Stage of Study
The stage of study involves activities such as listening to teachings, attending classes, and the reading and discussion of texts.
In this stage, we initially develop a conceptual understanding of mind’s ultimate nature, as well as its relative appearances – our confused thoughts and disturbing emotions. We hear how these appearances cloud the mind and conceal that nature from our direct perception.
Furthermore, we study cause and effect to learn theoretically how these delusive appearances are produced and how they are pacified.
Stage of Contemplation
The stage of contemplation consists of training in analytical meditation, in which we begin to work directly with relative appearances. By applying our intellect to an examination of mind, we learn to see those appearances with greater precision and clarity.
This is the point in our path where we begin to penetrate the solidity of our thoughts and emotions and glimpse the pure nature of mind.
Stage of Meditation
Finally, in the stage of meditation, we let go of our conceptual examination and simply rest our mind in a state of one-pointed meditative concentration, or samadhi.
At this time, we experience a cessation of our usual agitated state of mind and can rest peacefully in the present moment. This is the beginning of our journey of meditation, which leads finally to the culmination of transcendental knowledge – the complete realization of the nature of mind.
This stage is accomplished in two phases. First one trains in the preliminary practices known as the “four foundations,” and then one engages in the actual practice of calm abiding, or shamatha, meditation.
As we progress through the three stages, we gain an ever-deepening knowledge of the full reality of mind.
Source: Ponlop, Dzogchen. Mind Beyond Death. Shambhala Publications. Kindle Edition.