Today's teaching is on mahamudra, the nature of mind. In Milarepa's Song of the View he sang that on the ultimate level there is no meditator and no meditation as well. There is no path and since there is no path, there is no enlightenment. In Tilopa's Ganges Mahamudra he taught that mahamudra cannot be described, but one must still make an effort in practice. With devotion to the lineage masters mahamudra can be realized. Mahamudra has to be taught teacher to student. The lama's blessing allows the student to see the ground. The Tibetan word for this blessing is jin-lab. "Jin" means gift and "lab" means transformation.

Mahamudra is explained as threefold: basis, path, and fruition. Basis mahamudra is the truth that all sentient beings have mahamudra already. This is buddha nature, as explained in the Uttaratantra Shastra. Basis mahamudra is posessed by all sentient beings. All have the potential for enlightenment and to be completely free of afflictive emotions. The example used in the Uttaratantra Shastra is the Sun, which always shines, even on a cloudy day. To grow a flower, you must first plant a seed. But the seed itself is not sufficient. You must have dirt, water, warmth, light, and so on. If all these are there, the flower will grow and reveal the inner quality of the seed. So we all have the potential for enlightenment within us, but it is up to us whether we put forth the effort.

The path of mahamudra is the meditation of calm abiding and insight and the practice of the generation and completion stages. The most important practice in mahamudra is guru yoga. The guru represents the three jewels and the three kayas. The outer guru yoga practice makes the guru a mirror to see our own nature. It removes all our obstacles. So it is very important. But you should not think the guru has buddha nature and you do not. When the guru's compassion merges with the student's devotion, the student sees the nature of mind. The inner guru yoga is seeing our own mind is no different than the guru's. The secret guru yoga is seeing our winds, channels, and drops as those of an enlightened being.

The purpose of path mahamudra is to see the basis mahamdra. We do that by dispeling the darkness of the heart. Each time we meditate we clarify that darkness. The true nature of mind is light and has no darkness. We do not always see that light, but we can see it. So why don't we see it? All the temporary stains obscure it. It is similar to how the clouds obscure the sun. The stains are temporary because they can be dispeled. So that is the purpose of meditation practice, to see that fundamental mind.

Gampopa said that this human life is precious because we can become enightened. The causal condition for enlightenment is the blessing of the master. I believe we can become enlightened any place. We can practice wherever we are. So the Buddha's teaching is for everyone. It only depends on our perseverance. Buddha said that he became enlightened through his perseverance. The most important lesson to learn from Milarepa's life is perseverance. Practice needs a great strong heart. Then enlightenment is possible.

According ot the Kagyu lineage the most skillful method to realize the basis mahamudra is to depend on the root master and lineage masters. We should learn their life stories so that we can develop devotion. We should recall their good qualities at practice time. According to tradition, we should practice guru yoga when rising in the morning. By doing this, we receive the four empowerments. Whatever obstacles there are in our practice will be removed by this. We are talking about directly receiving the blessings of the master. Feelings of loneliness or sadness may arise in practice. They can be removed by remembering the teacher's qualities.

According to the Tibetan tradition the lineage masters are very important. Naropa received the full realization of the lineage from Tilopa and it was passed onto his students. The kindness and compassion of the lineage masters has made their teachings available to everyone. So what is a root master? A root master blesses the student so that they realize the true nature of mind. Something clicks somewhere. There is a feeling of indescribable joy in the heart. Sometimes there are tears in the eyes. I think that person could be described as a root master.

So what does the word lama mean? "La" means higher, which means having good qualities. The Sanskrit equivalent is guru. "Gu" means heavy, heavy in qualities. Lodro Thaye talked about Buddha lamas, bodhisattva lamas, and ordinary lamas. Tilopa was an example of a Buddha lama. Anyone can be a lama to someone else. I don't recommend that people go to the mountains for retreat. They should practice in their own home. In Ohio I talked about Milarepa's life story. Milarepa said those who hear my name will be blessed. So it is important to be connected to the lineage masters.

So those are my thoughts. Do you have any questions?

Q: What is the meaning of the word mahamaudra?

A: Mahamudra is "chagya chenpo" in Tibetan. "Cha" means inseparable wisdom. "Gya" means liberation. "Chenpo" means great.

Q: Do the Six Yogas of Naropa include mahamudra?

A: The Six Yogas are a means to realize mahamudra.

Basis mahamudra, path mahamudra, and fruition mahamudra are inseparable. But we do not experience them that way. So it is important to take the path. Realizing the fundamental enlightened mind depends on the blessing of the root maater. The compassion of the lineage masters is always there and manifests especially to the practitoners who suplicate them with devotion. Lord Jigten Sumgon said, "Their blessing pervades, but it is like the snow on the mountain. When the sun shines on it, the water will flow. Similarly the devotion of the student evokes the blessings of the lineage." The blessing removes the darkness of the obscurations and removes obstacles during meditation such as a restless mind or being carried away by emotions. So guru yoga practice is a great skillful method for realizing the nature of mind.

Another skillful method is calm abiding and insight meditation. There are many types of calm abiding. The most powerful is watching the breath. Calm abiding is "zhi nay" in Tibetan. "Zhi" means peace, which comes from freeing the mind of conceptual thoughts. When these are removed, the mind natually abides, which is the meaning of "nay". Calm abiding has many different levels. Some are based on a tiny glimpse of the nature mind and others on a deep understanding. In breathing meditation one follows the inhalation and exhalation of the breath. Others prefer to follow the repetition of a mantra.

Learning by itself is not enough. Naropa said, once you learn the benefits of the practice of calm abiding, whatever arises will not cause any doubts. So first learn and then do the practice. As you practice, thoughts will rise. As this happens, do not chase after the thoughts or judge them. If you chase thoughts, concentration is lost. If you judge them, the focus on the breath is lost. It doesn't matter if thoughts arise. All beginners experience them. Thoughts are happenening all the time, but until we meditate, we don't notice them. So when thoughts are noticed, simply return to watching the breath. When thoughts are running away, watching the breath will calm them. So watching the breath is a powerful method.

Q: Does it matter if you breathe in through the nostrils and out through your mouth?

A: Lord Jigten Sumgon recommended breathing out through the nostrils. But it depends on the individual.

Q: Should we hold a nostril and breathe in through one and out through the other?

A: Not while you are doing calm abiding. That is part of the practice of the nine round purification.

When we practice this beginning calm abiding meditation, it is very powerful, both physically and emotionally. After five, ten, or fifteen minutes, thoughts will bubble up. They can be very powerful and destructive. That is a common experience of meditation. The technique is to go back to watching the breath. That is the only method that will calm thoughts down. When you boil water, you pour it in a pan and turn on the gas, After a while it will start to bubble. But if you turn it off, the bubbling will stop after a while. Simiarly when we sit down to meditate, the mind will calm down and you will be able to see it.

After practicing calm abiding for a while, the thoughts that bothered you will no longer do so. The Kagyu tradition uses this analogy. At first the mind is like a rushing mountain river. When the water hits a rock, it bubbles over it. Eventually the rock will be worn away. All the great masters have emphasized maintaining the practice of meditation. With more practice, our mind will become steadier, although at times there will be an upsurge of thoughts. This is similar to a river flowing through the plains. Finally the mind will be perfectly steady, like the deep ocean. Although there are waves on the surface, the depths do not move. The mind becomes peaceful and blissful. You will not want to end your meditation. It is wonderful to experience this. The meditation is pervaded by clarity and free from thoughts for long periods of time. So that is the discussion of calm abiding. This afternoon we can talk about insight meditation.

This morning we talked briefly on calm abiding meditation. Vajrayana talks about two kinds of calm abiding. The first kind is ordinary calm abiding. Special calm abiding is inseparable calm abiding and insight. According to mahamudra the two are inseparable. Calm abiding meditation by itself does not work. There are two types of ignorance, coemergent ignorance and ignorance which labels things. Through calm abiding and insight, we eliminate the conceptual ignorance which labels. When we are unaware of thoughts, they appear as real. When we are aware of their true nature, that awareness cuts through ignorance. It also cuts through the afflictive emotions. So the purpose of meditation is to cut through these two types of ignorance.

So what is the view, conduct, and result of mahamudra? Mahamudra speaks about calm abiding and insight. Its explanation of insight is especially profound. It explains how to transform afflictive emotions into wisdom. In one of his songs Milarepa explained to Megom Repa about mahamudra. The inseparable nature of samsara and nirvana is mahamudra. In this inseparable nature there is no duality. There is neither samsara nor nirvana. Whenever you realize the nature of samsara, that itself is nirvana. All appearance has emptiness as its inseparable nature. Since emptiness is there, compassion is there. And since compassion is there the true nature of emptiness is there. Conceptual thought is inseparable from the mind. It comes from the energy of the mind. So that is my understanding.

So what is meditation? Normally our consciousness is absorbed into the object of our thought. Not losing our consciousness in this way is meditation. Free from the distraction of objects, one looks at mind. Normally our eyes are distracted by sights, our ears by sounds, our nose by smells, our tongue by tastes, and our body by feeling. Once we have awareness, everything becomes meditation.

So what is the conduct of mahamudra? It the inseparability of the view and meditation of mahamudra. It is only through meditation and the blessing of the lineage that one realizes the view. When you realize this view, it is indescribable. When conceptual thoughts arise, they vanish on their own with no need to banish them. Milarepa sang, "When I realized my mind, it was like the rising of the Sun, dispelling all darkness."

Milarepa asked Nyama Paldarbum for food. She asked who he was, and he said Milarepa, which elated her. After giving him food, she asked him on instructions in practice. He told her to meditate on her mind as space, without boundaries. So she had enough experience that this was an introduction to insight meditation. After practicing this she explained her mind was joyful. But her mind was as if obstructed by clouds. When this happens, what should she do? Milarepa explained the clouds arise from the sky. Rather than grasping or rejecting them see that their nature is that of the sky.

Milarepa said space has no color and shape. It is not obstructed by black or white. Likewise, the nature of our mind is free from color or shape. When the Sun shines, it radiates light. This is the characteristic of the Sun. The true nature of the mind is clear light. Everything that appears is within the mind should neither be accepted or rejected.

For mahamudra we should combine the practice of guru yoga, calm abiding meditation, and meditation on loving kindness and compassion. When a thought arises during meditation, just touch it. Normally we hold onto our thoughts, judge them, and then follow them with more. It is like a hundred or thousand of beads on a mala. This way of handling thoughts binds us. But if we recognize the thought as it arises, then it is released. When thoughts are not recognized as awareness, they bind us. It takes some time to be able to do this. When a thought reoccurs, it's because at some level there is grasping. The best thing to do is to observe it without judgement. If this is done, the thought will disappear. But this takes time and practice. I myself am still working on this. But I am better than I was ten or twelve years ago.

When you can meditate outside, looking at the moon or the mountains, it can be very powerful. Sometimes meditating inside can make you a little tense.

All mahamudra is talking about awareness. One should realize that awareness at all times. We should recollect this awareness again and again. We should practice guru yoga and loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings. If we practice according to the relative level the understanding of the ultimate level will arise. We all depend each other. My practice depends on how my friends and family support me. So we all are interdependent.

Susquehanna Yoga Center
September 28-29, 2008