Tsik Sum Né Dek

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Garab Dorje

Tsik Sum Né Dek (Tib. ཚིག་གསུམ་གནད་བརྡེགས་, tsik sum né dek, Wyl. tshig gsum gnad brdegs), 'Hitting the Essence in Three Words'[1] — the final testament of the first human Dzogchen master Garab Dorje (Skt. Prahevajra):

The Three Statements

Introducing directly the face of rigpa in itself.
Decide upon one thing, and one thing only.
Confidence directly in the liberation of rising thoughts.
ངོ་རང་ཐོག་ཏུ་སྤྲད། །
ཐག་གཅིག་ཐོག་ཏུ་བཅད། །
གདེང་གྲོལ་ཐོག་ཏུ་བཅའ། །


Histories of the Dzogchen lineage tell how, as Garab Dorje attained nirvana, his body dissolved into space in the midst of a great cloud of rainbow light; the earth shuddered and miraculous sounds were heard. His disciple Mañjushrimitra, who had studied the Nyingtik teachings with him for seventy-five years, saw him in the sky, surrounded by light, and cried out “Alas, alas! O vast expanse! If the light that is our teacher is extinguished, who will there be to dispel the darkness of the world?“ It is said that, at this, Garab Dorje’s right hand and forearm appeared holding a golden casket, the size of a thumbnail, which circled round Mañjushrimitra three times, and descended into the palm of his hand. Inside it he found the Hitting the Essence in Three Words, Garab Dorje’s final testament, written in ink of liquid lapis lazuli on a leaf of five precious substances. Simply seeing it, Mañjushrimitra attained the same realization as his master. In fact, all four of the first vidyadharas of the Dzogchen lineage—Garab Dorje, Mañjushrimitra, Shri Singha and Jñanasutra—bequeathed a testament in a similar way to their disciples, whereupon the minds of the disciples and wisdom minds of the masters became inseparable. Hitting the Essence in Three Words has been revered by masters and practitioners throughout the centuries as embodying in its key points the very essence of the path of Dzogchen.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche said,

Imagine you heard all eighty-four thousand teachings of Buddha and then contemplated on them. You would find that ultimately there was nothing that needed to be introduced beyond ‘Hitting the Essence in Three Words’. Compare these ‘three words’ to the teachings of a hundred panditas or a thousand siddhas, and there is nothing they can teach you beyond this. The omniscient Longchen Rabjam had realized completely the meaning of the three categories and nine spaces of Dzogpachenpo, and became inseparable from the Primordial Buddha Samantabhadra. Yet suppose you actually met him face to face: there would be nothing he could teach you beyond ‘Hitting the Essence in Three Words’. Rigdzin Jikmé Lingpa, Jikmé Gyalwé Nyugu and all the vidyadharas and masters of the three lineages—they could not possibly teach us anything beyond this one instruction.


Patrul Rinpoche’s Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King, an elaboration, with its own commentary, on Hitting the Essence in Three Words, is treasured as the most crucial instruction for the practice of Dzogchen. Brief yet exceedingly profound, it captures the understanding of the trekchö practice, and is “the infallible key point of the path of primordial purity in the natural Dzogpachenpo”.

English and Tibetan versions (Lotsawa House)

Patrul Rinpoche's root text:

Arranged in Tibetan and English verses:

Patrul Rinpoche's own commentary:

Further Commentaries

  • Khangsar Tenpé Wangchuk, ཚིག་གསུམ་གནད་རྡེག་གི་ཟིན་བྲིས་ཆོས་སྐུའི་རིང་བསྲེལ་, tshig gsum gnad rdeg gi zin bris chos sku'i ring bsrel
  • Patrul Namkha Jikmé, tshig gsum gnad du brdeg pa'i spyi 'grel de kho na nyid gsum gsal ba'i rgyan

Teachings on Tsik Sum Né Dek Given to the Rigpa Sangha

  • Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, to an assembly of 13 students in Paris, 1976
  • Kyabjé Dudjom Rinpoche, Dzogchen Orgyen Chöling, London, 16-19 May 1979
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Gib Torr Farm, Buxton, Derbyshire, UK, 17-20 October, 1980
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Connelles, Normandy, 28-30 November 1980
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Loch Lomond Retreat, Scotland, Easter 1984
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, US retreat held at Vajrapani Institute in the Santa Cruz mountains, spring 1984.
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama, London, 7 July 1984 (These teachings appear in Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection, see below)
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Val Louron, 1985
  • Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, London, June 1987
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Les Ages retreat, France, August 1987
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Clear Lake retreat, USA, 4-7 December 2003
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Kirchheim retreat, 2-5 January 2004
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Paris, 10-11 January 2004
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Myall Lakes retreat, 26-27 January 2004
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Sydney, 7 March 2004
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Lerab Ling, 24-31 August 2004
  • Garchen Rinpoche, Lerab Ling, 15-19 August 2009
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Haileybury, UK, 6-10 April 2010
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Tenzin Gyatso Institute, USA, 22-26 June 2010
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Lerab Ling, 3-8 August 2010
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Lerab Ling, 2-11 & 19-20, 26, 28 August 2011
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, Lerab Ling, 10-11 & 14-16 August 2012


  1. Though Hitting the Essence in Three Words is one popular translation of the title, the ‘words’ in question are more a case of ‘statements’, ‘verses’or ‘lines’.

Further Reading

  • Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. 'Three Words' in Quintessential Dzogchen, translated & compiled by Erik Pema Kunsang and Marcia Binder Schmidt (Boudhanath, Hong Kong & Esby: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2006), pages 185-189.
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. Primordial Purity, translated from the Tibetan by Ani Jinba Palmo, Vajravairochana Translation Committee, second revised edition, 2002 (restricted)
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dzogchen: The Heart Essence of the Great Perfection (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2004), Part Two 'Hitting the Essence in Three Words', which contains the complete translation of Patrul's commentary, The Special Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King.
  • His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Heart of Meditation: Discovering Innermost Awareness, translated and edited by Jeffrey Hopkins (Shambhala, 2016)
  • Khenpos Palden Sherab and Tsewang Dongyal. The Lion’s Gaze, translated by Sarah Harding (Boca Raton: Sky Dancer, 1998)
  • Lingpa, Orgyen Kusum. A Treasury of Sublime Instructions on the Perception of Primordial Wisdom, translated by Sangye Khandro (Los Angeles: Jewel Island Press, 2000), the second part, pages 94-143.
  • Østensen, Morten. In the Presence of the Dharmakaya: Dzogchen Practice According to Khangsar Tenpe Wangchug’s Notes on Dza Paltrul’s Extraordinary Teaching of the Wise and Glorious King (mkhas pa shri rgyal po’i khyad chos). M.A. thesis, 2008
  • Reynolds, John. Golden Letters (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1996)
  • Sangye Khandro, Garab Dorje's Three Statements that Strike the Crucial Point, Light of Berotsana, 2013

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