Essence as Light

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Question #9

I'm curious: had you been studying or practicing Dzogchen before your Awakening?

No, not in any strict, or traditional sense. In fact, my only exposure prior to Dzogchen, prior to the epiphany was having read several books by Namkhai Norbu, and I've had no direct, personal contact with any Dzogchen teachers before or since.

Editorial Note:
Dzogchen is an ancient Tibetan wisdom tradition which is usually translated as the "Natural Great Perfection." Based on my experience, "Dzogchen" is one of the best descriptions of Reality inherent within the present moment.

"Dzogchen shouldn't be regarded as a religion, and it doesn't ask anyone to believe in anything. On the contrary, it suggests that the individual observe him or herself and discover for themselves what their actual condition is."

-- From The Crystal and the Way of Light- Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen: Teachings of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, compiled and edited by John Shane, published by Snow Lion Publications.

For several Dzogchen-related links, see AIA's Links page.

Was this experience of "awakening" something you were seeking, or did it just happen?

The experience occurred absolutely spontaneously, and without warning. (See Question #2.)

I cannot point to any one factor or set of factors that had a uniquely causal influence or effect in triggering the experience. As Nisargadatta said:
      "A thing is as it is because the universe is as it is...."

In fact, what I realized during the epiphany is how intricately everything is interconnected and interrelated, in ways that we ordinarily do not recognize or even imagine.....

In this context, it may be helpful to know that I have had a long-standing interest in questions of meaning and purpose. I was exposed to yoga when I was 16, and I majored in Asian Religions in college. But, by my mid-twenties I resolved simply to live my life -- paying attention to the experience of being human -- without worrying or "trying" to achieve anything in terms of Realization. Quite honestly, the possibility seemed remote, and not likely in this lifetime (in part, because of the beliefs and assumptions I held about what "needed" to happen first, before any sort of "real" Recognition could occur...).

So, instead of actively pursuing an experience of Realization, I decided instead to focus my attention on the direct and immediate experience of being human and living a simple life -- which at the time, for me, meant becoming a wife and a mother....

Nonetheless, my curiosity about the fundamental nature of Reality remained strong, and I was consciously and intentionally engaged in exploring the nature of Reality and my relationship to It throughout all the intervening years.....

Years later, after the epiphany, I realized that two books
I had read much earlier in my life were very clear
descriptions of the Recognition I eventually experienced:
   (1)  I Am That, by Nisargadatta
         (See Advaita Fellowship in Reader Resources below)
   (2)  Self-Liberation Through Seeing with Naked Awareness,
         a traditional Dzogchen text translated by John Reynolds
         (See AIA Ezine #2.)

I also saw the Essence of this Insight in quotations from Ramana Maharshi and the words of many other mystics. (Hence, the development of the AIA website....)

So, I suppose on a deep and fundamental level, the answer to your question really is yes, I was seeking This, simply by virtue of my hunger to know/understand/grasp something of the fundamental Nature or Essence of Reality. However, I was not actively pursuing "enlightenment" or "realization" through any formal means or any established religious tradition, and the "event" actually occurred at a point in my life when much of my attention and energy was focused on my professional work in the business world....Naturally, then, this experience of "awakening" came as quite an unexpected, inexplicable and delightful surprise....

1999, Metta Zetty
All Rights Reserved.

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