teachings of a modern spiritual adept

Bite size teachings across 30 years.

For 30 years t.k. has offered radical spiritual teachings on the divine nature of non-dual contemplation and realization. Enlightened mind here and now, born from this culture, addressing the issues of this time and place t.k. offers transmission through countless forms - words being one of them. Here are some short pieces from his teachings over the last 30 years.

Whatever changes is unreal.

Traktung Rinpoche: The topic today topic is “ Whatever changes is unreal.” Who will ask a question from this topic? But please, do not ask questions which do not truly concern you. Here we are not having conversations for the sake of showing off our knowledge or trying to display spiritual status.

Q1. The mirror reflects the image. I have been told that I am the condition of the mirror and should disengage from attachments to the reflections and discover the mirror’s actual state or condition.

Traktung Rinpoche: This is a good beginners practice.

Q1. What do you mean beginners practice. I understood this was a dzogchen view and very high level.

Traktung Rinpoche: Before there is wisdom there are beginners practices. People flock to “dzogchen” so they can have arrogant spiritual egos and imagine themselves far beyond “beginners” practices. Such an attitude has not yet even begun to begin.

Q1. So I am not the state of the mirror.

Traktung Rinpoche: I am not sure which of two replies to give you: 1. Do not use formulas but look directly at your own experience and speak to me from that. – or – 2. The images and the knowingness, which is the state of the mirror, take place within that which is real. It is good to polish the mirror of mind/heart. Whatever you may perceive and also the perceiving itself are not “you”. The images are the wisdom mandala and the perceiving itself is known as the Beingness within the deluded state or the luminous empty movement of reality within the wisdom state – but both are byproducts of the real.

Q1. I have heard we must eliminate the perceiver and the perceived and remain with the mere perceiving that if we do this reality will show itself 

Traktung Rinpoche: Eliminate the perceiving and the perceived and there will be no one left to use words such as perceiving. Once again two points: 1. Even this elimination is excessive, the perceiver and the perceived merely need to be understood correctly. Elimination is, again, a good baby step – one which no one does, certainly, but also not an end point. The elimination of perceiver ad perceived is a dharmasala, a rest station, on the pilgrimage of Truth. Rumi once said, “I am the slave of that one who does not mistake every rest post as the end of the journey.”

Yes, it is necessary to withdraw obsession and addictive fixation upon the objects of knowledge and get acquainted with the knowing itself and then to look directly at who is this knower who is engaged in knowing. The aspect of the path called “dropping behind the knowledge” is vital, it is the foundation. How is this done? Within our sublime pure tantric path it is done by first changing the whole world via mahayoga’s generation phase. This purifies the addiction to ones way of seeing the word and teaches the mind calm abiding in the simple, sattvic state of mind which is necessary for deeper investigation. Then, the anuyoga completion phase allows one to rest directly in the cognizance of the knowingness itself  and removes the subtle cause of distinction between bliss and emptiness. Finally within ati yoga, the king of all paths called dzogchen, one directly discovers the great Completion beyond known object and knower and finds the singularity of the known, knower and knowing which is utterly non-dual – the unity of awareness/emptiness/appearance. 

If you look and see who the knower is you will discover only sunyata.

Q1. Who is it that looks?

Traktung Rinpoche: the bright wakefulness which is discovered to be the actual nature of knowingness. It can also be called Bright Virtue. This luminous moving aspect of awareness is like the god Janus in old times – the god with two faces looking both directions. This simple uncontrived knowingness looks to appearance and to sunyata without separating the two into two or conceptualizing them into One or imagining itself as a “entity”. It is a truly mysterious wonder. Perceiving, as one of the aggregates is empty, as understood in the luminous wisdom tradition of tantra it is deity. The one who perceives is sunyata.


Ever fresh direct wakefulness directly knows the essential sunyata and recognizes this nothingness as the ground of its own activity. Ever fresh wakeful cognizance is the activity of the ground. The ground dharma is the only true identity and it is beyond perceiver, perceived and perceiving though these – now purified – are not other than it. Dharma is what makes ever-fresh wakefulness possible – it is beyond the images in the mirror or the mirror itself – though, again, they are part and parcel of it.

Q1. So is it best to leave off this consideration of the mirror 

Traktung Rinpoche: It is best to engage practice so that the mechanism of your search might mature enough to truly engage this search. You are trying to see in the dark using the light from your cell phone when you have a million watt torch right there by your side.

Q1. Where is this torch?

Traktung Rinpoche: It is your own mind purified and made sensitive by practice.

Q1. The same mind?

Traktung Rinpoche: Of course what other mind is there? In truth there is only one mind shared by human beings and creating this human realm. There is the single mind of human karmic patterns and then there is the simple pure mind of intrinsic awareness.

Q1. Which of these minds is the one you say I should use?

Traktung Rinpoche: This is merely intellectual questioning. You only have access to one – the one of human habit. In truth they are not ultimately separate but you have no access to wisdom mind as it is obscured by habit.

Q1. But then how am I to use this dull ordinary mind?

Traktung Rinpoche: Even in this there is the tendency toward wisdom or you would not be here. You must treasure this tendency and nurture it like a small infant. Feed it the food of instruction from an authentic sage and make it strong through the exercise of sadhana. This, ordinary dull mind as you call it, is merely immature. When polished like a dirty mirror is polished then it becomes an effective instrument of investigation into reality. Through sadhana mind becomes increasingly subtle and pure. It requires a tremendously strong discriminative mind, very stable and pure, a well-polished mirror, to realize wisdom beyond mind.

Q1. How is “wisdom beyond mind” related to “mind”? a moment ago you said they were in fact one and the same 

Traktung Rinpoche: when mind is purified of its obscurations then it reveals it’s actual nature as something quite unique and different from what self reflexive consciousness ever could imagine.

Q1. So it is not “consciousness”.

Traktung Rinpoche: No it is beyond consciousness.

Q1. What is it? Awareness 

Traktung Rinpoche: No it is beyond even this term or designation. It is what awareness is the activity of. For that there are no words. In that place where no mind goes words dissolve instantly.

This was the profound work of Nagarjuna, to destroy the stronghold of concepts and cause one to rest in the mysterious spaciousness beyond concepts, beyond mind, beyond consciousness. This is the total purpose of madhyamika, to bring one to this wisdom resting. This is the essence of Buddha’s second turning.

Q1. Then what is tantra to this?

Traktung Rinpoche: This wisdom is the ground of Tantra. Tantra is direct cognizance of the manner in which the luminous clarity of dharmata manifests as the unimpeded presenceing without ever straying from the essence of emptiness. It is the description of what is realized if one actually rests within the Great Silence of conceptuality’s death.

Q1. So musty we first meditate on this madhyamika until we have this understanding or realization of emptiness?

Traktung Rinpoche: This is the way as described by some, the Gelugpas for instance. But it is not necessary. If it suits ones demeanor, the way one is, then fine. If one leans more toward being a yogi then the sublime methods of the Nyingmapa path realize the Great Emptiness without years and years of contrived intellectual efforts.

Q1. How?

Traktung Rinpoche: Well the meditation on luminosity naturally attains the wisdom of emptiness. Our path also makes use of the wisdom wind which resides within the subtle body and is never separate from Great Emptiness wisdom. In addition to this devotion in guru yoga can realize Great Emptiness. Intellectual analysis of emptiness, while it can be useful is simply one of several methods. If one is suited to it then fine but if not then also fine – there are other methods. It is possible for illiterates to realize Great Emptiness. It is possible for scholar studying it for years to miss the essential point.

Q1. How can devotion, guru yoga, accomplish this.

Traktung Rinpoche: Devotion causes the mind to relax in trust and simplicity. It engenders an absence of fears and desires and in this absence the mind becomes silent. Without fears or desires there is nothing to think about. Where thinking ceases the thinker disappears – this is Great Emptiness. Guru Yoga also makes the mind very subtle and receptive to the Guru’s own state and it bleeds over and into ones own. Certainly it is the simplest and easiest path. But I mean authentic guru yoga not sentimentality and dependency which so often passes for guru yoga.

Q1. Why do we need all this struggle for realization?

Traktung Rinpoche: Because without it your life is consumed by suffering. You are blown about like a leaf in the wind and your freedom and independence is only imaginary. For most there is not the knowledge that there can be an end to suffering. Once you have this knowledge, once you have heard the good news, then it will begin to eat away at you and you will begin to focus your desires upon it.

Q1. But desire is bad? Right?

Traktung Rinpoche: In the end all desires go. But, if we throw out the desire for liberation before it has consumed all other desires then all we are left with is idiot desires. This desire is the sign of wisdom and in the end the wisdom sword, sharpened to the max, cuts off the head of even this desire.

 There is a state of timeless perfection. There is the fully enlightened state. Once you know this, it may take short or long, but this knowledge will make all other consolations pointless. The yogi is one who wants the best and will not settle for the temporary. They are willing to forgo the false for the real and so they come to the stronghold of deathless bliss.

Priya Tsomo