Learning and Practicing Self-Liberation


One of the most useful practices to come out of the Dzog Chen view of the ground as sheer openness is the process of ‘Self-Liberation.’ What follows is a short exposition of the process and a method for employing it.

Have you ever been having a great time, riding high on good feelings when bad news comes and bums you out? Or the inverse of this: being depressed when suddenly something happens that lifts your spirits? In that moment of change you experienced the phenomenon of liberation. What makes it self-liberation is when you can do this consciously. What is going on is that since all forms are essentially openness, liberating a feeling, a thought, or a sensation is returning it to that open state. When this happened as above, when your mood was dashed or lifted, the mood that passed was opened out while the new mood entered into your consciousness. When you do this intentionally, there is no need to replace the old state with a new one. Rather, you permit your awareness to return to its natural uncontrived state which is content free, lucent and joyous.

This is the most important notion in the process of self-liberation. What we are being liberated from is the contents of our consciousness. Not that we are striving to not think or feel or sense, but rather that we do not grasp after our thoughts, distracting ourselves from what is going on, or Qabalistically speaking, getting caught up in our Netzachian dreams. What we are being liberated into is the experience of the mind in its true nature which is content free, thus open; unclouded by form, thus radiant; not clinging, thus feeling pleasure. This state of pleasure-radiance-openness is both the goal and the guide to the process of self-liberation. This tripartite state is actually one thing but when experienced through the human mind, we divide its singular, non-dual nature into the three characteristics of pleasure, radiance, and openness which correspond to the three parts of embodied existence, body, speech (or energy) and mind, respectively.

To get there we need to learn to relax, but we need to understand how. The Tibetans talk about this in terms of View, Meditation, and Action. First, we must understand the View. Here this is the understanding that the nature of the mind is pleasure-radiance-openness. Given that hypothesis we then practice experiencing this state through Meditative techniques, which will be given shortly. Lastly, once the View has been stabilized through Meditative practice, which is to say that you have convinced yourself of the View experientially, it is then put into Action by applying the technique learned in meditation in life outside of meditative practice.

So, for the moment I must ask you to accept the working hypothesis that the nature of the mind is pleasure-radiance-openess so that we can create an experimental design that can help us verify the theory, i.e., a meditative practice. First, unless you are a Buddha, one who dwells permanently in the state of pure pleasure-radiance-openness, there will be in your body some degree of dis-pleasure or pain; in your speech some impediment to your expression, or said in another way, one very accessible to magick-users, some block to your energy; in your mind some thought that is not passing away, even if it is only your thoughts about this teaching. Which ever is the strongest or most immediate, put your attention there. What ever it is that you are attending to, give it room. If it is a physical sensation or emotional feeling, relax around it, let it dissipate and dilute itself across a wider area, loosing its intensity. If it is a block in your energy, let it unravel like a knot being loosed. If it is a thought, let it dissolve into sheer openness.

At this stage of practice, you may not be able to make the focus of your attention to completely dissipate, particularly if it is strong physical pain. But to the extent that you have been successful in liberating some small bit of either body, energy or mind, notice that you also feel some increase in the other two qualities. If you liberated a thought, notice the increase of pleasure in your body and radiance in your energy. If you focused on a knot in your energy, notice the increase in the expansive peace in your mind and the added pleasure in your body. If it was sensation that you liberated, note your increased energy and clarity of mind.

Keep practicing this. Every time you do this you will feel better, have more energy and greater mental lucidity. You also develop greater capacity for doing this, and are able to liberate progressively greater portions of the focus of your attention into its true nature. Anything that is not pleasure or radiance or openness is at the same time closedness of mind, dimming of energy and dulling or paining of sensation. When unfurled like a flower blooming, all three qualities are strengthened.

When I do this I go into what ever happens to be most immediate to me, whether a sensation or my energy or my mind and crank it open. As the other two qualities collaterally increase, I may shift my attention to where ever the next strongest block appears, and liberate that bit of clinging, and then on to the next item that comes up. As I do this my mind becomes clearer, my energy stronger, my sense of pleasure and well-being becomes greater. I follow this trail of liberation until I am in the state of lucent, radiant, bliss, as much as I can stand at the time. It gets better the more I do this, as my capacity for pleasure, free energy, and open mindedness increases.

The Dzog Chen Master Namkai Norbu Rimpoche teaches that the process of self-liberation has three stages of development. First one must attend to such phenomenon as to be liberated and exert effort to liberate it. With increased capacity, the process of liberation becomes effortless, but still requires attention to the process for it to work. Finally, the act of liberating the phenomenon arises at the same moment as the phenomenon, spontaneously, liberating it.

By Sam Webster