A root text for the precious Gelug/Kagyu tradition of Mahamudra
The Main Road of the Triumphant Ones
The First Panchen Lama Lozang Chokyi Gyeltsen
Namo mahamudraya: Homage to mahamudra, the great seal of reality.
I respectfully bow at the feet of my peerless guru, lord of that which pervades everywhere, master of those with actual attainment, who expounds the all-pervasive nature of everything, the great seal of reality, mahamudra, inseparable from the diamond-strong sphere of mind that is beyond speech. Gathering together the essence of the sutras and tantras and condensing oceans of guideline instructions, I shall write some advice concerning mahamudra from the Gelug/Kagyü tradition, deriving from the pioneering fatherly Dharmavajra, a mahasiddha with supreme actual attainment, and his spiritual offspring.
For this there are preparatory practices, actual techniques and concluding procedures. As for the first, in order to have a gateway for entering the teachings and a central tent pole for erecting a mahayana mind. earnestly take the safe direction of refuge and develop a dedicated heart of bodhichitta. Do not let these merely be words from your mouth. Since seeing the actual nature of mind is dependent upon building up bountiful stores and purifying yourself of mental obstacles, direct [towards your root guru] at least a hundred thousand repetitions of the hundred-syllable mantra and as many hundreds of prostrations as possible, made while reciting The Admission of Downfalls. In addition, make repeated heartfelt requests to your root guru inseparable from all Buddhas of the three times. As for the actual basic techniques, although there are many ways of asserting mahamudra, there are two when divided according to the sutras and tantras. The latter is a greatly blissful clear light mind manifested by such skillful methods as penetrating vital points of the subtle vajra-body and so forth. The mahamudra of the traditions of Saraha, Nagarjuna, Naropa and Maitripa, it is the quintessence of the anuttarayoga class of tantra as taught in The [Seven Texts of the] Mahasiddhis and The [Three] Core Volumes. The former refers to the ways of meditating on voidness as directly indicated in the expanded, intermediate and brief [Prajnaparamita sutras]. The supremely realized Arya Nagarjuna has said, “Except of this, there is no other pathway of mind leading to liberation.” Here I shall give instruction on mahamudra in accordance with his intentions and discuss the methods that lead you to recognize mind in keeping with the exposition of the lineage masters.
From the point of view of individually ascribed names, there are numerous traditions, such as those of the simultaneously arising as merged, the amulet box, possessing five, the six spheres of equal taste, the four syllables, the pacifier, the object to be cut off, dzogchen, the discursive madhyamaka view, and so on. Nevertheless, when scrutinized by a yogi learned in scripture and logic and experienced [in meditation], their definitive meanings are all seen to come to the same intended point.
Of the two main techniques of the sutra tradition of mahamudra, namely seeking to meditate on mind on top of having gained a correct view of reality and seeking a correct view on top of having meditated on mind, [I shall explain] here in accordance with the latter technique. On a seat conducive for mental stability, assume the sevenfold bodily posture and clear yourself purely with a round of the nine tastes of breath. Thoroughly cleanse your state of awareness, and then, with a purely positive mind, direct [toward your practice] your taking of refuge and the reaffirmation of your dedicated heart of bodhichitta. Meditate next on a profound path of guru-yoga and, after making hundreds of very strong. fervent requests, dissolve your visualized guru into yourself.
Absorb for awhile unwaveringly in this state in which all haphazard appearance-making and appearances have been contracted until they have disappeared. Do not contrive anything with thoughts such as expectations or worries. This does not mean, however, that you cease all attention as if your had fainted or fallen asleep. Rather , you must tie [your attention] to the post of mindfulness in order not to wander, and station alertness to be aware of any mental movement.
Firmly tighten the hold of your mindfulness on that which has the nature of clarity and awareness and behold it starkly. Should your mind give rise to any thoughts, simply recognize them. Or, like your opponent in a duel, cut thoughts immediately as soon as they occur. Once you have completely cut these off and have settled your mind, then, without losing mindfulness, loosen and relax its tightness. As has been said, “Loosen and relax its firm tightness and there is the settled state of mind.” And elsewhere, “When mind ensnared in a tangle is relaxed, it frees itself without a doubt.” Like these statements, relax but without any wandering.
When you look at the nature of any thought that arises, it automatically disappears by itself and a bare absence dawns. Likewise, when you inspect mind’s nature when it is settled, a non obstructive bare absence and clarity is vivid. You see that the settled and moving minds are mixed together. Thus, no matter what thought arises, when you recognize that it is a movement of mind and, without blocking it, have settled on its nature, [you find] it is like the example of a bird confined on a boat. As is said, “Just as a crow having flown from a ship after circling the directions must re-alight on it….”
From cultivating such methods as these, you experience the nature of the totally absorbed mind to be a non-obstructive lucidity and clarity. Not established as any form of physical phenomenon, it is a bare absence which, like space, allows anything to dawn and be vivid. Such nature of mind must in fact be seen straightforwardly with exceptional perception and cannot be verbally indicated or apprehended as a “this.” Therefore, without such apprehension, settle in a fluid and flowing manner on whatever cognitive dawning arises.
The great meditators of the snow mountains are practically of a single opinion in proclaiming that this is a guideline indicating how to forge a state of Buddhahood. Be that as it may, I, Chökyi-gyeltsen, say that this is wondrous skillful means for beginners to accomplish the settling of their mind and is a way that leads you to recognize [merely] the conventional nature of mind that conceals something deeper.
As for the methods that can lead you to recognize the actual [deepest] nature of mind, I shall now record the personal instructions of my root guru, Sanggyay-yeshey, who [as his name literally means] is the embodiment of the Buddhas’ deep awareness. Assuming the guise of a monk clad in saffron, he has eliminated the darkness enshrouding my mind.
While in a state of total absorption as before, and like a tiny fish flashing about in a lucid pond and not disturbing it, intelligently inspect the self-nature of the person who is meditating. It is just as our source of direction, the highly realized Arya Nagarjuna, has said, “A person is not earth, not water, nor fire, nor wind, not space, not consciousness. Nor is he or she all of them. Yet what person is there separate from these? And just as a person is not perfectly solid because he or she is what can be labeled on the collection of these six constituents, likewise none of the constituents are perfectly solid because each is what can be labeled on a collection of parts.” When you search and, as has been said, cannot find even a mere atom of a total absorption, someone totally absorbed and so on, then cultivate absorbed concentration on voidness which is like space, and do so single-pointedly without any wandering.
Furthermore, while in a state of total absorption, [scrutinize] mind. Not established as any form of physical phenomenon, it is a non-obstructive bareness that gives rise to the cognitive dawning and emanation of anything, and which endures as an unhindered clarity and awareness, engaging [with objects] without discontinuity. It appears not to depend on anything else. But as for the implied object of the mind that apprehends it [to exist as it appears], our guiding light, Shantideva, has said, “Such things as continuum or collection are not as they seem. They are false, as in the case of a rosary, an army and so on.” By means of scriptural authority and lines of reasoning such as this, totally absorb yourself on everything’s lack of existing as it appears.
In short, as my spiritual mentor, Sanggyay-yeshey, omniscient in the true sense, has said, “When, no matter what dawns in your mind, you are fully aware that what it is an appearance of exists simply as what can be apprehended by conceptual thought, you experience the deepest sphere of reality dawning without need to rely on anything else. While this dawning, to immerse your awareness in it and totally absorb, my goodness!” Similarly, fatherly Pa Dampa-sanggyay has said, “Within a state of voidness, the lance of awareness twirls around. A correct view of reality cannot be impeded by anything [ultimately] tangible or obstructive, O people of Dingri.” All such statements come to the same intended point.
At the conclusion of your meditation session, dedicate whatever ennobling, positive potential has accrued from meditating on mahamudra, the great seal of reality, as well as your ocean like collection of positive potential of the three times, toward your attainment of the peerless state of enlightenment.
Having accustomed yourself like this [to seeing with a correct view], when you subsequently inspect how your mind makes the objects of any of your six collections of consciousness appear, [you experience] their bare mode of existence dawning in an exposed, resplendent manner, This is called the essential point of a correct view – recognizing whatever dawns in your mind.
In short, always cultivate your realization by not apprehending things, such as your mind and so forth, [to exist in the manner in which] your mind gives rise to an appearance of [them]. Do this by keeping firm to their actual mode of existence. When you cognize [one thing] like this, [you see] the nature of all phenomena of samsara or nirvana as being uniformly the same. Aryadeva has confirmed this point, “As has been explained, the way in which [mind] becomes the seer of one functional phenomenon is the way it becomes the seer of everything. The voidness of one thing [suffices for] the voidness of all things.”
Before the face of proper, total absorption on the actual nature of reality, there is just the severance of fantasized, impossible extremes – namely, inherent, findable existence or total non-existence – with respect to everything of samsara and nirvana. Yet after you arise, when you inspect, you see that your mind still gives rise to the appearance of things that dependently arise, which do function and can only exist as simply what can be labeled by names. It is unmistakable that such things still naturally dawn, yet they are like dreams, mirages, reflection of the moon in water and illusions.
When the time comes that you can perceive simultaneously the appearance of things without this causing their voidness to be obscured to your mind, and their voidness without your mind ceasing to make their appearance dawn, you have directly manifested the excellent pathway mind that perceives everything from the single, integrated point of voidness and dependent arising being synonymous. The attainment of the resultant two unified Buddha bodies comes from the unified practice of wisdom and method, This follows from the fact that all objects have both voidness and appearance [levels of truth].
These words have been written by the renounced meditator Lozang-chökyi-gyeltsen, who has heard many teachings. By its positive merit, may all beings quickly become triumphant Buddhas through this pathway of mind, apart from which there is no second gateway to a state of serenity.
I have compiled these techniques that lead you to recognize the great seal of reality, mahamudra, at the repeated request of Gedün-gyeltsen, who holds the monastic degree of Infinitely Learned Scholar of the Ten Fields of Knowledge, and of Sherab-senggey from Hatong, who holds the monastic degree of Master of the Ten Difficult Texts. They have seen all concerns for the eight worldly emotional states to be dramas of madness and now live in remote solitude, following a sagely way of life and taking this pathway of mind as their essential practice. Many other of my disciples who truly wish to practice mahamudra at its definitive level have also requested such a text.
I have especially composed this text now since the triumphant Ensapa, the omniscient lord of masters with actual attainment, himself has said in one of his songs of experience to instruct himself and others, “I have written explanation of lamrim – the graded stages of the path from the Kadam tradition – all the way from whole-hearted commitment to a spiritual teacher up through shamata and vipashyana. But I have not committed to paper the ultimate guideline instructions for mahamudra, which are not included among these aforementioned pathways of mind and which are not well known at present to those of the Land of Snows.”
Thus, what was not set down in writing at that time due to need for restriction was intended for a later period. Scriptural sources establish as much – for example, from The Lotus Sutra, “Because it is to be realized completely by the Buddhas’ deep awareness [Sanggyay-yeshey], you could never say to those who would prematurely write about this method of their own accord that you are enlightened. If you ask why, it is because those who are sources of safe direction have regard for the times.”
Therefore, also in order for such prophesies as this to be fulfilled, I, the renounced meditator Lozang-chökyi-gyeltsen, who have not let degenerate the lineage of inspiration from those who have practiced straightforwardly this pathway of mind from the peerless universal teacher, the king of the Shakyas, down through my root guru, the omniscient Sanggyay-yeshey, and who myself have become a member of this lineage, not letting the close bond of its practice be lost, and who uphold the guideline instructions of the sutras and tantras, have compiled this at Gaden Monastery.
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