DZOGCHEN , the Great Perfection (or Great Completion, Rdzogs chen ), also known as Atiyoga (a ti yo ga ), is considered the pinnacle of all systems of thought and practice in the Nyingma (Rnying ma) and Bon traditions of Tibetan religion. It is widely associated with a rhetoric stressing naturalness, spontaneity, and simplicity, as well as a deconstructive critique of Buddhist philosophical positions and normative practices. It has an ambiguous relationship with Tantra, since at times it stresses its transcendence and distinctness from Tantric forms, whereas in most forms it is clearly indebted in its concepts, diction, and practices to esoteric Buddhist traditions. The Great Perfection is thus often portrayed as a tradition that lacks any type of systematic philosophic inquiry or even actual praxis. From the outside it is often viewed on these terms as a fairly homogenous tradition.
The truth is that the rubric the Great Perfection embraces an astonishingly varied array of traditions that, for example, range from a systematic rejection of all praxis to complex systems of Tantric rituals, and from a rejection of all Tantra, including its sexual and horrific elements, to a full incorporation of esoteric funerary and sexual rituals. This diversity finds its expression in different doxographical schemes, which hierarchically rank diverse Great Perfection traditions in relationship to each other, each having its own distinct lineages, scriptures, and unitary rubric of self-identification. Despite this diversity, however, there is a common rhetorical and contemplative thread that runs through all these traditions, which can be summed up as a tendency toward naturalness, innateness, and simplicity/simplification and a strong suspicion of techniques and rule-governed processes of all types.
The Great Perfection's lineage holders and historians claim transcendental origins tracing back to divine figures and other world systems, with different histories for the Nyingma and Bon lineages, respectively. Nyingma lineages trace the origins of their lineages on this planet and this era back to India and a variety of other countries, and they were then transmitted into Tibetan translations and lineages during the latter half of the eighth century ce onward from diverse languages and sources. The most important early sources are attributed above all to the Indians Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, and Śrīsiṃha, as well as the Tibetan Vairocana, all of whom lived in the latter half of the eighth century. Many of these teachings are then claimed to have been concealed within Tibet shortly afterward during the ninth century as the Tibetan empire disintegrated. Innovations in the tradition were thus largely introduced historically in Tibet through the medium of revelations of these concealed scriptures via visionary and physical excavations known as "Treasures" (gter ma ) that were revealed from at least the tenth century and right into the present.
Bon lineages and histories of the Great Perfection are similar in character, but quite different in details. Traditional histories describe lineages flowing into the Tibetan plateau from the western realm of Takzik and first appearing in the Zhang Zhung empire (fifth to seventh centuries) as translated into the Zhang Zhung language. These materials were then retranslated into Tibetan as the Tibetan empire's seventh-century rise eclipsed its western Zhang Zhung rivals and then gradually subsumed them. However, only minor fragments of Zhang Zhung language still exist in literary form, and all Bon literature currently exists only in Tibetan manuscripts, the earliest of which can only be attested in roughly the eleventh century. Remarkably, Bon lineages continue to this day to maintain a strong historical memory of their non-Tibetan Zhang Zhung origins and affiliations. Bon lineages of the Great Perfection, like their Nyingma counterparts, transformed over time largely through the medium of revelations of past concealments known as "Treasures" from at least the eleventh century onward.
Despite these traditional claims, there is no independent attestation of the existence of any separate traditions or lineages going under these rubrics outside of Tibet, though the nomenclature Atiyoga and the Great Perfection does appear in eighth- and ninth-century Indian Tantric Buddhist literature. Admittedly, there is no question that its characteristic discursive language, marked by an esoteric naturalism, a strong language of negation, and a celebration of divine creation, is pronounced in some Indian Tantras. However, we have no evidence of any independent tradition outside of Tibet known under Atiyoga, Great Perfection, or any of the other rubrics that gradually emerge over time in the Nyingma and Bon traditions for these movements. Nontraditional scholarship since the 1980s suggests that most of the early literature claiming to be "translations" are original compositions that date much later than the claimed eighth-century dates for their translation—much less their, at times, even far earlier claims for composition back in India or elsewhere before translation. Scholarship has thus begun to focus on how these traditions reflect the indigenization of Buddhism into Tibet during the ninth to the fourteenth centuries, in particular, rather than on its supposed ancient roots.
Thus, the doxographical diversity of the Great Perfection—despite all its variants claiming to be rooted in eighth-century (and earlier) translations—appears to be the hidden key to the still secret history of the Great Perfection on Tibetan soil. Within the Nyingma tradition we can trace the lineaments of this secret history with a certain degree of confidence. The tradition first appeared in the first half of the ninth century with a series of short texts attributed to Indian saints that at some point were codified into a canon of eighteen texts referred to as "mind oriented" (sems phyogs ) or later as "mind series" (sems sde ). These texts were then gradually transformed over the next two centuries into full-fledged Tantras attributed to the divine authorship of Buddhas, as well as into ever longer and more numerous texts. This culminated in the emergence of The All-Creating King (kun byed rgyal po) at an uncertain date in the last half of the tenth century to the first half of the eleventh century. This Tantra was historically perhaps the most important and widely quoted of all Great Perfection scriptures, and it clearly was in part formed by incorporating earlier shorter texts as chapters. These texts represent what appears to have been the dominant form of the tradition during the ninth to the tenth centuries.
This early literature is almost entirely without any references to practice of any kind and indeed is renowned for its rhetoric of transcendence and spontaneity, suggesting that all forms of practice are superfluous given the primordial purity of "awareness" (rig pa ) possessed by all living beings. However, they are still inextricably bound up with normative Tantra, which in eighth- and ninth-century Tibet was represented by Tantric movements known as the "Great Yoga" (mahāyoga ), with intricate forms of ritualism including visualization of self as deity, peaceful and wrathful maṇḍalas, and complex initiations. The Great Perfection thus originates on the periphery of the vast discursive terrain of the mahāyoga by creating a vacuum within its landscape through the systematic expulsion of an array of standard Tantric principles. This absence is defined by what it has excluded, since it is an absence of precise systems that are thus inexorably evoked under erasure. The entire spectrum of rejected Tantric ideologies and praxis thus haunts the Great Perfection's pristine space of rhetorical absence.
This landscape was completely transformed in the eleventh century as a series of new Treasure revelations gradually articulated into an entirely different series of Great Perfection movements with distinctive rubrics of self-identification and radical new developments in doctrine and practice. This transformation was part and parcel of the renaissance of Tibetan culture occurring from the late tenth century to the early twelfth century as new Buddhist literature and practices were imported anew from India. This period, under the rubric the "later dissemination" (phyi dar ) of Buddhism, is often misunderstood as primarily involving new movements called "modernists" (gsar ma ), but the truth is that the older Bon and Nyingma lineages were just as deeply involved as creative agents of change. The point of delineation involved the former explicitly acknowledging their debt to new imports that they "translated," whereas the latter groups tended to glide over this indebtedness by assimilating new developments seamlessly into their older traditions through the process of Treasure revelation. The eleventh century in particular was dominated by the rise of yoginī Tantras deriving from the final efflorescence of Indian Buddhist culture. These striking documents involved horrific imagery and violent rituals, erotic imagery, and sexual practices and somatic practices involving a cult of the body's subtle interior. They were also marked by transgressive rhetoric and an evocative imagery of long-haired siddhas celebrating lay values in ritual assemblies called "circles of the group" (tshogs gi 'khor lo, Sanskrit gaṇa-cakra ). While Nyingma or Bon lineages on the whole neither formally transmitted nor wrote about these traditions in this or the next few centuries, it is clear that in fact these new esoteric transmissions made a deep if unacknowledged impact on their own rapidly evolving traditions.
In the case of the Great Perfection, its new variations emerging in the eleventh century were clearly deeply indebted to the yoginī traditions. Its influences were clear in the rise of subtle body representations and practices, new pantheons of wrathful and erotic Buddhas, increasingly antinomian rhetoric, and a focus on motifs of death. At the same time these influences were transformatively assimilated with each strand modified and integrated on the basis of the Great Perfection's commitments to naturalism, Gnosticism, simplicity, and divine creation. This influence can be traced progressively through movements that come to be known as the Secret Cycle (gsang skor ), Ultra Pith (yang tig ), Brahmin's Tradition (bram zeʾi lugs ), and others and culminates in the late eleventh and twelfth centuries with the emergence of the Seminal Heart (snying thig ). The Seminal Heart represents a stunningly creative and deeply Tibetan reinterpretation of many central Buddhist traditions around the central motif of the divine creativity of the Buddhas' creation of Pure Lands. The central literature is a body of revealed Tantras collected together as The Seventeen Tantras (rgyud bcu bdun) and a body of exegetical literature organized as The Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra (bi ma snying thig).
The Seminal Heart
The Seminal Heart is characterized by an intensely philosophical discourse, a distinctive doctrinal intersection of divine creation and naturalism, and a unique contemplative system integrating visionary practices of spontaneous image cultivation with earlier practices of technique-free cultivation of pure awareness. In each of these areas there is a deep grounding in exoteric and esoteric forms of Indian Buddhism, but there is also a startlingly creative assimilation. The first facet is its systematic philosophical character, which is unusual because of its esoteric nature. Tantric Buddhism in India tended on the whole to be far more focused on ritual practice than on philosophical speculation, even if there gradually developed a cottage industry in scholastic exegesis on these rituals and iconography. In Tibet, however, many esoteric traditions came to develop complex philosophical discourses, which some have termed philosophic Vajrayāna. The Seminal Heart represents perhaps the most interesting philosophical system to emerge out of this development.
Its doctrinal heart is a unique blend of the older strains of naturalism with a new doctrine of Gnostic creation intertwined with esoteric conceptions and practices of death. Its basis is what can be best termed a Gnostic orientation, which entails a Buddha's primordial gnosis (ye shes, Skt. jñāna ) being portrayed consistently as the principal creative agent driving manifestation, even if its effects are often clouded by derivative processes fueled by emotionally fueled activity (las, Skt. karman ). Thus, rather than gnosis being a product of contemplative practice, it is seen as a preexistent agent that precedes, not follows, karma. This divine creativity is modeled on juxtaposing two basic doctrines found in the Great Vehicle (theg chen, Skt. Mahāyāna ): buddha-nature (de bzhin gshegs paʾi snying po, Skt. tathāgatagarbha ) and a buddha's creation of Pure Lands and Enjoyment Bodies (longs sku, Skt. sambhogakāya ). Buddha-nature is the idea that all life is characterized by an internal divinity, though just how inert or active this divinity is, and its relationship with a manifestly realized buddha, often remains unclear. Pure Lands are special cosmic locales believed to be created by buddhas as realms with optimal spiritual conditions into which Buddhists could be reborn after death. Enjoyment Bodies are resplendent forms that a buddha manifests out of the pure emptiness of his or her enlightenment experience and that typically reside at the center of these Pure Lands. The philosophical innovation of the Seminal Heart was to integrate buddha-nature with this buddha-creativity, and then articulate this internal Gnostic creativity as the central driving force of all being and manifestation.
This process of creativity marked by the unfolding of Pure Lands and divinely resplendent buddhas—itself depicted clearly in the esoteric form of the creation and articulation of a maṇḍala—is found, most importantly, in three intertwined processes: cosmogony, post-death experience, and contemplation, as well as more minor contexts such as embryology, dreaming, and cognitive activity. Each of these is described as centrally involving a buddha's Gnostic creativity engendering Pure Lands, or maṇḍalas of buddhas. This notion of buddhas creating worlds was a standard component of Great Vehicle literature, but the innovation of the Seminal Heart was to apply it so systematically to a wide variety of contexts in which creation, transition, and development take place. Thus, a buddha's gnosis is identified as the preeminent creative agent in the universe, rather than the more typical depiction of karma as what generates the world, embodiment, mental action, dreaming, post-death experience, and other such human experiences. The Seminal Heart presents an unusual divine cosmogony, in which a Buddha's gnosis is presenting as driving the emergence of being out of nonbeing, which unfolds as a primordial array of Pure Lands. The karmic process of conditioned existence only emerges as a secondary process following a lack of recognition of those divine arrays as "self" by an emergent cognitive capacity. Second, out of the experience of complete collapse into emptiness that marks death, the experience of the intermediate process (bar do ) between death and rebirth is marked by the experience of rich maṇḍalas of serene and horrific buddhas. The karmic experiences of memories of one's past life, and visual premonitions of one's impending rebirth, only occur in a secondary post-death process should one fail to recognize the divine manifestations as "self-manifestations." Third, the core contemplative practice, termed direct transcendence, involves stimulating a flow of Pure Lands out of one's heart through one's eyes into the sky, so that one reflexively experiences, and recognizes, these divine maṇḍalas of buddhas as self. Thus, in the birth of worlds, in the emergence out of death, and in contemplation, we find gnosis as the primary agent and karma as a derivative and secondary process.
Finally, its contemplative system consists of a massive anthology of varied Tantric and non-Tantric contemplative techniques capped by two unique contemplative processes named "breakthrough" (khregs chod) and "direct transcendence"(thod rgal). Breakthrough signifies the older style of Great Perfection contemplation, and its descriptions are typically poetic evocations of pure awareness that strictly avoid discussions of techniques that might be understood to generate such states of awareness. Direct transcendence, however, is an innovative practice that involves relying on yogic postures, breathing practices, and gazing directed at the complete darkness of a specially prepared retreat hut, or at sources of light such as the sun. The practice aims at generating a spontaneous flow of luminous, rainbow-colored images that gradually expand in extent and complexity, proceeding from fragments of buddha-bodies and sacred icons to gradually become vast maṇḍalas of buddhas pervading the sky. While innovative, these practices clearly represent a transmutation of Tantric practices typically classified as "perfection phase" techniques (rdzogs rim ). These practices involve manipulation of a yogic or subtle body of winds, channels, and nuclei within the coarse physical body, which engender ever more subtle states of consciousness marked by experiences of flashes of light. These experiences of light are typically discussed in terms of eight, ten, or eleven signs described imagistically as like fireflies, a mirage, smoke, or lightening. These practices, as outlined in the early-eleventh-century Indian Tantric cycle The Wheel of Time (Kālacakra), culminate in the vision of a buddha, and the close association with staring into darkness and at the sky make it highly probably that it was a direct inspiration for the Seminal Heart.
Despite this influence, the practice was deeply assimilated into the Great Perfection with its focus on naturalness, release rather than control, spontaneity rather than fabrication, simplicity rather than complexity, and interpenetration of the external and internal rather than the deeply interior world of subtle body yogas. Likewise, when we turn to the vast anthologies of practices presented as preliminaries and auxiliary contemplative techniques, we find a wide range of ordinary and unique exoteric and esoteric practices that have been thoroughly assimilated into the world of the Great Perfection. Throughout, common Buddhist practices have been subtly and extensively altered, again, to be simple rather than complex, natural rather than artificial, spontaneous rather than contrived, governed by letting go rather than taking control, and focused on the intersection of the external and the internal rather than on deeply internal processes. Most notably absent is any focus on the mainstream Tantric practice of deity yoga, with its ritual transformation of self into deity by complex visualizations and mantric recitations of a Buddhist deity.
The Dominance of the Seminal Heart
The Seminal Heart's radical transformation of the Great Perfection was not without its internal critics from conservative Nyingma figures. It seems that the most important Nyingma of the twelfth century, Nyangrel Nyima Özer (Nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer, 1136–1204), in particular developed his Crown Pith (spyi ti ) tradition to reassert the older traditions in new form as supreme. He appears to have felt that the Great Perfection should transcend prescriptions of specific practices as well as the rhetoric of violence, sexuality, and transgression. His revelations are marked by the relative absence of yoginī Tantra influence and appear to substitute instead a lovely rhetoric of metaphors and images.
Despite such reservations, however, the Seminal Heart was ultimately to triumph and become the dominant tradition of the Great Perfection for the Nyingma. This was due in no small measure to the towering achievements of Longchenpa (klong chen pa, 1308–1364) in the fourteenth century. Longchenpa, considered to be one of the greatest authors, intellects, and poets in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, both systematized the Seminal Heart and integrated it with broader Mahāyāna literature and motifs. His corpus is marked as much by poetic beauty as by intellectual mastery and includes The Seven Treasuries (mdzod bdun), The Trilogy of Natural Freedom (rang grol skor gsum), The Trilogy of Relaxation (ngal gso skor gsum ), and three of the five parts of The Seminal Heart in Four Parts (snying thig ya bzhi). Most of the Seminal Heart content stems from the earlier literature, but Longchenpa's writings refine its terminology, systematize it into powerful intellectual architectures, and provide brilliant interpretations. In addition, most previous Nyingma authors bothered little with nonesoteric philosophy, at least in their exegetical compositions. In contrast, Longchenpa was deeply learned in exoteric Buddhist thought and wrote extensively on it, as well as explicitly integrating it with the Seminal Heart, thereby articulating its deep roots in mainstream Buddhist thought and practice.
Following Longchenpa, there were many other major Great Perfection corpuses of literature in terms of revelation, exegesis, and poetry. Throughout, we can see the dominant influence of the Seminal Heart, though the earlier traditions of a pristine transcendence continue to play a vibrant though lesser role. Important bodies of literature include The Penetrating Wisdom (dgongs pa zang thal), revealed by Rinzin Gödem (rig 'dzin rgod ldem, 1337–1409); The Nucleus of Atiʾs Profound Meaning (rDzogs pa chen po a ti zab don snying po), by Terdak Lingpa (gter bdag gling pa, 1646–1714); and others. Of particular note is the seventeenth-century revelations of Jikme Lingpa ('Jigs med gling pa, 1729/30–1798) in The Seminal Heart of the Great Matrix (klong chen snying thig ). These revelations emerged as the most popular ritual system of the Great Perfection over the last two centuries. In addition, they represented the culmination of an increasing ritualization of the Seminal Heart with an ever greater focus on evocation rituals of deities (grub thabs, Sanskrit sādhana ) that had to come to be the lynchpin of monastic esotericism.
Early Bon Traditions
The Great Perfection in nominally non-Buddhist Bon circles in Tibet is deeply intertwined with that of Nyingma lineages in all ways, though these complex interdependencies are unacknowledged. It is clear that identical terminology, structures, and even whole passages are shared by the Nyingma and Bon traditions, while many of the key elements of the Seminal Heart are found within pre-fifteenth-century Bon literature. The standard Bon doxography outlines three main traditions of the Great Perfection (a rdzogs snyan gsum ): Guidance on the Syllable A (a khrid ), Great Perfection (Rdzogs chen ), and the Oral Transmission (snyan rgyud). In short, the Great Perfection is said to be more philosophical and the oral transmission more experiential, whereas the Guidance on the Syllable A falls in between. The key authoritative figure in these traditions' background, paralleling that of Śākyamuni and Padmasambhava for the Nyingmas, is Shenrab Miwoche (gshen rab mi bo che ), a divine figure said to have historically founded the Bon Tantric traditions in the land of Takzik to the west of Tibet.
In the Tibetan imperial period—a difficult time for Bonpos, given their valorization of the suppressed Zhang Zhung Empire—key figures were Tapihritsa and Gyerpung Nangzher Löpo (eighth century). The former is said to have orally transmitted The Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung to the latter in a vision, and his student Gyerpung then committed it to writing to become the core text of the Oral Transmission tradition. The cycle has strong connections to the Seminal Heart synthesis, as it is distinctive among the early Bon Great Perfection traditions for its view's emphasis on embodiment, along with its pervasive focus on visions of light. It seems to be the earliest Bon literature that evidences this movement beyond the more common early focus on the Great Perfection consisting of a pristine view similar to the austere perspective of the non-Tantric Mādhyamaka school. However, its redaction is presumably centuries later than the eighth century—much of its present one-volume redaction does not even claim to go back to Tapihritsa, though the two key, but short, texts (The Twelve Little Child Tantras and Instructions on the Six Lamps ) both claim to have been orally transmitted to Gyerpung from a vision of Tapihritsa.
Instructions on the Six Lamps is historically intertwined with the early Seminal Heart canon with similar discussions of the six lamps: All Good as the primordial Buddha, the dying process, post-death intermediate state liberation, and, of course, the importance of visionary experiences of lights and Buddhas. However, it is not a mere adaptation of any known Nyingma Tantra, as it uses terminology and concepts in its own distinctive way. At least one other text of the Zhang Zhung cycle, however, appears to be directly derived from The Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra.
The other central figure for Bon during the imperial period was Drenpa Namkha, a shadowy siddha -style figure in the eighth century as well, but whose name is said to have been used by at least three different figures from Tibet, the Dakpo (dwags po), and the Zhang Zhung, respectively. His most important teachings on the Great Perfection are said to be contained in The Magical Treasury of the Magical Sky (nam mkha' 'phrul mdzod), but this was only transcribed as an oral transmission in the twelfth century by Tulku Lungbön Lhanyen (Sprul sku lung bon lha gnyan, b. 1112?) after receiving them from Tsewang Rindzin (Tshe dbang rig 'dzin, twelfth century).
Later Bon Traditions
During the later renaissance period, Shenchen Luga (Gshen chen klu dga, 996–1035) was one of the earliest and most important of Bon treasure-finders, whose revealed Treasures in 1017 were part of The General Heap (sPyi spungs) canon, including the famous Great Perfection text The Ninefold Cycle of the Hidden Enlightening Mind. Shenchen Luga also excavated a commentarial cycle on the latter text, which itself appears to be centered on classic mind-series rhetoric as found in early Nyingma Tantras of that classification.
Zhötön Ngödrub (g/bzhod ston dngos grub grags, c. 1050) further mined Great Perfection literature from The General Heap cache when he excavated The Trilogy of Proclamations (sgrags pa skor gsum), a single volume with forty-six individual texts that claims to be a translation from the Zhang Zhung language. Its root Tantra is The Golden Tortoise (gser gyi rus sbal) and Samten Karmay (1988) shows that this text was subsequently copied with minor modifications to partially elide its Bon character by Nyingmas. This latter Tantra was then circulated as a mind-series text claiming to be translated from Sanskrit by Mañjuśrīmitra and Vairocana, and rediscovered by the obscure Khyungdrak (khyung grag of Lhodrak [lho brag], thirteenth century?). However, the Bon text itself in at least two cases reproduces lines from one of the earliest Nyingma Atiyoga texts, indicating that this Bon revelation was itself drawing on earlier Buddhist sources in its own composition. The cycle is also connected to The Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung by the presence of the identically titled The Twelve Little Child Tantras, located in the collection right after The Golden Tortoise.
Zhötön also revealed The Great Sphere of the Great Perfection's Ultra Summit (yang rtseʾi klong chen) from the same location in 1088, which became the basis for the Great Perfection tradition in Bon. It claims to have been originally composed by the eighth-century siddha Nyenchen Lishu Takring (snyen chen li bshu stag rings) from Takzik Long, who translated it from the Zhang Zhung language into Tibetan and then concealed it. Zhötön evidently considered himself to be the reincarnation of Nyenchen, just as Dangma himself was considered to be an incarnation of Vimalamitra when he initially excavated the latter's Treasure cache at Zha (zhwa) temple. One of the texts from the cycle, The Lamp Illuminating the Signs of Dying, is nearly identical to a text on the same subject attributed to Mañjuśrīmitra titled Examining for Death, which is redacted within The Turquoise Letters section of The Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra.
Only a few decades later Gongdzö (dgongs mdzod, 1038–1096) of the Meu (rme'u) clan founded the A Guidance tradition, which differs from the other two divisions of Bon Great Perfection by having a precise historical origin in Tibet rather than transcendental origins. It appears the tradition was more associated with the Nyingma mind-series movement with its central focus on inner calm (zhi gnas ) techniques revolving around concentrating on a written letter A. Drugom Gyelwa Yungdrung's (bru sgom rgyal ba gyung drung, 1242–1290) later condensation of the tradition does involve a simple channel visualization practice and dream yoga, but it remains to be seen if these date back to the original synthesis of Gongdzö.
However, Drugom is arguably the most important Bon Great Perfection figure after the eleventh century. He partially corresponds to the role of Longchenpa in the Nyingma tradition and composed important works in both the Guidance on the Syllable A and Oral Transmission traditions. He wrote a series of nine interlinked texts on The Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung that present the contemplation of spontaneous light images within darkness, in sky gazing, and in sun gazing—the similarities with the Seminal Heart are detailed. He also contributed a long exegesis to yet a third important Great Perfection cycle, namely The Lamp Commentary Dispelling Darkness, which was included within The Commentarial Cycle on the Great Sphere of the Ultra Summit. Special mention should also be made of Shardza Tashi Gyeltsen (shar rdza bkra shis rgyal mtshan, 1859–1933), the prolific Bon author who drew extensively on Longchenpa's own Great Perfection corpus to create compositions whose system is basically identical to the Seminal Heart.
Achard, Jean-Luc. L'Essence Perlée du Secret. Turnhout, Belgium, 1999. A survey of early Great Perfection traditions with a focus on the Seminal Heart via an annotated translation of a key text from The Seminal Heart of Vimalamitra, including comments on Bon traditions and possible connections with Kashmiri Shaivism.
Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History, vol. 1. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje with the collaboration of Matthew Kapstein. Boston, 1991. An annotated translation of a twentieth-century survey of Nyingma religions and history, including extensive sections on the Great Perfection.
Germano, David F. "Dying, Death and Other Opportunities." In Religions of Tibet in Practice, edited by Donald S. Lopez Jr., pp. 458–493. Princeton, N.J., 1997. A translation with an introduction of Longchenpa's treatment of death-related meditations in the Great Perfection from The Treasury of Words and Meanings.
Germano, David F. "Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric History of rDzogs Chen." In Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17, no. 2: 203–335. A survey of the growth of Nyingma Great Perfection movements from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries that stresses the nature and diversity of contemplative praxis.
Germano, David F. "The History of Funerary rDzogs chen." Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 1 (2004). A study of early Nyingma Great Perfection movements depicting a fundamental divide between types stressing earlier "pristine" forms and later "funerary" forms that focus on late Tantric practice and iconography with a special focus on death motifs.
Karmay, Samten. The Great Perfection (rDzogs chen): A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Leiden, 1988. A study of some of the earliest of the Great Perfection texts with a history of the movement's early evolution.
Kvaerne, Per. "Bonpo Studies: The A-khrid System of Meditation." Kailash 1, no. 1 (1973): 19–50; 1, no. 4 (1973): 247–332. A detailed study of the Bon Guidance on the Syllable A tradition of the Great Perfection.
Longchenpa. Kindly Bent to Ease Us: From the Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease. 3 vols. Translated by Herbert V. Guenther. Emeryville, Calif., 1975–1976. A translation of the root verses form Longchenpa's The Trilogy of Resting at Ease, including interpretative introductions to each chapter.
Neumaier-Dargyay, E. K., trans. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind: The Motherly Buddha. Albany, N.Y., 1992. A pioneering and important translation of The All-Creating King, though not always correct in the fine details of the text's meaning.
Rossi, Donatella. The Philosophical View of the Great Perfection in the Tibetan Bon Religion. Ithaca, N.Y., 1999. A study of the philosophical system of the Great Perfection in Bon traditions, including annotated translations of key texts from The Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung and The Trilogy of Proclamations.
Thondup Rinpoche, Tulku. Buddha Mind: An Anthology of Longchen Rabjam's Writings on Dzogpa Chenpo. Ithaca, N.Y., 1989. An anthology of translations of classic Great Perfection of literature with a special focus on Longchenpa.
David Germano (2005)