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
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!"