The ''Uttaratantra'' and Mahāmudrā
Brunnhölzl, Karl. "The Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā." In When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra, 151–282. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, 2014.
As stated before, texts such as CMW, those by Mönlam Tsültrim, GC, the Eighth Karmapa’s Lamp, and GISM all establish connections between the Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā. Such connections are also found in a number of Indian and Tibetan Mahāmudrā works. Usually, these connections are made in the wider context of the Mahāmudrā approaches that came to be called "sūtra Mahāmudrā" or "essence Mahāmudrā" (the Mahāmudrā approach that is beyond "sūtra Mahāmudrā" and "tantra Mahāmudrā"). In order to provide some background against which the Uttaratantra-based Mahāmudrā instructions in the above texts can be appreciated more fully, I will next present an overview of the key elements of the different approaches to Mahāmudrā, their origins, their scriptural sources, and the different ways in which they are taught.
Sūtra Mahāmudrā, Tantra Mahāmudrā, and Essence Mahāmudrā
TOK’s explanation of the stages of the path of Mahāmudrā, which relies in significant parts on Gö Lotsāwa’s BA and GC, is the most systematic presentation of the three approaches to Mahāmudrā that are traceable since the time of Maitrīpa and came to be called "sūtra Mahāmudrā," "tantra Mahāmudrā," and "essence Mahāmudrā" from the time of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé (1813–1899) onward. Therefore, TOK’s discussion is presented here first as an overview of these three approaches. TOK begins by dividing Mahāmudrā into its two main approaches of sūtra and tantra:
Since this widely renowned "Incomparable Tagpo Kagyü" is not merely a lineage of words, it is called "the ultimate lineage of true reality." The meaning of this is that it is an unbroken lineage of the realization of stainless Mahāmudrā. Therefore, this practice lineage has not deteriorated right up to the present [in that it is alive] in the root guru from whom one obtains the realization of Mahāmudrā. Thus, Mahāmudrā— the instruction that is greatly renowned in this precious lineage—is known as two [systems]. In the one that accords with the sūtra system, one rests in meditative equipoise through being instructed that the subject does not mentally engage in the object—luminosity free from reference points. The mantra system is the Connate Union Mahāmudrā of bliss and emptiness in unison, which is made special through the wisdom that arises from empowerment and through striking the vital points in the vajra body.
Then TOK explains the origins of sūtra Mahāmudrā, the crucial roles of Maitrīpa and Gampopa in its development, and its being squarely based on the Uttaratantra:
In the teachings of Tagpo Rinpoche, it is said:
The text for this Mahāmudrā of ours is the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra composed by the Bhagavān Maitreya.
After the mighty lord Maitrīpa had obtained the instructions of the great Brahman [Saraha] and his successors, he composed pith instructions on prajñāpāramitā that accord with mantra, such as the Tattvadaśaka. Having heard them, lord Marpa said:
The heart of the matter of the ultimate yāna,
Mental nonengagement free from extremes,
Shall be pointed out as the dharma that is Mahāmudrā.
This is the scriptural system asserted by lord Maitrīpa.
Also Milarepa said:
Right now in the gap between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa,
The basic nature being pointed out is Mahāmudrā.
Please determine the view that is the ground.
The meaning of [all] these [statements] is as follows. The manner of the view and meditation of this [sūtra Mahāmudrā is stated in the Uttaratantra]:
There is nothing to be removed in this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is viewed as it really is—
If actual reality is seen, one is liberated.
The Uttaratantra continues:
The basic element is empty of what is adventitious,
Which has the characteristic of being separable.
It is not empty of the unsurpassable attributes,
Which have the characteristic of being inseparable.
Therefore, in this luminous nature of the mind, there are no stains to be removed because its nature is primordially without stains. Nor are there the slightest previously nonexistent qualities to be produced and added because its essence consists of intrinsic qualities since the beginning. As for the reasons for this, the basic element is empty of the fabricated and adventitious stains that have the characteristic of being suitable to be separated from the [tathāgata] heart. The basic element is not empty of the unsurpassable attributes—the buddha qualities (such as the ten powers)—whose nature is unfabricated and that have the characteristic of being inseparable [from it].
For example, this is as in the case when a [white] conch appears to be yellow due to a bile disease; the conch is empty of being yellow but is not empty of being white. Therefore, both the wish to remove stains and the wish to add qualities are obscurations due to thoughts of hope and fear. Hence, having relinquished these [wishes], through personally experienced prajñā, one should view and familiarize with just this actual true reality—the present ordinary mind (appearance and emptiness inseparable, free from being real or delusive)—as being precisely that, without contriving it or tampering with it through adopting and rejecting. "Viewing" refers to knowing and viewing through prajñā. "Familiarizing" refers to resting right within that [true reality] in a one-pointed manner without being distracted. This way of being is [also] stated and clarified by venerable Rangjung [Dorje]:
All is neither real nor delusive—
Held to be like [a reflection of] the moon in water by the
Just this ordinary mind
Is called "dharmadhātu" and "heart of the victors."
Therefore, glorious Kachö [Wangpo] says:
This sheer lucid awareness that appears at the present time
Is the own essence of phenomena—seeming reality.
If you understand it as the uncontrived essential point just as
Ultimate reality is also nothing but this.
The two realities of those dealing with the conventions of texts
Abound with scriptures and reasonings, but they do not
understand the essential point.
Through taking the two to be different, they deviate from
Thus, seeming reality consists of the adventitious stains, which resemble [the appearance of] yellow based on a [white] conch. Ultimate reality is the tathāgata heart, which resembles the white of that conch. [However,] these are only mere appearances from the perspective of mistakenness (the subject), whereas there is no yellow or white to be removed or added in terms of the conch [itself] (the object). Therefore, the pith instruction [here] is to rest naturally settled in an uncontrived manner.
In brief, what are called "saṃsāra" and "nirvāṇa" are [only] presented from the perspective of mere seeming appearances, while the nature of both of them, which is free from reference points and is luminous, is called "sugata heart." Hence, in terms of the definitive meaning, mere appearances and their nature cannot be distinguished individually, just like a fire and its heat. For this reason, also the Mother says:
Form is empty. Emptiness is form. . . .
Venerable Rangjung [Dorje] states:
The basic nature free from reference points, Mahāmudrā
Is empty of all characteristics of the reference points of
This pure nature, lucid and yet without grasping,
Is also called "the tathāgata heart."
Next, TOK defends the approach of sūtra Mahāmudrā against the common claim of Mahāmudrā’s not being found in the sūtras, while any genuine form of Mahāmudrā must be based on tantric empowerments. TOK rejects this critique, which was first leveled by Sakya Paṇḍita, through referring to two Indian sources that speak about Mahāmudrā in relation to the approach of the sūtras. In addition, the text refers to two of Atiśa’s works and other Kadampa teachings as being major sources of sūtra Mahāmudrā besides the tradition of Maitrīpa and the Uttaratantra mentioned above.
About this, the dharma lord Sakya Paṇḍita asserted that the conventional term "Mahāmudrā" is absent in the prajñāpāramitā system and that the wisdom of Mahāmudrā arises solely from empowerments. Following that, [some] great ones uttered a lot of meaningless chatter, but in the Tattvāvatāra composed by master Jñānakīrti, it says:
Another name of Mother Prajñāpāramitā is Mahāmudrā because it is the very nature of nondual wisdom.
Thus, he not only explains that the prajñāpāramitā taught in the sūtras and the Mahāmudrā of mantra are synonyms, but he also explains these conventional terms:
As for those of highest capacities among the persons who exert themselves in the pāramitās, when they perform the meditations of calm abiding and superior insight, even at the stage of ordinary beings, this grants them the true realization characterized by having its origin in Mahāmudrā. Thus, this is the sign of irreversible [realization] . . . 
Sahajavajra also explains this in a similar way, which will be found below. That Tagpo Rinpoche gave rise to the realization of Mahāmudrā even in beginners who had not obtained empowerment is [precisely] this system of pāramitā [Mahāmudrā]. It consists primarily of instructions that come from the Kadampas. The Pith Instructions on the Two Armors of Connate Union Mahāmudrā, composed by lord [Atiśa] and this present tradition accord in all respects, and even the progression of the four yogas [of Mahāmudrā] is clearly taught in that [text]. Thus, it is said that [Gampopa] guided the majority in his assembly [of students] through the stages of the path that come from the Kadam [tradition], while he guided the extraordinary [students] through the path of means that comes from guru Milarepa. Among these [two approaches, sūtra Mahāmudrā] represents the meaning of the former [approach]. With this in mind, lord Mikyö Dorje says:
Those in whom the fully qualified exemplifying and actual wisdoms have not been revealed through the three higher empowerments do not possess the fully qualified siddhi of Mahāmudrā of the teaching lineage of great Nāropa as transmitted from great Vajradhara. Nowadays, from the perspective of those who are to be guided in this degenerate age and are fond of very high yānas, venerable Gampopa and the protector Pamo Trupa applied the name "Connate Union Mahāmudrā" to the system of guidance through calm abiding and superior insight that is in common with the causal yāna of the pāramitās—the pith instructions of the Bodhipathapradīpa transmitted by the protector Atiśa.
Nevertheless, in the approach to practice of most heart sons of Tagpo [Rinpoche], the instructions on Mahāmudrā are taught in such a way that they are preceded by conferring an empowerment. Thus, they hold [Mahāmudrā] to be the approach that is common to sūtra and mantra.
TOK also divides Mahāmudrā into the three approaches of sūtra Mahāmudrā, tantra Mahāmudrā, and essence Mahāmudrā. Here, sūtra Mahāmudrā is explained in terms of ground, path, and fruition, which entail its view, meditation, and conduct.
The essence of the first is prajñāpāramitā, its name is
And its aspects are in accordance with mantra.
The first of these three traditions is the sūtra tradition or this [tradition] that later came to be held as the Mahāmudrā of blending the realizations of sūtra and mantra. It corresponds to what the Tattvadaśakaṭīkā composed by master Sahajavajra clearly explains as the wisdom that realizes suchness and has the three features of its essence’s being pāramitā, being in accordance with mantra, and its name being "Mahāmudrā."
- 1. Teaching ground Mahāmudrā, the basic nature that is the
- fundamental ground of [all] entities
- This has three parts:
- 1. The actual way of being
- 2. The way of being mistaken
- 3. Pointing out the own essence of the way it is
- 1.1. The actual way of being
The ground is the basic nature without bias, free from
extremes of reference points,
Never mistaken or liberated, and all-pervasive like space.
The ground, the basic nature that is the fundamental ground of [all] entities, is not established as the essence of either saṃsāra or nirvāṇa, does not exhibit any bias in any direction whatsoever, and is free from all extremes of reference points (such as existence, nonexistence, permanence, and extinction). Therefore, it is beyond being an object of speech, thought, and expression and is primordially never bound through mistakenness or liberated through being realized. Due to the essential point of its not being established as any specifically characterized phenomenon whatsoever, it pervades all phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa like space. This basic nature is taught in the sūtras and tantras through many synonyms, such as Mahāmudrā, prajñāpāramitā, sugata heart, primordial buddha, and causal tantra. This nonduality of profundity and lucidity—ultimate reality, the pure basis of purification, and the very essence of the mind—that has been explained already and will be explained [further] represents the basic nature of [all] that is to be known.
- 1.2. The way of being mistaken
The way of being mistaken is to appear but be without
Through the creative display of this naturally pure luminosity, the vajra of mind, not being aware of its own essence, the [afflicted] mind stirs from the ālaya. Through the power of that, basic awareness is taken as a self and its own appearances as objects, that is, as subject and object’s being different. Under the sway of these dualistic appearances, all kinds of karmas and latent tendencies are accumulated and thus [beings] wander in saṃsāra without end in the form of an endless loop of mistakenness. As for the way of being mistaken, since seeming reality—the adventitious stains that are to be purified—is not present within the fundamental ground, it appears but is not established as being real. Therefore, one is able to become liberated through the remedy of [basic awareness] recognizing its own face.
- 1.3. Pointing out the own essence of the way it is
This mere appearance itself,
In its triad of arising, abiding, and ceasing, is the great play of
the three kāyas.
All of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa arises from the play of the mind. Through the power of this very [play] naturally abiding as the union of lucidity and emptiness, this mere appearance itself is the great play of the three kāyas free from the triad of arising, abiding, and ceasing. Its unborn fundamental ground is the dharmakāya, its unceasing radiance is the sambhogakāya, and its creative display arising as anything whatsoever is the nirmāṇakāya. Through recognizing the own essence of the way it is— that these three are all spontaneously present primordially as being inseparable in essence—all phenomena are free from affirming, negating, adopting, and rejecting in that they [simply] are the wheel of the natural state, suchness, the infinite expanse. This is the recognition of the own essence of the view of Mahāmudrā—the basic nature that is the ground.
- 2. Teaching path Mahāmudrā, the manner of progressing through the paths and bhūmis through self-arisen calm abiding and superior insight
- This has three parts:
- 1. Teaching the samādhi of making this a living experience
- 2. Cutting off the treacherous paths of strayings and deviations
- 3. Describing the manner in which the stages of the four yogas arise
- 2.1. Teaching the samādhi of making this a living experience
At the time of the path, connate mind as such is the
And connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya.
This is the natural state without being distracted, without
meditating, and without fabrication.
To engage in the actuality that was determined through the view in yoga at the time of the path is called "meditation Mahāmudrā." This is presented by the great system founders of this tradition as follows. (1) What makes the meditation that has not arisen arise is the training in the four preliminaries. (2) What makes [the meditation] that has arisen into the path is the threefold pointing-out instruction. (3) [Finally, there is] the manner of enhancing this and giving rise to qualities.
(1) One trains in the stages of the path common to Kadampa and Mahāmudrā—the four [reflections] that turn the mind away [from saṃsāra]—as well as [taking] refuge, [giving rise to] bodhicitta, accumulation [of merit], purification [of obscurations], and guru yoga until the signs [of accomplishment] come forth. In that way, one should make the mind turn into the dharma and the dharma into the path.
(2) The Tantra of Inconceivable Connateness [says]:
Connate mind as such is the dharmakāya.
[Connate thoughts are the display of the dharmakāya.]
Connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya.
The inseparability of appearances and mind is the connate.
There arose limitless vajra discourses of the mighty lords of accomplishment commenting on the meaning of this [quote]. Accordingly, it is held that [all Mahāmudrā pointing-out instructions] are subsumed under pointing-out the threefold connate. Among these, (a) natural connate mind as such is the dharmakāya. The pointing-out of this has two parts–calm abiding and superior insight. Calm abiding has two parts: with support and without support. Superior insight has three parts: revealing the essence, identifying it, and pointing it out. Through this, the path dispels delusion. (b) As for connate thoughts, mind’s very own display, through the triad of [working with] stillness and movement, back-to-back thoughts, and cutting through self-clinging at its root, the hosts of thoughts blend into the dharmakāya. (c) As for pointing out that mind’s own radiance—connate appearances—is the dharmakāya’s own light, one thoroughly examines the self-appearances of the uncontrived mind and the mistaken appearances of the clinging mind and realizes them to be the play of the native state that is the nature of phenomena. Through that, one makes delusion dawn as wisdom.
(3) Revulsion is the foot of meditation. Devotion is the head of meditation. Mindfulness is the actual meditation. Without being separated from these three, the stages that arise from [skill in] means give rise to qualities during the enhancement [of one’s practice].
If the samādhi that is the meditative equipoise of this approach is summarized briefly, it is embodied by the following three: resting freshly without being distracted, resting loosely without meditating, and resting in the self-lucid natural state without fabrication. Through these ways of resting, all the discursiveness of thoughts of the three times is self-liberated and is at peace in the nature of phenomena. This is the meaning of the three doors to liberation.
- 2.2. Cutting off the treacherous paths of strayings and deviations
One is liberated from the four cases of deviation and the three
cases of straying.
When one meditates in this way, one is liberated from [the following]. To cling to all phenomena as being empty is to deviate [from emptiness as] the fundamental ground. When one has gained a little bit of understanding and experience of emptiness, to be satisfied with just that much and thus discontinue accumulation and purification is to deviate from emptiness [by mistaking it] as the path. To take emptiness as the path and then hope for a result at a later time is to deviate [from emptiness by mistaking it as] a remedy, without understanding that [all] factors to be relinquished and their remedies are inseparable. [One can also] deviate [from emptiness] in the form of sealing appearances with emptiness in a mentally fabricated manner. These are the four cases of deviation in relation to superior insight.
If one clings to the three [experiences] of bliss, clarity, and nonthought, they become cases of straying [from the path] and circling in the corresponding ones among the three realms of saṃsāra. These are the three cases of straying in relation to calm abiding.
- 2.3. Describing the manner in which the stages of the four yogas arise
Beyond the four joys and the three conditions, one makes the
Through three ways of arising and traverses the stages of the
Since the four joys represent [only] the example wisdoms, what lies beyond them is the actual wisdom. Since the three conditions of bliss, clarity, and nonthought are [merely] experiences, what lies beyond them is realization’s own true face. Furthermore, [Mahāmudrā meditation] is beyond being the objects of the three [kinds of] prajñā—the objects understood through study, the experiences through reflection, and the experiential appearances through meditation. Through arriving at the essential point of meditation’s being untouched by any mental states of the three great ones, one makes the connection through three ways of arising (gradual arising, in leaps, and all at once) and thus will effortlessly traverse the inner paths and bhūmis through the four stages of yoga (one-pointedness, freedom from reference points, one taste, and nonmeditation), each of which is divided into lesser, medium, and great, thus making twelve.
As for these four stages of yoga, in The Tantra of [the Great River of] the Inconceivable Secret of Āli Kāli, we find:
Through the samādhi of the lion’s sport,
Unmoving, one-pointed, and clear cognition becomes lucid,
And self-aware wisdom is awakened from within.
Stable, poised readiness relinquishes the suffering of the lower
Second, through the illusion-like samādhi,
In the great meditative equipoise free from reference points,
The inconceivable dawns as the display of samādhi.
Having attained heat represents power over birth.
Third, through the samādhi of heroic stride,
The realization of the one taste of the many on the ten bhūmis
And the children of the buddhas of the three times promote
the welfare of others.
Having attained the peak, increase is uninterrupted.
Fourth, through the vajra-like samādhi,
Due to effort in the practice of nonmeditation,
[All-]knowing wisdom sees the buddha realms.
This is the state of the spontaneously present great supreme
dharma without seeking.
With the same intention, [the four yogas] are also taught in detail in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, and their meaning, which was clearly explained by the great masters Padmasambhava, [Ratnākara]śānti, Nāropa, and others, was elaborated greatly by the protector Daö Shönnu. . . . If the meaning of the various ways of explaining [the four yogas through] these and other presentations is summarized, it corresponds to what the Omniscient Chennga Chökyi Tragpa says:
As for the four yogas in this context, according to the tradition of guidance in the Mahāmudrā of the mantra system, they are explained as the very wisdom of Mahāmudrā that represents the essence of the four joys of descending from above and stabilizing from below. In terms of the tradition of guidance that is common to sūtra and mantra, they represent the ways in which the experiences of Mahāmudrā that are in accordance with these four joys arise.
- 3. Fruition Mahāmudrā, the manner of stainless ultimate buddhahood’s becoming manifest
Understanding the view and making it a living experience
Realization reaches its culmination and the fruition is attained
The view of the basic nature that is the ground is that both appearances and mind abide intrinsically as the three kāyas. Through cutting through doubts about the actuality of this [view] and pointing it out, one understands this actuality without error. Through the meditation of naturally settling the mind without contrivance right within this basic nature, one makes this actuality a living experience. This is enhanced through the conduct of the automatic and unceasing arising of the union of emptiness and compassion, through which the realization of the very nature of the basic nature’s manifesting reaches its culmination. This is the fruition—buddha is found within the mind. Through meeting the own face of the three kāyas, dharmakāya Mahāmudrā is no [longer] an aspiration for a later time but is attained right now.
As for these stages of the path [of Mahāmudrā], in accordance with Tagpo Rinpoche’s dream visions and Milarepa’s prophecies, [Tagpo Rinpoche] said, "I can benefit many beings through this Kadampa dharma too" and "Even the slightest benefit I have accomplished for sentient beings now represents [nothing but] the kindness of the Kadampa gurus." Also, he [once] dreamt that, through him beating a drum, many deer [came to] listen and he distributed milk to them. All this and more represents the meaning of this approach of guidance. For the meaning of these [statements and dreams] is that, due to having reached the time when the degenerations are rampant, those who have the extraordinary good fortune [of being suitable for] the vajrayāna have become very few. However, by virtue of [initially] guiding those to be guided who have duller faculties and are of lesser fortune through the stages of the path of the three [types of] individuals, they finally evolve into [disciples] of supreme fortune and thus become extraordinary vessels for the mantra [approach]. That is, they attain liberation in a single lifetime or, even if not, many of them will see the actuality of Mahāmudrā through this method and thus will be established on the irreversible path. This is the intention behind [all] of this.
Therefore, beginning with venerable [Gampopa] himself up through the present, there has been the practice system of guiding everyone to be guided, be they of greater or lesser fortune, without discrimination through this approach of guidance. In addition to this, the fortunate are taught the profound path of means of the mantra [system], and at that time these [instructions here] are given the names "instructions at the time of the cause" or "basic guidance." On this point, the great venerable one from Jonang says:
Nowadays what is known as the Mahāmudrā that is the basic
Is a progression of meditation in the sūtra system of the final
By virtue of the progression of faculties, it [also] conforms with
And therefore becomes like a lamp for beings.
It corresponds to the three appearances of the followers of the
Path with the Result and so on.
As for tantra Mahāmudrā ("the Mahāmudrā of great bliss"), TOK says that it comes from the Yogānuttara class of tantra, being based on the path of means, such as the highest empowerment, self-blessing, and the stages of mudrā. Thus, tantra Mahāmudrā is realized through practicing methods such as the Six Dharmas of Nāropa. In particular, the ultimate view and realization in the Uttaratantra, the vajrayāna, and Madhyamaka are said to be necessarily the same:
The meaning [of these instruction] is summarized in [the phrase] "Seize luminosity within appearances." When the thoughts of clinging to appearances as being [real] entities have become pure through one’s being skilled in this method, all appearances become empty forms. However, the empty forms such as smoke . . . are merely signs and indications on the path of means that makes one realize this very basic nature that was not realized [before]. The actual ultimate object to be realized is definitely that just these ordinary present appearances are empty forms in every respect. Therefore, both [the teaching] in the Uttaratantra that there is nothing to be removed from, and nothing to be added to, the tathāgata heart and the teaching on the manner of familiarizing with the Mahāmudrā of the inseparability of appearance and emptiness in the mantra [system] must be the same as the basic nature of the view that is Madhyamaka. The eighth lord [Mikyö Dorje] and his successors hold that the Madhyamaka view is nothing but this:
Neither existent, nor nonexistent, [nor] neither
existent nor nonexistent,
Nor having the character of both—
Being liberated from the four extremes
Is what is realized by Mādhyamikas.
As for essence Mahāmudrā, TOK explains that the path of realizing the profound essence with sudden force is more profound than both sūtra and tantra Mahāmudrā. Merely through the descending of the blessings of the vajra wisdom empowerment conferred by gurus with realization upon fortunate students of the very sharpest faculties, ordinary mind is awakened in the middle of their hearts and thus realization and liberation become simultaneous. Therefore, since this path does not depend on elaborate means and efforts in training, it is nothing but the direct appearance of the liberating life examples of the siddhas of the Kagyü lineage’s reaching infinitely great levels of realization in an immediate manner.
As already mentioned, at the time of Tagpo Dashi Namgyal (1512– 1587), in practice, Mahāmudrā in the Kagyü tradition is often explained and practiced as a blend of sūtra, tantra, and essence Mahāmudrā. Among the major Karma Kagyü Mahāmudrā works, Tagpo Dashi Namgyal’s Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā is considered to be a sūtra Mahāmudrā text; the works on the Six Dharmas of Nāropa and the Hevajratantra, tantra Mahāmudrā texts; and the Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning, an essence Mahāmudrā text.
The Sūtra Sources of Mahāmudrā
To provide scriptural support for the approach of sūtra Mahāmudrā, the Kagyü tradition lists a number of sūtras and nontantric Indian treatises (for the latter, see below). Within the Tibetan tradition, Gampopa is unanimously considered to be a reincarnation of Candraprabhakumāra, the bodhisattva who was the main interlocutor of the Buddha in the Samādhirājasūtra and who stepped forward as the only volunteer to preserve and propagate its teachings in the age of degeneration (that is, our present times). The Buddha promised to help him do that and is said to have been reborn eventually as Gampopa’s student Pamo Trupa. Thus, the Kagyü School regards the Samādhirājasūtra as one of the main foundations of Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā approach (this approach is sometimes also referred to as the hidden or secret path of the sūtras since the actual method of Mahāmudrā meditation is hidden in the sūtra teachings). In addition, the Samādhirājasūtra is the main sūtra source quoted and referred to in one of the key Indian texts of Kagyü Mahāmudrā, the Tattvadaśakaṭīkā by Sahajavajra, one of the four main students of Maitrīpa.
According to BA, the famous Kadampa master Potowa Rinchen Sal (1027–1105), one of the main students of Dromtönpa Gyalwé Jungné (1005–1064), agreed on the connection between the Samādhirājasūtra and Mahāmudrā, saying:
There is something that is called Mahāmudrā at present, which is the meaning of the Samādhirājasūtra. We should neither put it down nor engage in it.
However, this statement in all likelihood did not refer to Gampopa because the latter only began teaching at Gampo in 1121, having stayed in meditation retreat before then. It may have referred to Maitrīpa’s Mahāmudrā and the dohā tradition spread by his student Vajrapāṇi during the 1070s in Tibet.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the present tutor of the seventeenth Karmapa, says that the Samādhirājasūtra is related to Mahāmudrā through its actual intent rather than through its literal meaning, and that
when the great master Gampopa . . . expounded the Mahamudra system he only used this sūtra. We can find clear statements to this effect in his life story, as well as in many of his songs and teachings. . . . Accordingly, from the time of Gampopa . . . until today, there has been an unbroken lineage of advice on the method of teaching Mahamudra based on this sūtra. . . . When the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, established the Nalanda Institute at Rumtek Monastery, he personally selected the treatises to be included in the standard curriculum. . . . His Holiness included the King of Samadhi Sūtra in this curriculum as the supportive scripture for Mahamudra.
In his Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā, Tagpo Dashi Namgyal additionally provides certain passages in the following sūtras as sources of Mahāmudrā—the Sāgaramatiparipṛcchāsūtra, Maitreyaprasthānasūtra, Gaganagañjaparipṛcchāsūtra, Ratnadārikāparipṛcchāsūtra, Bhadrakalpikasūtra, and Varmavyūhanirdeśasūtra. An Exposition of Mahāmudrā: The Treasure Vault of the Victors, by Padma Karpo, also quotes the Ratnadārikāparipṛcchāsūtra, Sāgaramatiparipṛcchāsūtra, Samādhirājasūtra, and Maitreyaprasthānasūtra. In addition, the Atyantajñānasūtra and the Nirvikalpapraveśadhāraṇī are also sometimes mentioned as sūtra sources of Mahāmudrā.
Maitrīpa’s Mahāmudrā of "Mental Nonengagement"
It is well known that Maitrīpa was a highly accomplished scholar in both the sūtra and the tantra traditions, as well as a tantric practitioner, before he left the monastic and academic environment and met his primary guru Śavaripa at the age of fifty-three. From him, he received what TOK calls "essence Mahāmudrā," and later Śavaripa told him to go back to academia and "teach the ācāryas how things really are." Due to his vast training in the sūtrayāna, the vajrayāna, and essence Mahāmudrā, Maitrīpa was able to develop his unique approach of blending the sūtra teachings of the mahāyāna with tantric elements and the pith instructions of the mahāsiddhas. In this way, the teachings of essence Mahāmudrā, which had hitherto been passed on within the wandering community of lay siddhas outside of monastic and academic institutions, found entrance into mainstream Indian Buddhism and thus became accessible to many more people. Naturally, this did not happen without some controversies. However, by combining his advanced spiritual realization of Mahāmudrā with his prior scholarly training in sophisticated terminology and instructions, Maitrīpa was able to spread Mahāmudrā in his former world of the Buddhist monastic and scholarly establishment. It happened there that Maitrīpa was victorious over the tīrthika Natikara in debate, who thus became one of his four main disciples, henceforth known as Sahajavajra. Later, Maitrīpa stayed in solitary retreat in the charnel ground Mount Blazing like Fire, where he, according to Pawo Tsugla Trengwa, composed his "cycle of twenty-five works on mental nonengagement (amanasikāra)."
Maitrīpa’s pāramitā-based teachings on Mahāmudrā are designed to enable even beginners to practice with direct insights into the luminous nature of the mind, that is, outside the requirements of the classic tantric path, such as having to receive empowerments and practicing the various levels of the generation and completion stages. Maitrīpa’s system teaches a swift path to awakening with the help of pith instructions and blessings of the guru, which is accessible even for ordinary people. Although Maitrīpa’s own texts in his "cycle on mental nonengagement" freely employ several tantric terms and notions in not specifically tantric contexts, the term "Mahāmudrā" itself is only rarely found. Far more frequent are expressions familiar from the dohā tradition, such as "true reality" (tattva), "union" (yuganaddha), "connateness" (sahaja), "nondual" (advaya), "great bliss" (mahāsukha), "natural luminosity" (prabhāsvara/prakāśa), and, of course, Maitrīpa’s key term "mental nonengagement." Among the five works in his cycle of works on mental nonengagement in which the word "Mahāmudrā" appears, the Caturmudrāniścaya provides the most detailed explanation of the term and the clearest link to both the sūtras and the notion of "mental nonengagement." The text glosses Mahāmudrā as follows:
ĀḤ "Mahāmudrā"—Mahāmudrā is what is both great and mudrā. Mahāmudrā is the lack of nature and freedom from obscurations, such as cognitive [obscurations]. (In its stainlessness,) it resembles the sunlit autumn sky at noon. It serves as the basis for all perfect excellence, is the single nature (beyond the extremes) of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, the embodiment of nonreferential compassion, and the single nature of great bliss. Accordingly, [the sūtras] say:
The dharmas of mental nonengagement are virtuous. The dharmas of mental engagement are nonvirtuous.
[The Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra states]:
I pay homage to you who are without imaginary thoughts, whose mind does not abide [on anything],
Who are without mindfulness, mentally nonengaged, and without focal object.
This is understood as "Mahāmudrā." Through that Mahāmudrā, whose nature is inconceivable, the fruition called "samayamudrā" is born.
The commentary by Bhitakarma, one of Maitrīpa’s students, explains that Mahāmudrā is the fruition of the other three mudrās. "ĀḤ" refers to being without arising throughout the triad of cause, path, and fruition. Arising due to dependent origination and being without arising are not different. "Mudrā" has the meaning of not going beyond—one cannot go beyond it by way of example, existence, or being something. It is like space. "Great" means that it is superior to the three other mudrās—karmamudrā, jñānamudrā, and samayamudrā. The reasons to present Mahāmudrā as the fruition are as follows. What is called "the very essence of the lack of nature, devoid of superimposition and denial" should be known as Mahāmudrā. The lack of nature means being free from stains—all kinds of momentary aspects including the clinging to them, karmic maturations including examination and analysis, and apprehender and apprehended. For example, from all kinds of different firewood, a single flame arises and does not remain once the wood is consumed. Likewise, Mahāmudrā is the single flame that arises from the variety of phenomena—they are realized to be without arising—but thereafter they are not even apprehended as the mere lack of arising. In fact, they are not apprehended as anything whatsoever. Realizing that is buddhahood, which depends on just that realization. Since one speaks of "perfect buddhahood in a single instant," it is reasonable to be free from any engagement in negating and affirming. How is this Mahāmudrā? It is the lack of hope since it is the very "freedom from obscurations"—both cognitive and afflictive. There is no hope for a remedy—wishing that the six pāramitās (such as generosity) relinquish their respective opposites (such as avarice). There is also no hope for true reality—thinking that some fruition is attained through training well in the generation and completion stages. Nor is there any hope for a fruition— thinking that the fruition of buddhahood is attained from somewhere outside. This is because all afflictions are mastered by it, the suchness of all phenomena cannot be cultivated, and great bliss exists intrinsically. "The sunlit autumn sky at noon" that is not disturbed by clouds, rainbows, mist, fog, or storms is without arising, lacks a nature of its own, includes past, present, and future times, is primordially unchanging, and pervades all of saṃsāra. Likewise, Mahāmudrā lacks any arising by its nature and lacks any nature of existence, nonexistence, both, or neither. All times—being in saṃsāra, training on the path, and having revealed Mahāmudrā—are nothing but Mahāmudrā. Everything possible appears from it, but it never changes in the slightest, just as space remains unaltered by clouds and so on that appear in it or water remains unaffected by waves and silt.
Just as sesame oil pervades its seeds, Mahāmudrā pervades saṃsāra. However, saṃsāra is nothing but the appearance of Mahāmudrā; it is not such that there is a pervader and something pervaded. Mahāmudrā’s "serving as the basis for all perfect excellence" refers to the qualities of the dharmakāya (being free from superimposition and denial), sambhogakāya (experience), nirmāṇakāya (appearing in all kinds of ways), and svābhāvikakāya (the single nature of the natural state), all of which abide within one’s own experience. This is fresh, natural, and relaxed. In other words, it is the source of all happiness in saṃsāra and the great bliss of nirvāṇa. Mahāmudrā is pure, supreme, and inconceivable. Purity means that it "is the single nature of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa," which is effortless, that is, primordial buddhahood. Supreme refers to the union of bliss and emptiness, free from the extremes of permanence and extinction. It is inconceivable in that it lacks any kind of distraction. This experience of nonreferentiality is an unceasing flow like a river and thus cannot be divided into a duality of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. Mahāmudrā’s being "the embodiment of nonreferential compassion" means that, through the power of such compassion and extraordinary aspiration prayers, true reality itself manifests as the two rūpakāyas. Still, true reality and those two kāyas are not different but have "the single nature of great bliss," which is free from superimposition and denial and is the kāya of mental nonengagement.
Bhitakarma also says that the great bliss of Mahāmudrā exists intrinsically in all sentient beings and that its realization means to see one’s own nature by oneself, whereas those who delight in contaminated bliss due to being mistaken about this basic nature are fools.
As for Maitrīpa’s hallmark term "mental nonengagement," it is also discussed by Kamalaśīla in his Bhāvanākramas and his Avikalpapraveśaṭīkā as being the final fruition of the practice of superior insight based on Madhyamaka reasoning. However, its Mahāmudrā meaning of not only being the process of letting go of dualistic conceptualization but also being a direct nonanalytical approach to realizing mind’s natural luminosity is primarily known from the dohās of Saraha and also appears in some dohās by Tilopā and others. Still, Maitrīpa is certainly the one who discusses this term in the greatest detail, due to which his entire approach later came to be identified with this term. Maitrīpa’s Amanasikārādhāra justifies its use in the Buddhist teachings and clearly explains its meaning, combining a broad range of Indian scholarly approaches with the vajrayāna language of meditative experience, which is so typical of many of Maitrīpa’s works. First, he presents some grammatical considerations and then traces the term back to both the sūtras and tantras, providing the above quotes from the prajñāpāramitā sūtras and the Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra, as well as a phrase from the Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī:
Once bodhisattva mahāsattvas have relinquished all aspects of characteristics of conceptions through not mentally engaging [in them]. . .
Though the term "mental nonengagement" is not found in the tantras, Maitrīpa quotes two verses from the Hevajratantra:
Neither . . . mind nor mental factors exist by virtue of a nature of their own.
Therefore, one meditates on the whole world [in this way],
Wherefore one does not meditate with the mind (manasā).
Maitrīpa concludes that this means that one meditates by way of mental nonengagement.
He also says that mental nonengagement is not a nonimplicative negation since it refers to negating all mental engagement that exists in terms of apprehender and apprehended and so on but does not negate mind as such. What that term teaches is the complete transcending of all conceptions. Nevertheless, to regard it as an implicative negation is without flaw—referring to an awareness that lacks any nature is the understanding of those Mādhyamikas who speak of illusion-like nonduality. When one calls that awareness illusion-like or not truly established, this is not a negation of existence altogether—it is not that it does not exist at all. Obviously, this presentation of a lucid yet nonreified awareness remaining after all dualistic mental activity has ceased corresponds well to the Uttaratantra ’s formula of the tathāgata heart’s being empty of adventitious stains but not being empty of its intrinsic qualities, as well as to later formulations of shentong in the sense of an implicative negation.
Then, Maitrīpa gives two very special etymologies of amanasikāra. (1) He says that the (correct) mental engagement (manasikāra) in primarily the letter "A" is mental nonengagement (a-manasikāra). That kind of mental engagement means that everything is "A"—primordially unborn, since "A" is the seed syllable of identitylessness (this is supported by quotes from the tantras to that effect—Hevajratantra I.2.1. and II.4.22a, as well as MañjuśrīnāmasaṃgītiV.1c–2b). Hence, all such mental engagement refers to the lack of nature. (2) Alternatively, the meaning of amanasikāra is as follows. "A" stands for luminosity, and mental engagement (manasikāra) is a word for self-blessing. In this way, the state of amanasikāra means to bring forth the pure awareness that is the continuous flow of the nondual inseparable union of prajñā and compassion, which has the character of self-blessing with or within inconceivable luminosity.
In other words, Maitrīpa’s key notion of "mental nonengagement"—or "mental disengagement"—is just the subjective side of emptiness or what is called "freedom from reference points." The only way in which the mind can engage in the "object" that is the absence of discursiveness is precisely by not engaging in or fueling any reference points, but rather letting it naturally settle of its own accord. In other words, it is only by a nonreferential mind that the absence of reference points can be realized, since that is the only cognitive mode that exactly corresponds to it. At the same time, when the mind rests in its own natural state, free from all discursiveness and reference points, this is not like a coma or being spaced out, but it is vivid and luminous intrinsic awareness.
Note that Maitrīpa’s two etymologies of "mental nonengagement" highlight the two crucial features of his Mahāmudrā approach that were explicitly spelled out by his student Sahajavajra and others later (see below). Maitrīpa’s linking mental nonengagement with the syllable "A" is an indication that his Mahāmudrā corresponds to prajñāpāramitā. For in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras, the letter "A" stands for emptiness, or that "everything is primordially unborn."To connect mental nonengagement with the three highest levels of the completion stage of the Guhyasamājatantra ("self-blessing," "luminosity," and "union") is a clear sign that this Mahāmudrā also entails vajrayāna elements—not in terms of tantric rituals or techniques but in terms of inner experiences that represent the essence of the former and can be cultivated in Maitrīpa’s sūtra-based approach with the help of the pith instructions of a guru.
As Mathes (2008b, 20–21) points out, the translation of the Amanasikārādhāra in a collection of Drikung Kagyü works is followed by an anonymous supplementary explanation of the meaning of "mental nonengagement." Manasikāra means mind as such appearing as all kinds of phenomena, while a refers to nonarising. Thus, amanasikāra refers to these two being of the same nature. Its synonyms are utter nonabiding, nonconceptuality, and inconceivability. Mental nonengagement does not refer to the lack of any object, the lack of any cognition, the stopping of discrimination, a weak experience, or analysis through discriminating prajñā. Therefore, it means realization through experiencing the heart of the matter. Furthermore Maitrīpa’s Sekanirdeśa 29 says that Mahāmudrā is complete nonabiding in anything and is also self-awareness:
Not to abide in anything
Is known as "Mahāmudrā."
Since it is stainless and since it is self-awareness,
Manifold [appearances] and so on do not arise.
The Sekanirdeśapañjikā by Rāmapāla, one of the four principal students of Maitrīpa, comments that this verse teaches Mahāmudrā, which has the nature of the mind that is single as the essence of connateness. "In anything" refers to the dependently originating skandhas, dhātus, āyatanas, and so on. "Not to abide" means mental nonengagement and lack of superimpositions. This is followed by the same two sūtra quotes on mental nonengagement as in Maitrīpa’s Caturmudrāniścaya above. One should not think that one is not able to make this a living experience because, due to the kindness of one’s guru, Mahāmudrā, which has the characteristic of being endowed with all supreme aspects, can definitely be perceived directly. Mahāmudrā does not have the nature of the four moments (of the four joys) "since it is stainless and since it is self-awareness." Being stainless, the three stained moments of the manifold and so on do not occur in it. Therefore the three (impure) joys do not arise in it either. Rāmapāla also says that nonabiding refers to the inconceivable wisdom that does not arise from analysis but is effortless, occurring of its own accord. Thus, it is clear for Rāmapāla here that the Mahāmudrā practice of complete nonabiding and mental nonengagement is not only mentioned in the sūtras but can be undertaken through the kindness of able gurus (that is, their pith instructions) without having to rely on the practice of the other three mudrās in a vajrayāna context of the path of means.
Another Mahāmudrā key term—"ordinary mind" (which is one of its synonyms and is found in a few dohās by Saraha and some others)— appears very frequently in the Dohanidhikoṣaparipūrṇagītināmanijatattvaprakāśaṭīkā attributed to Maitrīpa as well as once in Bhitakarma’s Mudrācaturaṭīkā. Thus, the term, which later became such a hallmark of Tibetan Kagyü Mahāmudrā, appears to have been used by some in India much earlier.
As indicated in TOK above as well as in BA, GC, and other Tibetan sources discussed below, Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā is a very important source text for what came to be called "sūtra Mahāmudrā." It is one of the few Indian treatises that explicitly and systematically links prajñāpāramitā with Mahāmudrā and certain vajrayāna approaches. The following are some of the text’s crucial passages in that regard (a number of which are also quoted or referred to in BA and GC). Sahajavajra begins by saying that the pith instructions of prajñāpāramitā as presented by Maitrīpa accord with the vajrayāna:
Since this master [Maitrīpa] gives a summarized explanation of the pith instructions of prajñāpāramitā that accord with the mantra system, through the very being of the nature of phenomena that bears the name "prajñāpāramitā" . . . , he first pays his respect to the very nature of the three kāyas.
In addition, these pith instructions, which represent the supreme form of Madhyamaka, are further adorned with the pith instructions of the guru:
The pith instructions of prajñāpāramitā are the definite realization of Madhyamaka that is adorned with the pith instructions of the guru. This is the ultimate emptiness, the spontaneously present prajñā endowed with all supreme aspects.
As will be seen below, for Sahajavajra, this approach is thus a sūtra-based form of Mahāmudrā that includes some tantric elements, for example, the crucial role of the guru in giving direct pointing-out instructions of the nature of the mind as lucid yet empty self-awareness and the ensuing meditative approach of cultivating the direct perception of this awareness as it was pointed out, rather than following the analytical route of classical Madhyamaka that is based on inferential cognitions through reasoning.
Sahajavajra comments on Tattvadaśaka 5 as representing this supreme Madhyamaka approach of Maitrīpa in the sense of sūtra Mahāmudrā, which is not only based on emptiness in accordance with Nāgārjuna but entails the direct realization of this emptiness as naturally luminous self-awareness:
Thus, phenomena are of one taste,
Unhindered, and nonabiding.
Through the meditative concentration of reality
as it is,
They are all luminosity.
In due order, "of one taste" means to be single-flavored as suchness. . . . "Unhindered" refers to the nature [of phenomena’s] being without superimpositions. "Nonabiding" means being unborn, since [phenomena] do not at all abide in the nature of [either] existence or nonexistence. "Luminosity," due to being naturally free from stains, refers to self-awareness, since [that self-awareness] is very luminous. You may wonder, "How do you see phenomena as true reality, which has the essential character of suchness?" Therefore, [Maitrīpa] says, "through the meditative concentration of reality as it is." The path that is endowed with the union of calm abiding and superior insight is the meditative concentration of reality as it is.
When connected with this explanation, Tattvadaśaka 2 (which says that, without the words of the guru, even Madhyamaka is only middling) implies that supreme Madhyamaka in the sense of sūtra-based Mahāmudrā must include the pointing-out instructions that enable one to have direct experiences of emptiness as luminous self-awareness through the path of uniting calm abiding and superior insight in a nontantric context, that is, without having to rely on empowerments or the techniques of the vajrayāna. Such pith instructions are explicitly referred to as "(skillful) means" (upāya) by Sahajavajra, while the regular Madhyamaka approach through reasoning alone is middling since it entails only prajñā but not skillful means.
As Tattvadaśaka 7cd makes clear, this principle of experiencing everything as luminous-empty awareness also applies to all levels of insight or attainment on the path, be they actual or imaginary. Here, Sahajavajra explicitly refers to both this approach and the true reality it reveals as Mahāmudrā:
Even the vain presumptuousness about being free from duality,In like manner, is luminosity.
. . . [This is elucidated] through the following words [in Maitrīpa’s Sekanirdeśa]:
By not abiding on the side of the remedy
And not being attached to true reality either,
There is no wish for a result of anything whatsoever.
Therefore, it is known as Mahāmudrā.
Here, "Mahāmudrā" refers to the pith instructions on the true reality of Mahāmudrā, that is, thoroughly knowing the true reality of entities. . . . "Being free from duality" means being without duality. "Vain presumptuousness about" [being free from duality] refers to the conceptions that analyze true reality. Even that is [nothing but] "luminosity," since it lacks a nature and is naturally pure. Likewise, also the presumptuousness in terms of something to be accomplished and the means of accomplishment is to be realized as the nature of luminosity.
Sahajavajra also clearly distinguishes this sūtra-based approach adorned with pith instructions from the vajrayāna and the regular pāramitāyāna. He declares that this approach is inferior to the former but superior to the latter:
You may wonder, "But then, what difference is there compared to yogins holding the approach of secret mantra?" There are great differences in terms of the aspects of what is accomplished and the means of accomplishment since the [yogins who use this approach here] have no connection with the four mudrās and since, due to lacking the taste of the great bliss of the pride of [being] the deity, it takes them a long time to complete perfect awakening through [just] the [mental] aspect of equanimity [described]. On the other hand, they differ from yogins holding the approach of the pāramitās because they are very much superior by virtue of realizing the suchness of union—emptiness as investigated through the pith instructions of a genuine guru. Therefore, those who do not engage in austerities with regard to this very [suchness but] thoroughly understand the true reality of [everything’s] being of a single taste as emptiness are like [skillful] village people catching a snake. Though they play with that snake, they are not bitten by it. Some express this as "the wisdom of true reality, Mahāmudrā." As it is said:
To unite means and prajñā—
This meditation is the supreme yoga.
To unify with Mahāmudrā
Is meditation, the victor explained.
In addition to quoting numerous authoritative Indian mahāyāna masters (mainly Nāgārjuna; though not only his classic Madhyamaka works but also his praises), Sahajavajra also cites several sūtras, particularly essential passages from the Samādhirājasūtra and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, in an effort to link Maitrīpa’s Mahāmudrā teachings with the sūtras as the words of the Buddha himself. In brief, through all of the features described here, Sahajavajra’s commentary provides clear evidence against the claim held by some that the sūtra-based approach of Mahāmudrā is just an invention of the Kagyüpas in Tibet.
Connections between Maitrīpa’s Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra
As mentioned before, Maitrīpa is credited with rediscovering the then-lost Uttaratantra and Dharmadharmatāvibhāga. However, apart from that, it is not clear how important his role in the transmission of the Uttaratantra and the other texts of Maitreya was. It is remarkable that Maitrīpa, as the reported retriever of the Uttaratantra, hardly ever quotes it in his own works, and there seems to be no significant discussion of the text either by him or in the available works of his students (except for Vajrapāṇi’s comments on what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 in his Guruparamparakramopadeśa right below). Also, what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 in Maitrīpa’s texts and those of his major students, discussed below, is never explicitly identified in these texts as coming from the Uttaratantra, and the available Sanskrit editions of Maitrīpa’s works as well as the Tibetan renderings of this verse in all of these texts suggest rather that it is Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21 that is quoted. Still, at least Maitrīpa and Vajrapāṇi appear to explain this quote more in line with the context of Uttaratantra I.154.
As the contents of IM may indicate, Maitrīpa’s teachings on the Uttaratantra might have been transmitted only orally at first, but it is clear that there exist no known works on the Uttaratantra by Maitrīpa, and the text is quoted only twice in the works in his "cycle of mental nonengagement"—in the Pañcatathāgatamudrāvivaraṇa (II.61b) and in the Caturmudrāniścaya (I.154). Unfortunately, neither of these texts explains those quotes in any detail.
What corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 also appears in the Dohakoṣapañjikā, ascribed to Maitrīpa, in the context of explaining Dohākośa 20d "The nature of connateness is neither existent nor nonexistent." The Dohakoṣapañjikāsays that "existent" here refers to any entities that are perceived by the sense consciousnesses or imagined by the mental consciousness. Connateness is not existent in that way because it is the true nature of this multitude of appearing entities, and one is not liberated through just conceiving this multitude as it appears. Since connateness thus is something to be personally experienced, it is not nonexistent either. This is as taught in what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154. Following this quote, the Dohakoṣapañjikācontinues that it is due to seeking bliss that humans are born from the union of their parents. However, they do not realize what this bliss is because it is to be personally experienced, which is again the reason why this bliss is not nonexistent. For it is inexpressible by virtue of one’s being fully absorbed in it. This is the entity called "the bliss in the presence of death." Thus, in effect, the Dohakoṣapañjikādeclares that one will be liberated only if one directly realizes the nature of connateness, which is equated with connate ultimate bliss, to be neither existent nor nonexistent. By implication, it is thus this connate bliss from which nothing is to be removed and to which nothing is to be added—it simply needs to be personally experienced in a nonconceptual and nondual manner as it really is.
The noteworthy exception to the Uttaratantra ’s not being discussed in a significant manner in the texts of Maitrīpa’s students appears to be Vajrapāṇi’s Guruparamparakramopadeśa. This text introduces its comments on verses 1–3 of Maitrīpa’s TattvaRatnāvalī , which discuss the notion of "complete nonabiding," by quoting what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154. Vajrapāṇi’s comments in a classical prajñāpāramitā or Madhyamaka fashion in the context of his explanation of the philosophical systems of the pāramitāyāna here suggest either that what he had in mind may rather have been the almost identical Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21 or that he simply interprets Uttaratantra I.154 in two different ways in the two contexts of ordinary Madhyamaka and Mahāmudrā. As will be clear from Vajrapāṇi’s two explanations below, in effect, he relates Mahāmudrā to both prajñāpāramitā (since we saw above that "nonabiding" is understood as Mahāmudrā by Maitrīpa and Rāmapāla) and the Uttaratantra.
Based on this quote, Vajrapāṇi’s Madhyamaka section in his Guruparamparakramopadeśa states that one should not abide in any superimpositions of existence or any denials by claiming nonexistence and then continues to comment on this as follows:
Since the experience of mind as such as all kinds [of appearance] originates in dependence, it is unarisen. It is the lack of arising that appears as if arising—arising and the lack of arising are not different. Likewise, if appearances are examined through reasoning, they are empty. Empty refers to not being established, and appearances are what cannot withstand examination through reasoning. . . . For example, a mirage’s appearing as water is empty of water—it is the very nonexistence of water that appears as water. The appearance as water and the nonexistence of water are not different. Likewise, appearance lacks a nature of its own, and the lack of nature is appearance. An appearance and its emptiness in terms of lacking a nature of its own are not different.
For example, if many [logs of] firewood are burned by a fire, they [all] are the same in having the nature of fire. Eventually, the firewood will be exhausted, and the fire itself will not remain [either]. Likewise, after what appears as manifold [appearances] has been referred to as emptiness through reasoning, [appearances] are neither established as having the nature of entities, nor does emptiness itself remain either. Likewise, when what does not abide as duality is not established as duality, the lack of duality is not established either. Therefore, it is in order to put an end to the clinging of others, to cut through superimposition and denial, or as an expedient meaning that [appearances] are called "empty," "lacking arising," and "nondual." But these [attributions] do not abide as the definitive meaning or as what is assessed by the learned.
. . . Being without clinging, without anything to be negated, and without anything to be affirmed, meditative equipoise and subsequent attainment are nondual and nonabiding. . . . Mental nonengagement without superimposition and denial and without clinging is meditation. Through the prajñāpāramitā that is without superimposition and denial and without clinging, the [other] five pāramitās . . . are pure of the three spheres. By virtue of that, the welfare of sentient beings is promoted—this is the view. . . . By virtue of all phenomena’s having the nature of not arising as any nature of their own, they do not abide as either existent or nonexistent. Therefore, not to abide in any superimpositions and denials in terms of existence and nonexistence is the knowledge of true reality. Illusion-like and completely nonabiding compassion is nonreferential compassion . . . because it mentally engages in all phenomena as not being observable as anything whatsoever.
Thus, according to Vajrapāṇi, all appearances are not only nothing other than emptiness, but emptiness is not something that can be reified or that remains after everything has been seen to be empty either. Therefore, ultimately, appearances as well as emptiness do not even abide as emptiness. Consequently, the knowledge of true reality must be the one that is free from superimposing and denying anything in terms of existence and nonexistence. This indeed corresponds to RGVV’s comments on Uttaratantra I.154–55 saying that "these two verses elucidate the unmistaken defining characteristic of emptiness [in the case of the tathāgata heart] since it [thus] is free from the extremes of superimposition and denial."
When Vajrapāṇi later explains Mahāmudrā, he again uses the terms found in what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 and also repeats some similar ways of explanation. However, in this context of Mahāmudrā, he relates all this much more to the subject side of true reality—the nonconceptual and nondual wisdom of Mahāmudrā as the experience of the union of mind’s luminosity and emptiness—as opposed to the object side that is mere emptiness. Thus, the presentation becomes more experiential and also more in tune with the meaning of Uttaratantra I.154 in its own context. Speaking of instantaneous perfect awakening, Vajrapāṇi says that, when not realized, it is saṃsāra and when it is realized, the same is Mahāmudrā, in which there is nothing to be negated or affirmed. Due to realizing it or not realizing it, it is expressed as nirvāṇa and saṃsāra, respectively, but ultimately there is no difference. For example, for as long as one does not realize that something is a rope, it may appear as a snake, but once one realizes it for what it is, it is clear that the nature of its appearing as a snake is nothing but the rope. There is no snake to be removed, nor is there any rope to be added. Likewise, if one does not realize Mahāmudrā, it appears as all kinds of thoughts. When it is correctly realized, the very nature of all kinds of thoughts is a union with the nature of nonthought. It is nothing but nonthought (Mahāmudrā) that appears as all kinds of thoughts. There is no thought to be removed here, nor is there any nonthought to be added.
Furthermore, Vajrapāṇi says that Mahāmudrā’s being presented as the three kāyas refers to the experiencing mind (which is something that later Kagyü masters very often say too). Mahāmudrā mind’s being unconditioned is the dharmakāya. That is, the dharmakāya is the mind that is not impaired by any thoughts and thus lacks any superimpositions and denials such as "existence," "nonexistence," "duality," and "nonduality.’ The realization of this Mahāmudrā mind is the sambhogakāya. That is, the sambhogakāya is the experience of great bliss through realizing the nature of nonduality. The nirmāṇakāya means that this very Mahāmudrā mind appears as all kinds of appearances while not moving away from its own nature. The natural undifferentiated state of Mahāmudrā mind is the svābhāvikakāya— though it may be divided into the above three as a mere convention, the knowledge of true reality has no divisions but is of a single nature.
The term "union" refers to the nonduality of luminosity and emptiness. Though the true nature is undifferentiable, it is designated as these two through dharma terminology. Its lack of entity when examined through reasoning refers to its being empty, while its being experienced as equality refers to its being luminous. Its being luminous is nothing other than its being empty, and its being empty is nothing other than its being luminous. For example, though a mirage may appear as water, there is actually no entity of water. Likewise, if luminosity is analyzed, it is empty in that it is without nature, but it is not empty in the sense of being absolutely nonexistent like the horns of a rabbit. The emptiness of being without nature is the experience of luminosity, whereas the appearance of being established through reasoning as an existing entity is not. Therefore, since being luminous and being empty are not different, they are a nondual union. However, just as before, it is for the sake of putting an end to other’s clinging to dualistic appearance that this is expressed as "union" and nonduality." Actually, union and nonduality are not established in terms of their own specific characteristics and thus do not abide either.
As for this being effortless, a cairn may appear as a person when not realized for what it is but clearly is a cairn when it is realized as such. However, there is no person to be removed nor is there a cairn to be established. Likewise, when the ultimate essence—the nature of nonduality—is not realized, it appears as duality, but as soon as it is realized, it is nondual wisdom. Such realization is the view, while meditation means to settle the mind without distraction in all situations from the time of that realization onward. Here, Vajrapāṇi also mentions the typical Mahāmudrā instruction that in Mahāmudrā meditation there is no need for blocking one’s senses from their objects. Rather, whatever may appear is to be realized as the nature of Mahāmudrā. It is an inferior approach to examine whatever thoughts may arise with reasoning and "make" them lack a nature. Everything that appears as all kinds of things is mind as such, and once that mind is realized without any clinging, one meditates by realizing whatever arises as Mahāmudrā. Just like letting water settle on its own without muddying it, through which it becomes clear, Mahāmudrā meditation is to settle in an uncontrived manner through knowing the nature of all phenomena. This Mahāmudrā is the fruition of being free from stains (thoughts of negating, affirming, and so on), which is the connate joy free from any characteristics.
In brief, Mahāmudrā is here described by Vajrapāṇi as the nonconceptual nondual wisdom nature of the mind, which seems to appear as all sorts of unreal thoughts (like a rope’s being mistaken for a snake) until it is realized for what it is. This wisdom mind is the union of emptiness and luminosity, which is not an utter nonexistence after its illusory stains have disappeared but is the incontrovertible experience of its own natural state of lucid yet completely nonreferential awareness, just as the rope does not disappear into nothing when one sees that it is not a snake.
Now we can return to the verse cited at the beginning of Vajrapāṇi’s Madhyamaka presentation above:
There is nothing to be removed from this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is to be seen as it really is—
Whoever sees actual reality is liberated.
With the two elements of nonconceptual wisdom and thoughts here in the context of Mahāmudrā in mind, the quotation of this verse appears to be in line with the meaning it has in the Uttaratantra in conjunction with I.155—just as a rope is empty of an imaginary snake, the tathāgata heart is empty of adventitious stains, or in other words, the Mahāmudrā mind of nonthought is empty of fictitious thoughts. Thus, adventitious thoughts are not to be removed and luminous-empty awareness is not to be added, but liberation simply means to see this true reality of Mahāmudrā as it is.
What corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 is also quoted in three other texts by Maitrīpa’s main students. Rāmapāla’s Sekanirdeśapañjikā cites the verse in a similar context as does Vajrapāṇi, saying that cognition and what is cognized are superimpositions and thus empty. So even within thoughts, in essence, thoughts are nothing other than nonthought. This applies to not knowing all appearances as true reality as well as to knowing true reality. However, there is a difference in that the previous mind of clinging to the duality of apprehender and apprehended does not exist anymore later. Thus, ignorance consists of clinging to apprehender and apprehended. Rāmapāla’s text also quotes Uttaratantra II.61b in the context of a very brief description of the four kāyas.
Bhitakarma’s Mudrācaturaṭīkā cites and explains what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 in order to ascertain that the undifferentiable connate nature is the ultimate dharmamudrā. His explanation exhibits a prajñāpāramitā or Madhyamaka stance and thus is definitely more in line with the context of Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21. In this verse, he says, "in this" refers to the dharmamudrā. As for "removing," appearances are the dharmakāya, the guru, the instructions, and books. Something nonexistent does not need to be removed, and if something exists, even if one tries to remove it, it cannot be removed. Therefore, "there is nothing to be removed." Hence, the scriptures say:
Form lacks a nature of its own, and there is no seer either. There is no sound, nor is there a hearer. There is no smell, nor is there a smeller. There is no taste, nor is there a taster. There is nothing tangible, nor is there a toucher. There is no mind, nor is there anything to mind.
"To add" means "to meditate"—if there are two, it is reasonable for the one to meditate on the other, but since there are no two here, there is nothing to meditate. Therefore, the scriptures say:
There is nothing to meditate, nor a meditator.
There is no secret mantra, nor a deity.
Mantra and deity perfectly abide
As the freedom from reference points and the nature.
Hence, there is nothing to be observed or to be focused on. Thus, not to make arising appearances and unarisen mind into two is called "actual reality." To see this in the manner of not seeing anything whatsoever is called "seeing as it really is." To directly perceive it is "to see actual reality." Immediately upon that, one is liberated in an instant. Therefore, the middle of rasanā and lalanā is the one that relinquishes wrongdoing, which is called "connate wisdom."
Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā quotes what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 in the context of commenting on Tattvadaśaka 3cd, which speaks about mistakenness as the cause of attachment (these two together being understood as the equivalent for obscuration) and how to remove it:
Attachment is born from mistakenness.
Mistakenness refers to one’s own superimpositions. Attachment is fixation. Mistakenness means what is superimposed as the nature of entities, such as existence or nonexistence. Through such [superimpositions], one fixates again and again, which here means attachment, aversion, and ignorance. "Based on what should this mistakenness be relinquished?" In order to [answer that question, Maitrīpa] says:
And mistakenness is held to be without basis.
The meaning of this is that since here even the slightest arising has been negated, [removing mistakenness] is not just like extracting a thorn. Rather, it means to fully understand the nature [of mistakenness] and this nature is again nothing but its being unarisen. As it is [indicated] through the following words of the Bhagavān:
Mañjuśrī, ignorance has the meaning of nonexistence.
There is nothing to be removed in this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is to be seen as it really is—
Who sees actual reality is liberated.
In sum, it appears that the explicit association of the Uttaratantra with Mahāmudrā was not initiated by Maitrīpa or his students except for Vajrapāṇi, who is the only one to establish a clear and detailed relationship between what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 (and in effect I.155) and the view and meditation of Mahāmudrā. Thus, at present, the above passage in his Guruparamparakramopadeśa seems to be the sole—and rather slim—Indian basis we know of that could have served as the explicit ground for Gampopa’s famous statement that the scriptural source of Kagyü Mahāmudrā is the Uttaratantra. However, Gampopa’s writings do not refer to the above passage by Vajrapāṇi and thus it is not very likely that he had it in mind when he made his statement. Rather it appears to have been his own general opinion on the relationship between the essence of the Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā, which was followed by many later Kagyü masters. Still, as CMW and some of the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim indicate, there seem to have been other earlier Indian and Tibetan Mahāmudrā instructions based on the Uttaratantra, but it is not clear whether Gampopa had access to them.
Other Indian Nontantric Treatises on Mahāmudrā
There are at least two other Indian nontantric canonical Buddhist texts that also equate prajñāpāramitā with Mahāmudrā. In his Tattvāvatāra, Jñānakīrti (eighth/ninth century) says:
As for those of highest capacities among the persons who exert themselves in the pāramitās, when they perform the meditations of calm abiding and superior insight, even at the stage of ordinary beings, this grants them the true realization characterized by having its origin in Mahāmudrā. Thus, this is the sign of irreversible [realization].
All these results are accomplished through the meditation of the nondual training in Mahāmudrā. As the prajñāpāramitā sūtras extensively say:
Those who wish to train in the bhūmis of śrāvakas should listen to just this prajñāpāramitā . . . and should practice the yoga of just this prajñāpāramitā.
The same is said there for [those who wish to train] "in the bhūmis of pratyekabuddhas" and "in the bhūmis of buddhas." Another name of Mother Prajñāpāramitā is Mahāmudrā because it is the very nature of nondual wisdom. This is also the Bhagavān, whose essential character is the dharmakāya. Exactly this is bodhicitta, the vajra of bodhicitta, the very nature of the Tathāgata. The wisdom of prajñāpāramitā is nondual, and this actuality is what is to be accomplished by the tathāgatas. It is also the nondual training in Mahāmudrā because it has the character of great compassion.
In answer to the question what the nondual training in Mahāmudrā is, Jñānakīrti quotes the same verse as Sahajavajra does above when he explains Maitrīpa’s sūtra-based approach of Mahāmudrā to be superior to the regular pāramitāyāna:
To unite means and prajñā—
This meditation is the supreme yoga.
To unify with Mahāmudrā
Is meditation, the victor explained.
Jñānakīrti continues by explaining the meanings of means and prajñā, their union, and how the cultivation of this union represents Mahāmudrā meditation in great detail, which is a very interesting account of a sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach that directly employs compassion as one of its key elements and moreover involves some typically tantric techniques. The following is a summary: He states that prajñā is the realization of all phenomena as being free from reference points. This freedom from reference points represents the emptiness that, in itself, is not just a term or yet another reference point. The means in general consist of the three kinds of compassion of bodhisattvas—the compassion of focusing on suffering sentient beings, the compassion of focusing on them through understanding the dharma of impermanence, and nonreferential compassion. However, it is only the cultivation of the last type of compassion that represents the meditation that is the union of prajñā and means because the other two lack being free from reference points since they still focus on entities. The way in which one gradually cultivates Mahāmudrā through this union of prajñā and means entails three steps—one begins with becoming of the nature of all entities, then cultivates nonreferential compassion, and this then eventually turns into the meditation that has the character of Mahāmudrā.
The pith instructions on how to do so are as follows: One first visualizes oneself as one’s personal yidam deity in an instantaneous manner. Then, one meditates on oneself being of the nature of all entities through thinking that one has the nature of Vairocana, who represents the essence of ignorance, and therefore one has the nature of the skandha of form that pervades all beings. Likewise, since one has the natures of Ratnasambhava, Amitābha, Amoghasiddhi, and Akṣobhya, who represent the essences of pride, desire, envy, and hatred, respectively, one has the natures of the skandhas of feelings, discriminations, formations, and consciousness that pervade all beings. Through having thus become of the nature of all entities, one manifests the great kinds of compassion of focusing on suffering sentient beings and focusing on them through the dharma. Then, through letting go of any kind of mental engagement in entities, nonentities, self-entity, other-entity, and so on, one needs to withdraw the mind from everything and not think about anything. In that way, in yogins who do not think about anything whatsoever and have relied on a guru for a long time before, prajñāpāramitā will arise by virtue of the kindness of that guru. Due to having completely turned away from the distinction between assessing through valid cognition and the result to be assessed, this has the nature of self-appearance. By virtue of being free from all reference points, one is free from saṃsāra, which has the nature of suffering and reference points. Therefore, this is realized through the mirrorlike yoga that has the character of supreme joy. Once one, through the power of that, thinks "Alas, all these sentient beings have the nature of nirvāṇa, but through the power of ignorance, they do not recognize this—how can I make them realize it?" and thus thinks of all beings as having that nature, this will give rise to nonreferential compassion. Thus, one needs to think of their having this nature—the nature of all entities. Then, once this yoga that has the nature of all entities and has the character of great compassion has become powerful, the very character of this great compassion that has the nature of all entities takes on a character that is not different from the nature of mother prajñāpāramitā, another name of which is Mahāmudrā, just as water and milk blend into one. This is then what one should look at. At that time, through familiarization, it becomes very clear. It also has the nature of all merit because it is the vajra nature of bodhicitta, which is the sovereign of the vajras of body, speech, and mind of all tathāgatas, because that vajra has the nature of prajñā and means’ being nondual. One also realizes that externally oriented cognitions are merely superimpositions but not one’s own true nature. Therefore, it is well known that this yoga of prajñā and means’ being nondual is self-aware direct valid cognition and not just a superimposition. How could this yoga that is the fundamental change, has the nature of the nondual wisdom of Mahāmudrā free from reference points, and is well known as self-awareness have any kind of superimposition of reference points?
Though some technical details vary, this description of a Mahāmudrā approach that, through the kindness of the guru, strips away all obscuring mental activities and reveals the direct perception of mind’s innate luminous self-awareness accords in its general features with Sahajavajra’s above explanations.
Later, in his section on the stages of the meditation of superior insight, Jñānakīrti quotes and comments on the famous two verses X.256–57 from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra on the "four yogic practices" (prayoga) used in many mahāyāna texts:
By relying on mere mind,
One does not imagine outer objects.
By resting in the observed object of suchness,
One should go beyond mere mind too.
Going beyond mere mind,
One must even go beyond nonappearance.
The yogin who rests in nonappearance
Sees the mahāyāna.
Jñānakīrti explains the first verse in a rather standard way by matching it with the first three of the four yogic practices: (1) outer objects are observed to be nothing but mind, (2) thus, outer objects are not observed, and (3) with outer objects’ being unobservable, a mind cognizing them is not observed either. On X.257 (corresponding to (4) not observing both apprehender and apprehended, nonduality or suchness is observed), he comments that since suchness is unborn, it neither exists as an entity nor exists as the lack of entity. This means that suchness is the complete lack of reference points, since entities and the lack of entity include all possible reference points. Through realizing that, all beings are understood as having the nature of the dharmakāya, thus going beyond the understanding of mere mind. The yogin must even transcend the state of true reality’s not appearing in the manner of being a unity or a multiplicity and the like. To fully rest in the nonappearance of any reference points whatsoever is to realize true reality, here called "the mahāyāna," and another form of that name is "Mahāmudrā." Thus, Jñānakīrti indicates that the final realization of the freedom from reference points even in the mahāyāna of the sūtras is nothing but Mahāmudrā, which he further equates with the famous "nonseeing is the supreme seeing" in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras:
What is the eye of wisdom of the Buddha, the Bhagavān? Not seeing anything through anything. . . . Likewise, what is seeing the ultimate? The nonseeing of all phenomena.
Jñānakīrti also clarifies here that such nonseeing is, of course, not just the same sheer absence of any mental engagement as when one is asleep or one’s eyes are closed.
Implicitly, the Prajñājñānaprakāśa by Devacandra, another one of the four main students of Maitrīpa, also equates Mahāmudrā with prajñāpāramitā since it says that Mahāmudrā has the characteristic of the realization of the lack of nature, which is uncontrived. Merely through contrived prajñā and wisdom, the omniscient wisdom of suchness, which has the nature of continuous great bliss, will never arise.
As for the equation of Mahāmudrā with prajñāpāramitā, it is quite common in tantric Buddhist texts. For example, Kālacakramahāpāda’s Padmanināmapañjikā, a commentary on the Kālacakratantra, presents the definition of Mahāmudrā as follows:
"Mahāmudrā [the Great Seal]" is the prajñāpāramitā that gives birth to all tathāgatas appearing in the past, future, and present. Since it seals the nonabiding nirvāṇa or changeless bliss, it is "the seal." Since it is superior to karmamudrā and jñānamudrā and is free from the latent tendencies of saṃsāra, it is "great."
Furthermore, Vajrapāṇi’s Laghutantraṭīkā on the Cakrasaṃvaratantra equates Mahāmudrā with prajñāpāramitā and "being endowed with the supreme of all aspects."
As for the question of Atiśa’s connection with Mahāmudrā as mentioned above in TOK (and below by the Eighth Karmapa and Eighth Situpa), note that the introduction to Karma Trinlépa’s commentary on Saraha’s three cycles of dohā says that Atiśa was greatly involved in the dohā teachings and had received Saraha’s dohā lineage from Maitrīpa. BA agrees and adds that Maitrīpa also taught Atiśa the root text and commentary of the Uttaratantra, as well as other texts. Both Karma Trinlépa and BA say that Atiśa had started to teach the dohās in Tibet but was discouraged by his students from continuing for fear of a deterioration of Tibetans’ engaging in conditioned virtues due to the style and contents of these dohās (which do not accord with the gradual path and the proper conduct that is emphasized in more conventional Buddhist teachings). BA says that Atiśa’s primary student, Dromtönpa Gyalwé Jungné, did receive teachings on the dohās and vajrayāna methods from him but pretended not to have received such for the same reason as above. The same text also quotes Milarepa as saying that Atiśa was not allowed to teach vajrayāna, but, if he had, Tibet would be filled with accomplished siddhas. In that context, it should also be noted that verses 64-66 of Atiśa’s Bodhipathapradīpa explicitly forbid monastics from receiving the second and third empowerments in the Yogānuttara class of tantra because that would break their monastic vows.
It is clear that since the dohās mainly teach Mahāmudrā, any other potential Mahāmudrā instructions by Atiśa to a wider audience would seem to have been prevented for the same reason. It would certainly be very interesting to compare Mahāmudrā teachings by Atiśa as the founder of the Kadampa School with other Mahāmudrā-like instructions in that tradition, such as the texts by Kyotön Mönlam Tsültrim presented in this book. As suggested by the Eighth Karmapa above in TOK and others, certain parts of Atiśa’s teachings in his Bodhipathapradīpa and its autocommentary for individuals of highest capacity among the three types of individuals in the lamrim teachings (in particular, verses 54–58), though rather clearly explained as referring to Madhyamaka, can also be read as being in agreement with Maitrīpa’s approach of mental nonengagement since thoughts are repeatedly identified as the root of saṃsāra and as something one needs to let go of. Most striking in this regard is an unidentified quote, attributed to Nāgārjuna, in Atiśa’s autocommentary, which (as mentioned above) is also used by Padma Karpo in his explanation of the meaning of "mental nonengagement":
To the one who does not think through imagination,
Whose mind does not abide at all,
Who is without mindfulness, is without mental engagement,
And is without focus, I pay homage.
Note also that Atiśa’s Madhyamakopadeśa says that once all phenomena have been found to be nonexistent through analysis, one needs to rest in luminous nonconceptuality without mental engagement. Interestingly, in terms of the teachings on buddha nature, his autocommentary on the Bodhipathapradīpa says that all sentient beings have a single disposition, which is the tathāgata heart, and he includes the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra, the Aṅgulimālīyasūtra, and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra (which are certainly not typical Madhyamaka sources) in its list of sūtras that are a must-read. Furthermore, the beginning of Atiśa’s Dharmadhātudarśanagīti speaks about the dharmadhātu as buddha nature in a highly affirmative manner by including eighteen verses from the Dharmadhātustava and also using phrases found in the Uttaratantra, such as the dharmadhātu’s being inseparable from the buddha qualities and its being enshrouded by afflictions corresponding to the example of a child in a pregnant woman’s womb.
In any case, that there actually were Mahāmudrā-style instructions in the Kadampa School within the context of the teachings for individuals of highest capacity in the lamrim approach is proven by such instructions’ being found in that very context in Mönlam Tsültrim’s Essential Pith Instructions That Summarize the Quintessence of the Piṭakas.
Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra
Before Gampopa (1079–1153) met Milarepa, he had already studied with a number of Kadampa teachers for several years, including Jayülwa Shönnu Ö (1075–1138), Néusurpa Yeshé Bar (1042–1118), Nyugrumpa Dsöndrü Gyaltsen, Gya Jagriwa, Gya Yönda, Jangchub Sempa Kunga, Shawa Lingpa, and Geshé Drepa. Pawo Rinpoche says that Gampopa received the following teachings from the following Kadampa teachers— vinaya from Jayülwa, lamrim from Nyugrumpa, all of Atiśa’s pith instructions from Jagriwa and Gya Yönda, and Milarepa’s pith instructions from Lama Jangchub Sempa. He also received Cakrasaṃvara teachings from Maryül Loden and Sangkar Lotsāwa Pagpa Sherab.
Thus, when Gampopa came to Milarepa, he was already an accomplished teacher in his own right, having excelled in both the study and practice of the Kadampa system, but it became obvious very quickly that he was in for a very different ride with Milarepa. According to BA, in order to curb Gampopa’s pride, Milarepa first had him wait for half a month before he granted him an audience. When he was finally admitted, Gampopa offered a piece of gold and a package of tea. Milarepa refused both and instead gave Gampopa a skull-cup with Tibetan beer, insisting that he drink it despite his obvious concerns about his monastic vows. When Gampopa requested Milarepa’s profound instructions, Milarepa asked whether he had received empowerments. Gampopa answered, "I received many empowerments of Cakrasaṃvara and others, listened to numerous Kadampa instructions, and have experienced resting in samādhi for thirteen days." Milarepa laughed out loud and said, "The gods of the form and formless realms are more advanced than you then—they rest in samādhi for many eons. However, none of this is of any benefit for attaining buddhahood, just as pressing sand will not produce liquid butter. The Kadampas have instructions, but they lack pith instructions. Because a demon had entered the heart of Tibet, Atiśa was not allowed to teach the mantrayāna. If he had, Tibet would now be filled with siddhas. The Kadampa generation stage involves only single yidam deities, and their completion stage consists only of dissolving the surrounding and its contents into luminosity. Now, you need to cultivate my caṇḍālī." Following that, he conferred the empowerment of Vajravārahī upon Gampopa, who then practiced accordingly.
Milarepa also said to Gampopa, "As for the aspect of calm abiding in your practice, however good all of this may be, it does not go beyond being a cause for rebirth in the higher realms of samādhi. As for the aspect of your practice of superior insight, all of it entails the danger of diverging into the four deviations from emptiness. It may well serve as a remedy for some portions of reification, such as clinging to real existence. However, since it is not able to cut through the entirety of clinging to extremes, there is the danger that the whole complex of this excellent view and meditation itself could turn into cognitive obscurations. Hence, if one is fettered, there is no difference between being fettered by an iron chain and being fettered by a golden chain." Later, Gampopa said about this, "If I had not met the great master Milarepa, I would have risked rebirth as a long-lived god." After having stayed in solitary meditation retreat for many years after he had left Milarepa, Gampopa eventually combined the systematic and analytical approach of the Kadampa teachings with the Kagyü instructions on Mahāmudrā, which led to him being called "the one who united the two streams of Kadampa and Mahāmudrā."
Among the thirty-eight preserved works of Gampopa, ten deal with Mahāmudrā as their exclusive subject. However, almost all of them are not his own writings but notes from his teachings taken by his students. This is obviously not the place to give an exhaustive survey of Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā teachings, so a few general main points shall suffice.
In his texts, Gampopa distinguishes three main paths. (1) The pāramitāyāna is called "the path of renunciation" and "the path of accumulation," which relies on inferential analysis and is for those who have faith and are of dull faculties. (2) The path of mantra is labeled "the path of transformation" and "the path of means," which relies on direct perception and is for those who are afflicted and of medium faculties. (3) The path of Mahāmudrā is "the path of prajñā" and "the path of suchness," which relies on blessing and is for those who are intelligent and of sharp faculties. He also describes these three paths as follows:
(1) As for taking inference as the path, after having scrutinized all phenomena through arguments [such as] being beyond singularity and multiplicity, one says that there is no [other] possibility [for phenomena to be] than these [possibilities that one has examined] and then posits that everything is empty. [This is the path of] inference.
(2) [The practice of] nāḍīs, vāyus, and tilakas, the repeated recitation of mantras, and so on, which are based on the generation stage of the deity’s body, make up the path of blessing.
(3) As for taking direct perceptions as the path, a genuine guru says that connate mind as such is the luminous dharmakāya. Through having been taught an unmistaken instruction of definitive meaning like that, one then takes native mind as the path, without separating the triad of view, conduct, and meditation in terms of this connate mind about which one has gained certainty within oneself.
Elsewhere, Gampopa explicitly states that Mahāmudrā is the highest path that actually transcends both sūtra and tantra. All of this clearly suggests that Gampopa considered Mahāmudrā per se as a path that does not belong to either sūtra or tantra but lies beyond both. In practice, most of Gampopa’s preserved teachings consist primarily of sūtra-based instructions and then conclude with Mahāmudrā, either not teaching the path of mantra at all or mentioning it only in passing.
Typical Mahāmudrā instructions by Indian siddhas are often simply expressions of the author’s yogic realization or very short pith instructions to their most advanced disciples. Even when they mention some details on how to practice, these instructions are usually terse and unsystematic. By contrast, Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā instructions are much longer and provide systematic progressive guidance. As exemplified by the fifth section of his Pointing Out Thoughts as the Ultimate, such instructions often begin with preliminaries such as turning away from the mundane toward the spiritual path through the four reminders, giving rise to love, compassion, and bodhicitta, choosing a qualified guru, and cultivating calm abiding and superior insight. These preliminaries are followed by the actual instructions of pointing out the nature of the mind. Such pointing-out instructions are classified by Gampopa as being of five types—(1) pointing out appearances as mind through the analogy of sleep and dream, (2) pointing out the inseparability of appearance and emptiness through the analogy of water and ice, (3) pointing out mind as such as empty through the analogy of the empty sky, (4) pointing out multiplicity as being of one taste through the analogy of the taste of a piece of sugar, and (5) pointing out the continuity of the dharmakāya through the analogy of the continuity of a river. Gampopa’s works also explain the stages of experiences that are commonly known as the four yogas of Mahāmudrā (see below).
As with his Indian predecessors, the actual core Mahāmudrā instruction—the pointing-out instruction—in Gampopa’s teachings is short, but it may appear lengthy due to being augmented by the discussions of the preliminaries and the four yogas. The Mahāmudrā instructions by Gampopa employ the same terms that are found in the Mahāmudrā teachings of Indian siddhas such Saraha, Tilopa, and Maitrīpa, and it is clear that Gampopa used their texts as sources for his Mahāmudrā since he said to Pamo Trupa that the Indian Mahāmudrā texts include the dohās, "the seven works on accomplishment," "the sixfold cycle of the essence," and "the cycle of works on mental nonengagement." However, in his particular Mahāmudrā approach, Gampopa almost always omits the tantric path of means that is an integral part in many of the instructions of his predecessors. In that vein, though the word "bliss" occurs in his Mahāmudrā instructions, it does not have the significance of this term in the tantras (the wisdom of great bliss as pointed out during the third and fourth empowerments). Rather, Gampopa uses it to refer to the bliss of experiences resulting from calm abiding. Thus, his approach to Mahāmudrā (which later was called "sūtra Mahāmudrā") can be seen as a synthesis of mainstream mahāyāna teachings with what later was called "essence Mahāmudrā," while skipping "tantra Mahāmudrā."
Such an approach represents both a skillful means to make Mahāmudrā accessible to a wider audience and clear evidence for the Kadampa influences in Gampopa’s teachings. At the same time, Gampopa considered genuine Mahāmudrā as the highest path that transcends both sūtra and tantra. As pointed out by Sherpa (2004, 132–33), Gampopa’s approach of making Mahāmudrā accessible to students of all kinds of capacities without prerequisites such as empowerments seems to involve a contradiction between his statement that the realization of Mahāmudrā (the highest achievement in vajrayāna Buddhism) is an insight achieved by only a few and the claim that the Mahāmudrā teachings can be practiced by general audiences. Obviously, the term "Mahāmudrā" is used here in two distinct senses. The former refers to the original sense of this term as being the realization of mind’s true nature, which in its essence is superior to both the sūtric and tantric paths. In its second sense, the term refers to a progressive pedagogical system (largely based on Maitrīpa’s approach) that includes many conventional mahāyāna teachings and a few elements from the approach of the Indian siddhas and the vajrayāna (such as pointing-out instructions, guru devotion, and guru yoga), while only eventually culminating in the first kind of Mahāmudrā.
Despite hardly discussing the vajrayāna path of means in his texts, it is clear that Gampopa did teach the techniques of this path to those students who were able to understand and practice them. Thus, his instructions were completely geared to whichever audiences he encountered. Also, though he explicitly says that he favors the gradualist approach, he also accounts for and uses the possibility of instantaneous insights.
To provide a typical example of Gampopa’s writings, let’s look at some major points in his Pointing Out Thoughts as the Ultimate. The structure of this text is the clearest example of Gampopa’s union of Kadampa and Kagyü teachings because, in its first, second, and fifth sections, the presentations of the Kadampa positions on certain issues are regularly followed by explanations of Milarepa’s viewpoints. As for the contents, section 1, "Pointing Out Thoughts as the Ultimate," says that the nature of the mind is sometimes called "ordinary mind" and sometimes "natural state" but these mean the same. Speaking of mind’s "nature" means that it is not a nonexistent (ibid., 202–3). According to Milarepa, thoughts are very kind.
The way in which they are kind is that they arise from the mind, and this mind is the dharmakāya. Thoughts represent the realization of mind’s nature. Such realization is like a lamp in that it illuminates this nature and it resembles a weapon in that it cuts the root. Thus, through taking thoughts as the path, nonconceptual wisdom dawns (ibid., 212–13). Section 2, "Instructions on the Union of Generation and Completion, "says that the statement "connate mind as such is the dharmakāya" means that awareness and emptiness are connate (ibid., 234–35).
Section 3, "A Summary of the Stages of the Path," contains a description of the four yogas of Mahāmudrā. (1) Gampopa says that you familiarize with the natural state of mind as such by settling the mind in an uncontrived manner, just as water settles in water. Through settling the mind in three ways—freshly, loosely, and naturally—you will be able to hold the mind a little bit and also catch a glimpse of its nature. Mind will be vibrant, crisp, and one-pointed. Even after your sessions, such states will occur in bits. Because you have recognized a part of your own basic awareness, you will be joyful and inspired. This is called "the yoga of one-pointedness."
(2) Just as a great river is uninterrupted in its flow or the tip of a candle flame has no interruption in its luminosity, you will experience such a continual stream of basic awareness through being mindful day and night and meditating again and again. Then, you will realize that both outer apprehended objects and the inner apprehending mind are free from the four extremes of reference points. You see your own basic awareness as clearly as if a fresh fruit were placed onto your palm. Sometimes good experiences and sometimes bad ones will arise. This is called "the yoga of the freedom from reference points."
(3) Then, when you have meditated in that way, as far as your meditative experience goes, the triad of outer appearances, your own body, and your mind will appear without any difference, just like water and milk’s being mixed in an indistinguishable manner. Even in your realization (versus mere experience), these three kinds of phenomena will appear without any difference. At that time, you will even see whether other people possess or lack true meditation. This is called "the yoga of multiplicity’s being of one taste."
(4) Next, due to having meditated in such a way, you resolve that all phenomena are equality. Through that, it will occur to you that there is nothing to be relinquished, no remedy to be relied upon, no awakening to be accomplished, no saṃsāra to be abandoned, nothing to meditate on nor a meditator. This is called "the yoga of nonmeditation." However, this is not yet fully qualified buddhahood. As long as this body that is a karmic maturation still exists, there will be pleasant and painful feelings. For example, though a lion cub has completed its prowess in its mother’s womb, it is not able to display this prowess until it has come out of the womb’s enclosure. Likewise, though a garuḍa chick’s wings are fully grown inside its egg, being constrained by this shell, it cannot fly until the eggshell is broken. Thus, buddhahood occurs in the intermediate state of dying (ibid., 270-71).
Section 4, "The Concordances and Differences between the Philosophical Systems of Sūtra and Mantra," says that the view of the vajrayāna is in accordance with Madhyamaka as far as the empty nature of phenomena is concerned, but it is more special by virtue of bliss—it appears as empty bliss. In terms of self-aware, self-lucidity, it accords with Yogācāra. However, it is not just mere lucidity but appears as blissful taste. Therefore, lucidity appears as emptiness and emptiness appears as lucidity—their union is the secret mantra. It is only in terms of each one of these elements that the view of the mantrayāna partially accords with Madhyamaka and Yogācāra (ibid., 260–61). As for familiarizing with this, there is no one who meditates—since self-awareness is free from all identifications, no examples or words can illustrate it. From the perspective of characteristics, even the buddhas of the three times do not see it. Within its essence, there is no object on which to meditate either. In this way, since there is nothing to experience, there is not even the slightest something to meditate on. Thus, Gampopa says, "I do not assert lucidity. To assert lucidity means to identify it. Nor do I assert bliss or nonconceptuality. Bliss and nonconceptuality are also identifications. No example can illustrate me. No word can describe me. Do not fabricate me but simply let be!" (ibid., 270-71).
Section 5, "The Heart of the Stages of the Path," begins with the preliminaries such as the four reminders mentioned above and then comes to the actual Mahāmudrā instructions, saying that ultimate bodhicitta arises from the blessings of the guru and the experiences in one’s own meditation. As Milarepa says:
Phenomenal existence is included in the mind.
Mind dwells within the state of lucidity.
In this, there is nothing to be identified.
Gampopa also quotes the siddha Koṭāli:
Ordinary mind awakens in the middle of your heart
Once the six collections are pure, bliss is a continual flow.
All actions are pointless, being the cause of suffering.
Rest in the natural state in which there is nothing to meditate.
Gampopa continues that one needs to practice by means of the completion stage of elaborated and unelaborated Mahāmudrā and so on. In terms of elaborate Mahāmudrā, one practices by means of nāḍī and vāyu or special methods. The seeing of the ultimate essence of the mind arises initially for just an instant. Just as the waxing moon on its first day has the capacity of becoming the full moon, starting with a single moment, this ultimate essence will eventually pervade walking, standing, lying, and sitting at all times. Some geshés say, "Now in this lifetime is not the time for this essence to arise." But Milarepa said, "If now is not the time for the essence to arise, when is that time? If it does not arise at this time when you have obtained the freedoms and riches of an excellent human body, when your five sense faculties are not defective, and when you have met a mahāyāna guru, do you think it arises when you have been born in the three lower realms? No way!" (Sherpa 2004, 286-93).
Gampopa’s Pith Instructions on the Two Armors (a collection of different short instructions) speaks about taking connate union as the path through the two armors of the view and prajñā, taking thoughts as the path, thoughts appearing as the four kāyas, and so on. Interestingly, the text also contains pith instructions by Gampopa’s Kadampa teacher Jagriwa:
These are Lama Jagriwa’s pith instructions, called "trouncing upon encountering," "pursuing subsequently," and "proliferating out of nothing." When great meditators meditate, they trounce occurring thoughts right upon encountering them—they cut through thoughts as being without arising immediately upon their occurring. As for "pursuing subsequently," thoughts [arise] and then one looks from where they arose at first. Through that, one understands that they arose from the mind and also dissolve into the mind at the end. [Thoughts] are not dual with and not different from mind. He said that this is called "pursuing subsequently." As for "proliferating out of nothing," through thinking something heavy in one’s mind, something unpleasant will manifest. These are thoughts, while mind’s being without arising is the dharmakāya, he said. The three examples [for this] are that it is similar to a fire’s spreading in a forest [from a small spark to a wildfire]. [It is similar to] how wind and so on become its aids—likewise, whichever thoughts arise, they become the aids of prajñā, he said. It is similar to snow’s falling into water—all the snow that falls into water becomes of one taste with it. Likewise, immediately upon the arising of thoughts, they are of one taste with the connate. It is taught that this is Geshé Jagriwa’s approach of taking [thoughts as the path].
Obviously, these instructions on three ways to deal with thoughts according to one’s capacity are very similar to Mahāmudrā teachings, and the examples are also used in the Mahāmudrā tradition. In line with the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim, these instructions are further evidence that Mahāmudrā-style teachings existed in the Kadampa School, that this was the case even before Gampopa, and that Gampopa received such instructions.
Gampopa’s text also explains the four yogas of Mahāmudrā. To rest in the essence of basic awareness without being distracted is the yoga of one-pointedness. If thoughts arise in that one-pointedness, trounce them upon encountering them or pursue them subsequently. Through taking thoughts as the path in that way, they become indispensable and of great kindness. This is the yoga of the freedom from reference points. Remaining undistracted in that, when outer appearances become indistinct, this is the yoga of multiplicity’s becoming of one taste. Through familiarizing with that, basic awareness becomes absolutely naked. At that point, through the perfection of being familiar with it, the dharmakāya is attained. This is the yoga of nonmeditation. Through this, the armor of prajñā is taught by way of the armor of the view.
Furthermore, Gampopa says that the difference between the pāramitāyāna and the mantrayāna lies in their being long and short paths, respectively. Also, in Nāropa’s system, there is something to meditate, while in Maitrīpa’s system there is nothing to meditate. At the time of the path, there is something to meditate, but at the time of the fruition, there is nothing to calculate in terms of meditating or not meditating. In the mantrayāna, there is no path to be calculated—all there is is realizing or not realizing true reality. However, those of the highest faculties rely on neither the pāramitāyāna nor the mantrayāna.
The text states that connate wisdom is this presently existing ordinary mind. In order to recognize it, based on the words of the guru, let this ordinary mind be in an uncontrived manner. Let it be unaffected. Let it be in its own place. Let it be natural as it pleases. Through letting it be in this way, your own mind is realized as being without arising, abiding, and ceasing and as not being any entity.
Gampopa’s preserved works do not feature any obvious references to the Uttaratantra, which is remarkable given the famous statement attributed to him that "the text for this Mahāmudrā of ours is this Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra composed by the Bhagavān Maitreya." However, this statement is not preserved in Gampopa’s available texts. He must have studied the Uttaratantra with his Kadampa teachers, but there is no evidence that he had direct contact with Dsen Kawoché or one of his students. BA says that Gampopa produced an understanding of Mahāmudrā in beginners who had not obtained empowerment, which is the system of prajñāpāramitā. Since Gampopa had said to Pamo Trupa that the Uttaratantra is the basis for his Mahāmudrā, Pamo Trupa transmitted this text to Jigden Sumgön. This is the reason why many explanations of the Uttaratantra are found in the writings of Jigden Sumgön and his students (see below).
In any case, the statement on the Uttaratantra ’s being the basis of Mahāmudrā and the existence of early corresponding instructions in texts such as CMW and those by Kyotön Mönlam Tsültrim are evidence that such teachings must have existed earlier in India and Tibet (at least from the tenth century onward). It is also noteworthy that the transmission of the works of Mönlam Tsültrim (the eighth abbot of the great Kadampa seat Nartang) shows that these teachings were part of the Kadampa tradition, which at that time clearly represented mainstream Tibetan Buddhism. As mentioned above, many early Kagyü lineage holders, such as Gampopa and the First and Third Karmapas, studied extensively in the Kadampa tradition. Whether they received teachings of the kind as contained in Mönlam Tsültrim’s texts during their studies is not known, but it is very likely (which would also explain Gampopa’s reported statement on the Uttaratantra). Of course, it is equally possible that those Kagyü masters obtained such teachings from other sources. Still, as many Kagyü works on Mahāmudrā say, sūtra Mahāmudrā comes from the Uttaratantra, Maitrīpa, or the Kadampas. All of this is clearly confirmed by the existence of texts such as those by Mönlam Tsültrim within the Kadampa tradition itself.
GC says that the Mahāmudrā approach of Gampopa based on the Uttaratantra is followed by those who correctly understand the pith instructions of the three masters from Kham and others. In that regard, GC quotes the early Drugpa Kagyü master Götsangpa Gönpo Dorje (1189– 1258) as having said that the one who excelled in Mahāmudrā among the teachings of the Buddha was Saraha, followed by Śavaripa and Maitrīpa (which, GC says, is very clear from Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka and its commentary by Sahajavajra), while in Tibet it was due to the kindness of Gampopa that the Mahāmudrā tradition was transmitted even to cowherds. Both GC and BA state that Mahāmudrā is explained in Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā as the wisdom of suchness that has the three characteristics of its nature’s being pāramitā, its being in accordance with the secret mantra, and its name’s being "Mahāmudrā." Therefore, the Mahāmudrā of prajñāpāramitā of lord Gampopa was described by Götsangpa as being a teaching of Maitrīpa. At the same time, Gampopa also transmitted the Mahāmudrā that belongs to the path of tantra to his inner disciples.
GC continues that Vajrapāṇi, another main student of Maitrīpa, also explained this Mahāmudrā of prajñāpāramitā to many learned ones in Tibet. Padampa Sangyé, a direct disciple of Maitrīpa, gave the name The Pacification of Suffering to the Mahāmudrā whose essence is prajñāpāramitā and that accords with secret mantra, teaching it to countless students in Tibet. Likewise, the pith instructions and textual explanations coming down from Dsen Kawoché are definitely in accordance with Maitrīpa. Thus, in effect, GC says that the teachings that came to be known as Shentong accord with Mahāmudrā.
In that vein, GC’s comments on Uttaratantra I.52-63 say that, throughout birth, sickness, aging, and death, the skandhas and so on arise, abide, and cease within the basic expanse of nonconceptuality, which is not affected by the fires of sickness, aging, and death. When one dies, one simply dissolves back into the expanse of nonconceptuality. When one is sick and ages, it is that expanse itself that appears in the form of the pains of sickness and the process of aging. With this in mind, Padampa Sangyé asserted that everybody, be they male, female, old, young, or lepers, is able to see true reality if they possess the skillful means of a guru. Also the followers of the tradition of Dsen Kawoché hold that these situations of sickness and so on can be made into the path through pith instructions (as mentioned above, Dsen originally requested teachings on the Uttaratantra from Sajjana as his instructions to be practiced at the time of death).
Interestingly, BA connects Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā realization with a passage from the introduction of the Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra that is also quoted in RGVV as the source of the first three vajra points. BA says that, just as this introduction states that "the Bhagavān has completely and perfectly awakened to the equality of all phenomena," Gampopa’s own realization of Mahāmudrā was supreme. Just as this sūtra says "has excellently turned the wheel of dharma," Gampopa uninterruptedly turned the wheel of vast instructions day and night. Just as this sūtra states "is endowed with the assemblies of limitless very disciplined disciples," Gampopa had inconceivably many students who were endowed with the twelve qualities of abstinence, had devotion for their guru, were not attached to this world, and made practicing meditation in solitary places the main thing in their lives.
BA continues that Milarepa had not taught the path of means and Mahāmudrā separately, but Gampopa taught the path of means only to suitable recipients for the vajrayāna, while he gave the instructions of Mahāmudrā even without empowerment to those who were suitable recipients of the pāramitāyāna. He composed a progressive guidance manual on that called Connate Union, which is also called "The dharma of the Realization of Tagpo." Gampopa said that "it is taught in the scriptures that gurus and students must have many qualities, but for students it is sufficient to solely have devotion." In this way, he gave rise to the realization of Mahāmudrā after a short time even in some foolish, destitute, and wicked persons. He also established many novices who had not done any study or reflection in such realization. Furthermore, he composed treatises on the progressive stages of the Kadampa teachings and taught many of their oral instructions. Thus, it is said that since that time, the two rivers of Kadampa and Mahāmudrā have been blended.
BA also states that though Gampopa was criticized by some great teachers of the scholarly oriented pāramitāyāna to have wasted many bright people through his way of teaching, he answered, "I may be blamed by those who follow the yāna of characteristics, but the welfare of beings will increase through these novices of mine."
Elsewhere, BA reports some examples of Gampopa’s teaching approach. When the First Karmapa met Gampopa after having already studied for many years with several Kadampa masters (he studied the Maitreya texts with Chaba Chökyi Sengé), Gampopa first taught the Kadampa stages of the path even to such an advanced student as the Karmapa and had him meditate on them. It was only thereafter that the Karmapa received empowerment and was taught the path of means. Also, as mentioned above, BA says that one of Gampopa’s four secondary lineage holders, Layagpa Jangchub Ngödrub, had earlier studied the Maitreya texts with his uncle and then also with Jangrawa Dumtön. Later, when he met Gampopa and received his blessings, the realization of Mahāmudrā dawned in him as if he had met an old acquaintance. Subsequently he also received instructions on caṇḍālī and Cakrasaṃvara from Gampopa. Later, when Gampopa was about to pass away, two monks requested instructions on the path of means from outside of his quarters but were not admitted by him. One of his attendants advised them to ask for Mahāmudrā instead. After they had done so in a loud voice for a long time, Gampopa let them finally enter and gave them Mahāmudrā instructions.
The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje
Many texts by the Third Karmapa, though not explicitly linking the Uttaratantra to Mahāmudrā, combine the approaches and terminologies of Yogācāra, the Uttaratantra, and Mahāmudrā. The Karmapa’s commentary on the Dharmadhātustava explicitly equates prajñāpāramitā with Mahāmudrā and says that both are the characteristics or equivalents of the dharmadhātu, which throughout is understood as being the tathāgata heart. Given that the tathāgata heart is the topic of the Dharmadhātustava, it is not surprising that the Karmapa’s commentary is greatly based on the Uttaratantra (quoting forty-two verses and referring to several others) and RGVV (four quotes, some lengthy). Thus, there is no doubt that the Third Karmapa also subscribed to a connection between the Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā.
The first, sixth, and ninth chapters of Rangjung Dorje’s Profound Inner Reality and its autocommentary present the pure and the impure mind as the causes and conditions of nirvāṇa and saṃsāra, respectively, which is based on Yogācāra sources on the eight consciousnesses and the four wisdoms as well as on teachings on the tathāgata heart (such as from the Uttaratantra). His Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart is basically a synopsis of the Uttaratantra, while his Distinction between Consciousness and Wisdom represents a digest of the Yogācāra presentations on the eight consciousnesses and the four wisdoms. Traditionally, these four texts are considered as a unit, with the latter two being supplements of the first two. They are crucial in their elucidation of how the views and practices of vajrayāna and Mahāmudrā are based on the sūtrayāna teachings on buddha nature as the very ground, path, and fruition of these approaches and on mind’s transition from being obscured in the form of dualistic consciousness to being free as nondual wisdom. Thus, these texts are not just mere philosophical or scholastic treatises, but inform and enhance meditation practice through their profound outlook and their sometimes distinctly experiential style, which is grounded in the Mahāmudrā approach and provides direct meditation or pointing-out instructions. The commentaries by Jamgön Kongtrul on the latter two texts at times also pick up this approach.
In this vein, the eminent contemporary Kagyü scholar and meditation master Thrangu Rinpoche says that Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart and The Distinction between Consciousness and Wisdom combine scholasticism and reasoning according to the Shentong approach with the Mahāmudrā tradition of directly familiarizing with the nature of the mind. Thus, in terms of their more theoretical instructions, they present the definitive meaning, and in terms of practice, they correspond to the Mahāmudrā approach to meditation. Examples of this approach include the following passages from the autocommentary on The Profound Inner Reality:
[The meaning of] "beginningless" is as follows. Since a beginning and an end in time are conceptual superimpositions, here, [mind’s] own essence—be it with stains or stainless—is free from being the same as or other than dependent origination. Since there is no other beginning than that, this is called "beginningless time." In the very instant of [mind] itself being aware (rig pa) of or realizing its own essence, it is liberated, whereas its not being aware (ma rig pa) of this [essence] is the beginning of mistaken mind, which is called "ignorance."
Due to the unimpeded play of that very mind’s own essence through momentary consciousnesses, [while] its nature abides as emptiness and it is lucidity by nature (which represents the basis for everything), the individual manifestations of the collections of mental factors and the seven collections of consciousness appear in an unimpeded and momentary way from that [empty and lucid ground]. Therefore, during the phase of [mind] being impure, [these three aspects of mind’s empty essence, lucid nature, and unimpeded display] are called "mind," "mentation," and "consciousness" [respectively]. Once they have become pure, they are expressed through the names of the three kāyas and the wisdoms. . . .
As for that very mind being ignorant of itself, of what is it ignorant, through what is it ignorant, and in which way is it ignorant? Firstly, it is ignorant of its own naturally pure essence. Through what [is it ignorant]? It is ignorant of its own essence through [its own] unimpeded creative display appearing as if it were [distinct] subjects and objects. In which way is it ignorant? Due to being stirred by formational mentation, it appears as if it were causes and conditions, based on which it is rendered afflicted. Therefore, ignorance is produced and, through false imagination, it serves as both the basis [—the ālaya-consciousness—] and the condition [—mentation—] of saṃsāra. Since this [mentation] and the ālaya[-consciousness] manifest in the form of mutual causes and conditions, just like water and waves, they are incessantly stirring and forming [each other]. Hence, this is ignorance.
Jamgön Kongtrul’s commentary on Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart says:
The meaning of "beginningless" is as follows. Before that essence (the pure nature [of the mind]), there is nothing that could be called "buddhahood," and before the latent tendencies of ignorant mistakenness, there is absolutely nothing that could be called a "sentient being." The time of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa appearing and being mistaken as two is this very moment, it does not come via someplace else, because all phenomena are dependent origination.
Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart states:
The one who adopts and rejects these is mistakenness.
Through rejecting [mind’s] own appearances, where should they cease?
Through adopting [mind’s] own appearances, what should come about?
Is clinging to duality not delusive?
Understanding this is indeed said to be the remedy,
But the thought of nonduality is not real [either],
For the lack of thought [just] turns into a thought.
You thought about emptiness, dissecting form and so on into parts,
Are you not mistaken yourself?
The same text also equates the classical Mahāmudrā term "ordinary mind" with the key theme of the Uttaratantra—the dharmadhātu’s being understood as the tathāgata heart—and relates this to the first two lines of Uttaratantra I.154:
Just this ordinary mind
Is called "dharmadhātu" and "heart of the victors."
Neither is it to be improved by the noble ones
Nor made worse by sentient beings.
Furthermore, the text relates the ignorance about one’s true nature and its realization to the three natures of Yogācāra:
Since we lack certainty about what is, just as it is,
We produce the imaginary, construing what is nonexistent as existent.
The conceptuality produced by this is the dependent [nature].
Through not knowing the perfect,
We are agitated by our own doing.
Alas, in those who realize these qualities of the dharmakāya
To be what is real, this is the knowledge of reality.
[Even] their present little power is reality—
Casting away this knowledge, we fabricate what is unreal
And are carried away by the agitation of pursuing it.
Understand now what is, just as it is,
And you attain power in it.
On the last two lines, Jamgön Kongtrul’s commentary takes the Mahāmudrā stance of buddhahood’s being nothing but realizing the nature of the mind for what it is:
Since the presence of the dharmakāya in ourselves is realized through study and reflection, understand what is, just as it is—that all qualities [of awakening] exist right now in a complete way in this mind as such, the buddha heart. Through becoming familiar with this understanding, refreshing it again and again, you will realize this, just as it is, which is sufficient—you will directly attain the power of these qualities.
The beginning of The Distinction between Consciousness and Wisdom makes it clear that the entire text is written from the perspective, and for the purpose, of meditation as the process of becoming liberated from mistakenness and seeing mind’s nature as it is:
Having relied on study and reflection,
In order to immerse myself in the ways of meditation,
While dwelling in seclusion,
I will express how this principle [of mistakenness and liberation] appears.
The Eighth Karmapa, Mikyö Dorje
The Eighth Karmapa’s introduction to his commentary on the Madhyamakāvatāra presents two distinct Kagyü transmissions of Madhyamaka—the well-known Kagyü lineage through Tilopa, Nāropa, Marpa, and so on, and the lineage of Maitrīpa’s "Madhyamaka of mental nonengagement," which is a special lineage of Mahāmudrā. He says that Maitrīpa realized that the Madhyamaka taught by Saraha, Śavaripa, Nāgārjuna, and Candrakīrti has the same meaning and taught it in this way to others. The Karmapa quotes Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka 2, which says that without the words of the guru, even Madhyamaka is only middling (this basically indicates that sūtra-based Mahāmudrā must include pointing-out instructions). From Maitrīpa, this lineage was passed on to Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, the First Karmapa, and so on. Maitrīpa’s cycle of Madhyamaka teachings is known as "the twenty-five dharma works of mental nonengagement." In Tibet, three distinct lineages of the intended meaning of this "Madhyamaka of mental nonengagement" developed:
- 1. The practice that focuses on the profound and luminous Madhyamaka of the
- 2. The practice that focuses on the profound Madhyamaka of the sūtras
- 3. The practice that focuses on "the Madhyamaka of False Aspectarian Mere
- 1. The practice that focuses on the profound and luminous Madhyamaka of the
The latter system explains that the actual meaning of the dohās of the siddhas lies in the ultimately established, self-aware, and self-luminous cognition empty of apprehender and apprehended. This view has been widely taught in India and Tibet by master Vajrapāṇi (one of Maitrīpa’s main students), Asu from Nepal, Kor Nirupa (1062–1162), and others.
The Karmapa says that Marpa and Milarepa transmitted and accomplished the entirety of the first two practices, while Gampopa specifically focused on the second practice and widely propagated it. In the Samādhirājasūtra, he was the bodhisattva Candraprabhākumāra and was praised by the Buddha as the one who would later spread the teachings of this sūtra. It was Gampopa who gave this system (2) the name "Mahāmudrā," which comes from the Yogānuttara class of tantra, in which Mahāmudrā is well known as the name for the wisdom of bliss-emptiness. When the Madhyamaka view of this system dawns in one’s mind stream, this is called "the perception of ordinary mind" or "the perception of the dharmakāya." When one realizes that the bearers of the nature of phenomena, such as sprouts and thoughts, are not established as anything other than their true nature, one refers to this realization with the conventional expression "thoughts appearing as the dharmakāya."
The view and meditation of this Mahāmudrā system as inseparable from Madhyamaka are said to be very necessary in order to eliminate remaining latencies of discursiveness and the impregnations of negative tendencies at the time when extremely pleasant experiences of the vajrayāna’s wisdom of the union of bliss and emptiness arise in one’s mind. This is called "the single white panacea," because it eliminates all obscurations without exception. Even a partial dawning of the view and meditation of this Mahāmudrā in the mind serves as the supreme panacea for the referential grasping at what is held to be inferior (such as seeming reality and adventitious stains) or superior (such as ultimate reality or the nature of phenomena). Without such a remedy, just like medicine’s turning into poison, the view and meditation of the freedom from reference points would turn into a view and meditation that are themselves nothing but reference points.
At this point, the Karmapa refers to some of the main passages from Jñānakirti’s Tattvāvatāra and Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā quoted above, which link Mahāmudrā with prajñāpāramitā. He says that the experiential guiding instructions of this Mahāmudrā system do not involve vajrayāna empowerments. This system’s explicit teaching is the Madhyamaka of emptiness free from reference points in the sūtra tradition, but implicitly it also teaches the ultimate profound actuality of both sūtras and tantras— the ordinary and extraordinary sugata heart. With this in mind, Gampopa, Pamo Trupa, Jigden Sumgön, and many others have said that "the treatise of our Mahāmudrā is this Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra composed by the Bhagavān Maitreya." Götsangpa Gönpo Dorje declared that the initiators of this Mahāmudrā are both Saraha and Nāgārjuna, with Saraha teaching Mahāmudrā from the side of affirmation and Nāgārjuna teaching it from the side of negation. Therefore, the Karmapa says, I rejoice in the following straightforward words of Gö Lotsāwa:
This renowned "Glorious Tagpo Kagyü" is not a lineage of words, but it is the lineage of true reality. This true reality refers to the unbroken lineage of the realization of stainless Mahāmudrā. The guru from whom one obtains the realization of Mahāmudrā is presented as one’s root guru.
Consequently, Mikyö Dorje states, though according to the secret mantra approach in the Kagyü lineage there are no separate guiding instructions on Mahāmudrā other than those in the Six Dharmas of Nāropa, by virtue of seeing the purport of this true actuality, the followers of this lineage distinguish instructions called "The Six Dharmas" and "Mahāmudrā."
The Karmapa continues that, in addition to the Kagyü lineage, many others in Tibet taught this dharma system of Mahāmudrā. For example, it is contained in the teachings called The Pacification of Suffering that the Indian master Padampa Sangye brought to Tibet. In particular, there is the Mahāmudrā transmissions to Tropu Lotsāwa Jampa Bal (1173–1225) by many Indian scholars and siddhas, such as Mitrayogin and the great Kashmiri Paṇḍita Śākyaśrībhadra who visited Tibet from 1204–1213. The portion of the Mahāmudrā teachings that was later transmitted to the great translators Jamba Lingba, Gö Lotsāwa, Trimkang Lotsāwa Sönam Gyaltsen (1424–1482), and others, when the great Bengali Paṇḍita Vanaratna (1384–1468) visited Tibet three times also belongs to this type of Mahāmudrā system.
The Eighth Karmapa then presents two other Madhyamaka lineages coming to Tibet from Nāgārjuna to Atiśa (982–1054) and Patsab Lotsāwa, respectively. As for the former lineage, Gampopa received it from Jayülwa and many other Kadampa masters. An alternative lineage went from Atiśa via the Kadampa masters Potowa and Sharawa Yönten Tra (1070–1141) directly to the First Karmapa.
Here, Mikyö Dorje addresses the issue of whether the Madhyamaka teachings called "Mahāmudrā" that were transmitted by Maitrīpa and the Madhyamaka teachings transmitted from Atiśa are the same. In terms of the true reality that they teach, he says, there is no difference, but they differ in their approach to realizing this actuality. In Atiśa’s lineage, one determines true reality through conceptual examination and analysis. Then, one rests in meditative equipoise through the knowledge that entails a small degree of clear appearance with regard to the aspect of a nonimplicative negation. In Maitrīpa’s system, just as a fire dies once its wood has been consumed, one determines the nature of this examining and analyzing knowledge itself through seeing that it is baseless and without root. Then one rests in meditative equipoise in that which does not involve any sense of negation or affirmation whatsoever.
In several of his works, the Eighth Karmapa warns against a simplistic understanding of Mahāmudrā in general and Gampopa’s approach to it in particular. Besides the above quote in TOK about "Connate Union Mahāmudrā" only being a name that Gampopa and Pamo Trupa gave to the pith instructions in Atiśa’s Bodhipathapradīpa in order to please those who are fond of very high yānas, Mikyö Dorje’s commentary on the Madhyamakāvatāra makes it clear that even Gampopa’s sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach entails some elements of vajrayāna (as also stated by Sahajavajra and others):
Some confused . . . later followers of the Tagpo Kagyü say, "Lord Gampopa, even without relying on the mantra [approach], has nakedly pointed out the wisdom of Mahāmudrā to beginners in the nondual wisdom that is solely directed inward, thus manifesting ordinary or primordial mind." There is no way that Lord Gampopa held such an approach even in his dreams.
The Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra says:
Those present-day followers of [Mahā]mudrā whose confusion is even a hundred thousand times bigger than this exclaim, "Through refining the ālaya-consciousness into something pure, it turns into the result of mirrorlike wisdom." This is not justified for the following reasons. Something like this does not appear in any of the traditions of the mahāyāna . . . A presentation of the ālaya-consciousness as the cause and mirrorlike wisdom as its result is not something that is obtained through reasoning. Rather, with respect to the mode of being of causes and results, in terms of [such] causes and results in the abhidharma that actually fulfill these functions (that is, being what produces and what is produced), the ālaya-consciousness and mirrorlike wisdom are not adequate as a cause and a result that fully qualify as such. Also, since the very nature of the ālaya-consciousness is [nothing but] the adventitious stains, it is presented as impure. No matter how it may be refined by something else, it will not turn into something pure. It is not possible within the sphere of knowable objects that something impure turns into something pure, or that something pure turns into something impure. Some assert that there is the mere factor of lucid and aware mind, and that this is what comprises all the seeds of saṃsāra as well as the seeds of nirvāṇa. This is . . . not something that appears in the Buddhist tradition . . . [which is shown by the fact that] this is put forward as the assertion of non-Buddhists . . . by the great guardians of the Buddha’s teaching, glorious Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, and then refuted.
his kind of mental nonengagement . . . is not something like the stopping of any thoughts in terms of experience and recollection (as a subcategory of mental factors) in the system of the Chinese master [Hvashang] who boasted himself about the Madhyamaka view. In brief, it is from the perspective of the sixth consciousness itself becoming without any characteristics that it is clearly manifest as the actuality of mental nonengagement. However, the explanation nowadays that being free from apprehending generalities—as the kind of cognition that impairs the sixth consciousness—is the view of Mahāmudrā free from mental engagement is nothing but the occurrence of a dharma famine. The manner in which the position of said Chinese master and the Mahāmudrā free from mental engagement do not accord should be understood from my other works.
Mikyö Dorje generally holds that the Mahāmudrā instructions—in the sense of essence Mahāmudrā—originated with Saraha. In his Answers to Lingdrungpa’s Questions, he points to the superiority of this Kagyü Mahāmudrā compared even to the fourth empowerment in the Yogānuttara class of tantra. In answer to the question of whether there is a difference between Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā and the Mahāmudrā of the fourth empowerment, he says that Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā falls outside the scope of the question of whether it is the same or different from this empowerment. For Jigden Sumgön says that this Mahāmudrā is "beyond the four joys, more eminent than luminosity, and untouched by the three great ones." Saraha’s Dohakoṣa too declares that the connate natural state, Mahāmudrā, the purport of the dohās, cannot be realized through the fourth empowerment:
Some engage in the explanation of the purport of the fourth
Some understand it as the element of space,
And others view it as emptiness,
But mostly they have entered what is incompatible [with it].
Instead, just like Saraha and other siddhas, the Karmapa here champions the most immediate approach to mind’s nature, which entails discarding any conventional kind of Buddhist practice, including the vajrayāna. He says that within the great primordial freedom from the impurities of the experiences, realizations, and philosophical systems of the four mundane and supramundane empowerments and so forth, one simply settles in an unfabricated natural manner in what appears spontaneously as the primordial buddha, the primordially pristine presence itself. Apart from that, the siddhi of Mahāmudrā is not accomplished through tiresome activities such as requesting empowerments, ringing a bell, repeating mantras while meditating on a deity, collecting wood to make fire offerings, or carrying out extensive meditation rituals after having collected offering substances. The Karmapa concludes by saying that when Pamo Trupa met Gampopa after already having received the fourth empowerment in the Sakya tradition, he left the experience of Mahāmudrā in that fourth empowerment behind and realized the Mahāmudrā of Gampopa’s Kagyü— ordinary mind. All of this corresponds to Mikyö Dorje’s remark in his spiritual memoirs that when teaching Mahāmudrā, he emphasizes the tradition of the dohās as transmitted via Maitrīpa’s student Vajrapāṇi.
As for the relationship between Mahāmudrā and the tathāgata heart, the Eighth Karmapa’s Answers to the Questions of Lama Kampa refers to the Third Karmapa’s Profound Inner Reality’s speaking of mind in its two aspects—pure and impure. As for how the impure aspect of mind comes about, mind’s essence is empty, its nature is lucid, and its expression is unimpeded, but it is ignorant about itself. Therefore, the pristine mind is primordial wisdom (ye shes) but at the same time obscured by ignorance, which is called "consciousness" (rnam shes). Conventionally, this wisdom is an existing phenomenon, the natural, self-arisen, inherent, and undeluded tathāgata heart. Now, if there are these two kinds of minds, how can it be held that the essence of thoughts is dharmakāya? It is not incompatible for a single mind stream to entail both the natural state and adventitious stains because these stains are not other in substance than native mind (gnyug ma’i sems), which is equivalent to the dharmakāya and ordinary mind.
As mentioned above, the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra often equates the tathāgata heart with Mahāmudrā, even speaking of the "permanent moment of Mahāmudrā" and "the supreme awareness that is other" (that is, the direct experience of mind’s nature that is beyond time and dualistic mind).
Tagpo Dashi Namgyal
Tagpo Dashi Namgyal’s (1512/1513–1587) Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā presents several different positions as to whether Mahāmudrā belongs to the sūtrayāna, the mantrayāna, or neither. First, he says, some dohās and symbolic transmissions of Mahāmudrā explain that among sūtra and tantra, Mahāmudrā belongs to the latter. Within tantra, among the path of blessing, the path of solace, and the path of direct perception, it represents the third one. They say that one needs either an elaborate or a short maturing empowerment and that the yānas preceding this highest one should be cultivated as appropriate since they are like stepping stones. According to the sources of secret conduct, among the three yānas in terms of students with inferior, medium, and highest intelligence—the pāramitāyāna, the mantrayāna, and the yāna of the unsurpassable essence—Mahāmudrā represents the latter. It has the four features of not directly being in accord with the two former yānas, not being in contradiction with them, being in partial accordance with them, and being more eminent than them. Nevertheless, these Mahāmudrā transmissions say that one needs some elaborate or short form of empowerment and blessing and one should also meditate on a deity as appropriate. Thus, Mahāmudrā must be considered as a subdivision of the mantrayāna.
However, if one analyzes what Saraha says, he asserts Mahāmudrā to be a shortcut path called "the path of the essence." He holds that this path’s own nature does not depend on the mantrayāna. It is free from the three conditions, beyond the four joys, and even more special than luminosity. Still, he speaks in his Queen Dohā of how to rely on a karmamudrā, how to mature her through empowerment, and how to engage in yogic conduct, thus saying that if Mahāmudrā is connected with the mantrayāna, it is suitable for that. Saraha, Tilopa, and others also explain that in order to realize perfect wisdom, without the instructions of Mahāmudrā, it is difficult to realize the ultimate basic nature—luminous Mahāmudrā—through the paths of sūtra or tantra alone.
Then, Tagpo Dashi Namgyal refers to Gampopa’s above-mentioned division of three paths—taking inference as the path, taking blessing as the path, and taking direct perceptions as the path, which is Mahāmudrā. He also adduces two further ways of Gampopa’s making a threefold division of paths. (1) The pāramitāyāna is the path of relinquishing the basis through taking the factors to be relinquished and their remedies to be different. The path of transforming the basis is the mantrayāna—the transformation of one’s body into a deity, the transformation of taking afflictions as the path, and the transformation of taking thoughts as wisdom, thus cleansing stains with stains and cutting through thoughts with thoughts. The path of knowing the basis is Mahāmudrā—there is nothing to be relinquished, no remedy, nothing to be transformed, and nothing that transforms it, but everything is mind’s display. One becomes a buddha through familiarizing with the recognition that mind’s being primordially unborn exists as the intrinsic dharmakāya. (2) The pāramitāyāna refers to those of dull faculties engaging in the path of accumulation. The mantrayāna refers to those of medium faculties who are full of thoughts and afflictions engaging in the path of means. Mahāmudrā refers to those of sharp faculties who possess prajñā engaging in true reality. Therefore, Dashi Namgyal says, Gampopa holds that Mahāmudrā is a shortcut path separate from both sūtra and tantra (Gampopa also sometimes uses the term "path of blessing" for it). Gampopa asserts that when a realized guru guides a qualified student who has left behind all activities of this life, that student will be liberated instantaneously through the path of Mahāmudrā without depending on the paths of sūtra or tantra.
There are two kinds of persons who practice profound true reality—for the fortunate ones with prior training, it is sufficient to teach them the profound path in an instantaneous manner, while beginners must be taught this path in a gradual manner. Gampopa holds that this profound path of Mahāmudrā is a shortcut path independent of tantra and did not say that one needs maturing empowerments as a preliminary for it. Rather, he guided students by relying only on taking refuge in the guru and the three jewels, cultivating love, compassion, and bodhicitta, confessing wrongdoing, offering maṇḍalas to the guru and the three jewels, and praying to them with fervent devotion. In this context, those of highest faculties with an instantaneous disposition should first seek for the view and then should be taught the pith instructions on the means to rest in meditative equipoise on the basis of that view. This corresponds to the contemporary way of guiding students through The Four Letters of Mahāmudrā. Those of inferior faculties with a gradual disposition are progressively guided from calm abiding to superior insight, which corresponds to the contemporary manner of guiding through Connate Union. The reasons for this are understood from the guidance manuals, oral instructions, and questions and answers in Gampopa’s collected works, as well as from the parts of the collected works of Pamo Trupa and the First Karmapa that record the oral teachings of Gampopa.
However, it appears that later followers of this practice lineage, in terms of adapting Mahāmudrā to the sūtrayāna and tantrayāna, have joined Mahāmudrā with many practices from these yānas, such as required empowerments, the four common and uncommon preliminaries, and appropriate stages of enhancement. Thus, to take Mahāmudrā as the profound path that is in common with sūtra and tantra is not contradictory, but to do so is due to the different needs of those with inferior and superior intelligence and is in order to enhance realization. Still, if one follows Gampopa’s system of practicing Mahāmudrā alone, there is no need for empowerments, the meditation of Vajrasattva, visualizing oneself as a deity, and visualizing the guru as Vajradhara, but one just practices the above preliminaries taught by Gampopa himself.
Dashi Namgyal’s text does not show any significant linking of Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra—its only quote is Uttaratantra I.63ab among many other quotations to support the description of the nature of the mind as space-like luminosity.
Padma Karpo’s Treasure Vault of Mahāmudrā quotes three lines from the above-mentioned famous verse about connate mind’s being the dharmakāya and so on and then explains its meaning—particularly Gampopa’s key term "Connate Union"—by greatly relying on the Uttaratantra:
Connate mind as such is the dharmakāya.
Connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya.
Therefore, the inseparability of appearances and mind is connateness.
What is connate here are connate mind as such and connate appearances. Since Mahāmudrā free from any sides is labeled as two by minds that fall into one side or the other, it appears as the basic ground and its radiance, just as a single person may be apprehended as a friend or an enemy. Therefore, in terms of the basic ground, Mahāmudrā is presented as changeless great bliss. In terms of its radiance, it is presented as the emptiness endowed with all supreme aspects. The first is the ultimate and the second is the seeming. Hence, the seeming is the cause or the means, while the ultimate is the result or the outcome of the means. The meaning of "changeless" is explained by Uttaratantra I.51cd:
Its true nature of being changeless
Is the same before as after.
As for "the true nature" here, Uttaratantra I.155 says that the basic element is empty of what is adventitious but is not empty of the unsurpassable qualities. Thus, since appearances are adventitious, they are taught to be changing. Since the true nature is not like that, it is without anything to change. Hence, it is called "naturally pure." Since saṃsāra comes about due to the ongoing continuation of what is adventitious, the cause of saṃsāra needs to be purified. This cause is not something far away but simply consists of being distracted from the basic nature. Therefore, it is just through not engaging in being distracted from this nature that saṃsāra ends, and the ending of saṃsāra is nirvāṇa (this is followed by quoting Uttaratantra I.154). Being distracted arises due to the power of beginningless latent tendencies, and these latent tendencies are planted by improper mental engagement. Being distracted is nothing but being ignorant about such mental engagement because the mind turns to what is other than proper mental engagement. In other words, to move away from mindfulness is what is called "distraction." Therefore, if improper mental engagement has become pure, there will be only proper mental engagement. Thus, the gurus say that the root of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa is determined by being unaware and aware, respectively. Proper mental engagement is exactly what is explained as the third meaning of the term "mental nonengagement" (amanasikāra) above—mentally engaging in a proper manner in the meaning of the letter a, which is prajñāpāramitā, nonduality, nonarising, and nonceasing. In terms of the vajrayāna, nonduality refers to the union of prajñā and means, which has the nature of great bliss. In terms of the pāramitāyāna, duality refers to subject and object, which will always be dual for as long as there is mental flux. The identitylessness of all phenomena is free from all flux, without any reference points, and nondual. Therefore, the gurus say that meditation is mental nonengagement. At that time, one cannot assert anything about what is to be looked at, so the view is called "being without any assertions." Since whatever appears at that time is without anything to be adopted or to be relinquished, conduct is called "being free from adopting and rejecting." Since appearing and being liberated are simultaneous, the fruition is called "being free from hope and fear."
As for the word "union" in "connate union," it means to rest in ordinary mind—the unity of connate appearances and mind—without distraction.
The Eighth Situpa, Chökyi Jungné
The commentary by the Eighth Situ Rinpoche on the Third Karmapa’s Aspiration Prayer of Mahāmudrā quotes ten verses from the Uttaratantra and the Dharmadhātustava each, clearly relating the Uttaratantra and its main topic of buddha nature with Mahāmudrā in terms of ground, path and fruition, as well as view and meditation. In its defense of a sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach without empowerment, the commentary also refers to Maitrīpa, Sahajavajra, and Jñānakīrti as forerunners of that system.
Situ Rinpoche’s text quotes Uttaratantra I.154 twice. First, the verse is quoted as support for saying that the basic natures of body and mind are inseparable, just like ice and water. Therefore, they are called "the union of the two kāyas at the time of the ground." There are no other means to clearly manifest this basic nature than the self-aware direct perception that arises through the power of meditation:
There is nothing to be removed in this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is viewed as it really is—
If actual reality is seen, one is liberated.
Later, the same verse is cited as support for saying that the main point with regard to the meditation flaws of dullness and agitation is to directly look at their very essence and rest right within that essence in an uncontrived manner. This is the most profound remedy and is also necessary as the basis for superior insight.
Verse 7 of the Aspiration Prayer speaks about the typical fourfold vajrayāna set of (1) the basis of purification, (2) the means of purification, (2) what is to be purified, and (4) the result of purification:
Within the basis of purification, mind as such, the union of being
lucid and empty,
Through the means of purification, the great vajra yoga of
May the stainless dharmakāya manifest as the result of the
Of what is to be purified, the stains of adventitious
(1) In his comments on the basis of purification, Situ Rinpoche quotes Uttaratantra I.55–57, which speaks about the purity of the mind’s being the basis of all impure states of mind while not relying on any of them, as the reason for naturally pure mind’s being the basis of purification. Thus, the ground for everything in saṃsāra and nirvāṇa is the purity of the mind, that is, the basic element or tathāgata heart. This is the basis of purification but not what is to be purified since there is nothing whatsoever to be purified in its own essence. This is followed by quoting Dharmadhātustava verses 17 and 22:
This basic element, which is the seed,
Is held to be the basis of all dharmas.
Through its purification step by step,
The state of buddhahood we will attain.
The sūtras that teach emptiness,
However many spoken by the victors,
They all remove afflictions,
But never ruin this dhātu.
To wit, the former verse essentially represents a synopsis of the last four vajra points, while the latter one can be understood as an alternative answer (compared to Uttaratantra I.158–60) to the question in Uttaratantra I.156 why the buddhas teach the existence of the tathāgata heart in sentient beings despite having said before that all knowable objects are empty.
Situ Rinpoche continues that the pure mind is endowed with the sixty-four qualities of maturation and freedom in a nondual manner even at the time of the ground, being obscured only by adventitious stains. There are limitless scriptures that teach that mind is the union of being lucid and being empty, such as Uttaratantra I.63’s saying that this mind cannot be tainted by adventitious stains because it is naturally luminous:
The luminous nature of the mind
Is unchanging, just like space.
It is not afflicted by adventitious stains,
Such as desire, born from false imagination.
There is no being lucid apart from being empty and no being empty apart from being lucid. Thus, they are a union since Uttaratantra I.155cd says that the basic element
Is not empty of the unsurpassable attributes,
Which have the characteristic of being inseparable.
By contrast, those who explain lucidity and emptiness as two separate things and say that their union refers to these two things becoming coupled stand outside the teachings of the Tathāgata.
Commenting on the second line of verse 7 of the Aspiration Prayer (the great vajra yoga of Mahāmudrā’s being the means for purifying that basis to be purified), Situ Rinpoche declares that according to the stages of the guiding instructions of the Tagpo Kagyü, for students who rely on a qualified guru, it is fine either way if their practice of Mahāmudrā is preceded by elaborate empowerments or not. Those without empowerment, by virtue of practicing the common, uncommon, and special preliminaries of Mahāmudrā followed by the main practices of calm abiding and superior insight, gain exceptional realizations through seeing ordinary mind’s own face, which they had determined before through the pointing-out instructions they received. Such realizations are identical in the ultimate essential point to the realization of Mahāmudrā that arises through relying on the two stages of generation and completion. Furthermore, due to the different levels of the karmic dispositions of the students and the abilities of the gurus, some gain realization solely through the blessing of the transference of wisdom, while others gradually receive the four empowerments and then familiarize with the continuity of the experience of the third empowerment that is pointed out by the fourth empowerment. Thus, the wisdom of Mahāmudrā can become manifest through all kinds of means such as these. Though it is beyond being an object of speech, thought, and expression, the above-mentioned basis of purification is clearly experienced in the manner of being a personal experience.
Situ Rinpoche declares that the approach of wisdom’s being suitable to arise even without being preceded by elaborate empowerments does not fit into the minds of some famous scholars in Tibet who say (a) that Mahāmudrā is not possible without empowerment and the generation and completion stages and (b) that a good approach to meditation can be based only on the view that is taught in the Madhyamaka texts through extensive reasoning.
(a) Situ Rinpoche answers that the first flaw does not apply to this Mahāmudrā system here because, though it is not held that elaborate empowerments are indispensable for disciples of highest faculties, their Mahāmudrā practice must definitely be preceded by a vajra master’s blessings through vajra wisdom. As a result of that, the two stages of generation and completion are de facto definitely present too.
Of course, he says, some object that the empowerment of the transference of blessings does not qualify as an actual empowerment and that the practice of guru yoga does not qualify as the two stages of generation and completion. However, in that case, it would follow that empowerments into a colored-sand maṇḍala and so on are even less qualified as empowerments because an empowerment must be something that is able to give rise to the realization of the actuality of this empowerment in one’s mind stream and because the ability of elaborate empowerments to do so is inferior to the one of unelaborate empowerments. Also, it would follow that deity yoga too does not qualify as the stages of generation and completion. For, in the vajrayāna, one must regard the deity and the guru as being nondual, and the deity must be sealed with the guru. Thus, a deity as something sealed without a guru who seals it is just an imputed deity, which will never grant the supreme siddhi of Mahāmudrā. Consequently, since the samādhi empowerment or the empowerment of vajra wisdom in our tradition is the supreme among all empowerments, it goes without saying that it qualifies as empowerment. In fact, it is a flaw if a realized guru attempts to guide a student of supreme faculties who is suited for Mahāmudrā through any elaborate empowerments other than this supreme empowerment. This is explained in detail in King Indrabhūti’s Jñānasiddhi, which says that all supreme siddhis are accomplished through this vajra wisdom empowerment and describes the disastrous results of empowering someone with a physical maṇḍala if one possesses the entirety of perfect wisdom. Since the dividing line between receiving and not receiving an empowerment is whether or not the actuality of the empowerment has dawned in one’s mind stream, it must be understood that one has received the vase empowerment if the realization of the inseparability of appearance and emptiness has arisen in one’s mind. The same goes for the other three empowerments.
Likewise, guru yoga alone is sufficient as the two stages of generation and completion because the appearance of the entirety of phenomenal existence as the display of the guru through the power of guru yoga is far more effective in stopping clinging to ordinary appearances than even deity yoga. Also, many tantras say that the guru embodies all the jewels and that all siddhis will be attained through meditating on the guru. As for the completion stage, to sustain the experience of one’s mind’s having become without reference points through intense devotion is held to be the supreme path free from all obstacles and points to go astray.
(b) The second flaw does not apply here either. From the perspective of the freedom from reference points, the view of mantra Mahāmudrā is in accord with Madhyamaka. Therefore, not realizing the view of Madhyamaka cannot be a flaw of the mantrayāna. Furthermore, since Madhyamaka dialectics are merely taught for the sake of rebutting the disputes of tīrthikas, Mādhyamikas do not even consider analytical meditation as their very own system because Maitrīpa says in Tattvadaśaka 2cd:
Not adorned with the guru’s words,
The middle is just middling.
Thus, just as the Eighth Karmapa above, Situ Rinpoche here advocates personal pointing-out instructions by a guru as being the essence of even the Madhyamaka path. He continues with a quote from Sakya Paṇḍita as the reason why Mahāmudrā accords with the Madhyamaka view in terms of all reference points’ having subsided:
If there were a view higher than Madhyamaka,
That view would entail reference points.
Accordingly, a view that is superior to the Madhyamaka free from reference points is impossible in the teachings of the Buddha. With this in mind, Jñānakīrti’s Tattvāvatāra explains that the prajñāpāramitā taught in the sūtras and mantra Mahāmudrā are synonyms:
Another name of Mother Prajñāpāramitā is Mahāmudrā because it is the very nature of nondual wisdom.
As for the critique of Mahāmudrā’s being the system of Hvashang, Situ Rinpoche confirms that many instructions on Mahāmudrā emphasize that it is essential not to pursue thoughts about the past, the present, and the future. Some people say about this, "Since your Mahāmudrā is to stop all mental engagement in terms of the three times, it is the meditation of the Chinese Hvashang." However, Situ Rinpoche says, these people just talk without having properly examined the issue, since the Kagyü lineage does not hold that one should rest within a state of thoughts having ceased through deliberately stopping all mental engagement. Rather, it is held that the present fresh mind is sustained in an uncontrived manner. Still, these people may think, "Even if that is the case, you are not beyond the flaw mentioned, since all thoughts in terms of the three times will cease on their own through sustaining the present mind in an uncontrived manner." This just shows that such people are very attached to their thoughts and thus cannot let go of them. Since there seem to be very many people who have such a "pure" view, they are more than welcome to join in relishing their thoughts and have no need to analyze this here. As for us, Situ Rinpoche concludes, we never embarked on any path other than the one taught by the sugatas and traveled by the mighty siddhas.
(3) Now, what is to be purified by the means of purification within the basis of purification consists of the dualistic phenomena of apprehender and apprehended that do not exist in the basic ground but are produced by adventitious mistakenness.
(4) The result of the purification of these stains is the manifestation of the dharmakāya, that is, the fundamental nature of the ground, in which all such adventitious dualistic phenomena have been relinquished. As Dharmadhātustava 37 says:
Covered by the web of the afflictions,
It is called a "sentient being."
Once it’s free of the afflictions,
It should be expressed as "Buddha."
As for the teaching that the Buddha sees the dharmadhātu just as it is and the teaching that mind is self-aware and self-lucid, Situ Rinpoche says, the following must be understood. Not seeing even an atom of something that could serve as a characteristic within the dharmadhātu free from all reference points is expressed as "the great seeing of wisdom." That this is free from something to be aware of and something that is aware, or something to be made lucid and something that makes it lucid, is called "awareness" and "lucidity." One needs to understand this secret essential point and not take said teachings as being equivalent to the perceptions of worldly people. Otherwise, to speak of mind’s being aware of itself by itself is self-contradictory, accruing the flaws of being like a sword that cannot cut itself and so on that are exposed in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, the Bodhicaryāvatāra, and other texts.
However, the nature of the mind is not to be taken as utterly nonexistent or completely unobservable either. If the basic element of naturally pure mind were nonexistent, even on the level of what is merely seeming, it would not be tenable for the appearances of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa to occur since one only speaks of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa due to the distinction of whether this fundamental ground is not realized or realized, respectively. This is clearly expressed in verses 11, 16, and 17 of the Dharmadhātustava.
Here, the following essential point is to be understood. Though all phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa that appear as characteristics never existed in the basic ground, this does not contradict the fact that this basic ground provides the space in which everything can appear. Though this is expressed as "the vajra of mind," "the naturally pure basic element," and so on, it is impossible for something that entails the extreme of being absolutely real and permanent to exist. "But how can this be reconciled with the sūtras of the final dharma wheel’s speaking of the pāramitās of purity, permanence, bliss, and self (see Uttaratantra I.35–58), as well as the vajrayāna’s speaking of ‘invincible and indestructible wisdom’ and so on?" This is answered in Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra IX.78:
It is precisely nonexistence
That is the supreme existence.
Nonobservability in all respects
Is the supreme observation.
Accordingly, this refers to the naturally pure true reality that cannot be split by any characteristics or reference points, is beyond being an object of mind, and never changes into any other state. The purpose of teaching it in positive terms is to dispel the clinging to emptiness because the sūtras and Nāgārjuna say that such clinging is even worse than views about permanence. The reason for this is that emptiness was taught in order to dismantle any reification, but if one reifies emptiness, it is an even graver reification than any mundane one. This is similar to taking an emetic in order to dispel a disease and the emetic itself then turning into poison.
Situ Rinpoche also explains the meaning of the well-known Kagyü expression "thoughts are dharmakāya." He says that all these phenomena that appear as mere thoughts do not go beyond the dharmadhātu that is great bliss. Therefore, from the very moment of their appearance, they are established as the dharmakāya. This is similar to the reflection of the moon in water, which does not go beyond the substance of water, being established as water from the very moment of its appearance. However, Situ Rinpoche clarifies, it should be understood that we Kagyüpas never say that by virtue of thoughts’ being the dharmakāya, one will be liberated merely through continuing to conceptually examine them.
Later, our text relates the Uttaratantra to the fact that the names and meanings of all profound and vast dharmas are included in Mahāmudrā, which is thus the single white panacea, and also defends "the Mahāmudrā of mental nonengagement." The meaning of "profound" here refers to actually being of one taste as emptiness. The meaning of "vast" refers to the mere means that enable one to directly or indirectly engage in Mahāmudrā. As Uttaratantra I.147 says:
The teaching of the principle of subtle profundity
Is like the single taste of honey.
The teaching of the principle of diverse aspects
Should be understood to resemble a kernel in its various husks.
Therefore, this is the final meaning taught by all the various discourses of the Sugata. Through realizing just this, one will arrive at the ground of all dharmas, perfect all qualities, and relinquish all obscurations. Hence, it was also given the name "single white panacea." It is not contradictory for this term to likewise refer to the meditation that makes one realize Mahāmudrā since the opening verse of Dignāga’s Prajñāpāramitāsaṃgraha says:
Prajñāpāramitā is nondual wisdom,
Which is the Tathāgata.
By virtue of being connected to this actuality to be accomplished,
It is [also] the term for both the [related] scriptures and the path.
Thus, Situ Rinpoche again links Mahāmudrā not only with the Uttaratantra but also with prajñāpāramitā.
He continues that some highly esteemed analytical scholars are concerned about the explanation of Mahāmudrā as lacking mental engagement. However, there is no flaw because the first letter a in amanasikāra teaches identitylessness, nonarising, and so on, that is, the meaning of the emptiness that is beyond all reference points. The remaining letters teach the mental engagement that is free from mental engagement and lacks any clinging even to emptiness. Thus, the meaning of this term is established as the Mahāmudrā of union free from reference points. This is followed by several supporting quotations from the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti, the Hevajratantra, the Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī, and the passage on the etymology of amanasikāra from Maitrīpa’s Amanasikārādhāra that was already presented above.
Shortly thereafter, Situ Rinpoche has someone object, "If your Mahāmudrā belongs to the four mudrās, shouldn’t it be preceded by practicing the other three mudrās?" According to the tantras, those of highest faculties can enter Mahāmudrā right from the start. It is not even contradictory to say that some who lack the highest faculties can still engage in Mahāmudrā meditation at the beginning. To say that Mahāmudrā practice must necessarily be preceded by practicing the other three mudrās is very absurd for the following reasons. There are many well-known and authentic records in both India and Tibet of siddhas effortlessly eliciting wisdom in their most gifted disciples merely through blessings or symbols, without any need for bestowing empowerments, giving reading transmissions, and imparting instructions. Still, it is not that the wisdom of Mahāmudrā can only come about in the context of "the descent of wisdom," but there are many explanations on different ways of accomplishing Mahāmudrā through any one of the other three mudrās. Therefore, it is only our own system "Connate Union" established by Gampopa that possesses many different approaches due to the varying capacities of both masters and students.
This is followed by a passage that is another clear reference to what later became called "sūtra Mahāmudrā." It also indicates that students who start out with it can "upgrade" their capacities and thus eventually become suitable for tantra or essence Mahāmudrā. Situ Rinpoche says that among these many approaches to realize Mahāmudrā, there is the acclaimed manner of guiding those who are not suitable recipients for the extraordinary vajrayāna but who possess the general mahāyāna disposition in either a certain or an uncertain way. Though they do not receive instructions on the other three mudrās, when the wisdom of union of the pāramitāyāna finally arises in them through this path, their disposition shifts to being one of those with sharpest faculties in the mantrayāna. Therefore, through special blessings and pointing-out instructions, they can then accomplish the supreme siddhi of Mahāmudrā. There are different opinions as to whether the wisdom of union of the pāramitāyāna itself is Mahāmudrā. Our own system does not speak out clearly on this matter, but it is obvious that we hold that from the perspective of the view, the two systems of the pāramitāyāna and Mahāmudrā are not different. This can be understood from carefully reading Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā.
At the end of his commentary, Situ Rinpoche elaborates further on the two approaches of Mahāmudrā that he briefly referred to above: (1) the uncommon tantra system and (2) the system that blends sūtra and tantra. (1) In the first system, there are two approaches: (a) The first one consists of a powerful guru’s conferring only the vajra wisdom empowerment upon a student of supreme faculties, without the need for preceding elaborate empowerments. In this approach, for students of instantaneous disposition, they become liberated merely through the blessings of this empowerment, being shown a symbol, or just a very short instruction, as is evident from many examples in India and Tibet. From among the two approaches of the elaborate path of means and the unelaborate path of Connate Union, this is the latter. (b) Those of lesser faculties who have the disposition of progressing in a gradual fashion need to go through the preliminaries as outlined by the Third Karmapa’s Guiding Manual on Connate Union—taking some type of prātimokṣa vows, taking the bodhisattva vows, and receiving the elaborate kinds of empowerments, in the Kagyü School usually in the maṇḍala of Cakrasaṃvara. Thereafter, there are two ways to practice. One is to engage in the generation stage and, once one has become familiar with that, to engage in the completion stage yogas without characteristics. The other one is to first become a little bit familiar with the yogas of calm abiding and superior insight without characteristics and then to engage in the generation stage. By virtue of that, lucid appearances in the latter will be attained easily, and siddhis will be found swiftly. In both cases, after the generation stage, completion stage practices with and without characteristics are practiced in a unified manner such that they enhance each other.
(2) The system that blends sūtra and tantra was developed by Maitrīpa through clearly bringing out what Saraha and his successors had asserted. Maitrīpa also wrote the Tattvadaśaka, which teaches this approach and thus represents the original approach of this system. Later, Gampopa adorned this approach with the instructions of Atiśa on the stages of the path of the three kinds of individuals that he had heard from his Kadampa teachers. Thus, he is well known as the one who united the two streams of Kadampa and Mahāmudrā. Since this system enables one to arrive at the siddhi of Mahāmudrā in a comparatively short time, it well deserves the name "The Guiding Instructions of Connate Union without Meditation." Gampopa said, "Just as I saw in my dreams and as predicted by Milarepa, I benefited many beings through the Kadampa teachings" and "The little bit of benefit that I bring to sentient beings at present is due to the kindness of the Kadampa gurus." He also dreamt of many deer listening to him playing a drum and that he then distributed milk to them. All this shows that this system has a specific purpose. For the intention behind it is that at the time of the degenerations being rampant, there are only very few disciples suitable for the extraordinary vajrayāna. However, by way of guiding people of inferior faculties through the stages of the path of the three kinds of individuals, they eventually become students of highest faculties and suitable vessels for the vajrayāna. Thus, they can attain liberation in a single lifetime or will at least see the true reality of Mahāmudrā through these methods and be established on the path of irreversibility.
Therefore, Situ Rinpoche says, to the present day there is this approach of guiding all students of higher and lower faculties without needing to examine them. However, when the profound path of means of the vajrayāna is taught on top of this approach, the latter is called "the instructions of the causal period of this vajrayāna" or "the guiding instructions of the ground." The reason for its being unnecessary to examine the mind streams of those to be guided here is obvious in the case of those who engage in this system through having faith in the profound actuality of Mahāmudrā, but even those who entertain doubts will gain great benefit. As the Ratnāvalī says:
By virtue of a little merit, about this dharma
Not even the slightest doubt arises.
But even the arising of doubt about it
Will tear [saṃsāric] existence to shreds.
In brief, let alone tantra Mahāmudrā, even the Mahāmudrā that blends sūtra and tantra is much swifter than the regular pāramitāyāna.
Situ Rinpoche’s commentary concludes with the lineages of (1) tantra Mahāmudrā and (2) sūtra Mahāmudrā, saying that (1) was transmitted from Vajradhara to Tilopa, Nāropa, and Marpa. Another lineage of this approach came to Marpa through Vajradhara, Ratnamati, Saraha, Śavaripa, and Maitrīpa. Thus, Marpa brought these two lineages together and then passed them on to Milarepa, Gampopa, and so on. (2) The Mahāmudrā approach of the union of sūtra and tantra was only transmitted in the lineage from Saraha. Since this latter approach was adorned by Gampopa with the stages of the path of the Kadampa School, it also contains this school’s three lineages of vast conduct, profound view, and practice through blessings. The first one originated with the Buddha and was passed on to Maitreya, Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Āryavimuktisena, Bhadanta Vimuktisena, Paramasena, Vinītasena, Vairocanabhadra, Haribhadra, the greater and lesser Kusulipa, Dharmakīrti from Serling (Indonesia), and Atiśa. The second lineage went from the Buddha to Mañjuśrī, Nāgārjuna, Āryadeva, Candrakīrti, the Elder and Younger *Vidyākokila, and Atiśa. The third lineage was transmitted by Vajradhara through Tilopa, Nāropa, Ḍombīpa, and Atiśa. Thus, all three came together in Atiśa, from whom they continued in Tibet to Dromtönpa, Chenngawa Tsültrim Bar (1038–1103), Jayülwa Shönnu Ö, and Gampopa. Another way that the Kadampa lineage reached Gampopa was through his studies with Néusurpa Yeshé Bar, Nyugrumpa Dsöndrü Gyaltsen, Gya Jagriwa, and Shawa Lingpa.
Other Kagyü Masters on Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra
The Ultimate Profound Path of Mahāmudrā by the controversial Lama Shang Yutragpa Dsöndrü Tragpa (1123–1193; a student of Gampopa and his nephew) includes some passages that are identical or very similar to what the Uttaratantra says. For example:
As for the heart of the ultimate definitive meaning, the dharmakāya,
The naturally pure and luminous expanse,
No matter whether the victors of the three times appear or do not appear,
Whether the assemblies of the noble ones realize it or do not realize it,
Whether the sages teach it or do not teach it,
Or whether the commentators on the intention comment on it or do not
comment on it,
This pure and luminous true nature free from reference points
Is primordially and spontaneously present without any increase or decrease.
Within pure space, worlds are formed and perish,
Are burned through fire, scattered by wind, and so on.
Though such destructions occur for many immeasurable eons,
Space lacks being harmed, lacks change, lacks increase, and lacks decrease.
Due to primordially luminous sunlight’s being obscured by clouds,
Darkness reigns, but when the cloud banks clear, there is brightness.
Though it appears as if there were increase and decrease,
It is impossible for the heart of the sun to increase or decrease.
This unchanging dharmakāya that abides like that
Is nothing but your own mind—it does not exist anywhere else.
It is not established as a self—when examined, it has no essence.
It is not without a self—it is the great self free from reference points.
Per K. Sørensen reports that there are several texts by an early representative of the Tropu Kagyü subschool, Jegom Sherab Dorje (1140/50–1220), that follow Gampopa’s blend of sūtra-based and lamrim-tiered Kadampa teachings with the Uttaratantra-based Mahāmudrā instructions of the Kagyü School.
As Mathes (2008a, 41) points out, Jigden Sumgön subscribed to Gampopa’s reported position that the Uttaratantra is the basis of Kagyü Mahāmudrā. A text on the three dharma wheels by one of Jigden Sumgön’s students states:
Mahāmudrā is seriously engaged through making efforts
In the guiding instructions on this Uttaratantra,
Which is what I heard from Jigden [Sum]gön again and again.
The commentary on this text says that the Mahāmudrā that Jigden Sumgön himself practiced was in accordance with the Uttaratantra and that the qualities of Mahāmudrā are taught in the Uttaratantra with the exact same purport.
Mathes (2008a, 113–25) also discusses some aspects of the position of the Drugpa Kagyü master Barawa Gyaltsen Balsang (1310–1391) on buddha nature, which combines more scholarly explanations based on the Uttaratantra with a more experiential approach concordant with Mahāmudrā (though Barawa never uses that term). For example, Barawa defines the tathāgata heart obscured by adventitious stains as being characterized by the inseparability of its being lucid, aware, and empty, which is a frequent description of mind’s nature in Mahāmudrā. He also explains that these stains simply refer to mind’s nature temporarily not recognizing itself:
Being lucid refers to this ālaya’s—bodhicitta—being clear, without being tainted by any obscuring stains that are established as entities. It is aware because it is not matter and thus knows happiness and suffering as [mentioned] above. It is empty because it lacks any color and shape. These three are inseparable. When divided [into its phases], [its phase of] having adventitious stains is the sugata heart of sentient beings. The sugata heart that exists in sentient beings possesses adventitious stains. The mistakenness of this very [sugata heart] itself not realizing its own basic nature is mistakenness, which is ignorance. Ignorance is taught to be the afflictions and adventitious stains. The true luminous nature abiding within the cocoon of the afflictions is called "the sugata heart obscured by adventitious stains." Its being lucid and clear, without being obscured by any impurities other than that ([such as] being established as entities of color and shape), is called "luminosity" and "the pure nature." Ignorance is that this very [luminosity] does not recognize its own face. It is under the influence of that condition [of ignorance] that it appears as all kinds of apprehenders and apprehended [objects], which means to roam in saṃsāra. Therefore, this is the seed of saṃsāric phenomena or the sugata heart of sentient beings. . . . Through making this true nature a living experience, the karmic and afflictive [obscurations] including their latent tendencies of this [luminosity] that abides within the cocoon of karma and afflictions will become pure. Through that, the luminous true nature becomes manifest, which is the dharmakāya or sugata heart of the buddhabhūmi.
Mind’s failure to recognize its own essence leads to the plethora of thoughts that are oriented toward what seems to be on the outside instead of mind’s looking inwardly at itself. This is what is called "ālaya-consciousness" and "sentient being":
[The ālaya-consciousness] is the basic awareness that is the sugata heart [in its form] of the impure ālaya. Mistakenness [occurs] through its not recognizing its own face. Through that, all kinds of externally oriented thoughts arise. . . . Since it functions as the basis of saṃsāric phenomena, it is the impure ālaya-consciousness. Since it lacks the qualities such as the powers, it is referred to as a sentient being.
Naturally, as the reverse side of nonrecognition, liberation, buddhahood, or the dharmakāya are nothing other than the tathāgata heart recognizing its own true nature. Thus, buddha nature’s not recognizing itself is called "ālaya-consciousness" and its recognition is "the ālaya of wisdom." In this context, similar to Gö Lotsāwa, Barawa holds that the tathāgata heart is the single ground of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa and at the same time criticizes Dölpopa’s well-known position that the ground of saṃsāra and the ground of buddhahood are disconnected like two distinct kingdoms by reinterpreting this position as being only a weak division in terms of isolates (which is obviously not what Dölpopa had in mind):
When this sugata heart recognizes its own face, thus becoming without mistakenness and holding its own ground, it is the dharmakāya of a buddha. Since it functions as the support of the kāyas, wisdoms, deeds, and enlightened activities of the buddhabhūmi, it is the pure ālaya of wisdom—buddhahood. The impure ālaya of consciousness does not function as the basis of the attributes of the buddhabhūmi because it lacks the qualities such as the powers. The pure ālaya of wisdom does not function as the basis of saṃsāra because it lacks the adventitious stains and therefore does not experience saṃsāric happiness, suffering, and so on. Therefore, if divided in terms of isolates, [Dölpopa] asserts that [these two] are two distinct kingdoms. However, since the nature of these two ālayas is the sugata heart, their essence is one.
Later, Barawa comes back to the three features of mind’s being lucid, aware, and empty and connects them with typical Mahāmudrā terms used for experiencing mind’s nature in meditation. He says that such experiences represent ultimate reality even during the time of the path, which accords with the Mahāmudrā approach of working with direct perceptions of mind’s ultimate nature from the very start:
This triad of being lucid, aware, and empty is inseparable, which is ultimate reality, unchanging throughout the entirety of ground, path, and fruition. Its way of appearing is unimpeded—in accordance with the influence of latent tendencies, it appears as all kinds of apprehenders and apprehended [objects], which is seeming reality. At the time of cultivating the path, mind’s triad of being lucid, aware, and empty is experienced as being vivid [sal le], vibrant [sing nge], and crisp [hrig ge], just like the clear autumn sky. This is [also] ultimate reality.
In another one of his works, Barawa again emphasizes that the difference between the factors to be relinquished and wisdom is nothing but mind’s nature not recognizing or recognizing itself. Also, once it has been recognized, this recognition is irreversible and does not disappear again:
There is nothing to be relinquished that is different from [mind’s] true nature not recognizing its own face. Therefore, once that true nature recognizes itself, wisdom—the remedy for what is to be relinquished— arises. That is, [what is to be relinquished] has become nonexistent because it is [nothing but] the true nature’s not recognizing its own face. Therefore, though what is to be relinquished has become nonexistent, the recognition of [the true nature’s] own face has not become nonexistent. Hence, the remedy will not become nonexistent.
This is illustrated by the common Mahāmudrā example of water and ice:
Water freezes through conditions of coldness such as wind. Though it then has become like a stone, water and ice have a single nature, and the ice melts through conditions such as fire. Through that, the ice has become nonexistent but the water will not become nonexistent.
In his A Pronouncement of Realization, the Sixth Shamarpa, Chökyi Wangchug, first establishes the correct Kagyü view of Shentong and then, based on this view, quotes Uttaratantra I.154 as indicating how to correctly cultivate Mahāmudrā and avoid flaws:
The unmistaken way of meditation is as follows.
Since the meaning of the word "ordinary"
[In "ordinary mind"] refers to being uncontrived,
No matter whether you contrive it as existent or nonexistent,
Whether you contrive it by saying, "Just this is it,"
Or whether you contrive it by saying, "This is not it,"
It is simply contrived, but not ordinary.
With nothing to cultivate other than merely being undistracted,
Leaving this vivid presence
Free from a mind with something to meditate on
Is this tradition’s way of meditating.
However, these days, when giving guidance,
[Some] may say, "Look right at whatever thought arises
And it will dissolve in its own place and vanish.
There is nothing more superior than that, my son!"
Through looking in this way,
Beginners may pride themselves With the mere dissolution of that thought as being a great experience,
Like "freedom from reference points" or "nonmeditation,"
And thus are seized again by the demon of pride.
Some people may say,
"Look at just this thought!"
Then, by propping up that thought,
Pride arises, [thinking,] "I saw mind’s true face!"
Since there is this secret essential point,
You need neither empty it out deliberately to be empty
Nor purposely make up some transparent lucidity—
Just looking nakedly will suffice.
With that in mind, lord [Maitreya] said,
"There is nothing to be removed from it
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is viewed as it really is—
If actual reality is seen, one is liberated."
In the context of ground Mahāmudrā, The Bright Torch by Dselé Natso Rangdröl (born 1608) relates both the Uttaratantra and typical Shentong explanations to Mahāmudrā, equating Mahāmudrā with the perfect nature and its obscurations with the dependent nature. The text also refers to these two as "the ālaya" and "the ālaya of various latent tendencies," respectively. The basic ālaya is said not to be a mere emptiness but the self-illuminating self-awareness that is the ever-unchanging tathāgata heart as the cause of all buddha qualities and is only covered by adventitious stains. Natso Rangdröl explains in detail that Mahāmudrā is the unconditioned dharmadhātu, which is the great emptiness free from arising, abiding, and ceasing as well as the naturally present three kāyas. Those who realize it are called "buddhas" and those who do not are called "sentient beings." Saraha said in his Dohakoṣa that "the mind alone is the seed of all—saṃsāra and nirvāṇa emanate from it." Thus, there is one essence with two aspects, and these aspects simply appear as the result of its being realized or not. However, in itself, the essence of these two aspects never changes, nor is it ever stained. In the general yāna, this is called "the unchanging perfect nature." This undifferentiated neutral essence is also called "ālaya" because it is the basis for all of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. It is not a total emptiness in which there is nothing whatsoever; similar to a mirror and its clarity, there is an unimpeded self-illuminating awareness. The wisdom aspect of self-illuminating awareness is the essence of the awareness that is the inseparability of emptiness and lucidity. It is the seed or cause of all buddha qualities and thus equivalent to all synonyms of nirvāṇa, such as the tathāgata heart, prajñāpāramitā, the dharmakāya, self-awareness, and the buddhahood of one’s own mind. The dullness aspect of the essential ālaya is to obscure itself through not knowing its own true nature, which is called "innate ignorance" and "the ālaya of various latent tendencies." From it, all afflictions and deluded thoughts arise. Thus, the six consciousnesses and their objects represent the dependent nature. Hence, the terms "liberation" and "delusion" refer only to whether there is freedom from the stains of ignorance and illusory thought or not. According to Uttaratantra I.51cd, mind’s primordially pure nature—self-arising wisdom free from all reference points—is changeless before and after. The adventitious stains or innate ignorance are like discolorations on gold, arising from itself and obscuring itself. As for how saṃsāra and nirvāṇa can be divisions of the single ālaya, camphor as a medicine can be either beneficial or harmful, depending on whether the illness is of a hot or cold type. Also, poison can be transformed into medicine by certain methods but is deadly without these methods. Likewise, one is liberated if one recognizes the essence of the ālaya but remains deluded if not. This difference is simply the result of having or not having realization.
In the present Sangyé Nyenpa Rinpoche’s commentary on the Third Karmapa’s Aspiration Prayer of Mahāmudrā, which—according to its colophon—is greatly based on instructions by Khenpo Tsültrim Gyatso Rinpoche, verse 7 is explained by using the Uttaratantra and also linking Mahāmudrā with Shentong:
Within the basis of purification, mind as such, the union of being
lucid and empty,
Through the means of purification, the great vajra yoga of
May the stainless dharmakāya manifest as the result of the
Of what is to be purified, the stains of adventitious mistakenness.
The commentary begins by quoting verse 11 of the Dharmadhātustava:
If this element exists, through our work,
We will see the purest of all gold.
Without this element, despite our toil,
Nothing but misery we will produce.
Based on this verse, Sangyé Nyenpa Rinpoche explains that the qualities of tathāgatagarbha (the disposition or the basic element) or mind as such (the nature of the mind that is the basis of purification) exist in the mind streams of all sentient beings, due to which it is feasible to make efforts on the path, relinquish what is to be relinquished, and attain the result. This resembles the example of melting, purifying, and refining gold nuggets and thus obtaining the result of purest gold due to all the qualities of gold’s already existing in the nuggets. Without that tathāgatagarbha, all efforts on the path would be like trying to obtain purest gold through melting, purifying, and refining brass—other than tiring oneself out, no such result will be obtained. Therefore, during the phase of the ground, the qualities of the phase of the result abide as a potential that is suitable to be matured. At the time of the ground, this is called "mind as such." The words "as such" in this expression refer to being uncontrived, the actual basic nature, or the natural state. This mind as such is not newly produced by causes and conditions but exists primordially in an intrinsic manner. This is the meaning of "the basis of purification."
The qualities of this mind as such consist of the inseparable union of its being empty and luminous, which is the actual way of being of mind. This luminosity is not emphasized in the middle turning of the wheel of dharma since it mainly speaks of emptiness. However, in the pith instructions of Mahāmudrā, Dzogchen, and so on, mind is not mere emptiness but its luminous aspect is emphasized and thus discussed in detail. As Uttaratantra I.63 says:
The luminous nature of the mind
Is completely unchanging, just like space.
It is not afflicted by adventitious stains,
Such as desire, born from false imagination.
Accordingly, though the adventitious stains exist based on the luminous nature of the mind as something that can be separated from it, they never taint this nature. Uttaratantra I.30ab states:
It is always unafflicted by nature,
Just as a pure jewel, space, and water.
Thus, though mind as such and the stains coexist, the stains never obscure the nature of this mind as such. Through realizing mind’s basic nature, it will become naturally free from its stains since they are separable. However, though this luminous basic nature exists intrinsically in all sentient beings since the very beginning, due to not identifying it, they are bound by thoughts about a self and others.
This luminosity is expressed in a twofold manner as "ground luminosity" and "path luminosity." Ground luminosity—the connately existing intrinsic qualities in the mind streams of all sentient beings, no matter whether they have or have not been recognized—constitutes the ground for the dawning of path luminosity. This luminous mind must be found through simply resting within nothing but the present moment of cognition—it is impossible to find through stubbornly clinging to what is outside. Luminosity is the true nature of the mind, from which it can never be separated, just like fire and its heat or the sun and its light. Though this ground luminosity exists primordially and intrinsically, it is difficult to recognize without the dominant condition of relying on a guru and his or her instructions. Therefore, to recognize it newly through familiarizing with it by connecting it with the guru’s pith instructions is called "path luminosity." Ultimately, however, it is completely beyond all thought, speech, expression, and example and thus cannot be explained. As Uttaratantra II.32–33 declares:
Since it is subtle, it is not an object of study.
Since it is the ultimate, it is not [an object] of reflection.
Since it is the depth of the nature of phenomena,
It is not [an object] of worldly meditation and so forth.
For naive beings have never seen it before,
Just as those born blind [have never seen] form.
Even noble ones [see it only] as an infant [would glimpse]
The orb of the sun while lying in the house of a new mother.
Thus, it is taught that even the noble ones cannot directly perceive it exactly as it is, just as a newborn baby only experiences some uncomfortable feeling when the radiance of the morning sun outside shines on its face.
This luminosity is permanent, really established, everlasting, established by its own nature, existing at all times, without arising and ceasing, unchanging, and solid. When this is related to Rangtong, there are many debates, while especially Yumowa Mikyö Dorje, Dölpopa, and Śākya Chogden have established it through many scriptures and reasonings. However, the luminosity that is endowed with all these qualities cannot be explained as it is through connecting verbal objects of expression and means of expression—it is completely beyond them and thus inconceivable. As Uttaratantra II.69 states:
Because of being unutterable, because of consisting of the ultimate,
Because of not being examinable, because of being beyond example,
Because of being unsurpassable, and because of not being included in [samsaric] existence or [nirvāṇic] peace,
The sphere of the Buddha is inconceivable even for the noble ones.
You may wonder, "Is the luminous nature of the mind empty?" It is empty but being empty is not necessarily being self-empty. The meaning of self- empty is that all phenomena that make up seeming reality are not really established in their own place, which means that they are empty of a nature of their own. But here it is not explained that luminosity is empty of a nature of its own. Rather, ground luminosity is primordially empty of what is other than it—the adventitious stains on it—or characteristics. This is what is called "empty" here, and it is in those terms that the union of being empty and luminous is established. On top of that union, the adventitious stains are present in the manner of being separable from it and therefore have never ever tainted the true nature.
As for the second line, "the means of purification, the great vajra yoga of Mahāmudrā," those separable stains are purified by the means of purification that consist of the progressive yogas of Mahāmudrā that ultimately manifest ground luminosity just as it is. However, before one engages in these yogas, one first needs to recognize at least a coarse form of this luminosity through the pointing-out instructions.
Just as in TOK above, the progression of making what one has recognized a living experience consists of three stages: (1) first giving rise to the meditation that has not arisen (the four preliminaries), (2) the threefold pointing-out in order to stabilize this meditation once it has arisen, and (3) the enhancement. The common and uncommon preliminaries are likewise said to correspond to "the mind’s turning into the dharma" and "the dharma’s turning into the path," respectively, from among the four dharmas of Gampopa. The next two dharmas of "the path’s dispelling delusion" and "delusion’s dawning as wisdom" are then discussed through explaining the verse from The Tantra of Inconceivable Connateness on connateness in a similar (but more detailed) manner as TOK does.
As for the fourth line, "What is to be purified, the stains of adventitious mistakenness," through relying on subtle and not just coarse scriptures and reasonings, one will first be able to identify the adventitious stains, rely on their powerful remedy in between, and finally destroy them at their root. For that, one needs to rely on intense efforts and prajñā. For all beings are very greatly habituated to the latent tendencies of the solid appearances of mistakenness, so that it is difficult to simply relinquish them. Therefore, if one makes correct efforts in the practice of Mahāmudrā, there is no need to purify the latent tendencies of mistakenness through deliberate effort, but the appearances of mistakenness as well as mistaken thoughts will self-arise and be self-liberated as the nature of phenomena. This is the distinctive key point. Similar to snow’s falling on a hot stone, since mistaken thoughts are the display and play of the nature of phenomena, through realizing their nature just as it is, they are liberated right within the basic nature, just as ice melts into water. Similar to there being no cold sensation in a place pervaded by a powerful fire, in yogins who have mastered the true basic nature, it is impossible for isolated appearances of mistakenness or mistaken thoughts to arise, just as a picture drawn on water. For they and the nature of phenomena can never exist separately. In brief, the adventitious stains to be relinquished need to be understood as the innate clinging to real existence.
As for the third line, "May the stainless dharmakāya manifest as the result of the purification," the primordially present dharmakāya free from stains exists intrinsically in the mind streams of all sentient beings, but due to not recognizing their very own essence, they wander in delusion. In brief, if they recognize their very own wisdom that is present already at the time of the ground, just that is sufficient. In Dzogchen it is said that looking out over there is saṃsāra, while looking back in here is nirvāṇa. Therefore, the boundary line between mistakenness and liberation comes down to not seizing or seizing mind’s own ground: not seizing its ground means to be under the extrinsic influence of mistaken thoughts, while seizing its ground refers to withdrawing thoughts back in and then resting within the nature of self-awareness without contrivance and alteration. Hence, apart from the difference of these two states, the intrinsic qualities abide in both buddhas and sentient beings without any difference. No matter how much sentient beings are afflicted, the qualities that are their own essence do not become worse. No matter how much the noble ones relinquish the stains through the remedies of the path, the qualities that are their own essence cannot be made better. If one is able to fully manifest such qualities that are free from being better, being worse, contrivance, alteration, increase, and decrease, that is pointed out to be "the attainment of the result." On verse 14, Sangyé Nyenpa Rinpoche comments as follows:
Appearance is mind and being empty is mind.
Realization is mind and mistakenness is your own mind.
Arising is mind and ceasing is mind.
Therefore, cut through all superimpositions in the mind.
In the common Madhyamaka system, the word "appearance" eliminates the extreme of existence, while "being empty" eliminates the extreme of nonexistence. Through the word "appearance," we can understand that what is not established ultimately and is like rainbows and mirages is mere lucidity and mere awareness but is not really established. Phenomena that are established ultimately cannot be properly indicated by what is understood by "appearance," just as common expressions such as "it appears to exist" and "it appears to be understood" indicate a lack of definite certainty. Thus, ultimately established phenomena must be expressed by "being established" and not by "appearance." "Appearance" means that, no matter which pure and impure phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa may appear, they are not established as anything that is ultimately different from what appears as the display of our present mind as such. The manner of "being empty" must be expressed by there being a basis of being empty, otherwise the meaning of being empty does not apply, as in the cases of the horns of a rabbit, a sky-flower, and so on. Therefore, "being empty" eliminates the extreme of nonexistence. As for the basis of emptiness, all seeming phenomena that consist of form up through omniscience are empty of a nature of their own. Apart from differences in terms of being pure and impure from the perspective of mind’s seeing, as far as those phenomena themselves go, the manner of being empty of a nature of their own is the same for all of them. Therefore, when speaking of "being empty," superimpositions must be well cut through based on the basis of emptiness that is the mind, whereas it is difficult to cut through superimpositions based on merely the objects of the mind. Thus, it is based on the mind that one needs to be certain about the manner of being empty. The meaning of being empty here is that native connate wisdom is empty of the adventitious stains of latent tendencies, whereas just the explanation of the manner of being empty of a nature of its own as found in the Rangtong approach makes no sense here. In brief, the manner of appearing (seeming phenomena) and the manner of being empty (ultimate phenomena) are both not different from the mind. Here, "mind" should not be understood as our ordinary impure mind but as the pure mind as such that is the basic nature.
"Realization is mind" refers to realizing this basic nature. This is not to be understood as newly realizing something that did not exist before, but it means to recognize the basic nature that exists in us in an intrinsic manner. When thinking about this in terms of the naturally abiding disposition, all sentient beings are buddhas—there is no sentient being that does not have the buddha disposition. As Uttaratantra I.28 says:
Since the perfect buddhakāya radiates,
Since suchness is undifferentiable,
And because of the disposition,
All beings always possess the buddha heart.
Thus, it is established that the naturally abiding disposition exists in the mind streams of all beings. Even in the Rangtong system, the naturally abiding disposition—explained as the emptiness of being empty of real existence—is established as existent by pervading all sentient beings. In the systems of Shentong and the heart of Mahāmudrā, the naturally abiding disposition is explained as the nature of the mind—the basic nature whose essence is empty and whose nature is lucid—which exists within the cocoon of the adventitious stains. All buddha qualities of freedom and maturation exist in the mind streams of sentient beings, and when they become manifest through having practiced properly at the time of the path, that is called "realizing the basic nature." This is not the same as the view of the Sāṃkhyas and so on because the Laṅkāvatārasūtra clearly says so and adduces the reason that tathāgatagarbha is emptiness. Also the Rangtong masters, such as Candrakīrti, did not say that the tathāgata heart does not exist in the mind streams of sentient beings, but they said that it exists. Nevertheless, in the context of rebutting flaws such as the above, one needs to know this distinctive feature of tathāgatagarbha ’s being emptiness. If this tathāgata heart—the pure mind—did not exist at all, the progression of mistakenness and realization would not exist either. Here, the commentary again quotes the above-mentioned verse 11 of the Dharmadhātustava, which is followed by Uttaratantra I.40:
If the buddha element did not exist,
There would be no weariness of suffering,
Nor would there be the wish, striving,
And aspiration for nirvāṇa.
On the correct understanding of superior insight in Mahāmudrā (verse 17), our text says that it means to clearly see, just as it is, the actual way of being of the luminous nature of the mind as explained in the context of Madhyamaka Shentong, whose nature is permanent, everlasting, peaceful, and eternal. In the common pāramitāyāna, superior insight refers to resting in meditative equipoise within the actual way of being of identitylessness empty of the two kinds of identities, which is also called "the view of the followers of Rangtong." According to the system of Great Shentong, Uttaratantra I.63 and I.84 say:
The luminous nature of the mind
Is completely unchanging, just like space.
It is not afflicted by adventitious stains,
Such as desire, born from false imagination.
Since it is the dharmakāya, the Tathāgata,
The reality of the noble ones, and the ultimate nirvāṇa,
There is no nirvāṇa apart from buddhahood
Due to its qualities being inseparable, just like the sun and its rays.
Since the very beginning, the mind streams of all sentient beings possess this actual way of being of the inseparability of being lucid and being empty in an intrinsic manner. No matter how it may be obscured by adventitious stains, in terms of its nature, it is never tainted by stains, while the stains exist in the manner of being separable from it. This mind that is the inseparability of being lucid and being empty has the nature of being permanent and being free from change, decrease, and increase. It is ever undeceiving, changeless, and genuinely stable. Throughout all three phases of ground, path, and fruition, it is this nature of the mind that is certain to be solely the object of the genuine meditative equipoise within the qualities that are the nature of phenomena. This is what needs to be manifested through the practice of superior insight. What is to be manifested in this way is not something newly arisen, but it is the connate qualities’ primordially existing in the mind streams of beings in an intrinsic manner that is suitable to be manifested.
This is not to be understood as the mere emptiness that is taught in the context of Rangtong, which is known as "dead emptiness" (Tib. bem stong). In the middle turning of the wheel of dharma, it is taught that all phenomena from form up through omniscience are empty of a nature of their own in order to put an end to clinging to their real existence. However, as Dharmadhātustava 22 says:
The sūtras that teach emptiness,
However many spoken by the victors,
They all remove afflictions,
But never ruin this dhātu.
The realization of mind’s true nature needs to be preceded by understanding the Rangtong view not only for the sake of relinquishing the wrong idea of, or the clinging to, the real existence of what does not exist ultimately, but also in order that the correct view and meditation of Great Shentong can arise in one’s mind stream. It is definite that to the extent that certainty about the Rangtong view has arisen to that same extent the correct and profound view and meditation of Shentong will arise in one’s mind stream. This was earnestly established by the great Shentong masters, such as Yumowa Mikyö Dorje, Dölpopa, and Śākya Chogden. Therefore, though there is the ascertainment by applying the manner of negating what is to be negated to each and every instant of phenomena from form up through omniscience, the basic element as the remainder after such negations is not affected by them. That is, the basic nature of the inseparability of being lucid and being empty is taught to be established by its very nature. Uttaratantra I.63ab says that this basic nature—the final way of being—is really established:
The luminous nature of the mind
Is completely unchanging, just like space.
To dismantle the mind of dualistic clinging, it is taught not only that form and so on are empty of a nature of their own but that omniscience too is not established. The Buddha said that even if there were a phenomenon superior to the supreme phenomenon of nirvāṇa, it is also to be regarded as illusion-like and dreamlike. Accordingly, the basic nature is taught from the side of negation in Nāgārjuna’s collection of reasoning. The reason for this is that if one does not completely put an end to all forms of clinging to extremes, it is impossible for the realization of the basic nature to arise.
Thus, one needs to put an end to all mistaken cognitions with regard to the objects of clinging. If one were to prove that omniscience and luminosity are established by their very nature while still being in the context of putting an end to dualistic clinging, this would yet again represent the great demon of clinging to real existence. Therefore, in addition to not being able to overcome dualistic clinging, there would be the danger of not conquering the clinging to real existence. This is similar to someone’s fear of there being a snake in the house, which can be dispelled through another person’s assuring the first one that there is in fact no snake. However, such fear cannot be relinquished through saying, "It is not certain whether there is or is not a snake."
Thus, since it is necessary to put an end to all forms of clinging to extremes without exception in order to complete the analysis of the view, all phenomena from form up through omniscience must be established as lacking real existence. Once all such forms of mistaken clinging to the ultimate have been dismantled, within the perspective of the correct meditative state of ascertaining the ultimate just as it is, the special certainty about the basic nature of nondual lucidity and emptiness’s being established by the very nature of being beyond all extremes will arise—this is the inconceivable power of the nature of phenomena. One will understand this when reading the Mahābherīsūtra, Mahāmeghasūtra, greater and lesser Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra, and others—one’s fear of permanence, eternity, and changelessness will subside on its own. The Buddha said in these sūtras that the basic nature has the nature of being permanent, eternal, and changeless, while those who say that the basic nature is not permanent, not eternal, and not changeless do not see it. Since one needs to eliminate all wrong ideas of clinging to extremes in the context of cutting through superimpositions by way of the correct view, the views explained in the Rangtong approach are indispensable—they directly and indirectly open the door to the correct arising of certainty about the basic nature. The actual basic nature without mistakenness is very clearly taught in all sūtras and tantras and, in particular, in the wisdom chapter of the nondual Kālacakratantra. Hence, it is very inappropriate if that basic nature is presented as the mere emptiness that is a nonimplicative negation. On the other hand, having trained in detail in the distinction between the temporary and the ultimate definitive meanings as well as in their presentations, one’s insight will be unflustered without falling into any bias.
On verse 21, the commentary says that ordinary mind—mind’s basic nature of its lucidity and emptiness being inseparable—is what is left behind as the remainder after experiences of clinging to both good as well as bad thoughts have become pure within the expanse. As Uttaratantra I.63ab, I.155cd, and I.30ab say:
The luminous nature of the mind
Is completely unchanging, just like space.
It is not empty of the unsurpassable attributes,
Which have the characteristic of being inseparable.
It is always unafflicted by nature,
Just as a pure jewel, space, and water.
This ordinary mind is beyond relinquishing and adopting as well as beyond being separated and being attained. As Uttaratantra I.154 and the prajñāpāramitā texts (Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21) say:
There is nothing to be removed in this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is viewed as it really is—
If actual reality is seen, one is liberated.
Thus, no matter how much it may come under the sway of afflictions or how much the qualities may seem to improve, ordinary mind cannot become worse or better. It is this ordinary mind empty of all reference points (such as coming and going, good and bad, and relinquishment and attainment) that is called "freedom from reference points."
Gö Lotsāwa’s Unique Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Uttaratantra
Gö Lotsāwa’s commentary on the Uttaratantra is unique among all commentaries on that text in that it relates the Uttaratantra to Mahāmudrā in an explicit, repeated, and detailed manner. Examples of this commentary’s linking the Uttaratantra to Mahāmudrā in a general way include its opening homage’s being addressed not only to Maitreya, but also to the prominent Mahāmudrā figures Maitrīpa (who is also the one who found the Uttaratantra), Dampa Sangyé, and Gampopa. The colophon of Gö Lotsāwa’s text makes it clear that it explains the Uttaratantra based on (1) the exegetical tradition of Ngog Lotsāwa, (2) Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā interpretation of the Uttaratantra, which he received through Jigden Sumgön, and (3) the explanations coming from Sajjana’s direct student Dsen Kawoché, as well as the meaning of the three dharma wheels, both of which are in accordance with Mahāmudrā. In addition, Gö Lotsāwa discusses the Laṅkāvatārasūtra as a general source of Mahāmudrā instructions, usually matching it with Mahāmudrā teachings from the dohā tradition or early Kagyü masters.
Having thus clearly stated his general thrust of interpreting the Uttaratantra in the framework of Mahāmudrā, Gö Lotsāwa more specifically explains that the Mahāmudrā approach of meditation on the nature of the mind as presented in Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka and its commentary by Sahajavajra corresponds to both the Uttaratantra and RGVV. Later, he also describes several times in detail how Maitrīpa’s approach is superior to Madhyamaka analytical meditation as, for example, taught by Kamalaśīla.
Even more specifically, Gö Lotsāwa describes how the four yogas of Mahāmudrā are contained in a hidden form in both the Laṅkāvatārasūtra and the Uttaratantra. He states that the gurus who experience the pith instructions of the Uttaratantra explain the progressive stages of familiarizing with the tathāgata heart as these four yogas of Mahāmudrā. He admits that he cannot say for certain that the conventional names of these four yogas are not found anywhere in the scriptures, only that he himself has not seen them. However, he says, their meanings are explained in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. Though there are many presentations of the four yogas of Mahāmudrā composed by different gurus, here is what Lama Shang says in his Ultimate Profound Path of Mahāmudrā:
The meditative equipoise of realizing your own mind
Is understood through the progression of the four yogas.
At the time when the yoga of one-pointedness arises,
You realize the nature of your own mind.
Like the center of pure space,
It is unceasing clarity emptiness without middle or end.
To remain in a vibrant and crisp state
Is the meditative equipoise of the first yoga.
Thoughts’ proliferating out of this [state] represents
Its subsequent attainment, even if you meditate on your cushion.
If vibrant and crisp clarity emptiness remains,
Even if you are chatting, walking, or sitting,
You remain in the state of meditative equipoise.
At the time when the yoga of freedom from reference points arises,
You realize the essence of your own mind.
Uninterrupted awareness free from reference points,
Without arising, ceasing, adopting, or rejecting—
This mind of yours that abides as the dharmakāya
Is the meditative equipoise of the second yoga.
If you remain in this meditative equipoise,
Even if you are walking, chatting, and speaking,
You remain in the state of meditative equipoise.
If you become distracted by characteristics of reference points,
You are [in the phase] that is attained subsequent [to this equipoise],
even if you meditate on your cushion.
At the time when the yoga of one taste arises,
You realize the characteristic of your own mind.
You realize that the many [appearances] of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa
Arise from your own mind, the dharmakāya free from reference
Thought and nonthought,
Appearance and nonappearance, abiding
And nonabiding, empty and nonempty,
Clarity and unclarity—this entire variety
Is of one taste as the luminous dharmakāya.
Therefore, you see the great light of the dharmakāya
But you see no thoughts that are not luminosity.
The time of mind’s taking hold
Of such a realization of equal taste
Is the meditative equipoise of the third yoga.
If you are embraced by native mind,
Even if you are jumping, running, chatting, and speaking,
You remain in the state of meditative equipoise.
If you are separated from native mind,
You are [in the phase] that is attained subsequent [to this equipoise],
even if you meditate on your cushion.
At the time when the yoga of nonmeditation arises,
The essence of awareness is free from any support.
There is nothing to meditate for a yogin,
Nor is there any meditator, who simply disappeared.
This is called "buddhahood endowed with the three kāyas
And five wisdoms being complete in yourself"—
Now you know that it is exactly this.
You clearly resolved that precisely this
Is the siddhi of Mahāmudrā.
There is no conceited mind thinking that
This primordially abiding siddhi was attained.
There is no being embraced or not being embraced by mindfulness,
No mental engagement or nonengagement,
And no being or not being of one taste.
In nondual perception’s very own state,
There are no stages of meditative equipoise and subsequent
In uninterrupted awareness emptiness,
There is no death and no birth.
The power of a garuḍa is complete within its eggshell—
Once it is free from its eggshell, it soars through the sky.
The qualities of the three kāyas are complete in the mind—
Once the trap of the body has fallen apart, the welfare of others
In such an occurrence of nonmeditation,
There are no stages of meditative equipoise and subsequent
No matter how high your realization may be,
As long as there is something to become familiar with,
There is the duality of meditative equipoise and subsequent
There is being embraced and not being embraced by mindfulness,
And there is the duality of being distracted and not being distracted.
Once it dawns that there is nothing to become familiar with,
This is what is called "nonmeditation."
Then, GC links this description of the four yogas of Mahāmudrā to a passage from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra in which the Buddha answers Mahāmati’s question on "the great yoga." Here, the Buddha explains that bodhisattvas who possess the following four dharmas are yogins of the great yoga— ascertaining that appearances are one’s own mind, relinquishing the views of arising, abiding, and ceasing, realizing that outer entities are nonentities, and wishing to attain the personally experienced wisdom of the noble ones. Gö Lotsāwa’s comments on this passage from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra match those four dharmas with the four yogas of Mahāmudrā in due order.
Thus, according to Gö Lotsāwa, the first Mahāmudrā yoga of one-pointedness has five distinctive features. (1) Meditating that everything is mere mind consists of the samādhi of realizing that clarity emptiness is like space. One realizes that everything that appears as the three realms of saṃsāra appears as the nature of this clarity emptiness. It is just that much that wanders in saṃsāra—other than this mind of clarity emptiness, there is no self or "mine" of someone who passes from this life to the next. (2) As for nothing to adopt or to reject, one thinks that the abiding in this clarity emptiness and the movement of thoughts are not different types of substance. Since it is this very clarity emptiness that moves as thoughts, there is no need for any adopting of clarity or rejecting of thoughts. (3) Being tainted by latent tendencies of discursiveness means to know that these latent tendencies have not yet been relinquished when thoughts occur again despite having seen them as clarity emptiness. (4) Connection means to know that when mind experiences objects while not in meditative equipoise, that experiencer is also nothing but clarity emptiness. (5) Concordance means that all appearances of bodies, possessions, places, and the beings of the six realms are connected with this mind in terms of having the same nature. In brief, it is said in many ways that all arising thoughts are understood as having the nature of nonthought. This is exactly the same as the sūtras and treatises explaining that one understands mere mind through determining that the connection between words and referents is imaginary. According to Götsangpa, this yoga corresponds to the paths of accumulation and preparation.
In the yoga of freedom from reference points, all entities are like appearances in illusions and dreams—though they appear to arise, they lack arising. If their nature is not established as themselves, something other, or both, they simply do not arise. Thus they are realized to be without basis or root. This realization expands in the form of five distinctive features. (1) Through seeing that appearances are in concordance with mind, one realizes that all appearances come down to mind—when the mind is happy or suffering, appearances arise in corresponding ways. (2) Through seeing that mind lacks a nature of its own and seeing that appearances are mind’s gateways of appearing, one realizes that appearances also lack a nature of their own. (3) By virtue of this realization, the sense faculties revert to the inside and thus the five sense consciousnesses do not engage their objects. (4) One sees that the eleven conditions for the arising of consciousness (the five sense faculties, their objects, and imperceptible forms) are mere imagination but also lack any nature. (5) Through the expansion of seeing that one’s own inner and outer skandhas lack a nature, one realizes that the entirety of the three realms of saṃsāra is produced by the condition that is one’s own imagination. According to Götsangpa, this yoga corresponds to the first bhūmi.
As for the yoga of one taste, all entities that consist of mind and objects are merely delusive appearances because they are like mirages, dreams, and seeing falling hairs in an eye disease. There is no need to dam the water of a mirage, take care of the child in a dream, or tie those falling hairs into a knot. Likewise, when one sees the nature of the mind, there is no need for any effort of regarding appearances as its opposite. Therefore, everything that appears as an entity is nothing but this very mind as such that lacks a nature of its own. Through realizing this, one realizes that appearances and the nature of phenomena are of one taste. Therefore, there is nothing to be relinquished or to be adopted. You may wonder, "If that is the case, what are these phenomena that appear in distinct forms while having no nature of their own?" They appear due to the power of the beginningless "impregnations of the negative tendencies of discursiveness." This term means that conceptions are discursiveness, while their latent tendencies are impregnations of negative tendencies. All the many kinds of appearances that arise from these latent tendencies are also called "latent tendencies" by virtue of labeling the result with the name of its cause. Conceptions of clinging to all kinds of appearances arise, and further appearances similar to them rearise later from the latent tendencies that were planted by them. Thus, this mechanism of alternating conceptions and latent tendencies has no beginning in time. However, the ultimate foundation of such latent tendencies is naturally luminous mind. It is because one realizes that mind and appearances are of one taste in such a way that this yoga is called "one taste." According to Götsangpa, this yoga corresponds to the second through seventh bhūmis.
The yoga of nonmeditation refers to personally experienced wisdom, which does not depend on any ordinary perceptual or inferential valid cognitions, or on any trustworthy scriptures. Therefore, without relying on any valid cognitions of any person whatsoever, yogins are individually self-aware all on their own, which is why this is referred to as "personally experienced realization." This personally experienced wisdom is called "nonmeditation" because "meditation" is a name for the efforts of wishing to meditate and the thoughts about characteristics of meditation, while these do not exist here. On the eighth bhūmi (to which this yoga of nonmeditation is said to correspond), the final poised readiness for the dharma of nonarising is accomplished. Through this poised readiness, the five sense consciousnesses together with the ālaya-consciousness, the afflicted mind, and the conceptual mind undergo their fundamental change. From among the five dharmas, names, causal features, and imagination also undergo their fundamental change. Likewise, the three natures and the two kinds of identitylessness are superbly realized here. By contrast, on the seventh bhūmi and below, the imaginary nature does not come to an end because the appearances of the conceptual mind have not come to an end. Nor does the dependent nature come to an end because the conceptual mind itself has not come to an end. Also, up through the seventh bhūmi, the latent tendencies of conceiving of the two kinds of identities are not entirely relinquished. On the eighth bhūmi, however, all of these come to an end and therefore this is the culminating realization of the three natures and the two kinds of identitylessness.
Furthermore, GC’s section on the four steps of correct yogic practice as the third point in the explanation of nonconceptual wisdom in the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga equates these steps not only with Laṅkāvatārasūtra X.256–57, Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra VI.8, and Madhyāntavibhāga I.6–7ab, but it also matches them with the four yogas of Mahāmudrā:
You may wonder, "Such is certainly the case, but if one holds that this text of the Bhagavān Maitreya is also a text of what is known as the yogas of Mahāmudrā, do the four yogas of this [Mahāmudrā] fit with those [four yogic practices in the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga]?" They do fit very well. (1) The first [yoga] is to look inside and then to focus on [everything’s being] one’s own mind. (2) As for the explanation [in] the second [yogic practice] that there is nothing external, it is the [yoga of] freedom from reference points in which one realizes that all phenomena that are objects of the mind lack any basis or root. (3) The realization that both what appears as [if] external and the inner mind free from reference points are of one taste is the yogic practice of the nonobservation of observation. (4) To not meditate through deliberately focusing on even the nonduality of subject and object is called "nonmeditation," which is the fourth yoga.
Since GC considers the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga as being a commentary on the fifth vajra point of the Uttaratantra, by implication, the connection between the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga and Mahāmudrā obviously applies to the Uttaratantra too.
Thus, Gö Lotsāwa establishes the connection between Mahāmudrā, the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, and in fact all five Maitreya texts through the framework of the four yogic practices. For, besides the above-stated connections with the Uttaratantra, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, the Madhyāntavibhāga, and the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, it is well known that the four levels of the path of preparation are discussed in many Yogācāra texts in terms of the corresponding contents of the four yogic practices. In the Abhisamayālaṃkāra in particular, the four levels of the path of preparation are called "the four factors conducive to penetration." Taking this into account, GC consequently also matches the four yogas of Mahāmudrā with these four factors as they are explained in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra:
I regard it also as suitable to match the four factors conducive to penetration with the four yogas for the following reasons. (1) On the level of heat [of the path of preparation] in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, [line I.28b] speaks of "being inexpressible," and it is seen in the phase [of the yoga] of one-pointedness that thoughts are not as things truly are. (2) It is taught that, through the expansion of prajñā in the phase [of the yoga] of freedom from reference points, everything internal and external is seen to be empty and [Abhisamayālaṃkāra I.30cd] says on the level of peak:
In terms of all being unobservable.
(3) The realization in the phase [of the yoga] of one taste that unborn mind and the appearances of mind are of equal taste matches the explanation of [Abhisamayālaṃkāra I.31ab] on the level of poised readiness:
Form and so on are without nature,
Their nature being their nonbeing.
(4) "Nonmeditation" is called such because there are no thoughts of wishing to meditate, and such a meditation is the supreme one. This matches what [Abhisamayālaṃkāra I.33b] says on the level of the supreme dharma:
And the nonconceptuality of samādhi.
In this context, it is noteworthy that the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra also explains some of the contents of this text in relation to Mahāmudrā and frequently equates Mahāmudrā with prajñāpāramitā, suchness, the nature of phenomena, the tathāgata heart, and so on.
Finally, we find another reference to the four yogas of Mahāmudrā according to Padampa Sangyé in GC’s comments on Uttaratantra I.31:
By virtue of its essential nature of power,
Being unchanging, and being moist,
It resembles the qualities
Of a precious gem, space, and water.
GC declares that suchness is not a nonimplicative negation but a phenomenon of basic awareness. Therefore, it is endowed with both power and compassion (exemplified by moisture). Also, the dharmakāya and the disposition are merely divisions of nothing but unchanging suchness in terms of its being pure and impure, respectively. Furthermore, the dharmakāya realizes unconditioned suchness and is also endowed with compassion. If suchness is directly realized, consummate power (such as the supernatural knowledges) and compassion arise naturally. Likewise, the disposition is endowed with the dharmakāya since it primordially possesses the qualities such as the ten powers, and it never changes or deteriorates, even when wandering through all kinds of higher and lower realms. On the path, it is through the power of aspiring for the profound buddhadharmas that suchness will be realized, and by virtue of that, compassion for all beings who do not realize it arises. This also shows the progression of the four yogas of Mahāmudrā. As the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra says:
When murky water becomes clear,
[Its] transparency does not arise from elsewhere,
But is just its becoming free from pollution.
The same goes for the purity of your own mind.
Accordingly, through the yoga of one-pointedness, bodhisattvas settle the mind unmoved by thoughts, like clear water. Through this, they realize space-like suchness free from reference points. By virtue of that, through the yoga of one taste, they realize the suchness of the aspects of what is outwardly oriented (the eyes and so on) as being pure. Finally, when the jewellike yoga of nonmeditation free from effort arises in them, through their meditation’s being directing toward taking care of beings, their compassion arises effortlessly and thus the welfare of others is accomplished naturally. This, Gö Lotsāwa says, is what Padampa Sangyé holds.
GC’s comments on RGVV’s introduction to Uttaratantra I.153 furthermore describe the four yogas by teaching the manner in which the basic element as it is taught in this passage of RGVV is to be made a living experience through meditation. Though the basic element is explained in the text as the three natures of the dharmakāya, suchness, and the disposition, when one makes it a living experience, these three are to be practiced as one. What is to be known or viewed in this context is simply the tathāgata heart that has the three distinctive features of being as vast as the dharmakāya, being undifferentiable from suchness, and being the disposition that is certain with regard to buddhahood. More specifically, (1) that this basic element has the nature of basic awareness means that it lacks any difference of being close to some knowable objects and being distant from some others. Since it has neither middle nor end, the basic awareness of the tathāgata heart is just as vast as the fruitional dharmakāya’s pervading all realms and sentient beings. (2) That it is not established as any characteristics of reference points whatsoever means that it has the characteristic of being undifferentiable from, and being of one taste with, all phenomena. (3) Finally, it has the nature of being the disposition of being certain as the dharmakāya in the end. This basic element is to be viewed as existing in all sentient beings—existing as changeless suchness because it exists at all times, having the nature of vastness because it exists in all beings without difference, and existing as the nature of the disposition of being certain as the dharmakāya at the end because it exists in the support that is the mind.
Then, GC explains the first three yogas of Mahāmudrā by matching them with these three distinctive features, that is, Mahāmudrā yogins realize these three in a progressive manner as follows. (1) Through the yoga of great one-pointedness, they see the vastness of the basic element because they see that their own mind is without middle or end, just like space. (2) When they, through the yoga of freedom from reference points, realize the identitylessness of all phenomena exactly as it is, they realize that it is not the case that something that was not empty before has become empty later but that the basic ground is like that from the very beginning and that even buddhahood does not represent a change from this basic ground. Therefore, they see that suchness is undifferentiable. (3) By virtue of realizing through the yoga of one taste that appearance and emptiness are of one taste, they know that the minds of all sentient beings are just like their own minds and also see that the minds of sentient beings and the dharmakāyas of buddhas are very much alike. Therefore, they see the tathāgata heart as having the nature of the disposition of being certain as the dharmakāya at the end. In due order, these three yogas correspond to the first three lines of Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra IV.8:
The mind is aware that nothing other than mind exists.
Then it is realized that mind does not exist either.
The intelligent ones are aware that both do not exist
And abide in the dharmadhātu, in which these are absent.
It is indeed realized from the time of the yoga of freedom from reference points onward that mind is primordially unborn. However, the mind to be meditated on and the mind that meditates on it still appear as if they were different. By contrast, when the aspects of subject and object are directly perceived as not being two, just as a self-illuminating lamp, this is expressed by the conventional term "nonmeditation." This yoga of nonmeditation also has three stages (lesser, middle, and great) by virtue of its being divided in terms of its coarse, middle, and subtle factors to be relinquished. That Maitrīpa described it as being without stages is not because he had in mind that it has no such division as just described but because he had in mind that these are all of one taste as the taste of emptiness.
In addition to speaking about all four yogas of Mahāmudrā, GC also mentions the first three yogas of Mahāmudrā in the context of the superiority of the third dharma wheel’s approach to meditation, which corresponds to Mahāmudrā pith instructions. For example, when one looks at the stream of a river from afar, it looks as if it were unmoving like a stick, but when one comes close, one sees this river as nothing but a sequence of earlier and later waves. Likewise, when mind, external objects, and their differences in terms of time are examined well through the direct perception that arises from the yoga of one-pointedness, one realizes that one cannot observe any nature of entities whatsoever. This is the manner of realizing the lack of arising in a direct manner. (As is clear from descriptions of the second Mahāmudrā yoga of freedom from reference points elsewhere in GC, what happens during this yoga is precisely that realization of not observing any nature of entities.) The continuum of this direct perception puts an end to thoughts that blend terms and their referents. When these have ceased, as a result, all mistaken appearances cease. This is explained by the former masters as "appearances’ having dissolved into mind." When one does analytical meditation based on inference, it is not that a direct perception of true reality arises immediately after said thoughts have ceased. Rather, once thoughts have vanished, a mere nonconceptual perception arises, and it is from that perception that the direct perception of true reality arises. However, these two direct perceptions differ only in being far and close, respectively. This progression is also stated in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra:
GC also directly relates the first two yogas of Mahāmudrā to lines I.13ab of the Uttaratantra. First, Gö Lotsāwa has someone ask, "Mādhyamikas first determine emptiness through inference and then familiarize with it in meditation, which is like a fire that arose from rubbing two sticks burning these sticks. Is the realization of the emptiness that is basic awareness in the third dharma wheel something that arises suddenly in a direct manner or is there a valid cognition of searching for it?" In the system of the pith instructions, to some, this emptiness is taught by having them first engage in the preliminary of investigating what their mind is like throughout day and night. Some others are instructed as follows, "Give up any mental engagement in the three times and settle your mind in an immovable manner. Through this, what is called ‘one-pointedness’ will arise, which has the characteristic of direct perception. Once that has arisen, look at the mind that meditates in the manner of this direct perception’s being turned inward." Thus, they are made to engage in nothing but such looking, just as when one examines whether there are animals in a body of water and then just looks by energetically focusing one’s eyes. This is the approach of searching through nonconceptual direct perception. From it, the direct seeing that all phenomena are identityless will arise. In the above example, the eye sense faculty that looks at the water stands for devotion to a guru who sees reality, while the consciousness that arises from that eye represents the direct perception that is turned inward. This approach of the Mahāmudrā yoga of one-pointedness is taught in Uttaratantra I.13a:
Because they see that, by virtue of the natural luminosity of the mind,
the afflictions are without nature.
Uttaratantra I.13b teaches the direct realization of identitylessness, which is given the name "the yoga of freedom from reference points":
They perfectly realize that the endpoint of the identitylessness of all beings is peace.
This freedom from reference points is not just a nonimplicative negation but the dharma of basic awareness that is not established as any characteristics whatsoever. The finger of Mahāmudrā points to the momentary basic awareness that does not fall to either the side of appearance or the side of emptiness. This is what those who are versed in the pith instructions teach. Sahajavajra explains in his Tattvadaśakaṭīkā that even though this system belongs to the pāramitāyāna, it is given the name Mahāmudrā. The same is also explained in Jñānakīrti’s Tattvāvatāra. Thus, the actual path of liberation is the yoga of the Mahāmudrā of awareness and emptiness, but it is not accomplished through merely meditating on an emptiness that is arrived at through analysis. This is taught in detail by Pamo Trupa and his foremost disciples, for example:
Even if you have meditated for eons on a mentally fabricated emptiness,
There is no chance for being liberated from the fetters of this golden chain.
By drinking a handful of water from the ocean, one will equally know the taste of all the water in the ocean that one has not drunk. Likewise, when yogins know the true reality of their own minds, through the principle of that true reality, they will know the true reality of the minds of all sentient beings down to the Avīci hell as well as all seven vajra points up through the dharmakāya of a buddha. For the Śrīmālādevīsūtra says:
Bhagavan, whoever has no doubt about the tathāgata heart that is ensnared by the billions of cocoons of all afflictions also has no doubt about the dharmakāya of the tathāgata that is liberated from the cocoons of all afflictions.
Likewise, GC matches RGVV’s section on I.13ab with the first two yogas of Mahāmudrā, saying that the yoga of freedom from reference points, which represents prajñā, is taught by RGVV’s phrase "should be understood by virtue of realizing, just as it is, the endpoint of the identitylessness of the whole world that is referred to as ‘persons and phenomena.’" The yoga of one-pointedness, which represents dhyāna and is the cause of the second yoga, is taught by RGVV’s passage "This is the realization in terms of the principle that persons and phenomena, by virtue of their nature of being absolutely and primordially at peace, are not annihilated. In brief, [this realization] arises from two causes—through seeing that mind is naturally luminous and through seeing that its proximate afflictions are primordially terminated and ceased." The remaining passage "Now, these two [factors] . . . should be understood in detail according to the sūtra" is the detailed explanation of these two yogas.
A bit further down, GC elaborates on the connection between these two yogas and the superiority of the Mahāmudrā approach of working with direct perceptions rather than inferential conceptual cognitions. GC says that all followers of Buddhist philosophical systems from the Vaibhāṣikas up through the Mādhyamikas are in accord in their making great efforts in meditating on the lack of a self in order to attain liberation. There are two ways of such meditation. Some eliminate the object—a self—through reasoning and then meditate on identitylessness. Others follow what the Kāśyapaparivarta teaches, which favors the second one from among the following two approaches—to first eliminate the object resembles a dog’s chasing after a stone thrown toward it, whereas to scrutinize the views about a self through a nonconceptual state of mind of direct perception is like a lion’s chasing the one who throws the stone. The followers of Mahāmudrā use this second approach. Thus, when a thought of viewing a self has arisen, without giving rise to any subsequent thoughts of trying to relinquish that first thought or analyzing it through reasoning, they merely look at that thought of viewing a self with the previously attained state of mind of the yoga of one-pointedness. Nevertheless, for those who do not have faith in this approach and also do not have the mental power for it, the meditation that is based on inferences that analyze for the lack of a self is an excellent path.
In brief, GC states, the remedy that prevents such views about a self from arising again later must be something that entails valid cognition because the Pramāṇavārttika says:
Whoever among them has valid cognition
Will invalidate the other one.
In that regard, the followers of Mahāmudrā operate with nothing but perceptual valid cognitions, while others work with inferential valid cognitions.
Just as for the above meditation on personal identitylessness, with regard to meditating on phenomenal identitylessness, GC makes the same distinction of two approaches depending on people’s different capacities. The first one is to give rise to the prajñā of realizing that phenomena lack a nature of their own, which arises from valid cognition as a remedy for thinking that inner and outer phenomena have a nature of their own. The second one is to see that the root of the three realms of saṃsāra—thinking that entities have a nature of their own and clinging to characteristics— arises from mere mental appearances and then to familiarize with pure appearances through the Mahāmudrā yoga of self-awareness. Through that, in the manner of the result’s coming to an end by virtue of the cause’s having come to an end, the clinging to all phenomena as being real entities will not arise anymore. In this regard, GC says, the Laṅkāvatārasūtra says many times that the mental appearances of one’s own mind stream are pure, and the stages of meditation consist of the five steps of the completion stage practice of the Guhyasamājatantra (physical isolation, mental isolation, self-blessing, luminosity without appearance, and union), which are also found in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra.
In the context of discussing the reality of the path, GC identifies a bodhisattva’s nonconceptual wisdom on the paths of seeing and familiarization as the nature of the path. After outlining the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga ’s list of five distinctive features that are excluded from being nonconceptual wisdom, its nature is identified as being the direct perception that is free from conceptions that entail terms and referents. The reason for calling it "nonconceptual" is that it serves as the remedy for the conceptions of clinging to the four characteristics of antagonistic factors, the remedy, suchness, and the dharmas of realization. Then, GC summarizes the discussion on the relinquishment of these characteristics by again referring to the two approaches of Kamalaśīla and Maitrīpa, with the latter’s being said to be the superior one to be followed in the context of the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga and thus also the Uttaratantra:
What is discussed in the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga in this way is the presentation of the meaning of the Avikalpapraveśa[dhāraṇī]. When engaging in the meaning of this sūtra, there appear to be two approaches. Master Kamalaśīla holds that the conceptions to be relinquished are relinquished through discriminating prajñā alone. The commentary on Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka maintains that [those conceptions] are not relinquished through discriminating [prajñā], but through the samādhi of reality as it is, which is to know that the nature of the [conceptions] to be relinquished is luminosity. Here it is reasonable to follow Maitrīpa who has found this text.
As a further support for Maitrīpa’s and Gampopa’s sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach’s being an authentic path on which even ordinary beings can directly realize mind’s true nature, GC then points out that, contrary to the regular sūtra approach but according to the Vairocanābhisambodhitantra, it is possible to directly see the nature of phenomena even during the phase of "engagement through aspiration," that is, prior to the path of seeing. Thus, this tantra says, the realization of the nature of phenomena on the first bhūmi refers to its arising as self-aware direct perception.
However, according to Gö Lotsāwa, for ordinary beings, such direct realizations of mind’s true nature are possible only through relying on the principle of the nature of phenomena as it comes to life in one’s own mind through devotion to a guru. Gö Lotsāwa quotes RGVV’s introduction to Uttaratantra I.153 (which says that the tathāgata heart can be realized only through confidence) as an indication of the necessity for that principle also in the context of the sūtra-based approach of Mahāmudrā:
Now, [the fact that] the tathāgata heart, which is as vast as the dharmakāya, has the characteristic of not being different from suchness, and has the nature of being the disposition that is certain [with regard to buddhahood], exists at all times and everywhere in a manner that is without difference is to be considered in terms of taking [nothing but] the true nature of phenomena as the [supreme] valid authority. As [the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra] says:
Son of noble family, this is the true nature of phenomena: no matter whether tathāgatas arise or do not arise, these sentient beings always have the tathāgata heart.
Here, the nature of phenomena is the principle, the method, and the means through which [it is clear that the true state of phenomena] is just such and that it is not otherwise. In all respects, this very nature of phenomena is the resort, and this very nature of phenomena is the principle for the contemplation of the mind and the realization of the mind. It is neither conceivable nor imaginable. It is [only] accessible to faith.
Gö Lotsāwa elaborates on this as follows. As for the true reality of the mind, a nonconceptual state of mind arises through the dominant condition of devotion to the guru. It is through that very state of mind’s becoming more and more lucid that the nonarising of this mind is realized and that its unceasing or luminous quality is known. If one’s eyes cannot see clearly or a lamp is not bright enough, one sees only the coarse outlines of a form. On the other hand, if both eyes and lamp are clear and bright, even the subtle details of that form can be seen. Likewise, since the thoughts that engage in terms and their referents are not clear, they will never be able to directly perceive mind’s true reality. On the other hand, the fact that through the lucid true nature (dharmatā) of clear mind, this mind will be realized as nonarising is the true nature of dependent origination. Therefore, the phenomena (dharma) of that lucidity are nothing but this kind of realization of the mind, while the meaning of –tā (in dharmatā) is that they do not change into anything other, that is, any aspects of superimposition and denial. Therefore, they are called dharmatā. This is not something like the expectation about a reason’s proving the existence of fire through smoke on the path of reasoning. Therefore, when meditating on mind’s nature, it is the nature of phenomena that is taken as the sole valid authority. In order to give rise to a direct perception of true reality, the direct seeing of the nature of phenomena by a guru is necessary. Also, in order to realize the luminous nature of the mind, one needs to have accumulated merit by relying on a guru.
Later, in its actual comments on the above quote from RGVV, GC confirms that the direct perceptions in Mahāmudrā meditation are not something that arise as a result of having meditated on an inferential understanding of buddha nature, or something that arises suddenly without any cause. Rather, these perceptions are based on the principle of the nature of phenomena. Just as it is certain that a person with clear eyesight who looks at some form for an extended period is able to know even its subtle features, when yogins look at their mind without distraction, they will realize mind’s true reality. This is what is called "the principle of the nature of phenomena." Therefore, the tathāgata heart that is endowed with the three distinctive features of the dharmakāya, suchness, and the disposition should be viewed by taking the nature of phenomena as one’s sole valid authority. In that vein, the above quote from the Tathāgatagarbhasūtra means that the tathāgata heart is the nature of phenomena because it does not belong only to the phase of purified phenomena, but all afflicted phenomena do not go beyond it either. Therefore, all sentient beings are bearers of the true nature that is the tathāgata heart. It is not something that becomes existent or nonexistent by virtue of tathāgatas’ arriving or not arriving, respectively. As for RGVV’s saying above that "the nature of phenomena is the principle, the method, and the means through which [it is clear that the true state of phenomena] is just such and that it is not otherwise," the tathāgata heart is called a "reasonable principle" (yukti) because it is justified that this nature and its bearers definitely are in accordance and are never in discordance. It is a "joining" (yoga) because it causes the bearers of this nature to be joined with it. It is a "means" (upāya) because it will be realized through it. This very nature of phenomena is the principle for the contemplation and the realization of the mind. It is neither conceivable through the prajñā that arises from studying nor imaginable through the prajñā that arises from reflecting. It is only accessible to intense faith, whose cognitive aspect is certainty about its object. As for "intense" here, when mind looks at mind, it is not seen directly from the very beginning. Rather, when mind is looked at through such ascertaining thoughts, this looking eventually becomes free from thoughts in later moments. Even if there is no movement in the mind, this looking is still conceptual for as long as it has not become as clear as a form is to the eye consciousness. And even if this looking is free from thoughts, it represents only calm abiding until the arising of the superior insight of knowing that the appearances of the mind, which manifest to naive beings as if they were external, are not something other than the mind. Once this superior insight has arisen, this means that calm abiding and superior insight are joined. Therefore, it is called "yoga" (Tib. rnal ’byor; literally "being joined with the native state").
In sum, in agreement with the above-mentioned definition of Maitrīpa’s sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach as being prajñāpāramitā in essence but also being in accordance with the vajrayāna, Gö Lotsāwa highlights the necessity of two elements of tantric or essence Mahāmudrā even within the sūtra-based approach of Mahāmudrā—devotion to a guru and direct pointing-out instructions on mind’s true nature’s being understood as the primordial principle of the nature of phenomena.
Preceded by quotes from Jñānakīrti’s Tattvāvatāra, the prajñāpāramitā sūtras, and Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā, GC further elaborates on Maitrīpa’s particular approach to Mahāmudrā by describing just the first yoga of one-pointedness and linking it with Nāgārjuna’s Bodhicittavivaraṇa:
Thus, when those who practice according to the pith instructions of Mahāmudrā that originated from Maitrīpa rest in nothing whatsoever, free from any mental engagement in the three times, thoughts that distract from that may arise. Then, they look at just what arises, whatever it may be, without wavering. Such looking is called "examining thoughts as they are." Through such an [approach], even if all other thoughts have subsided, there is some subtle thought, "The mind meditates and rests on something on which to meditate." When they look nakedly at that subtle thought, it will also cease, and a mind will arise that, just like space, is free from middle and end. This is called "the yoga of one-pointedness." Master Nāgārjuna says:
To rest in the mind without any focus
Has the characteristic of space.
The [buddhas] assert that meditation
On emptiness is meditation on space.
At that point, [such practitioners] realize that the aspects of the objects of all thoughts that chase after outer objects are delusive, and the [cognizing] subject too melts into the state of this very mind that is like space. Also, when they see a being, they do not see any [false] imagination that serves as the cause of the afflictions or any focal objects of that imagination (such as being permanent and blissful). In this way, they view [the mind] as [described above]. Therefore, such a yoga is what is to be made a living experience.
Gö Lotsāwa’s comments on the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga that are embedded in GC are greatly based on the Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī and also compare the two different exegetical approaches to that text’s central notion of "mental nonengagement" (as seen above, this text is referred to by Maitrīpa and his students as a sūtra source of the Mahāmudrā of mental nonengagement). First, as for Kamalaśīla’s analytical approach of mental nonengagement (which is explained as being "the prajñā of discriminating true reality," whose outcome is the state of mental nonengagement), GC offers a digest of Kamalaśīla’s Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇīṭīkā on the four types of conceptions. According to GC, this is the approach for people of inferior faculties. The second approach, for those of higher faculties, is found in Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka and his student Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā, with the latter’s being cited at length by GC. In this nonanalytical approach based on pith instructions, mental nonengagement means that even beginners take the approach of directly resting in the natural luminosity of whatever conceptions that appear in the mind, which is nothing other than Mahāmudrā.
The topic of the relationship between analytical meditation and the direct realization of mind’s luminosity, including the four yogas of Mahāmudrā in relation to the Uttaratantra and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, is also discussed at length earlier and later in GC. In the present section, GC says that even Kamalaśīla in his three Bhāvanākramas and his commentary on the Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī declares that at the end of analysis, one rests in nothing but nonconceptuality. Likewise, Atiśa’s Madhyamakopadeśa says that once all phenomena have been found to be nonexistent through discriminating prajñā, this prajñā itself ends up being without appearance, luminous, and not established as anything whatsoever. Then, mind is without any thought, does not apprehend anything, and has left behind all mindfulness and mental engagement.
Thus, Gö Lotsāwa makes it clear several times that contrary to Kamalaśīla’s—at least initially—inferential approach to superior insight, in Maitrīpa’s approach, direct cognitions of the true nature of one’s mind can be experienced, and are used, right from the beginning (once that nature has been pointed out by the guru) and may happen simultaneously with calm abiding. In this way, Maitrīpa’s approach of revealing the luminous emptiness of whatever appears in the mind covers all apprehended characteristics or mental factors to be relinquished as well, through which they simply vanish, or rather, are exposed as what they really are, which is the very heart of Mahāmudrā practice.
Somewhat contrary to this approach of enabling ordinary beings to experience direct cognitions of mind’s true nature, the Uttaratantra and RGVV declare that ordinary beings never see the tathāgata heart and that even noble bodhisattvas cannot see it in its entirety. Also, in the classical sūtrayāna approach, direct perceptions of ultimate reality are said to be possible only from the first bhūmi onward; or else they require tantric methods. This highlights the key point mentioned above that though the essence of the sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach is prajñāpāramitā, it is not the same as the regular sūtra approach but needs to be enhanced by certain tantric elements, such as devotion to a guru and direct pointing-out instructions by that guru in terms of mind’s stillness, movement, and basic awareness.
Besides the gradual approach to Mahāmudrā through the four yogas and their correspondences to various levels on the five paths and ten bhūmis as described above, Gö Lotsāwa also speaks about a number of other ways of matching them with different paths and bhūmis as well as the instantaneous way of realizing Mahāmudrā. He says that, judging by the Vairocanābhisambodhitantrapiṇḍārtha, the presentation of the ten bhūmis actually corresponds only to the level of engagement through aspiration. Thus, the four yogas of Mahāmudrā would correspond only to the path of preparation and below, which also follows from matching them with the four yogic practices and the Abhisamayālaṃkāra ’s presentation of the four factors conducive to penetration. Furthermore, it is also fine to say that from the eighth bhūmi onward, all four yogas of Mahāmudrā are complete in a single instant.
As for the instantaneous realization of Mahāmudrā, GC quotes Lama Shang’s Ultimate Profound Path of Mahāmudrā, which says that Mahāmudrā is realized in one go, while all calculations in terms of paths and bhūmis are mistaken and are given only in order to please the ignorant. The special instantaneous realization of Mahāmudrā happens on the first bhūmi, and the process of familiarizing with that realization is the path of familiarization. Though suffering does not end completely and the power of all qualities does not arise immediately upon the realization of nonduality, no one would say that this is not the path of seeing. This is similar to the just-risen sun’s not being able to melt ice and to warm up stones; no one would therefore deny that this is the sun. GC backs up Lama Shang’s description further by quoting Candrakīrti’s Madhyamakāvatārabhāṣya ’s saying that just like the tracks of a bird’s flying in the sky, the bhūmis cannot be distinguished and Haribhadra’s Abhisamayālaṃkārālokā ’s stating that on the path of familiarization, one does not see anything other than what one has already seen on the path of seeing. However, GC concludes, none of these different explanations are contradictory, just as the two explanations of bodhisattvas’ first giving rise to bodhicitta as beginners and on the first bhūmi are not contradictory.
In this vein, GC also addresses the apparent discrepancy between the position of Haribhadra and others that bodhisattvas on the first bhūmi see the entirety of the dharmadhātu, which has no parts, and RGVV (J76) saying that the tathāgata heart is not even seen by bodhisattvas on the tenth bhūmi in its entirety (verses 75-76 of the Dharmadhātustava also say that the dharmakāya becomes complete only at the end of the ten bhūmis, just like the waxing moon). GC says that since Haribhadra explains the dharmadhātu as having the characteristic of the negation that is phenomenal identitylessness, it is feasible to say that its entirety is seen on the first bhūmi. Here, however, the case is different because the dharmakāya of a buddha has a positive nature—it is only the name "dharmadhātu" that is the same. "But here it is also explained that the dharmadhātu—naturally luminous mind—is even seen by bodhisattvas on the first bhūmi to abide in all sentient beings, so why is it said that bodhisattvas on the tenth bhūmi see it only a little bit?" Just as they see their own tathāgata heart directly, bodhisattvas on the first bhūmi likewise see directly that the tathāgata heart abides in many sentient beings, and they have also gained the certainty that the same is the case for all beings. However, they do not directly see that this is the case for all beings because they do not see all beings directly. To say that bodhisattvas only "see the tathāgata heart a little bit" means that, when bodhisattvas first see their tathāgata heart, its qualities have not yet unfolded and thus they see only a few small qualities. On the higher bhūmis, the qualities of their tathāgata heart unfold more and more (this is in line with Lama Shang’s statement above about the just-risen sun), but compared to a buddha, even the qualities on the tenth bhūmi are fewer.
GC also supports this by referring to the Daśabhūmikasūtra to the effect that the attainment of the 112 qualities associated with the first bhūmi happens only in the lifetime after one has attained the first bhūmi. In addition, he refers again to Lama Shang’s example of the sun, saying that otherwise it would follow that it would be correct to say that the sun has not risen because the qualities of the just-risen sun are not yet complete. Note that this means that, unlike Dölpopa and others, Gö Lotsāwa does not hold that all buddha qualities exist in a full-blown manner even in sentient beings, but that they need to unfold progressively even in bodhisattvas on the bhūmis. Consequently, a direct or instantaneous insight into Mahāmudrā on the level of an ordinary being does not mean that this being has become a buddha or even a bodhisattva on the bhūmis.
Still, for the notion of Mahāmudrā’s being realized in an instantaneous manner in one go, it is crucial to establish that the buddha qualities do exist in sentient beings, even if that is in a subtle form. In its comments on Uttaratantra I.35–36 on the four pāramitās of purity, self, bliss, and permanence, GC says that all four essentially refer to the direct experience of bliss and not to counteracting the notions of impurity, nonself, suffering, and impermanence of śrāvakas through four opposite notions. For example, the remedy for mistaken sense appearances is not to negate these appearances through reasoning but to understand that they arise from impaired sense faculties and then to purify these faculties. Dharmakīrti holds that all thoughts are ignorance by nature and thus asserts that the inferential valid cognition of realizing that the skandhas lack a self is ignorance too. Therefore, the mistaken appearances of thoughts are relinquished through becoming familiar with the samādhi of how things truly are but not through looking for other valid cognitions that are their opposites. Dharmakīrti asserts that the substance of a thought contains both a part that is darkness and a part that is light, which is called "self-aware perception." The manner of both eliminating the part of darkness through familiarization and expanding the part of light through familiarization appears in his treatises. If that is understood well, GC says, one will also understand the meaning of the statement in the last dharma wheel that the notions of impurity and so on are relinquished through the notions of purity and so on. Therefore, when all of saṃsāric existence appears as suffering for śrāvaka noble ones, this appearance is relinquished through the remedy that consists of becoming familiar with the path of everything’s appearing as bliss, but it is not relinquished through the path of a contrary mode of apprehending suffering. In that regard, Dharmakīrti says:
One is liberated through the view of emptiness,
While [all] remaining meditations are for the sake of that.
Likewise, here one would say:
One is liberated through the appearance as bliss,
While [all] remaining appearances are for the sake of that.
Thus, one should be certain that all that appears as purity, permanence, and a self represents branches of the appearance as bliss. In this context, it may be asked, "It is true that the mistaken appearances of falling hairs and so on that are caused by an eye disease are not eliminated through inference but through an eye medicine that cures this disease. If the elimination of the mistaken appearances of the path of śrāvakas here without searching for inferences is similar to that, what is it that is comparable to that eye medicine?" This is a good question, GC says; the mistaken appearances of śrāvakas are purified through the medicine that is emptiness. Now, what is labeled here with the name "emptiness" is the Mahāmudrā yoga of resting naturally in the sphere of appearances appearing just as they are, without agitating the mind through thoughts of removing and adding or negating and affirming. This is the equivalent of an eye medicine. The teaching on the four notions of purity and so on with regard to the dharmakāya refers to exactly this path of Mahāmudrā—these notions do not represent any notions that cling to characteristics and that are something other than this path.
When Uttaratantra I.137/140 speaks of the outbursts of the afflictions as being as repulsive as excrement, this is taught in terms of the path that relies on seeming reality. But here, when an intense thought of desire arises, Mahāmudrā practitioners do not give rise to revulsion for it; nor do they turn their minds away from it. Rather, when they rest naturally right within that thought of desire, the condition that gave rise to this desire—the agitated mental sense faculty—will calm down. It is just this that is called "familiarizing with purity"—thoughts are not impure; nor does this mean to entertain the thought of blindly labeling them as "ultimate purity." Likewise, when one rests in that very same state, resting as one has rested before in this stream of earlier and later moments of mind, there are no highs and lows of dualistic appearances. Therefore, it is labeled as "the notion of permanence." Similarly, when one rests in a single space-like flow after the mind that rests in this way has become free from the clouds of mistaken appearances, this is called "having gained mastery over the mind" or it is labeled as "the notion of self." When one rests in that very same state after having gained certainty that all mistaken appearances result from the dualistic appearances of subject and object, personally experienced nondual wisdom dawns. Through its power, all thoughts of wishing to relinquish saṃsāra and wishing to accomplish nirvāṇa are at peace, and thus the mind is pained no more. This being free from all appearances of suffering is called "familiarizing with bliss." Through these ways of explaining the four pāramitās of purity, self, bliss, and permanence, the teaching that faith, prajñā, samādhi, and compassion are their corresponding four causes is also explained well.
All these explanations by GC obviously refer to the well-known Mahāmudrā principle that any confused or afflicted state of mind can be used as the object of Mahāmudrā meditation. Even the most intense outbursts of otherwise very destructive emotions can thus be experienced as the tathāgata heart’s four intrinsic qualities of genuine ultimate purity, self, bliss, and permanence. In other words, as the Mahāmudrā teachings always say, buddhahood is to be found nowhere else than in our afflictions and obscurations. Therefore, in accordance with the Mahāmudrā hallmark "The essence of thoughts is the dharmakāya," GC says that in terms of the definitive meaning, all afflictions ultimately are of the nature of the dharmakāya. By contrast, noble śrāvakas are said to be mistaken because they apprehend the afflictions as being real, just as an eye consciousness’s apprehending blue is said to be mistaken in comparison with an ultimate cognition.
In that vein, Gö Lotsāwa’s comments on Uttaratantra I.24cd–25 about the inconceivability of the basic element, awakening, the qualities, and enlightened activity highlight the tathāgata heart as the single source of both confusion and awakening or saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, which is due to its two—ultimately inseparable—aspects of being empty and being aware, respectively. He says that the main subject of the Uttaratantra is the awakening (byang chub) of a buddha (sangs rgyas). Since the first two reasons in I.25 teach the progression of the stains’ becoming pure, they teach the two aspects of being cleansed (byang) and being purified (sangs). Since the latter two reasons teach the qualities and their functions, they teach the two aspects of final realization (chub) and unfolding (rgyas). In terms of the ground, the first two reasons mainly teach the basic element’s aspect of being free from reference points because they teach that due to suffering and its origin’s being adventitious, they are primordially empty (and the basic element is empty of them). The latter two reasons mainly teach the aspect that the basic element abides as the phenomenon of basic awareness because they teach its qualities and activity. This is also the case because it is due to the basic element’s aspect of being free from reference points that it represents the nirvāṇas of the three yānas by virtue of this aspect of its being free from reference points’ being realized partially or in its entirety. It is due to the aspect of the basic element’s being basic awareness that it represents the phenomena of saṃsāra because the entirety of saṃsāra arises from the ālaya-consciousness that represents a mere reflection of this phenomenon of basic awareness’s appearing.
Note here that though Gö Lotsāwa generally explains the ālaya-consciousness in detail based on passages from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra and also quotes passages from this sūtra that equate the ālaya-consciousness with tathāgatagarbha, he does not support the total equation of these two. Rather, he says that the ālaya-consciousness, which represents the stains, is the support of saṃsāra and comes to an end upon attaining buddhahood. Though the ālaya-consciousness has come to an end at that point, there still exists the enlightened activity that promotes the welfare of all sentient beings for as long as there is space. Since that is impossible without a support, this support is the actual tathāgata heart. The ālaya-consciousness is the most subtle aspect in the minds of sentient beings and therefore is also explained as "what focuses on the dharmadhātu." It is very similar to the tathāgata heart and can likewise not be grasped as "this" or "that" even by those who are learned in the ways of the world. It is just that much that those who know the pith instructions have expressed as "ālaya." Later, Gö Lotsāwa clearly distinguishes between the ālaya-consciousness and tathāgatagarbha, saying that he explains mind as both the ālaya-consciousness and the tathāgata heart, but that he does not explain mind asthe latter from the perspective of its being the actual tathāgata heart. Rather, he explains mind (or the ālaya-consciousness) as a reflection of the tathāgata heart. If this is understood well, the direct seeing of suchness will arise swiftly.
Gö Lotsāwa’s comments on Uttaratantra I.154–55/157–58 also stress the ultimate oneness of confusion and awakening or of the tathāgata heart (being the correct understanding of emptiness) and its adventitious stains. He says that if one realizes the tathāgata heart to be pure of adventitious stains, one will definitely direct one’s mind toward its qualities, just as when one hears that the blurred vision of one’s old father has been cured and thus immediately understands that he can see forms clearly now. Bodhisattvas who understand the twofold principle of the distinctive features of emptiness—being empty of the adventitious stains but not being empty of the qualities—see that this is the true actuality of emptiness. Those bodhisattvas whose minds stray from this understanding of emptiness and who mentally engage in many ways in what is not it (regarding it as a kind of extinction or as being the same as or different from form and so on) are said to be distracted from it. During the phase of the view, those who hold such wrong views about emptiness do not rest in meditative equipoise in this true actuality and thus do not attain superior insight; nor will they attain one-pointed calm abiding. Therefore, it is said that their minds are distracted from emptiness during the phases of both view and meditation.
If one understands the emptiness explained here, one will neither think that the extinction of desire is emptiness, nor that this very desire is emptiness, nor that emptiness exists somewhere else than in that desire. Therefore, through resting free from negation and affirmation right within, however this very desire may appear, one will see its natural luminosity through superior insight. At the same time, no matter which thoughts may arise, they function as aids for samādhi and thus this resting will also be one-pointed. Here, it is ultimate emptiness that is explained as emptiness, which is the tathāgata heart that is also explained to be the ultimate reality that is called "the reality of the noble ones." Without the samādhi during the level of engagement through aspiration that familiarizes with this tathāgata heart, one is not able to realize the basic expanse without adventitious conceptions on the path of seeing and, through the continuity of that, perceive it directly as the buddhabhūmi. On the other hand, it is taught that one is not distracted toward anything else if one realizes emptiness, just as it is, in the way described.
To wit, Gö Lotsāwa’s stance that the tathāgata heart is the basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa and that in accordance with the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, the adventitious stains (the ālaya-consciousness) and the tathāgata heart are ultimately not different (the former’s merely being a reflection of the latter) greatly matches the Mahāmudrā hallmark that "the essence of thoughts is dharmakāya." Given that Gö Lotsāwa explains the Uttaratantra and RGVV in relation to Mahāmudrā, it is thus not so surprising that he relies so heavily on the Laṅkāvatārasūtra despite those two texts’ not quoting this sūtra at all. However, it is important that Gö Lotsāwa, referring to the passage in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra that tathāgatagarbha was taught in order to prevent fear of emptiness and to attract the tīrthikas, does not subscribe to taking the instructions on tathāgatagarbha as a teaching of expedient meaning. He explains:
Some say, "Since this [sūtra says], ‘in order to attract the tīrthikas’ it teaches the tathāgata heart as being of expedient meaning." Others answer them, "This is an explanation of the purpose of teaching the [tathāgata] heart, but it is not an explanation that it is of expedient meaning." I do not see either [statement] to be justified. For the intention in this [sūtra] is that terms such as [tathāgata] heart, sentient being, self, and mighty lord (īśvara) have an expedient [literally "guiding"] meaning and that through being guided by them, the meaning of ‘tathāgata heart’ needs to be joined with identitylessness. One is not able to ascertain that the Laṅkāvatārasūtra does not teach the tathāgata heart that is explained in this Uttara[tantra from] beginning to end. Rather, in terms of guiding, it teaches the suchness that is explained here [in the Uttaratantra too].
Though Gö Lotsāwa here and elsewhere endorses the point that the tathāgata heart cannot be realized without realizing emptiness or identitylessness, he makes it equally clear more than once that the tathāgata heart is not just sheer emptiness, especially not the kind of emptiness that is understood as being a nonimplicative negation. Rather, the tathāgata heart is the union of basic awareness and emptiness. Thus, the teachings on the tathāgata heart are not merely a provisional device for those afraid of emptiness but represent the ultimate instructions on mind’s true nature or Mahāmudrā.
Once in his commentary, Gö Lotsāwa explicitly denies the common Tibetan critique of Mahāmudrā’s being like the approach of the Chinese monk Hvashang Mahāyāna. As mentioned above, Hvashang’s stereotyped position served as a standard tool for accusing certain approaches within Tibetan Buddhism of being guilty of focusing solely on the ultimate (emptiness) while neglecting the accumulation of merit through the first five pāramitās and so on. In general, GC makes it clear that the followers of Mahāmudrā coined the conventional expression "looking at your own nature" for nothing but the perception of directly realizing the lack of any nature—emptiness—through looking (as understood in the general mahāyāna). In the context of addressing the critique that therefore Mahāmudrā is like Hvashang’s approach, GC begins by quoting Bodhicaryāvatāra IX.54:
Emptiness is the remedy for the darkness
Of afflictive and cognitive obscurations.
So how could those who wish for omniscience
Not swiftly meditate on it?
Then, he has someone object, "Well, isn’t the explanation of the Chinese monk Mahāyāna justified then? For he says that since one is able to eliminate everything to be relinquished and realize everything to be known solely through meditating on emptiness, the teachings on the aspect of skillful means (such as compassion, giving rise to bodhicitta, and the other five pāramitās) are only for the sake of guiding naive beings but nor for those of sharp faculties." GC gives three answers why this explanation is not justified. First, he adduces Nāgārjuna’s Bodhicittavivaraṇa 73:
When yogins have meditated
On this emptiness in such a way,
There is no doubt that a mind-set of being devoted
To the welfare of others will arise [in them].
Thus, GC says, through meditating on emptiness, compassion will arise, and through that one will engage in skillful means.
The second answer is that through meditating on emptiness, one will not only attain omniscience at the end but along the way too one will know many knowable objects one did not know before. Therefore, Bodhicaryāvatāra VIII.94ab says:
I need to remove the suffering of others
Because it is suffering, just like my own suffering.
Thus, it is taught that by virtue of that reason, one gives rise to an inferential valid cognition of realizing that the suffering of all other beings is something to be eliminated and then engages in the welfare of others. When many knowable objects appear through the power of meditation, one realizes through valid cognition that it is not appropriate not to promote the welfare of others.
The third answer is that the great compassion of tathāgatas is included in the teaching of the last dharma wheel that sentient beings are naturally endowed with the buddha qualities. Since prajñā and compassion are primordially connected by nature, if one does not train in the vast means for the welfare of others, one does not relinquish the obscuration of not considering the welfare of sentient beings—being ignorant about the welfare of limitless beings. Therefore, it is precisely by virtue of all obscurations’ being terminated through realizing emptiness that one engages in vast means.
Finally, it is to be noted that Gö Lotsāwa takes the nature of phenomena and nonconceptual wisdom to be continua of moments:
Therefore, it is not the case that space—which is the mere existence of providing room, has a momentary nature, and possesses a continuum—is nonexistent. Here, in terms of time, the space at the beginning of an eon is not the space at the time of [its] destruction [and thus also momentary in a sense]. In terms of location, the very substance that is the mere existence of providing room within a golden container is not the mere existence of providing room in an earthen container. Likewise, the moments of the basic element of sentient beings, which has the property of basic awareness and operates by way of being an uninterrupted series, do not turn into the moments of buddha wisdom. However, the two mere existences of providing room in a golden container and an earthen container, respectively, are not different in type. Likewise, the nonconceptuality of buddhas and the nonconceptuality of sentient beings are very much similar in kind, and there also are conventional expressions for their being one, such as saying, "I and the buddhas say the same."
Thus, for Gö Lotsāwa, the nature of phenomena and nonconceptual wisdom have the nature of momentariness and can thus be taken as the continuity of the stainless true nature of one’s mind. This is explicitly made clear in his comments on the defining characteristic of the nature of phenomena:
Gö Lotsāwa supports this by referring to Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra XIII.19 and Vasubandhu’s Dharmadharmatāvibhāgavṛtti that both say that the nature of phenomena is the pure luminous mind.
As mentioned above, among the eight ways of explaining buddha nature, GC presents Nāgārjuna’s Dharmadhātustava as an example of teaching it as luminosity. The central importance of this text for Gö Lotsāwa’s interpretation of the Uttaratantra along the lines of Mahāmudrā is highlighted by his quoting forty-nine verses (about half of that text) and commenting on some from a Mahāmudrā point of view. For example, GC quotes verses 18–22, which are very similar in content to the Uttaratantra ’s nine examples of the tathāgata heart and its obscurations:
Spotless are the sun and moon,
But obscured by fivefold stains:
These are clouds and smoke and mist,
Rahu’s face, and dust as well.
Similarly, mind so luminous
Is obscured by fivefold stains.
They’re desire, malice, laziness,
Agitation, and doubt too.
A garment that was purged by fire
May be soiled by various stains.
When it’s put into a blaze again,
The stains are burned, the garment not.
Likewise, mind that is so luminous
Is soiled by stains of craving and so forth.
The afflictions burn in wisdom’s fire,
But its luminosity does not.
The sūtras that teach emptiness,
However many spoken by the victors,
They all remove afflictions,
But never ruin this dhātu.
GC adds Uttaratantra I.154–55/157–58 and then links all these verses with the Mahāmudrā approach of directly looking at ordinary mind. GC explains that no matter how the dharmadhātu is examined as emptiness through teaching the lack of any nature in the collection of reasoning, the luminosity that is inextinguishable despite its being associated with the afflictions since beginningless time cannot be negated through all the many sūtras and reasonings that teach it as emptiness. Therefore, the view here is as follows. Without considering the actual way of being of phenomena, if one takes just the way they appear as what is valid, they indeed exist in the form of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa, matter and consciousness, the world and its inhabitants, and so on. However, if one takes their actual way of being as what is valid, this is the prajñā of knowing that there is absolutely nothing other than mind and that this mind itself is "ordinary mind," which is not established as any phenomenon whatsoever that has characteristics. What abides as the emptiness arrived at through reasoned analysis and as luminosity and what cannot be destroyed by anything is the tathāgata heart. The reasonings that establish the lack of any essence whatsoever and the fact of mind’s abiding in the mode of being of luminosity indeed appear in many teachings of the Buddha but especially in the detailed explanations in the Ghanavyūhasūtra and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. The teachings on being empty of any nature as found in the Madhyamaka treatises no doubt apply here in just the same way too. However, consider that a cloud that appears like a mountain from afar does not exist that way, once you have arrived at it. The flickering of a mirage is not observable, once you have reached it. There is no person in a cairn, once you have come close to it. In just the same way, if minds and mental factors, which consist of afflictions and conceptions, are thoroughly examined through direct perception without relying on reasoning, they are seen to be nothing whatsoever. Therefore, even the features of a correct and false seeming reality are difficult to distinguish. Still, if one takes the world as what is valid, they can be distinguished.
In its comments on Uttaratantra I.25 on the inconceivable point of the tathāgata heart’s being naturally pure and yet being associated with afflictions, GC quotes Dharmadhātustava 36–37 and explains that the tathāgata heart is to be found nowhere else than right within our mental afflictions.
About water at the time of spring,
What we say is that it’s "warm."
Of the very same [thing], when it’s chilly,
We just say that it is "cold."
Covered by the web of the afflictions,
It is called a "sentient being."
Once it’s free from the afflictions,
It should be expressed as "Buddha."
GC comments that it is nothing but the basic element or heart of sentient beings that represents ignorance, desire, and so on—desire and so on do not exist anywhere else than in this heart. Therefore, for those who are skilled in the path, this heart is to be searched for right within desire— it is not that pure phenomena are found anywhere else than in just such afflicted phenomena. Therefore, the statement "The essence of desire is the tathāgata heart, but desire is adventitious" is truly inconceivable.
GC also says that when one trains in the conduct of bodhisattvas by relying on the generation of ultimate bodhicitta, this training becomes very much advanced. When one familiarizes with the bodhicitta of focusing on the nature of the mind, the nature of the five sense consciousnesses and the mental consciousness will be realized to be luminosity. As it is said in Dharmadhātustava 38–43:
In dependence upon eye and form,
Appearances without a stain occur.
From being unborn and unceasing,
The dharmadhātu will be known.
In dependence upon sound and ear,
A consciousnesses [comes forth],
With the mind of these three being dharmadhātu,
Attained through being without any thoughts at all.
In dependence upon nose and smell,
A nose consciousness [arises, all] being suchness,
[But] conceptualizing the dharmadhātu
That is formless and indemonstrable.
The nature of the tongue is emptiness,
And the dhātu of the taste is void—
Being of the dharmadhātu’s nature,
Consciousness is nonabiding.
Through tangible objects that have the characteristic of being
And the nature of a pure body
[Arises] what is free from such conditions,
Which I call "the dharmadhātu
Once conception and its concepts are relinquished
With regard to phenomena whose principal is mind,
Due to the very lack of nature of phenomena,
You should familiarize with them as dharmadhātu.
Accordingly, when the eighteen kinds of mental movements in the eighteen dhātus (the six consciousnesses, the six sense faculties, and the six objects) occur, one familiarizes with these very movements’ being luminosity. Due to being familiar with this, these very eighteen dhātus dawn as luminosity. Once they appear that way, this is called "accomplishment." Based on this, one attains the qualities of the completely pure six sense āyatanas as taught in the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra, which says that there arise twelve times one hundred or eight times one hundred qualities in each of these āyatanas.
Furthermore, GC speaks about the buddha qualities (such as the ten powers) existing in sentient beings in a subtle way but not in their fullblown form.971 This is illustrated by the Avataṃsakasūtra ’s example of a huge canvas with a map of an entire universe’s being contained in a single minute particle and the example of the six sense faculties of a cakravartin’s already existing in his embryo in the womb. In particular during the ten bhūmis, these qualities increase further until they reach their perfection on the buddhabhūmi. To support this, GC quotes verses 5–7 and 75-76 of the Dharmadhātustava:
Just as a lamp that’s sitting in a vase
Does not illuminate at all,
While dwelling in the vase of the afflictions,
The dharmadhātu is not seen.
From whichever of its sides
You punch some holes into this vase,
From just these various places then,
Its light rays will beam forth.
Once the vajra of samādhi
Has completely smashed this vase,
To the very limits of all space,
It will shine just everywhere.
Just as when the waxing moon
Is seen more in every moment,
Those who’ve entered on the bhūmis,
See its increase step by step.
On the fifteenth day of waxing,
Eventually, the moon is full.
Just so, when the bhūmis’ end is reached,
The dharmakāya’s full and clear.
However, GC says that this should be understood in the following way. It is only the factor of the dharmadhātu’s being pure of adventitious stains to a lesser or a greater degree that accounts for the buddha qualities’ first appearing to be subtle and then appearing to increase while progressing on the path, whereas the dharmadhātu itself never becomes something whose nature undergoes any change. This is just as when the space confined within a house becomes vast unrestrained space once this house collapses. However, just through that, space does not become something whose nature has changed. Therefore, verse 8 of the Dharmadhātustava says:
Unarisen is the dharmadhātu,
And never cease it will.
At all times without afflictions,
Stainless through beginning, middle, end.
Similarly, GC says about the relationship between the basic element and the notion of "fundamental change" in the Uttaratantra that they are the same in essence (suchness) and are only distinguished by the presence or absence of stains, respectively. Thus, in a general way, the tathāgata heart is the primordial foundation for both afflicted and purified phenomena but is completely changeless in its own nature. "Change" refers only to its first also serving as the support of afflicted phenomena and later as the support of purified phenomena alone:
The basic element or cause serves as the foundation of afflicted phenomena—its [state of] not being liberated from the cocoons of the afflictions is expressed by the name "tathāgata heart." Since it functions as the support of afflicted phenomena, it is the foundation [in the expression "fundamental change"]. Once its stains including their latent tendencies have become pure and do not return again, it does not function [anymore] as the foundation of afflictions. Therefore, having reverted from its former [state], it [then] functions as the support of purified phenomena alone. Hence, this should be understood as the very essence of the fundamental change. The two of the basic element and the fundamental change are only distinguished through the existence or nonexistence of stains, but their essence is nothing but suchness.
Finally, as mentioned above, CMW’s introduction, most of the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim, the Lamp, and GISM all exhibit a number of connections between the Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā. For details on these connections, see the chapter "Overview of the Indian and Tibetan Texts Presented in This Book" and the translations below.
In sum, all the sources presented here not only relate Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra but also show that there are clear sources for a sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach (whether it is based on the Uttaratantra or not) in India, in the Kagyü School, and even from the very beginning of the Kadampa School.
The Geden Kagyü Tradition of Mahāmudrā
This tradition of Mahāmudrā is said to be transmitted through two lineages. The short lineage originated with Vajradhara, who passed it on to Mañjuśrī, and the latter directly revealed it to Tsongkhapa. The long lineage also begins with Vajradhara but then goes through Vajrapāṇi, Saraha, and Śavaripa. From the latter, there are two branches, which unite again in Marpa Chökyi Lodrö (1012–1097). The first one goes from Śavaripa to Lūipa, Ḍārika, Dingkampa, Tilopa, Nāropa, and Marpa. The second one involves Śavaripa, Maitrīpa, and Marpa. Marpa transmitted both these lineages to Milarepa, who is followed by several Tagpo Kagyü masters up through the eleventh abbot of Drikung, Chökyi Gyalpo (1335–1407), who taught it to Tsongkhapa. Another Kagyü master from whom Tsongkhapa received Mahāmudrā teachings was Umapa Pawo Dorje, whose guru was the Drugpa Kagyü master Barawa Gyaltsen Balsang, a student of the Third Karmapa. In addition, Tsongkhapa received tantric Mahāmudrā-related transmissions from two students of Butön—Kyungpo Lhepa and Chökyi Balpa (both born fourteenth century)—as well as from two Sakyapas, Chöjé Töndrub Rinchen (1309–1385) and Rendawa Shönnu Lodrö. Thus, it is obvious that at least the long Gelug Mahāmudrā lineage derives from well-established Kagyü lineages and does not include any Kadampa masters (therefore also not relying on texts such as those by Mönlam Tsültrim). Though there is thus evidence that Tsongkhapa received Mahāmudrā teachings, there is not much evidence, if any, that he ever taught it. In any case, the short and long Gelug Mahāmudrā lineages are considered to have been transmitted orally by five more Gelug masters after Tsongkhapa in the form of an "ear-whispered lineage" until the teachings were written down for the first time by the First Paṇchen Lama, Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen (1570–1622) in his Root Text of the Mahāmudrā of the Precious Geden Kagyü, Highway of the Victors and its autocommentary.
The autocommentary includes many quotes from Indian siddhas such as Saraha and from early Kagyü Mahāmudrā masters (almost two-thirds of the quotes from Tibetan sources) and generally shows that its author was very familiar with Kagyü literature on Mahāmudrā. By contrast, Tsongkhapa is only quoted four times. However, the expression "Geden Kagyü" in the title of the root text is ambiguous—it is not clear whether it means a combined Gelug-Kagyü system or a distinct "Gelug (oral) teaching lineage" (the literal meaning of kagyü). The Paṇchen Lama does not explain it one way or the other, but almost all subsequent Gelugpa commentators on his text have supported the latter meaning, while the present Dalai Lama advocates the former. The autocommentary exhibits a convergence of the Gelugpa lamrim tradition and Kagyü Mahāmudrā by pointing to the early figures of these two schools—Atiśa and early Kagyü masters such as Milarepa, Lama Shang, Pamo Trupa, and Jigden Sumgön. Of course, this is at first glance reminiscent of Gampopa’s blending the two streams of Kadampa and Mahāmudrā but, as the section on superior insight in the Paṇchen Lama’s text shows, his manner of presenting Kagyü and Gelug teachings side by side—rather than actually blending them—is quite different.
Like Kagyü Mahāmudrā, the Paṇchen Lama explicitly supports the division into sūtra and tantra Mahāmudrā, and his text focuses primarily on explaining the former. He rejects Sakya Paṇḍita’s above-mentioned critique of sūtra Mahāmudrā, while approvingly referring to Jigden Sumgön and Gö Lotsāwa to the effect that Mahāmudrā is found on all levels of the path. However, for the Paṇchen Lama, the Mahāmudrā in the teachings of Saraha, Nāgārjuna, Śavaripa, Nāropa, Maitrīpa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Pamo Trupa, and so on, is the quintessence of the completion stage practices of the Yogānuttara class of tantra, while sūtra Mahāmudrā refers to meditating on emptiness as explained in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras. According to the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, "the special feature of the mahamudra presentation of voidness meditation is that such meditation is focused primarily on the nature of the reality of mind."
Among the Paṇchen Lama’s explanations of calm abiding and superior insight as the twofold progressive approach to cultivate this sūtra-based Mahāmudrā, the discussion of calm abiding accords for the most part with similar Kagyü presentations, such as those by Tagpo Dashi Namgyal and Padma Karpo. However, he regards some of what is usually considered as part of superior insight in Kagyü Mahāmudrā as only falling under the scope of calm abiding. He also says that everything that he classifies here as calm abiding only pertains to the conventional nature of the mind but not to its ultimate nature (a distinction not made in Kagyü Mahāmudrā).
By contrast, the explanation of superior insight (which takes up about half of the Paṇchen Lama’s text) only superficially resembles Kagyü accounts. According to the Paṇchen Lama, it represents the guiding instructions of his main guru Sangyé Yeshé. By virtue of the Paṇchen Lama’s specific emphases and terminologies, it is the most distinctly Gelug section in his text. He begins by simply listing five general pointing-out instructions in terms of "cutting through a basis or root of mind": (1) seeking the mind on the inside and the outside or in its arising, abiding, and ceasing, (2) seeking the mind in matter, (3) settling in uncontrived present awareness, (4) observing the nature of whatever arises, and (5) allowing thoughts to arise freely and become self-liberated, all of which are supported by quotes from Indian and Kagyü Mahāmudrā masters. Of course, these methods are considered crucial by numerous Kagyüpas and found in many of their Mahāmudrā texts. However, the Paṇchen Lama does not elaborate on them but goes on to present his detailed "teaching on the quintessence of these methods." Here, he emphasizes the analysis of the person and the mind in terms of emptiness that is key to Gelug Madhyamaka. In this context, he also discusses distinctly Gelug topics such as the identification of the object of negation (dgag bya), the refutation of Madhyamaka versions that define the ignorant mistakenness of sentient beings either too narrowly or too widely, emptiness’ and dependent origination’s being equivalent, phenomena’s merely nominal existence versus their being empty of real existence (bden grub), and the object generality of emptiness that is a nonimplicative negation. Given the importance of superior insight—or the correct view— in Madhyamaka and the serious disagreements between Tibetan schools in that area, it is not too surprising that the First Paṇchen Lama adopts such a typical Gelug stance in this crucial section of his text.
The Fourteenth Dalai Lama explains that in the Gelugpa system, the general difference between the sūtras and the tantras lies in the type of mind through which emptiness is realized, while the emptiness of real existence that both sūtra and tantra aim at is the same. In particular, he says:
Concerning the difference in mind that meditates on voidness, in the sūtra tradition we employ an individualizing discriminating awareness for meditation to gain a correct view. For achieving vipashyana, an exceptionally perceptive state of mind, we need scrutinizing or "analytical" meditation. We use individualizing discriminating awareness in meditation to scrutinize intelligently in order to discern voidness. In the anuttarayoga tantra system, on the other hand, the mind that recognizes voidness engages only in absorptive, or "formal" meditation with placement on certain vital points in the subtle vajra-body that are more special and more powerful than others. This is a great difference. By the force of there being a special mind that is aimed at voidness, there is the circumstance for attaining together, at the same occasion, both serenely stilled and settled, as well as exceptionally perceptive states of mind. Thus, by relying on special methods, we attain shamata and vipashyana simultaneously with anuttarayoga tantra meditation, whereas with the sūtra methods we first achieve shamata by itself and then combine it with vipashyana. In either case, however, as our foundation we must meditate on a correct view of reality as explained by Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. Therefore the First Panchen Lama bases his presentation of voidness meditation on the teachings of Nagarjuna.
In short, what does "mahamudra" mean in this context? Because voidness is the actual nature of all phenomena, or the manner in which all things exist, voidness is a "mudra" or seal. Voidness, as the manner in which everything exists, is the seal that guarantees the nature of all things in the sense that there is nothing that can go beyond this. Everything has voidness as its nature. Furthermore, because the realization of voidness liberates us from all the fetters of suffering and their causes, it is "maha" or great.
Obviously this understanding of sūtra Mahāmudrā meditation as the analytical meditation on emptiness through discriminating prajñā (which is by definition conceptual and inferential) is very different from the above-explained sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach of Maitrīpa and his students, Jñānakīrti, Gampopa, and all other Kagyü masters. For their approach does not rely on inference, always emphasizes direct pointing-out instructions of mind’s true nature, and works with direct perceptions of this nature from the very beginning.
On the general connection between prajñāpāramitā and Mahāmudrā, a Gelugpa commentary on the Heart Sūtra by Kungtang Göncho Denpé Drönmé (1762–1823) declares:
In general, all sūtras flow into Mantra, but among these [sūtras], the Perfection of Wisdom sūtras have ways of directly flowing into Mantra that are unlike other sūtras . . . such as . . . how the name "mother of Conquerors" is asserted to teach the great seal (mahāmudrā) of definitive meaning.
Finally, it should be mentioned that the late Nyingma master Düjom Rinpoche, in his discussion of buddha nature, not only uses the Uttaratantra and some tathāgatagarbha sūtras but also quotes several Mahāmudrā texts, such as Tilopa’s Pith Instructions on Mahāmudrā that he gave to Nāropa on the banks of the Ganges, Maitrīpa’s Tattvadaśaka, and Lama Shang’s Ultimate Profound Path of Mahāmudrā.
- These exact terms seem not to have been used before his time and probably were coined by him.
- Tib. don brgyud mthar thug pa. Note that, beginning with this sentence, this passage incorporates most of what Gö Lotsāwa’s BA (724–25) says at the end of its presentation of the Kagyü lineage. In general, this section of TOK incorporates parts of BA, GC, and the Eighth Situpa’s commentary on the Third Karmapa’s Aspiration Prayer of Mahāmudrā.
- Tib. lhan cig skyes sbyor. This expression seems not to be attested in Indian texts, while terms such as sahajānanda, sahajasukha, sahajakāya, sahajacitta, and sahajajñāna are frequently used, particularly in the dohās. The Sanskrit sahaja (lit. "born together") means "innate," "connate," " original," "natural" but also "always the same as at the very beginning." It appears that the particular term "connate union" was coined by Gampopa. On its meaning, Jamgön Kongtrul (Kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas 1979–81, 18:431) quotes Gampopa as saying:
- The three of mind, thoughts, and dharmakāya
- Are [already] connate in the first place.
- Since they are united into one through the instructions,
- Isn’t that called connate union?
- Gampopa’s Pith Instructions on the Two Armors (Tib. Go cha gnyis kyi man ngag; Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:509) explains, "As for connate union, what arises and is unified? It is awareness and emptiness that are connate. In themselves, they are not like something that is different. Since awareness, lucidity, and bliss are unified with emptiness they are connate union." A virtually identical version of the above verse is attributed to Pamo Trupa in the Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning (Wangchuk Dorje 2001, 278). The same author (ibid., 273–77 and 279) quotes several explanations of the term "connate union." Following Gampopa’s above explanation, the Second Shamarpa, Kachö Wangpo (Tib. Mkha’ spyod dbang po; 1350–1405) is reported to say that "con-" in "connate" refers to arising or occurring together, while "-nate" means that everything arises from what is unarisen and that it, from the very moment of its arising, lacks any nature of its own. "Union" (sbyor ba) means yoga (Tib. rnal ’byor, lit. "being in union with the natural state"). Yoga is not just means or prajñā alone, but the Buddha taught that it is the union of means and prajñā. Barawa Gyaltsen Balsang (Tib. ’Ba’ ra ba rgyal mtshan dpal bzang; 1310–1391) is quoted as saying that "connate" does not mean that two things come together but that an entity with a single nature has three qualities or aspects that always exist or arise together. For example, the single nature of gold entails the three properties of having a golden color, being heavy, and not being affected by melting or cutting. In gold, each of these qualities is not something separate from the other two. As long as there is gold, those three are always present or arise together. Likewise (and similar to what Gampopa explained above), the triad of the essence of awareness, the nature of emptiness, and the characteristic of lucidity is connate with the ultimate bodhicitta of the ground (the true nature of the mind). There is no awareness and lucidity apart from emptiness, no emptiness and lucidity apart from awareness, and no emptiness and awareness apart from lucidity. The mind is of a single nature with three aspects or isolates: emptiness, awareness, and lucidity. Experientially, those three do arise, but they are inseparable. Thus, they are connate—emptiness arises as awareness and lucidity, awareness arises as emptiness and lucidity, and lucidity arises as emptiness and awareness. Within each one of them, all three arise or are present in a complete manner. Therefore, they are connate. To unite this connateness with one’s mind stream is called "connate union." This connateness is present within buddhas down to the tiniest insects, without being better or worse, bigger or smaller. When its own face is recognized, it is called "connate wisdom." When it is not recognized, it is called "ālaya-consciousness" or "connate ignorance." There is no distinction between this wisdom and ignorance in terms of one’s coming first and the other later, nor in terms of being good or bad because both are of the same nature. As for the difference between Mahāmudrā and Connate Union, Wangchuk Dorje says that Gampopa told Pamo Trupa, "Mahāmudrā means that all phenomena of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are spontaneously present primordially. It is the space-like nature of phenomena, nondual wisdom present at all times. Connate union refers to unifying whatever thoughts that arise with the four kāyas. Therefore, it is not held to be present at all times, but its flow becomes interrupted sometimes." Lama Shang says:
- The wisdom of connate union
- Breaks down thoughts and brings them back into the dharmakāya.
- The pith instructions of Mahāmudrā
- Relax thoughts and bring them back into the dharmakāya.
- For Padma Karpo’s explanation of "connate union" by greatly relying on the Uttaratantra, see the section "Padma Karpo." For Tagpo Dashi Namgyal’s explanation of "connateness," see Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 220–25.
- In accordance with the context and the same phrase in Jamgön Kongtrul’s introductory table of contents for his Treasury of Precious Instructions (Kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas 1979–81, 18: 430), TOK ba is emended to dbang.
- This is an epithet of Gampopa.
- Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart, lines 48–51 (Rang byung rdo rje 2006d, 285; for Jamgön Kongtrul’s commentary on these lines, see Brunnhölzl 2009, 216–17). Note that lines 48–49 summarize verse 45 of the Yuktiṣaṣṭikā.
- Tib. Mkha’ spyod dbang po; the Second Shamarpa (1350–1405), one of the main students of the Fourth Karmapa and a main teacher of the Fifth Karmapa.
- TOK, 3:375–78. I could not locate this verse in the Third Karmapa’s writings.
- Sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan 1992b, 50ff.
- P4532, fol. 46a.3. This text repeats several times that another name of prajñāpāramitā is Mahāmudrā (fols. 51a.8, 57b.3, 59b.4, and 65a.3).
- Ibid., fol. 43b.5–6 (TOK’s version of this passage varies slightly).
- There is no known text by Atiśa called Pith Instructions on the Two Armors of Connate Union Mahāmudrā (TOK "second armor" [Tib. go cha gnyis pa] is emended in light of the Tibetan text names below), but it could have been lost. Also, it is not clear here whether this is the name of an actual text or just a subsequent name for certain pith instructions originating with Atiśa (such as on his Bodhipathapradīpa; see the next paragraph in TOK). The latter may be suggested by the fact that there are texts with similar names by Gampopa and Pamo Trupa. The collected works of the latter contain a work titled The Two Armors of Connate Union Mahāmudrā (Tib. Lhan cig skyes sbyor go cha gnyis ma; Phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po 2003, 4:294–304). The text contains no reference to Atiśa but says that its instructions are about taking thoughts as the path (rnam rtog lam khyer) and realizing them to be without arising. These instructions are not tainted by the yāna of characteristics (sūtrayāna) and require no efforts in training in the stages of the paths of the three kinds of individuals (of lesser, intermediate, and supreme scopes). Thoughts are also said to be very kind, but there is no discussion of the four yogas of Mahāmudrā. Elsewhere, Pamo Trupa (ibid., 4:570f.) says that the two armors are the armor of prajñā and the armor of the view and that the practice of "taking thoughts as the path" is a part of the armor of prajñā since this practice enhances prajñā. Gampopa’s Pith Instructions on the Two Armors (Tib. Go cha gnyis kyi man ngag in Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:502–67) is also a text on Mahāmudrā (for details, see the section on Gampopa in this volume). The same author’s The Two Armors of Mahāmudrā (Tib. Phyag rgya chen po’i go cha gnyis; A mgon rin po che 2004, 11:95–98) does not discuss Mahāmudrā but is a general text on prerequisites for retreat.
- Mi bskyod rdo rje 1976, fol. 279a.2–5. The text continues, "which are known as Geshé [Drom]tönpa’s and Geshé Gönpapa’s ‘Connate Union.’"
- TOK, 3:378–79. The primary reason why this Mahāmudrā approach accords with the mantra system lies in the role and significance of the guru, as it is reflected in the crucial importance of guru devotion and guru yoga, as well as in the necessity of direct pointing-out instructions of the nature of the mind by the guru (whose ultimate manifestation consists of the formless "empowerment of vajra wisdom" for the most suitable students).
- Among these three features in due order, Sahajavajra mentions the first two at the beginning of his commentary and the third one later (P3099, fols. 176a.5, 189a.3, 190a.5, and 192b.1; see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 142, 174, 177, and 183). Thus, this passage is not an actual quote from Sahajavajra’s commentary. The sentence here is almost literally found in the Tibetan of Gö Lotsāwa’s BA (’Gos lo tsā ba gzhon nu dpal 2003a, 2:847–48, which is followed by "Therefore, the prajñāpāramitā Mahāmudrā of lord Gampopa was explained by lord Götsangpa as being the position of the mighty lord Maitrīpa"). However, in the English translation of this text (BA, 725), this sentence is misrepresented as a direct quote in slightly different form. GC also repeats this sentence several times, relating it to both Sahajavajra (17.7–9, 137.15–23) and Padampa Sangye’s Pacification of Suffering (5.18–9; 53.2–4).
- This expression refers to the union of emptiness and wisdom, or, more specifically, to the wisdom of focusing on emptiness from the perspective of what is definitive while, from the perspective of what appears, the clear rainbow-like appearances of the deity and its maṇḍala dawn simultaneously.
- TOK gal emended to gol.
- These are two lines from a famous verse, which (according to TOK and Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 19) stems from The Tantra of Inconceivable Connateness:
- Connate mind as such is the dharmakāya.
- Connate thoughts are the display of the dharmakāya.
- Connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya.
- The inseparability of appearances and mind is connateness.
- More or less literal versions or lines of this verse are found in a number of Gampopa’s own works and those by others. In the Chos rje dvags po lha rje’i gsung snying po don gyi gdams pa phyag rgya chen po’i ’bum tig in Sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen 1982 (vol. ka, 212), the verse reads:
- Connate mind is the actual dharmakāya.
- Connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya.
- Connate thoughts are the waves of the dharmakāya.
- Connate inseparability is what the dharmakāya is all about.
- For yet another version of this verse, see its explanation by Padma Karpo in this volume. For a detailed commentary on connate mind, thoughts, and appearances, see Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 225–37.
- TOK bzhin sbyor emended to bzhi sbyor.
- In due order, these refer to the four common preliminaries of Mahāmudrā (reflecting on the precious human existence, impermanence, karma, and the shortcomings of saṃsāra) and the four uncommon preliminaries (refuge and bodhicitta, Vajrasattva meditation, maṇḍala offering, and guru yoga).
- These are the first two of the four dharmas of Gampopa, with the other two (the path’s dispelling delusion and delusion dawning as wisdom) following under (2).
- To my knowledge, no tantra of this name is preserved in the Kangyur or otherwise.
- I add this line as it appears in the quote from The Tantra of Inconceivable Connateness since TOK comments on this line under 2b.
- In the context of explaining "the means of purification, the great vajra yoga of Mahāmudrā," Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan (n.d., 18–20) gives a similar (but more detailed) presentation, agreeing that the common and uncommon preliminaries of Mahāmudrā correspond to "the mind’s turning into the dharma" and "the dharma’s turning into the path," respectively. The next two dharmas of "the path’s dispelling delusion" and "delusion’s dawning as wisdom" are then discussed through explaining the four lines from The Tantra of Inconceivable Connateness as follows. (a) The line "Connate mind as such is the dharmakāya" refers to the basic nature of mind as such, which is the union of being empty and lucid. To realize this just as it is, one needs to first train in calm abiding with support, without support, and so on, until one finally arrives at natural calm abiding. Having gone through the progressive training in calm abiding, one needs to train in superior insight, which has three parts— identifying, pointing out, and enhancement. Finally, one needs to practice calm abiding and superior insight simultaneously without separating them. Through practicing this progression well, the path is able to dispel delusion. (b) Thereafter, the distinctive feature of the path of not relinquishing delusion but its fundamentally changing into wisdom through special methods is indicated by the line "connate thoughts are the display of the dharmakāya." At present, all kinds of good and bad thoughts appear in our mind stream. Their essence is the union of being empty and lucid, and through realizing that, all these various thoughts are nothing but the display or play of the luminous dharmakāya or wisdom. Other than that, this display is not established as having any characteristics of being something to be adopted or something to be discarded by distinguishing its parts that are good and those that are bad. Through considering good thoughts within this basic nature as qualities, one wishes to adopt them. Through considering bad thoughts as flaws, one wishes to discard them. However, no matter which thoughts come up, they are all flaws. For all good and bad thoughts do not exist as something other than the mind of dharmatā and they do not go beyond the expanse of this mind. No matter how one wanders around in saṃsāric states under the extrinsic influence of karma and afflictions, if one realizes the way things are through the power of the path of yoga, thoughts will be self-liberated without needing to search for a remedy. Yogins who possess such supreme realization recognize all thoughts that appear as the display of dharmatā. Through that, all thoughts that appear dawn as the dharmakāya or serve as aids for the yogic path. Just as a small fire can be extinguished by even a little bit of wind, in ordinary persons who have not mastered the basic nature, even small thoughts obscure the path. When a powerful fire has broken out in a forest, the stronger the wind blows, the more it becomes a special aid for that forest fire. Likewise, in yogins who have mastered experience and realization or who have cut through doubts in their minds, the more thoughts there are, the more they become an enhancement of their practice. Therefore, if one knows the nature of thoughts without error, whatever appears becomes an embellishment of the path. For example, no matter how far a crow may circle away from a ship on the ocean, there is no place for it to land other than that ship. Likewise, no matter how much thoughts may proliferate, if one knows how they are the display and play of the nature of phenomena, those thoughts are recognized and thus liberated as the nature of phenomena. In the same way, though water may become ice due to outer conditions such as its being cold, once it becomes free from those conditions, it melts again into water because that very ice has primordially never gone beyond having the nature of water. Likewise, no matter how much one is deluded due to being distracted, by virtue of perfectly realizing the nature of thoughts, it is said that thoughts are liberated as the nature of phenomena because they have primordially never gone beyond the nature of phenomena. (c) As for the line "Connate appearances are the light of the dharmakāya," no matter how the various appearances of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa may arise, the nature of what arises is being empty and lucid without meeting and parting. Therefore, the various appearances that arise as such are not established as something distinct from that nature of phenomena. When they arise, they arise from the expanse of the nature of phenomena, and when they dissolve, they dissolve into the expanse of the nature of phenomena. Therefore, they are the light of the dharmakāya. (d) As for the line "The inseparability of appearances and mind is the connate," it needs to be understood that the inseparability of mind’s self-appearances and mind as such entails the key point of self-arising and self-liberating. This is explained as the quality of their being connate without meeting and parting from the very time of arising. This explains the manner of delusion’s dawning as, or fundamentally changing into, wisdom. Without relinquishing delusion but through determining its very way of being, it is recognized for what it is and one rests right within that. Thus, delusion’s not being relinquished is liberated as the nature of phenomena. All this explains the meaning of the line "the means of purification, the great vajra yoga of Mahāmudrā."
- In other words, these four pitfalls to be avoided in Mahāmudrā meditation are as follows. (1) One can deviate from emptiness through grasping at it as being the fundamental nature of all knowable objects. Though all phenomena are naturally empty, when one fixates on the notion of everything’s being empty, one deviates from emptiness as the fundamental ground that is beyond all grasping and fixation. (2) One can deviate from emptiness through considering meditating on emptiness as the sole path that leads to the attainment of buddhahood. To familiarize with emptiness is a crucial part of the path, but this does not mean to discard the accumulation of merit and the purification of obscurations on the path. (3) One can deviate from emptiness through taking it as the remedy that annihilates the afflictions. Ultimately, to fixate on what is to be abandoned and to fixate on the remedy are equally mistaken. If one fixates on emptiness as a remedy, it is no better than fixating on whatever it is that one is trying to get rid of by applying that remedy of emptiness. For one then reifies emptiness into some kind of thing, for which one would need yet another remedy. (4) One can deviate from emptiness through conceptually labeling all things and experiences as being empty. This means to lack a full understanding of emptiness and merely think in a vague and general way, "All phenomena are empty."
- That is, through clinging to bliss, clarity, and nonthought, one will be reborn in the desire realm, the form realm, and the formless realm, respectively.
- This refers to the four joys in the practice of karmamudrā—joy, supreme joy, special joy (or joy beyond joy), and connate joy.
- Compare to Maitrīpa’s student Rāmapāla, who writes in his Sekanirdeśapañjikā that Mahāmudrā is beyond the four joys.
- "The three great ones" refers to the three primary afflictions—ignorance, desire, and hatred.
- This text is contained in vol. 13 of Kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas 1979–81.
- This samādhi is described in detail in Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.24–25 and its commentaries (see Brunnhölzl 2011b, 93, 246–65, and 298–302 and 2012a, 337–39 and 512–13).
- This samādhi is described in the Māyopamāsamādhisūtra (D130).
- This samādhi is described in the Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra (D132; translated as Śūraṃgamasamādhisūtra: The Concentration of Heroic Progress, translated by S. Boin-Webb (London: Curzon Press, 1998).
- This samādhi is described in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (particularly in chapter 7), its commentaries, and other sources (see Brunnhölzl 2011b, 105–8 and 272–76 and 2012a, 358–60 and 522–24).
- According to the Ninth Karmapa (Wangchuk Dorje 2001, 226–45), there are many ways in which different masters correlate the four yogas of Mahāmudrā with the five paths and the ten bhūmis. However, the most common one is that in due order, the four yogas correspond to the paths of accumulation and preparation, the path of seeing (the first bhūmi), the path of familiarization (the remaining nine bhūmis), and the path of nonlearning (the buddhabhūmi).
- See GC’s presentation of this below.
- Tib. Spyan lnga chos kyi grags pa. This is the Fourth Shamarpa (1453–1524).
- Pawo Rinpoche’s History of the Dharma (Dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba 2003, 1:790–91) says on this dream that Gampopa was beating a great drum in the sky and then a woman with a bowl of milk appeared, who said to him, "Beat the drum for these people, and give the milk to these deer." Gampopa answered, "But the milk will not be enough for that many deer." The woman said, "First drink from it yourself, and then it will be enough for all sentient beings. I will go the west." Later, Gampopa said, "The people listening to the sound of the drum are those to be nourished by the Kadampa dharma, while the deer are the great meditators of the Kagyü lineage [of Milarepa]. Thus, the Kadam [lineage] also has great kindness."
- These are the five degenerations in terms of (1) life span (the human life span’s becoming increasingly shorter down to being only ten years), (2) afflictions (their increase in strength and number), (3) sentient beings (deterioration of their physical forms, minds, and health), (4) the time (being tormented by diseases, weapons, and famines), and (5) the view (clinging to views about extremes and falling away from the correct view). (2) is also explained as the decrease of virtuous states of mind in lay people, paired with a strong increase of their desire, hatred, jealousy, miserliness, and so on, while (4) refers to clinging to the extremes of permanence and extinction in renunciates, paired with a general decline of their proper views and virtues.
- These are individuals of lesser scope who engage in the Buddhist teachings only for the sake of attaining a better rebirth within saṃsāra as humans or gods, individuals of intermediate scope who do so for the sake of attaining their own liberation from saṃsāra (śrāvaka or pratyekabuddha arhathood), and individuals of supreme scope who do so for the sake of attaining buddhahood for the welfare of others.
- The Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning (Wangchuk Dorje 2001, 4–5) agrees with this, saying that dull faculties can change into sharp ones; low potentials, into supreme ones; and unworthy recipients, into worthy ones. Therefore, all of these types should engage in the preliminary practices for the gradual instructions, through which they will become fortunate persons in whose mind streams the actual practice will develop. The preliminaries are either long and indirect or short and direct. According to Atiśa, the Karmapa says, the former consists of the paths of individuals with lesser and intermediate scopes, while the latter is the path of individuals with supreme scope. In accordance with that, Gampopa taught his famous four dharmas, each of which must precede the following one.
- This refers to Tāranātha.
- TOK, 3:381–88. According to Khenpo Tsültrim Gyatso Rinpoche, the three appearances of the Sakya tradition of The Path with the Result (Tib. lam ’bras) refer to impure appearances (without any analysis, appearances are taken to be real), the appearances of yogic experience (due to some analysis of ultimate reality, appearances are experienced as illusory), and the pure appearances of a buddha (due to thorough analysis of ultimate reality, appearances are realized as having the nature of space). These teachings represent the connection between the sūtra system and the Hevajra system in the Sakya School.
- Usually, the last of the four tantra classes is called "Anuttarayogatantra" in modern writings, but this term is not attested in any Sanskrit texts and is based on a (mistaken) back-translation of the Tibetan term rnal ’byor bla med kyi rgyud. In Sanskrit texts, only the corresponding terms Yogānuttara or Yoganiruttara ("higher than yoga[tantra]") appear.
- On these "empty forms," see the note on the emptiness endowed with all supreme aspects in the translation of RGVV on I.92 and GISM (198).
- TOK has "view of" instead of "clinging to."
- Nāgārjuna, Mūlamadhyamakakārikā XV.10.
- TOK, 3:380–81. With minor variations, the last four lines appear as verse 28 of the Jñānasārasamuccaya (ascribed to Āryadeva), as the first verse of Jetāri’s Sugatamatavibhāgakārikā (D3899, fol. 7b.5), and in the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra (D1347, fol. 196b.3). The first two lines are also found in the Śālistambasūtra. See Mahāyānasūtrasaṃgraha, edited by P. L. Vaidya (Darbhanga: Mithila Institute, 1961), 1:115.
- TOK, 3:389–90.
- Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan (n.d., 21) says that in our uncommon tradition of Gampopa, what is known as "the empowerment of transferring blessings" is sufficient for those of very sharp faculties, even if they have not trained in the stages of the four empowerments, the two stages of creation and completion, and so on. It is said that the swift path is to meditate on the guru, which is more powerful than cultivating the creation stage of secret mantra. The completion stage means that through sustaining the luminous basic nature of the mind throughout the day and night, one is able to blend all coarse and subtle ordinary activities with that basic nature. "The empowerment of transferring blessings" is known as "the empowerment of the display of basic awareness (rig pa)" in the Dzogchen tradition and is equivalent to it. Based on the four empowerments in the Yogānuttaratantra class, in due order, the inseparabilities of appearance and emptiness, lucidity and emptiness, bliss and emptiness, and awareness and emptiness are pointed out. This is identified as what is taught in terms of those whose faculties are of the gradualist kind. However, for the simultaneists on the path of Mahāmudrā, it is not necessarily the case that this path must be preceded by these progressive stages. To speak directly, when a guru with all the defining characteristics and a disciple who is a suitable vessel meet, the way of being of mind is introduced in an unerring manner just as it is. If it is recognized in the proper manner, the disciple does not need to train in a multitude of methods in this physical support but can be liberated right upon this very seat.
- Tib. Dvags po bkra shis rnam rgyal.
- Tib. Zla ’od gzhon nu.
- See BA, 451–52.
- Tib. Po to ba rin chen gsal.
- Tib. ’Brom ston pa rgyal ba;i ’byung gnas.
- 268–69 and 452.
- Thrangu Rinpoche 1994, 19.
- Ibid., 12.
- Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 97–98.
- Padma dkar po 2005, 82–83.
- Mönlam Tsültrim’s PIW explicitly quotes this sūtra as the source for its Mahāmudrā instructions at the moment of death (see the translations in this volume).
- Takpo Tashi Namgyal (1986, 101) also says that Maitrīpa received from Śavaripa instructions on the quintessence of Mahāmudrā that are not based on the vajrayāna.
- Tib. yid la mi byed pa’i chos skor nyi shu rtsa lnga. In the Tengyur these twenty-five texts are P3069 and P3073–3097 (P3082 and 3091 are virtually identical; 3086 is anonymous, but very much accords in style). The Sanskrit of twenty-two of these texts was published in 1927 as Advayavajrasaṃgraha by H. Shastri, and Mikkyō-seiten ken- kyūkai 1988–1991 (see bibliography under Maitrīpa) published twenty-four. When comparing the Tengyur texts with those in these two publications, the Tengyur misses the Mūlāpatti and Sthūlāpatti (nos. 3 and 4) and instead has the Saṃkṣiptasekaprakriyā (P3089), Dohātināmatattvopadeśa (P3092), and Upadeśaparama (P3096). For a detailed chart of the Tibetan and Sanskrit versions, see Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1988, 228. For a classification in terms of contents, see Padma dkar po 2005, 37–42; see also Broido 1987, 55–57. Most of these texts give Advayavajra as their author (a few have Metri), but it is well known from many sources that Maitrīpa was also called Advayavajra(pāda), Avadhūta, and Acinta(pāda), and Butön explicitly ascribes all of these works to Maitrīpa. However, the topic of these works is not only "mental nonengagement," but they also treat a great variety of subjects pertaining to the mahāyāna and vajrayāna, in particular Madhyamaka. However, in Tibet, that whole set of Maitrīpa’s works received the name "the cycle on mental nonengagement" since traditionally the notion of mental nonengagement is the one that is primarily associated with his teachings (for details on that term, see below in this section). For a biographical sketch of Maitrīpa, see Tatz 1987 and Brunnhölzl 2007a, 125–31.
- This is why the later threefold Tibetan division of Mahāmudrā into sūtra Mahāmudrā, tantra Mahāmudrā, and essence Mahāmudrā classifies Maitrīpa’s system as sūtra Mahāmudrā. The same goes for Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā, whose similar approach is based on Maitrīpa’s.
- These are his Tattvaviṃśikā, Upadeśaparama, Sekanirdeśa (verses 26, 27, 29, 36, 38, 39), Saṃkṣiptasekaprakriyā (P3089, fol. 142b.3), and Caturmudrāniścaya (Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1989, 253, 249, 243, 239), with the latter three treating specifically tantric topics. Verse 11 of the Tattvaviṃśikā says, "Again, yogins who see true reality merge with Mahāmudrā in an unmatched way. Through the nature of all entities, they abide as those with supreme faculties." Verses 4–5 of the Upadeśaparama read, "Since cause and result are inseparable, I have no stages of meditation. Through experiencing the flavor of emptiness, meditation is realization. Through the cultivation of prajñā, everything is Mahāmudrā. Therefore, even in adverse factors, true reality is Mahāmudrā, the relaxed unthinkable nature." Sekanirdeśa 29 and 38 state that not abiding anywhere is known as "Mahāmudrā" and that Mahāmudrā is freedom from characteristics. As for explanations on Mahāmudrā in the three commentaries on Saraha’s Dohakoṣagīti ("People Dohā") that are ascribed to Advayavajra/Advaya Avadhūti (D2256, D2257, D2268), further detailed study is needed. At least D2268 largely follows Saraha’s presentation of Mahāmudrā in his Kāyakośāmṛtavajragīti (D2269) through the four key terms "mindfulness" (dran pa), "nonmindfulness" (dran med), "unborn" (skye med), and "beyond mind" (blo ’das). Unlike Maitrīpa, Saraha’s songs often bitingly reject all other views and practices—Buddhist as well as non-Buddhist—including Madhyamaka and elaborate vajrayāna practices (see the opening verses of his "People Dohā"). In that vein, Saraha’s Kāyakośāmṛtavajragīti (P3115, fol. 78a) says that the Vaibhāṣikas, the Sautrāntikas, the Yogācāras, and the Mādhyamikas just criticize and debate each other. Not knowing the space-like true reality of appearance and emptiness, they turn their back on connateness.
- Maitrīpa’s Amanasikārādhāra (Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1989, 209) ascribes this quote to the Sarvabuddhaviśayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkārasūtra, but it is not found there. However, the prajñāpāramitā sūtras repeatedly say that actual virtue is mental nonengagement, while nonvirtue is mental engagement.
- D100, fol. 299b.6–7.
- Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1989, 243 (D2225, fols. 78b.5-79a.1; the words in parentheses are only found in the Tibetan). The remaining four occurrences of the word "Mahāmudrā" in the text are just in passing, without adding anything substantial to the above.
- D2259, fols. 305a.5–307a.3.
- It seems noteworthy to point out that the term "mahāmudrā" in Buddhist tantric texts does not only refer to (1) the highest one among the four mudrās. In the Buddhist tantras, "mahāmudrā" is also found as (2) an equivalent of all terms that denote ultimate reality (such as emptiness, tathāgatagarbha, buddhahood, and dharmakāya), (3) a term for symbolic hand-gestures in tantric rituals, (4) the main female consort of the central male deity in a given maṇḍala of tantric deities, (5) a consort in sexual yoga practices, (6) a meditation approach of directly focusing on the nature of the mind, (7) the wisdom of realizing the union of bliss and emptiness, (8) the supreme siddhi that consists of perfect buddhahood as the final culmination of tantric practice, (9) a lineage of teachings through a series of Indian masters including Saraha, Nāgārjuna, Tilopa, Nāropa, and Maitrīpa, and (10) even an alternate name for Madhyamaka. Also, in its meanings (3)–(5), the term "mahāmudrā" is not even unique to Buddhist texts. As Sanderson (2009, 133–34, n. 311) shows, it also appears, for example, in Śaivaite scriptures, such as the Picumata, a Vidyāpīṭha Śaiva text, in which the term "Mahāmudrā" refers to the primary female consort of the chief male deity (in this case Bhairava).
- Compare Gampopa’s Pith Instructions on the Two Armors (Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:504) saying that mind’s being without arising is the dharmakāya. Its being without ceasing is the sambhogakāya. Its being without abiding is the nirmāṇakāya. In a mind that realizes the three kāyas, they are inexpressible as being diverse, their essence is free from identification, and they are beyond being objects of mind—this is the svābhāvikakāya. Pamo Trupa’s Two Armors of Connate Union (Phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po 2003, 4:301) literally says the same on the first two kāyas. It continues that mind’s being unidentifiable is the nirmāṇakāya and that the svābhāvikakāya refers to the three kāyas’ being without difference.
- Note that this explanation of Mahāmudrā as the basis of both saṃsāra and nirvāṇa greatly resembles Gö Lotsāwa’s description of buddha nature (see the section "Gö Lotsāwa’s Unique Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Uttaratantra").
- Ibid., fols. 296a.5 and 297a.1–2.
- The term rarely occurs in Saraha’s famous trilogy of dohās for the people, the queen, and the king but it is a central theme in his vajragīti quartet consisting of the Kāyakośāmṛtavajragīti, Vākkośarucirasvarajagīti, Cittakośājavajragīti, and Kāyavāccittāmanasikāra, as well as in his Mahāmudropadeśa. As for Tilopa, the term occurs in his Dohākośa, Acintyamahāmudrā, and Mahāmudropadeśa.
- P3094, fols. 151b.7–153a.8.
- Matsuda 1996, 95; D142, fol. 3a.6–7 ('Amanasikārādhāra: "Once bodhisattva mahāsattvas have relinquished all characteristics of conceptions that consist of aspects through not mentally engaging [in them] . . .").
- Technically speaking, self-blessing (Skt. svādhiṣṭhāna, Tib. bdag byin rlabs), luminosity (Skt. prabhāsvaratā, Tib. ’od gsal), and union (Skt. yuganaddha, Tib. zung ’jug) are the third, fourth, and fifth of the five levels of completion stage practice in the Guhyasamājatantra. This is a typical example of Maitrīpa’s freely using vajrayāna terms and notions even in nontantric contexts.
- This is precisely what TOK, 3:375, says above about "sūtra Mahāmudrā": "one rests in meditative equipoise through being instructed that the subject does not mentally engage in the object—luminosity free from reference points."
- The forty-three letters and their order (beginning with "A") that the prajñāpāramitā sūtra in twenty-five thousand lines lists correspond to the early Arapacana alphabet of the Karoṣṭhi language of the northwestern Indian region of Gāndhāra, which was later widely used as a mnemonic device to symbolize Buddhist key terms (with each letter’s representing the first letter of a certain Sanskrit word). As in this case, these letters and the terms they stand for were often taken as the bases for contemplating their meanings. For example, with regard to all phenomena, the first five letters of the Arapacana alphabet symbolize the following: "A"—being unborn (anutpannatva); "RA"—being free from pollution (rajas, lit. "dust"); "PA"—the ultimate’s (paramārtha) being empty; "CA"—dying (cyavana) being unobservable; and "NA"—being without name (nāma).
- Compare GC’s explanation in the section "Gö Lotsāwa’s Unique Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Uttaratantra" that all five levels of the completion stage of the Guhyasamājatantra are also found in a passage of the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā on 7cd (P3099, fols. 190b.1–191a.2) explains that mental nonengagement does not refer to a complete absence of mental engagement, such as closing one’s eyes and then not seeing anything like a vase or a blanket at all. Rather, mental nonengagement refers to the very nonobservation of a nature of entities, be it through analysis or the guru’s pith instructions. Therefore, mental nonengagement with regard to characteristics means nothing but fully penetrating the very lack of characteristics. To think, "This is unthinkable and nonconceptual," is just thinking, but mental non-engagement does not mean that there is absolutely no cognition of the lack of nature. Padma dkar po (2005, 38–42) gives three meanings of amanasikāra, supporting them with the Saṃvarodayatantra, the Hevajratantra, and the Mañjuśrīnāmasaṃgīti, respectively. (1) The letter i in that term represents a locative case (referring to a place or a basis), with a location or basis being what is negated by the first letter a. Thus, the term refers to there being no location, basis, or support on which to focus. Hence, to hold one’s mind firmly on its focal object through the mode of apprehension of the mental factor of mental engagement is necessary during the practice of ordinary forms of calm abiding, but here this is to be stopped. (2) Without considering the locative i, what is negated through the first letter a is mental engagement, that is, mental activity. This refers to eagerly engaging in the mode of apprehension of the mental factor, impulse, or intention (cetanā), which is the mental activity of mental formation—mind’s engaging in virtue, nonvirtue, and what is neutral. The eight formations or applications are needed in order to remove the five flaws in ordinary calm abiding, but Mahāmudrā meditation is free from doing and does not arise from accumulating. All mental activities are presented here as entailing reference points or focal objects, so what is taught by this is the utter peace of all reference points or focal objects. Therefore, it is said:
- To the one who does not think through imagination,
- Whose mind does not abide at all,
- Who is without mindfulness, is without mental engagement,
- And is without focus, I pay homage.
- (3) The initial a in amanasikāra stands for prajñāpāramitā and all expressions for nonduality, such as nonarising (anutpanna) and nonceasing (anirodha). Thus, the term means to mentally engage in a proper manner in this meaning of the letter a. In terms of the vajrayāna, nonduality refers to the union of prajñā and means, which has the nature of great bliss since this bliss arises from that union. In terms of the pāramitāyāna, duality refers to apprehender and apprehended, me and what is mine, or cognition and what is to be cognized, which will always be dual for as long as there is mental flux. The identitylessness of all phenomena that is free from all flux and without any reference points arises as the kāya whose character is the nature of phenomena, which is nondual in essence. This arising of nonduality is specified by the aspect of nonarising and therefore is called "the dharma of nonarising." Dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba (n.d., 325) explains mental nonengagement as follows: "Its meaning is to rest one-pointedly on the focal object [of meditation], without being distracted by other thoughts. If this [one-pointed resting] were stopped, all samādhis would stop. Therefore, in general, ‘mental nonengagement’ has the meaning of not mentally engaging in any object other than the very focus of the [respective] samādhi. In particular, when focusing on the ultimate, [mental nonengagement] has the meaning of letting [the mind] be without even apprehending this ‘ultimate.’ However, this should not be understood as being similar to having fallen asleep." In brief, amanasikāra can be understood as either (1) no engagement in the mind, (2) no engagement of or by the mind, or (3) proper mental engagement in the meaning of prajñāpāramitā. In his Ri chos kyi rnal ̓byor bzhi pa phyag rgya chen po snying po ̓i don gyi gter mdzod (Rgyal ba yang dgon pa 1984, 1:247–48), the early Drugpa Kagyü master, Gyalwa Yanggönpa (Tib. Rgyal ba yang dgon pa; 1213–1258), interprets mental nonengagement (Tib. yid la mi byed pa) as an absence of mental engagement in the sense of not dwelling in mentation (yid), being liberated from mentation, or transcending mentation. More specifically, he explains the term through its component "mentation," which he, following classical Yogācāra teachings, presents as twofold—being afflicted and being what triggers the other six active consciousnesses. He says that with thoughts and imagination functioning as the cognizing subjects of bases of mistakenness, "mental nonengagement" means that these engagers do not engage in such a way. With this understanding of the term, even when there is mental nonengagement in this sense, there is still engagement in one’s own mind. This means that however the ālaya-consciousness and the five sense consciousnesses may arise, their being self-lucid in a nonconceptual state is Mahāmudrā’s very own basic ground. When the afflicted mind (nyon yid) looks inward at the ālaya-consciousness, it takes it to be a self. When the mental consciousness (yid shes) looks outward through the five sense gates, it breaks up the ālaya-consciousness into distinct objects. Thus, all the subjects and objects of this twofold mentation (yid) are the phenomena of saṃsāra, and all clinging to good and bad are just this mentation. To go beyond this and not dwell in it is Mahāmudrā in the sense of mental nonengagement. In other words, he says that "mental nonengagement" does not imply a complete stop of all mental activity but only of the dualistic mental engagements that appear as dealing with our assumed self and its separate objects. The same author’s Ri chos yon tan kun ’byung gi lhan thabs chen mo (ibid., 2:76) adds that if the term "mental nonengagement" had been translated as "not dwelling in mentation," it would have been straightforward, but since it was translated as it is (lit. "not doing [anything] in mentation"), some people went a bit wrong. When they speak of "mental nonengagement in the past, present, and future," they take "mentation" as the subject and the three times as the objects and then say that not engaging in them is "mental nonengagement." However, the past, the future, the present, existence, nonexistence, saṃsāra, and nirvāṇa are all nothing but superimpositions by mentation anyway. Here, the point of mental nonengagement in the context of Mahāmudrā—be it understood as "not engaging in mentation" or "not dwelling in mentation"—is, in brief, not to dwell in either existence, nonexistence, past, future, saṃsāra, or nirvana. Thus, the terms "beyond mind" (blo ’das), "free from reference points," "union" (zung ’jug), and "Mahāmudrā" are all equivalent. Compare also the two meanings of amanasikāra explained in the section on the Eighth Situpa, and see the discussion of mental nonengagement in Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā (Brunnhölzl 2007a, 177–81 and Brunnhölzl 2004, 52–57 and 310–20) for the significance and scope of this often misinterpreted term and its relation to Mahāmudrā.
- A mgon rin po che 2004, vol. ka, 407–8.
- D2253, fol. 155a.1–6.
- Compare Vajrapāṇi’s Guruparamparakramopadeśa (D3716, fol. 179a.3–6), which also says that Mahāmudrā does not involve the moments of the four joys because it is the stainless fruition in which there is nothing to be established or to be blocked. Speaking of instantaneous perfect awakening, Vajrapāṇi says that when not realized, it is saṃsāra, and when it is realized, the very same is Mahāmudrā.
- For example, the Kāyavākcittāmanasikāra (D2272, fol. 118b7) and Dohakoṣanāmamahāmudropadeśa (D2273, fol. 123a.7) attributed to Saraha, a quote attributed to Koṭāli (see the Vajragītibhāvanopadeśatilakakanakamālā [D2449, fol. 84a.3–4] and the Caturaśītisiddhasambodhihṛdaya [D2292, fol. 156a.4–5]), as well as three quotes from three siddhas in Rājaputranṛsiṃha’s Sarvayogatattvālokanāmasakalasiddhavajragīti (D2453, fols. 100b.2, 111b.5, and 113b.6).
- D2259, fol. 304a.5.
- Though all these works exist only in Tibetan translations (a possible Sanskrit equivalent could have been *prākṛtajñāna), the term is clearly understood in them in the same sense as in later Tibetan Mahāmudrā texts that use it—the ultimate uncontrived nature of the mind. Gampopa’s Pith Instructions on the Two Armors (Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:515) explains " ordinary mind" as "the first mind" that is unaltered by any philosophical systems or opinions.
- 5, 137, and 190.
- Tattvadaśakaṭīkā (P3099, fol. 176a.5).
- Ibid., fol. 189a.2–4.
- Ibid., 186b.7–187a.2.
- Ibid., 178b.4–6.
- Verse 36.
- Tattvadaśakaṭīkā (D3099, fol. 190a.4–190b.1).
- Ibid., fol. 192a.5–192b.2.
- Sahajavajra also quotes Maitreya, Candrakīrti, Śāntarakṣita, Śāntideva, Kambala, Vasubandhu, and Dharmakīrti.
- For a complete translation of Sahajavajra’s commentary, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 141–90.
- The only difference between Uttaratantra I.154 and Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21 is upaneyaṃ in the former versus prakṣeptavyaṃ in the latter (both meaning "to be added").
- In the Pañcatathāgatamudrāvivaraṇa (Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1988, 189), Maitrīpa equates the dharmakāya with "wisdom without appearances" and the rūpakāyas with "illusion that arises during subsequent attainment." It is in order to clarify the relationship between these two kāyas that he quotes Uttaratantra II.61b. In his Caturmudrāniścaya (Mikkyō-seiten kenkyūkai 1989, 243), Maitrīpa quotes what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 to support his statement that cessation is the direct perception of the nature of connateness. I am indebted to Mr. Kazuo Kano for having drawn my attention to these two references.
- D2256, fol. 187b.2–5.
- Some Tibetan renderings of what corresponds to Uttaratantra I.154 and Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21b (such as in Sahajavajra’s Tattvadaśakaṭīkā) read bsnan par bya ba versus bzhag par bya ba, but that is not consistent and therefore is, in itself, not sufficient evidence for such a quote’s being from one of these two texts rather than the other. See also appendices 2 and 3 for Jñānaśrīmitra’s Sākārasiddhi’s, GC’s, and the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra that shows a similar approach of commenting differently on Abhisamayālaṃkāra V.21 and Uttaratantra I.154 in their individual contexts.
- D3716, fol. 169a.3–169b.4.
- Ibid., fols. 179a.6–182a.7.
- Compare the similar presentation in The Bright Torch by Dselé Natso Rangdröl (Tib. Rtse le sna tshogs rang grol; born 1608) in the context of ground Mahāmudrā in the section "Other Kagyü Masters on Mahāmudrā and the Uttaratantra."
- D2253, fol. 156a.2–7.
- Ibid., fol. 145b.3.
- D2259, fols. 303b.3–304a.2.
- P3099, fol. 170a.3–4.
- P4532, fols. 43b.5–6.
- Ibid., fols. 45b.8–46a.5. The text has further similar passages (for example, fol. 47b.5–6) and repeats several times that another name of Mother Prajñāpāramitā is Mahāmudrā (fols. 51a.8, 57b.3, 59b.4, and 65a.3). It also equates emptiness with Mahāmudrā.
- Ibid., fol. 47b.2–3.
- Ibid., fols. 47b.3–52a.1.
- Note that the last four of the twenty emptinesses in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras are the emptinesses of entities, nonentities, self-entity, and other-entity, with the last two among these four terms just being different names for emptiness itself.
- Tattvāvatārākhyasakalasugatavacastātparyavyākhyāprakaraṇa (P4532, fols. 70b.1–72a.6).
- For details on these four, especially their explanations in the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga and its commentaries, see Brunnhölzl 2012b.
- D2226, fol. 82a.3–4.
- D1350, 83a.6–7.
- Cicuzza 2001, 124.
- Karma phrin las pa phyogs las rnam rgyal 2009, 6.
- On the other hand, some Tibetan authors such as Tāranātha (see Templeman 1983, 11) report that Atiśa expelled Maitrīpa from Vikramaśīla for having engaged in vajrayāna practices that involved women and alcohol. However, this account is not found in non-Tibetan sources, and it is unclear that the one who was expelled was indeed Maitrīpa, given that the name "Maitri" served as a rather common epithet for many persons. In any case, there are some chronological problems surrounding Maitrīpa’s having taught Atiśa. The dates of Atiśa are well established as 982–1054, and it is clearly documented that he left India in 1040, arrived in Tibet in 1042, and stayed there until his death. As already mentioned, Maitrīpa’s dates are more problematic (they range from 983–1060 to c. 1010–c. 1087). It is clear from Maitrīpa’s biography that he only met Śavaripa, from whom he received the dohā tradition of Mahāmudrā, when he was fifty-three (which would be 1039 according to Roberts’ earlier dates of Maitrīpa) and thus only returned to the academic environment after 1040. Consequently, even with Roberts’ earlier dates, it is quite unlikely for him to have met Atiśa before the latter went to Tibet. There is a little bit better chance, if one chooses 983 as Maitrīpa’s birth year, but then there is a potential conflict with his having taught Marpa Chökyi Lodrö. BA and many other sources have Marpa’s dates as 1012–1097 (though other sources have earlier dates). Chos kyi ’byung gnas (Situpa VIII) and ’Be lo tshe dbang kun khyab (2005, 1:73–75), giving Marpa’s birth year as 1000, and BA agree that Marpa met Maitrīpa during his last journey to India. According to BA, he returned from his second journey when he was forty-two, then married his wife and obviously stayed in Tibet for some years. Thus, his last journey to India could have begun only in his late forties or early fifties, that is, around 1060. Furthermore, if Maitrīpa’s later dates as per BA and 'Tatz (c. 1010–c. 1087) are correct, it would be unlikely in the context of Indo-Tibetan teacher-student relationships for Maitrīpa as the far younger one to teach the older Atiśa. Still, if one accepts that Maitrīpa rediscovered the Uttaratantra and received teachings on it by Maitreya, Maitrīpa would have been in a position to teach it to others such as Atiśa despite his being their junior. The problem with Maitrīpa’s teaching the dohās to Atiśa is more substantial though because Maitrīpa would have to have received them from someone else long before he received them from Śavaripa, of which there is no indication in Maitrīpa’s biographies and that seems very unlikely. In any case, what is undisputed about Atiśa is that he translated the Uttaratantra and RGVV with Nagtso Lotsāwa and obviously also taught these texts.
- 261 and 844.
- 'Bodhipathapradīpapañjikā (D3948, fol. 285a.5).
- For a translation of this short text, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 90–91. Here, it is worthy to note that Atiśa’s approach as found in his Madhyamakopadeśa corresponds to GISM’s section on how the Niḥsvabhāvavādins meditate and also to the section on resting in meditative equipoise in nonconceptual freedom from reference points in accordance with the middle wheel and thus coming to a final resolve about the profound nature of phenomena.
- Bodhipathapradīpapañjikā (D3948, fols. 258b.6ff.).
- Ibid., fol. 284a.3–7. 766. For a translation of this text, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 77–89.
- For a translation of this text, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 77–89.
- Skyo ston smon lam tshul khrims 2007e (for details, see the excerpts from this text in the chapter "Overview of the Indian and Tibetan Texts Presented in This Book").
- Tib. Bya yul ba gzhon nu ’od.
- Tib. Sne’u zur pa ye shes ’bar.
- Tib. Snyug rum pa brtson ’grus rgyal mtshan.
- Tib. Rgya lcags ri ba. According to Sherpa 2004, 298, this is Lcags ri gong kha ba byang chub dpal (born eleventh century).
- Tib. Rgya yon bdag.
- Tib. Byang chub sems dpa’ kun dga’.
- Tib. Sha ba gling pa.
- Tib. Dge bshes sgre pa. See the chart of Gampopa’s teachers in Sherpa 2004, 298.
- Dpa’ bo gtsug lag phreng ba 2003, 1:790.
- Tib. Bla ma byang chub sems dpa’; seems to be identical with Byang chub sems dpa’ kun dga’ in Sherpa 2004, 298.
- Tib. Mar yul blo ldan.
- That is, it lacks male and female deities being in union.
- For surveys of all of Gampopa’s works and examination of some of his Mahāmudrā texts, see Kragh 1998 and Sherpa 2004.
- Note here that, as already stated by Herbert Guenther, Peter Roberts, Cyrus Stearns, Elizabeth Callahan, and others (and against common usage in Western translations), the three terms nāḍī, vāyu, and tilaka (and not nāḍī, prāṇa, and bindu) are the Sanskrit equivalents for the Tibetan rtsa rlung thig le in the Buddhist tantras and their Indian commentaries. This is also confirmed by the Sanskrit dictionary by Monier-Williams and the Tibetan-Sanskrit dictionary by J. S. Negi.
- Tshogs chos yon tan phun sum tshogs in Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 5:296–97. These three paths are reminiscent of Sahajavajra’s division into the regular pāramitāyāna, the mantrayāna, and the sūtra-based Mahāmudrā approach with pith instructions. However, differing from Gampopa, Sahajavajra says that this latter approach is inferior to the mantrayāna, though it is superior to the regular pāramitāyāna.
- Rnam rtog don dam gyi ngo sprod in Sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen 1975, 2:229–47. For a translation of this text, see Sherpa 2004, 195–293.
- Dus gsum mkhyen pa’i zhus lan in Sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen 1975, 1:411.
- According to Padma dkar po (2005, 7–37), "the seven Siddhi works" (Tib. grub pa sde bdun) are (1) Padmavajra’s Sakalatantrasambhavasaṃcodanīśrīguhyasiddhi, (2) Anaṅgavajra’s Prajñopāyaviniścayasiddhi, (3) Indrabhūti’s Jñānasiddhināmasādhana, (4) Lakṣmī’s Advayasiddhisādhana, (5) Dārika’s Śrī uḍḍiyānavinirgataguhyamahāguhyatattvopadeśa and Sahajayoginī Cintā’s Vyaktabhāvānugatatattvasiddhi (Padma Karpo says that these two are counted as one due to their similar names), (6) Camari’s Prajñopāyaviniścayasamudaya, and (7) Lakṣmī Bhaṭṭārikā’s Sahajasiddhipaddhati (D2117–2222, D2381, and D2261, respectively). Mi pham chos kyi blo gros (1997, 1:31–216) omits Camari’s text and replaces Lakṣmī’s commentary by Ḍombi Heruka’s Śrīsahajasiddhi (D2223). "The sixfold cycle of the essence" (Tib. snying po skor drug) consists of (1) Saraha’s Dohakoṣa (D2224), (2) the Tattvopadeśaśikharadohagīti (D2276; attributed by Padma Karpo to Saraha), āryadeva’s (3) Cittāvaraṇaviśodhananāmaprakaraṇa (D1804) and (4) Svādhiṣṭhānakramaprabheda (D1805), (5) Nāgārjunagarbha’s Caturmudrāniścaya (D2225), and (6) Kuddālī’s Acintyakramopadeśa (D2228). Besides these six, Padma Karpo here also includes the remaining dohā works of Saraha (such as his "Dohā for the Queen," "Dohā for the King," and Kakhasyadohā with its autocommentary), as well as "the three bodhisattva commentaries" (Vajrapāṇi’s commentary on the Cakrasaṃvaratantra, the Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra by Kalkin Puṇḍarīka, and Vajragarbha’s Hevajrapiṇḍārthaṭīkā), Nāgārjuna’s Cittavajrastava, and so on. Mi pham chos kyi blo gros (1997, 1:284–392) omits (4) and (5) and replaces them by Devacandra’s Prajñājñānaprakāśa (D2226) and Sahajavajra’s Sthitisamuccaya (D2227). Padma Karpo also says that the four transmission lineages of all these works came together in Kuddālī and then were transmitted through Lavapa, Tilopa, and Nāropa. Another lineage went from Kuddālī to Śavaripa and then Maitrīpa.
- Sgam po pa bsod nams rin chen 1982, Phag mo gru pa’i zhu lan, vol. kha, 74.
- Sometimes Gampopa even criticizes ordinary vajrayāna for descending to the level of conceptualization (see D. Jackson 1994, 34).
- These lines are from Milarepa’s Mahāmudrā song called "The Three Nails" and describe the three nails in terms of the view (Rus pa’i rgyan can 1981, 259).
- Note that almost literal versions of this verse are found in the Vajragītibhāvanopadeśatilakakanakamālā (D2449, fol. 84a.3–4) of the eighty-four Indian mahāsiddhas and in Vīraprabhāsvara’s Caturaśītisiddhasambodhihṛdaya (D2292, fol. 156a.4–5), in both of which it is attributed to Koṭāli. In all versions, the first two lines are identical, while the latter two show some minor variations.
- Tib. Go cha gnyis kyi man ngag (Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:502–67).
- Ibid., 4:508–9.
- Ibid., 4:511.
- Interlinear gloss: to know that whatever appears and whatever one thinks is mind.
- Interlinear gloss: not tainted by thoughts.
- Mi pham chos kyi blo gros 1997, 4:535–38.
- Ibid., 4:542–43.
- As mentioned above, the Karmapa studied with Śākya Shönnu, the then abbot of the "lower"monastic seat at the famous Kadampa college of Sangpu, and Lodrö Tsungmé (mid-thirteenth to mid-fourteenth century).
- These are the First Karmapa, Tüsum Kyenpa (Tib. Dus gsum mkhyen pa; 1110–1193), Pamo Trupa, and Saldo Shogom (Tib. Gsal sto sho sgom; 1116–1169).
- Tib. Rgod tshang pa mgon po rdo rje.
- D147, fol. 142a.4–5.
- These qualities of monastics include owning only three robes made of used clothing, begging for alms, living in isolated places, and so on.
- 475–76, 470–71, and 461–62.
- Rang byung rdo rje 2006c, fol. 22a.3–4.
- For details, see Thrangu Rinpoche 1990, 2–7 and Thrangu Rinpoche 2002, 20–51; both passages in abbreviated form are also found in Brunnhölzl 2009, 119–24.
- Brunnhölzl 2009, 138.
- Ibid., 139–40.
- The commentary by the Fifteenth Karmapa glosses this as the time of mind itself being ignorant about or unaware of itself. According to the commentary by the Fifth Shamarpa, "the end" refers to the point when mind recognizes its own face or essence.
- Brunnhölzl 2009, 209.
- Ibid., 213–14.
- Ibid., 216
- Ibid., 222–23.
- Ibid., 224.
- Ibid., 259. For more details on the view of the Third Karmapa on the tathāgata heart, see Brunnhölzl 2007b and 2009.
- Mi bskyod rdo rje 1996, 7–14.
- As my investigation of Maitrīpa’s Mahāmudrā approach has already shown, the Eight Karmapa’s label "Madhyamaka of mental nonengagement" for this approach is fully justified since it correctly identifies its two main elements.
- Tib. sems tsam rnam rdzun gyi dbu ma.
- BA’s chapter on the transmission of Mahāmudrā (841–86) consists of the transmission of the Indian dohā lineage (whose primary topic is of course Mahāmudrā). From Maitrīpa, this lineage went to his four main students Sahajavajra, Devākaracandra, Rāmapāla, and Vajrapāṇi, but it was only the latter who actually transmitted it to Tibet. In that regard, BA describes "the upper tradition of Mahāmudrā" (Vajrapāṇi) and "the lower tradition" (transmitted by the Nepalese master Asu, who spent most of his life in central Tibet). The followers of the first tradition speak of "the upper translation"transmitted by Vajrapāṇi; "the lower translation,"by Asu; and "the later translation,"by Nagpo Sherdé (Tib. Nag po sher dad), who studied with Vajrapāṇi in India when the latter was already very old. Marpa’s tradition of the Mahāmudrā dohās is referred to here as "additional translation" (zur ’gyur). Among many other students, Vajrapāṇi taught Mahāmudrā also to Nagtso Lotsāwa. Vajrapāṇi’s student, the Kashmiri Dharmaśrī, who accompanied him, also taught Mahāmudrā. One of Asu’s main disciples was Barpuwa Lodrö Sengé (Tib. Par phu ba blo gros seng ge; twelfth century), the author of eight commentaries on Saraha’s dohās, which are to this day regarded as the primary early Tibetan commentaries on the dohā tradition. Among Barpuwa’s many students, there was Rimibabpa Sönam Rinchen (Tib. Ri mi ’babs pa bsod nams rin chen; 1362–1453), who transmitted the dohās and Mahāmudrā to Gö Lotsāwa.
- Tib. dkar po gcig thub. This term is found in the writings of Gampopa, Lama Shang, and some other early Kagyü masters. As a physician, Gampopa was of course familiar with this medical term for certain powerful remedies (plants and minerals) that are said to cure all diseases. However, the term occurs only three times in his preserved teachings. For example, in his Answers to Pamo Truba (Phag gru’i zhus lan; Collected Works, 1:472), he says that once the realization of the inconceivable nature of phenomena has arisen, it "becomes the single white panacea—knowing one, all is liberated" (dkar po chig thub gcig shes kun grol song ba). A more substantial source for this term’s being linked specifically with Mahāmudrā is the twelfth chapter (dkar po chig thub tu bstan pa’i le’u) of Lama Shang’s Ultimate Profound Path of Mahāmudrā (see Martin 1992, 290–92; the term is also mentioned at the end of chap. 9, p., 285). Just as the white panacea, Mahāmudrā is considered to be the single sufficient remedy for all diseases of mental affliction and obscuration, allowing mind to regain its own nature’s fundamental sanity. The notion of any spiritual practice’s being a single self-sufficient cause for awakening was criticized by Sakya Paṇḍita and others and even unjustly equated with the "view of Hvashang" (who, in one of his writings, also used the example of a single panacea). The latter view became a Tibetan stereotype for the exclusive cultivation of a thought-free mental state—as representing realization of the ultimate—along with a complete rejection of the aspect of means, such as the accumulation of merit and proper ethical conduct. However, the teachings on Mahāmudrā are far from merely advocating nonthinking or some type of mental blankness. This is also what Lama Shang explains, and the last verse of his above-mentioned chapter explicitly says that, as long as there is clinging to a self, karma and its maturation exist and it is essential to relinquish negative actions and accumulate merit. Later, Padma Karpo’s Treasure Vault of the Victors (Padma dkar po 2005) gave a highly detailed account of all the main sources of the Mahāmudrā system and its relation to Madhyamaka, the sūtras, and the tantras, invalidating claims that Mahāmudrā is not found in the sūtras or that it is simply equivalent to the doctrine of Hvashang (for more details, see Broido 1987, D. Jackson 1990a, and Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 97–108). "The view of Hvashang"refers to the approach ascribed by Tibetans to the Chinese Ch’an master Hvashang Mahāyāna from Dunhuang, as it is reported to have been refuted in the debate at Samyé by Kamalaśīla. This led to Tibetans henceforth, by decree of the king, largely adopting the Indian approach of the gradual path versus what was perceived as the "Chinese"model of instantaneous awakening. From that time onward in Tibet, Hvashang’s name and view became a pejorative cliché freely applied to what certain people considered flawed Buddhist approaches in the above sense. However, there are a number of different Tibetan versions of the debate at Samyé, with the more verifiable one giving a different account of what Hvashang actually said. In addition, the Tibetan and Chinese documents on the debate found at Dunhuang differ greatly from the "official"Tibetan story. For example, Tibetan fragments of Hvashang’s own teachings and Wang Hsi’s Tun-wu ta-tch’eng cheng-li chüeh (which presents Hvashang and not Kamalaśīla as the winner in the debate) show Hvashang’s view and meditation instructions to be much more refined and detailed than the usual indigenous Tibetan accounts. The Dunhuang documents also provide clear evidence that Ch’an teachings had been translated into Tibetan and continued to be transmitted in Tibet even after their supposed prohibition as one of the outcomes of the debate at Samyé. In any case, it was mostly due to subsequent intra-Tibetan disputes that this encounter and its issues gained such importance in Tibet. For the complexity of the events surrounding the debate at Samyé, see also Gomez 1983, Broido 1987, Karmay 1988, and D. Jackson 1990a.
- BA, 724.
- Tib. Khro phu lo tsā ba byams pa dpal. BA (709–11) describes Tropu Lotsāwa’s studies in India and Nepal with Mitrayogin, then Buddhaśrī, and finally Śākyaśrībhadra, as well as his invitations of these three (one after the other) to Tibet, where he further studied with them. He also received instructions on Mahāmudrā from his two uncles Gyaltsa Rinchen Gön (Tib. Rgyal tsha rin chen mgon; 1118–1195) and Künden Repa (both direct disciples of Pamo Truba), as well as from a direct student of Gampopa named Longdsewa (Tib. Klong rtse ba). He continued the Kagyü subschool called Tropu Kagyü, which was founded by Gyaltsa Rinchen Gön.
- Mi pham chos kyi blo gros (1997, 2:88–96) contains a Gdams ngag rin chen ’bru dgu by Śākyaśrībhadra (not found in the Tengyur), which contains Mahāmudrā-style instructions on meditation, though it does not use the term "Mahāmudrā" (for details, see Kragh 1998, 54–56).
- Tib. Byams ba gling pa.
- Tib. Khrims khang lo tsā ba bsod nam rgyal mtshan.
- Vanaratna visited Tibet for several years between 1433 and 1454.
- In a recent edition of four Mahāmudrā texts written by Dzünba Chölé (Tib. Btsun pa chos legs, 1437–1521) from the Bodong (Tib. Bo dong) lineage in western Tibet, the author specifically mentions that his texts treat "Connate Union,"which is another name for Gampopa’s Mahāmudrā system. On the transmission of the Mahāmudrā teachings that he received, Dzünba Chölé’s autobiography reports that it was from the Sakya master Baljor Sangbo (Tib. Dpal ’byor bzang po) that he obtained both the Mahāmudrā teachings of Lama Shang and the cycle Richö Korsum (Tib. Ri chos skor gsum) by Gyalwa Yanggönpa (1213–1258), a disciple of Götsangpa Gönpo Dorje (see Btsun pa chos legs 2000).
- Tib. Sha ra ba yon tan grags.
- Mi bskyod rdo rje 1976, fol. 279a.2–5.
- Mi bskyod rdo rje 1996, 38.
- See Brunnhölzl 2010, 430.
- See Brunnhölzl 2011b, 271.
- Gling drung pa ’dor ba’i dris lan in Mi bskyod rdo rje 2004, 3:314–15.
- As mentioned before, "the three great ones"refers to the three primary afflictions—ignorance, desire, and hatred.
- Lines 44–47.
- A very similar remark is found in Mi bskyod rdo rje 1996, 10.
- Mi bskyod rdo rje’i spyad pa’i rabs in Mi bskyod rdo rje 2004, 1:367.
- Bla ma khams pa’i dris lan mi gcig sems gnyis in Mi bskyod rdo rje 2004, 3:220–21.
- For details, see Brunnhölzl 2010, 159 and passim.
- Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 110–15 and 123–24 (the page references are to the English translation, but my wording follows the Tibetan original as in Dvags po bkra skis rnam rgyal 2005).
- As mentioned in TOK, these three are bliss, clarity, and nonthought.
- These correspond to the four syllables of the Tibetan yid la mi byed for "mental non-engagement." In due order, these syllables are said to refer to cutting through a base or root of mind, showing the methods for settling the mind, preventing the mind from going astray, and taking mind as the path.
- Padma dkar po 2005, 109–14.
- Chos kyi ’byung gnas n.d., 18.
- Ibid., 57.
- Ibid., 24–31.
- Compare Gampopa’s statement that awareness and emptiness are connate and that "connate union" refers to awareness, lucidity, and bliss being unified with emptiness (Wangchuk Dorje 2001, 273–74).
- The text has no negative here, but there needs to be one in order for it to make sense in the given context.
- Sakya Paṇḍita’s actual statement is found in Sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ rgyal mtshan 1992b, 59:
- If there were a view higher
- Than the freedom from reference points of the pāramitās,
- That view would entail reference points.
- P4532, fol. 46a.3.
- Chos kyi ’byung gnas n.d., 52–53.
- Ibid., 41–42.
- Vasubandhu’s Bhāṣya on this says that the nonexistence as the imaginary nature is the supreme existence as the perfect nature. The nonobservability of the imaginary nature is the supreme observation of the perfect nature.
- This can also be considered as an alternative answer to the question in Uttaratantra I.156 as to why the existence of buddha nature was taught after having declared that everything is empty.
- Chos kyi ’byung gnas, 74–75.
- Ibid., 66–67.
- Ibid., 69–71.
- Ibid., 93–97.
- I could not locate this quote in that text by Nāgārjuna, but there is a nearly identical verse in āryadeva’s Catuḥśataka (VIII.5).
- Chos kyi ’byung gnas n.d., 97–98.
- It is noteworthy that Situ Rinpoche includes āryavimuktisena, Bhadanta Vimuktisena, Vairocanabhadra, and Haribhadra in this lineage, which is essentially Yogācāra, because those masters are usually considered as Mādhyamikas and represent the most prominent Indian figures in the exegetical tradition of the prajñāpāramitā sūtras as per the Abhisamayālaṃkāra. Though Tāranātha (1980, 196–97, 210–11, and 277) mentions Paramasena as a student of āryavimuktisena and as a teacher of Vinītasena and says that Vairocanabhadra was the prajñāpāramitā teacher of Haribhadra, no further information about any of these masters is available. The same goes for the two Kusulipas. Dharmakīrti from Indonesia is better known as Atiśa’s main Yogācāra teacher, from whom he also received the teachings on "mind training" (lojong) and a transmission of the bodhisattva vows.
- Tib Spyan snga ba tshul khrims ’bar.
- The Ninth Karmapa’s Ocean of Definitive Meaning (Wangchuk Dorje 2001, 4) agrees that Gampopa taught his extraordinary students the path of means transmitted by Milarepa, while guiding the majority using the stages of the path of the Kadampa School. Since the latter contains the three lineages of vast conduct and so on and since the third one among these was transmitted by Tilopa and Nāropa, all these approaches definitely come down to the same point.
- Tib. Bla ma zhang g.yu brag pa brtson ’grus grags pa.
- Zhang g.yu brag pa brtson ’grus grags pa 1978, 51–54 (this text is translated in its entirety in Martin 1992 and Roberts 2011, 83–134).
- Tib. Khro phu bka’ brgyud.
- Tib. Lce sgom shes rab rdo rje.
- See Sørensen 1999. BA (711) says that Sherab Dorje received Mahāmudrā teachings from Künden Repa (Tib. Kun ldan ras pa; 1148–1217), a direct disciple of Pamo Truba.
- ’Bri gung skyob pa ’jig rten gsum mgon, 1998, 15.12–14.
- Ibid., 317.9–12.
- ’Ba’ ra ba rgyal mtshan dpal bzang 1970a, 501.1–502.2.
- Ibid., 532.4–6.
- Ibid., 533.2–5.
- Ibid., 550.4–5.
- ’Ba’ ra ba rgyal mtshan dpal bzang 1970b, 585.2–3.
- Ibid., 574.1–2.
- Chos kyi dbang phyug n.d., lines 246–78 (see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 352–53).
- Tib. Rtse le sna tshogs rang grol.
- See Roberts 2011, 290–93.
- Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 14–24.
- For details, see note 659.
- Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 41–43.
- Compare this passage about the explanation of emptiness only making sense if there is a basis of emptiness to the section from the Bodhisattvabhūmi (Dutt ed., 32f.) in appendix 2.
- Elsewhere (Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 59), the text says that the qualities of the ground exist intrinsically. If they did not exist in buddhahood, it would have to be explained that the nature of beings is not buddhahood and in that case one would have to accept that buddhahood is something newly arisen (thus being conditioned).
- Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 52–55.
- For these four characteristics as applied to the tathāgata heart, see most of the tathāgatagarbha sūtras as well as Uttaratantra I.80cd–82, II.18–26, II.29, and II.33–34.
- Dpal ldan rang byung phrin las kun khyab bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan n.d., 58.
- GC, 574.8–13.
- For example, GC, 43.2–44.15 and 47.12–51.19 (see Mathes 2008a, 239–42 and 247–59).
- GC, 54.7–56.5.
- GC, 54.7–59.22, 114.8–12, 137.23–138.6, and 460.17–464.17 (see also Mathes 2008a, 264–76, 390–94).
- 61.19–67.3 (Mathes 2008a, 279–89; see also 381–97).
- This could also be read as "Once the seal of the body has broken open . . ."
- Zhang g.yu brag pa brtson ’grus grags pa 1978, 89–92.
- Nanjio ed. 79.16–82.4; D107, fols. 86b.7–87b.7. Note that here Gö Lotsāwa sometimes quotes from D108 (fols. 217a.6–218b.2; the Tibetan translation of the sūtra from the Chinese translation Taishō 670) instead of D107 since he says that the detailed explanation of the individual yogas is in disorder in D107 while it is not in D108 (for details, see Mathes 2008a, 282–88).
- In a general mahāyāna sense, the term "poised readiness" (Skt. kṣānti, Tib. bzod pa; lit. "patience," "endurance") means to be mentally open and ready for the direct realization of emptiness, aka "the dharma of nonarising" (Skt. anutpattidharma, Tib. mi skye ba’i chos). Thus, it does not mean passively enduring or bearing something, but rather indicates an active willingness and receptiveness to integrate the experience of emptiness into one’s mind stream and to be able to live within its utter groundlessness. In a more specific sense, "poised readiness"refers to the third of the four levels of the path of preparation, on which the practitioner newly attains some degree of openness and calm in the sense of not being afraid of profound emptiness. However, the actual poised readiness of directly realizing this emptiness is attained only on the path of seeing. For the most part, the path of familiarization then consists of increasing and stabilizing one’s familiarity with this realization in all situations. On the eighth bhūmi, "the poised readiness for the dharma of nonarising"reaches its culmination.
- GC, 465.4–12.
- Ibid., 465.12–16. See also Mathes 2008a, 381–86.
- Though Gö Lotsāwa does not do so, in this context of connecting the four yogic practices with Mahāmudrā, one could very well point to Jñānakīrti’s Tattvāvatāra (P4532, fols. 70b.1–72a.6) as an Indian predecessor of linking these four with Mahāmudrā in a more general way through his explanation of Laṅkāvatārasūtra X.256–57.
- 74.7–14 (Mathes 2008a, 302–3).
- The commentaries on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra explain that among the three stages of the levels of heat, the focal object of the greater stage consists of the conventional phenomena that are imputed as designations—the phenomena that are specified by the mere names of form up through the knowledge of all aspects. The cognitive aspect of this stage is that, ultimately, said phenomena are inexpressible as being either virtuous, nonvirtuous, or neutral.
- The focal object of great peak consists of form and so on being free from characteristics—ultimately, the characteristics of form and so on (such as blue or yellow) are not seen. Its cognitive aspect is the realization that when all phenomena are investigated by the prajñā of realizing the nature of phenomena, all entities are unobservable as being real.
- The focal object of lesser poised readiness consists of form and so on being without a real nature. Its cognitive aspect is the realization that from the perspective of those who possess clinging, the very nonbeing of a nature in true reality appears as a real nature.
- The focal object of great poised readiness consists of form and so on being without difference, that is, having the common nature of the three that consist of samādhi (the familiarization), bodhisattvas (the ones who familiarize), and the actuality of prajñāpāramitā (the object of familiarization). Its cognitive aspect is the realization that the path of seeing—the supreme means for accomplishing buddhahood—is the path of nonconceptuality even within the samādhi that is the cognizing subject of realizing that all phenomena to be examined in it as focal objects do not exist ultimately.
- For details, see the introduction in Brunnhölzl 2010.
- XIII.18. This is followed by:
- It is held that mind, which is always naturally luminous,
- Is [only] blemished by adventitious flaws.
- Apart from the mind that is the nature of phenomena, no other mind
- Is proclaimed to be luminous in nature.
- 430.24–431.13 and 433.6–12.
- 59.1–11 (Mathes 2008a, 274–75).
- The common Yogācāra term "mental discourse" (Skt. manojalpa, Tib. yid kyi brjod pa) is usually employed in two ways. It is either an expression for all appearances in terms of apprehender and apprehended being nothing but expressions of mind’s continuous discursive play (or, put less politely, being just our incessant mental chatter). Or it refers to a bodhisattva’s analytical meditation as a form of systematical inner dialogue with oneself. Here, it means the latter.
- XIV.7. According to Sthiramati’s Sūtrālaṃkāravṛttibhāṣya (D4034, fols. 265b.5– 266a.3), "investigate" refers to meditations that entail both coarse examination and subtle analysis, thus corresponding to the effective preparatory stage of the first dhyāna and the first dhyāna itself. "Discriminate"refers to meditations that entail only subtle analysis, thus corresponding to the intermediate dhyāna and the second dhyāna. "Without [mental] discourse and of one taste"refers to meditations through the mental engagement that entails neither examination nor analysis, thus corresponding to the third and fourth dhyānas. For, at that time, one meditates solely internally, free from any mental discourse of examination or analysis. Thus, one continuously engages in the nonconceptual one taste that is free from examination and analysis.
- 16.17–17.23 and 141.23–24.
- D45.48, fol. 271a.4–5.
- On this section on the first two Mahāmudrā yogas, see also Mathes 2008a, 386–89.
- GC matches these five steps with a passage from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra (saying that he follows āryadeva’s statement that this sūtra teaches those five steps) and also with Uttaratantra IV.3–4 (59.24–61.18; Mathes 2008a, 276–79).
- Lines 216–20. These five are that (1) nonconceptual wisdom is not the total absence of mental engagement. Though the cognitions of small children or someone who is just spaced out do not engage in the reference points of worldly conventions, these beings are not liberated through that. In nonconceptual wisdom’s direct seeing of the nature of phenomena, all reference points have vanished. Without any reference point on the object side to engage in anymore, on the subject side any mental engagement in such reference points naturally subsides. However, this does not mean that this wisdom lacks wakefulness and one-pointed sharp mindfulness. It is also not without any cognitive capacity and clarity since it directly realizes the nature of phenomena without any dualistic split into apprehender and apprehended. (2) Nonconceptual wisdom is also not a mere transcendence of conceptions in the sense of lacking any coarse or subtle conceptual analysis. Therefore, though all mundane meditative states from the second dhyāna of the form realm onward are without such analysis, they lack the qualities of nonconceptual wisdom. (3) Nonconceptual wisdom is not the complete subsiding of conceptions either. Otherwise, being asleep, intoxicated, having fainted, and the meditative absorption of cessation would also qualify as nonconceptual wisdom. (4) Nor is nonconceptual wisdom something like inert and unconscious matter, which simply lacks conceptions by its very nature. (5) Nonconceptual wisdom is also not the picturing of nonconceptuality. This means that the actual defining characteristic of nonconceptual wisdom is that which observes true reality. Unlike in a visual consciousness and so on, the nature of that realization does not involve any variety or multiplicity. Thus, nonconceptuality means completely letting go of all discursiveness and reference points, in particular with regard to true reality, such as trying to pinpoint a certain meditative experience, thinking, "This is nonconceptuality." Naturally, nonconceptual wisdom does not just mean a state of trying not to think or imagine anything either, or just trying to think, "I shall not think." For all such cases are simply subtle thoughts or grasping.
- This expression can refer to both the paths of accumulation and preparation or the latter alone.
- "The principle of the nature of phenomena" (Skt. dharmatāyuktiḥ, Tib. chos nyid kyi rigs pa) is the last one of "the four principles" (Skt. yukti, Tib. rigs pa), with the other three being the principles of (1) dependence (Skt. apekṣāyuktiḥ, Tib. ltos pa’i rigs pa), (2) performing activity (Skt. kāryakāraṇayuktiḥ, Tib. bya ba byed pa’i rigs pa), and (3) demonstrating evidence (Skt. upapattisādhanayuktiḥ, Tib. ’thad pas grub pa’i rigs pa). Though these four principles are often rendered as "the four reason(ing)s" (particularly in translations from Tibetan), as RGVV and the discussions of these four in the Śrāvakabhūmi, the Abhidharmasamuccaya, and the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra clarify, yukti is equivalent to yoga and upāya, any of which can mean "application," "means," and "expedient." For details on these four principles, see the note in Mipham Rinpoche’s discussion of Uttaratantra I.28 in appendix 1.
- D258, fol. 248b.6.
- GC, 56.5–25.
- 431.13–16 and 432.15–433.6.
- Bodhicittavivaraṇa 51.
- 460.17–464.17 (for a translation of this passage, see Brunnhölzl 2012b, 310–18).
- 54.7–66.5 (Mathes 2008a, 264–87).
- 59.11–22 (Mathes 2008a, 275–76).
- For details on this topic in these texts, see Brunnhölzl (2004, 304–5 and 312–15) and Brunnhölzl (2012b, 454n871).
- See Uttaratantra II.33 and RGVV on I.153 and I.156.
- GC, 73.3–74.25 (Mathes 2008a, 300–304).
- 73.19–74.6 (Mathes 2008a, 302).
- Pramāṇavārttika II.253cd.
- Compare BA (839–41), which says that Mahāmudrā is what seals all practices of the Buddha’s teachings, from the prātimokṣa up through the glorious Guhyasamājatantra. There is no liberation without realizing identitylessness, which is twofold—personal identitylessness and phenomenal identitylessness. In particular, in order to relinquish the cognitive obscurations, the view about any phenomenal identity must be relinquished. BA continues: "Through the view of realizing emptiness, the view about [real] phenomena is relinquished—it is relinquished by way of [these two views] being contradictory in their modes of apprehension. In order to give rise to the view of emptiness, one enters the ocean of scriptures and reasonings. [However,] if the wisdom of Mahāmudrā were a remedy for what is to be relinquished by virtue of their modes of apprehension’s being contradictory, that is, an inferential valid cognition that is found through the power of reasoning, [the following flaw accrues]. Inferential [valid cognition] is nothing but conception and glorious Dharmakīrti asserts that everything that is conception is ignorance. For relinquishing that [inferential valid cognition], there is no remedy whose mode of apprehension is contradictory to it because if something is contradictory to inferential valid cognition in its mode of apprehension, it would be nothing but mistakenness. Therefore, the remedy for [the obscurations] that are not a view is the wisdom of Mahāmudrā, which arises from the blessings of a genuine guru."
- GC, 241.6–14.
- Ibid., 131. 5–21.
- Ibid., 178.2–4.
- Ibid., 444.2–22.
- For GC’s remaining comments on Uttaratantra I.154–55/157–58, see appendix 2.
- GC, 267.15–21.
- For a detailed refutation of Mahāmudrā’s being the view of Hvashang, see Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 105–9. See also Broido 1987, D. Jackson 1990a, and Martin 1992.
- In ancient Indian cosmology, solar and lunar eclipses are regarded as the sun or moon being swallowed by the demon Rāhu, since he envies them for their light. However, he is not able to retain them in his body and thus has to release them very quickly.
- Interestingly, the Aṅguttaranikāya (I.253–54 and I.275; III.16) also speaks about mind’s needing to be freed from the same five obscuring stains in order to regain its natural state. Also, Vasubandhu’s Madhyāntavibhāgabhāṣya (Nagao ed., 18.43–44) says that mind is similar to the sky by virtue of its luminosity, since all manifold phenomena are as adventitious with regard to the mind as are dust, smoke, clouds, and mist with regard to the sky.
- The last three lines of this verse in the Tengyur read:
- Pure consciousness [comes forth],
- All three dharmadhātu without signs.
- Linked with thought, this will be hearing.
- In the Tengyur, this verse reads:
- Smelling in dependence upon nose and smell
- Is an example for the lack of form.
- Likewise, it’s the nose’s consciousness
- That conceptualizes dharmadhātu.
- In the Tengyur, this verse reads:
- From the nature of a body pure
- And the characteristics of the tangible conditions,
- What is free from such conditions
- Is to be expressed as "dharmadhātu."
- The last two lines of this verse in the Tengyur read:
- It’s the very lack of nature of phenomena
- That you should cultivate as dharmadhātu.
- Compare the Third Karmapa’s commentary on these verses (Rang byung rdo rje 2006c, 51–53, 55–56, and 59), which explicitly links them to Mahāmudrā meditation and further explains how the nature of the mind is found within dualistic consciousness. The Karmapa says that those who understand the dharmadhātu, which is naturally luminous, and the teaching of the unsurpassable yāna immerse themselves in meditation by beginning with the preliminaries according to the common yāna. Thereafter, they manifest the samādhi whose nature is superior insight and that focuses on suchness, the characteristic of the dharmadhātu that is expressed by the terms "prajñāpāramitā" and "Mahāmudrā." At the point of resting in meditative equipoise in this way, they should meditate in a way of withdrawing all thoughts. During the time of subsequent realization, they should meditate with mindfulness by examining phenomena as follows. The eye sense faculty serves as the dominant condition of the eye-consciousness. Mind’s appearing as the aspects of color and shape, which appear as if external, serves as the object condition. The momentary stirring of mentation that dwells in the mind serves as the immediate condition. Thus, an eye-consciousness appears to arise. From these three conditions, appearances without a stain occur, which means that unmistaken perception free from thoughts takes place. What appears as form unaffected by superimposing conceptions is, in its own essence, both appearing and empty, unborn and unceasing, and mere cognizance. This is also called "perceptual valid cognition based on the eye sense faculty." This actuality appears for ordinary beings, but since they do not realize it, mentation immediately makes them superimpose something and has them conceive of, and cling to, shapes, colors, the internal, and the external, such as, "This is a pillar" or "This is white." This leads to grasping, which in turn causes arising and ceasing. Based on that, the production of the conventionalities of causes, the conventionalities of results, and the conventionalities of the three times and so on is taken up since beginningless time and then serves as the basis for what follows. Through causing these mirage-like processes and more, mentation renders us mistaken. The noble ones who possess the eye of prajñā see just what is unmistaken and do not raise the web of thoughts. Therefore, theirs is a perception that is based on the sense faculties of yogins. As for those who are not noble ones but emulate their kind of perception, their unmistaken cognizance that observes what appears as if external is valid cognition because it is similar to yogic perception. Exactly that which resembles the true actuality of the nature of phenomena is the valid cognition of this true actuality. Here, "true actuality" refers to the factor of self-lucid consciousness. Apart from consciousness merely appearing as if it were something external, there are no other external referents that are real as minute particles and so on. Therefore, one will realize that self-lucid appearances lack arising and ceasing and become certain that they are just the dharmadhātu. In general, the actual causal condition of the three conditions for each sense consciousness is the ultimate mind as such. However, in terms of seeming reality, through the power of dependent origination, objects, sense faculties, and the immediate mind (Tib. de ma thag yid) appear as if they were causes and conditions. Ultimately, however, there is no arising or ceasing caused by anybody in all of this. It may appear that a magician causes many illusory beings to be born, some to die, some to go, and some to come. But there is no real being born, ceasing, coming, or going in this way, since these very beings are not established in the first place. Just like other causes, such as mantras for producing illusory beings, the conditions of mere thoughts that do not realize their nature indeed appear. But through realizing their luminous nature as being without arising and ceasing, they become what they truly are—the dharmadhātu. Mind is also the principal of all phenomena because, in its nature, it is just dependent origination without conception. Hence, having realized it in this way, conceptions and what they conceptualize due to characteristics—all conceptions about the external and the internal—are relinquished and mind is found not to exist by a nature of its own. Therefore, it is to be realized as the dharmadhātu, which means that all phenomena lack a nature. On the paths of accumulation and preparation, one should cultivate this through aspiring for it. In terms of direct perception from the path of seeing onward, this is the samādhi of the appearance of nonconceptual wisdom, which is prajñāpāramitā. As for cultivating ultimate reality on the path of preparation, the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (Brunnhölzl 2010, 418–19) says that the point when the freedom from all characteristics of apprehender and apprehended is directly realized is the path of seeing, which has the character of yogic direct valid cognition. These meditative equipoises of the path of preparation are unmistaken, self-aware, direct, valid cognitions that are concordant with the unmistaken wisdom that lacks the duality of apprehender and apprehended. During the path of preparation, these meditative equipoises are not something other than self-aware, direct, valid cognitions because both what is aware and what it is aware of arise as the nature of a single clear and aware experience. The Third Karmapa’s autocommentary on his Profound Inner Reality (Rang byung rdo rje n.d., fol. 163b) states that when embraced by the correct yoga, sense perception, mental direct perception, and self-aware direct perception are all yogic direct perception, connate wisdom’s own nature (for further details, see Brunnhölzl 2007b, 245–51).
- Note that this example is also found in the Mahābherīsūtras (D222, fols. 111a.2–4) and the Aṅgulimālīyasūtra (D213, fols. 157b.7–158a.2).
- For GC’s relating the Uttaratantra to Mahāmudrā, see also "Zhönu Pal’s Mahāmudrā Interpretation" in Mathes 2008a, 367–410.
- 471.24–472.2. Elsewhere, GC (208.6–209.2) elaborates further on the notion of "fundamental change." As for why awakening and its qualities (the fifth and sixth vajra points in the Uttaratantra) are called "fundamental change," GC says that "the foundation" in this term is like a guesthouse, while "change" refers to the guests’ having left and thus not being benefited anymore by that guesthouse. Then, GC quotes Jñānacandra’s Kāyatrayavṛtti, Vinītadeva’s Triṃśikāṭīkā, and Ratnākaraśānti’s Prajñāpāramitopadeśa as examples of the learned explaining the term "fundamental change" as having the meaning of "ceasing" or "coming to an end." Therefore, RGVV’s quote from the Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra "The dhātu of beginningless time is the foundation of all phenomena" refers to this notion of "fundamental change" in that the tathāgata heart has ceased, or changed from, being what functions as the basis, support, and foundation of all saṃsāric phenomena before and later functions as the support of purified phenomena. Furthermore, GC (453.11–18) explains that stainless suchness is presented as the fundamental change of buddhas. Here, "the foundation" is the uncontaminated dhātu and the meaning of "change" is "coming to an end" because all stains or obscurations in this dhātu have become separated from it and come to an end. Referring to the same lines from the Abhidharmamahāyānasūtra, GC says that because suchness has functioned as the foundation or support of afflicted phenomena since beginningless time, it is also to be described as "host" (gnas po) and quotes line 80a of Nāgamitra’s Kāyatrayāvatāramukha ("The host’s having changed into something else") in support. Accordingly, suchness is called "fundamental change" because having changed into another nature later, it functions as the support of the pure qualities. Also, as Mathes (2008a, 420) reports, Gö Lotsāwa’s biographer (the Fourth Shamarpa) says that Gö criticized Dölpopa’s stance that karmic appearances and the appearances of wisdom are two separate entities that have been mixed (Dölpopa is well known for his strict separation of the two realities or the tathāgata heart and its adventitious stains). Rather, Gö Lotsāwa is said to prefer the description of the relationship between these two using the example of water and ice as being only different states of the same substance).
- This section is largely based on R. Jackson 2001.
- Tib. Lding kaṃ pa. This is most probably Ḍeṅgipa.
- Tib. Chos kyi rgyal po.
- Tib. Dbu ma pa dpa’ bo rdo rje.
- Tib. Khyung po lhas pa.
- Tib. Chos kyi dpal pa.
- Tib. Chos rje don grub rin chen.
- These five are Dogden Jampel Gyatso (Tib. Rtogs ldan ’jam dpal rgya mtsho; 1356–1428), Paso Chökyi Gyaltsen (Tib. Ba so chos kyi rgyal mtshan; 1402–1473), Drubchog Chökyi Dorje (Tib. Grub mchog chos kyi rdo rje, aka Dben sa myon pa—"The Crazy One from Wensa"; born fifteenth century), Wensapa Lobsang Tönyö Trubpa (Tib. Dben sa pa blo bzang don yod grub pa; 1504/1505–1565/1566), and Sangyé Yeshé (Tib. Sangs rgyas ye shes; 1525–1591). This transmission is called "Ganden ear-whispered lineage" or "Wensa ear-whispered lineage." Note though that the Paṇchen Lama’s text does not mention Tsongkhapa as the origin of these Mahāmudrā teachings but says that they are the system of Chökyi Dorje. In fact, the members and contents of the short and long lineages of this transmission as presented here appear to have been established only at the time of Yeshé Gyaltsen (Tib. Ye shes rgyal mtshan; 1713–1797).
- Tib. Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan.
- The First Paṇchen Lama passed on these teachings to two of his main disciples—Drubchen Gendün Gyaltsen (Tib. Grub chen dge ’dun rgyal mtshan) and Lobsang Dsöndrü Gyaltsen (Tib. Blo bzang brtson ’grus rgyal mtshan; 1567–1650). From them two lineages originated, which were eventually reunited in Papongka Rinpoche (Tib. Pha bong kha rin po che; 1871–1941).
- Dalai Lama and Berzin 1997, 230: "When the First Panchen Lama discusses the Gelug/Kagyü tradition of mahamudra, he is referring to a tradition that takes as its basis the oral guidelines of the great Kagyü masters of the past and supplements it with the profound methods for gaining a decisive understanding of voidness that Tsongkhapa has uniquely presented in his great texts concerning the madhyamaka view. Thus this tradition seems, I believe, to be a synthesis of Kagyü and Gelug approaches. Although at various points in his autocommentary, the Panchen Lama quotes several texts from the Sakya tradition, he specifically mentions here a list of Kagyü masters of old, not Sakya ones, who have concurred on this anuttarayoga tantra level of mahamudra. Furthermore, the Sakya tradition asserts only a tantra level of mahamudra, whereas both the Kagyü and the Gelug-Kagyü traditions assert both sūtra and tantra levels. Therefore I think that the First Panchen Lama had something specific in mind when he used the term ‘Gelug/Kagyü tradition of mahamudra.’"
- Ibid., 256.
- Takpo Tashi Namgyal 1986, 146–74.
- See his Lhan cig skyes sbyor khrid yig (in Beyer 1974, 157–59) and Phyag chen zin bris (in Evans-Wentz 1958, 128–35).
- Tib. sems kyi gzhi rtsa chod pa.
- Dalai Lama and Berzin 1997, 256–58.
- Ibid., 258.
- Translation as found in Lopez 1988, 178–79.
- Bdud ’joms ’jigs bral ye shes rdo rje 1991, 191–205.