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Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 Venerable Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

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The Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions is one of the foremost masterpieces of Dzogchen (or Dzogpa Chenpo) composed by the Omniscient Longchen Rabjam (1308-1363), the greatest master of the Dzogchen lineage. This is the shortest volume among his Seven Treasuries (mDzod bdun), also known as The Vast Treatises of Scholarly Works (rGya che ba pandita'i chos skor).

Longchen Rabjam was born with extraordinary intellectual capability and enlightened qualities. He studied at [[Sangpu Monastic University (the Harvard of Tibet in those days), where Karmapa Rangjung Dorjé (1284-1339), Jé Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), and many other eminent minds of Tibet also trained. Longchen Rahjam's root teacher was Rigdzin Kumaradza.

Dzogchen is the pinnacle and heart essence of Vajrayana Buddhism. Longchen Rabjam synthesized and expounded on its philosophical views, meditation methods, and goals. It is because of his efforts that the Dzogchen teachings were preserved and not only have thrived in Tibet, but also have become an inspiring path for many Buddhists in both the East and West today.

Longchen Rabjam lived as a hermit in the caves of the Gang-ri Tokar Mountains, where he composed most of his great works and taught many students. He passed away on the slopes of the Chimpu Mountains, where five centuries earlier Guru Padmasambhava had entrusted the Dzogchen teachings to Longchenpa's previous incarnation as Princess Pemasal. Longchen Rabjam left us vast treatises on Dzogchen, which are regarded as profound relics of the dharmakaya. Enshrined and put into practice in Tibet for centuries, they are now reaching students in many parts of the world.

Longchen Rabjam declined to establish monastic or bureaucratic institutions. He encouraged others to do the same, explaining:

To assemble numerous associates by various means,
To have a monastery with comfortable accommodations,
If I try, it will come about for a while, but it distracts the mind.
So my advice from the heart is to remain alone.

Longchen Rabjam is known for having written more than two hundred treatises, many of which survived and became invaluable references and manuals on Dzogchen meditation. They include The Seven Treasuries (mostly on Dzogchen), The Four Higher Collections of the Heart Drop (sNying thig ya bzhi; Dzogchen), The Three Cycles of Being at Ease (Ngal gso skor gsum; on Dzogchen), The Three Cycles of Natural Freedom (Rang grol skor gsum; on Dzogchen), and The Three Cycles of Dispelling Darkness (Mun sd skorgsum; on tantra).

The Precious Treasury of Pith Instructions (Man ngag rin po che'i mdzod) is a volume of beautiful poems. The stanzas have differing numbers of lines, but every stanza makes six points, replete with wise advice on daily spiritual life, as well as instructions on the philosophies and meditation techniques of common (sutra), esoteric (tantra), and Dzogchen teachings. For example, the six vajra verses on Dzogpa Chenpo instruct:

The Dzogchen of the basis is to determine the nature of the mind.
The Dzogchen of the path is to strike the target of freedom from the extremes.
The Dzogchen of~the result is to send hopes and doubts into extinction.
The Dzogchen of the object is to let appearances go free by not grasping at them.
The Dzogchen of the mind is to let thoughts arise as friends. The Dzogchen of the meaning is to let flickering thoughts dissolve naturally.
Whoever realizes these points is a great king of yogis.

Exhorting all to study The Treasury of Pith Instructions, Paltrul Rinpoche says of this text:

It embodies the essence of all the instructions.
Every single stanza with its "six points" is a treasure trove of all the holy teachings.
Such an excellent path, even were you to meet the Buddhat it be hard to come across?

The publication of this volume is an offering to and a fulfillment of the sublime aspirations of our late great Dzogchen master, Chagdud Rinpoche. Because of his aspirations, three of the precious Seven Treasuries of Longchen Rabjam are now available in English. We are grateful to him and pray that the remaining books will soon follow.

On behalf of the golden lineage of Dzogchen, I express my appreciation to Chokyi Nyima and all who have dedicated their time and energy to the translation and publication of these precious works, as well as to the sponsors whose generosity has made the birth of these precious teachings in English possible.

May the compassionate blessings of the Dzogchen lineage, the Omniscient Master, and the protectors be with all whose minds are open to this teaching.