of contemplative practices in dialogue with cutting-edge science. Dunne (2015) articulated three reasons why meditation researchers and clinicians can derive benefit from understanding Buddhist sources.93 Extant research on mindfulness to date refers mostly to the twofold Focused Attention (FA) and Open Monitoring (OM) framework (Lutz et al. 2008; Dahl et al. 2015). Recent scholarship has both acknowledged the importance of nondual styles of practice to contemporary mindfulness in experimental and applied clinical settings (Dunne 2011, p. 75; Kabat-Zinn 2011), and advanced frameworks for conceptualizing and assessing nondual awareness (NDA) in meditation research (Josipovic 2010; Hanley et al. 2018). To conclude, we would like to offer reflections on three areas of possible future collaboration between Buddhist studies and the contemplative sciences in conversation with Jigme Lingpa’s advice on mindfulness and meta-awareness, and especially nondual mindfulness: (a) refinement of a lexicon of technical phrases and terms for contemplative styles; (b) framing effortful versus effortless practices as a paradigm for interdisciplinary engagement; and (c) researching meta-awareness to bridge mindfulness with NDA research:
(a.) Lexicon of technical terminology: The lack of a standardized English lexicon of technical terms for the analysis of contemplative practices and, consequently, the numerous conceptual and theoretical issues that ensue because of this deficiency, has been identified as one of the major areas that Buddhist sources can contribute to empirical understandings of meditation (Lutz et al. 2007, pp. 508–10). Terms are the building blocks for descriptive accounts and analyses of practices, and without a common lexicon of contemplative terminology with fine-tuned definitions, there will remain confusion about the meanings of specific terms. Buddhist sources have developed and refined a technical vocabulary for meditation, and for this reason, it is important for empirical researchers to be in dialogue with this descriptive literature on meditation. For instance, in the case of Jigme Lingpa’s Cudgel to Discern the Real, his typology of mindfulness differentiates conditioned mindfulness as being an “antidotal mindfulness” or “deliberate mindfulness” in contrast to unconditioned mindfulness, which he discusses in terms of nondual mindfulness or the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen. Jigme Lingpa’s descriptive vocabulary for mindfulness, as well as that of Dzogchen authors including Jigme Tenpei Nyima who articulates six styles of mindfulness, provide stepping stones to a more nuanced lexicon.
(b.) Effort as a paradigm for interdisciplinary meditation research: While the pervasive tension between practices that apply effort and those that are effortless is presented as a binary in classical accounts—as if effort is a fixed and static quantity that is present or absent— effort is spectral. This is better understood to be a descriptive framework for a range of contemplative dynamics that unfold during meditative experiences, and which can be intentionally enacted, or fostered, by different contemplative techniques. These practices are performed in ongoing and dynamic shifts across a spectrum of intensities of effort, and with increased expertise, attentional control is understood to gradually become effortless. Practices typically oscillate between deliberate effortful applications to gestures of release and resting in effortlessness states, and different contemplative styles facilitate these transitions along a spectrum of effort. Degrees of subjective effort and the ability to sustain attentional focus over durations is well-studied within the cognitive sciences; however, little is known about subjective or cognitive effort in meditation. The cognitive sciences have generally approached research on attention and self-control through different effortful training programs; however, training programs can also be effortless (Tang et al. 2022). Along lines of research in skills acquisition in other domains of expertise, contemplative neuroscience research has shown that, after extensive Focused Attention meditation training, regulative skills were invoked less frequently and minimal effort was required to sustain attentional focus (Lutz et al. 2008, pp. 3, 6). In dialogue with Tibetan meditation theories, such findings may also suggest that expert practitioners increasingly access implicit and invariant features of consciousness. Because Buddhist sources offer rich descriptive and theoretical discourse about the pervasive tension of effort, and because effort is a measurable physiological and cognitive ability, this is one possibly constructive framework for interdisciplinary collaboration in meditation research.
(c.) Meta-awareness as a bridge with nondual awareness (NDA) research: The two texts by Jigme Lingpa in the present study detail his advice on mindfulness to provide a window into the features and operations of meta-awareness. Because meta-awareness is a critical operation for many contemplative techniques, it is especially relevant to the ongoing dialogue between historical contemplative traditions and the cognitive sciences. Given recent empirical studies on meta-awareness, particularly to understand mind-wandering and spontaneous thought, and the centrality of this cognitive operation within Buddhist mindfulness-styled practices, studies on meta-awareness can prospectively serve to bridge the science of mindfulness with several domains of research, including discernment and insight, constructions of self, reflexivity of mind, and NDA research. Cognitive scientific and philosophical considerations suggest that there may be a distinct kind of “non-propositional meta-awareness” (Dunne et al. 2019), distinct from the propositional representation of one’s own mental states. The propositional versus non-propositional distinction is meant to capture the difference between a kind of meta-awareness that takes explicit note of the contents of consciousness and represents them in the form of propositions (e.g., “I noticed my mind was wandering”), and a kind of skillful meta-awareness that consists in an implicit awareness of characteristics of ongoing mental processes, such as the spontaneous arising of thoughts, fluctuations in attention, emotion and affect, and state awareness, for example, during lucid dreaming. The ongoing and implicit monitoring function of meta-awareness aligns closely with Buddhist theoretical understandings of reflexive awareness (svasaṃvedana/svasaṃvitti, rang rig) as an invariant feature of consciousness that makes phenomenality accessible to the practitioner, yet is not structured by subject–object duality (Dunne 2011, p. 74). This secondary feature of meta-awareness—its intrinsic reflexivity—is characterized as effortless in contrast to its monitoring function, which is effortful. Jigme Lingpa brings complexion to these oscillatory dynamics between mindfulness and meta-awareness by using the phrase, “mindfulness of reflexive awareness” (rang rig gi dran pa),94 demonstrating how meta-awareness is cultivated to transition into states of nondual awareness while mindfulness is applied to sustain nondual states.

Author Contributions

Marc-Henri Deroche and Michael R. Sheehy co-authored the paper. M.-H.D. wrote Section 1, Section 3.1, Section 3.2, Section 3.4, and Section 4.1; M.R.S. wrote Section 2.1, Section 2.2, Section 3.3, and Section 4.2. The authors revised each other’s contributions and agreed on the whole. The authors co-translated Jigme Lingpa’s Tibetan text, as appears in Appendix A. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.


This research was funded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), grant number 17K13328.


Marc-Henri Deroche acknowledges the help of the participants of his Tibetan reading seminar at the department of Buddhist studies, Graduate School of Letters, Kyoto University, where Jigme Lingpa’s text translated here was read entirely during the academic year 2018. Michael R. Sheehy and Marc-Henri Deroche acknowledge the collegial and financial support of the Great Perfection Initiative led by David Germano.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Appendix A. English Translation of Jigme Lingpa’s Cudgel to Discern the Real: Advice That Shines from Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness

Homage to the ever-present vajra!
Here are my instructions as a single response to various questions by Gontse Tulku Rinpoche that primarily concern issues about meditation:
Concerning the style of mindfulness that is deliberate mindfulness (’jur dran), observe while continually thinking, “I must not be distracted”. In this way, in the present moment, there is the flow of mindfulness. It’s said that the awareness that cognizes the very absence of distraction must be the essence of meditation. Besides those of the simultaneous type, for most others, it’s important to apply methods to find calm-abiding at the beginning. To correct mistakes, while in the state of mere non-distraction, since it’s important to relax your focus as much as possible, this is similarly called, “loosely relaxing the focus while staying wakeful”. This is not the same as Dzogchen mindfulness that gets at the essence of meditation. At the moment when intense attraction or aversion arise, it’s difficult for these feelings to subside immediately by observing their essence. Over lifetimes, we have been deeply habituated to attraction or aversion, which are to be discarded. As for antidotal mindfulness (gnyen po’i dran pa), its basic nature is conditioned mindfulness that is just slightly in the present moment. Because the forces of an antidote and what is to be discarded are not equal, it does not depart from the very moment. So, while it’s not a mistake to deliberately block thoughts, it’s also not unnecessary. This is like when learning arts such as writing, painting, and carving, and so forth. At first, there is no other way than to use measurements. In this way, skilled arts are produced gradually through a very careful process. It’s said to be true that, “Not meditating is familiarization. Familiarization is attaining mastery”.
When discursive thoughts naturally arise and are naturally freed, what is to be discarded and its antidote are of a single taste. Even discursive thoughts of attraction or aversion, from their onset, manifest without an inherent nature. That, likewise, does not happen long for a beginner. For this reason, when you notice movement, these discursive thoughts cannot endure in the face of mindfulness. This process of dissolution into evenness and lucidity is the unmistaken point of the way to sustain the continual flow of mindfulness. Though the intrinsic essence of attraction or aversion does not subside, in this state, this is not simply dualistic perception, like that of an ordinary person. If attraction or aversion become nullified as the empty absence of self, this will temporarily suffice. The distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen is known as, “the perfection of the essence of one’s meditation”. In the moment-by-moment flow of mindfulness, there is no need to tense or loosen, correct or modify, discard or apply an antidote. This is known as, “preserving the flow of natural settling”.
Alternatively, what are called “mindfulness” and “meta-awareness” are likewise distinguished as being the cause and its effect. Generally, there are numerous discussions in all the meditation manuals about what are called mindfulness and meta-awareness. I understand this mindfulness to belong to a conditioned mindfulness. The training and vows of personal liberation, bodhisattva, and mantra, being mindful of the purity [of the deity] during the generation stage, and so forth, take mindfulness as their basis. Then, not diminishing this ongoing state is designated to be meta-awareness. Likewise, mindfulness keeps a philosophical understanding of the view beyond elaborations that are reached by examination. Such flow is preserved by meta-awareness. These exist like cause and effect, before and after. According to the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 33) it reads,
When mindfulness, at the gate of the mind,
Stands as a guard,
At this moment, meta-awareness arrives,
And even if it departs, it returns.95
In Dzogchen, the view and meditation are a single taste. This mindfulness does not guard as dual facets—the mindfulness of the view and the meta-awareness of meditation—since this is the perfect essence of meditative equipoise. Such meta-awareness is understood to be a cognitive obscuration. These appear to be the cause and effect, before and after. The reason is that if there is mindfulness, from that, there is residual meta-awareness that is a defiled cognition. If there is no mindfulness, since there is nothing knowable, there is only the knower. As stated in the text cited earlier (Bodhicaryāvatāra, V, 27),
The thieves of lacking meta-awareness
Follow with a decline in mindfulness.96
This is clearly explained.
While it’s like that, when abiding reality is not realized to be as it is, view and meditation are intellectual speculation that impute a mindfulness that apprehends emptiness and meta-awareness that monitors whether there is a decline in that very flow [of consciousness]. Consequently, this is not free from the cognition of mental factors, the four omnipresent and two variable.97 If one asserts that meta-awareness is the result of mindfulness, at the moment of meditative equipoise in definitive meaning, it’s not possible to discard what obstructs the dual facets of the practice that proceed as mindfulness that is knowable and meta-awareness that is the knower. Nevertheless, in this way, conditioned mindfulness is suitable as a reflected image of the definitive meaning. Because there is mindfulness that is the object to be seen and meta-awareness that is the subject, both cognition and its object appear. According to the Bodhicaryāvatāra (V, 25),
Those with a mind without meta-awareness,
Even if they study, reflect, and cultivate,
Like a vase that leaks when cracked,
They do not retain it with mindfulness.
Consequently, what is studied, reflected, and cultivated is established on the basis of mindfulness.
Alternatively, while there is a flow of mindfulness, when the two facets of stillness and movement appear, there is also a mode that causes hair-splitting distinctions and clearly distinguishes good from bad. The cognition that conceptually analyzes, which resides within the naturally settled mindfulness of the nature of phenomena, makes hair-splitting and clear distinctions about what is good and bad. Mindfulness of the inherent nature of phenomena recognizes whether there are distractions or no distractions—if discursive thoughts arise or do not arise—without any effect. To the extent there are discursive thoughts, if there is a distraction, what is called a “distraction” is co-emergent ignorance. At that moment, isn’t freedom not following it? Therefore, the mere absence of distraction is the essence of mindfulness. When discursive thoughts arise from within the very ongoing state of mindfulness, since discursive thoughts are an adventitious appearance of dynamic power, they cannot withstand in the face of mindfulness, and these disperse by their own energy. In this way, what dissolves is not capable of destroying the freshness of mindfulness. So, in a single mindfulness, there is neither good nor bad.
Nevertheless, non-thought that is merely an absence of distraction regarding the categorical ultimate, is destroyed. From that, insight meditation which intellectually analyzes, recognizes the extent to which a thought arises as a distraction. These are the attractions and aversions of meditation. Calm-abiding meditation is without moving. Insight meditation is like the flash of a fish. To stabilize the mind, you must actually be free from constructs and dullness. That’s what they say.
Here in Tibet, due to diversions that mix mental factors during meditative equipoise, those with agitated meditative stability assert such [instructions] to be the unsurpassable intent of the Great Madhyamaka.98 However, if examined from the point of view of realization itself, these are karmic actions of meditative equipoise. The dualistic phenomena of actor and action that correspond to the phenomenon of attention (yid byed) in insight meditation do not have the capacity to discard the two obscurations. From the Tantra of Confession it reads, “Action, actor, and mental examination are totally purified”. That would thus contradict the meaning of this quotation. Nevertheless, because the essence of the meditative stability that discerns the real is the cause for the acquisition of establishing mindfulness along the path of accumulation and the capacity of mindfulness along the path of junction, this produces only steps along the way towards the path of vision.99 Here, the natural Dzogchen is due to the virtuous meditative stability of the tathāgathas along the noble path. As for the mindfulness of the nature of reality (chos nyid kyi dran pa), which is totally beyond cognition, it does not enter into cognitive deceptions due to conception and examination. It’s primordially free (ye grol), continually free without meditating, equal, naturally settled, naturally clear, not fabricated, not deceptive. It’s called, “ordinary awareness” (tha mal gyi shes pa).
Nevertheless, due to an excessively loose use of these words that transgress the exalted Dharma terms—suchness, freedom from proliferations, essencelessness, the expanse of phenomena, and so forth—the two truths are portrayed like antlers of a deer. Through distortions of understanding, experience, and realization, the secret words of the profound tantras, textual transmissions, the Treasury of Dohā, and so forth are disregarded as truth of the path and declared to be “the view of Heshang”. Now, the Dharma terms “mindfulness, mindfulness” are the topic of conversation by ignorant people about their stupid meditation (glen sgom). There is the mindfulness of self-recognition (rang ngo shes pa’i dran pa), and from that, impassable mindfulness (mi ’da ba’i dran pa), and mindfulness that is devoid of an inherent nature (rang bzhin med pa’i dran pa). Among these three, the first and the second have cognitive obscurations of grasping at things. As a method to relinquish these, exert yourself in devotion, compassion, and the other causes to accumulate merit. Then, there is the accumulation of gnosis. As a means to perfect it, you do not meditate. You must associate with the luminous state without illusion, the heart of awakening. According to a tantra it reads, “As long as the eighth stage (bhūmi, sa) is not ascertained, you will be frightened by the lower vehicles”.
Along the mantra path, even though there are fruits of profound meaning that come from exertion, simultaneous (cig car ba) gnosis arises from temporary methods. During the third empowerment, represented by symbolic gnosis, there is tremendous increasing and decreasing as well as ways that don’t rely on meditative warmth.100 In particular, due to pure awareness (rig pa) of the wind-mind, both aspects of experience and realization manifest just as increasing and decreasing alternate. Moreover, perfectly pure mindfulness that does not mentally engage in intellectual analysis (yid la mi byed pa’i yang dag gi dran pa) that grasps emptiness is extensively vast and wide open. Within the state that is not established by an inherent nature—like water that is struck with a sword—thoughts of attraction and aversion dissolve with mindfulness of mental movements (’gyu dran). When this vanishing occurs, this is the vanishing of intellectual proliferation. According to Bodhicaryāvatāra (IX, 2),
The ultimate is beyond the scope of cognition,
Cognition is asserted to be the relative.
Like this, you must prolong the duration of meditation on vanishing.
Moreover, according to the vehicle of transcendent virtues (pāramitā), what is called “being on the elevated path”, is when the consciousnesses of the five perceptual gates are transformed into gnosis. Persons who meditate alternately on the path are under the influence of the five aggregates and the eight types of consciousness. Due to the profound points of view and meditation that emerge from the path of mantric methods, sometimes experiences and realizations arise simultaneously (cig car du). When the truth of the path arises as relative, there is a special appearance of the wisdom of discriminative reflexive awareness. Sometimes, defiled by objects, conditions, or the wind-mind, the suchness of realization is obscured. It turns out that they cannot bear to stop appearances and consciousness of attraction, aversion, and delusion. At that moment, without being guided by sublime teachers, by thinking that they are introduced to their mind, they do not have meta-awareness of what is to be accepted and transcended in terms of personal liberation, bodhisattva vows, mantra vows, and of the nature of reality. Their apprehending mindfulness (gzung dran) is blank and dark. Having taken that to be their meditation, the majority of stupid meditators that behave carelessly out of disturbing emotions fall to lower destinies.
Alternatively, even among those who are very learned, there are those who seize onto liberation based on cause and effect. Since they fall under the power of the antidote that is emptiness, they sharply conceive and examine the contradictions and inclusions of the view and conduct of mantra and the transcendent virtues. Their self-arisen gnosis is obscured. In this way, they think that practitioners will be sullied by such misconduct regarding how they live by the precepts, and the defeats and falls that are characterized by the four roots.101 Without trust in the path of mantric methods, the view of emptiness outshines the relative! Nevertheless, in terms of post-meditation, having grounds to harm others even without any intent whatsoever, is the cause that destroys the bodhisattva vows. If there are doubts about accepting or transcending wrongdoings towards others, these are like reflective images of virtuous and vicious discursive thoughts. Until discursive thoughts vanish, by pursuing them, relative truth cannot be blocked. Therefore, for a beginner, at any moment, it is suitable to confess vows without a mind that conceals.
At the time of Lama Lhaje Rinpoche, there was an experienced meditator who ate deceptive scriptures, and a great regret arose within him.102 Though he was realized, he said to the lama that he felt diminished. He was told to write down those very scriptures. Annoyed by the distraction of composition, since this was an obstacle to meditative stabilization, he said there is surely no purification of obscurations greater than realization of the nature of mind. [The lama] said, “Oh, you understand! This is exactly it”. So, he stopped writing. Without entering into the previous flow of the two kinds of moments,103 he settled in the midst of fresh awareness. In this way, hearers’ (śrāvaka, nyan thos) vows that have a form104 are vows born from the karma of body and speech, and in the state of emptiness, those do not have a form. If thinking “this is a transgression” belongs to the aggregate of affect (vedanā, tshor ba), it is not established within the true condition of the nature of reality. When one seizes onto guarding or transgressing as true, with the very aggregate of cognition (saṃjñā, ’du shes), this substantially contradicts with discriminative reflexive awareness. From that moment onwards, approximate volitional factors (saṃskāra, ’du byed) cease since there is no abiding of ordinary consciousness within the gnosis of discriminative reflexive awareness. Guarding or transgressing are patterns of the intellect.
From the Condensed Transcendent Wisdom, “These sentient beings are ethical but they have lost their ethics”.105 To attend to the cognition of multitudes is to entirely lose ethics. This is to transgress ethics and not have a perfectly pure ethics. For someone without cognition of one’s self or sentient beings who is free from attachment of cognition, how could there be a non-virtuous vow? Settle evenly into this meaning. Up to this point, this is seeing the truth of the nature of reality so that the profound path of mantric methods does not become a threat. All the infractions when you don’t realize that there is no contradiction among the intentions of the sūtras and tantras are overcome. You will not be tainted by vicious deeds, the worst being “to kill a brahmin daily, to perform the five inexpiable acts and so forth”. Practice this meaning! This is advice drawn from direct experience. In the words of the authors of treatises (śāstra), this is explained in this way with refutation and demonstration. Commentaries on the mantras are clarified in the omniscient chariots. Moreover, without the teachings in the scriptures, those are all the circumstances of lacking mindfulness. According to the Letter to a Friend (stanza 54), “With the impairment of mindfulness, all the Dharma is destroyed”.106
In this way, discursive thoughts of desire, aversion, and delusion take over. The fivefold accumulation of merit, generosity and so forth, and subsequent twofold accumulation of gnosis are depleted. Without cutting-off the limits of discursive thoughts that arise from mind and mental factors, since the root of all of these is ignorance, it’s said that “discursive thinking is the great ignorance that plunges one into the ocean of saṃsāra”. Even if there are multiple antidotes taken on the paths of renunciation and transformation, mindfulness that is equivalent to pure awareness is like a unique medicine for a hundred diseases. Also, there are distinct ways to recognize these two: (a) mindfulness is the mindfulness of the nature of reality that is free from the five aggregates; and (b) pure awareness is the gnosis of discriminative reflexive awareness that is the uncompounded non-collection of consciousnesses. As it’s taught in the Condensed Transcendent Wisdom,
Not seeing forms is also not seeing affect,
And when there is no seeing a cognition, there is not seeing directionality of mind,
And whoever does not see consciousness, mind, and the intellect–
Sees this Dharma.
This is what the Tathāgatha taught.
In this way, by merely recognizing the discriminative wisdom of the nonduality of mindfulness and pure awareness (dran rig gnyis su med pa), and by entering into an undetermined state of being naturally awake, there are no grounds to support afflictions such as torpor and so forth. Like this, by mindfulness being strengthened, ignorance arises as luminosity within the gnostic expanse of reality, and so on. This comes from prolonging your meditation. In sum, if even the slightest intellectual understanding that arises in regards to emptiness is particularly beneficial in destroying reifications of the real, what’s the need in discussing experienced persons?
For this reason, by diminishing clinging to the real and holding onto all the philosophical systems that fixate on the liberation of past causes and their results, cognition becomes expansive and open. Isn’t this the nature of phenomena? It’s not necessary to have inimical doubts about diminishing clinging to the real in every respect that principally elicits conditions along the truth of the path. This enfolds the immense awakened activities of the maṇḍala and so forth. As for dark chatter, even if the slightest understanding and experience have not arisen in their mindstreams, they mimic adepts (siddha, grub thob). By establishing their words and reasonings in their mind, and by being greedy, they only debate! Furthermore, the great one from Oḍḍiyāna said,
This view of my secret mantra is very important. Don’t let conduct slip onto the side of the view. If conduct slips onto the side of the view, this becomes the view of the dark chatter according to which virtues are empty and vices are empty. Don’t let the view slip onto the side of conduct. If the view slips onto the side of conduct, one will be entangled by materialism and ideology, and there will be no time for freedom.
Since this point is extremely profound, now, when you alternate rest in and out of realization, do not fixate on aspects of the ultimate. While there are aspects of relative blockages, do not obstruct. Alternatively, since the complete fruition of the two accumulations is perfect buddhahood of renunciation and realization, without completion of the accumulation of gnosis, how could there be completion of the accumulation of merit? Moreover, from Bodhicaryāvatāra (IX, 1) it reads,
All of these branches,
The Sage has taught for the sake of wisdom.
[Translators’ final note: The end of the text is concerned with advice on rituals: filling statues with mantras, torma offering, smoke offering, etc. It is not translated here. There is no colophon to the text.]


See below the abbreviations for reference to the versions of Jigme Lingpa’s Collected Works that were used for this paper.
A contemporary Tibetan text dealing exactly with this topic from the standpoint of Dzogchen is Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s (chos rgyal nam mkha’i nor bu, 1938–2018) Mirror: Advice on Mindfulness and Meta-Awareness (dran pa dang shes bzhin gyi gdams pa me long ma). Commenting on his intention for writing such a treatise, he writes (Namkhai [1983] 2005, p. 39): “It is difficult to find works dealing specifically with this topic, because in all the Buddhist teachings, from the sutras and tantras, the principle in general is that there are rules to be observed. The Dzogchen masters in Tibet, who taught people who had practiced Sutra or Tantra teachings, always confined themselves to advising them simply to have awareness. Since they were addressing disciples who would have been familiar with this principle, in their writings they never gave detailed explanations of what awareness is and how to apply it. That is why I thought I would write a text to provide this ‘advice’”. The English translation of this short treatise without the Tibetan text and the commentary has also been published in the form of an open-access journal article (Namkhai 2013b).
dran pa’i gtam yon gtan rgya mtsho (A, vol. 4, pp. 438–64; B, pp. 517–49; C, pp. 600–19), translated into English by Thinley Norbu (phrin las nor bu, 1931–2011) (Norbu [2015] 2021).
dran pa dang shes bzhin las ’phros pa’i gtam don rab ’byed pa’i thur ma (A, vol. 4, pp. 465–75; B, pp. 550–62; C, vol. 4, pp. 620–27), translated into English here, in the Appendix A, to our knowledge for the first time.
Here the repetition of the term “mindfulness” (dran pa) seems to suggest a sense of irony by Jigme Lingpa. He may somehow be mimicking his fellow Tibetan people who mindlessly parrot the term mindfulness, talking repeatedly about it, but without understanding its essential meaning and actual implications.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 468; B, p. 554): da dran pa dran pa zhes pa’i chos skad glen sgom gti mug can yan chad kyi kha nas don kyang.
(Dreyfus 2011, pp. 49–50) and (Apple 2015, pp. 12–13). The translation of shes bzhin (saṃprajanya) as meta-awareness is meta- (bzhin) awareness (shes). The Tibetan particle bzhin (sa) is self-referential, meaning to correspond with; shes (prajanya) means to know or be aware of. For relevant perspectives in cognitive sciences on the construct of meta-awareness see (Chin and Schooler 2009).
Sanskrit text edited in Śāntideva (1960), Tibetan version in Śāntideva (1994–2008). The English translation that was consulted here is Śāntideva (1995). In this paper, we refer to its chapters in Roman numbers, and its stanzas in Arabic numbers.
See Pelden (2010) for a Nyingma commentary of this classical Indian text, in the lineage of Jigme Lingpa, through the oral explanation of Patrul Rinpoche (rdza dpal sprul o rgyan ’jigs med chos kyi dbang po, 1808–1887).
This metaphor is expressed in different variations, for instance, in chapter III of Bhāviveka’s Essence of Madhyamaka (Madhyamakahṛdaya) where he states that the elephant mind should be bound to the object of mediation by the rope of mindfulness and subdued by the iron-hook of meta-awareness. Bhāviveka, Dbu ma’i snying po (Madhyamkahṛdaya). Sde dge Bstan ’gyur, 3855. Dbu ma, 98 (dza), 1b–40b. Quoted in Paṇchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen ’s Lamp So Bright (yang gsal sgron me), see (Jackson 2019, p. 507). Also quoted in (Namgyal 2019, p. 55).
(Śāntideva 1994–2008, p. 972): sems bsrung ’dod pa rnams la ni/ dran pa dang ni shes bzhin dag/thams cad ’bad pas srungs shig ces/ bdag ni de ltar thal mo sbyor/.
This reformed presentation of insight meditation emerged from Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path to Awakening, was reified by the Second Dalai Lama Gendun Gyatso (dge ’dun rgya mtsho, 1475–1542) in his writings on how the Prāsaṅgika view relates to Mahāmudrā, assimilated as Geluk Mahāmudrā by Paṇchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen’s Lamp So Bright, and, ultimately, canonized by Yeshe Gyaltsen’s essentialized Geluk instructions on insight meditation. See (Sheehy 2022; Jackson 2019, pp. 154, 187, 212, 278).
Paṇchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyaltsen’s Lamp So Bright is his prose auto-commentary on his root text on Mahāmudrā, Highway of the Conquerors (rgyal ba’i gzhung lam). The Paṇchen writes that when mindfulness has arisen, meta-awareness arises as its result, and so is understood to be derivative. See Jackson’s translation of Lamp So Bright (Jackson 2019, p. 507) and, for the broader discussion of the causal relationships and application of antidotes, see Jackson (2019, pp. 505–10).
(Namgyal 1978, p. 18). For a translation, see (Namgyal 2019, pp. 25–26).
In this context of sustaining Mahāmudrā, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal introduces a third faculty to complement mindfulness and meta-awareness, that of conscientiousness (apramāda, bag yod), which he defines as twofold: (a) having the ability to protect the mind from afflictive phenomena (nyon mongs kyi chos rnams), and (b) enabling the meditator to fully practice worldly and transworldly virtues. (Namgyal 1978, p. 239): de’i ngo bo ni kun nas nyon mongs kyi chos rnams la sems bsrung zhing ’jig rten dang ’jig rten las ’das pa’i dge ba rnams yongs sus grub par byed pa ste. For a translation, see (Namgyal 2019, p. 311).
(Namgyal 1978, pp. 240–41). For a translation, see (Namgyal 2019, p. 313).
(Namgyal 1978, p. 240): snga ma ni/ dran rgyu de nyid dran par byed pa’i ’dun pa gtod pa tsam yin la/ phyi ma ni dran rgyu de nyid yid la byas nas de las ma yengs pa’i dran pa dngos gzhi ste/. For a translation, see (Tashi Namgyal 2019, p. 313).
(Namgyal 1978, pp. 240–41): las dang po la de gnyis snga phyi’i rnams pa cung zad yod kyang goms nas phyogs gcig tu ’char ro. For a translation, see (Namgyal 2019, p. 313).
(Namgyal 1978, pp. 240–41): de lta bu’i dran pa de’ang sgrub brgyud pas rtsol bcas kyi dran pa dang/rtsol med kyi dran pa gnyis su bshad nas/ snga ma la/a ’thas kyi dran pa’am ’jur dran dang/stong nyid kyi bzung dran nam ngo shes kyi dran pa dang/phyi ma la/ yang dag gi dran pa’am zung ’jug gi dran pa dang/ blo bral las blo ’das kyi dran pa ste/. For an alternative translation and further detail on these four styles of mindfulness, see (Namgyal 2019, p. 313).
(Sogdogpa 1999, p. 290): dwags po bka’ brgyud pa gnas ’gyu’i bar lag ’gyel ba zer/ ngo bo blos byas pa’i sgom yin/ ’di la ngo shes kyi dran pa dang ma bral ba dgos pas bka’ brgyud pa stong nyid gzung dran zer/ ’di ka rgyun bskyangs nas bsgoms pas/ gzung dran de rang gsal gyi dran pa ru ’gro/ ma yengs pa rang byas na ’di yang kha gze mo zhig yin te/ zla ba gcig tsam nas nyin snang ’dre thub/.
It is important to note here that the “mindfulness that apprehends emptiness” in the context of Mahāmudrā relates to the yogic perception of emptiness.
(Sogdogpa 1999, p. 290): sngar gyi zhi gnas kyi ting nge ’dzin de rang ngo shes pas zhi lhag zung ’brel lam/ phyag rgya chen po’am/ rdzogs pa chen po zhes zer/.
In Man ngag gi rgyab rten padma dkar po (C, vol. 8, p. 380): da lta’i dran pa de las sgom go chod par bya’o.
For a discussion of this debate, see (Ruegg 1989) and for a recent overview of the scholarship on this topic, see (Higgins 2016). For a rebuttal of views in the context of Mahāmudrā, see (Namgyal 2019, pp. 129–35).
Tibetan text in Lingpa (2004, pp. 470–82), English translation in Lingpa (2013, pp. 51–60).
Lingpa (2004, pp. 392–93): de’ang ‘di na so so’i skye bo’i sar // thos pa las byung shes rab ma bsten na/ bsam dang sgom pa’i yon tan gnas min ’khyams/ thos pa’i shes rab kun gyi rgyu ru gsungs/.
Lingpa (2004, p. 401): gang zhig rten cing ’brel ’byung ni/ chos rnams ma lus kun gyi mdzod/ gang la bsam pa’i shes rab kyis/ yang dag ’jug pa lde mig yin/.
Lingpa (2004, pp. 404–5): de ltar snang ba skye med du/ bsam pas gtan la phab pa de’i/ rang bzhin shes pa’i chos nyid la/ sgom pa’i shes rab ces su grags/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 467; B, p. 553): thos bsam sgom gsum po dran gzhir bzhag pa.
Abhidharmakośabhāṣyam, Chapter VI, 15a.
For references to the considerable discussions in Buddhist studies regarding this major issue, see for example (Adam 2016).
On the meaning and translation of the term tregchö, see Namkhai (2013a, pp. 133–34). Treg (khregs) refers to the “binding up” of body, speech, and mind. Chö, “to cut” is here in its intransitive form (chod), not to be confused with its transitive form (gcod). It refers thus not to a deliberate action to cut something as performed by someone (dualistic model), but to the spontaneous freeing or breaking free of tensions and thoughts in Dzogchen meditation (nondual model). Chögyal Namkhai Norbu thus proposes the interpretative and suggestive translation of tregchö as “total relaxation”. We propose here “spontaneous release of ties”.
Not settling deliberate mindfulness, as such, deliberate style of mindfulness is not the distinctive mindfulness of Dzogchen.
Ocean of Qualities (A, p. 453; B, p. 536): lam gyi chos skad tshon (B: chen) po mtha’ dag spong ba bsam gtan pas dran pa’i mtshan nyid du gtan la phab na/ ’di ltar mnyam par bzhag (B: gzhag) pa po blo mchog tu gyur pa cig car ba’i rigs la rang bzhin rdzogs pa chen po’i khyed chos mnyam gzhag (B: bzhag) gi steng du dran pa mi gzhag par/ dran pa rang mnyam gzhag gi ngo bor rdzogs pa de sa chod lhag par du che ba yin/.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 518): rang bzhin shes pa’i dran pa skad cig ma.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 518): bsgom bya’i ngo bo.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 518): de gshis thog tu bskyed pa la dran pa gcig pos chog pa lags sam.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 519): chos thams cad kyi rtsa ba dran pa la thug pa shes par gyis shig.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 519): dran pa med na thos bsam sgom pa’i bya ba lta ci/ ’jigs rten yang ma ’grub.
I.e., precious human life, impermanence and death, karmic retribution, and the sufferings of cyclic existence.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 530): khyad rnams kyis ston pa ni dran pa dang shes bzhin la gyis shig.
Ibid., p. 532: bsam gtan gyi ngo bo ni dran pa las logs su gyur pa ma yin.
See Nagarjuna (2005, pp. 182–83) for a useful table prepared by the Padmakara Translation Group that shows the details and relationship between these two lists of categories.
Another similar but different quotation of the Treasury of Spiritual Instructions served later to Jigme Tenpei Nyima in his own advice summarizing the entire path of Dzogchen according to six styles of mindfulness (Tibetan text in Nyima 2003): (1) “conditioned mindfulness” (’du byed kyi dran pa), (2) “mindfulness of the nature of reality” (chos nyid kyi dran pa), (3) “mindfulness of post-meditative appearances” (rjes snang gi dran pa), (4) “mindfulness of direct perception” (mngon sum gyi dran pa), (5) “mindfulness of the field of experience” (spyod yul gyi dran pa), (6) “mindfulness of the exhaustion of phenomena” (chos zad kyi dran pa). This text has been translated by Adam Pearcey (2018, pp. 75–86). It must be noted that, originally, Longchenpa did not explicitly use any of these categories of mindfulness or even the full term of mindfulness (dran pa). These are the later and self-consciously creative interpretations of Jigme Tenpei Nyima. Jigme Lingpa’s model studied in this paper is simpler and consists mainly in the two first styles of mindfulness of the above list elaborated by Jigme Tenpei Nyima.
Jigme Lingpa quotes the Tantra of the Vajra Pinnacle (rdo rje yang tog gi rgyud): “The movements of thought are subdued by mindfulness. Mindfulness purified is gnosis”. Ocean of Qualities, (B, p. 538): ’gyu ba dran pas btul ba yin/ dran pas sangs pa ye shes yin/.
Forms, affects, cognitions, volitional factors, consciousness.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 539): de’i myong ba so sor rtog pa’i shes rab rjes thob thams cad du bsre ba la bslab pa ni chos nyid kyi dran pa zhes bya ste nyon mongs pa sa bon dang bcas pa drungs nas ’byin pa’i gnyen po yin.
Ocean of Qualities, B, p. 540.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 543): ’dir ni blo dang bral ba’i shes rab kyis dran pa med pa’i chos nyid mthong.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 543): shes rab kyis dran gzhi zad pa’i lhag mthong du shar.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 544): chos thams cad skad cig dang ldan pa’i shes rab.
Spontaneous release of binds (khregs chod) and direct transcendence (thod rgal) are the two main types of Dzogchen practice in the Instructions Series. The first consists in the direct recognition of the primordial purity, or emptiness, of the nature of mind. The second is formed by visionary exercises, with the use of specific postures, gazes, etc., that enhance a direct perception of the spontaneous presence, i.e., the creative energy of the nature of mind. These are interpreted as forming a Dzogchen parallel to calm-abiding meditation (in spontaneous release of binds: resting in the empty nature of mind) and insight meditation (in direct transcendence: observing directly the luminous apparitions emerging from the nature of mind).
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 547): yengs dang yengs mkhan med do.
Ocean of Qualities (B, p. 548): sems can gyi rgyud la glo bur gyi dri ma dang lhan cig pa’i khams bde gzhegs snying po.
On this point, see van Schaik (2004, pp. 124–27).
dgon rtse sprul sku rin po cher gdams pa (A, vol. 9, pp. 207–10) and dgon rtse sprul sku rin po che nas dran pa skyong tshul gyi dris lan (A, vol. 9, pp. 236–45). Deroche is currently preparing a study and translation of these two supplementary texts for another publication.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 465; B, p. 550).
Ibid.: ’di rdzogs chen pa’i dran pa sgom gyi ngo bor song (A: seng) ba dang ni mi gcig go.
Ibid. (A, p. 466; B, p. 551): rang sgom kyi ngo bor rdzogs and rang babs kyi rgyun skyong ba.
(Śāntideva 1994–2008, p. 975): de ltar kun nas nyon mongs dang/don med brtson pa’i yid brtags nas/ de tshe dpa’ bos gnyen po yis/ de ni brtan por gzung bar bya/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 465; B, p. 551): sgom pa ma yin goms pa yin/ goms pa klong du gyur pa yin/ zer ba ’di bden/.
This meditation theory is worth noting in conversation with empirical studies on mindfulness and habituation. For a study on attenuated habituation due to mindfulness practice with Dzogchen and Mahāmudrā practitioners, see (Antonova et al. 2015).
On these concepts, particularly the historical development of amanasikāra, see (Higgins 2008). On non-mindfulness and non-attention in Mahāmudrā instructions, see (Namgyal 2019, pp. 314–16) and on the symmetry of these opposites, see (Guenther 1993, pp. 38–40).
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 465; B, p. 551): de ’dra las dang po’i ring mi ’byung/des na ’gyu ba tshor dus rnam rtog des dran pa’i gdong [A: gdod] ma bzod [A: bzed] cing/phyal le/ sang nger dengs ’gro ba de dran rgyun brten lugs kyi gnad ma ’khrul ba yin/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 466; B, p. 551): yang dran pa dang shes bzhin zer ba rgyu ’bras ltar ’byung ba ji ltar dbye ba ni/ spyir dran pa dang shes bzhin zer ba ’di sgom yig thams cad du gleng ba mang ste/ ’di’i dran pa ni ’du byed kyi dran pa la ’jug pa kho bos go ste/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 466; B, p. 551).
(Śāntideva 1994–2008, p. 973): gang tshe dran pa yid sgo nas/ bsrung ba’i don du gnas gyur pa/ de tshe shes bzhin ’ong ’gyur zhing/song ba dag kyang ’ong bar ’gyur/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 466; B, p. 552): rdzogs pa chen po ni lta sgom rog gcig pas/ lta ba’i dran pa dang/sgom pa’i shes bzhin cha gnyis su mi skyong bar dran pa de ka mnyam gzhag gi ngo bor rdzogs pas shes bzhin de shes bya’i sgrib par mthong bas rgyu ’bras snga phyi med par snang ngo/ de’i rgyu mtshan/ dran pa yod na de las lhag pa’i shes bzhin blo’i dri ma/ dran pa med na shes bya med pas shes byed de ya cha/.
The two kinds of obscuration (sgrib gnyis) are a cognitive obscuration (shes bya’i sgrib) and an affective obscuration (nyon mongs pa’i sgrib).
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, pp. 466–67; B, p. 552): de lta mod kyi gnas lugs ji bzhin ma rtogs kyi ring la stong ’dzin gyi dran pa dang/de ka rgyun ma nyams [B: mnyam] par yod do snyam pa shes bzhin du ’dogs pa yid dpyod kyi lta sgom ste/kun tu ’gro ba’i bzhi dang/gzhan ’gyur gyi gnyis te sems byung gi blo dang ma bral ba’i phyir ro/.
According to the Abhidharmasamuccaya, the other four omnipresent mental factors are sensation (tshor ba), perception (’du shes), cognitive directionality (sems pa), and contact (reg pa); the other two variable mental factors are torpor (gnyid) and worry (’gyod). See (Guenther and Kawamura 1975, pp. 19–28, 99–107). The variable factor of cognitive selectiveness identifies phenomena while the factor of discernment reflexively apperceives and mediates the contents of consciousness. On cognitive selectiveness and discernment, see (Guenther 1976, p. 50; Vasubandhu 1990, p. 102; Sheehy 2006, p. 72). There is little discussion of the operation of attention (yid la byed pa) by Jigme Lingpa, who only makes cursory use of the term with the abbreviation yid byed, and to denote attentional investigation, the term yid dpyod.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 467; B, p. 552): gal te shes bzhin dran pa’i ’bras bur ’dod na/ nges don la mnyam par ’jog pa’i tshe dran pa de shes bya dang/shes bzhin de shes byed du ’gro ba’i nyams len cha gnyis kyi sgrib [B: bsgrib] pa spong mi nus/’on kyang nges don gyi gzugs brnyan ’du byed kyi dran pa can la ni de [B: ’di] ltar rung ste/ blta bya’i dran pa dang/lta byed kyi shes bzhin blo rdzas gnyis par snang ba’i phyir ro/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 467; B, p. 553): yengs pa [B: ba] zhes bya ba ni lhan cig skyes pa’i ma rig pa yin pas.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 467; B, p. 553): de’i phyir ma yengs tsam pa ni dran pa’i ngo bo.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, p. 468; B, p. 554): ’dir rang bzhin rdzogs pa chen po ni ’phags pa’i lam de bzhin gshegs dge ba’i bsam gtan yin pas.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, pp. 471–72; B, p. 558): de la spang bsgyur lam du byed pa’i gnyen po mang yang/nad brgya sman gcig lta bu ni dran pa’am rig pa yin/ de gnyis la’ang ngos ’dzin lugs tha dad pa yod/ ’di’i dran pa ni chos nyid kyi dran pa phung po lnga dang bral ba yin/ rig pa ni rnam shes ma tshogs pa’i ’dus ma byas so so rang rig gi ye shes yin/.
Cudgel to Discern the Real (A, pp. 472; B, p. 558): dran rig gnyis su med pa’i so sor rtog pa’i shes rab ngos zin pa.
In particular, klong chen snying thig gi bzhugs byang rab gsal nyi ’od rnam par snang ba’i rgyan (C, vols 8–9), chapter VIII (C, vol. 9, pp. 197–482). For a full study on texts belonging to this collection, see (van Schaik 2004).
In man ngag rdzogs pa chen po’i rgyu phyi ma (C, vol. 8, p. 208): dran pa’i gseb kyis mi ’ching ngo.
In man ngag rdzogs pa chen po’i rgyu phyi ma (C, vol. 8, p. 208): de tshe dran bsam ci shar yang.
In kun mkhyen zhal lung bdud rtsi’i thigs pa (C, vol. 8, p. 397).
In kun mkhyen zhal lung bdud rtsi’i thigs pa (C, vol. 8, p. 399).
In snying tig sgom pa’i bya bral gyi gol shor tshar gcod seng ge’i nga ro (C, vol. 8, p. 405): da lta’i khregs chod kyi shes pa.
In rdzogs pa chen po gnas lugs gcer mthong (C, vol. 8, p. 412): ma brjed tsam pa’i dran pas skyong ba.
In rdzogs pa chen po gnas lugs gcer mthong (C, vol. 8, p. 412): dran pas ched du gcur ba’i ’jur dran ma yin pa.
In snying tig sgom pa’i bya bral gyi gol shor tshar gcod seng ge’i nga ro (C, vol. 8, p. 407): khyab gdal gyi dran pa’i mkhar tshugs pa.
Kapstein (1992) has studied the Dzogchen doctrine of mindfulness in reference to the revelatory literature of the Northern tradition (byang gter), which refers to the term mindfulness (dran pa) at the level of Dzogchen practice. The dialectical relationship between mindfulness and forgetfulness in the cosmological and soteriological processes is well-illuminated by Kapstein.
According to the extracts of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse presented above, the use of the term mindfulness for the Dzogchen level is not found in revealed texts per se, but in Jigme Lingpa’s own important compositions that were compiled together as part of the cycle of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse.
In order to point out the close relationship between the two styles of mindfulness around the notion of present awareness or presence, and considering them together as the main Dzogchen practice par excellence, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu used to translate dran pa (in the sense of conditioned mindfulness) as “ordinary presence” and rig pa skad cig ma as “instant presence” (Namkhai 2013a, pp. 214–16).
In the preliminary practices of the Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse, the following supplication is even addressed to the teacher: “I pray you to establish also all mindfulness and meta-awareness” (dran pa dang shes bzhin kun kyang bzhengs su gsol, Tibetan text edited in (Klein [2009] 2020, p. 117)).
Or “wide open” (gcer bu).
In sum, these are: (1) because most clinical adaptations of mindfulness are explicitly based on Buddhist practices; (2) because the rich theoretical literature of Buddhist traditions can provide insights or suggest lines of research; and (3) because Buddhist contemplative traditions promote multiple approaches that involve different techniques framed within different theoretical discourses (Dunne 2015, pp. 251–52).
Here, reflexive awareness is to be understood in the context of Dzogchen, that is of pure awareness itself.
Meta-awareness is monitoring, so the phrase “if it departs” means that it regularly checks for potential distractions or hindrances and evaluates the necessity of applying antidotes, or not. The phrase, “[if] it returns” means that meta-awareness comes back to monitoring.
The lines that conclude this verse are (Śāntideva 1994–2008, p. 972): bsod nams dag ni nyer bsags kyang/rkun pos phrogs bzhin ngan ’gror ’gro/; “Even if one has accumulated merits, Being plundered by thieves, one goes to miserable destinies”.
Please see Section 3.3. for a detailed discussion of the factors here mentioned.
The following discussion assumes the distinction of three types of meditative stability. The first consists of meditative stability within cyclic existence, the second of the bodhisattva path of accumulation and junction, the third of noble bodhisattvas from to the path of vision and onwards (Lingpa 2010, p. 93 for stanzas nos. 106–8, pp. 329–34 for commentary). The argument here is that Dzogchen meditation corresponds to the third type.
Commentary by Kangyur Rinpoche (Lingpa 2010, p. 332): “For people who have entered one of the three vehicles and are abiding on the paths of accumulation or joining, it is through the concentration associated with insight meditation that the path of seeing (i.e., liberation) is attained. This state of mind is known as clearly discerning concentration, where the name of the result is given to the cause”.
This is the first of the four aspects of ascertainment on the bodhisattva path of junction.
(1) Not to know the line of the downfalls, (2) not to respect one’s teacher, (3) to be habituated to carelessness, (4) to have strong defilements. To these, Jigme Lingpa adds great forgetfulness and unclear mindfulness. Thus, he considers mindfulness and meta-awareness to be the core antidotes to the downfalls. See chapter X of the Treasury of Precious Qualities (Lingpa 2004, pp. 455–56).
The sentence is (Cudgel to Discern the Real, A, p. 470.4): sgom nyams can zhig gis gsung rab kyi bslus zos pas ’gyod pa chen po skyes shing. It likely refers to the practice of eating Buddhist scriptures.
Here an ultimate time fraction (dus mtha’i skad cig ma) and the time-span of completing an action (bya rdzogs kyi skad cig ma).
On this issue, see (Lingpa 2010, appendix 4, p. 377).
Ārya-prajñāpāramitā-sañcaya-gāthā, ’phags pa shes rab pha rol tu phyin pa sdud pa tshig su bcad pa, Pekin, Otani no. 735, vol. 21, pp. 185–95 (sher phyin, tsi).
Nāgārjuna’s Suhṛllekha, bshes pa’i spring yig. See (Nagarjuna 2005, pp. 48–49).


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Table 1. Levels of Dzogchen practice according to the Treasury of Qualities, XII.
Table 1. Levels of Dzogchen practice according to the Treasury of Qualities, XII.
HighNatural settling: no need for antidotes
MediumUnion of calm-abiding and insight (śamatha and vipaśyanā)
calm-abiding; then,
recognition of thought movement
absence of thought movement
(3) Cultivation(3.2) Insight
(3.1) Calm-abiding
(2) Reflection
(1) Study
Table 2. Two styles of mindfulness according to Jigme Lingpa.
Table 2. Two styles of mindfulness according to Jigme Lingpa.
Conditioned MindfulnessDistinctive Mindfulness of Dzogchen
Deliberate mindfulnessNatural settling
Antidotal mindfulnessBeyond antidotes
Mindfulness as part of mental factors
of the dualistic mind
Not the mindfulness and not the attention, etc., as mental factors of the dualistic mind
Mindfulness as belonging
to the five aggregates
Mindfulness free from the five aggregates
Mindfulness and meta-awareness as cause and effect, previous and successiveBeyond duality of subject and object, non-duality of mindfulness and pure awareness
Multiplicity of antidotesUnique medicine to a hundred diseases
Accumulation of meritAccumulation of gnosis
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Deroche, M.-H.; Sheehy, M.R. The Distinctive Mindfulness of Dzogchen: Jigme Lingpa’s Advice on Meta-Awareness and Nondual Meditation. Religions 2022, 13, 573.

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Deroche M-H, Sheehy MR. The Distinctive Mindfulness of Dzogchen: Jigme Lingpa’s Advice on Meta-Awareness and Nondual Meditation. Religions. 2022; 13(7):573.

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Deroche, Marc-Henri, and Michael R. Sheehy. 2022. "The Distinctive Mindfulness of Dzogchen: Jigme Lingpa’s Advice on Meta-Awareness and Nondual Meditation" Religions 13, no. 7: 573.

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