Pointing Out

Pointing Out instructions in Dzogchen and Mahamudra1 are said to transmit realization of Rigpa; the “enlightened state” or “nature of mind.2 The Lama3 says somehthing, usually a short, pithy phrase like “Mind is Empty” or “all appearances are the empty nature of mind” and in the moment of hearing the words, the student has an unusually potent opportunity to enter the experience that they point to.

Some Vajrayana students believe that hearing pointing out instructions from an important Tibetan Lama guarantees that the nature of mind is transmitted, whether or not they recognize it in the moment. Others see receiving them as the most valuable pre-requisite for the experience of Rigpa.

Centuries of development in Vajrayana systematized pointing out instructions, adding structure of time, place, and role. Now hundreds of students go to retreats to get them. They’re told when they will get them; then they get them; then they’re told that they got them.

In conversation with Christofer, I discuss whether there is any there, there. If a student experiences a sudden shift in perception during pointing out instructions, what is happening? We discuss the function of pointing out, personally, socially, and politically.

Listen to the podcast here:

Do Explain Podcast Cover
Do Explain 55: “Pointing Out Instructions in Dzogchen” with Charlie Awbery

This was my second conversation with Christofer for Do Explain. The first was Embodied Awareness and the third, Relationship in Dzogchen.


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  1. 1.The two most esoteric strands of Vajrayana
  2. 2.Also called “ordinary mind” (tha mal gyi shes pa) in Mahamudra.
  3. 3.The Tibetan word for the Sanskrit “guru”