In the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Mahamudra
or the 'Great Seal' is
considered the essence of the Buddhas' teachings. It is also
sometimes referred to as the highest and most profound teaching
of the Buddhas. This Mahamudra is sometimes compared to Dzogchen
(Great Completeness)- the essence of the Buddhas' teachings
according to the Nyingma lineage. Not surprisingly, there have
been a number of figures in the history of Tibetan Buddhism
who taught the synthesis or union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen.
Others mastered both but taught them separately to different
students as they saw fit. There are yet others ' in the majority
' who focused on mastering either Dzogchen or Mahamudra.
The 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 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 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. This lineage of the
Mahamudra is known as the 'Gelug-Kagyu Mahamudra' lineage sometimes
translated as the 'Gelug Whispered Mahamudra' or the 'Gelug
Oral Mahamudra' lineage.
Most of Kagyu Mahamudra lineages stem from the Mahamudra teachings
that were given by Gampopa (1079-1153) to his students. Gampopa
himself received Mahamudra from his root-teacher Milarepa (1052-1135)
who in turn received it from his root-teacher Marpa (1012-1096).
Marpa was a Tibetan who traveled to India and Nepal and received
many teachings from the Indian mahasiddhas ¡§C the most
important being Naropa and Maitripa who transmitted to Marpa
the complete Mahamudra ground, path and fruition. Gampopa himself
combined the profound teachings of Mahamudra with the graduated
approach of practice as taught by the Kadam tradition. The Indian
pandit Atisha founded the Kadam tradition in Tibet. Gampopa
was a monk in the Kadam tradition before he became Milarepa's
disciple. Although there are many scholarly debates in Tibetan
Buddhist history over the status and types of Mahamudra, Gampopa
seemed to have mainly advocated two possible approaches to Mahamudra.
According to Gampopa, Mahamudra can be approached via the way
of sutra as well as via the way of tantra. Hence, there is sutra-Mahamudra
and tantra-Mahamudra. Sometimes it is said that Gampopa also
taught a third approach to Mahamudra which is neither sutra-based
The Kagyu Lineage Masters - Tilopa, Naropa and Marpa
From Gampopa onwards, many different Mahamudra lineages began
to crystallize according to the different styles of Mahamudra
taught by Gampopa and his spiritual descendents. Some of the
Mahamudra traditions that can be traced back to Gampopa or his
descendents are the tradition of 'Simultaneous Production and
Union, 'Six Equal Tastes', the 'Four Letters' and the 'Fivefold
Profound Path.' These traditions are still upheld by the four
surviving Kagyu lineages (Karma, Taglung, Drukpa and Drigung
In the Drigung Kagyu, the main Mahamudra system is that known
as the 'Fivefold Profound Path of Mahamudra' or also known as
the 'Possessing Five.' Although Gampopa himself also taught
this particular approach of Mahamudra, its name was given by
his successor Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170) who was the root-teacher
of the founder of the Drigung Kagyu, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon. Although
this system of the Five-fold Profound Path is chiefly held by
Drigung Kagyupas, Phagmo Drupa himself also authored a text
on this system known as 'Verses on the Fivefold Path.'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. Gyalwa Yang Gonpa, a teacher of the
Drukpa Kagyu wrote the 'Drop of Nectar: the Fivefold Path.'
The Omniscient Pema Garpo of the Drukpa Kagyu also wrote about
this system in his 'Kernel of Mind.' Situ Chokyi Jungne also
wrote extensive commentaries on the Fivefold Profound Path.
In his 'Preface' to Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche's book
'he Garland of Mahamudra Practices,' (a translation of Gyalwang
Kunga Rinchen's [1475-1527] 'Clarifying the Jewel Rosary of
the Fivefold Profound Path.') 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.
Many other Drigung Kagyu teachers of the past also wrote extensive
commentaries on this system of the Mahamudra. It goes without
saying that Kyobpa Rinpoche himself also wrote several texts
and many songs on this subject.
Dharma Lord Gampopa
According to this system then, the five 'folds' of this profound
path of Mahamudra are
1) bodhicitta - the altruistic intention of liberating all sentient beings
2) yidam - practice of visualizing oneself as a supremely enlightened
3) guru-yoga -seeking union with the wisdom-mind of the Teacher,
4) mahamudra - actual engagement of Mahamudra and finally,
5) dedication - perfect dedication of one's virtues.
Before one can begin to engage in the practices laid out in
this system, one first needs to focus on the foundational practices.
Practice of the first 'fold' assumes the prior completion of
what is known as the 'foundational practices' (Tib. ngondro).
These foundational practices are divided into the outer and
inner. The outer foundational practices refer to the 'Four Thoughts
that Turn the Mind' taught by Gampopa. These are establishing
in one?' mental-continuum the four realizations of
1) the good fortune of obtaining a precious human birth,
2) the universality of impermanence,
3) the infallible workings of cause and effect and
4) the nature of samsara as unsatisfactoriness.
After a firm foundation on these four thoughts has been established
mental-continuum, one can begin to engage in the inner foundational practices. These are:
1) going for refuge which confirms and establishes one's commitment
2) Vajrasattva purification practice for the eradication of
karma and karmic imprints,
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
Only after these practices have been 'completed'(100,000 practices
of each of the four) does one properly begin the first fold
of the Five-fold Profound Path
Regarding bodhicitta, Kyobpa Rinpoche sang in one of his many vajra-songs,
'If the steed of love and compassion
Does not run for the benefit of others,
It will not be rewarded in the assembly of gods and humans.
Attend therefore to the preliminaries.'
Drigung Kyobpa Rinpoche
Bodhicitta is briefly defined as the 'altruistic
intention to free all sentient beings from samsara.' Very often
bodhicitta is confused with compassion. Although compassion
is one of the most important factors in the generation of bodhicitta,
it is not in itself bodhicitta. The arousal of bodhicitta begins
by first attending to the generation of loving-kindness for
all sentient beings. It is said that loving-kindness is the
feeling that one gets when one sees a newborn child. When we
see a small child, we often automatically think kind and friendly
thoughts towards the child. We spontaneously wish that the child
be safe, happy and protected from all harm. There is nothing
as soothing as the sight of a soundly sleeping child. It is
that warmth and unconditional love that we are trying to generate
for all sentient beings. We try to regard all sentient beings
as our own children whom we love unconditionally. We pray for
their well-being, safety and protection and are willing to give
up our own lives for their sakes. When we are able to feel this
way towards all sentient beings, we will naturally be able to
generate compassion. Compassion is the feeling of wanting to
free others from suffering and the causes of suffering. It is
the feeling that we get when we encounter someone suffering
from a terrible disease or undergoing intense physical and emotional
pain. We want to be able to help and to ease that pain; that
suffering. Having thus generated and cultivated both loving-kindness
and compassion, we can then arrive at the point when we are
ready to truly generate bodhicitta.
As defined earlier, bodhicitta is the 'altruistic intention
to free all sentient beings from samsara.' Realizing that sentient
beings are completely under the power of samsaric suffering,
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. Although there are many ways to
ease the suffering of sentient beings, they are all temporary
and non-final. Only by completely uprooting the cause of suffering
are we then thoroughly free from suffering. And this is the
state of ultimate liberation; of complete Buddhahood. This knowledge
- the knowledge of the faults, cause, end of and path to the
end of samsara is wisdom. Hence, bodhicitta is the resolve that
arises from loving-kindness and compassion on the one hand and
wisdom on the other hand. When these two aspects come together,
bodhicitta is generated.
The second section of the Five-fold Profound Path is the practice
of Yidam. 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. Although the principal yidam of Marpa was
Hevajra, his teacher Naropa predicted that Marpa's lineage would
eventually rely on Chakrasamvara as their main yidam. Hence,
it was the practice of Chakrasamvara that Marpa transmitted
to his main disciple, Milarepa.
There are many different forms of Chakrasamvara
appearing with different number of faces, hands, and number
of surrounding retinues. In the Drigung Kagyu lineage, the most
popular and common Chakrasamvara deity practice is in the form
of the Five-deity Chakrasamvara. The Five-deity Chakrasamvara
includes the central deity of the two-armed, single-faced 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.
Yidam practice is a very special tantric practice in which one
transforms one's normal, samsaric experience of reality into
an extraordinary experience of the true state of all phenomena.
While the teachings of the sutra-level consider ignorance as
the root cause of samsaric existence, the tantric teachings
identify the ordinary appearances as the root cause of samsara.
The practice of Yidam is a special and profound method to quickly
transform ordinary appearances into enlightened appearances.
To be more accurate, this practice uncovers the actual state
of appearances and reveal them to be pure and empty unceasingly.
Yidam practice does not make ordinary appearances into something
that are not pure and empty of inherent existence. Rather, it
uncovers the purity and emptiness that have always been there
but obscured and unseen. Due to the tantric nature of these
teachings, it is best that one receive the details of these
teachings directly from an authentic teacher of the lineage.
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. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang,
'one's body, the King of Deities
is not stabilized on this Unchanging Ground,
The retinue of dakinis will not assemble.
Be sure, therefore, of your body as the yidam.'
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, teachers in the secular arts and sciences,
spiritual teachers who gave us the Refuge vows, those who gave
us the lay or monastic vows, the Bodhisattva-vow preceptors,
Vajra-teachers who conferred tantric empowerments on us and
finally those teachers who introduced to us the nature of our
mind. In a sense, the Teacher referred to here in the practice
of guru-yoga is all of them; all of these teachers. However,
it is not so much a practice directed at a particular individual
or person whom we call our 'eacher' but the basic wisdom-mind
within all these teachers who have taught us. 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), we strive to recognize this same
wisdom-mind that is inherent in us. In particular, 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. 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. Many Kagyu teachers have taught that
the quickest and surest way to recognize the nature of mind
is a mind filled with devotion. When devotion is present, recognition
of the nature of mind is not far. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang,
If on the Guru, the Snow Mountain of the Four Kayas,
The Sun of Devotion fails to shine,
The Stream of Blessings will not flow.
Attend, therefore, to this mind of devotion.
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). Specifically, the Four-kayas
Guru-yoga is practiced here. These four kayas or 'bodies' refer
to the Emanational body (Skt. nirmanakaya, Tib. trul-ku), Enjoyment
body (Skt. sambhogakaya, Tib. long-ku), Reality body (Skt. dharmakaya,
Tib. cho-ku) and Nature body (Skt. svabhavikakaya, Tib. ngowo
nyi-ku) which is the inseparability of the first three bodies.
Within this context, the first three bodies are considered relative
truth and the fourth body is ultimate truth. 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). 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. Finally, when she arrives at the Nature body level of
guru yoga practice, the Teacher meditated on without any form,
color, name or shape.
The current Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes:
'Externally are the three bodies of the Teacher, the relative
(On the level of) absolute truth the self-arising luminosity of the teacher
Is the nature of one's own mind.
The Teacher, one's own mind and the Buddha are inseparable
Appearing as the manifestation of the Nature body.'
When the mind has become ripened through Guru-yoga practice,
one finally arrives at the heart of the Five-fold Profound Path
- the actual practice of Mahamudra itself.
Regarding the Mahamudra, again, the present Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes:
'Sustain the fresh, non-arising mind without delusion.
In this uncontrived, natural state
Completely avoid the fabrication of meditation and meditator
The non-meditating, undisturbed, ordinary mind
Remains non-attached and non-separated
Free from hope and fear, grasping and letting-go
Rejection and acceptance, meditation and post-meditation.'
We will not be discussing this topic any further as Mahamudra
is best learnt directly from a living teacher. However, 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.
Finally, there is the section on Dedication as the fifth section
of the Fivefold Profound Path. 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). 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. As
with most practices, 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). On the ultimate
level of Dedication - Dedication in the context of Mahamudra
- one dedicates the merit with the understanding of the emptiness
of oneself, the merit dedicated and the dedication itself; the
The Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudra is a complete path
to the attainment of perfect enlightenment within one lifetime.
Many practitioners in the past have taken this Path and arrived
at the other shore of complete peace. At the present, 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. 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, aside from the purely Kagyu
Mahamudra lineages, there is also the Mahamudra practice lineage
within the Gelug lineage. Mention should also be made of the
'union' of Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices derived from some
lineage masters of the Kagyu and Nyingma.
'In order that all beings who have been my mothers
May quickly be liberated from samsara and
May attain perfect enlightenment,
I dedicate all merit accumulated by
Myself, and all ordinary and enlightened beings in the three times
As well as the merit of the innately pure Buddha-nature.'
Extracted from: http://www.dharma-media.org/wogmin/
Some Auspicious Messages:
( how could it go otherwise ......?? )
Thank you sooooo much for organizing the phowa retreat... I enjoyed it sooo very much and learnt alot from RInpoche, Lupen, U and a few others too!
you guys, U , james, shaggy, franco, etc at CAS are also a really great and fun bunch :)
Now that I am back home, I miss the retreat already...... :(
Looking forward to the Mahamudra and U all!
And thanks once again and U must include me in your mailing list!!
We will not forget to repay U and CAS for your kindness.... Please rest well....
|Our gratitude to your kindness and understanding.
with metta & sila
L & B
hi CAS, good day,
many thks for all yr meticulous & dedicated energy towards these retreats,
may ALL BEINGS BENEFIT IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER FROM OUR HIGHEST, PUREST INTENT TO ACHIEVE PERFECTION, ENLIGHTENMENT.......
Thank U and your CAS group of Bodhisattvas for requesting and making great effort in arranging such teachings and transmissions of inconceivable blessings and preciousness from Great Noble and Authentic Masters for us ordinary beings....
Thank U for all U and CAS have done for the Sentient Beings!
You are most welcome .your people are really an inspiring lot!
We will always behind you!
Thanks for all the wonderful Dharma teaching that you
have organised for us. I really appreciate your's
kidness ! Thank you very much !
Don't feel that way lah.
Even if others think that way, since CAS is doing this
for holy-work, I think we should thanks for your
efforts of arranging us to "give".
Anyway, I think we are very fortunate to have such
empowerment. To me I feel very much so. first of all
need to earn a living in Singapore, trying to get such
precious empowerment outside singapore will be quite
impossible for me.
With the connection with CAS, I am indirectly
connected to all these great Masters, think of it,
tears drop off happiness. No joke!
Have a good sleep.
CAS is cool !!