Been “playing” with Eastern concepts for ten or so years  – passively and academically (through reading and writing), and actively and experientially (through meditative practice and day-to-day application).  I feel I am finally (!) at a place to make the following mini-pronouncement: Nirvana is Meta-cognition (rigpa). That’s right: not a heaven-type place (to go to when you die), not a parallel reality, just a state of consciousness.

Ta-da!  Self-evident in fewer ways than one…

But don’t just take my word for it.  Here’s Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, one of the greatest Tibetan masters:

“Enlightenment, or nirvana, is nothing other than the state beyond all obstacle […] Nirvana is not a paradise or some special place of happiness, but is in fact the condition beyond all dualistic concepts, including those of happiness and suffering.” (Dzogchen: the Self-Perfected State, 1994, p.73).

Nirvana, thus, is not a geographical coordinate or a spiritual destination but a psychological state – a state of non-judgment, a state of passive awareness of whatever is, a meta-cognitive distance from the transient and fleeting mind-forms, – i.e. a state of consciousness.

Moreover, this mind-state is pre-installed in every cranium and, as such, is the “base,” the background of all mind-gestalts and mind-forms that pass through it like reflections across the surface of the mirror.

So, that’s the good news: your nirvana is built-in, and there is nowhere to go, so, you can stay exactly where you are and still “get there” if you so choose.

Here’s the bad news, though: intellectual “knowledge of this nondual state” and “direct experiential knowledge” of this nondual state are “two very different things” because “even if we think we have grasped the meaning of the word ‘nondual,’ we are really just fooling ourselves” (C. N. Norbu).

So, here you are, sitting on a trillion mind-bucks.  Goody!  Start digging in your skull-pocket.


Dzogchen, an ancient teaching about the nature of mind, “should not be classified as a religious or philosophical tradition.  Rather it is a complete way of knowledge of the individual’s state of being, beyond the limits of either religious belief or culture. Without ever having become a sect in itself, Dzogchen has remained a direct teaching” (Adriano Clemente).

Dzogchen teachings are neither a philosophy, nor a religious doctrine, nor a cultural tradition.  Understanding the message of the teachings means discovering one’s own true condition, stripped of all the self-deceptions and falsifications which the mind creates” (C. N. Norbu).

Dzogchen – as I understand it – is an ancient teaching on meta-cognition, i.e. a meta-cognitive psychology.


Self-Definition is Self-Limitation

Concsiousness is Its Own Broom



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    Last reviewed: 9 Jul 2011

APA Reference
Somov, P. (2011). Dzogchen Psychology. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 2, 2015, from


Select books by Pavel G. Somov, Ph.D.:
Mindful Emotional Eating Reinventing the Meal
Present Perfect
Eating the Moment

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