Liberation with Defilements?

Hi there,

I talk some time now with a dzogchen practioner. They seem to teach a liberation-with-defilements like hate, greed, jealousy, lust. They seem to teach that it is not necessary to uproot all defilements to make an end to samsara.

Ofcourse I compared this with EBT. I do not think the EBT Buddha would agree. I feel the message of EBT is that right liberation means the uprooting of all defilements. Deep purification. Still, I also do not really understand this principe of uprooting. How can one uproot a tendency to hate that is accumulated over billions of lives? Is uprooting what really happens? Or is it just a way to describe that somehow these defilements are cut of from coming in existence again?

I assume such Dzogchen-masters are not stupid. They have probably good reasons to teach a liberation-with-defilements. It makes me wonder. I cannot really see the principle behind this. Does anybody have a clue?

The person I talked with also was informed by Dzogchen teachers that defilements are just part of our physical condition, and so will persist until we die. Hmmm…I felt, this idea is very different from EBT because I do not think EBT teach that having a body always implies defilements. I personally belief it is more reasonable to assume that defilements can end because they are caused by the mind, and ignorance is the forerunner.

Is there not a risk in this idea that defilements are no problem?

Still, I assume those masters are not stupid. Does anybody see how there can be liberation (samma vimutti) with defilements? And does anybody see some clues for this in EBT?

As this is the forum based on EBT, I only talk from the perspective of EBT:

Below are quote from AN 10.105:

“Mendicants, ignorance precedes the attainment of unskillful qualities, with lack of conscience and prudence following along. An ignoramus, sunk in ignorance, gives rise to wrong view. Wrong view gives rise to wrong thought. Wrong thought gives rise to wrong speech. Wrong speech gives rise to wrong action. Wrong action gives rise to wrong livelihood. Wrong livelihood gives rise to wrong effort. Wrong effort gives rise to wrong mindfulness. Wrong mindfulness gives rise to wrong immersion. Wrong immersion gives rise to wrong knowledge. Wrong knowledge gives rise to wrong freedom.

Knowledge precedes the attainment of skillful qualities, with conscience and prudence following along. A sage, firm in knowledge, gives rise to right view. Right view gives rise to right thought. Right thought gives rise to right speech. Right speech gives rise to right action. Right action gives rise to right livelihood. Right livelihood gives rise to right effort. Right effort gives rise to right mindfulness. Right mindfulness gives rise to right immersion. Right immersion gives rise to right knowledge. Right knowledge gives rise to right freedom.”

Can we safely conclude from the EBT that whoever has not completed the Noble Eightfold Path will not be able to obtain right knowledge?

So, whoever has not completed the Noble Eightfold Path (meaning most of us :sweat_smile:) are - honestly speaking - considered stupid.

I am not offended when I am told that I am stupid in this way though. If any of you are offended, please pardon my ignorance.

IMO, if you want to be sure about anyone (so called “those masters”) not being stupid, good indication is to see whether they have completed the Noble Eightfold Path (or not).

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From the standpoint of the EBTs, claiming there can be complete liberation from dukkha while any defilements remain is like claiming one can see from the summit of Everest while standing at sea level, in a fog.

The number of suttas that explicitly state this is too many to list here, but some citations:

  • AN 3.33 Excerpt: …they live having attained the freedom of heart and freedom by wisdom where ego, possessiveness, and underlying tendency to conceit are no more—they’re called a mendicant who has cut off craving, untied the fetters, and by rightly comprehending conceit has made an end of suffering.

  • DN 2 - Excerpt [the Buddha speaking about medicants}: Once they’ve gone forth, they live restrained in the monastic code, conducting themselves well and seeking alms in suitable places. Seeing danger in the slightest fault, they keep the rules they’ve undertaken. They act skillfully by body and speech. They’re purified in livelihood and accomplished in ethical conduct.
    And: If the faculty of sight were left unrestrained, bad unskillful qualities of desire and aversion would become overwhelming. For this reason, they practice restraint, protecting the faculty of sight, and achieving its restraint.
    And: Giving up desire for the world, they meditate with a heart rid of desire, cleansing the mind of desire. Giving up ill will and malevolence, they meditate with a mind rid of ill will, full of compassion for all living beings, cleansing the mind of ill will. Giving up dullness and drowsiness, they meditate with a mind rid of dullness and drowsiness, perceiving light, mindful and aware, cleansing the mind of dullness and drowsiness. Giving up restlessness and remorse, they meditate without restlessness, their mind peaceful inside, cleansing the mind of restlessness and remorse. Giving up doubt, they meditate having gone beyond doubt, not undecided about skillful qualities, cleansing the mind of doubt.

In the EBTs it’s about seeing into, seeing through, and hence letting go of hindrances, defilements, craving, and ignorance that sets up the conditions for, as the Buddha said, unshakeable (akuppa) release, liberation, nibbāna.

Having previously had many years of practice in the Zen/Mahayana tradition, the equating of samsara and nibbana has, imo, lead to the view that whatever arises, whether labeled wholesome or unwholesome is “perfect as it is” and in no need of being altered, cleansed, or let go of, in any way.
If someone wishes to practice with this understanding and view that’s up to them. But it’s not the Dhamma as expressed in the EBTs.

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Hi. I image all noble ones (including stream-enterer, once-returner & non-returner) have tasted liberation. While MN 117 says only an arahant is fully endowed (samannāgata) with samma vimutti, it seems the other noble ones have tasted liberation, which is why a stream-enterer has eliminated the fetter of doubt about what the path is.

The Buddha, picking up a little bit of dirt under his fingernail, addressed the mendicants: “What do you think, mendicants? Which is more: the little bit of dirt under my fingernail, or this great earth?”

“Sir, the great earth is far more. The little bit of dirt under your fingernail is tiny. Compared to the great earth, it’s not nearly a hundredth, a thousandth, or a hundred thousandth part.”

“In the same way, for a noble disciple accomplished in view, a person with comprehension, the suffering that’s over and done with is more, what’s left is tiny. Compared to the mass of suffering in the past that’s over and done with, it’s not nearly a hundredth, a thousandth, or a hundred thousandth part…

SN 13.1

If we examine the satipatthana doctrine, it seems there can be liberation with residual defilements.

They meditate observing an aspect of the mind—keen, aware, and mindful, rid of desire and aversion for the world.

And how does a mendicant meditate observing an aspect of the mind?

It’s when a mendicant understands mind with greed as ‘mind with greed,’and mind without greed as ‘mind without greed.’ They understand mind with hate as ‘mind with hate,’ and mind without hate as ‘mind without hate.’ They understand mind with delusion as ‘mind with delusion,’ and mind without delusion as ‘mind without delusion.’ They know constricted mind as ‘constricted mind,’ and scattered mind as ‘scattered mind.’ They know expansive mind as ‘expansive mind,’ and unexpansive mind as ‘unexpansive mind.’ They know mind that is not supreme as ‘mind that is not supreme,’ and mind that is supreme as ‘mind that is supreme.’ They know mind immersed in samādhi as ‘mind immersed in samādhi,’ and mind not immersed in samādhi as ‘mind not immersed in samādhi.’ They know freed mind as ‘freed mind,’ and unfreed mind as ‘unfreed mind.’

And so they meditate observing an aspect of the mind internally, externally, and both internally and externally. They meditate observing the mind as liable to originate, as liable to vanish, and as liable to both originate and vanish. Or mindfulness is established, that the mind exists, [only] to the extent necessary for knowledge and mindfulness. They meditate independent, not grasping at anything in the world.

That’s how a mendicant meditates by observing an aspect of the mind.

MN 10

Oke thanks @CurlyCarl, but the principe in EBT is still, i feel, that one is not freed from samsara, totally, when one still experiences tendencies of hate and greed. When one notices they are present, arising, one must not consider oneself as freed from samsara. It seems dzogchen sees this differently.

I have passing familiarity with Dzogchen, I think the description is off.

What I understand is, Defilement can be used as the path.
Using defilement, see them as they really are, empty. Eventually defilement will cease, and uprooted.

I don’t know why they said what they said. Maybe try to read foundational text of that tradition?

What i have understood by talking with a dzogchen-practioner, (practioner for 15 years, was a buddhist) is that dzogchen practioners do not make any differentation in wholesome and unwholesome formations. So, they do not label formations arising as defilements or non-defilements.

They do not change, alter, stop, block, surpress, transform, grasp, abandon or follow those arising formations. They do not see them as empty, vain, impermanent, desintegrating, not-self. They do not apply such wisdom onto them, like the Buddha instructs in EBT.

They just observe arising formations, that all. They make use of the simile of the mirror. The mirror is not involved in anything it reflects, it just reflects, that is its function. This is what they call the true or original state. Labeling a formations as a defilement is also no function of a mirror. It is also not function of a mirror to grasp, to abandon, to transform, to block, to stop, to cease, to develop anything.

The aim is not making an end to formations, not at all, i am told. Formations, also what we would call defilements, just are part of our existence. They feel it is very important not to become involved in a dualistic approach to develop this and abandon that.

I have understood dzogchen masters do not see it this way that one has to be without any greed, any hate, any conceit to be enlightend and free from samsara. But one has to be in the original state that only reflects. That’s all. That seems to be the clue in dzogchen. In the original state there is no grasping at any formation, only reflecting. I now think this is the principle.

I have some exposure to Dzogchen and I can tell you they do not teach liberation with defilements. Liberation in Dzogchen is the same as Mahayana Buddhahood, in which all defilements have been eradicated.

The method / practice of Dzogchen (i.e. the marga, path) is different, this is true. They do not try to counter or fight the defilements, they just try to see their true nature.

But the result (phala) is not “with defilements.” There must have either been some misunderstanding, or the person you are talking to is not well informed.

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Still waiting for feedback on this. I have got no clear answers on this from the practioner yet.

He has never heard from his teacher, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, that one has to be totally free from all defilements to be enlightend and liberated. He does not know this.

He explains it is not the aim of a dzogchen practioner. The aim is to see or discover the true or original state, which is allready pure, and is like a mirror. It only sees, reflects, but it does not get involved in reflections (arising formations).

This state is the true state of any being, according them, and is always present. This state is not something that is produced, made, created by any effort or practice. It is not the result of effort in many lives, but is, in every live again, perfect as it is, present here and now.

A dzogchen practioner does not differentiate in wholesome and unwholesome formations but just sees all as formations, reflections in the mirror of the mind. They are not intent on changing anything (that is ofcourse a huge change!). When one only observes arising formations they will pass naturally.
Being constant in this state of contemplation and self-liberation of formations is the Path but at the same time it is also the goal.