Monday, July 20, 2015


Tibetan: rangdrol
English: self-liberation, naturally liberated

In the Dzogchen tradition we talk about self-liberation, or natural liberation; liberated just as it is, in it's own place.  There are three types of self-liberation- like a snake uncoiling itself, like meeting an old friend, and like a thief entering an empty house.

Rangdrol like an uncoiling snake.
When a snake is resting coiled up it doesn't tie itself into knots when it moves.  It simply and effortlessly uncoils.  It doesn't need to think about it or create a plan of attack for uncoiling itself, it naturally goes on its way.

We struggle at this.

When we are tied up in knots we plot our best to escape.  We fight back, try to break out or just give up in exhaustion.  We struggle.  We see all of the struggle in our life and we know we are tied up in knots.  We also know that we don't know how to get untied.

The way that we experience self-liberation is to experience the nature of mind and the nature of phenomena directly.  It is not a conceptual process, we don't talk ourselves through it into a state of cessation or acceptance.  It is a direct experience.  This is what Garab Dorje talked about in the first of his Three Statements.  When we experience the originally pure and uncontrived nature of mind directly, we encounter the naturally liberated state.  Recognizing that we come to experience the timeless freedom of the nature of mind and the way in which all experiences, whether good or bad, are naturally liberated.  In this way, the knots of whatever is manifesting in our experience are naturally uncoiled and liberated in their own place.

The distinctive feature of this first stage of self-liberation is that prior to this experience you have been trying to use the craftiness of your mind to bring about freedom, freedom that has never manifested or never lasted.  Here in this tradition, you are using the direct experience of the nature of mind.

Rangdrol like meeting an old friend.  
It doesn't matter how busy you are, how crowded the place or even how long it has been, when you see an old friend you immediately recognize them.  "Oh, hello.  There you are, I recognize you dear friend".  It is a moments recognition, nothing more to do.

You are already intimate and familiar with the natural state of being and the experience of timeless freedom, yet there are moments when you get caught up, moments when you get tied up in knots.  So at this stage you are becoming more proficient at recognizing the naturally liberated state and dealing with problems and obstacles as they arise.  For you, problems and obstacles start to arise as friends.  As negative thoughts and emotions arise you instantly recognize them as a dynamic dance, free in their own place with nothing more to do.  You see them, but they don't necessarily bother you.

The key feature here is the familiarity you have gained familiarity of the naturally liberated state.  Familiarity allows us to recognize the natural liberation of thoughts, emotions and habitual tendencies as they arise, even though we may have a moment of distraction.  This is really a process of working with doubt and uncertainty in your practice, really sitting so that you start to gain that experience of liberation upon arising.      

Rangdrol like a thief entering an empty house.
This one is a bit more obscure conceptually.  The metaphor here is that the thief has nothing to gain and the house has nothing to lose.  This experience of self-liberation is connected to the essence of liberation in the Dzogchen tradition, which is liberation upon arising.  Normally what is manifesting in our experience can be viewed as an enemy or a problem, a thief.  Our house is secure, a safe zone where we experience freedom and peace of mind.  So our normal experience is that something manifests in our life and we lose something, our peace of mind or freedom get stolen from us and ultimately we get tied up in knots.  In this situation, the thief that arises- whether it be negative situation, thoughts, bad habits, karma or ignorance- doesn't threaten the house because the house has nothing to lose.  The nature of mind, your house, cannot be ruined by negative thoughts or emotions, it cannot be bound up in any way at all.   

Sometimes we are also the thief looking for valuable experiences and qualities.  We might start to have some 'real signs' that we are accomplishing something or be looking for confirmation or validation, but truly there is also nothing to add or improve upon in the nature of mind.   

The key feature here is that whatever arises in your experience is free just as it is, liberation is simultaneous with arising, with nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

You can always tell when you have fallen from this realization when you start to see thieves all over the place and long for the experience of a peaceful house.  Your work is a thief, those people, this problem, this thought, this emotion, all of it starts to tie you up pretty good again, doesn't it?

In the beginning, you discover the naturally liberated state,
In the middle, you recognize it again and again amidst confusion,
In the end, you realize that there is nothing to gain and nothing to lose.

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