Dzogchen: a controversial yana

Aro lineage emblem, depicting a Khyung (Garuda), a bird symbolic of Dzogchen

Aro lineage emblem, depicting a Khyung (Garuda), a bird symbolic of Dzogchen

Dzogchen—the main teaching of the Aro gTér—has always been controversial. For a thousand years, it has been denounced as:

  • Really Chinese Zen, not Vajrayana, so not OK
  • Really Shaivite Advaita Vedanta, which is a kind of Hinduism, and not Buddhism, so not OK
  • Really Bön, not Buddhism, so not OK
  • Really Cittamatra (Yogacara), a discredited Buddhist philosophy, so not OK
  • Invented by Aro Yeshé Jungné, a Tibetan, so not OK
  • All written in Tibetan, not Sanskrit, so not OK
  • Not found in India, so not OK
  • Incompatible with the Law of Karma, so not OK

(You can read more about this in Part Seven of Dudjom Rinpoche’s The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, or from a Western perspective in Ronald M. Davidson’s Tibetan Renaissance.)

Dzogchen is now officially accepted by all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is taught by His Holiness the Dala’i Lama.

Yet there are some conservative Tibetans who still think it is not OK. There remains an atmosphere of suspicion. Some, who grudgingly agree that it in theory it is the highest Buddhist teaching, wish that in practice it could be made to go away.