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Self-liberation is a term is used in both the Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings. It refers to the spontaneous self-liberation of disturbing thoughts and conflicting emotions.

Self-liberation is based on the idea that our thoughts and emotions, like all phenomena, have no intrinsic nature. That simply means they are not independently existing permanent realities but rather arise as a result of various secondary causes and are therefore subject to impermanence.

In other words, thoughts and emotions are reactive. To use an everyday example, your boss slams the door. You think she’s mad at you and begin to worry about what’s coming next. Later on you discover she was only frustrated because her computer shut down without saving an important document. She asks for your help. All previous thoughts and emotions instantly dissolve or self-liberate, thereby establishing they were impermanent in nature.

From the perspective of both the Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings, all thoughts and emotions are like this. Therefore, there is no need to deliberately eradicate, purify, or transform them. They will all self-liberate in and of themselves eventually, as in the example above.

However, since not all situations are as quickly and obviously resolved as that, we learn to invite and allow thoughts and emotions to self-liberate naturally and spontaneously by resting in our own natural state of mind without fixation. This approach to meditation is often contrasted with the approaches found in the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Tantra schools of Buddhism, namely, eradication, purification, and transformation, respectively.

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