Lama Surya Das – Ep. 32 – Practicing Dzogchen, Suffering, and the Middle Way


In this talk from a past retreat, Lama Surya Das discusses the Dzogchen principle of basic awareness. Through practice, we become open to the nature of our minds. We are then able to detach ourselves and become a witness; we experience things as they are. Hearing becomes just hearing and seeing becomes just seeing.

Lama Surya Das also answers insightful questions from his audience on suffering and the middle way. How do we come to trust ourselves and what does it mean to apply the Middle Way to our lives?

“It is not outer things that entangle us; it is inner attachment and fixation which entangles us” -Tilopa

Show Notes

1:00 – Lama Surya begins the conversation about the Zen and Dzogchen principle that, “Naturalness is the Way.” The koan (challenge) to this is how to practice naturalness. In the Dzogchen tradition, naturalness is innate, as is our spiritual nature.

Unlike other teachings, Dzogchen does not teach that human souls are defiled and wicked which needs a lifetime, or lifetimes, of work to purify ourselves and transform spiritually. Instead, in Dzogchen, as we gradually progress and re-condition ourselves we free ourselves from the ruts of hopelessness and despair.

9:30 – Through this, we become more aware, non-reactive, and open. The stereotype of Buddhist practice is that emptiness means being empty-minded, blank, and oblivious. Instead, it is like being in a sun-filled room letting everything in, not just an empty room inside ourselves.

When we are practicing meditation, we are not just sitting there doing nothing. We are actually in a dynamic state and presence of mind.

15:00 – During meditation, it is important to focus on cultivating innate wakefulness instead of trying to build up concentration. Aware of whatever momentarily arises in the present moment and letting it go.

As we practice this, we can separate ourselves from experience. When we do this hearing becomes just hearing, seeing becomes just seeing. Nothing to look or listen for and no one seeing or hearing it, giving us a choice to observe these things instead of being forced to do so.

23:00 – Lama Surya opens up the floor to questions from his audience. The first question is about trust and the middle way. LSD gives insight on this subject and how it relates to the three parts of the Dzogchen path.

30:50 – An audience member, who is wheelchair bound, struggles with his understanding of the Dzogchen practice of non-resistance in regards to improving his quality of life and health. The answer to this is the middle way, not doing nothing and not over doing.

39:45 – Touching on the previous question, an audience member asks how we know that we are on the middle path. Lama Surya also discusses overcoming self-doubt.

50:55 – How do we reconcile the guilt experiencing of our suffering when there are those whose experience of suffering is much greater than ours?

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