Mahāmudrā and Buddha-Nature

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Mahāmudrā & Buddha-Nature
For the Kagyu, the lines of transmission of the Ratnagotravibhāga and the Mahāmudrā teachings converge with the Indian teacher Maitrīpa. In terms of the former, Maitrīpa is believed to have extracted the treatise from a stūpa after receiving instructions from Maitreya in a dream. It is this lineage passing from Maitrīpa to Ānandakīrti, who traveled to Kashmir where he passed it onto Sajjana, that is considered the de facto line of transmission of the treatise for the Kagyu...

Watch & Learn

From the Masters

Maitrīpa
986 ~ 1063

In the first verse of his Tattavadaśaka, Maitrīpa states:

सदसद्योगहीनायै तथतायै नमो नमः।
अनाविला यतः सैव बोधतो बोधिरूपिणी॥१॥

Homage to you, suchness,
Which has no association with existence and non-existence,
Because, [when] stainless, this very [suchness]
Has the form of enlightenment in virtue of realization
. 
Gampopa
1079 ~ 1153


As told by Gö Lotsāwa Zhönu Pal:

དེ་ཡང་དྭགས་པོ་རིན་པོ་ཆེས་དཔལ་ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པ་ལ། འོ་སྐོལ་གྱི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་འདིའི་གཞུང་ནི་བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་བྱམས་པས་མཛད་པའི་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་རྒྱུད་བླ་མའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་འདི་ཡིན་ཞེས་གསུངས་ཤིང་། དཔལ་ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པས་ཀྱང་རྗེ་འབྲི་ཁུང་པ་ལ་དེ་སྐད་དུ་གསུངས་པས། རྗེ་འབྲི་ཁུང་པ་དཔོན་སློབ་ཀྱི་གསུང་རབ་རྣམས་སུ་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་རྒྱུད་བླ་མའི་བཤད་པ་མང་དུ་འབྱུང་བ་དེ་ཡིན་ནོ།

Moreover, Dagpo Rinpoché (Gampopa) said to Pagmo Drupa:
"The basic text of this mahāmudrā of ours is the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra (Ratnagotravibhāga) by Venerable Maitreya." Pagmo Drupa in turn said the same thing to Jé Drigungpa (Rje 'Bri gung pa), and for this reason many explanations of the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra are found in the works of Jé Drigungpa and his
disciples
. 
~ 'Gos lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal. Deb ther sngon po. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1984, Vol. 2, p. 847.

~ Translation from Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Path to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsāwa's Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008, pp. 34–35.


As quoted by Śākya Chokden:

དེ་ཡང་སྒམ་པོ་པས་གསུངས་པ། ང་ཡི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ཡི། ངོས་འཛིན་རང་གི་རིག་པ་སྟེ། གཞུང་ནི་རྒྱུད་བླའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་ཞེས།

In that regard Gampopa says, "the hallmark of my Mahāmudrā is self-awareness and its scriptural source is the Uttaratantraśāstra". 
~ ShAkya mchog ldan. Phyag rgya chen po gsal bar byed pa'i bstan bcos tshangs pa'i 'khor los gzhan blo'i dregs pa nyams byed. In gser mdog paN chen shAkya mchog ldan gyi gsung 'bum. rdzong sar: rdzong sar khams bye'i slob gling thub bstan dar rgyas gling, 2006–2007: Vol. 17, p. 443.
~ Translation adapted from Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way: Post-Classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature. Vol. 2, Translations, Critical Texts, Bibliography and Index. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2016, p. 17.
Layakpa Jangchub Ngödrup
early 12th century ~ late 12th century

In his commentary on his teacher Gampopa's famous instruction known as the Four Dharmas, Layakpa states:

སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་རྒྱུད་ལ་དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོ་གང་སེམས་ཉིད་རང་བཞིན་གྱིས་འོད་གསལ་བ་སྐྱེ་འགག་མེད་ཅིང་སྤྲོས་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་ཉེར་བར་ཞི་བ། སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་བསམ་གྱིས་མི་ཁྱབ་པ་རྣམས་དང་མ་བྲལ་བའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཅན་ཡིན་

Buddha nature in the mind-streams of all sentient beings is mind as such, natural luminosity, free from any arising and ceasing, and is the complete pacification of all proliferations. [Thus beings] are endowed with wisdom that is inseparable from inconceivable buddha-qualities.

[...]

གང་དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོའམ །ལྷན་ཅིག་སྐྱེས་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་སེམས་ཉིད་རང་བཞིན་གྱིས་འོད་གསལ་ཞིང་རྣམ་པར་དག་པ་

That which is called "buddha nature" (tathāgatagarbha) or coemergent wisdom (sahajajñāna) is mind as such (sems nyid), which is naturally luminous and utterly pure. 
~ La yag pa byang chub dngos grub. Mnyam med dwags po'i chos bzhir grags pa'i gzhung gi 'grel pa snying po gsal ba'i rgyan: A Detailed Study on Sgam po pa's chos bzhi Presentation of Fundamental Buddhist Practice. Bir: D. Tsondu Senghe, 1978, p. 189 and 210.
~ Translation from Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Buddha Nature Reconsidered: The Eighth Karma pa's Middle Path. Vol. 1, Introduction and Analysis. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2019, p. 51.
Jikten Gönpo
1143 ~ 1217

In his Chos kyi 'khor lo legs par gtan la phab pa Jikten Gönpo states:

ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ཐེག་ཆེན་བླ་མའི་རྒྱུད། འདི་ཡི་ཁྲིད་ལ་འབད་པས་ནན་ཏན་བྱས།

Mahāmudrā is [taught on the basis of] the Mahāyānottaratantra [Ratnagotravibhāga]. Great effort was taken to explain the latter... 
~ 'Jig rten mgon po. Chos kyi 'khor lo legs par gtan la phab pa theg pa chen po'i tshul 'ong ges zhus pa. Dehra Dun: Drikung Kagyu Institute, 1998, p. 15.
~ Translation from Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Path to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsāwa's Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008, p. 41.
Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
1284 ~ 1339

In his The Treatise on Pointing Out the Tathāgata Heart, the Third Karmapa states:

།ཐ་མལ་ཤེས་པ་དེ་ཉིད་ལ།
།ཆོས་དབྱིངས་རྒྱལ་བའི་སྙིང་པོ་ཟེར།
།བཟང་དུ་འཕགས་པས་བཏང་བ་མེད།
།ངན་དུ་སེམས་ཅན་གྱིས་མ་བཏང་།
།ཐ་སྙད་དུ་མ་བརྗོད་མོད་ཀྱང།
།རྗོད་པས་དེ་ཡི་དོན་མི་ཤེས།

Just this ordinary mind
Is called "dharmadhātu" and "Heart of the victors."
It is neither to be improved by the noble ones
Nor made worse by sentient beings.
It may no doubt be expressed through many conventional terms,
But its actual reality is not understood through expressions
. 
~ Rang byung rdo rje, (Karmapa, 3rd). De bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po bstan pa'i bstan bcos. In gsung 'bum rang byung rdo rje. Zi ling: mtshur phu mkhan po lo yag bkra shis, 2006, Vol. 7, p. 285.
~ Translation from Karmapa, The Third, Rang byung rdo rje. Luminous Heart: The Third Karmapa on Consciousness, Wisdom, and Buddha Nature. Translated by Karl Brunnhölzl. Nitartha Institute Series. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2009, pp. 354–55.

In Jamgön Kongtrul's Treasury of Knowledge, he references the Third Karmapa from an unknown source, claiming:

རང་བྱུང་ཞབས་ཀྱིས།
།གནས་ལུགས་སྤྲོས་བྲལ་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ནི།
།རྣམ་རྟོག་སྤྲོས་པའི་མཚན་མ་ཀུན་གྱིས་སྟོང།
།གསལ་ལ་འཛིན་མེད་དག་པའི་རང་བཞིན་ཏེ།
དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་པའི་སྙིང་པོ་ཞེས་ཀྱང་བྱ།

Venerable Rangjung [Dorje] states:

The basic nature free from reference points, Mahāmudrā,
Is empty of all characteristics of the reference points of
    thoughts.
This pure nature, lucid and yet without grasping,
Is also called "the tathāgata heart."
 
~ 'Jam mgon kong sprul. Shes bya kun khyab. Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1982, Vol. 3, p. 378.
~ Translation from Brunnhölzl, Karl. When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra. Tsadra Foundation Series. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, 2014, p. 154.
Gö Lotsāwa Zhönu Pal
1392 ~ 1481

Gö Lotsāwa on the origins of the Tibetan exegesis of the Ratnagotravibhāga:

With regard to the [Maitreya works], three among the works of the Illustrious Maitreya, [namely] the Abhisamayālaṁkāra, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṁkāra, and the Madhyāntavibhāga, were translated by the translators Paltseg (Dpal brtsegs), Yeshé Dé (Ye shes sde), and others during the first period of the spread of the doctrine [in Tibet]. As for the [remaining] two, the [Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyāna-]Uttaratantra[śāstra] and the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga together with its commentary, Lord Maitrīpa saw light shining from a crack in a stūpa and, wondering what the source of the light was, tried to determine it. As a consequence, he obtained the texts of the two treatises. He rejoiced [in them] and prayed to the venerable [Maitreya], whereupon he arrived—directly visible in an opening between clouds—and duly bestowed [on Maitrīpa] the "oral transmission" (lung) [of both texts]. Thus it is known.

Then he who is called Paṇḍita Ānandakīrti heard [the teaching of both texts] from Lord Maitrīpa and carried the texts to Kashmir disguised as a beggar. Upon his arrival, the great paṇḍita Sajjana recognized him as a scholar and invited him to his home. [Sajjana] listened to [the teaching of] both treatises and copied the texts. The great translator Loden Sherab heard them [from Sajjana], translated them in Śrīnagar in Kashmir, and composed an extensive explanation in Tibet.

Also, the [well-] known Tsen Kawoché, a disciple of Drapa Ngönshé, came with the great translator (i.e., Ngog Loden Sherab) to Kashmir. He requested Sajjana to bestow on him [the Maitreya works] along with special instructions, since he wanted to make the works of the Illustrious Maitreya his "practice [of preparing] for death" ('chi chos). Thereupon [Sajjana] taught all five works, with Lotsāwa Zu Gawa Dorjé serving as translator. He also gave special instructions with regard to the Uttaratantra in the due way, and back in Tibet, Tsen explained it to numerous [spiritual friends] in Ü and Tsang. The translator Zu Gawa Dorjé wrote a commentary on the Uttaratantra in accordance with the teaching of Sajjana, and translated the [Dharma]dharmatāvibhāga, both root-text and commentary. Thus neither the Uttara[tantra] nor the [Dharma]dharmatāvibhāga was spread in India before the time of Lord Maitrīpa. Neither is found in the great treatises such as the Abhisamayālaṁkārāloka, not even "a single phrase of them" (zur tsam). 
~ Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Path to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsāwa's Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008, pp. 161–63.
Śākya Chokden
1428 ~ 1507

In the opening lines of his Undermining the Haughtiness of Others by the Wheel of Brahma: A Treatise Clarifying Mahāmudrā, Śākya Chokden states:

རང་བཞིན་རྣམ་དག་རྫོགས་སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་བློ།
།གློ་བུར་དྲི་མའི་ཚོགས་དང་མ་འདྲེས་པ།
།དུས་རྣམས་རྟག་ཏུ་ཀུན་ལ་བཞུགས་གྱུར་པ།
།གཡོ་མེད་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེ་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ནས།

I pay homage to the unwavering mahāmudrā,
The naturally pure perfect buddha-mind—
Unadulterated by the host of adventitious stains
That has been ever-present in all for all time
. 
~ ShAkya mchog ldan. Phyag rgya chen po gsal bar byed pa'i bstan bcos tshangs pa'i 'khor los gzhan blo'i dregs pa nyams byed. In gser mdog paN chen shAkya mchog ldan gyi gsung 'bum. rdzong sar: rdzong sar khams bye'i slob gling thub bstan dar rgyas gling, 2006–2007, Vol. 17, p. 438.
~ Translation from Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way: Post-Classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature. Vol. 2, Translations, Critical Texts, Bibliography and Index. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 90.2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2016, p. 14.

In the same text he equates buddha-nature and mahāmudrā, stating:

བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་ཁམས་གང་ལ། །ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོར་མཚན་གསོལ་བ ། །གང་འདི་དྲི་མའི་སྦྱང་གཞི་ལ། །སྦྱང་བྱའི་དྲི་མ་རྣམ་དགུ་པོ། །སྦྱོང་བྱེད་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ་དེ། །རིག་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱིས་སྦྱངས་པས། །སྦྱང་འབྲས་གཙང་བདག་བདེ་སོགས་ཀྱི། །ཡོན་ཏན་ཕ་རོལ་ཕྱིན་པ་འབྱུང༌། །ཡོན་ཏན་འདི་དག་རྗེས་མཐུན་པ། །གནས་སྐབས་མཐོང་བའི་ལམ་གནས་ཏེ། །བདག་དང་བདག་མེད་སྤྲོས་པ་དག །ཉེ་བར་ཞི་བའི་བདག་མཐོང་ནས། །དེ་བཞིན་གཤེགས་སྙིང་མཐོང་བའི་ཕྱིར། །ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་མཐོང་བར་བཤད།

The element of *sugatagarbha is that which has been given the name mahāmudrā. In this which is the ground for the clearing (sbyang gzhi) of stains, the *sugatagarbha that is the cleanser (sbyong byed) of the nine kinds of stains that are the objects to be cleared (sbyang bya) clears them by means of the wisdom of awareness, whereby the fruition of the clearing process emerges, i.e., the transcendent qualities of purity, selfhood, bliss, etc.

The phase that is concordant with these qualities is present [as] the Path of Seeing because when one sees the selfhood wherein the elaborations of self and no self are pacified, one sees tathāgatagarbha, [and] it is said that one thereby sees
mahāmudrā
. 
~ ShAkya mchog ldan. Phyag rgya chen po gsal bar byed pa'i bstan bcos tshangs pa'i 'khor los gzhan blo'i dregs pa nyams byed. In gser mdog paN chen shAkya mchog ldan gyi gsung 'bum. rdzong sar: rdzong sar khams bye'i slob gling thub bstan dar rgyas gling, 2006–2007, Vol. 17, p. 443–44.
~ Translation from Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way: Post-Classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature. Vol. 2, Translations, Critical Texts, Bibliography and Index. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 90.2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2016, pp. 17–18.
Eighth Karmapa Mikyö Dorje
1507 ~ 1554

In his Chariot of the Siddhas of the Dakpo Kagyu, a commentary on the Madhyamakāvatāra, Mikyö Dorje states:

ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོའི་ཆོས་ཚུལ་འདིའི་མྱོང་ཁྲིད་འདེབས་པ་ལ་མཛད་པ་ལ་གསང་སྔགས་ཀྱི་དབང་བསྐུར་བ་ཡང་མི་མཛད་ལ། ཕྱག་ཆེན་འདིའི་དངོས་བསྟན་མདོ་ལུགས་ཀྱི་སྤྲོས་བྲལ་སྟོང་པ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་དབུ་མ་དང། ཤུགས་ལས་མདོ་སྔགས་ཀྱི་ཟབ་དོན་མཐར་ཐུག་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ་ཐུན་མོང་དང་ཐུན་མོང་མིན་པའང་སྟོན་པ་ལ་

In this Mahāmudrā teaching method, experiential instructions (myong khrid) may be given without Secret Mantra empowerments first being bestowed. Rather, the principal teaching of this Mahāmudrā is the Madhyamaka of emptiness free from elaborations belonging to the Sūtra tradition. And, implicitly, it teaches ordinary and extraordinary buddha nature, the final profound meaning of the sūtras and
tantras
. 
~ Mi bskyod rdo rje. Dbu ma la 'jug pa'i rnam bshad dpal ldan dus gsum mkhyen pa'i zhal lung dwags brgyud grub pa'i shing rta. Gangtok: Rumtek Monastery, 1974, pp. 13–14.
~ Translation from Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Buddha Nature Reconsidered: The Eighth Karma pa's Middle Path. Vol. 1, Introduction and Analysis. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2019, pp. 53–54.
Dakpo Tashi Namgyal
1513 ~ 1587
To summarize, the teachings in the sūtras and tantras on the ground abiding state- such as that of tathāgatagarbha [buddha nature] abides primordially in the mindstreams of sentient beings and that the nature of mind is luminosity- are presentations of ground mahāmudrā. Teachings on the development of the dhātu of [tathāgata]garbha, on freedom from elaborations, instances of emptiness, the unreality of phenomena, their absence of a self-entity, their equality, and their unification are all considered path mahāmudrā. Teachings on the awakening of the wisdom of complete omniscience (such as the four kāyas and five wisdoms) are presentations of fruition mahāmudrā. 
~ Callahan, Elizabeth M., trans. Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā. By Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (dwags po bkra shis rnam rgyal). With Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance by Wangchuk Dorje (dbang phyug rdo rje), the Ninth Karmapa. Tsadra Foundation Series. Boulder, CO: Snow Lion Publications, 2019, p. 121.
Pema Karpo
1527 ~ 1592
Among the two, buddha nature and adventitious stains, buddha nature is luminous dharmakāya because it is genuine coemergent spontaneity, indomitable and imperishable supreme joy, encompassing like the sky. Adventitious stains are mind and mental factors of the three realms, together with the breath movements [that fuel them], which have not eliminated the latent tendencies for transmigration.

[...]

In this way, dharmakāya, the ground that is free from stains, is naturally present potential, the expanse of reality that is thoroughly devoid of having all aspects, like a preexistent great treasure. 
~ Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way: Post-Classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature. Vol. 2, Translations, Critical Texts, Bibliography and Index. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 90.2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2016, pp. 159–60.
Tsele Natsok Rangdrol
1608

On the correlation of various terms Tsele Natsok Rangdrol states:

།རང་བྱུང་རང་ཤར་རང་རིག་ཆོས་ཉིད་དོན། །འདི་ལ་མིང་གི་རྣམ་གྲངས་སྣ་ཚོགས་ཏེ། །ཕར་ཕྱིན་ཐེག་པར་ཆོས་ཉིད་བདེན་པ་ཟེར། །སྔགས་ཀྱི་ཐེག་པ་རང་བཞིན་འོད་གསལ་ཟེར། །སེམས་ཅན་དུས་ན་བདེར་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་ཁམས། །ལམ་གྱི་སྐབས་སུ་ལྟ་སྒོམ་ལ་སོགས་མིང། །འབྲས་བུའི་དུས་ན་སངས་རྒྱས་ཆོས་སྐུ་ཟེར། །དེ་སོགས་མིནད་དང་དབྱེ་བ་དུ་མ་ཡང་། །དོན་ལ་ད་ལྟའི་ཐ་མལ་ཤེས་པ་འདིའོ།

This self-existing and self-manifest natural awareness, your basic state,
Has a variety of names:
In the Prajnaparamita vehicle it is called innate truth.
The vehicle of Mantra calls it natural luminosity.
While a sentient being it is named sugata-garbha.
During the path it is given names which describe the view, meditation, and so forth.
And at the point of fruition it is named the dharmakaya of buddhahood.
All the different names and classifications
Are nothing other than this present ordinary mind.
 
~ Rtse le sna tshogs rang grol. Nges don gyi lta sgom nyams su len tshul ji lta bar ston pa rdo rje'i mdo 'dzin. In Rtse le sna tshogs rang grol gyi gsung gdams zab phyogs bsgrigs. Kathmandu: Khenpo Shedup Tenzin and Lama Thinley Namgyal, 2007, pp. 13–14.
~ Kunsang, Erik Pema, trans. The Heart of the Matter. By Tsele Natsok Rangdröl (rtse le sna tshogs rang grol). Edited by Marcia Binder Schmidt and Michael Tweed. Buddhist Classics. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1996, pp. 30–31.
As for the cognizant quality or wisdom aspect of this self-luminous consciousness, its essence is empty, its nature is cognizant, and these two are inseparable as the core of awareness. Being the seed or cause of all the buddha qualities and attributes of the pure paths, this is also known as the "true all-ground of application," "sugata-essence," "dharmakaya of self-cognizance," "transcendent knowledge," "buddha of your own mind," and so forth. All of these names given to the classifications of nirvanic attributes are synonymous. This wisdom aspect is exactly what should be realized and recognized by everyone who has entered the path. 
Jamgön Kongtrul
1813 ~ 1899

In his Treasury of Knowledge Jamgön Kongtrul states:

ཀུན་མཁྱེན་རང་བྱུང་རྒྱལ་བ་འཇིག་རྟེན་ཏུ་བྱོན་པ་ནས་ནང་བརྟག་རྒྱུད་གསུམ་ཞེས་གྲགས་པའི་བཤད་པའི་བཀའ་གཙོ་བོར་མཛད་དེ་ [...] རྒྱུད་བླ་མ་ནི་རྗེ་སྒམ་པོ་པའི་ཞལ་ནས། འོ་སྐོལ་གྱི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོའི་གདམས་པ་འདིའི་གཞུང་ནི་བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་བྱམས་པས་མཛད་པའི་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་རྒྱུད་བླ་མའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་ཡིན་ནོ། ཞེས་གསུངས་པ་ལྟར་བདེ་གཤེགས་ཕག་མོ་པ་གྲུ་པ། སྐྱོབ་པ་འཇིག་རྟེན་གསུམ་མགོན་སོགས་ཀྱིས་ཀྱང་ལུགས་དེའི་གྲུབ་མཐའ་འཆའ་ཞིང། རང་བྱུང་རྒྱལ་བ་སོགས་ཐམས་ཅད་མཁྱེན་པ་ན་རིམ་གྱིས་ཀྱང་དེའི་དགོངས་པ་རྩ་བའི་དོན་ཏུ་མཛད་པ་འབའ་ཞིག་ཡིན་པས་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་སྒོམ་པ་ལའང་འདི་ཉིད་ཤེས་པ་གལ་ཆེ་བ་ཡིན། དེས་ན་གཞུང་འདི་གསུམ་ནི་ཁ་བཤད་དང་རྩོད་པའི་ཆོས་མ་ཡིན་གྱི་ཉམས་ལེན་དང་ལྟོ་སྦྱར་བའི་ཆོས་ཡིན་པས་སྒྲུབ་བརྒྱུད་འཛིན་པ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་བཤད་པའི་རྒྱུན་མ་ཉམས་པར་བཟུང་བ་ཅི་ནས་ཀྱང་གནད་ཆེ་བར་ཡོད་དོ།

When Kun mkhyen Rang byung rgyal ba appeared in this world he primarily emphasized the Buddhist teachings known as Zab mo nang don, Hevajratantra, and Uttaratantra. [...] As for the Uttaratantra, Rje Sgam po pa stated, “The scriptural source for our Mahāmudrā instructions is the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra composed by Bhagavān Maitreya.” Accordingly, Bde gshegs Phag mo gru pa, Skyob pa ’Jig rten gsum mgon, and others outlined the philosophy of this tradition. And the succession of omniscient ones, such as Rang byung rgyal ba, solely made the intent of this [śāstra] their fundamental concern. Therefore, even where Mahāmudrā meditation is concerned, the knowledge of this very [treatise] is of utmost importance. Hence, these three scriptures are not teachings for theoretical explanation and debate but are rather teachings to integrate with one’s meditative practice. Therefore, what could be a more important essential key for those who uphold the practice lineage than to unfailingly maintain the transmission of these explanations? 
~ 'Jam mgon kong sprul. Shes bya kun khyab. Vol. 1. Pe cin: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, 1982, 505–6.
~ Translation from Higgins, David and Martina Draszczyk. Buddha Nature Reconsidered: The Eighth Karma pa's Middle Path. Vol. 1, Introduction and Analysis. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2019, pp. 51–53.
Khenpo Gangshar
1925 ~ 1959?

In his Naturally Liberating Whatever You Meet: Instructions to Guide You on the Profound Path, Khenpo Gangshar states:

འདི་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་སེམས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན། དུས་གསུམ་སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་དགོངས་པ། ཆོས་སྒོ་བརྒྱད་ཁྲི་བཞི་སྟོང་གི་སྙིང་པོ། འདྲེན་མཆོག་དཔལ་ལྡན་བླ་མའི་ཐུགས། བཀའ་བར་པ་ནས་ཤེར་ཕྱིན་དང་འཁོར་ལོ་ཐ་མ་ནས་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ། སྔགས་ཐུན་མོང་བའི་སྐབས་སུ། གཞི་རྒྱུད་རང་བཞིན་ལྷུན་གྱིས་གྲུབ་པའི་དཀྱིལ་འཁོར་

The mind-essence is the nature of all sentient beings, the realization of the buddhas of the three times, the essence of the eighty-four thousand Dharma-doors and the heart of the glorious master, the supreme guide. It is the transcendent knowledge of the second set of teachings and the sugata-essence of the last turning of the wheel of the Dharma. According to the general system of mantra it is called continuity of ground, the spontaneously present mandala of the innate nature. 
~ Mkhan po gang shar. Zab lam khrid kyi man ngag 'phrad tshad rang grol. In gsung 'bum Gang shar dbang po. Kathmandu: thrangu tashi choling, 2008, p. 121.
~ Translation from Thrangu Rinpoche. Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar. Translated and edited by David Karma Choephel. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2011, p. 226.
Thrangu Rinpoche
1933
The Uttara Tantra belongs mainly to the sutra classification, the Third Turning of the Wheel of Dharma, because the text contains sections concerning the view, path, and fruition as well as many other topics. In combination, they are classified as sutra because the word 'sutra' literally means 'confluence' or 'that which has many parts gathered together.' Since it emphasizes the enlightened essence, the sugatagarbha, and because it is inseparable from the very basis of Mahamudra, this teaching is considered of great importance in the Kagyu tradition. 
~ Thrangu Rinpoche. Buddha Nature: Ten Teachings on the Uttara Tantra Shastra. Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang. Edited by S. Lhamo. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1988, p. 16.
The root of the wisdom that arises in Mahamudra is buddha nature, or buddha essence,
[...]
Buddha nature is realized through listening, contemplating, and meditating. This is the explanation according to the Sutra path. In terms of the Mahamudra path, realization occurs through the combination of the blessing of a true teacher and the arising of devotion within the pupil; through the combination of these two, buddha nature, the nature of the mind, manifests. Jamgon Kongtrul says buddha nature is realized either through the Sutra path of listening, contemplating, and meditating or through blessing and devotion of the Mahamudra path. 
~ Thrangu Rinpoche. On Buddha Essence: A Commentary on Rangjung Dorje's Treatise. Translated by Peter Alan Roberts. Edited by Clark Johnson. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2006, pp. xxi and 133.
The Kagyu masters of the past as an instruction called this the ordinary mind, or the natural state. They called it this out of their experience. This ordinary mind itself is the dharma expanse and the essence of the buddhas: it is our buddha nature. This is exactly what the term means; this is what we need to experience and recognize. 
~ Thrangu Rinpoche. Vivid Awareness: The Mind Instructions of Khenpo Gangshar. Translated and edited by David Karma Choephel. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2011, p. 124.

Further Readings

Book: A Direct Path to the Buddha Within

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One of the main goals of Zhönu Pal's Ratnagotravibhāga commentary is to show that the Kagyü path of mahāmudrā is already taught in the Maitreya works and the Laṅkāvatārasūtra. This approach involves resting your mind in a nonconceptual experience of luminosity or the dharmadhātu (the expanse or nature of all phenomena) with the help of special "pith instructions" (Tib. man ngag) on how to become mentally disengaged. A path of directly realizing buddha nature is thus distinguished from a Madhyamaka path of logical inference and it is with this in mind that Zhönu Pal's commentary can be called a "direct path to the buddha within."

~ Mathes, Klaus-Dieter. A Direct Path to the Buddha Within: Gö Lotsāwa's Mahāmudrā Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga. Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2008, p. 1.

Book: When the Clouds Part

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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.

~ Brunnhölzl, Karl. When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra. Tsadra Foundation Series. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, 2014, p. 151.

Book: Mind at Ease

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We come now to a discussion of ground Mahamudra and some of the more philosophical elements of Mahamudra meditation. The notion of the ground-also called the basis-is a key concept for Mahayana and later forms of Buddhism. Ground of being refers to the Mahamudra itself, or to our true nature, our authentic state of being. In Mahayana Buddhism, this ground is also known as buddha-nature. I will begin with this more widely known concept from the perspective of the exoteric approach and then proceed to link the idea of buddha-nature to the mystical notion of the ground of being, or ground Mahamudra.

~ Kyabgon, Traleg. Mind at Ease: Self-Liberation Through Mahamudra Meditation. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 2004, p.121.

Book: Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way

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This two-volume publication explores the complex philosophy of Mahāmudrā that developed in Tibetan Dwags po Bka’ brgyud traditions between the 15th and 16th centuries CE. It examines the attempts to articulate and defend Bka’ brgyud views and practices by four leading post-classical thinkers: (1) Shākya mchog ldan (1423‒1507), a celebrated yet controversial Sa skya scholar who developed a strong affiliation with the Karma Bka’ brgyud Mahāmudrā tradition in the last half of his life, (2) Karma phrin las Phyogs las rnam rgyal (1456‒1539), a renowned Karma Bka’ brgyud scholar-yogin and tutor to the Eighth Karma pa, (3) the Eighth Karma pa himself, Mi bskyod rdo rje (1507‒1554), who was among the most erudite and influential scholar-hierarchs of his generation, (4) and Padma dkar po (1527‒1592), Fourth ’Brug chen of the ’Brug pa Bka’ brgyud lineage who is generally acknowledged as its greatest scholar and systematizer. (Source: WSTB Description)

~ Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Mahāmudrā and the Middle Way: Post-Classical Kagyü Discourses on Mind, Emptiness and Buddha-Nature. 2 vols. Vol. 1, Introduction, Views of Authors and Final Reflections. Vol. 2, Translations, Critical Texts, Bibliography and Index. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde 90.1–90.2. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2016.

Book: Buddha Nature Reconsidered

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As a Mahāmudrā proponent, Mi bskyod rdo rje gives primacy to innate modes of being and awareness, such as coemergent wisdom or buddha nature naturally endowed with qualities, that are amenable only to direct yogic perception and revealed through the personal guidance of a qualified teacher. As an exponent of yuganaddha (zung ’jug), i.e., unity (literally, “yoking together”), he espouses the tantric goal of unity beyond extremes, a goal grounded in the inseparability of the two truths or realities (bden gnyis dbyer med), of appearance and emptiness (snang stong dbyer med). In his eyes, this unity is only fully realized when one understands that the conventional has no independent existence apart from the ultimate and that the latter is a condition of possibility of the former. As an advocate of apratiṣṭhāna (rab tu mi gnas pa), i.e., nonfoundationalism, he resolutely maintains that all outer and inner phenomena, including deep features of reality disclosed through meditation, lack any ontic or epistemic essence or foundation that the mind can lay hold of. Finally, as a champion of Madhyamaka, i.e., the Buddhist Middle Way, the author attempts to ply a middle course between the extremes of existence and nonexistence, eternalism and nihilism. These various doxographical strands are deftly interwoven in the Karma pa’s view of buddha nature, which affirms the innate presence of buddha nature and its qualities in all sentient beings as well as their soteriological efficacy while denying either any ontological status.

~ Higgins, David, and Martina Draszczyk. Buddha Nature Reconsidered: The Eighth Karma pa's Middle Path. Vol. 1, Introduction and Analysis. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien Universität Wien, 2019, p. 14.