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Daniel P Brown: the A Khrid system. A short overview. Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlightenment. And a visualisation challenge.

Daniel P Brown, in the 2018 Sacred Sundays interview, mentioned the A Khrid system as a major influence on his work. The A Khrid system is a systematic, optimised step-by-step approach to "set the conditions for awakening".

This translation was the first collaboration with Geshe Sonam Gurung. Seven other translations followed. One of them, "Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlightenment", is an extension of the A Khrid system, addressing the last of the three "maps" to enlightenment.




Daniel P Brown and the A Khrid system


Dan Brown admired the efficiency of the systemn, and he oriented his own method along those principles.


This is his description:


There are three lineages of Dzogchen and Bon, what's called the A Kridh system, the final stages to the path of "Ah". And it started with 50 lessons that you do one at a time, up from the very beginning of practice, up to full awakening, and then up to full enlightenment.
And then over the years, it evolved into 14 sessions. So I got curious about, well, what are the 14 sessions that seem to me most important to move you along so quickly? But then His Holiness taught me a one session version of the whole thing.
So we've translated all of that. And it's profound. 

Why I enjoyed the A Khrid book


I bought the book after attending one of his last retreats. I was amazed to see how close the retreat was to the A Khrid system in its approach and sequence.


I loved some of the visualizations in the book's Guru meditation text. Dan Brown had modernized and simplified them in his retreat, but it was the same principle.

"Requesting the gift waves of influence" - an early "resourcing"-approach


This book also explains the term "requesting the gift waves of influence". It is a type of guru meditation in which the student asks for a mind-to-mind "transfer of knowledge" from imaginary lamas/gurus before beginning the meditation. Here is the process:


To receive the gift waves of influence, the student must first make a request, understanding that the lama is like a doctor, the teachings are the medicine, and the student is a sick person trying to get well. The Lama, driven by compassion, gives the instructions like a mother caring for her child. The student respectfully receives the instructions and follows them accordingly. This process of requesting and receiving allows the Lama's teachings and influence to enter the student's mind stream and initiate the process of spiritual development.


The following visualization is part of the process of requesting the gift of influence.


Instruction: try to perform the visualisation in your mind. Without AI! As I had tried in 2022, before AI image generators popped up.


Do this practice as follows: using your own ordinary bodily form, imagine on the crown of your head your root lama in the sambhogakāya form of Buddha, gShen lha ‘Od dkar, seated on top of a cushion of a sun, moon, a lotus supported by a lion, elephant, horse, dragon, and a garuḍa.
All of your lamas in the form of your yidam [tutelary deity] are absorbed into [your root lama]. Tshe dbang [Rig ‘dzin] says, “His enlightened body is gShen rab, his enlightened speech are the Bon [teachings], his enlightened heart-mind is Buddha. By that, the four supreme [refuge] objects are complete within him.”
In the space above him, stacked up one on top of one another like a staircase, imagine the eight lamas of the meditative experience and realization lineage; all the previous entrusted descendants of the Bru and Zhu [family] lineages; the treasure discoverers of the gShen, Gyer, rMa, and dByil families; the eight gShen great teachers; the four wise sages; the thirteen lineage descendants; the six great lamas;the [mind-transmission] lineage of the Sugata’s enlightened intention.
Then, imagine all these lineage lamas, coming from Kun tu bZang po in the ‘Og min Heavens down to your root lama, as your foundation—all in their glorious splendor.
These beings then emanate luminous light-rays in all ten directions in order to guide and subdue beings with their immeasurable compassion. These lucid [lineage] beings are without inherent nature appearing like rainbow light. 

Using AI to create the visualisation


Ok , so now in lazy 2024 I thought that AI might render it for me. I took the entire paragraph as prompt . But my first attempt failed: too complex!


Meta AI here. I´m sorry, I couln´t generate an image based on your description. I´m still learning and improving my image generation capabilities, so I may not always be able to create the exact image you have in mind. Would you like me to try again or assist you with something else?

Eventually, Llama 3 suggested this simplified prompt:


Imagine a majestic figure, gShen lha 'Od dkar, seated on a radiant sun and moon cushion, supported by a lion, elephant, horse, dragon, and garuḍa. This figure represents your root lama and embodies the enlightened qualities of Buddha. Above them, a staircase of luminous beings stretches upwards, representing a lineage of wise and compassionate teachers. These beings emanate warm, colorful light that fills the space, symbolizing guidance and protection.

Unfortunately, Llama 3 still hung up trying to generate it.


Fortunately, from the free tools I used, Bing created an image, demonstrating the richness of the visualisation.


A diagram of stacked lamas

So, I thought it might be useful to give a summary of the entire book. First, the overall organisation, then the detailed 15 lessons that Dan Brown had referred to.


The following text was written 90% by AI (notebookLM), summarising directly the A Kridh translation by Dan Brown.


Overview: The Organization of the A Khrid System


The A Khrid yystem, a lineage of Bon Great Completion (rdzogs chen) meditation, is structured as a step-by-step guide that leads students from the initial stages of practice to "the ultimate realization of Buddhahood". The system is designed as a 15-step program. Each step focuses on a specific aspect of Great Completion Meditation and represents a means of progressing toward enlightenment.


The A Khrid system, meaning "practical guidebook (Khrid) that guides the practitioner to the final realization of Awakening" originates from rMe’u ston dGongs mdzod Ri khrod Chen po (1038-1096). 


It is rooted in the belief that ultimate reality, termed dharmadhatu, resides within every sentient being. This innate Buddha-nature has two facets: universal ground (kun gzhi), representing the vast, empty expanse of awareness, and awakened awareness (rig pa), its dynamic, knowing aspect.


The A Khrid path is broadly categorized into three levels, each employing specific means:


1. Ripening the Unripened Mind-Stream ("Preliminaries")


The initial four sessions are dedicated to refining the mind-stream, preparing it as a suitable mental "vessel" for experiencing awakened awareness. This phase emphasizes cultivating positive qualities, eradicating negative states, and establishing a strong foundation through practices like meditation on impermanence, refuge, and Guru Yoga.


2. Bringing the Ripened Mind-Stream to Liberation (Concentration Meditation)


Sessions five to ten guide the practitioner to directly experience awakened awareness. This involves training in concentration meditation with and without attributes, using techniques like visualization of the Tibetan letter "A" and specific was of looking. These practices aim to stabilize the mind, recognize the innate clarity of awakened awareness, and integrate this realization into daily life.


3. From Liberation to Completion as Buddhahood (perfecting stability)


The final sessions, eleven to fifteen, focus on developing and perfecting the stability of awakened awareness, ultimately culminating in Buddhahood. This phase includes practices like sleep and dream yoga, designed to maintain awareness even in unconscious states, further solidifying the practitioner's grasp on the nature of reality and their inherent Buddha-nature.


The A Khrid system is unique in its systematic and comprehensive approach. Its emphasis on experiential realization, guided by precise instructions made it an attractive model for Daniel P Brown.


The Detail Process: Stages of Meditation in the A Khrid System


The A Khrid system of meditation in Bon tradition follows a structured path with three broad levels of practice:


1. Ripening the Unripened Mind-Stream: 


This initial stage focuses on refining the mind-stream, preparing it as a receptive vessel for the direct experience of awakened awareness. It involves preliminary practices similar to other traditions, designed to transform the practitioner's ordinary mind into a suitable container for receiving and integrating the teachings.


  • Meditation on Impermanence: This practice serves as the gateway to the understanding of emptiness, particularly the emptiness of self. By meditating on impermanence, especially through the lens of death, the practitioner begins to dismantle the illusion of a permanent, independent self. This understanding is crucial for progressing further on the path.


  • Setting the Intention (Bodhicitta) and Taking Refuge: Cultivating bodhicitta, the altruistic aspiration to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, is paramount. This practice aligns the practitioner's motivation with the ultimate goal of benefiting all sentient beings. Taking refuge in the Three Jewels—the Lama, the Buddha, and the Dharma—provides a framework for ethical conduct and spiritual development.


  • Mandala Offering: This practice helps to accumulate merit and purify negative karma. It involves creating a symbolic representation of the enlightened mind and offering it to the enlightened beings, accumulating merit and purifying obscurations.


  • Guru Yoga:  Guru Yoga is of significant importance in the A Khrid system. It involves cultivating devotion and making requests to the lineage lamas, invoking their blessings and guidance. In his meditations, Dan Brown used the term "requesting the gift waves of influence". This practice is believed to activate the practitioner's innate Buddha-nature, allowing them to recognize the inseparability of their own being with the wisdom of the lineage.


2. Bringing the Ripened Mind-Stream to Liberation


This stage centers on the direct experience of awakening, employing various practices to stabilize and develop the recognition of awakened awareness. It comprises six foundational practices designed to lead the practitioner toward liberation.


  • Concentration with Attributes: This practice involves focusing the mind on a chosen object, in this case, the Tibetan letter A. The letter A represents the ultimate state, and by concentrating on it, the practitioner trains their mind to remain present and undistracted. This focused attention helps to tame the mind, gradually reducing the tendency to get lost in ordinary thoughts and distractions. This practice culminates in a state of uninterrupted concentration known as "concentrated evenness".


  • Concentration Without Attributes: Building upon the foundation of stability cultivated in the previous practice, concentration without attributes aims to reveal the mind's natural state, where awakened awareness is most readily accessible. This involves releasing the focus on the letter A and resting in a state of open awareness, free from any particular object of attention. The practitioner learns to simply rest in the present moment, allowing thoughts and sensations to arise and pass without clinging or aversion. Specific meditation techniques like "Lion's Gaze" and "mixing awareness and the sky" are employed to directly perceive the clarity, luminosity, and awakeness of the mind.


  • Pointing Out the Natural State: Once a stable state of "concentrated evenness" has been established, the Lama provides direct pointing out instructions to guide the student toward recognizing their true nature as ever present awareness.


  • Recognizing Self-Occurring Primordial Wisdom: Having glimpsed awakened awareness, the student continues to refine their recognition of it as the ground of all experience. This involves recognizing that primordial wisdom, the source of all awakened qualities, is naturally present within the mind-stream.


  • Casting Off Stains:  As the practitioner becomes increasingly familiar with awakened awareness, they work to purify obscurations that hinder its full manifestation. This involves diligently applying antidotes to negative emotions and habitual patterns as they arise, gradually purifying the mind-stream and allowing for a clearer expression of primordial wisdom.


  • Bringing Stainless Primordial Wisdom to the Path by Mixing Practice: This stage marks the integration of awakened awareness into everyday life. The practitioner learns to maintain mindfulness and non-conceptual awareness throughout all activities, whether walking, talking, eating, or engaging in daily tasks. By continuously mixing the stability of meditative awareness with the dynamism of daily life, the practitioner's awakened qualities begin to permeate all aspects of their being.


Bringing the Liberated Mind-Stream to Completion as Buddhahood


This final stage focuses on perfecting and fully integrating the realization of awakened awareness, ultimately leading to the complete manifestation of Buddhahood. This stage involves four sessions in the A Khrid system.


  • Sleep and Dream Yoga (Session Eleven): This practice serves to integrate awakened awareness into the sleep and dream states, transforming unconscious habitual patterns and further solidifying the continuity of mindfulness. Dream yoga involves recognizing dreams as dreams while dreaming, working with the dream content to gain mastery over the mind, and ultimately recognizing the dreamlike nature of reality itself. By maintaining awareness during sleep and dreams, the practitioner weakens the grip of habitual tendencies that often manifest most strongly in these states, further purifying the mind-stream.


  • Practicing Liveliness Regarding Appearances in the Day (Session Twelve): This session involves recognizing the illusory nature of external phenomena. The practitioner views the phenomenal world as a display of primordial wisdom's creative energy, recognizing the emptiness of inherent existence in all appearances.


  • Taking Internal Thought as Path (Session Thirteen):  The practitioner learns to view even thoughts themselves as empty, impermanent, and ultimately not self. By recognizing the true nature of thoughts, they cease to be a source of distraction or suffering. This understanding allows the practitioner to navigate the arising and passing of thoughts with greater ease and clarity, recognizing them as merely transient appearances within the vast expanse of awakened awareness. This leads to a state where thoughts arise and are liberated spontaneously, without leaving any karmic trace.


  • Self Pointing-Out Continuous Awakened Awareness (Session Fourteen):  At this advanced stage, the path reveals itself effortlessly. The practitioner rests in a state of continuous non-meditation, where the distinction between formal practice and daily life dissolves. Awakened awareness becomes the natural, spontaneous state, free from any need for intentional effort. This marks the culmination of the path, where the practitioner embodies and manifests the qualities of Buddhahood.


The A Khrid system culminates with the practice of consciousness transference (Session Fifteen). Consciousness transference involves directing one's consciousness to a specific destination at the time of death, aiming for a favorable rebirth or liberation. This practice is considered a powerful tool for ensuring continued spiritual progress.


The A Khrid system emphasizes a gradual yet direct approach to enlightenment, integrating various skillful means to lead the practitioner through the stages of ripening, liberation, and ultimately, complete Buddhahood. It emphasizes the importance of a qualified Lama, dedicated practice, and the recognition of one's innate Buddha-nature as essential components of the path.


Introduction to A Khrid (reading)


It's me reading the intro by Dan Brown , not as a professional and nativel speaker here!



Shardza Building on A Khrid: Self-Arising Threefold Embodiment of Enlightenment


Dan Brown later translated an extensive comment and extension to the A Khrid system. This is a massive, ca 700 pages long book.


The book "Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment" (sKu gsum rang shar) is directly related to the A Khrid system of Bon Great Completion meditation as a set of advanced teachings on the system.


  • Book One of "Self-Arising.." is an extensive commentary on the A Khrid system's actual foundational practices, focusing on recognizing and refining the experience of awakened awareness.


  • The remaining ten books focus on "reaching the end, liberation," covering advanced practices to achieve full enlightenment built upon the A Khrid foundation. They cover a range of advanced yogic practices, including co-emergent clear-light practice (Books Two and Three), advanced conduct (Books Four, Five, and Six), fruition (Book Seven), and practices to enhance the realization of enlightenment (Books Eight, Nine, Eleven).


Shar rdza Rinpoche, the author of "Self-Arising..," positions these books as a guide for advanced practitioners seeking to progress from continuous awakening to complete Buddhahood. They address practices not covered in the initial sessions of the A Khrid system, making "Self-Arising.." a continuation and expansion of the A Khrid teachings for those at an advanced stage in their practice.


Overview of Chapters in "Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment"


Book One: Actual Foundational Practices from the A Khrid Great Completion System


This chapter is a detailed commentary on the essential practices of the A Khrid system, focusing on achieving a continuous state of awakened awareness. It guides the practitioner to differentiate between the ordinary mind and awakened awareness and stabilize this recognition in daily life.


Book Two: Wondrous By-Passing and Visions in the Daytime Sunlight


This chapter explores "by-passing" practices, specifically "day visions" like sky gazing and sun gazing. It describes the four levels of visions experienced through these practices, ultimately leading to a state where all perception is experienced as clear-light.


Book Three: Dark Retreat at Nighttime


Building upon daytime by-passing, this chapter focuses on practicing in darkness, emphasizing internally generated visions. It offers a practical guide for a 49-day dark retreat, outlining weekly practices and visualizations that deepen the experience of clear-light and enhance the practitioner's connection to primordial wisdom.


Book Four: Daytime Conduct for the Advanced Practitioner


This chapter focuses on integrating the advanced realizations into daily life. It outlines practices for viewing all external and internal experiences as manifestations of awakened awareness, similar to the Buddhist concept of "illusory body" practice.


Book Five: The Skillful Practices for Taking Sleep and Dreaming as the Path


This chapter teaches practitioners to extend awakened awareness into the sleep state. It provides methods for maintaining awareness during both deep sleep and dreaming, using this continuity of awareness to further refine self-liberation from habitual karmic patterns.


Book Six: Conduct Throughout the Process of Dying


This chapter serves as a guide for navigating the process of dying and the after-death bardos. It provides specific practices for maintaining awareness during the transitions of death, utilizing this awareness to attain liberation from the cycle of rebirth. It also includes teachings on consciousness transference, a practice that allows advanced practitioners to consciously enter a new body after death.


Book Seven: Fruition, the Three-fold Enlightened Bodies and Primordial Wisdoms


This chapter details the culmination of the practices outlined in previous chapters: the realization of enlightenment. It guides the practitioner to manifest the three-fold embodiment of enlightenment, activate the five primordial wisdoms, and engage in enlightened activity for the benefit of all beings.


Book Eight: The Unique Features of Standard Inner Fire Practice


This chapter focuses on the practice of "Inner Fire" (Tummo), a technique for purifying the mind and activating primordial wisdom through visualization, breathwork, and energy work. It includes a detailed overview of the body's subtle energy system and provides instruction on three levels of Inner Fire practice: gentle, middling, and forceful.


Book Nine: A Condensed Version of the Forty Yogic Exercises


This chapter introduces a set of forty yogic exercises designed to further enhance the practice of Inner Fire. These exercises remove energetic blockages, balance the body's elements, and support the practitioner in achieving a state of equilibrium conducive to realizing enlightenment.


Book Ten: Taking Sexual Desire as Path


This chapter, intended for advanced practitioners, describes the practice of sexual union as a path to enlightenment. It explains how to transform sexual energy into wisdom energy, utilizing this potent force to achieve a state of great bliss and accelerate the realization of Buddhahood.


Book Eleven: Getting the Vital Essence


This chapter outlines esoteric practices used by yogis to extract vital essence from the universe, reducing or eliminating the need for food during extended retreats. It describes nine levels of this practice, each tailored to the practitioner's capacity, and explains how mastering these techniques supports the realization of the three-fold embodiment of enlightenment.


Chapter 4, Practice during the day time (reading)


Read by me, a part of Chapter 4 (Practice during the day time). Not a professional and native speaker here! But, if gives an impression of the particular style, and Dan Brown's translation.



References


Bru rGyal Ba G Yung Drung. (2022). The Pith Instructions for the Stages of the Practice Sessions of the A-Tri (A Khrid) System of Bon Dzogchen Meditation (D. P. Brown & G. Sonam Gurung, Trans.). Mustang Bon Foundation. https://www.amazon.com/-/de/dp/1732157987/


Brown Daniel P & Ora Nadrich. (2018, August 31). Sacred Sundays with Dr. Daniel Brown, Ph.D. [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0swudgvmBbk/

A very broad and comprehensive interview given when Dan Brown was not yet overly affected by Parkinson

A forum review by several people is here:


Shar Rdza bKra’ Shis rGyal Mtshan, Brown, D. P., & Sonam Gurung. (n.d.). Self-Arising Three-fold Embodiment of Enlightenment [of Bon Dzogchen Meditation]: Shar rdza bKra’ shis rGyal mtshan,. https://www.amazon.com/-/en/Shar-Rdza-Bkra-Rgyal-Mtshan/dp/195695001X/







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