Awareness Dzogchen The Path

Padmasambhava's Pointing Out Instructions

Over 1000 years have passed since the Great Master Padmasambhava gave these pointing out instructions.
And I believe that these instructions of precise clarity were truly meant for the Western mind.
Below you’ll find:

Padmasambhava’s Pointing Out Instructions to the King and the 25 Disciples
Imagine being there in the snow capped mountains of Tibet. And because of fortunate karma you have been blessed to be in the close presence of Padmasambhava, probably the greatest master to share the Dharma.
And knowing that life is short and that death may snatch you away at any moment you along with the king and the 25 disciples humbly ask the Master to bestow on you simple and profound teachings to help you fully realize the awakened state.
Picture that now…
In your mind see yourself and the others calling out to Padmasambhava asking,
“Please bestow upon us a profound instruction
that touches the essential point,
which is all inclusive
and yet simple to practice.”
Padmasambhava sang in reply:
King, princes and the rest of you disciples,
I will briefly explain
What you, out of devotion, have asked me.
Listen here, take the cross-legged position,
Keep your body straight on the seat and meditate!
Keep your attention thoughtfree and
unconfined by mental constructs.
As your focus transcends all types of objects,
Unfixed on any mark of concreteness,
Remain quiet, tranquil and awake!
When you remain like this,
the signs of progress naturally appear,
As the clarity of consciousness
that neither arises nor ceases
And as awareness utterly free of misconceptions.
This is the awakened state found in yourself,
Not sought elsewhere but self-existing
— how wonderful!

Since your mind has no real identity to be shown,
In a natural, uncontrived. spontaneously present state,
Remain undistracted within the sphere of nonmeditation!
Remaining like this, liberation occurs spontaneously.
This itself is the awakened state!
All phenomena of samsara and nirvana are your own mind,
And do not appear apart from this mind —
Devoid of a self-nature,
beyond thought, word, and description.
Don’t accept the pleasant or reject the awful,
don’t affirm or deny,
Make no preferences,
But remain vividly awake
in the state of unfabricated naturalness!
By remaining like this, the sign of progress is that
your body, speech and mind
Feel free and easy,
beyond the confines of pleasure and pain.
That is the moment of
understanding the awakened state!
All that appears and exists, samsara and nirvana,
arises from your own mind —
A mind that cannot be grasped,
free from center and edge.
In the natural state of vast equality,
intrinsic and uncontrived,
Remain undistracted in great effortlessness!
Whatever thought you think, it arises
as the space of wakefulness —
The Awakened One is nothing other than this.
When self-cognizant wakefulness is fully actualized,
That is what is given the name ‘buddha’!
Your mind is nonarising,
no thing whatsoever is seen.
Thoughtfree, forming no concepts, don’t follow your thinking!
So don’t affirm or deny, but remain, released in yourself!
In this state, the flow of thoughts is cut
And wisdom unfolds, drawing the line
between samsara and nirvana!
Your mind is simplicity free from ego and a self,
So remain in its self-occuring, self-subsiding state,
free from artifice!
At that moment, bliss arises from within,
The signs of progress occur spontaneously;
this is itself the awakened state!
Your mind was at first not created through causes,
And at the end will not be destroyed by conditions,
So remain effortless in
the indescribable and uncontrived state!
At that moment, the fruition is discovered
in yourself without seeking.
Apart from this you
will find no other Awakened One!

The awakened mind of enlightenment
is not created through meditation,
So, free from thinking,
without projecting or dissolving thought,
Remain with wide-open senses,
letting your thinking subside in itself!
Within this state,
your thinking spontaneously dissolves
And the wisdoms occur by themselves
without being sought.
This is itself the discovering
of the awakened state.
That which bears the name
‘awakened mind of enlightenment’
Is intrinsic, primordially self-existing
and without center or edge.
Don’t correct it but in the state that is
self-cognizant and naturally serene,
Don’t change, don’t alter, but remain,
released into naturalness!
By remaining like this,
your mind free of turmoil
Is itself the Awakened One!
The awakened state of mind is unmade,
Unsought and self-existing.
Without the effort of holding a subject and object,
Remain in the unfabricated state of natural cognizance!
By remaining in this way,
the stream of agitation
is cut and ceases;
Recognize that moment to be the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of dualistic action,
don’t affirm or deny,
But remain in uncontrived effortlessness,
don’t accept or reject.
The awakened state is
to dwell undistractedly in that!
Leave your mind in nonmeditation,
don’t fabricate an attitude,
But, without constructing, remain
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
without casting samsara aside,
The natural dissolving of samsara’s faults
Is the wisdom of the Awakened One!
Your mind is devoid of subject and object
and is not made,
So free from effort and artifice,
don’t create anything through meditation,
But remain undistracted
in self-existing natural cognizance!
By remaining in that state,
natural cognizance is liberated.
You will never find the Awakened One
if you abandon this!
When letting go of subject and object,
the mind is not a thing to show.
Likewise, it is not to be made or corrected.
Remain in the state of equanimity,
not straying into fixation on concreteness.
Remaining undistracted from that
is itself the awakened state!
The awakened state of mind is free
From all claims to be more or less.
Unfabricated and naturally free
From the subject that accepts or rejects an object,
Don’t dwell on anything, be utterly unobstructed.
To remain in this state is itself the Awakened One!
Your mind cannot be thought of,
nor can it be observed.
It lies beyond being and not being,
permanence and annihilation,
So remain free of the meditation
on meditator and object!
When you remain undistracted from that state,
That is what is called the dharmakaya
of the Awakened One!
Leave your attention free of knower and known,
Do not fixate, but relax freely without wishing,
And remain in the state of cognizance
devoid of self-nature.
To remain unwavering from that
is itself the awakened state!
Your mind, which perceives yet is free of substance,
Cognizes without thought, is conscious yet indescribable.
Free from the movements of conceptual thinking,
Remain in that state, awake and wide-open.
To remain in this nature
is itself the awakened state!
Awakened mind is a perceiving emptiness,
An empty yet luminous cognizance.
Remain in its self-existing state,
don’t alter or correct it.
To remain unmoved from that
is itself the Awakened One!
The identity of your attention,
which consists of nothing whatsoever,
Is not to be held; neither is it to be
created or neglected in meditation.
Don’t correct or alter
its self-existing freshness,
But remain in the original state
that is spontaneously present!
Within this state, don’t let your mind waver,
Since you will never find a fruition apart from this!
Awakened mind is empty while perceiving
And likewise perceives while being empty.
An inconceivable unity
of perceiving and aware emptiness —
Remain in naturalness, undistracted from this sphere.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One.
The nature of your mind
is not concrete and has no attributes,
Don’t seek to fabricate or improve it,
but remain without changing or forgetting.
To remain like that is itself the Awakened One.
Your mind is inconcrete and primordially pure,
Naturally empty and uncontrived,
So remain in the state free
from meditator and meditation object.
Through this, you attain the fruition of buddhahood!
Your mind does not arise or cease,
nor does it have
Attributes of concreteness.
Empty by its nature,
its cognizance is unobstructed.
To remain unmoved from this
is itself the Awakened One!
All of you, apply these instructions in your experience!
You may compare the sutras and tantras
Of the Buddha and their commentaries,
With words in numbers
that transcend the limts of space,
But the concise meaning is included
in just these vital points.
So practice them, and hide them as treasures
in accordance with your oath!
Thus Padmasambhava spoke,
and by merely bestowing the true
essential instruction upon them,
they were all liberated and
attained accomplishment.
Padmasambhava’s Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady
When the nirmanakaya, Master Padmasambhava, was invited by King Trisong Deutsen and was residing in Glorious Samye at Red Rock, the virtuous Lady of Ton, a woman of extraordinary devotion, sent her attendant the Lady of Margong by the name Rinchen Tso to offer a morning meal of curd with slices of grapes.
Later, when the master was on his way to Samye Chimphu, just as he was passing through the gate, the Lady of Ton bowed down on the road and circumambulated him, joined her palms before him, and said: “Please, great master, You are about to leave, and this old lady is about to die.
“First of all, since I was born as a girl, I am of an inferior birth.. Having been distracted by activities, I forgot the Dharma. Second, being of lesser intelligence, my wits are feeble. Third, I feel obscured due to my advanced age and my mind is unclear.
“Please, great master, bestow upon this old woman an instruction that requires little hardship, that is simple to grasp, easy to apply, and very effective. Please give an instruction for an old woman who will die soon.”
The master replied: “Old Lady, who are you?”
The old woman responded: “I am the one who has been sending a bowl of curd with a lowly maid.”
The master joyfully said: “You are surely one who has greater devotion than Trisong Deutsen.”
The he instructed the old lady and her attendant with these words: “Old woman, take the cross-legged position and keep your body upright. For a short while, simply remain with totally relaxed attention.”
The master pointed his finger to the old lady’s heart and gave this instruction: “Old woman, listen to me. If you are asked what the difference is between the mind of the truly perfected Buddha and the mind of sentient beings of the three realms, it is nothing other than the difference between realizing and not realizing the nature of mind.
“Since sentient beings fail to realize this nature, delusion occurs and from this ignorance the myriad types of sufferings come to pass. Thus beings roam through samsara. The basic material of Buddhahood is in them, but they fail to recognize it.
“First of all, the basic material of Buddhahood is within you. In particular, it is in the human beings who have obtained the freedoms and riches. Moreover, it is not such that the basic material for Buddhahood is abundant in men and deficient in women. Thus, even though you have taken rebirth as a woman, you are not prevented from attaining Buddhahood .
“The 84,000 Dharma doors have been taught in order to recognize and realize the wisdom mind of the buddhas, but this understanding is contained in a master’s three words of instruction. Thus, even though you may be of inferior intelligence and feeble wits, you are not disadvantaged.
“Now, the meaning of the Dharma, the Buddha-mind, and the master’s three words of instruction is this; By purifying externally perceived objects, your perceptions are freed in themselves. By purifying the perceiving mind within, your nonclinging awareness is freed in itself. As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, you recognize your own nature.
“How are the perceived objects outside purified? This present awareness, the awakened state of mind, is unspoiled by thought and perceives as a natural brightness. Let it be like that, and objects are perceived without being clung to. In this way, no matter how appearances appear, they are in fact not real and are not held to be actual things. Thus, no matter what you perceive, be it the earth or rocks, mountains or cliffs, plants or trees, houses or castles, goods or utensils, friends or foes, family members or companions, husband or wife, sons or daughters — towards all these and all other things — you are uninvolved in the attitude of claiming ownership; and so, they are perceived but not held to be that way. By being free of clinging to anything whatsoever, you are purified of objects perceived externally.
“Objects being purified does not mean that you stop perceiving. It means not to hold and cling while being bright and empty. Like the example of reflections in a mirror, they appear but are empty in that there is nothing to grasp, and your perceptions are known as ‘perceptions occurring to yourself.’
“By means of the inner perceiving mind being purified, here is the instruction in liberating nonclinging awareness in itself; No matter what occurs in your mind — the flow of thoughts, memories, or the five poisonous emotions — when you do not focus upon them, the movement vanishes by itself; thus you are untainted by the faults of thinking.
“To be flawless within does not mean to become an inert stone. It means that your awareness remains free of the flaws of thinking, like the example of having gone to an island of precious gold; on this golden island, no even the name “stone” exists. Likewise, once your thinking dissolves into original wakefulness, there is not even the name “thought.”
“As the lucid wakefulness between is delightful, here is the instruction in recognizing your own nature; While practicing, free from unknowing, your own consciousness is clear, pure, and awake. When practicing, you have the experience that your innate, self-existing wakefulness is neither spoiled by a conceptual attitude nor by clinging to bliss, clarity, or nonthought. As that itself is the Buddha-mind, you have recognized your own nature.
“It is like the example of not needing to imagine your mother to be your mother, as you have no fear due to thinking that she is not your mother. Similarly, when your awareness recognizes that it is the innate nature of dharmata, you will no longer mistakenly imagine that the phenomena of samsara are the innate nature — even without knowing it, you were never apart from this innate nature of dharmata.
“As this is known as the unfabricated training, the dharmata mother is the fact that all phenomena are devoid of self-nature; the dharmata abode is the recognition that they are devoid of self-nature; and ‘knowing your own nature by yourself’ is so called since you recognize that your own awareness is the innate space of dharmadhatu.
“When you have recognized this, there is neither superior nor inferior birth, neither higher nor lower activities, neither sharper nor weaker intellect, neither greater nor lesser intelligence, neither vast nor narrow learning, neither high nor low age, neither clear nor unclear mind.
“This is an instruction of little hardship but simple to grasp, easy to apply but very effective, with which you will have no dread at the time of death. Old lady, practice it! Be diligent, as life does not wait! You get no reward from slaving for husband and child, so do not return empty-handed, but take along the provisions of your master’s instructions! The tasks of this life are endless; so reach perfection in meditation practice!
Old lady, keep this advice as your escort for being fearless at the time of death!”
Thus he spoke. Since the master gave this instruction while pointing his finger at the old woman’s heart, it is known as “The Pointing-Out Instruction to the Old Lady.” Upon hearing it, the old lady and her attendant were both liberated and attained accomplishment.
Lady Tsogyal of Kharchen committed it to writing for the benefit of future generations. It was written down on the southern slope of Samye on the seventeenth day of the second summer month in the Year of the Hare.
Concealed as terma treasure for the sake of future generations,
May it meet with a worthy emanation!
May it instruct beings in appropriate ways!
Through this, may the destined ones liberate their stream-of-being!
Seal, Seal, Seal.
Padmasambhava’s Pointing the Staff at the Old Man’s Heart
WHILE THE GREAT MASTER PADMASAMBHAVA was staying at Great Rock Hermitage at Samye, Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog, an uneducated 61 year old man who had the highest faith and strong devotion to the master, served him for one year.
All this while Ngog didn’t ask for any teachings, nor did the master give him any. When after a year the master intended to leave, Ngog offered a mandala plate upon which he placed a flower of one ounce of gold. Then he said,
“Great Master, think of me with kindness. First of all, I am uneducated. Second, my intelligence is small. Third, I am old, so my elements are worn down. I beg you to give a teaching to an old man on the verge of death that is simple to understand, can thoroughly cut through doubt, is easy to realize and apply, has an effective view, and will help me in future lives.”
The Master pointed his walking staff at the old man’s heart and gave this instruction:
Listen here old man!
Look into the awakened mind of your own awareness!
It has neither form nor color,
neither center nor edge.
At first, it has no origin but is empty.
Next, it has no dwelling place but is empty.
At the end, it has no destination but is empty.
This emptiness is not made of anything
and is clear and cognizant.
When you see this and recognize it,
you know your natural face.
You understand the nature of things.
You have then seen the nature of mind,
resolved the basic state of reality
and cut through doubts about topics of knowledge.
This awakened mind of awareness is not made out of any material substance;
it is self-existing and inherent in yourself.
This is the nature of things that is easy to realize
because it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
This is the nature of mind that does not consist of a concrete perceiver
and something perceived to fixate on.
It defies the limitations of permanence and annihilation.
In it there is no thing to awaken;
the awakened state of enlightenment is your own awareness
that is naturally awake.
In it there is no thing that goes to the hells;
awareness is naturally pure.
In it there is no practice to carry out;
its nature is naturally cognizant.
This great view of the natural state is present in yourself:
resolve that it is not to be sought for elsewhere.
When you understand the view in this way
and want to apply it in your experience,
wherever you stay
is the mountain retreat of your body.
Whatever external appearance you perceive
is a naturally occurring appearance
and a naturally empty emptiness;
let it be, free from mental constructs.
Naturally freed appearances become your helpers,
and you can practice while taking appearances as the path.
Within, whatever moves in your mind,
whatever you think,
has no essence but is empty.
Thought occurrences are naturally freed.
When remembering your mind essence
you can take thoughts as the path
and the practice is easy.
As for the innermost advice:
No matter what kind of disturbing emotion you feel,
look into the emotion and it tracelessly subsides.
The disturbing emotion is thus naturally freed.
This is simple to practice.
When you can practice in this way,
your meditation training is not confined to sessions.
Knowing that everything is a helper,
your meditation experience is unchanging,
the innate nature is unceasing,
and your conduct is unshackled.
Wherever you stay,
you are never apart
from the innate nature.
Once you realize this,
your material body may be old,
but awakened mind doesn’t age.
It knows no difference between young and old.
The innate nature is beyond bias and partiality.
When you recognize that awareness,
innate wakefulness,
is present in yourself,
there is no difference between sharp and dull faculties.
When you understand the innate nature,
free from bias and partiality,
is present within yourself,
there is no difference between great and small learning.
Even though your body,
the support for the mind,
falls apart,
the dharmakaya of awareness wisdom is unceasing.
When you gain stability in this unchanging state,
there is no difference between a long and a short life-span.
Old man, practice the true meaning!
Take the practice to heart!
Don’t mistake words and meaning!
Don’t depart from your friend, diligence!
Embrace everything with mindfulness!
Don’t indulge in idle talk and pointless gossip!
Don’t become involved in common aims!
Don’t disturb yourself with worry of offspring!
Don’t excessively crave food and drink!
Intend to die an ordinary man!
Your life is running out, so be diligent!
Practice this instruction for an old man on the verge of death!
Because of pointing the staff at Sherab Gyalpo’s heart, this is called ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff at the Old Man.’ Sherab Gyalpo of Ngog was liberated and attained accomplishment.
This was written down by the Princess of Kharchen for the sake of future generations. It is known under the name ‘The Instruction of Pointing the Staff.’

By Ian Marshall

Ian Paul Marshall has been initiated by the Dalai Lama, is trained in Zen as transmitted through the teachings of the Venerable Dr. Thich Thien-An and Seung Sahn Dae Jong Sa and is the founder of based out of Toronto, Canada.