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Natural Radiance
Awakening to Your Great Perfection

by Lama Surya Das

      A slender book but by no means a quick read, Natural Radiance : Awakening to Your Great Perfection is an excellent introduction to Dzogchen practice. Among the many translations of this term ‘dzogchen’ are Luminous Heart of the Dharma, Great Completeness, and The Great Perfection. Whatever the translation, the practice is intended to lead to a reawakening of or re-acquaintance with the enlightenment that is already contained within us.

Dzogchen originated in India around 200 BCE, eventually traveled to Tibet, and is now one of the main types of meditation associated with the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The most unique feature of this practice is its emphasis on direct transmission from teacher to student. For most of its history, Dzogchen techniques have been held close by masters who share the techniques and knowledge only with initiates. At long last, Dzogchen is becoming more accessible through teachers who believe the time has come to share this path to enlightenment. Its "simplicity and... radical approach to directly accessing the Buddha within... is especially suited for our turbulent, difficult times." Lama Surya Das is one of those teachers who believes it is time to offer Dzogchen methods to the world.

Trying to understand enlightenment through logic and reason inevitably leads to frustration. Just as the experience of giving birth to a child defies verbal description, so too does giving birth to our Buddha nature. In some traditions, the masters use nonsensical phrases or koans to jolt students into realization. Dzogchen often relies on "pith instructions," and Lama Surya Das supplies a fine selection here : Just as it is, Cultivate the awareness that abides nowhere, and the eminently practical Nothing to do and nowhere to go.

After a brief explanation of the history and purpose of Dzogchen in Natural Radiance : Awakening to Your Great Perfection, Das refers us to particular tracks on the accompanying CD. This CD, he tells us, is "a complete guided and well-rounded eighty-minute Dzogchen meditation practice." Anyone who expects somber, peaceful practice could be shocked to enlightenment upon hearing the boisterous voice booming forth here. Das attacks the chants with exuberance and joy, inviting us to join right in, regardless of our level of experience or commitment. His enthusiasm is infectious, and his unbridled joy seems to fill the air along with his teaching.

American-born Lama Surya Das seamlessly combines his years of study of Tibetan Buddhism with his understanding of the Western mindset. The result is a style of teaching that delivers Asian practices and traditions to a Western audience in words, images, and instruction that are comfortable and understandable for us.

Without pretension or reservation, Das’s personality and sense of humor burst through the barrier of absence, suggesting that he just might drop through the ceiling and join us in a vigorous "Ah!"

The Book

Sounds True
November 2007
CD, 79 minutes & hardcover book
Spirituality / Self-Help
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The Reviewer

Deborah Adams
Reviewed 2008
NOTE: Reviewer Deborah Adams is the Flair and Macavity Award winning author of the Jesus Creek Mystery Series: All The Great Pretenders, All The Crazy Winters, All The Dark Disguises, All The Hungry Mothers, All The Deadly Beloved, All The Blood Relations, and All The Dirty Cowards. She was also an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel.
© 2008