Expressive Power / Manifestation / Display
Previously, we discussed the meaning of rikpa (Tib. rig pa), or “awareness,” which is a key term used in the teachings of dzokchen. Tsal (Tib. rtsal), another key term in both the mahamudra and dzokchen traditions, refers to the potential of this awareness to manifest, as well as the manifestation itself.
Tsal is a difficult term to translate. Having a range of meanings, it has been translated into English in many ways. It can refer to the “skill” or “dexterity” produced through training, whether physical or mental. It can refer, for example, to the prowess of a well-trained athlete or of an experienced meditator.
In the teachings on the nature of mind, in some contexts tsal refers to an inherent “potential” of mind to express itself. In this sense, it has variously been translated as “power,” “potency,” “capacity,” “creativity,” “energy,” “creative energy,” “expressive power,” and “resourcefulness.” In other contexts, tsal refers to the outcome of that creative potential. In this sense, it has been translated as “display,” “manifestation,” or “expression.” In both cases, the word conveys a feeling of energy and dynamism.
In his commentary on the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo (The Gradual Heart of Wisdom), Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso presents tsal using the analogy of a mirror. In discussing the line, “Since awareness-display, the trikaya, appears on the path,” Rinpoche explained: