Togal – You Decide
Dzogchen has two aspects: in Tibetan, these are called Trekcho and Togal. Trekcho is seeing concepts as soon as they arise and ‘cutting through’ them. Togal is ‘leaping over’; it is direct experience of spontaneous presence. Trekcho is doing something, as in seeing, which is wisdom. Togal is just being, which is skilful means.
All phenomena has the nature of emptiness: this is relative understanding – trekcho.
Emptiness is the nature of all phenomena: this is ultimate realisation – togal.
Now we come to the tricky part!
Togal is described as visions – inner visions. This is where we can become confused. Togal is practised with guidance from a qualified teacher: one first must be stable in Trekcho.
In ordinary retreats, I’ve heard students ask about visions and ‘doing something’ with their eyes. There has never been a reply to this question, as this teaching is said to be secret. However, we can glean some understanding:
Matthieu Ricard describes the four visions as:
the absolute nature becoming manifest
the experience of increasing appearances
awareness reaching its greatest magnitude
the exhaustion of phenomena in dharmata*
Sogyal Rinpoche: fromThe Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
“Tögal has a quality of instantaneousness, of immediate realization. Instead of traveling over a range of mountains to reach a distant peak, the tögal approach would be to leap there in one bound. The effect of tögal is to enable a person to actualize all the different aspects of enlightenment within themselves in one lifetime. Therefore it is regarded as the extraordinary, unique method of Dzogchen; whereas trekchö is its wisdom, tögal is its skilful means. It requires enormous discipline, and is generally practiced in a retreat environment.
“Yet it cannot be stressed too often that the path of Dzogchen can only be followed under the direct guidance of a qualified master.”
You notice they do not mention actual visions. Maybe some do see visions, as focused light can be interpreted in different ways. Or the ‘inner light’ is just “phosphenes”: atoms constantly emit and absorb tiny particles of light, or photons – coloured snow in the dark.
All phenomena has the nature of emptiness.
Seeing this is Trekcho.
Emptiness is the nature of all phenomena.
Being is spontaneous realisation: Togal.
*dharmata: the intrinsic nature of everything, the essence of things as they are. Dharmata is the naked, unconditioned truth, the nature of reality, or the true nature of phenomenal existence.