Approaching the Great Perfection:

Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Dzogchen Practice in the Longchen Nyingtig (Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism)
Wisdom Publications
Publish Year: 
June 15, 2004
E-book Tag: 

This is a wonderful (fairly advanced) book, on Dzogchen with considerable material on Mahamudra woven in (see below). It addresses Jigme Lingpa's "Longchen Nyingtig" cycle of Termas (Treasure Texts) including discovered texts, texts resulting from "pure visions" of 14th century Dzogchen master Longchenpa while Jigme Lingpa (18th century) was in retreat, and supporting texts authored by Jigme Lingpa. All but one of these texts has been included in both English and Tibetan. Van Schaik's introductory material focuses upon certain main themes: simultaneous vs. gradual approaches to Dzogchen (the Treasure Texts focus mostly on the former and the Supporting Texts mainly on the latter), the relationship of Jigme Lingpa to his contemporaries and with Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism) vs. Dzogchen vs. Mahamudra. His emphasis on gradualist approaches is explained as a practical approach and he attempts to reconcile the two. I don't think Lingpa totally succeeds in this, however. By taking a gradualist approach, he incorporates much basic Vajrayana material (including extensive preliminary practices) which are, at least on the surface, antithetical to the Dzogchen view (being dualistic, for example). He also uses the Mahamudra 12 stage descriptive process and provides parallels with other systems (e.g. the Prajnaparamita or Perfection of Wisdom sutras). The dichotomy between simultaneous and gradual parallels that between immanence (Buddha nature) & distinction (transcendence)-a situation not unlike that of the theistic Western religions. While Jigme Lingpa relies considerably upon his discarnate master Longchenpa (many quotes are provided), his emphasis upon Vajrayana practices goes way beyond, IMHO, that of Longchenpa (Longchen Rabjam)-as discussed by van Schaik.