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Adapted from the website of the Wogmin Thypten Shedrup Ling, Drikung Kagyu Buddhist Monastery Pictures by Ani chime
Mahamudra Teaching is a system of practices and techniques that contains the culmination of all the practices of the so called new translation schools of Tibetan Buddhism, who believe it to be the quintessential message of all of their sacred texts. Mahamudra is regarded by the Tibetan Kagyu lineage to be the heart essence of all of the teachings of the Buddha. Mahamudra stands for the essence of mind-itself. The true nature of the mind is called the ground of our existence or ground Mahamudra. Path Mahamudra begins with recognition (experience) of this essence and continues as progress is made at stabilizing this recognition (condition). When the recognition of mind-asit-is becomes completely part of our condition, without wavering, and we bring forth effective means of freeing sentient beings from ignorance and Drikung Kagyu Refuge Tree suffering, then this is referred to as fruition Mahamudra, which is said to be free of emotional or experiential bewilderment and is untouched by duality of subject and object or the three spheres of subject, object, and action. The Drikung Kagyu Mahamudra lineage can be traced according to the “far-lineage” as well as the “near-lineage.” The “far-lineage” is traced from the current holders of this profound lineage back all the way to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The “near-lineage” on the other hand is traced from the current holders back to the Indian Mahasiddhas such as Saraha, Maitripa, Tilopa and Naropa who received Mahamudra teachings directly from Buddha Marpa Vajradhara. However, it should be pointed out that although these Indian Mahasiddhas received Mahamudra teachings directly from Buddha Vajradhara (and hence is part of the “near-lineage”) they are also holders of the “far-lineage” as they also received Mahamudra teachings from human teachers who were holders of this “far-lineage.” Hence, the Mahamudra lineages that are currently held by the various Kagyu lineages are both of the “far” as well as “near” lineages. It should be pointed out that Mahamudra Milarepa lineages are also found in the Gelug tradition as several past masters of this tradition also received Mahamudra instructions from holders of the Mahamudra in the Kagyu tradition.
Phagmo Drupa himself also authored a text on this system known as “Verses on the Fivefold Path. Although this system of the Five-fold Profound Path is chiefly held by Drigung Kagyupas. path and fruition. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon.” Although Gampopa himself also taught this particular approach of Mahamudra. The Indian pandit Atisha founded the Kadam tradition in Tibet. many different Mahamudra lineages began to crystallize according to the different styles of Mahamudra taught by Gampopa and his spiritual descendents. In the Drigung Kagyu. In his “Preface” to Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche’s book “The Garland of Mahamudra Practices.Most of Kagyu Mahamudra lineages stem from the Mahamudra teachings that were given by Gampopa (1079-1153) to his students.” Masters of Trophu Kagyu (this particular Kagyu lineage no longer survive as an independent lineage) and Taglung Kagyu have also written on this particular system. Although there are many scholarly debates in Tibetan Buddhist history over the status and types of Mahamudra.” These traditions are still upheld by the four surviving Kagyu lineages (Karma. The Kagyu Lineage Masters – Tilopa. Taglung.” The Omniscient Pema Garpo of the Drukpa Kagyu also wrote about this system in his “Kernel of Mind. Gampopa himself received Mahamudra from his root-teacher Milarepa (1052-1135) who in turn received it from his root-teacher Marpa (1012-1096). According to Gampopa.” (a translation of Gyalwang Kunga Rinchen’s [1475-1527] . a teacher of the Drukpa Kagyu wrote the “Drop of Nectar: the Fivefold Path.” the “Four Letters” and the “Fivefold Profound Path. Some of the Mahamudra traditions that can be traced Tilopa Naropa Marpa back to Gampopa or his descendents are the tradition of “Simultaneous Production and Union. its name was given by his successor Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170) who was the root-teacher of the founder of the Drigung Kagyu. Marpa was a Tibetan who traveled to India and Nepal and received many teachings from the Indian Mahasiddhas – the most important being Naropa and Maitripa who transmitted to Marpa the complete Mahamudra ground. Sometimes it is said that Gampopa also taught a third approach to Mahamudra which is neither sutra-based nor tantra-based. Gyalwa Yang Gonpa. Drukpa and Drigung Kagyu). Mahamudra can be approached via the way of sutra as well as via the way of tantra. Gampopa himself combined the profound teachings of Mahamudra with the graduated approach of practice as taught by the Kadam tradition. Gampopa seemed to have mainly advocated two possible approaches to Mahamudra. Gampopa was a monk in the Kadam tradition before he became Milarepa’s disciple.” Situ Chokyi Jungne also wrote extensive commentaries on the Fivefold Profound Path. there is sutra-Mahamudra and tantra-Mahamudra. Naropa and Marpa From Gampopa onwards. Hence.” the “Six Equal Tastes. the main Mahamudra system is that known as the “Fivefold Profound Path of Mahamudra” or also known as the “Possessing Five.
Practice of the first “fold” assumes the prior completion of what is known as the “foundational practices” (Tib. ngondro).“Clarifying the Jewel Rosary of the Fivefold Profound Path. 3) the infallible workings of cause and effect and 4) the nature of samsara as unsatisfactory. “If the steed of love and compassion Does not run for the benefit of others. Only after these practices have been “completed” (100. 4) mahamudra – actual engagement of Mahamudra (shamatha and viphasyana). Dharma Lord Gampopa According to this system then. 5) dedication – perfect dedication of one’s virtues. and finally. These are: 1) going for refuge which confirms and establishes one’s commitment to the Triple Jewel. one first needs to focus on the foundational practices. Many other Drigung Kagyu teachers of the past also wrote extensive commentaries on this system of the Mahamudra. These foundational practices are divided into the outer and inner. one can begin to engage in the inner foundational practices. After a firm foundation on these four thoughts has been established in one’s mental-continuum. It goes without saying that Kyobpa Rinpoche himself also wrote several texts and many songs on this subject. Before one can begin to engage in the practices laid out in this system. 2) the universality of impermanence. 3) mandala-offering for the profound accumulation of merit necessary for attainment of complete Buddhahood and 4) guru-yoga for the inspiration-blessings of the root and lineage teachers. 2) Vajrasattva purification practice for the eradication of one’s negative karma and karmic imprints.000 practices of each of the four) does one properly begin the first fold of the Five-fold Profound Path – bodhicitta. Regarding bodhicitta.”) His Holiness Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche points out that these days those who rely on this system mostly follow the commentaries given by Drigung Dharmakirti. These are establishing in one’s mentalcontinuum the four realizations of Gampopa 1) the good fortune of obtaining a precious human birth. . The outer foundational practices refer to the “Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind” taught by Gampopa. the five “folds” of this profound path of Mahamudra are: 1) bodhicitta – the altruistic intention of liberating all sentient beings from samsara. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang in one of his many vajra-songs. 3) guru-yoga – seeking union with the wisdom-mind of the Teacher or Guru. 2) yidam – practice of visualizing oneself as a supremely enlightened being.
bodhicitta is the resolve that arises from loving-kindness and compassion on the one hand and wisdom on the other hand. Hence. There is nothing as soothing as the sight of a soundly sleeping child.” Realizing that sentient beings are completely under the power of samsaric suffering. We want to be able to help and to ease that pain. We pray for their well-being. that suffering. The second section of the Five-fold Profound Path is the practice of Yidam. Only by completely uprooting the cause of suffering are we then thoroughly free from suffering. we will naturally be able to generate compassion. happy and protected from all harm. we can then arrive at the point when we are ready to truly generate bodhicitta. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön As defined earlier. Having thus generated and cultivated both loving-kindness and compassion. his teacher Naropa predicted that Marpa’s lineage would eventually rely on Chakrasamvara as their main yidam. Although the principal yidam of Marpa was Hevajra. It is the feeling that we get when we encounter someone suffering from a terrible disease or undergoing intense physical and emotional pain. When we see a small child. they are all temporary and non-final.” Drigung Kyobpa Rinpoche Bodhicitta is briefly defined as the “altruistic intention to free all sentient beings from samsara. it was the practice of Chakrasamvara that Marpa transmitted to his main disciple. we often automatically think kind and friendly thoughts towards the child.” Very often bodhicitta is confused with compassion. This knowledge – the knowledge of the faults. cause.It will not be rewarded in the assembly of gods and humans. end of and path to the end of samsara is wisdom. It is that warmth and unconditional love that we are trying to generate for all sentient beings. Although compassion is one of the most important factors in the generation of bodhicitta. bodhicitta is generated. The arousal of bodhicitta begins by first attending to the generation of loving-kindness for all sentient beings. Yidam practice refers to the generation and completion practices of the highest yoga tantra and in this particular case in the highest yoga tantra system of the Chakrasamvara cycle of teachings. We try to regard all sentient beings as our own children whom we love unconditionally. Compassion is the feeling of wanting to free others from suffering and the causes of suffering. safety and protection and are willing to give up our own lives for their sakes. And this is the state of ultimate liberation. Milarepa. Attend therefore to the preliminaries. When we are able to feel this way towards all sentient beings. we come home to the powerful recognition that only by arriving at the state of complete Buddhahood can samsaric suffering be conquered once and for all. Hence. It is said that loving-kindness is the feeling that one gets when one sees a newborn child. it is not in itself bodhicitta. . bodhicitta is the “altruistic intention to free all sentient beings from samsara. Although there are many ways to ease the suffering of sentient beings. When these two aspects come together. We spontaneously wish that the child be safe. of complete Buddhahood.
The practice of Yidam is a special and profound method to quickly transform ordinary appearances into enlightened appearances. When devotion is present. Vajra-teachers who conferred tantric empowerments on us and finally those teachers who introduced to us the nature of our mind. While the teachings of the sutra-level consider ignorance as the root cause of samsaric existence. we need to rely on an authentic and experienced teacher who has him/ herself recognized his/her own nature of mind and can help us recognize ours as well. of your body as the yidam. therefore. In a sense. In particular. However. the most popular and common Chakrasamvara deity practice is in the form of the Five-deity Chakrasamvara. spiritual teachers who gave us the Refuge vows. Many Kagyu teachers have taught that the quickest and surest way to recognize the nature of mind is a mind filled with devotion. It is hoped that this brief description of Yidam practice as the second section of the Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudra will encourage the reader to seek out these profound teachings from a valid and reliable teacher of the lineage when the time and conditions are right. By having confidence in and relying on this basic wisdom-mind that we locate within our teachers (and in particular in the teacher(s) who introduced to us the nature of our mind). The practice of Guru-yoga is extolled in the tradition as the most direct and profound method to the quick recognition of the nature of mind. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang. “If one's body. The Fivedeity Chakrasamvara includes the central deity of the two-armed. recognition of the nature . and number of surrounding retinues. it is best that one receive the details of these teachings directly from an authentic teacher of the lineage. teachers in the secular arts and sciences. The retinue of dakinis will not assemble. it is not so much a practice directed at a particular individual or person whom we call our “Teacher” but the basic wisdom-mind within all these teachers who have taught us. it uncovers the purity and emptiness that have always been there but obscured and unseen. we strive to recognize this same wisdom-mind that is inherent in us. Yidam practice does not make ordinary appearances into something they are not – pure and empty of inherent existence. Rather.” The third section of the Five-fold Path is the practice of Guru-yoga or the practice of attaining union with the wisdom mind of the Teacher (guru). There are many types of teachers – our parents as our first teachers. our grade school teachers who taught us to read and write. Due to the tantric nature of these teachings. Be sure. the Bodhisattva-vow preceptors. the Teacher referred to here in the practice of guru-yoga is all of them. In the Drigung Kagyu lineage. Yidam practice is a very special tantric practice in which one transforms one’s normal. To be more accurate.Chakrasamvara There are many different forms of Chakrasamvara appearing with different number of faces. those who gave us the lay or monastic vows. the King of Deities is not stabilized on this Unchanging Ground. hands. samsaric experience of reality into an extraordinary experience of the true state of all phenomena. the Chakrasamvara tantric teachings identify the ordinary appearances as the root cause of samsara. all of these teachers. singlefaced male Chakrasamvara deity in union with the female Vajravarahi deity (these two in union are taken as a single deity) and four surrounding dakinis in the four directions. this practice uncovers the actual state of appearances and reveal them to be pure and empty unceasingly.
dharmakaya. sambhogakaya. when she arrives at the Nature body level of guru yoga practice. meditation and post-meditation. one’s own mind and the Buddha are inseparable. to this mind of devotion. She then meditates on the Teacher on the Enjoyment body level as Vairochana (and herself as the yidam) Buddha and for the Reality body in the form of Vajradhara Buddha. The Stream of Blessings will not flow. the Four-kayas Guru-yoga” is practiced here. Appearing as the manifestation of the Nature body. therefore. Reality body (Skt. again. the Teacher meditated on without any form.” When the mind has become ripened through Guru-yoga practice. The current Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes: “Externally are the three bodies of the Teacher. ordinary mind Remains non-attached and non-separated Free from hope and fear. non-arising mind without delusion. A practitioner will first practice the Emanational body Guru-yoga practice where the Teacher is visualized in the form of Shakyamuni Buddha (herself in her ordinary form). The Sun of Devotion fails to shine. Specifically. The Teacher. These four kayas or “bodies” refer to the Emanational body (Skt.of mind is not far. Tib. the relative truth (On the level of) absolute truth the self-arising luminosity of the teacher is the nature of one’s own mind. Regarding the Mahamudra. Attend. cho-ku) and Nature body (Skt. long-ku).” . If on the Guru. natural state Completely avoid the fabrication of meditation and meditator The non-meditating. undisturbed. svabhavikakaya. Finally. Enjoyment body (Skt. Tib. The Guru-yoga practiced as the third section of the Fivefold Profound Path is slightly more involved and detailed than the Guru-yoga practice found in the set of practices found in the inner foundational practices (ngondro). trul-ku). the first three bodies are considered relative truth and the fourth body is ultimate truth. Tib. In this uncontrived. one finally arrives at the heart of the Five-fold Profound Path – the actual practice of Mahamudra itself. the present Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes: “Sustain the fresh. nirmanakaya. the Snow Mountain of the Four Kayas. Within this context. Tib. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang. ngowo nyi-ku) which is the inseparability of the first three bodies. grasping and letting-go Rejection and acceptance. color. name or shape.
the merit dedicated and the dedication itself.org/media/kagyu/drigung/garchen/mamamudratrans_khenchen/mahamudra. there are relative and ultimate aspects (and it is important to remember that one does not privilege one aspect over the other but rather perfectly practice on both levels as they are in reality inseparable). then that is called Buddha. there is also the Mahamudra practice lineage within the Gelug lineage. Many practitioners in the past have taken this Path and arrived at the other shore of complete peace. “In order that all beings who have been my mothers May quickly be liberated from samsara and May attain perfect enlightenment. that which is within us. At the present. On the ultimate level of Dedication – Dedication in the context of Mahamudra – one dedicates the merit with the understanding of the emptiness of oneself.” So therefore to make sure that we see the all-pervading space of the wisdom mind. the threefold emptiness. However. “If we have not dispelled the cloud of the conceptual thoughts. the stars and planets of the wisdom will not rise.We will not be discussing this topic any further as Mahamudra is best learnt directly from a living teacher. . By dedicating the merit of one’s practice for the welfare of all sentient beings’ complete liberation from all suffering and the causes of suffering one ensures that one’s practice remains pure and beneficial.” [ http://www. Mention should also be made of the “union” of Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices derived from some lineage masters of the Kagyu and Nyingma.dharma-media.pdf ] Finally. So when we can do that. says: “So to see the nature of Mahamudra. Lord Jigten Sumgon said. As with most practices. there is a link to a simple but yet profound teaching on Mahamudra given spontaneously by one of the most important Drigung Kagyu lineage masters alive today – His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche who is the main Drigung Kagyu Rinpoche in Eastern Tibet (now living in the US). The Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudra is a complete path to the attainment of perfect enlightenment within one lifetime. when the clouds of the Garchen Rinpoche duality of the conceptual thoughts are fully dispelled. dispel the cloud of the conceptual thoughts. There are also many other sincere practitioners of Mahamudra tradition of Gampopa following the different Mahamudra traditions that have developed out of Gampopa’s basic Mahamudra system. Furthermore. there is the section on Dedication as the fifth section of the Fivefold Profound Path. there are also many sincere practitioners of this Path practicing under the expert and compassionate guidance of the lineage teachers of the Drigung Kagyu lineage. the nature of the mind that dispels the duality of the conceptual thoughts. aside from the purely Kagyu Mahamudra lineages. Dedication is one of the most distinctive features of Buddhist practice – a practice that is done at the end of all practices be it of the hinayana or mahayana (both sutra and tantra levels).
org/media/kagyu/drigung/garchen/ mamamudra-trans_khenchen/mahamudra.naturalawareness.html The Ganges Mahamudra: http://www.html online book on Mahamudra A guide to Shamatha Meditation: http://www.berzinarchives.” translated by Alan Roberts Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eightyour Buddhist Siddhas (Suny Series in Buddhist Studies) by Keith Dowman and Abhayadatta Links: Garchen Rinpoche on Mahamudra: http://www. and all ordinary and enlightened beings in the three times As well as the merit of the innately pure Buddha-nature.org/wiki/Mahamudra The Berzin Archives: http://www.html_94726721. Not surprisingly.pdf Online Dirkung Mahamudra Manual: http://www.dharma-media.wikipedia.com/index.” another system of techniques and teachings within the Drikung Kagyu and other lineages) – the essence of the Buddhas’ teachings according to the Nyingma lineage. Others mastered both but taught them separately to different students as they saw fit.rinpoche.htm Many Teachings: http://www.I dedicate all merit accumulated by Myself.html Wikipedia: http://en.rinpoche.com/web/x/nav/n. Recommended Reading: “The Practice of Mahamudra” by Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche. there have been a number of figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism who taught the synthesis or union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.chagchen.html . great little manual “Mahamudra and Related Instructions: Core Teachings of the Kagyu Schools (Library of Tibetan Classics. There are yet others – in the majority – who focused on mastering either Dzogchen or Mahamudra.com/shamatha.” This Mahamudra is sometimes compared to Dzogchen (“Great Completeness.com/teachings.net/ganges.