Updated Wednesday 11th December 1996
When I first saw the beautiful Windmill Hill formation on the CCC, I found it had a striking resemblance to a Tibetan Buddhist symbol called the Gakyil. As the formations in England are becoming more and more like 'awesome art works' with hidden meanings, of course everybody would like to know what they tell us exactly. And the more complicated and diverse the formations become, the more theories come into being . This is one of them. We probably will need some more patience before we will really understand and be completely sure of the meaning of the formations and what it is all about .....!
I will try to explain what the Gakyil stands for. I was lucky to find the answers in the books from Namkhai Norbu, although I did find the subject extremely difficult ! As I am not an expert on this matter, not on Tibetan Buddhism and certainly not on Dzogchen meditation, I do hope that the explanation below in is more or less comprehensible.
Namkhai Norbu is a Tibetan Dzogchen master who spend his childhood in Tibet but fled to India when Tibet became occupied by the Chinese. As many other Tibetans he lives in exile. In 1964 he became a Professor at the Oriental Institute of the University of Naples, Italy. He writes books about Dzogchen and Bon, and gives lectures and teachings all over the world.
The Gakyil or 'Wheel of Joy' is a non-dual symbol of a special Tibetan Buddhist meditation technique called Dzogchen. It is the symbol of the primordial energy. The practice of Dzogchen exists of three parts or stages. The Base - the Path and the Fruit. These stages are interwoven and interdependent as the Gakyil clearly shows. Dzogchen, also called the 'Great Perfection', is regarded as the highest form of esoteric religious practice to attain enlightenment. It is a way to become enlightened in one life time by overthrowing the dualistic condition.
For those who are interested in Tibetan Buddhism and Dzogchen a more detailed explanation follows below.
An early form of Dzogchen meditation was introduced in Tibet by the Bon saint Tompo Shenrap as early as almost 4 centuries ago. Tompo Shenrap was born in 1857 BC in Shang-Shung in Western Tibet. He taught medicine, astrology and Dzogchen. At that time the religion was Bon, a sjamanistic pre-Buddhist religion. The founders of Bon studied in Heaven and asked the Lord of Compassion for advise for helping humankind in their sorrow and suffering.
Buddhism was founded in northern India about 500 BC when prince Siddharta Gautama achieved enlightenment. While meditating in Bodh Gaya in Northern India under the Body Tree he became enlightened because he ceased to desire and attainained nirvana, a state of perfect bliss and he escaped the cycle of birth and rebirth. The Buddha summarised his teachings in the Four Noble Truths :
1. Existence is full of suffering
2. This state is caused by ignorance and selfish desire
3. There is a way to escape from this and attain nirvana
4. This way is to follow the Dharma, the teachings of the Buddha explained in the 'eight fold path' :
* right views (understanding) * right intentions * right speech * right action * right livelihood (mode of living) * right effort (self discipline) * mindfulness * right concentration (contemplation on life)
By following the 'eight fold path' one will become free of delusions . This process requires a series of rebirths until the goal is eventually reached and no more rebirths in the world of suffering are necessary. The path that takes a person through this cycle of rebirths is karma, but this is not simple fate. Actions in one lifetime will determine what a person will encounter in his or her next life and what one has to go through and what to learn.
TIBETAN BUDDHISM AND DZOGCHEN
It was in Oddiyana in the Swat valley (now Northern Pakistan) where Buddhism flourished and it attracted many teachers to get instructions. Oddiyana is considered the place where Tantra, the esoterical Buddhist teachings, originated. The highest forms of the highly esoterical Tibetan Tantra yoga, 'Atiyoga' and 'Mahamudra' lead to enlightenment, although it is arrived at by a gradual path of transformation and the method is different from Dzogchen. Dzogchen was also founded in this area and later became absorbed in the Buddhist teachings with master Garab Dorje.
Garab Dorje was born in 516 BC. His mother, a nun, was the daughter of the King of Urgyan, and Garab Dorje was received after she had a meditative vision. At the age of seven he was already teaching Dzogchen to the famous buddhist pandits (scolars).
As his teachings were far beyond the karmic laws of cause and effect, he turned the traditional concepts of his first students totally upside down. This was the reason why the transmission of Dzogchen was done in secret since then, next to the official Buddhist Dharma.
It was the saint Padmasambhava who brought Buddhism to Tibet in the ninth Century AD. Buddhism integrated with the local Bon culture. So in Tibet there came into being a great confluence of spiritual traditions from Urgyan, India and local Bonpo sources with its sophisticated system of cosmology, astrology, rituals and medicine. This became what we know now as the characteristically Tibetan form of Buddhism.
Although after the founding of Buddhism in Tibet, several schools appeared ( these are Nyingma - Sakya - Kargyu - and Gelukpa), Dzogchen is not a school or sect in itself and the practitioners are found in all the different schools. Padmasambhava was a totally realised being born in Urgyan in North West India. He received visionary transmission of the Dzogchen teachings directly, across time and space, from Garab Dorje, as well as oral transmission from lineal descendants of Garab Dorje who were his contemporaries. He developed the capacity to transform himself into any form he chose. With the practise of overthrowing the dualistic condition 'siddhis' (special powers) do arise.
THE PRACTICE OF DZOGHEN
In essence Dzogchen consists of teaching the primordial state, which is the fundamental pure base of all existence. For the practice of Dzoghen it is essential to get transmission from a qualified master, without that it is impossible. Although there are many books published nowadays about Dzogchen meditation in the West, this is by no means the same as an instruction from a master. As all individuals are different, they need different instructions, and there should be a continuing participation between the master who transmits and the one who receives.
THE BASE, THE PATH AND THE FRUIT
The Dzogchen teachings consists of showing how the illusion of dualism starts, how it can be undone, and what the experience is when it is undone. These stages are called The Base - the Path and the Fruit. And this is the symbol of the Gakyil.
In the Base one is introduced by the master in the primordial state which is beyond time, beyond creation and destruction. Dzogchen teaches how to be like the fundamental purity and clarity of a mirror. But only when pure compassion together with knowledge arises is there a way to overcome ones limits and barriers and obtain this mirror awareness. The mirror or melon is an important symbol in Dzogchen.
The Path shows the practitioner how to master his or her energies, and in the Dzogchen teachings there are different practices that suit different kind of practitioners. The 'secret' of Dzogchen is really 'self secret', since it is revealed as soon as one can understand it. There are various methods to bring one into contemplation including breathing, body positions, sound and so on, called Tregqod. The practice consists of taking long retreats often for years and years. In Tibet the practitioners often stayed for long solitary retreats in mountain caves.
Continuing beyond Tregqod there is a practise of Todgal which means 'surpassing the uttermost'. This practice is genuinely secret and is only found in the Dzogchen teachings. It is only transmitted by the Dzogchen master when the practitioner is ready and able to receive it. The practise of Tregqod must be perfect and the practitioner must be able to stay in a state of contemplation at all times if the practice of Todgal is to work.
With the advancing of the practice of Todgal the illusion of dualism is undone and 'higher forms of awareness' may manifest. These are regarded as 'by products' and must not be regarded as its goal. One develops for instance the capacity of seeing things regardless of the distance, is able to read peoples thoughts and perform miracles. As dividing the reality into an internal and an external part is an illusion, when the dualistic condition is overthrown, it is possible to go beyond all usual limits with one's own being.
The Fruit is the Total Realisation a complete liberation from conditioned existence and omniscient perfect wisdom in every capacity. The 'body of light' is the highest realisation of Dzogchen and the physical body itself is dissolved into the essence of the elements which is light. It is as if the physical body, when the material substance is absorbed in its' light essence, stays alive as a collection of subtle elements. That is, to say it less complicated, there is no death as we know it but existence on a higher plane. When the yogi makes this 'transition' the body completely disappears only leaving the impurities, the hair and nails, behind. A being with a 'body of light' or 'rainbow body' is able to communicate with others and help them in an active way, because of the absolute mastery of all phenomena.
Namkhai Norbu tells in his book 'The crystal and the way of light' the following story of his uncle who became an accomplished yogi and when he died turned into a 'body of light'. This uncle, who lived in eastern Tibet, practised Dzogchen and stayed for several years in retreats. In between his retreats he travelled from place to place. Coming across the Chinese one day during his wanderings he had to explain that he was doing and why he was wandering around. As he did not give an answer to their satisfaction they decided that he must be a spy so they ordered to execute him. But despite several attempts to shoot him it proved impossible to kill him. The people gave him the title 'Dogdan' which means 'Accomplished Yogi' because he had such remarkable powers. He could communicate with the mountain deer, who normally are very timid and even a mountain lion was his companion now and then.
Later, during the Cultural Revolution it was forbidden by the Chinese for Tibetan yogis to go into retreats because they were provided with food although they did not work. Dogdan was lucky to get house arrest only, because other yogis were often facing public trials and punishments. An official was made responsible for the custody of Dogdan who was able to live in a small wooden house built on top of a flat roof of a Tibetan family who provided him with food.
One day the official arrived to find the house closed up. When he managed to get in he found Dogden's body in his meditation position but his body had shrunk to the size of a small child. The official went to warn his Chinese superiors. When they returned with high ranking officers a few days later Dogdan's body had disappeared completely. Only his hair and the finger nails were left. Dogdan had accomplished the 'body of light'. This is only one of the many stories of Namkhai Norbu and others, of Dzogchen masters who realised a 'rainbow body' or 'body of light'.
When you hear these beautiful stories of realised Tibetan lama's it is hard to understand the way the Tibetans are treated by the Chinese. Tibet was occupied by the Chinese around 1950 and the Tibetan's have since then gone through tremendous hardships.
It is very sad to know that the Tibetan people are still very much restricted by the Chinese in their religious practice. Since last June (1996) the situation has gotten even worse then before. I am an active member of the Tibet Support Group in Holland, a non-profit organisation which aim is self-determination for the Tibetan people. There are TSG's in all the Western countries and several internet sites on Tibet.
I'll end with a part of a recent interview with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and I hope and believe that Tibet will be a free country very soon. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave this statement after receiving media requests for comments on the visit of President Jiang Zemin from China to India last November.
"Tibet's rich Buddhist culture embodies values which are relevant and beneficial in our modern world, because its fundamental concept is the interdependent nature of all existence and its core values are compassion and non-violence. This culture infuses people with value which help create peaceful and compassionate relations with each other as well as with their natural environment. It is, therefore, worthwhile to preserve this Buddhist culture."
When you want to know more about Dzogchen my advice is to read for instance the books mentioned below.
Literature on Dzogchen:
Namkhai Norbu :
*The crystal and the way of light, sutra, tantra and Dzogchen.
The teachings of NAMKHAI NORBU
PENGUIN (philosophy religion) ISBN 0-14-019314-6
*Dzogchen, the selfperfected state
* The cycle of Day and Night
Station Hill press, Barrytown, New York, USA.
ISBN 0 88268 040 4
Heart drops of Dharmakaya.
Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen.
Commentary by Lopon Tenzin Namdak.
Snow Lions Publications, New York, USA.
The light of the Garuda
Wisdom Publications, Boston USA.
ISBN 90 6350 067 X
A Dutch cartoon sent in by Anneco :-)
We always come here this time of the year because there's nothing happening at our place.... but not much to do here either, is there?