The Experience of Presence in Dzogchen: A Phenomenology
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D. Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.
Washington Center for Consciousness Studies and the Washington Center for Phenomenological and Existential Psychotherapy
The focus of Dzogchen practice is to experientially understand the nature of our awareness through awareness itself. To be non-conceptually aware of the nature of our own awareness is Rigpa or Open Presence. The root or the source of all phenomena is Presence. This language of Presence was the primary focus in the great Dzogchen text ‘The All Creating King.’ The early Dzogchen Master Garab Dorge was considered by some scholars to be the source of this foundational Dzogchen teaching on Presence. Still other scholars place the origin to be in 10th century Tibet. The 11th century Master Rongzompa and the 14th century Dzogchen Master Longchenpa at times used the language of Presence in their teaching of Dzogchen and self- liberation. The contemporary Dzogchen Master Namkai Norbu Rinpoche continuously used the language of Presence in his teaching of Dzogchen.
Presence is a signifier of the ground of Being, the ground as Presence. The ground of Being is the ground of Presence. The ground of Presence is the ground of Being. The ground of Being reflects Presence as source. Being itself is not a being, but Being is the source of the infinite, infinite numbers of beings.
There is a 19th commentary on the All Creating King called ‘The Ornament of The State of Samatabhadra.’ In this commentary the meaning of “Presence” is as follows: “that source of self-originated wisdom infuses, governs and clearly delineates the entire animate and inanimate universe of beings and their karmic experiences.”
Contemporary Christian theologians influenced by existential phenomenology, such as Paul Tillich and Karl Rahner, describe the ground of Being and ground of presence as Divinity. In the Dzogchen tradition philosophical descriptors are added to the language of presence such as the divine presence, luminous presence, radiant presence, pure presence, immaculate presence, indestructible presence, spontaneous presence, timeless presence, deathless presence, universal presence, primordial presence, existential presence, clear light presence, unborn undying presence, ground presence, natural presence, and open presence.
The Ground of Presence
Self- liberation unfolds as we experience the ground of Presence. Within the nature of the primordial ground of Being, there is spontaneous presence that never parts from being the nature of the ground of Being. This spontaneous presence abides as the inner radiance of the ground of foundational Being. The ground of Being is Pure, completely Pure. When the presence of the ground of Being is manifesting appearances, the appearances are themselves the nature of the ground of Being. To say this another way, when the presence of the ground of Being is manifesting the appearances of beings, the appearances of beings are themselves the very nature of the ground of Being. And to still say this in another way, when the ground of Being is manifesting phenomena, phenomena are the very nature of the ground of Being.
To experientially realize that everything and anything that appears is the nature of the spontaneous presence of the ground of Being is self- liberation. To experientially realize that everything and anything we experience is the very nature of the spontaneous presence of the ground of Being is self-liberation. Self- liberation is that Direct. Self- liberation is that Open. Self -liberation is that Immediate.
The Felt Sense
Presence is a felt sense. Presence is the felt sense of embodied Being. Presence is the felt sense of phenomena as the embodiment of Being. Presence is the felt sense of the Purity of Being. Presence is the felt sense of the Purity of the manifested phenomena of Being. Being is always Pure. Dudjom Lingpa the founder of the Dudjom Lineage would say that Dzogchen is a training to experience the Purity of all phenomena. All phenomena is the Purity of the manifestation of Being. All phenomena is the Purity of the manifestation of Pure Presence.
Everything and anything within the universe arises as the radiant energy of this natural presence. Primordial awareness is pure presence as the ground of Being. Dzogchen and Existential Phenomenology understand that Being which is not a being self-manifests infinite numbers of beings. Being which is not a being self-manifests as the Being of all phenomena. Phenomena and the Being of phenomena are indivisible. Phenomena is the presence of embodied Being.
Natural presence is the source of the teachings and natural presence is the source of our understanding of the teaching. Natural presence is self- revealing. Presence reveals Presence. Presence manifests Presence. Presence shines and Presence self illuminates. Natural presence is the primordial guru as the unfolding process of self- illumination and self-revelation. Natural presence is not some object to be discovered. Natural presence is non-dual awareness, and non-dual awareness is non-dual pervasive presence. The experience of non-dual awareness is within the embodiment of all phenomena, within the embodiment of all experience. All experience is the manifestation of Presence. All dualistic experience is the manifestation of non-dual pervasive presence. All dualistic experience is the manifestation of non-dual pervasive awareness.
Subjectivity as the Openness of Being
The great pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides once exclaimed, “presence presences.” Presence manifests worlds within worlds. Presence manifests the infinite inner worlds of subjectivity, the infinite worlds of interiority, luminous interiority. Interiority is the inner most openings of awareness experiencing within the infinite forms of human beings. Interiority is the inner most opening of awareness being experienced within all sentient beings. This inner most Subjectivity is who-ness. Subjectivity is the openness of the knowingness of Being. Subjectivity is the openness of the knowingness of Being as human beings and as sentient beings. Subjectivity is the openness of presence as the inner most presence of beings. Subjectivity is the essence of pure presence. Subjectivity is the essence of the pure presence of Being in beings. Presence is the openness of Being. Presence is the knowingness of Being in a being, as the being. Presence is ontological openness. Presence is ontological knowingness. Presence is a form of human gnosis, human jnana.
Aware of Our Own Awareness
What is most amazing is that by becoming aware of our own awareness we experience presence, the presence of experience, the presence of awareness, the presence of the ground of Being. Presence is alive, Presence is vital-ness. Though our own being we know Being, through our own being we know the ground of Being. It is amazing that this presence, this personal presence is primordial presence itself. All experience, every experience is the self- manifestation of primordial presence. Primordial presence is the felt sense of embodied Being. Primordial embodied presence is the felt sense of human-Being-ness. Presence is the source of ethos and ethics.
Our own experience is the felt sense of Being’s self-manifestation. Our own experience is the felt sense of the ground of Beings manifestation ‘in us as us.’ Our experience is the manifestation of primordial awareness which is our awareness of ground of Being. Our experience is always the manifestation of the primordial ground of presence. There is no distance between us and source. Again, there is no distance between us and source. We are indivisible with source. Since there is no distance between us and source, our experience is the innate experience of the immanence of presence and our ongoing continuity of experience is liberation through the oneness of the field of immanence. The field of Being is the field of immanence. The field of immanence is the unity of univocity. The word univocity expresses the complete and total equality of Being.
When there is ontological distance between us and source then the path of liberation is the narrow path of transcendence. Self -liberation through the experience of presence is not the narrow transcendental path. The transcendental path is the path of dissociation from mind and from phenomena. A person on the transcendental path dissociates from mind and dissociates from phenomena and dissociates from embodiment in order to experience transcendental presence. In the transcendental traditions mind and phenomena hide presence. In traditions of immanence such as Dzogchen, phenomena and mind are the very self-manifestation of Presence. Awareness and phenomena are indivisible Presence. Our experience of the ongoing immanence of presence is the immediacy and completeness of our path of self-liberation. And of course this all happens ‘just as we are.’
Openness of Being is the Openness Of Awareness
Primordial presence is manifesting itself ‘in you as you.’ All of you; your body, your mind, and who-ness. Presence manifests presence in ‘you as who.’ This who-ness is the innermost openness of the knowingness of personal awareness. This presence of your presence is primordial presence itself. Primordial presence is not otherness, not some otherness that happens to be in you. Presence is not a seed as some would have you think. Self-arising presence is direct knowingness. Self-arising presence is open awareness.
Events and Circumstance
Self-arising presence is also the circumstances, the infinite unfolding circumstances, the unfolding of situations, the unfolding of events, events within events. These events are the events of Being’s manifestation. All circumstances and all situations are sources of presence, doorways of presence, opening of presence. Both you and your situation is the unfolding of pervasive presence. Events are the unceasing unfolding of the self-revelation of primordial Being’s infinite forms of presence.
As you experience presence within yourself, you can experience the same self- arising presence in others and the same self-arising presence in the world as the world. The same presence is within each singularity and is nonetheless, completely and totally universal presence. Presence is both oneness and difference. Presence is both pervasive and within singularity. Within the kiss, the meeting of lips, presence is manifesting within and between the lips. How wonderful and how amazing for everyone. Presence is both non-duality and duality. Presence is non-duality of presence within the duality of two different presences. Presence is duality of forms within non-duality of the indivisible presence of oneness. As the Dakini said to Dudjom Lingpa “You and I are indivisible”.
Universal presence, as the ground of Being is manifesting within you as your innermost presence and this innermost presence is the who that you are and the inner most presence is the who-ness of the other just as they are. By my experiencing presence within myself as myself and you within yourself, you and I are able to experience the Presence within in each other. Since Presence is the field of oneness, the non- dualistic experience of presence arises within the very difference of otherness. The same presence is within animate and inanimate beings. To experience the oneness of presence within both animate and inanimate beings is to experience the vast depth of presence. All presence is cosmological presence. The infinity of cosmology is the oneness of presence.
Because of this presence being within you as you, and presence being within others as others, you can easily experience the non-duality of presence within the duality of phenomena. And you can easily experience within the non-duality of presence, the duality of phenomena. This is experience is both completely natural and completely ordinary and is complete; this is the great perfection. This is the great completion. This is Dzogchen. This all happens ‘just as we are.’
The source of this presence is within your embodiment and most of all within your heart essence. This presence is self-arising within you and you can extend your experience of your presence beyond yourself into others, and beyond yourself into the cosmos. The resonance of presence returns; presence mirrors presence back to presence. Presence always mirrors relationally. Presence always mirrors completely.
This presence is radiant light and is luminous spaciousness, this presence is luminous energy. This radiant light can be transmitted from one person to another person. This energy can be extended from one person to another person. You can experience presence in the other as the other, and you can experience the non-duality of presence within the duality of phenomena, and within the duality the other and you. Phenomena is duality. Within the non-duality of presence is the duality of phenomena. The difference within and the difference of phenomena is completely within the non-duality of presence. The difference of phenomena within the non-duality of presence is a non-essential difference. As the Dakini said to Dudjom Lingpa “You and I are indivisible.”
Most amazingly, and not easily experienced, this primordial presence is unborn, uncreated, and undying. Primordial means it is pervasive and insubstantial. Insubstantial means this “no-thingness” is the source of everything and anything. Presence is “no-thingness” and yet it is not nothing like an empty house or empty box. No-thingness is not nihilism. No-thingness is not nihilistic emptiness. Presence is not a thing. Your own innermost presence as who-ness is not a thing. Who-ness is no-thingness. Who-ness is no thingness within you and who-ness is no thingness within in those you love and those you do not love. Amazing!
Presence is Being-ness. Presence is the felt sense of Being-ness. Being is not a thing. Being is not a being, Being is not an entity. Although Being self-manifests as the infinity of beings, Being is the field of pure potentiality from which everything and anything manifests as the Being-ness of Being. Being is the pure potentiality from which everything and everyone arises as pure presence, spontaneous presence.
You and I can extend the light of awareness into others and into the cosmos. Thus light increases within that person or that place. Just as we project our mind we can extend the luminous space of presence. This presence is the field. This presence is the quality of the field. Everything we say about the field can be called presence. The field of presence is infinite in its horizon, vast and multidimensional.
Awareness Knows Presence, Mind Knows Forms
It is very useful to know that our mind which knows forms, and knows things and beings, does not directly know Being. Our mind does not directly know Being. Our mind does not directly know Presence. Our awareness knows Being. Our awareness knows Presence. The experience of Being is Presence. Our awareness is our own being knowing Being. Our awareness is our own being knowing Presence. Our presence knows presence. Presence experiences presence.
When we integrate our mind within our field of awareness, then we can know the Being of a being, and through a being we can know Being itself. Our mind does not know presence directly. Our mind knows things, and forms and entities. Our mind does not sense presence. Our awareness knows presence. Our awareness senses presence. Our awareness knows presence within itself and our awareness knows presence within beings and within Being itself. Our awareness knows the presence of the singularity of Being personified. Our awareness can also know the infinity of Being in and of itself. Amazing! And this all happens, ‘just as we are.’
Integration of Mind within Our Field of Awareness
When our mind is integrated within the field of awareness, we can know the presence of beings, we can experience the presence within in all beings and within all the forms of beings. This is the grace of the integration of our mind knowing within the knowing of our awareness field. This is very important. Many people do not know presence because they are in their mind alone. They can know forms and things and entities but they cannot know Presence. Many people foreclose the knowingness of awareness. In foreclosing the knowingness of awareness, they foreclose the knowingness of Presence. Even their own innermost Presence is foreclosed. They feel like a thing among other things. They feel needs but do not have the felt sense of Presence within themselves nor do they feel the sense of presence within others. This is terrible loss. The loss of the felt sense of presence is the loss of the felt sense of Being. This loss is within one’s own self, within the self of others and within the world. With this loss there is only emptiness.
This is why it is important to have the awakened awareness of awareness. Of course this happens naturally as babies and children but this given-ness of awareness can be foreclosed for so many unhappy reasons. The patriarchal container of religion itself can foreclose awareness. Trauma can foreclose awareness. The love of rational mind alone can foreclose the knowing of awareness. The life of the lie and the invalidation of the direct knowing of presence can foreclose the door of awareness.
As you experience this presence in time you are slowly but surely accessing the arising of timeless awareness. Timeless awareness is the innermost dimension of your own awareness, your own depth of presence. As you experience timeless awareness you have entered Vajra Kumara, the unborn and undying state of timeless awareness which has no beginning and no end. As you experience the arising of timeless awareness, you are also able to experience timeless awareness within time.
As you go through the door of timeless awareness, this door of timeless presence, deathless awareness opens within you and the fear of death dissolves. The fear and terror of death is dissolving as deathlessness, awareness is self-arising. This is amazing and not easy to understand. This experience can be experienced by everyone and anyone. This is the natural experience of leaving this time bound dimension of your existing-ness. This dimension is the dimension of the ordinary life world. This dimension of ordinary life world Dzogchen names as Nirmanakaya. We appear and we disappear within the different dimensions of our own existence. Over life times we appear in the ordinary life world and then in time we disappear from the ordinary life world. This happens life after life and death after death. Where do we disappear?
Dying as the Event of Our Shifting of Dimensional Presence
At the moment of death, as your mind and your body dissolves, what remains is your own vital awareness, your own vital inner most presence, this sphere of who-ness. Our who-ness exists both in time and beyond time as timeless awareness, timeless presence. In the drama of the transitional moment of death, our presence as awareness enters, or better said, opens as the timeless presence of our Pure Being. In the transition from the ordinary human life world, our experience of our awareness as presence which is bound in time, opens as our pure presence of timeless awareness. Our time bound presence of past, present and future time opens and unfolds as presence of our fourth time, timeless awareness, timeless Being, Pure timeless Presence. This happens for everyone, absolutely everyone just as they are.
In this timeless awareness, the nature of our presence becomes so clear and so luminous as primordial awareness, as primordial presence. In the process of dying and going beyond our ordinary life world dimension, our own presence is directly experienced as luminous primordial presence, as Beatific Presence. We directly and completely experience our self as the Beatific Presence which is our very nature and has always been our nature and will always be our nature.
Natural Self Liberation
This is the natural self -liberation of dying. This is the natural self-illumination through death, through leaving our time bounded ordinary life world. This is the natural self-liberation through the dissolving of our ordinary life world, the time bound life world. The time bound and place bound Nirmanakaya realm is our ordinary life world of being alive. We transition from the aliveness of ordinary life world into our dimension of timeless presence and timeless awareness and timeless aliveness.
Now of course this same process of self-liberation of presence and the experience of our own time bounded presence as pure timeless presence can also take place in our ordinary life world through our unfolding experience of presence. Meditative awareness opens us to experience presence. Meditative awareness is our becoming aware of our own awareness. This is our opening to presence and timeless presence. This self -liberation through our experience of timeless presence as our presence happens both in the unfolding of our ordinary life world experience and also in our experience of dying. The experience of natural liberation is always manifesting and is always able to manifest whatever the circumstance.
As the time bound existence of ordinary life world dissolves, the Sambogakaya realm of luminous aliveness completely manifests. This is the realm of archetypal aliveness, this is the archetypal and alchemical dimension of our human presence. Human aliveness shifts from the ordinary life world into the archetypal presence of living Being. This archetypal dimension is the realm of subtle luminous energy and luminous light forms and luminous vortices of Being. This is the realm of the Dakinis. This is the realm of archetypal forms and archetypal fields. This is the realm of direct immediate Beatific presence. This is the realm of Rapture, this is the realm of the Bliss of luminous Beatific Being. This realm is not a reward for the good life. This realm is beyond reward and punishment. This dimension is beyond good and beyond evil. This realm is our very nature as primordial luminous awareness, luminous primordial presence, luminous primordial Being. This unfolding event of awareness happens for everyone. Just as we are.
Ordinary Life World
Of course this Sambogakaya dimension not only manifest in our dying, but also in our ongoing continuity of living in our ordinary life world. The archetypal dimension does manifest in dreaming, in apparitional experience and in our direct perception of ordinary life world experience. Another word for direct perception is gnosis or jnana. As a person we can perceive through our ordinary life world appearance into the archetypal phenomena that is manifesting as ordinary life world. The mystical appearance of archetypal presence of Deities and Dakini is always experientially near. We can experience the luminous archetypal presence with ordinary persons and within ordinary context of our life world. This is the unfolding of natural liberation in the unfolding of our ordinary life world. This is the unfolding of natural liberation in time and in place and in circumstance of our ordinary life world dimension. The archetypal dimension can actually also manifest within the ordinary life world dimension.
Dharmakaya or Ground Awareness or Potential Space
In this dimension of our timeless awareness and our timeless aliveness and our timeless presence, we may further unfold into the depth and breathe of our ever deepening experience of natural self-liberation. We may dissolve completely and fully into our natural presence as the pure ground of Being, the ground of Pure Presence of Potential Space. This is the realm of pure potentiality. This is the dimension of Pure Being. This is our realm of the actuality of pure potentiality. This the Dharrmakaya. This is the ground of pure creativity wherein everything and anything arises out of no thingness. No thingness is primordial awareness, the primordial ground of presence, the primordial ground of Being.
Pure Potentiality and Liberation through Phenomena
We may completely dissolve into the ground of Pure Being, the ground of Presence as pure Potentiality. Everything that ever was and ever will be is contained in pure potentiality, contained in this vast potential spaciousness. As we dissolve into this dimension of Pure Being we exist as the actuality of pure potentiality, the pure potentiality of pure and total presence. We always are in this dimension and have always been this actuality of pure potentiality and will always be this actuality of pure potentiality. This realm is beyond past, beyond present and beyond future. Yet this timeless space holds time and all times simultaneously. This is the fourth time. This realm is beyond time. Knowing this, experiencing this timeless dimension of our presence is self-liberation.
In our time bound ordinary life world awareness, we may have also experienced this timeless dimension of potential space. We may have a direct sense of this innermost dimension of timeless awareness or timeless presence. You may also have a continuous attunement to this dimension of the pure potentiality of Being. This dimension is totally indeterminate. As we experience the ordinary phenomena of our ordinary life world, we may directly experience all phenomena as the Dharmakaya. We may directly experience all phenomena as the manifestation of Dharmakaya. In this experience we experience the trans-lucidity of all phenomena. We are liberated through our experience of phenomena. We are liberated through our experience of appearance. We are liberated through circumstances and eventfulness.
In Dzogchen we are always multidimensional beings, and as we become aware of awareness in ordinary life world we may experience all three dimensions vividly. We may experience each dimension in singularity or we may experience the different dimensions simultaneously. Complete liberation is the experiencing all three dimensions simultaneously and continuously. These different dimensions of presence completely interpenetrate each other. They are in oneness. They are in non-duality.
They are the same primordial presence manifesting as the different dimensions of existing-ness. They are in complete oneness and are completely indivisible. To know one is to know them all. Traditions that do not know oneness of the three dimensions are incomplete and lack the experience of true immanence which is univocity of Being. Some but not all transcendental traditions suffer from this lack of knowing, this lack of gnosis, this lack of jnana. They think that phenomena does not exist, that phenomena is without Being, and phenomena is not a manifestation of Being. This incomplete view Dzogchen names as Ma-Rigpa or ignorance.
Our range of awareness is infinite in its horizons, vast and multidimensional. Experiencing all three dimensions of our range of awareness simultaneously is total self-liberation. It is really great to know and to experience that these three dimensions completely interpenetrate each other. These dimensions are completely non dualistic. There is no hard boundaries between these kayas or these dimensions. All three can be experienced simultaneously and at times two dimensions can be experienced simultaneously. We are the three dimensions and the knower of the three dimensions of Being, the three dimensions of presence. In Dzogchen these three dimensions are known as the three kayas.
We may not always directly experience our foundational dimension of our Being, we may not always experience our direct awareness of our presence as foundational Being. Nonetheless, we always are the three dimensions of Presence. We are not simply in the three dimensions, we are the three dimensions.
After leaving the ordinary life world, after dying, we may remain in this sea of pure potentiality of Being as the Pure Being which we essentially are and always are. We may again, become time, we may again self-manifest as time within time. We may again self-manifest as the archetypal Sambogakaya realm and we may again self-manifest in time as the Nirmanakaya ordinary life world realm of human existence. Or we may simply remain in the sea of timeless Pure Being of Potential Space. We remain in Dharmakaya.
This unfolding process of self-liberation is life after life and death after death. This is the eternal drama of Being as the Pure Presence of self-manifestation as you and as me and as the worlds within worlds. This unfolding event of continuous self-manifestation is life after life and death after death. The intrinsic beatific nature of the presence of Being is to blissfully self-manifest as the Being-ness of beings, including your being and my being .
This is the ontological truth of infinite cosmological immanence to emanate and manifest as pure creativity bringing forth Being within beings. This is a timeless process manifesting time, creating time and the places of time. This event is infinite in its horizons, vast and multidimensional. This event is Pantheistic. Everything and anything is Divinity. Everything is the unfolding of the Divine Presence as Divine Presence. The essence of the great compassion is the unfolding of the Divine Presence as everything and anything. This is the bliss of Being, this is Beatific experience, this is Beatific Vision! This is the power of Univocity of Being, the Univocity of Presence.
The great compassion is beyond right and wrong, beyond good and evil, beyond better and best, and even beyond truth and falsity. The great compassion is the source of everything and anything, and is the beatific experience and beatific vision of all phenomena.
The Drama of Eschatology
There a many various cultural and theological eschatological myths about what happens after our death experience. Cultural Theologies love Eschatology. Patriarchal theo-centric religious traditions (whether eastern or western) love, absolutely love to project narratives of eschatological ontological- judgmental-ness. There are many forms and narratives of ontological judgmental-ness.
In patriarchal traditions there is often the ontological judgmental projection of an omnipotent Patriarchal Phallic God Archetypal form that is projected into the mythic narrative and context of juridical judgement. The judgment scene is a favorite. In this juridical context the dead person who is still existentially alive is sentenced to the eternal realm of heaven or sentenced to the eternal realm of hell forever and ever.
Another favorite form of eschatological narrative, is the narrative of a challenge of a quest or a test for liberation. The doorway to self- liberation is in the form of test or a form of quest. Transcendental traditions tend to love tests and quests and love the day of judgement.
For instance In the Tibetan book of the Dead, which is 17th century text that creates a story about what happens after death. There is a description of the moment after death when the recently died person is presented a sequence of a bright light and a soft light simultaneously appearing in the Tibetan Bardo Landscape. Now in the narrative of the Tibetan book of the Dead, the recently having died person is presented with this sequence of two lights. It is understood that One of the lights is the passage way to lead the person to complete and immediate and total self-liberation .The other light is a passage way to lead the person into reincarnation with a large range of possibilities, such as becoming a snail or dog or a God or even a human being.
No Test. No Judgement. No Quest
The challenge of the test is the choice between the Soft Light and Bright Light. Whatever the choice, this is not the path or understanding of Dzogchen which is natural liberation of the great Compassion. Dzogchen is the natural liberation through Presence. Earning liberation through a test is not the path of presence. This path of a test and the path of judgement is not the path of the unbound Divine manifestation of Presence and our unfolding experience of our own presence as the Divine Primordial Presence. There is no test in Dzogchen and there is no patriarchal judgment that decides our fate. This view of a test and the earning of liberation is patriarchal and theocentric in source. The seemingly theological narrative of judgement is ultimately a political narrative meant for the living. One more time! The eschatological narrative of judgement is ultimately a political narrative meant for the living. It is the use of terror to politically dominate and politically requires subjugation of the faithful.
Patriarchal traditions are relentlessly enacting some form of juridical judgement. The brilliant French psychoanalyst Jacque Lacan often describes the patriarchal archetypal as the Phallic Archetypal Symbol of the One who Knows and the One who omnipotently judges all. This developemental existential position is the personification of the primitive violent sadistic human superego in its illusionary omnipotence and corresponding self-righteous violence. Self-righteous violence is the violence of impotence. Impotence always follows Omnipotence.
The relentless theme of ontological judgmental-ness is reflected in the terrifying tales of persons who pass through the doorway of death and who are faced with the archetypical apparitions of the enraged Phallic Presence of the Patriarchal Almighty Father God. This Judgmental Phallic Father God is a presentation within all the Abrahamic Religions. This the patriarchal theocentric frame of Christian, of Jewish and of Islamic traditions and their various formulations of the judgment. In the judgmental formulations there is the judgement of the person going to heaven or going to hell. There is the famous patriarchal painting by the artist Goya, of Father Saturn, eating his children. This image in spirit, reflects our topic.
Of course, in the beginning of Abrahamic tradition, Abraham is given a test. God the Primal Phallic Father commands Abraham to kill, to murder, to sacrifice his only beloved Son. This is the primal beginning of the Abrahamic tradition. Great Start!
Terror and Cruelty
The Judgmental condemnation of the human being to the endless fire of an endless hell realm invokes a terror. Even the Anatman Buddhist seem to be terrified by the Avici hell realms. This is the terror of eternal cruelty. This is terror of God and terror by God, This is the terror of the God like Emptiness. The patriarchal maintenance of eschatological terror protects the patriarchal theocentric religious traditions, and their priestly caste and their political power of being the Ones’ who know.
The transcendental view of realization is the sublime accomplishment of Being the One Who Knows omnisciently. This is not the experience of self- liberation of equality consciousness. In Lacanian psychoanalytic language in the patriarchal traditions the Big Other becomes the Big Knower. Often in Tibetan Buddhism the Lama/Guru is seen as the Big Other and Big Knower. Likewise, the infallibility of the Papacy is definitely the illusion of the Big Other as the Big Knower. Moreover, the Being of royalty and the Being of wealth has the same illusion of Big Other and the Big Knower. For Lacan having this view of another person as Big Other and Big knower easily locks the viewer into the master slave relationship.
Equality consciousness is not the view of these transcendental traditions both in their theology, in their political hierarchal social organization and in their eschatological views. The univocity of Being is not the transcendental view or the transcendental experience or the transcendental teaching.
Patriarchal expression of archetypal judgmental-ness is a distortion of the nature of primordial presence. The patriarchal expression of archetypal judgmental-ness is a distortion of the nature of the Great Compassion.
Primordial presence is the great compassion that liberates everything and everyone just as they are. This patriarchal eschatological drama is the relentless drama of implicit and explicit loyalty to the patriarchal structural systemic requirements both in life and in death and in life after life. The requirement is for absolute loyalty. Retribution follows disloyalty. Reward follows child- like loyalty. Heaven is reward. Hell is retribution.
The One Who Knows
Patriarchal theocentric religion is transcendental in orientation. Liberation is through the dissociative praxis of going beyond and going beyond mind and going beyond phenomena and going beyond embodiment. Most religious eschatological elaborations reflect patriarchal theocentric psychology and an authoritarian body politic. The French psychoanalyst Lacan again describes how the symbolic dimension of the phallic father as the One who knows, dominates patriarchal and theocentric religious traditions. Lacan elaborates how the same symbolic frame dominates authoritarian political government and patriarchal religious systems. Religious authoritarian regimes and political authoritarian regimes have the similar character structure of distorted omnipotence and distortions of omniscience and corresponding rage of impotence. Lacan languages this archetypal symbolic structure as “The name of the Father”.
Compassion as Presence and the Primordial Given-ness of Presence
The great compassion as it is manifested in experience is not simply an emotional and empathic moment. The great compassion as the Dzogchen Master Yang Thang Rinpoche artfully expresses is our human capacity to extend timeless awareness, timeless presence into time. We can extend this timeless presence into the present moment of a person or a situation. We can extend this luminous presence into the past of the person or a situation. We can extend this presence into the future of the person or a situation. This great compassion is primordial presence manifesting within us and through us as our own presence. This experience of compassion is the self- arising of timeless presence self- manifesting ‘through us as us.’
Primordial compassion is the compassionate manifestation of the ground of Being always, and in every situation. This is not easy to understand within our concretized cultural religious patriarchal group mind since this compassionate understanding is the non-dual nature of self- liberation through presence, ‘just as we are.’ Primordial compassion liberates us by manifesting us as our own self- presence! For us to embody what has been given, what has already been given and what is continuously being given in the immediacy of the present moment, is the secret of natural self-liberation. To experience what actually is, is self- liberation. Just as it is!
Liberation is the experiencing of our personal presence as primordial presence. This can take place right now within our life as well as at the moment of our death and in the moment-less time after death. Within our own being we can experience the non-duality of Being within duality of phenomena. The seeming duality between personal presence and primordial presence dissolves into the profound experience of non-duality of personal presence as primordial presence.
This is the indivisibility of my being with Being itself. This is the indivisibility of my presence within primordial presence itself. The experience of primordial presence is the Beatific Experience that Saint Augustine wrote about in the 6th century AD. This is the Beatific Experience that the 9th century Chakrasamvara Tantra Illuminates. Our human field of presence is the beatific experience of self- liberation. As the Dakini said to Dudjom Lingpa “You and I are indivisible”. This is the very nature of the Univocity of Being.
Liberation is being free of the fear of death as you have experientially entered deathless awareness or deathless presence. Within this state of deathless presence, you experience the actuality of Being beyond appearing and beyond disappearing. You experience the no-thingness of awareness manifesting in different modes and dimensions of existing-ness. Sometime this existence is the presence of ordinary life world, and sometimes this existence is archetypal realm of presence and sometimes this existence is the dimension of the Pure Presence of potential space, the pure presence of potentiality.
Transmission of Presence
Transmission is our capacity to extend primordial presence to others. Transmission of the knowledge of primordial presence is through the direct transmission of our experience inter-subjectively. Intersubjective transmission is direct extension of the inner field of awareness of one person into the inner field of awareness of another person. To be explicit this is not the projection of one mind to another mind. This is not the projection of an idea or thought. This transmission is the direct extension of the field of awareness from one person to another person. This is an extension of innermost awareness to another’s innermost field of awareness. This extension can also be mutual wherein both person’s extend their field mutually. Two awareness’s are better than One!
Direct transmission is the natural empowerment of primordial presence within the infinite potentiality of actuality. The natural empowerment of primordial presence is a function of our capacity to invoke and bring forth the field of presence in ourselves and in others.
There is also a symbolic transmission. Symbolic transmission is the capacity of our awareness to bring forth the potential energy of the Symbolic Sphere which invokes the translucent openness of the awareness field, so that the nature of luminous archetypal presence can be felt, experienced and envisioned.
Oral transmission is the use of language and words to invoke the phenomenological field of awareness of awareness. In this dramatic action, language invokes the experience of primordial presence, language brings forth the invisibleness of Being into the Visible-ness of Being. Invisible presence becomes visible presence, implicit becomes explicitly felt presence.
Oral transmission communicates through words and letters, through voice and gesture that everything is the luminous energy of primordial presence. This invocation is not the bringing forth of information but rather, by speaking from our innermost experience of luminous vibrational presence, this articulation informs our experience as luminous vibrational presence. By our speaking from our own innermost place of presence we bring forth the awareness field through our voice and sound. This sound resonates to the innermost place of presence within the other person.
This direct understanding takes everyone beyond renunciations, beyond antidotes, beyond purifications, beyond attainments, beyond ritual sacrifice, beyond merit and beyond the security of beneficent spiritual dictatorship. Our wording opens for us the experience of the non-conceptual field of presence. Through the vibrational words of our experiential articulation of our experience of our innermost presence of awareness, the process of embodiment unfolds and we become embodied awareness. We become the embodied manifestation of Presence. This all happens ‘just as we are.’
Our root understanding is our direct non conceptual experience of the source of all phenomena is Presence. Presence is both the source of all phenomena and all phenomena is the manifestation of the source. Presence is source, presence is the manifesting, and presence is the manifested. All phenomena is luminous and in oneness as natural presence-ing. Presence-ing Presences. All phenomena are within non-dual natural presence. Natural presence transcends all frames of reference. Natural presence abides in beatific bliss and as continuous beatific vision of here and now. Bliss is not simply the bliss of an event, but is the Bliss of Being itself. Natural presence is beyond difference and is within difference.
Skillfulness differentiates the vehicles of transmission. Within the natural immediacy and completeness of the primordial luminosity of all beings, we actually live in natural presence.
When we are in the transmission of natural presence we can feel the felt sense of every experience as expressions and doorways of natural presence. A person in their mind can become overly organized by the concreteness of spiritual practices and lose the open focus of natural presence. Natural presence is not an object and yet methods and views can be objectified and reified and in so doing there is objectification of the mind that forecloses the knowingness of awareness. In this way our awareness of the natural ease of presence can disappear.
Presence Foreclosed and Hidden
Belief itself can destroy presence. Belief can hide presence and the conceptualization of the belief can conceal the very presence which is reflected in the belief. Belief can make mental the experience of Presence. This understanding is expressed by the English theologian John Henry Neuman in his great text ‘The Grammar of Assent.’ In The Grammar of Assent, John Henry Neuman describes belief as intellectual assent. Belief unhappily can be a function of mind alone and not of experienced presence. However, there can also be a form of belief that is the personal intellectual assent to the direct experience of the Presence of Being. Believing is not seeing, but seeing is believing.
Obstacles mean one fails to experience the immediacy and totality of primordial presence. Actions can foreclose the effortless experience of natural embodied presence and effortful actions fixate the mind and the natural who-ness of presence is missed. Knowledge itself can be bondage as a person can easily become fixated on information, and in doing so lack the experience that everything and anything is the manifested radiant energy of primordial and natural pervasive presence.
Understanding itself can veil presence. Understandings such as the nature of the two truths, as relative truth and absolute truth can veil presence. The judgement of right and the judgement of wrong can veil presence. The judgement of good and evil, better and best, and even truth and falsity can veil Presence. The preoccupation with nothingness, and the preoccupation and fixation on emptiness and void can veil the actuality of Presence.
Hope and hopelessness, which is often waiting and waiting and wanting, can destroy presence. This waiting is a waiting for what already is, and what is already given. Presence is always in manifestation. This waiting is an extreme form of waiting for Godot. This is not easy to understand that our very waiting forecloses Presence. Many religious text and narratives are about waiting and waiting and they are still waiting. Still waiting! Imagine waiting for liberation that will take eons and eons.
Eons and Eons
Some transcendental traditions such as certain forms of Buddhism say liberation takes eons and eons. Eons and eons sounds like a very long time and very much a long term investment. There is something unnatural about this contracted view of humanness. This is a statement of distortion and concealed hopelessness and helplessness. This is ultimately a statement of impotency.
Now natural liberation is already happening. Natural liberation is the experience of the great compassion manifestation in the past, in the future and completely in the present context of our life. Natural liberation is already given to you as the great compassion which is your nature of primordial awareness and which is the nature of primordial presence. You have been given the nature of presence. Natural liberation is taking place as Being self-manifests in you as you. Natural self-liberation takes you beyond appearing and disappearing. Natural liberation is the ongoing continuity of the experience of presence beyond appearing and beyond disappearing. Natural self-liberation happens just as you are now. Natural liberation liberates you in the moment of death and in the birth moment of your coming into life. Natural liberation liberates you through the daily events and daily circumstances of your life. Natural liberation liberates you in your death. You are forever alive as you are pure presence.
Equality Consciousness and Univocity
The path of natural liberation cannot really be institutionalized. Patriarchal institutionalization and theocentric institutionalization are deconstructed by the equality consciousness of natural liberation. Equality consciousness is the nature of field of immanence. Equality consciousness is the nature of the field of Being as univocity. Patriarchal institutionalization hides and conceals the natural given-ness of self-liberation.
Some think, in fact many think, patriarchal institutionalization itself is the source of self- liberation. This understanding is a great cultural delusion. This understanding is spiritual illusion. This understanding is ma-rigpa-ignorance. This is the patriarchal myth that is slowly but surely being deconstructed today.
Natural liberation does not depend on any tradition, any lineage, any religion, any culture, or any one person. The teacher is not a person, but the field of Being, the field of self-revealing presence. There is no one language that belongs to natural liberation. No one language is super sacred. There is no one land or country that is super sacred. There is no one religious god, there is no one religious goddess who alone is actual. There is no one sacred text. There is no one sacred path. Ultimately, every human being is a path. Divinity is everywhere and in everything and in everyone and in every circumstance and in every death and in every birth.
The patriarchal drama of being the sacred one who alone knows or the sacred group who alone knows hides the universality of natural liberation. The patriarchal authoritarian posture is ma rigpa. Ma rigpa means ignorance of the field of Presence, the field of Being, the field of Self-Liberation. Many of patriarchal rituals and patriarchal ways of teaching (hierarchal sequence of learning) is simply a way of concretizing whatever was taught over centuries. Patriarchal traditions now live in the past. This is one of the reasons why patriarchal traditions often dress in ancient costumes.
Natural presence is beyond differentiation. There is no essential differentiation within natural presence. The understanding of effortlessness reveals the effortlessness and deed-less-ness of liberation which is Being becoming being, presence becoming the presence that we are. There are infinite ways of self- liberation through Presence. Buddhahood or Siddha-hood or Saint-hood is experiencing the unbound universe as vast who-ness of existential Presence. Courage and action naturally arises from within the nature of presence. The nature of presence is heroic in essence. The nature of presence is natural self- liberation.
Presence Opens The Luminous Door of Pantheism: Everything is Divine
Everything and anything, anyone and everyone is the One indivisible Presence. That all Being-ness is the manifestation of Being is pantheism. Presence is the source of the one Presence. The one presence is self-manifesting Presence. The manifested Presence is the one Presence. The one presence is the presence of pantheism. All universes, all dimensions, all times are of the one Presence. Everything is the Beatific Presence. All who’s are the divine presence of singular knowing. Source is the divine presence. Pantheism does not mean God as entity or God as a Big being as Big entity. Knowingness is no thingness, presence is no thingness. All phenomena being luminous knowing presence is pantheism. Being which is not a being, but Being self -manifesting as all beings is pantheism. Dzogchen is pantheistic in essence. Traditions of immanence are naturally pantheistic. Traditions of transcendence are essentially non-pantheistic and dissociative in nature. Traditions of transcendence tend naturally to be patriarchal.
This paper reflects the understanding and experience of Presence as articulated in the tradition of Dzogchen in the light of Continental Phenomenology.
Rudolph Bauer, Ph.D. Diplomate in Clinical Psychology, A.B.P.P.
Washington Center for Consciousness Studies and the Washington Center for Phenomenological and Existential Psychotherapy Studies
Jim Valby's wonderful translation of the Commentary on the All Creative King which is called ‘The Ornament of the State of Samantabhadra’ is published by Jim Valby Publications, PO Box 235, Shelburne Falls, MA.