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In the Nyingma lineage, the classifications of the path and teachings are divided into nine vehicles: Sutra - Sravaka, Prateyeka Buddha, Bodhisattva; and Tantra - Kriya, Upa, Yoga, Maha, Anu, Ati. The teachings of Dzogpachenpo (Dzogpa, complete and Chenpo, great), often translated as the Great Perfection, are found in Atiyoga. In the great expanse of the Great Perfection, the Essence of mind is empty - pure from the beginning, its Nature is luminous clarity, and its Compassion is all pervasive.

Tashi Lhunpo monks creating Manjusri Sand Mandala. photo by William Wessling

 Dharmasri summarizes the essence of Atiyoga: "Atiyoga is a means to liberate the meaning of primordial Buddhahood into its own state, and it is the nature of freedom from abandonments and acceptances and expectations and fears." (2)

The tantras in the Sarma tradition are listed under Kriya (Action), Charya (Performance), Yoga and Annutarayoga (Highest Yoga Tantra). Annutarayoga is further divided into Father, Mother and Non-dual tantras, which respectively focus on method, wisdom of emptiness, and both (method and wisdom) equally. There are many techniques in the tantras for purification and transformation; such as in deity yoga, where one utilizes the practices of visualization, meditative samadhi, mantra and mudra during the stages of generation and completion. The stage of generation "ripens" the mental continuum; herein are meditations such as "taking the three bodies (of the Buddha) as the path". In the stage of completion, the power of meditative absorption focuses on the yogas of channeling the "winds" or vital energy of the body to enter, abide and dissolve into the central channel. As a result, an extremely subtle mind arises to realize compassion and the wisdom of emptiness.


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