Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s “As It Is”

By David Silver of Mindrolling Podcast

I absolutely love Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.  His teachings lead me to also love the universe and me in it.  His descriptions of the nature of reality are razor-sharp. They propel you along the path.  It amazes me how the words of this pre-eminent Dzogchen Buddhist genius’s pure wisdom always seem to shoot me through to moments of realization, which is a huge deal.

He gave a series of talks in 1994/95 at the end of his days on this planet.  They are in a two volume book form called “As It Is” (As It Is, Volume I: 1, As It Is, Volume II: 2) and I’ve been re-reading them once again.  They’re available for Kindle.  The book versions are, sadly, by now, very expensive and rare, but you could say they’re actually worth it, as the luminous contents last and last, consistently brilliant over twenty years of dipping back into them.

I’ll leave biographical details to Wikipedia and Google.  I read the following excerpt again a couple of days ago.

A student asks him:

 “Can you explain a little more about our experience in dreams and the bardo state?”

 Tulku Urgyen answers:

 “In the bardo state, you believe you have eyes that see.  However, everything is merely experience, whether it is the bardo of  the hell realms or any other place.  It is all your personal experience.  Just because one believes one has eyes and can therefore see does not change the fact that what one is experiencing is basically mind experience.  When you dream at night you see all sorts of different things.  Are those things seen with the eyes?  You believe you have eyes in the dream, don’t you?  You walk around and look all over, yet in reality your eyes are closed and you’re in bed.

 Please understand that all your experience is your personal experience rather than somebody else’s.  It is your experience, and thus is different from the personal experiences of others.  While we are unenlightened, there is an element of shared or general experience.  The mountains, the city, the roads, the sky, the five elements, all seem to unenlightened beings to be as they appear.  Right now we have what is called impure experience, which means we are constantly solidifying the content of experience into a solid reality.  That is the definition of ‘impure.’  But it doesn’t have to remain like that.

 When we are training in this practice of recognizing rigpa and becoming great yogis, everything experienced is to be seen as ‘the eight analogies of illusion.”  These eight are reflections in a mirror, the moon in water, echoes, rainbows, dreams, city of Gandharvas, mirages, and the magical illusions created by a magician.  In other words, we are comparing our experiences and perceptions to something that seems to really be there but in reality isn’t.  Once that illusory nature is seen in actuality, then the solid character that we have attached to what we experience simply vanishes.  That is how a great yogi can move freely  through what other people see as solid matter.  It is not that he somehow becomes really strong and can force his way through solid matter.  Rather, it’s due to realizing the unreality or insubstantiality of all things.”

                                                                                                                                                                Page 96, “As It Is” Vol. 1

I won’t do much of an exegesis of this, because the effect it has on me is a light bulb situation.  The implication of the Tulku’s words is that we need to escape from false view.  If we just breathe and embrace the perfect flow-change within constant impermanence, we can be (a) happier and (b) have a far deeper, more dharmic, loving feeling about Dzogchen’s cognizant emptiness, the IS, which is also LIVING LOVE that is beyond our usual perception of what we are, who we are and what is supposedly certain about our perceptions and preoccupations and fears and clinging and general waving tentacles of a never-satisfied ego.

To say it’s all a dream – life, that is – is simply too facile.  It is more complex than that, in truth.  The Rinpoche maintains the reality of the actuality of our lives, while simultaneously letting us know that it is in fact a kind of a dream.  Tulku Urgyen’s teachings always throw me brutally out of complacent, tight, up-tight versions of reality and livingness.  In a nanosecond he hits me with a way of expanding consciousness, and ergo feeling the love!  Yes, he firmly states that this passing show of a lifetime is real, but its sense of itself is often not.  Just as we really believe in the bottom of our sleeping hearts that we have eyes to see and things to be seen and felt in a dream – but it is all a me movie – just like that, we come to see that in the so-called awake “real” human state, what we are perceiving and thinking and pondering upon and fantasizing about is insubstantial and frequently bad for our well being.  Release brings freedom which brings truth which may bring realization, on and on, until we are something we may not be able in this incarnation right now to even imagine with this physical brain.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s Dzogchen insistence upon hugging the absolute truth as grasped after practice and loving awareness are merged makes him a real healer, at least for me.  Hipping me to the diaphanous nature of “normal” everyday perception and holding-on-ness is always a liberating moment, even lounging on my couch in old New York, just before I watch some TV.


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  • Reply
    Nick p
    September 25, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Really Nice write up Dave. Living transmission is so earth shatteringly clear. However, as Lama Surya Das exemplifies, such a practice to really embody that mantra PHAT and commune withe the union of right wisdom and skillful means. May we all be well and held in the groundless embrace of what is apparent to the mind but lightened through the clear heart field. This was a short piece i did las year
    The nature of all things dwells constantly
    In secret, supreme joy:
    Embodiment of all the Buddhas, fearless hero,
    Vajrasattva, supreme bliss.He, the self-arisen Bhagavan,
    The great and single deity
    At one with all the Budhhas,
    Is the greatest deity.
     -Samata Tantra, Chakrasamvara tantra, the Union with the Buddha tantra, and the Ocean of Dakinis tantra
    The spontaneous joy expressed by all form
    Seen as Buddhadharma and brightly shining
    Illuminates the many worlds with clear light
    The shining net of the Vajra exposes the mind-stream
    As the Secret Vehicle of Great Realization
    Behind the humble and quiet master, sits a chuckling fool
    laughing bubbles of liberating creation: unfolding the universe
    effulgent compassion, arising from the Lotus-Born One.

    • Reply
      September 25, 2013 at 9:34 pm

      Mmmmm. Very bright stanzas, shining, cutting through the paradoxes. Thanks, Nick.

  • Reply
    October 18, 2013 at 1:45 am

    This message must be something I’m ripe for since tonight’s sadhana had a similar theme. Our teacher Ira said we can have a feel for the Paramatma by perceiving our dreams as The World as us, the dreamer, as the maker of that world. It only exists because we will it so and without it we still exist.

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