THE MEANING OF MAHAMUDRA
E Ma Ho!
Remain relaxed, without clinging or contrivance
Within mind’s nature, like space,
Free from any reference point
And with the vigor of vivid, mindful awareness.
Whatever outward or inward movement of thought arises,
Don’t lose hold of the vital inner glow of the expanse of mindfulness.
Don’t fabricate [mental states].
Rest your mind as it is –
It will be liberated into the absolute expanse.
Mahamudra, chagchen in Tibetan, translates as Great Seal or Great Symbol. It is a body of teaching and practice that is practiced by all new translation schools of Tibetan Buddhism, i.e., Kagyu, Shakya and Gelugpa. Mudra refers to the vivid way phenomena appear, and Maha indicates that the way they appear is beyond concept, beyond imagination, beyond perception. The teachings closely resemble those of Dzogchen as practiced by the Nyingma (old translation) School with very minor differences. It is a completion stage practice that focuses on manipulating the mental and physical forces of the subtle body to attain the enlightened state. Like Dzogchen, it is necessary to complete this practice under the close guidance of one’s teacher. This is not a practice that can or should be done on one’s own as it is too easy to go off the path and end up more confused than one started or insane.
Mahamudra meditation, as described by the great 20th Century master Kalu Rinpoche of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage founded by the female Bodhisattva Niguma, involves resting in awareness, no point of reference, no discursive thought involving “this” and “that”. It is not just zoning out. Awareness is the key, just resting in the experience of whatever is happening, either externally or internally. When one is able to just rest in luminous emptiness without grasping, knowing will arise of its own accord, and liberation is right there.
The practice of Mahamudra begins with basic shamatha (shi-ne)/vipasyana (lhag-tong) meditation to cultivate tranquility and insight into the nature of reality. When one gains a glimpse of Mahamudra as a result of this practice, the four faults naturally dissolve, allowing one to progress further in the practice. In the final stage practice, one manifests the Trikaya (the three bodies of the Buddha) spontaneously and the Mahamudra becomes fully manifest.
The Buddha is said to have taught 84,000 teachings, which is equivalent to the number of afflictive emotions of sentient beings. In truth there is no limit to the Buddha’s teaching, just as the nature of mind is limitless. Through such teachings and practices as Mahamudra and Dzogchen we ourselves have the possibility of experiencing the limitlessness of primordial wisdom mind in this life.
Eh Ma Ho!