Two of my favorite Dharma books

There is a nice Dharma group nearby.  Sandra and I joined the group for meditation and study last week. The participants are just beginning to study a Dzogchen text.  We didn’t feel it is appropriate to study this text with the group because we already have a Dzogchen teacher and are receiving very precious Dzogchen teachings from him.  Instead, we decided to study together to review some of the most important teachings we received at the three year retreat.

When I study, I often have difficulty remembering the exact words of the teachings. In addition, since I am not very scholarly, I need essential explanations and simple main points that will help me to get a handle on understanding the teachings correctly. There are two books I often refer to in this respect: The Words of my Perfect Teacher and A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher.

Rigdzin Jikmé Lingpa, who revealed the Longchen Nyingtik

The topic of both these books is the preliminary practices of the Longchen Nyingtik cycle of teachings.  Because these practices are called ‘preliminary,’ they may sound less important than ‘higher’ teachings.  My teachers have explain often explain that these practices are, in fact, the most important, even more important than the main practice. Many masters say that these two books provide the most complete and authentic introduction to following the Buddhist path that one can find. Without a good foundation, they say, one’s Dharma practice will not be fruitful. I definitely feel I need to strengthen this crucial foundation.

The Words of my Perfect Teacher is considered such an important text in my tradition that Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, says that he does not trust a student as an authentic Dharma practitioner unless they read this book seven times. In the Rigpa Wiki I found a nice description of this book:

The Words of My Perfect Teacher (Tib. Kunzang Lamé Shyalung) was composed by the great Nyingma master, Patrul Rinpoche. The work is an explanation of the Longchen Nyingtik ngöndro, the preliminary practices from the Longchen Nyingtik cycle of teachings, discovered by Jikmé Lingpa. This famous commentary is a completely faithful written record of the oral teachings Patrul Rinpoche received directly from his teacher, Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu. (click here for the full text)”

The other book, A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher, is often referred to as the ‘Zindri,’ meaning ‘notes.’  The Zindri is a collection of Khenpo Ngakchung’s notes on The Words of my Perfect Teacher. The Rigpa Wiki also has a description of this book:

Patrul Rinpoche

A Guide to the Words of My Perfect Teacher (Tib. Kunzang Lama’i Shyalung Zindri or Zindri for short) — a text by Khenpo Ngawang Palzang that elaborates on The Words of My Perfect Teacher. The Zindri is a priceless treasure of explanation, clarification and practical advice from the heart of the great oral lineage of Dzogchen, supporting and deepening the teachings contained in The Words of My Perfect Teacher. It was handed down by Patrul Rinpoche to his disciple Lungtok Tenpé Nyima (Nyoshul Lungtok), who then passed it on to Khenpo Ngawang Palzang, who wrote down this oral instruction. (click here for the full text)”

Sogyal Rinpoche often talks about how special these two book are. First of all, the Longchen Nyingtik cycle, to which these texts belong, is a very precious teaching because at its heart are the highest and most profound teachings of Dzogchen.

Secondly, when we read these books we are not just reading a text.  Rather, it is like receiving teachings directly from Jikmé Lingpa, the master who revealed the Longchen Nyingtik. Patrul Rinpoche’s teacher, Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu, was the direct disciple of Jigme Lingpa. This means Patrul Rinpoche received this teaching directly from one of Jigme Lingpa’s closest disciples and he himself states at the end of the text that, “this general and outer and inner guide to the The Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse (e.g the Longchen Nyingtik) is faithful to the words of my peerless teacher.”

Khenpo Nagkchung was the main disciple of Nyoshul Lungtok, who was one of the closest disciples of Patrul Rinpoche.  His notes, the Zindri, are also a faithful recount of the oral teachings he received from his own teacher.

Khenpo Ngawang Palzang

We can truly feel we are hearing Jikmé Lingpa’s words directly when we read both these texts!

These books not only contain the written instructions, but also the oral teachings and explanations that are given to the student according to their level of understanding. Practical instructions like these are considered crucial for being able to to fully understand the teachings and to be able to apply them in practice. Usually this kind of heart advice is personally given to the student according to their progress and is not written down. That is why it is referred to as oral instructions and deeply treasured by the student who receives it.

Khenpo Nagkchung decided to record these and other very precious teachings from the oral tradition. He felt times were degenerating and if these instructions were not written down there was a danger that they would be lost. It is due to his kindness that they are now available to us.

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