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Home > Advanced Meditation > Mahamudra > Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Unawareness > Part Four: Enhancing Your Practice

Mahamudra Eliminating the Darkness of Unawareness

(Phyag-chen ma-rig mun-sel)
by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchug-dorjey
(Kar-ma-pa dBang-phyug rdo-rje, 1556-1603)
translated by Alexander Berzin, 1977
according to explanations by Beru Khyentse Rinpoche

revised translation by Alexander Berzin, February 2008

Part Four: Enhancing Your Practice

Combining Mahamudra with Other Sutra and Tantra Practices and with the Four Types of Behavior

As for the third part, the concluding material, there are also the actions for enhancing your progress.

When, without meandering, you have totally immersed yourself in the mental hold of the mindfulness of total absorption (during meditation sessions), and then, when you have set (that state aside) for the moment, if (your mind) subsequently lapses into meandering, you need to alternate (such periods) with cultivating total absorption and no meandering.

(As another method to enhance your progress), when you have thought about death and impermanence, have that mind that thinks, “I am going to die as (a combination of this) body, speech, and mind in death and so on,” recognize the intrinsic nature of death and the mind in (the state of) death. Through having done that, that very (mind) will become liberated from grasping at (the categories of) permanence and impermanence, which (derive) from merely conceptual labeling by the mind.

And then, through having thought in a similar manner about all the drawbacks of uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth, become aware that both samsara and nirvana are like a far mountain and a near mountain in a dream.

As a further (method), when you meditate affectionately on love and compassion by being aware of all limited beings as having been your fathers and mothers, and likewise when you meditate on the aspiring and engaged states of bodhichitta up to enlightenment, recognize the intrinsic nature of them. Through having set (your mind at that point) in an uncontrived state and thus through having set (your mind) in a state in which its aspect is vividly clear bodhichitta and it is aware of its essential nature as being parted from mental fabrication and having nothing whatsoever to be done, (your mind) will go to (a state of) voidness and compassion as being inseparable.

As an additional (method), when, from (among) the pathway minds (enabled) by the four empowerments’ vase empowerment, you have thought of yourself as a Buddha-figure through any of the four ritual procedures of generation on the generation stage and have clarity in your meditation of the environment and its inhabitants as deities and resounding sounds as mantra, examine the essential nature of them. That (meditation of inseparable appearance/voidness, when) parted from conceptual thought, is the practice of the unified pair of the generation and complete stages (or) generation stage mahamudra. And then, after having applied (the realization of) clear light (to everything you do), recognize (mind’s) natural face in meditation and even at times when walking, moving about, lying down, sitting, speaking, conversing and so on. (This is) blending (everything) with mahamudra.

There are also (four types of behavior for enhancing your progress):

  • Practicing single-pointedly with inseparable generation and complete stages, or with (inseparable) shamatha and vipashyana, is (called) “totally excellent (Samantabhadra behavior)."
  • When that has become stable, then, having concealed yourself in frightening, haunted places, practicing, with knowing, the view, meditation, and behavior is (called) “concealed behavior.”
  • When that has become stable, with no mental wandering, then wandering and mixing yourself in places with large crowds and taking this as a spiritual pathway and practicing is (called) “crowd behavior.”
  • Then, according to the specifics of (which situations your mind is more) stable or unstable in, there are three (types of practitioners): great, middling, and small. From (among these), there are no definite signs for those of you who are great. However, after (such persons) have attained a great applying pathway mind (the great stage of the path of preparation), they act with elaboration. In the attire of a Heruka, they mix themselves with horrifying circumstances, without any conceptual thoughts about what is to be eaten or not, what is clean or filthy, or what is faulty or proper. By having practiced like that, they attain a seeing pathway of mind (the path of seeing) after progressing in stages through the applying pathway minds. By means of having (done that), then in terms of themselves, since they have triumphed over the demonic forces of mara, disturbing emotions, and a modest (Hinayana) vehicle of mind, (that type of practice is called “ behavior) triumphant over all directions.” Because, in terms of others, they bring about great benefit for limited beings with “great crowd behavior,” that is also (called “behavior) progressing with mahamudra itself.”

For those of you with the highest capabilities, there is nothing that needs to be enhanced. That is because you have parted (your minds) from (the duality of) something to be meditated upon and something that does the meditating. But as for the many (further) methods that exist for enhancing the progress of those of you who are not like that, you need to learn of them from the mouths of your gurus.

Concerning them, (in summary) there are the methods for enhancing your progress through combining (the mahamudra realization) with alternating total absorption and subsequent attainment periods, with the pathway minds of the common (Sutrayana) vehicles of mind, with the mantra tradition, and with the four types of behavior.

Enhancing your progress through having exerted effort like that and having practicing is the first point (for enhancing your progress).

The Five Distorted Conceptual Thoughts, Three Skills, and Four Buddha Corpuses

Furthermore, to eliminate hindrances (to your progress, you need to rid yourself of the five distorted conceptual thoughts):

  • Part yourself from clinging to objects as being “virtuous” or “nonvirtuous.”

  • As the three times (past, present, and future) cannot be established as truly existent), rid yourself of even the thought, “I shall attain enlightenment in just this very time (right now).” Having done that, be certain that in one instant there is enlightenment.

  • Without holding your own mind as something as being (vulgar and) ordinary, be aware of it as having, from the start, the essential nature of the five types of deep awareness.

  • Do not hold your very own aggregates, cognitive sources, and cognitive stimulators as dirty, but (rather) be certain of them as being, from the start, male and female deities and male and female (Buddhas Thusly) Gone.

  • Rid yourself of the assertion of liberation from just listening and pondering (the teachings). Decide for sure on liberation through the force of meditation and the gurus’ inspiration.

Rid yourself of (these) five distorted conceptual thoughts (about) objects, the times, the essential nature, the intrinsic nature, and discriminating awareness.

(Gaining the three skills will also enhance your progress:)

  • With your body posture excellent and having examined the essential nature (of your mind) atop the settled (mind) when it is settled and atop the stirring (mind) when it is stirring, then being totally absorbed is (called) “skill in the beginning at initiating meditation.”

  • Ridding yourself of fatigue (by taking a rest) so that you will be fit to transform your absorbed concentration and body posture when you can no longer be singularly totally immersed in them is (called) “skill intermediately in cutting off becoming diffused.”

  • No matter what kind of excellent boon experiences dawn, acting without clinging (to them) is (called) “skill in cultivating the boon experiences.”

Train yourself in (these) three skills.

(As another method to enhance your progress, recognize that) the various appearances of the mind are a corpus of emanations (Nirmanakaya); its faculty of knowing is a corpus of full use (Sambhogakaya); its voidness is a corpus of essential nature (Svabhavakaya); and the inseparability (of the three) is a corpus encompassing everything (a Dharmakaya). When you have decided for sure that that is the intrinsic nature of whatever is possible that can appear – everything of samsara and nirvana – in other words, when you have ascertained, isolated from all extremes of mental fabrication, that all phenomena are parted from the trio: arising, ceasing, and abiding, total absorb (your mind) in being parted from any adopting or rejecting and all hopes and worries.

(All that) is the second point (for enhancing your progress).

The Three Points of Deviation and the Four Places for a Loss of Voidness

Furthermore, because, if you cling to the three (boon experiences of) bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality, you will deviate into the three planes of compulsive existence, then no matter what experiences arise, good or bad, do not hold them as supreme. (In that way, you will enhance your progress by avoiding these three points of deviation).

(You also need to avoid the four places for a loss of voidness).

  • Once you have ascertained (voidness) by means of the reasoning “parted from being either the same or different,” you might think either, “All phenomena, by their own essential natures, have passed into being a (total) void,” or, “The mere absence that is the negation of (truly established) existence, which (I have derived from) having analyzed with my intellect – this is the voidness of everything.” Making (either of these) your meditation is a loss of voidness in terms of its character. Since, by means of that, you might have become coarse with regard to behavioral cause and effect, rid yourself of meditations on voidness that grasp (it as) an absence of that (causal relationship) and that (leave it as) something intellectually derived. Having done that and then having examined the essential nature of that grasping at an absence (in these two faulty ways), be uncontrived (without making up anything).

  • From not having the realization that all (disturbing emotions) to be gotten rid of and their antidotes (namely, their voidnesses) are void, then when many things – disturbing emotions, negative conceptual thoughts, and so on – arise on your mental continuum, you might take them as your enemy, thinking, “These are stealing the life of my liberation.” Then thinking, “These should be destroyed by voidness,” you might hold those two as (“things”) to be gotten rid of and (“things” that are their) antidotes. From having done that and then meditating on voidness is a loss of voidness in terms of it being an antidote. For that, then having recognized (the essential nature of) that conceptual thought itself that grasps at those disturbing emotions or what is to be gotten rid of and what is their antidote as separate (“things”), set (your mind) in (the state) lacking anything to stop or establish.

  • When you realize this – that the supreme pathway mind for attaining Buddhahood is voidness – but without realizing that the basis, pathway, and resultant (minds): all three are voidnesses, then you might think that voidness (as only a pathway mind) is the superior one among the pathway minds and that the pathway minds other than that are inferior, and thus not think of the method part (of the practice, such as bringing the disturbing emotions and negative conceptual thoughts also into your practice as pathway minds). (This) is a loss of voidness in terms of it being a pathway mind. Therefore, having recognized that essential nature itself of the conceptual thought that clings to voidness (as only a pathway mind) and holds it as the superior one among the pathway minds for that (attainment of resultant Buddhahood), examine it (further). By having done that, be aware of the voidness of everything (basis, path, and result) as being a voidness without anything to be gotten rid of or antidotes, and (without) superior or inferior (methods).

  • (When practicing the generation stage of anuttarayoga tantra), you might have spread out and applied as a crowning seal to everything voidness as a mantra or as something intellectually derived, but which you have had no actual experience of, and then only thought, “ Everything is voidness.” Or you might have been dismissive of karma and behavioral cause and effect, thinking, “ Since everything is voidness, then because nothing can be established (as even conventionally existing), then what can be done by means of constructive acts, which are phenomena affected (by cause and effect)?” (This) is a loss of voidness in terms of it being a crowning seal. For that, then having examined and recognized (the essential nature of) that very thought, “ (Everything) is voidness,” set (your mind) in its real nature, parted from conceptual thoughts about (voidness) being its own natural face.

These intellectually derived voidnesses, however, are not totally improper in all aspects. If beginners do not do any intellectually derived meditation, then even if they are taught voidness from the start, they will be unable to realize it. Since (that is so) and since, if they familiarize themselves (intellectually) with the real nature (of everything), in the end they will naturally come to realize voidness (nonconceptually), then even meditating on an intellectually formulated voidness is proper. However, in the end, since (such type of conceptual meditation) is a place for a loss of mahamudra, you must rid yourself of it.

These, then, are the hindrances that are the “four places for a loss (of voidness).” Because (they hinder stable realization of mahamudra), do not mix up what is to be gotten rid of and what is to be adopted like that. Then, within that state, set (your mind) in an uncontrived manner on top of whatever dawns, without making presumptions (that something incorrect is correct mahamudra realization). Without having moved from that fresh and clean (state) and without doing (such things as) holding your body in a severe posture, holding your breath, or the likes, set your mind at ease, at its own leisure, without stopping, establishing, getting rid of, or adopting anything in terms of the conceptual thoughts: “constructive,” “destructive,” “ethically unspecified,” and so on, (but just set it) in a naturally simple state, without grasping at whatever dawns.

(That is) the third point (for enhancing your progress).

The Six Dangerous Gorges and the Three Hindrances

Furthermore, (to enhance your progress, you need to be able to pass safely through the six dangerous gorges where enemies can rear up and ambush you).

  • Suppose that (you had been experiencing) great satisfaction dawning regarding (your ability to control) conceptual thoughts and emotionally disturbing states in your meditation. But then, at one point, your conceptual thoughts became coarse and numerous; you were unable to bring them under control in your meditation and that upset you violently. When (that happens, that is called “the dangerous gorge in which) conceptual thoughts have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the very thoughts themselves and the essential nature of those very thoughts and, without regarding them as faults, think of them with kindness. Having done (that) and having then taken them as the actual matter of your meditation, then since their natural face, parted from mental fabrication, will dawn as Dharmakaya, cultivate (the realization that they are) like that.

  • Suppose that previously whatever disturbing emotion arose, you were able to clean it away with (an intellectually made analysis of) voidness. But then, at one point, a disturbing emotion – longing desire or the likes – arises and you are powerless. (That is called “the dangerous gorge in which) disturbing emotions have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the essential nature of whatever disturbing emotion has arisen. Having done (that) and having then set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), it will purify itself away, automatically in its own place, without (your needing to) get rid of it. Since (the disturbing emotion) will pass into automatically purifying itself away on top of the voidness of its vividly clear aspect – which is, in fact, bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality – cultivate (your practice) like that.

  • Suppose when you had searched for the mind with investigation and scrutiny, then having not found it – having seen that all phenomena cannot be established (as truly and findably existent) – you had been dismissive of everything: what is to be gotten rid of, what is of help, what is constructive, and what is negative. Because of that and because of having taken as the main thing the family-trait of the boon experience of starkness, then, from yourself, others, and everything having passed into a void, you grasped to a voidness in which there was no awareness to do anything. (That is called “the dangerous gorge in which) voidness has reared itself up as an enemy or in which a blackness has spread out.” For that as well, recognize (the essential nature of) that very grasping at voidness itself. Having done that and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), then since (such grasping) will be eliminated, set (your mind) in a state like that.

  • Suppose you were aware of appearances as dependently arising phenomena, but nevertheless clung to them by grasping them, in their (ultimate) voidness, still to be (conventionally) truly existent functional phenomena. Then either you developed claustrophobia or you became paranoid or obsessive about whatever assorted appearances you saw. That absorbed state of unhappiness in that (situation) is called “(the dangerous gorge in which) appearances have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the essential nature of those appearances and of that grasping them to be truly existent functional phenomena. Having done that and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything, such grasping) will be eliminated.

  • Then, suppose, having meditated like that, then even when you develop an (emotional) faith, compassion, and so forth more than others (have), you lose them, in a naturally simple manner, without having purified them in their real nature of mahamudra. From (being in that situation), then, suppose you have developed compassion toward others who do not possess those good qualities and have thought, “Now, if I’ve worked to benefit others, it will be of greater benefit than (doing) this (mahamudra meditation).” From (thinking like that), then engaging yourself in benefiting others, while not accomplishing, but rather casting aside (developing) other good qualities for yourself, (is called “the dangerous gorge in which) compassion has reared itself up as an enemy.” For that as well, recognize that attitude of emotional compassion. From having done that, and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), then by extensively offering prayers in a state of that vividly clear compassion being made clear in its intrinsic nature of mahamudra, you will eliminate it rearing up as an enemy. Then, the dependent arising of benefiting others will operate properly.

  • Further, suppose that, having not ascertained the (mahamudra) view, you asserted, “ From having learned in great detail grammar, logic and so forth, I shall realize the view that is there from the start” and then you discarded meditation. That is called (“the dangerous gorge in which) cause and effect has reared itself up as an enemy.” For that, exert effort in meditation itself on the view and, by cultivating that without hopes or worries, (such danger) will be eliminated.

Practice in that way (in order to enhance your progress).

In addition, no matter which (of the three hindrances) occur – sickness, (harm from) demonic forces, or hindrances to absorbed concentration: namely, the trio mental dullness, flightiness of mind, and foggy-mindedness, and the likes – investigate the individual essential natures of each of them in terms of (it having) a color, shape or the trio: an arising, an enduring, and a passing. Without stopping or establishing (anything), decisively conclude that they cannot be established (as anything) by their intrinsic nature.

Alternatively, do the practice of tong-len, giving and taking, having practiced bringing sickness and (harm from) demons (into your practice) as the four corpuses of a Buddha. (Practice that) without indulging in any hopes or worries whatsoever – worries that sickness will come (to you from others) or hope for benefit (to go from you to others).

Or, for mental dullness, flightiness of mind, and so on, if you become mentally dull in terms of activity, focal object, and so forth, use flightiness of mind as a method (to perk yourself up), and for flightiness of mind, use mental dullness as a method (to calm yourself down). Further, having examined the essential natures of that mental dullness and flightiness of mind, then by setting (your mind on their essential natures), they will be eliminated.

Although there are many (such methods for) eliminating hindrances, I have not written (them all) here for fear that this would become too wordy. Thus, you need to become aware (of them) from the lips of your guru. Moreover, for those of you with the highest capabilities, there are no hindrances to be eliminated, since you will have stable realization of everything as being primordially parted from mental fabrication.

These dangerous gorges, (in which disturbing emotions, conceptual thoughts, and so forth rear up as enemies), occur at the time when you on the stage called “a single taste,” (when you have an accustoming pathway mind – the path of meditation). According to mahamudra, since these (enemies) jump up (at that time because of) the habits of the disturbing emotions and conceptual thoughts hardened on your mental continuum, it is said that that they are (to be taken as) indications (of Nirmanakaya, a corpus of emanations) to be cleaned away in voidness. (However,) according to the general pervasive (teachings, such as those of the Sakya system of) lamdray, the pathway minds and their results, and the like, it is said that (these dangerous gorges) dawn at the time of the complete stage with signs, from the dependent arising of gathering together the minds and the energy-channels, energy-winds, and creative energies, through the force of (the various complete stage practices that are in) the homologous classes with that-and-that disturbing emotion and conceptual thought.

Although there may be many such things – the places for a loss, the dangerous gorges, and the hindrances from sickness, demonic forces, and the hindrances to absorbed concentration – perhaps just this much summarizes (them all). And as for the methods to eliminate (all these) faults, become aware that they as well are similar to those (mentioned here).

These, then, are the stages for eliminating the three points of deviation, the four places for a loss, the five [sic] dangerous gorges, and the three hindrances. Having become aware of the faults (of these) and the benefits (of eliminating them) like that, make an effort and do not mix up what is to be adopted and what is to be discarded.

(Those are) the (fourth and) fifth points (for enhancing your progress).

The Benefits of the Practices and the Stages and Pathway Minds According to Mahamudra

Furthermore, as for the way in which benefits arise (from these mahamudra practices), the benefits of the preliminaries are that they bring about the fulfillment of your own provisional and ultimate aims. That is because they are fitting to be the basis for your (attaining) pathway minds (leading to liberation and Buddhahood) and (better) future rebirths (as their working basis).

Not only that, but by having meditated on the difficulty of obtaining the respites and enrichments (of a precious human body) and on death and impermanence, and by having thought about behavioral cause and effect, having turned your mind away from concern for this life, you gain conviction in (karma) and (thus) the ability to safeguard (your vows of ethical discipline) even at the cost of your life.

By having thought about the shortcomings of samsaric rebirth and, having developed disgust for uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth on the three planes of compulsive existence, having then developed renunciation, the determination to be free, you will thereby wish to attain only a purified state (of liberation).

By having meditated on love, compassion, and the bodhichitta aim, and having thus parted yourself from wishing for your own happiness (alone), you will come to think of only the welfare of (all) limited beings.

By having made effort in the yoga of the hundred-syllable mantra (of Vajrasattva) and (from that,) having had indications of purification of your negative karmic forces occur in actual (waking life) and in dreams, you will thereby (easily) develop boon experiences and stable realizations.

By having made mandala offerings, your body will be blissful, your mind clear, your desires few, and you will gain incalculable positive force.

By having meditated on guru-yoga, your firm conviction (in his or her good qualities) and appreciation (of his or her kindness) will flare up more and more. Absorbed concentration and inspiration will come about (from that) and thus you will effortlessly develop boon experiences and stable realizations. Whether or not you develop the actual fundamental part (of this mahamudra practice, shamatha and vipashyana,) will depend on this (guru-yoga).

As for the actual fundamental part (of the practice), the benefits of shamatha are that you develop faultlessly the boon experiences of bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality. Because of that, your craving will diminish for food and clothing; your (body) will have luster and brilliance; your mind will be flexibly fit; you will gain the five extrasensory eyes, advanced awarenesses, and so on; and your disturbing emotions and conceptual thoughts will be outshined.

As for the benefits of vipashyana, those with the highest capabilities will traverse the levels of bhumi-mind (of arya bodhisattvas) and pathways of mind (that they span) all at once. Those of middling (capabilities) will develop them in a leap-ahead manner some, at one time, all at once and then some in stages. Since those of least (capabilities) develop them in progressive stages, they traverse from the beginner level of mind to the tenth-level bhumi-mind in progressive order.

Further, as for the way they traverse them, it is in accordance with the way in which the four times three, or twelve yogas dawn in them (which is as follows):

  • (In general, with your attainment of a stilled and settled state of shamatha,) you can set your mind, as much as (you wish), in a state of bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality. But, one alternative (that might happen) is that by setting (your mind) in meditation, then sometimes, even in meditation, (these three boon experiences) do not come and sometimes, even not in meditation, they do come. (This stage at which) you have not gained control, to a great extent, over your absorbed concentration is the lesser (stage of) single-pointedness.

  • When (your mind) is securely settled such that it is not harmed by distractions and, whenever you are in meditation, (these three boon experiences) come, you have gained control over your absorbed concentration. (This is) the middling (stage of) single-pointedness.

  • When (the three boon experiences) dawn with no mental wandering even in violent circumstances and with no discontinuity, and when all conceptual thoughts have been stilled in that state, and you are mixed into that state even when sleeping and are never separated from it in all your activities, (this is) the great (stage of) single-pointedness.

(At this point) because you will make around you a constant (mental) environment of the boon experiences, the realization might occur that this occasion is (the stage) of great no further training (in other words, enlightenment). But other than the boon experiences dawning as (if they were) a stable realization, this is not an actual stable realization (of the essential nature of the mind). These (stages of single-pointedness) are (simply) at the time of the building up and applying pathway minds (the so-called paths of accumulation and preparation).

Because you do not quite recognize (the essential nature of) your mind, boon experiences with grasping at (their) voidness are the principal feature of your shamatha. By having cultivated not clinging to the real nature of these boons, these experiences will become purified. All enduring aspects of bliss, clarity and non­conceptuality shatteringly perish (so that this state simultaneously dawns and liberates itself in each moment) and you see the (deepest) truth of their actual nature. In other words, once the three voidnesses – that of bliss, clarity, and nonconceptuality – still into a state of not being objects (conceptually clung to), then that essential nature of pure awareness dawns pristinely, like having peeled away the skin (of a fruit) or having found a treasure. With this, you attain a Mahayana seeing pathway of mind (a path of seeing). It is also called “the stage of being parted from mental fabrication.”

  • When, at this point, you are still not completely separated from the vicinity of the grasping that is clinging to voidness and you have only just slightly seen the essential nature of the mind, (this is) the lesser (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.

  • When you have purified that from its root and, in accordance with your stable realization, normal awareness has become distinct as not being an object (conceptually clung to, this is) the middling (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.

  • When that has become stable, but you are uncomfortable (with this realization of normal awareness) in terms of (external) appearances, though comfortable (with it) in terms of (internal) conceptual thoughts, you need to purify that. By having done that and thus having gained the stable realization that everything is void, without there being even one among all phenomena that is not void, then when you have thereby cut (all) interpolation concerning the voidness of all phenomena, external and internal, (this is) the great (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.

During subsequent attainment periods of these (three stages of being parted from mental fabrication, external) appearances dawn as illusions. You have stable realization of the intrinsic nature of bodhichitta. Having rid yourself of the eighty-two factors that a seeing pathway of mind gets rid of, you do not take rebirth and (then, after living a lifetime,) turn away from (any of the three planes) of uncontrollably recurring samsara and their (four stages of) compulsive existence (birth, pre-death, death, and the bardo in-between state), except by the power of aspiration prayers (to do so in order to help others). Because of that, it is called “the attainment of a first-level bhumi mind, ‘extremely joyous,’ or a pathway mind of seeing.” By having cultivated that very state for a long time, you will fly up to (the stage of) a single taste.

At that (former stage, being parted from mental fabrication), you were comfortable (with the realization of normal awareness) in terms of all phenomena being one with respect to their not being established by their self-nature or their lack (of being truly void), but you were still a little uncomfortable (with it) in terms of whatever undiminished, fresh and clean conceptual thoughts that dawn. By having purified that, (now) whatever dawns, fresh and clean, is, by itself, sufficient (for gaining stable realization of normal awareness), regardless of whether or not you are able to part it from the mental fabrication of it being neither (truly) void nor (truly) not void.

  • When you have the stable realization that, whether atop appearances or voidness, whichever one, on each, all phenomena of the pathway minds, as many as there might be, are complete in terms of having the single taste of the essential nature that you have stably realized as the (ultimate) Dharma, (this is) the lesser (stage of) the single taste.

  • Since at that (lesser stage) experienced (objects) were still mixed as one of a pair with decisive awareness (of their essential nature, now) by having purified that, everything mixes into one in terms of its purity in its actual nature – (such seeming pairs as) appearances as external material objects without exception and mind as internal knowings without exception, specific awareness and deep awareness, and so forth. Therefore, in short, when compulsive existence and the tranquil peace (of nirvana) dawn, straight as an arrow, as equal; (in other words, when) uncontrollably recurring samsara and released (nirvana dawn, straight as an arrow,) as inseparable, (this is) the middling (stage of) the single taste.

  • When the multiplicity (of all phenomena) dawn as being of a single taste and then, from that, dependently arising appearances diffuse (in accord with) being skillful in means, then, with the single taste dawning as multiplicity, (this is) the great (stage of) the single taste.

(Now) you have attained patience for (all) phenomena as they have no (true) arising. (These three stages of the single taste) cover the interval between the second- and seventh-level bhumi minds. Some explain that (they include) up to the eighth as well.

At that (former stage, the single taste), your total absorptions and subsequent attainments were mixed (in a single taste). However, there were still (some) taints of grasping at voidness during subsequent attainment periods. By having purified that, everything is purified in the sphere of reality, dharmadhatu, without even the slightest difference between what is to be attained and the one attaining it, and between meandering and non-meandering (from this realization) during total absorption and subsequent attainment periods.

  • When you are parted from all signs of (a dualism of) what is to be meditated upon and the one meditating upon it, (this is) the lesser (stage of) no further meditation and the eighth-level bhumi mind.

  • Since at that (lesser stage) it was sometimes (still) possible for a slightly grasping (consciousness) to occur, (now) by having purified that, when (all) becomes one in the great total absorption of deep awareness, (this is) the middling (stage of) no further meditation, the ninth- and tenth-level bhumi minds.

  • After that, when the sword of discriminating deep awareness slashes off the cognitive obscurations together with the dormant factors, then the mother clear light, which is the totally pure sphere of reality, and the child clear light, which is mirror-like deep awareness, become mixed into one. (This) unified pair with no further training, (this) manifestation of the enlightened state of a Buddha, is the great (stage of) no further meditation, the bhumi-stage mind of a Buddha.

In other words, by having progressed through eighth-, ninth-, tenth-, and (this) eleventh-level bhumi minds, the natural purity of primordial simultaneously arising (mirror-like deep awareness and the sphere of reality) that you have enlighteningly rendered manifest is a Dharmakaya, a Corpus Encompassing Everything. The natural purity of conceptual thoughts, which is the mind of limited beings, that you have made manifest is a Sambhogakaya, a Corpus of Full Use. The natural purity of seemingly (external) appearances as objects under the influence of circumstances, that you have made manifest, is a Nirmanakaya, a Corpus of Emanations. And, with (these) three or a limitless number of Buddha Bodies, then – through their enlightening influence to benefit others, beyond imagination, effortlessly and without conceptual thought – effortlessly bringing about, throughout the bounds of space, benefit to wandering beings until uncontrollably recurring samsara has been emptied out, (this) is the ultimate good quality (that you make manifest).

Since (that is the case), therefore if you exert effort to foster the good qualities, one after the next, from the preliminaries up to (the stage of) no further meditation and not to let those already developed degenerate but rather (for them) to increase further, (all) those good qualities will come about. Therefore, enhance your enthusiasm in accord with that and practice.

(That is) the sixth point (for enhancing your progress).

Concluding Definitions

Therefore, mind-itself as an intrinsic part of yourself – except for merely whether you realize or not that it has double purity, ultimately and deeply, from the start – is called the “accordant nature” or “mahamudra.”

  • That which you have as an intrinsic part of yourself is (called) “basis-time (mahamudra).”

  • Mind-itself, during the interval from having entered from that (basis) into meditation on the pathway minds up to a tenth-level bhumi mind is (called) “path-time (mahamudra).”

  • That which has been awakened from the slumber of unawareness and which has manifested its totally perfect deepest (truth) is called “resultant-time mahamudra.”

(As for the mahamudra view, meditation, behavior, and result:)

  • To examine (and behold) the totally perfect abiding nature and be parted from all (dualistic notions of objects) to be grasped and (awarenesses) that grasp (them) is the (mahamudra) view.

  • To meditate, without meandering, on the deepest point of that (view) is the (mahamudra) meditation.

  • To cultivate whichever of the four activities is appropriate and be parted from all (dualistic notions of) something to be done and someone to do it is the (mahamudra) behavior.

  • To be parted from all (dualistic notions of) something to be meditated upon and someone to meditate, with (the implicit) expectations and worries (that come with them), such as worrying about falling down into samsara, wishing to rise up to attain Buddhahood and so on, is the (mahamudra) result.

When you have made yourself aware of what are, in fact, the deepest points concerning the (mahamudra) view, meditation, behavior, and result in accord with that; then enhance your perseverance.

Have firm conviction in and appreciation for your guru, with your trust placed totally in him or her. Turn away from clinging by parting yourself from clinging to uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth and this life. Rely at all times on being mindful not to meander (from the mahamudra practice). With your inessential plans kept (merely) short-term and few and (executed straight up and down like) a bellows, then when such attitudes arise as concern for the eight transitory things in life, conceptual thoughts about this life, concern about saving face, and so on, flatten these bumps. Having done that, forcefully cut the rope that binds you to your selfish concern for this life. In other words, you need to make effort to cultivate at all times what you have developed in meditation, without passing into a state of unconcern.

Although there are many differences between a boon experience and a stable realization, nevertheless (in general):

  • if for the meditator there is his or her own mind (on the one side) and (on the other) the meditation with bliss, clarity, nonconceptuality, and starkness being meditated or being experienced, (it is) a boon experience.
  • If you realize with bare cognition, not (just) a presumptive understanding, that there is no duality of meditator and meditation, (this is) a stable realization.

Therefore, having differen­tiated between what are in fact boon experiences and stable realizations, then in a state of not having entered into clinging to those (boon experiences) and holding them as supreme, cultivate them with effort at all times – (this) is important.

Concerning that, of the four seals:

  • The seal of behavior, karmamudra, is a pathway mind for those of duller wits. (Through it) you achieve the actual attainments of the plane of sensory desires.

  • The seal of close bonds, samayamudra, and the seal of Dharma, dharmamudra, are the pathway minds for those of middling wits. (Through them) you achieve the final actual attainments of the State Beneath Nothing Else, Akanistha (the highest state of samsara).

  • The great seal, mahamudra, is the pathway mind for those of sharpest wits. It is the method for achieving the supreme actual attainment (of enlightenment).

Inseparable appearance/voidness, bliss/voidness, knowing/voidness, clarity-making/voidness, parted from all mental fabrication, cannot be indicated by a guru and cannot be intellectually understood by a disciple. It cannot be made intelligible with words, being parted from all (notions that) it is “this” and not “that.” Yet there isn’t any phenomenon that great blissful awareness, as something that can be experienced, but not identified, does not pervade in the world of appearances, samsara and nirvana.

It is a great state beyond the intellect, yet, although the trio: mind, conceptual thought, and Dharmakaya, have abided simultaneously from the start, yet because that is not realized, now it is indicated with guideline instructions by the gurus as something that has been blended into one as an inseparable unified triad. Since that is the case, it is called “mahamudra simultaneously arising as merged.”

From the lineage that has passed from Vajradhara to Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa (Mi-la Ras-pa), and Gampopa (sGam-po-pa), the lineage of meditation methods and so on deriving from (direct disciples) of Gampopa are:

  • Zhang (Zhang) mahamudra,

  • Barom (‘ Ba’-rom) mahamudra.

Those deriving from the lineage of (Gampopa’s disciple) Pagmo-drupa (Phag-mo gru-pa, Pagmo-drupa) are:

  • Drigung (‘ Bri-khung) Kagyu mahamudra,

  • Taglung (sTag-lung) Kagyu mahamudra,

  • Chen-nga (sPyan-snga) Kagyu,

  • Mar-yey (dMar-ye) Kagyu

  • Shugseywa (Shug-se-ba) Kagyu,

  • Tropu (Khro-phu) Kagyu,

  • Yangzang (g.Yang-bzang) Kagyu,

  • Drugpa (‘ Brug-pa) Kagyu, through the lineage of Ling-raypa (Gling Ras-pa), Gya-raypa (rGya Ras-pa), and so on.

But in particular there is the especially distinguished Karma Kamtsang (Kar-ma kam-tshang) mahamudra, which has the undissipated warmth of inspiration from the unbroken lineage deriving from Gampopa through (his direct disciple, the First Karmapa) Dusum-kyenpa (Dus-gsum mkhyen-pa) down to my guru, the omniscient (Fifth Zhamar Rinpoche) Konchog-yan-lag (Zhva-dmar dKon-mchog yan-lag), as well as the undissipated warm moisture of the breath of the dakinis. Since (this tradition) known as “mahamudra simultaneously arisen as merged” has a lineage that mixes into one the transmissions of all the mahamudra (lineages) that have spread out in multitude and is the source of all good qualities, it is famed in the world like the sun and the moon. Therefore, since, if you have practiced it like pressing a rock against a broken bone to set it, it is decided for sure that you will develop boon experiences and stable realizations, without the power (to hold them back), practice like that.

(That is) the seventh point (for enhancing your progress).

Author’s Colophon

Samdey Lama Samten-kunga (bSam-sde Bla-ma bSam-gtan kun-dga’) has insistently entreated me with these words, “Please indicate (the mahamudra teachings) here by taking as the main thing getting to know, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind), pointing a finger directly at the practice, without doing anything (further) such as quoting scriptural sources and the like.” Because of that, then although I have no experience myself, I Mipam-chowang (Mi-pham chos-dbang) or Vajreshvara (the Ninth Karmapa Wangchug dorjey, Karma-pa dBang-phyug rdo-rje), have dutifully written this during my meditation sessions at Zhoka-or House (Zho-kha ‘or-gyi khang-pa) in accordance with the words of the previous gurus. It has twenty, twenty-two, or twenty-five meditation topics.

By the positive force of this, may I and all other motherly limited beings, by having turned sincerely away from clinging to the desirable objects of the senses, see the essential nature of the mind.

Shubham astu sarvajagatam, may all the world be pure.