The Dzogchen Tantras

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Due to many requests we'd like to provide a more detailed description of the 18 Dzogchen Tantras collected in one place. We see these mentioned individually or possibly a few mentioned together once in awhile. Here they are together.

These come from the Appendix to Tsele Natsok Rangdrol's 17th century work titled "The Mirror of Mindfulness" ISBN 962-7341-18-5, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang, and published these days originally in 1987, again, by Rangjung Yeshe in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The underlined and/or highlighted words are links in case you may want more refined descriptions and associations. RWB _____________________________________

Note: Regarding these Dzogchen Tantras, the names, numbers and the tantras themselves in these lists may vary from teacher-to-teacher, tradition-to-tradition, each one however being a complete teaching in and of itself. Some call for 17 tantras, while most call for 18, and some add, still, an additional tantra making the total 19.

See also Seventeen Tantras of the Great Perfection and Eighteen Dzogchen Tantras for further reference.

The Dzogchen Tantras

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION is a summary of the teachings of Vimalamitra, Longchenpa, and Khenpo Ngakchung as recorded in the Nyingthig Yabshi and its related commentaries.

The first human vidyadhara in the Dzogchen lineage is Garab Dorje, who compiled the 6,400,000 tantras of the Great Perfection. He entrusted these teachings to his main disciple, Manjushrimitra, who classified these into Three Sections of Dzogchen: Mind Section, Space Section, and Instruction Section.

The chief disciple of Manjushrimitra, the great master Shri Singha, divided the Instruction Section into The Four Cycles of Nyingthig: the Outer, Inner, Secret, and Innermost Unexcelled Cycles.

The Innermost Unexcelled Cycle consists of seventeen tantras. These are eighteen when adding the Ngagsung Tromay Tantra, which is focused on the protective rites of Ekajati. According to the system of Padmakara, there are ninteen when including the Longsel Barwey Tantra.

These tantras teach in full all the requirements for one person to practice and reveal complete buddhahood within a single lifetime. Each tantra is not dependent upon the others but is complete in itself.

  • 4. The Blazing Lamp Tantra (sgron ma 'bar ba'i rgyud) teaches how to identify the "lamps" related to awareness, their terminology, analogies for how wisdom arises, the unity of awareness, how to clear misconceptions about self-cognizance, and how to practice.
  • 10. The Tantra of No Letters (yi ge med pa'i rgyud) describes the actual means of practice, how to abandon activities and live in places free from defects, the four ways of 'freely resting,' sustaining naturalness as well as the undefiled method of the main part of practice.
  • 16. The Union of the Sun and Moon Tantra (nyi zla kha sbyor gyi rgyud) shows which experience a person undergoes in the intermediate state, the bardo, after passing away. It teaches how to resolve one's master's oral instructions during the bardo of this life, how to stabilize awareness during the bardo of dying, how to attain enlightenment through recognizing awareness during the bardo of dharmata, and, if necessary, how to be assured a rebirth in a natural nirmanakaya realm during the bardo of becoming and there attain buddhahood without further rebirths.


Vimalamitra united the explanatory lineage with scriptures and the hearing lineage without scriptures and concealed these, to be revealed in the future as the Nyingthig teachings renowned as Vima Nyingthig, and also as the Secret Heart Essence of Vimalamitra (bi ma'i gsang ba snying thig). Longchenpa clarified these in his fifty-one sections of Lama Yangthig.

Padmakara concealed his teachings on the Innermost Unexcelled Cycle, to be revealed in the future as Khandro Nyingthig, the Heart Essence of the Dakinis. Longchenpa also clarified these teachings in his Khandro Yangthig.

These four exceptional sets of Dzogchen instructions are contained, together with Longchenpa's additional teachings Zabmo Yangthig, in his collection famed as Nyingthig Yabshi.

In recent years, many Westerners have had the fortune to receive this collection in completeness from living masters headed by His Holiness' Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Penor Rinpoche, and also, Dodrupchen Rinpoche, and in parts by the masters who have passed on these transmissions for Jamgon Kongtrul's precious treasuries, the Rinchen Terdzo and Damngak Dzo. RY