I consider myself a student of Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche although I never met him while he was alive.
The term “self-existing” is one that shows up a good deal in his writings, probably more in his Shambhala teachings than in his strictly Buddhist teachings. This has struck me as odd, puzzling; with so much emphasis placed on “emptiness,” and a lack of “self,” where does “self-existing” fit into the picture?
The term seems to have a positive sense to it. In one sourcebook it is described as natural, spontaneous, not “trippy,” to paraphrase. In another text, the warrior, or the warrior’s mind is compared to a “good self-existing sword.” This sword is described as perfect. Traditionally, I think, the sword is associated with sharpness, as in wit, discrimination, intellect. So then, the mind of a completely trained warrior, or a realized person is sharp, flawless, perfect. It exists on its own, and doesn’t need to be sharpened or trained or touched up further. It has no faults.
So far, so good, I think. This all makes sense. A realized being would have to have a sharp mind, beyond faults. Why self-existing, though? Maybe it is to emphasize the brilliance or luminosity. It exists on its own, it stands out, in space. Existence is being emphasized. Space, emptiness is so often emphasized, but here, the opposite is true, as if a camera has shifted its focal point from background to foreground.
So it’s natural, down to earth. It is spontaneous, in that “on the spot” it is seen, or experienced, not as space or impermanence, but as something being, almost popping out. Warriorship, in the Shambhala tradition IS still about space, but also about existence. The relation between these two is a big topic.
As a postscript, I listened to a talk by teacher Robin Kornman in which he related the Shambhala teachings to Shentong philosophy, and Dolpopa, two things I know very little about. Is there some relation there? Is there a precendent for “self existence” elsewhere in Buddhism?