Threefold Space Practice: Urgyen Tulku Rinpoche
“Outer space empty sky, Inner space, empty mind essence, Secret space, empty rigpa.” These three are all included in one. “Outer space, empty sky” is the unimpeded outer space. “Inner space, empty mind nature” refers to the fact that all sentient beings have mind. If something has no mind, it is physical matter. “Secret space, empty rigpa” is the essence of the mind, rigpa. If one recognizes rigpa, then all three spaces are unified into one. All
is “secret space, empty rigpa”? It is the essence of mind. The essence of mind is rigpa. For example, if we look to see where our arm comes from, we see our body. If we look away from the body we come to the hand. In the example, the body is rigpa and the hand, the extension of our body, is mind. They may be both different, but they may just be two aspects of the same thing. If we look inwardly we arrive at the essence. When we look from the essence outwardly we arrive at mind, the hand. If we look into the source of the mind, we arrive at the essence. If we look outwardly, we are sentient beings.
If we look inwardly we see the Buddha. Rigpa is the body and mind is like the appendage. There is no difference between looking away and looking inwardly. If one wants to see one’s heart, but one looks away from the body then one will never see the heart. If one has slipped under the power of mind, then one
cannot see rigpa. If one does not recognize rigpa then the three spaces will not mingle, only the other two will. Sentient beings have unified two of the spaces. If one recognizes rigpa all three spaces will naturally become one. If one does not fixate outwardly on something, and if one does not concentrate
inwardly onto the mind, then fixated and fixated-upon become empty. The space, empty of “fixated upon” and “fixation” is called rigpa. Within the secret space of “empty rigpa” both fixations have become empty. Within rigpa there is no dualistic fixation, all three spaces are unified into one. If one has
not recognized rigpa then one has to fabricate the unification of the three spaces, as in development stage practice. This is because dualistic mind has not recognized self-originated wisdom. Because you do not need to fabricate it, it is called self-originated, or self-existing. The knowingness is
wisdom. If one does not recognize rigpa, then it turns into “non-arisen, non-cognizant.” If rigpa is recognized there is no need to mingle the three spaces, they are already mingled in one instant. When we “think” about it, the three spaces are separated. But in the instant of
recognizing rigpa they are automatically mingled. Mind has fixation; rigpa has no fixation. It is self-existing, and knowing. Within the space of rigpa, all three mingle naturally. If you think that they are three, then they will not be able to mingle. Everything will become concepts. One needs to
recognize the source of the mind. The point is the recognition of the essence of the mind, not of the mind. One asks the Lama to point out the “essence” of the mind. As we are sentient beings we have mind. One requests the Lama to point out the essence of the mind. The essence of the mind is rigpa. If
you ask, “what is rigpa?” Rigpa is self-existing wisdom; mind is non-arisen and not knowing. Therefore, you first have to recognize the essence of the mind. “Outer space, empty sky” is free from mist dust and clouds. It is just a blue sky, utterly pure blue sky. Space is without reference point.
There is no point to focus on, just empty space. It is said, “the space of sky, and the surface of the ocean.” If you look far away into the ocean, then that “blueness” is also helpful for rigpa. The best, however, is the sky itself. How is space free from reference point? Unimpeded openness in front of
us is called “space.” Space is not the blue sky, which is called “the adornment of space”. That blue thing is not called space. The adornment of space is the blueness of the sky. We see that due to the reflection of light. In the Tibetan tradition, our continent (dzam bu gling) is south of Mt. Meru.
The southern side of Mt Meru is blue material lapis lazuli. Therefore we perceive sky as blue. Because of the sunlight and the ocean the sky appears blue to us. If you go out into space, you will not find anything that is blue. Space is immaterial and it cannot have a color. There is no up, or down, east,
south, north or west. There is no limitation at all. Within the threefold sky practice first reflect on outer space. You can never reach the limit of space. That is where we gaze. That was about “outer space, empty sky.” Now, “Inner space, empty mind nature.” Our mind is free from a place from where
it comes from, abides, or ceases. It is said that this inner space is empty mind nature. If it had a place where it came from, dwelled or ceased, then it would not be empty. Now, “Secret space, empty rigpa.” It is contacting the essence of one’s mind, like contacting the essence of ones heart. This
essence is uncompounded. Mind, dualistic mind, has thoughts. The “five objects”, are conceptualized by the mind. The secret space, empty rigpa, is free from thoughts. That which is free from thoughts is in essence empty, in its nature cognizing, and in its compassionate aspect unimpeded, unlimited. Mind
is with thoughts and thoughts arise and cease. They do not stay, when one thought has gone the next thought appears. Thoughts have no “self-stability”. What really confused us are our thoughts. If we have not recognized the
essence, we are confused by thoughts. The thought itself is empty. It arises and ceases, arises and ceases, one after the other. Because it is like that we are called those with mind. The secret space is free from thoughts. However, although it is free from thoughts, it is not dull. It is empty, with the
adornment of wisdom. Our emptiness right now is with the adornment of thoughts. The essence has the adornment of wisdom. Thoughts are under the power of the three times, from past present and future. However, mind chases after past, present, and future thoughts. In short, mind is empty and cognizing, but
this empty and cognizing has fallen under the power of ignorance. That empty and cognizing is not aware of itself. Its focus is not on the heart but it is on the arm. If the empty and cognizing is not recognized it is called the “unity of the empty and cognizing with the core of ignorance.” That is the
case for sentient beings. But the yogi has the “empty and cognizing with the core of awareness,” rigpa. Rigpa has the marks of essence, nature, and compassionate energy. It has empty essence, the cognizing nature, and the unlimited compassionate energy. If you focus outwardly you will meet
attachment, aversion and stupidity. As the mind is under the power of those three, then we circle in samsara. As the pain part of the body is the heart, the main point of samsara and nirvana is the essence. To find the heart one needs to look inwardly. The main point of samsara, nirvana, and the path is the essence. Dualistic mind is the expression of the essence. When you look inwardly, then you perceive that there is nothing to see. The meaning of not
seeing is clearly seeing there is nothing to see. The essence is empty, the nature is cognizing, and the compassionate energy is unimpeded. They are called the “three wisdoms that are dwelling within the essence.” When one looks inwardly there is no contact, there is nothing to see. One needs to contact that which is free from arising, abiding, and ceasing. There is a quote in the Kagyupa tradition, “Nothing whatsoever exists, yet everything
appears”. “Nothing whatsoever exists” is the empty essence aspect. “Everything appears” is the cognizing nature aspect. In Dzogchen we call it the threefold wisdoms of ones own awareness-wisdom. They are the wisdom of empty essence, the wisdom of the cognizing nature and the wisdom of the unimpeded compassionate energy. That is what is meant by “if one looks inwardly, one arrives at one place.” Most people think that if, when they look towards and
there is nothing to see, then they might as well forget about it. One needs to meet that which is free from meeting. One does not need to meet something that is there to be met. Thoughts are there to be met. The real meeting point is non-action. Nonaction means to be free from concepts. One needs to
meet the un-meet able. “One non-action overpowers everything”. One non-action completely destroys all three mind poisons. The mind poisons are actions; they are concepts. Mind poisons are not possible without concepts. One cannot suppress the mind poisons, one cannot kick them out, burn them with fire, wash them away with water, there is nothing in the universe that can deal with the mind poisons. If you try to suppress them they will become stronger.
The only things that can uproot the three mind poisons are the wisdom of the empty essence. Wisdom is wakefulness, which is not dull. It is with knowingness. It is free from action; free from concepts, and the expression of awareness is able to understand everything. Complete emptiness without any
concepts and without any knowingness, like being hit with a stick, is not the essence. It is cognizing while being empty. You do not need to fabricate that, that is how the essence is already is. Who can make the essence? We have that essence without decrease or increase like the flow of a river. “It is without decrease, or increase like the tip of a flame, it is uninterrupted like the flow of a river.”