Karma Kagyu Mahamudra: Enhancing the Meditation

Combining Mahamudra with Other Sutra and Tantra Practices and with the Four Types of Behavior

As for the third part, the concluding material, there are also the actions for enhancing your progress.
When, without meandering, you have totally immersed yourself in the mental hold of the mindfulness of total absorption (during meditation sessions), and then, when you have set (that state aside) for the moment, if (your mind) subsequently lapses into meandering, you need to alternate (such periods) with cultivating total absorption and no meandering.

Thus you must gauge yourself and know when to take a rest if you are pushing yourself too hard in meditation and when you meditate if your mind becomes too scattered during daily activity. Through such skilful alternation you will enhance your development of the Mahamudra realisation at all times.

(As another method to enhance your progress), when you have thought about death and impermanence, have that mind that thinks, “I am going to die as (a combination of this) body, speech and mind in death and so on,” recognize the intrinsic nature of death and the mind in (the state of) death. Through having done that, that very (mind) will become liberated from grasping at (the categories of) permanence and impermanence, which (derive) from merely conceptual labeling by the mind.
And then, through having thought in a similar manner about all the drawbacks of uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth, become aware that both samsara and nirvana are like a far mountain and a near mountain in a dream.

With such practices you enhance your realization of the simultaneity of the two levels of truth. On the relative or conventional level you have death, impermanence, the suffering of samsara and so forth, all of which are deceptive appearances nevertheless experienced as such. On the ultimate level the mode of existence of these appearances is Voidness; they lack true inherent existence. The two levels of truth, relative and ultimate, appearance and Voidness, are inseparable. You need the simultaneous realisation of both like two wings in order to fly. Do not go to either extreme that appearances are totally non-existent or that they truly exist. The former is nihilism or grasping at Voidness, the latter is the extreme of affirmation, grasping at true existence. No amount of realisation of Voidness should make you less mindful of the common preliminaries such as death meditation.

As a further (method), when you meditate affectionately on love and compassion by being aware of all limited beings as having been your fathers and mothers, and likewise when you meditate on the aspiring and engaged states of bodhichitta up to enlightenment, recognize the intrinsic nature of them. Through having set (your mind at that point) in an uncontrived state and thus through having set (your mind) in a state in which its aspect is vividly clear bodhichitta and it is aware of its essential nature as being parted from mental fabrication and having nothing whatsoever to be done, (your mind) will go to (a state of) voidness (in other words, emptiness) and compassion as being inseparable.

Love is the wish for everyone to be happy and compassion for them to be free of suffering. As you have undergone beginning-less rebirth, at some point everyone has been your mother or father. Remembering their kindness and wishing to repay it, you should develop the wishing state of Bodhicitta, the thought to attain Buddhahood in order to be most effectively able to help them. The venturing state of Bodhicitta is to engage in the practices that will bring you Enlightenment, such as the perfections of generosity, moral discipline, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, meditative concentration, discriminating awareness and so forth. All this is relative Bodhicitta. Ultimate Bodhicitta is the realisation of Voidness.

What is required is to have a simultaneous realisation of relative and ultimate Bodhicitta in the same manner as the two levels of truth. Just as when meditating on Guru-yoga you visualise your Guru in the form or aspect of Buddha Vajradhara while having the nature of your root Guru, you do the same here. Have the aspect or form of your meditation be compassion, while realising its nature as Voidness. This is the way to develop the realisation of the inseparability of compassion and Voidness.

As an additional (method), when, from (among) the pathway minds (enabled) by the four empowerments’ vase empowerment, you have thought of yourself as a Buddha-figure through any of the four ritual procedures of generation on the generation stage and have clarity in your meditation of the environment and its inhabitants as deities and resounding sounds as mantra, examine the essential nature of them. That (meditation of inseparable appearance/voidness, when) parted from conceptual thought, is the practice of the unified pair of the generation and complete stages (or) generation stage mahamudra. 

There are many tantric meditation deities or yidams such as Heruka or Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Guhyasamaja and Kalacakra. On the development stage you visualise yourself as such deities, your environment as their mandala celestial abodes, your speech as their mantra, your thoughts as pristine awareness, your actions as the enlightened activity of their virtuous conduct and so forth. This is to eliminate your compulsive grasping at ordinary appearances and your holding them to be truly and inherently existent.

The completing stage, according to the Mahamudra classification scheme, is divided into the stage having signs and that without signs. The former refers to the meditations on the energy-systems of the subtle body within the context of the development stage visualisations and are done to channelise all the energy-winds into the central channel for the blissful realisation of Voidness. The latter refers to the Mahamudra meditations done in this state.

In meditation, to have the clear appearance or aspect of a deity or mantra, while realising its Void nature is known as combining the development and completing stages or the mixture of Mahamudra with the development stage. Whatever you visualise is the inseparable union of appearance and Voidness.

And then, after having applied (the realization of) clear light (to everything you do), recognize (mind’s) natural face in meditation and even at times when walking, moving about, lying down, sitting, speaking, conversing and so on. (This is) blending (everything) with mahamudra.

You should apply the Clear Light realisation of everything a~ a dream to whatever you do. If in a dream you realise you are dreaming, you can then take full control of your dream. You can fly or do whatever you wish. Likewise your waking stage is but a deceptive dream. When you realise that nothing has true inherent existence, there is no limit to what you can do. With absolute conviction in inseparable Voidness and appearance, free from the slightest doubt, you will no longer be restricted by ignorance and can take control of the elements and so forth.

There are also (four types of behavior for enhancing your progress):
[1] Practicing single-pointedly with inseparable generation and complete stages, or with (inseparable) shamatha and vipashyana, is (called) “totally excellent (Samantabhadra behavior).”
[2] When that has become stable, then, having concealed yourself in frightening, haunted places, practicing, with knowing, the view, meditation and behavior is (called) “concealed behavior.”

Secret activity is to go to such places as cemeteries, deserts or lonely mountains, and sleep with your head on a corpse or out in the wild. This is to check yourself to see if superstitions and deluded states of mind still arise and to be able to examine them if and when they do. To attempt such activity without having achieved inseparable mental quiescence and penetrative insight is insane and there is the danger that you might go crazy. Therefore extreme caution is required.

[3] When that has become stable, with no mental wandering, then wandering and mixing yourself in places with large crowds and taking this as a spiritual pathway and practicing is (called) “crowd behavior.”

This is a similar type of practice to the previous one in the sense that it is intended as an opportunity to check your progress and examine the delusions, attachment and aversions that arise in noisy, crowded, chaotic situations.

[4] Then, according to the specifics of (which situations your mind is more) stable or unstable in, there are three (types of practitioners): great, middling and small. 

Some people can handle being alone but are unable to cope’ with crowds and busyness. Others thrive in activity with others but cannot bear loneliness or being alone. It is essential to be able to be in any situation with combined mental quiescence and penetrative insight.

From (among these), there are no definite signs for those of you who are great. However, after (such persons) have attained a great applying pathway mind (the great stage of the path of preparation), they act with elaboration. In the attire of a Heruka, they mix themselves with horrifying circumstances, without any conceptual thoughts about what is to be eaten or not, what is clean or filthy, or what is faulty or proper. By having practiced like that, they attain a seeing pathway of mind (the path of seeing) after progressing in stages through the applying pathway minds. By means of having (done that), then in terms of themselves, since they have triumphed over the demonic forces of mara, disturbing emotions and a modest (Hinayana) vehicle of mind, (that type of practice is called “behavior) triumphant over all directions.” 

According to the general Mahayana description, there are five progressive paths on the way to Enlightenment. With the development of Bodhicitta you enter the first of these, the path of accumulation on which you develop mental quiescence. On the second path of preparation you perfect penetrative insight so that on the path of seeing you gain in your meditation session a bare non-conceptual understanding of Voidness. At this point you enter the first of the ten Bodhisattva stages (bhümis). During the fourth path of meditation you further meditate in order to eliminate the obstacles preventing you from seeing Voidness at all times. At the path of no more learning you attain the enlightened state of a Buddha.

Heruka is a general term for any male meditational deity, or can refer specifically to Chakrasamvara. Those of greatest capacity, such as Tilopa and Naropa, adopt the bone jewellery and tiger-skin costume of a Heruka when on the path of preparation. They act like crazy men, eating anything that comes their way, not unlike the pig. There are many stories of Mahasiddhas, greatly realised masters, who would eat refuse or fish entrails. Practising in this way, they gained victory over all superstitions, preconceptions and grasping at inherent existence, known collectively as “the Mara demons”. This is an extremely advanced practice to be able to gain bare perception of Voidness.

Because, in terms of others, they bring about great benefit for limited beings with “great crowd behavior,” that is also (called “behavior) progressing with mahamudra itself.”
For those of you with the highest capabilities, there is nothing that needs to be enhanced. That is because you have parted (your minds) from (the duality of) something to be meditated upon and something that does the meditating. But as for the many (further) methods that exist for enhancing the progress of those of you who are not like that, you need to learn of them from the mouths of your gurus.
Concerning them, (in summary) there are the methods for enhancing your progress through combining (the mahamudra realization) with alternating total absorption and subsequent attainment periods, with the pathway minds of the common (Sutrayana) vehicles of mind, with the mantra tradition and with the four types of behavior.
Enhancing your progress through having exerted effort like that and having practiced is the first point (for enhancing your progress).

The Five Distorted Conceptual Thoughts, Three Skills and Four Buddha Corpuses

Furthermore, to eliminate hindrances (to your progress, you need to rid yourself of the five distorted conceptual thoughts):
[1] Part yourself from clinging to objects as being “virtuous” or “nonvirtuous.”

Conventionally, it is true that certain actions are virtuous and others not. But ultimately these things have no true, inherent existence as such. If you regard certain actions as inherently “good” and are compulsively attracted to them, or others as “sinful” and are repulsed, such grasping will impede your progress.

[2] As the three times (past, present and future) cannot be established as truly existent), rid yourself of even the thought, “I shall attain enlightenment in just this very time (right now).” Having done that, be certain that in one instant there is enlightenment.

Conventionally, there is past, present and future. But if these categories had true, inherent existence as such, then the past would always have been in the past and could never have happened. The future would always be yet to come and could never occur. And the present would be ever so and never cease. Therefore, although it is imperative to have a Bodhicitta motivation, you should not conceive of working from now until Enlightenment when this is based on an idea of your being in a truly existent moment now and Enlightenment as being somewhere “out there” in the truly existent remote future.

By the very fact that thoughts arise and dissolve in exactly the same moment, Enlightenment is in each instant. If you are aware of this, that is referred to as “instantaneous Enlightenment”. In other Buddhist vehicles, you attain Enlightenment by a long, drawn-out process of collecting merit over three countless eons. To be sure, the realisation of Voidness and Enlightenment are the result of accumulated merit, but as the mind controls the body and speech, Mahamudra meditation on the mind is a peerless vehicle for accumulating enormous merit quickly. Instantaneous or instant Enlightenment does not mean that ignorance is eliminated magically from no cause and that you do not need to practise virtue, meditate or do anything in order to become Enlightened. It means that in each instant you can be Enlightened if you are aware of the true abiding nature of reality in that moment. And if you are not, you remain in samsara.

[3] Without holding your own mind as something as being (vulgar and) ordinary, be aware of it as having, from the start, the essential nature of the five types of deep awareness.

Pristine awareness is of the inseparability of appearance and Voidness, of the two levels of truth, of the abiding nature of reality. It is the natural condition of your mind and has five aspects or functions, known as the five types of pristine awareness. When you are unaware of them and overlay them with grasping at true existence, they are the major delusions.

Pristine awareness of the void nature of reality correctly discriminates between what is false and true. Overlaid with grasping for true existence, you wish to be rid of objects to which you ascribe such existence and thus you have anger. Unaware of the pristine awareness that is like a mirror you closed-mindedly shroud yourself and ignore certain, objects rather than clearly reflecting their appearance, and thus you have closed-minded ignorance. Unaware of the pristine awareness that sees the individual nature of things as void, you single out certain objects as more desirable by nature than others. This is longing desire. Unaware of the pristine awareness that sees the equality of things in inseparable Voidness and appearance and so forth, you consider yourself better than others and thus have pride. Unaware of the pristine awareness that effortlessly accomplishes everything, you are obsessed with others’ and do nothing for yourself. This is jealousy. Or you keep possessions to yourself and do not share or let things flow. This is miserliness. When you see, however, that the nature of the various delusions is the same as that of the five pristine awarenesses—and as all five are complete in each one, there can be many such lists of correlations—you transform the former into the latter.

[4] Do not hold your very own aggregates, cognitive sources and cognitive stimulators as dirty, but (rather) be certain of them as being, from the start, male and female deities and male and female (Buddhas Thusly) Gone.

The aggregate physical and mental faculties are that of form, feelings, recognition, compositional factors and consciousness. The cognitive bases are the objects and cognitive powers of the faculties of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching and thinking. The cognitive spheres are the above bases plus the consciousness of each of these faculties.

In various tantras there are numerous systems of correspondence, equating each of the above with a male or female meditational figure. One such system of a hundred deities is found in the “Tibetan Book of the Dead (B’ar-d’o t’ö-dr’öl)”. At the time of death, these deities are revealed and they appear clearly. If you recognise them for what they are, you can gain liberation, but if you are frightened you will rush into one of the unfortunate rebirth states.

[5] Rid yourself of the assertion of liberation from just listening and pondering (the teachings). Decide for sure on liberation through the force of meditation and the gurus’ inspiration.

In order to train your mind and overcome suffering, you must rely on the powers of hearing, thinking and meditating. You must first hear a correct explanation of the teachings, on the nature of the mind for instance, and then think about them in order to ascertain their meaning. The latter is like looking at the mind and subjecting it to endless questions and logical analysis. Finally, when you have reached a decision about the nature of the mind, you must meditate and actually experience it to be so. Through the help of your Guru you come to recognise it from your meditation. Thus all three are needed to become enlightened.

Rid yourself of (these) five distorted conceptual thoughts (about) objects, the times, the essential nature, the intrinsic nature and discriminating awareness.
(Gaining the three skills will also enhance your progress:)
[1] With your body posture excellent and having examined the essential nature (of your mind) atop the settled (mind) when it is settled and atop the stirring (mind) when it is stirring, then being totally absorbed is (called) “skill in the beginning at initiating meditation.”
[2] Ridding yourself of fatigue (by taking a rest) so that you will be fit to transform your absorbed concentration and body posture when you can no longer be singularly totally immersed in them is (called) “skill intermediately in cutting off becoming diffused.”
[3] No matter what kind of excellent boon experiences dawn, acting without clinging (to them) is (called) “skill in cultivating the boon experiences.”
Train yourself in (these) three skills.

The four Buddha bodies can be understood in terms of the mind.

(As another method to enhance your progress, recognize that) the various appearances of the mind are a corpus of emanations (Nirmanakaya); its faculty of knowing is a corpus of full use (Sambhogakaya); its voidness is a corpus of essential nature (Svabhavakaya); and the inseparability (of the three) is a corpus encompassing everything (a Dharmakaya). 

Very often, the definitions of the Dharmakaya and Svabhavakaya are reversed. A famous analogy for understanding these bodies is that the Dharmakaya is like space, the Sambhogakaya like the moon and the Nirmanakaya like the reflection of that moon in water. All three are totally interdependent and inseparable. You cannot have the moon without the space it occupies and there can be no reflection independent of the moon. Likewise inseparable and interdependent are the Voidness, awareness and appearance of the mind.

When you have decided for sure that that is the intrinsic nature of whatever is possible that can appear – everything of samsara and nirvana – in other words, when you have ascertained, isolated from all extremes of mental fabrication, that all phenomena are parted from the trio: arising, ceasing and abiding, total absorb (your mind) in being parted from any adopting or rejecting and all hopes and worries.
(All that) is the second point (for enhancing your progress).

The Three Points of Deviation and the Four Places for a Loss of Voidness (Emptiness)

Furthermore, because, if you cling to the three (boon experiences of) bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality, you will deviate into the three planes of compulsive existence, then no matter what experiences arise, good or bad, do not hold them as supreme. (In that way, you will enhance your progress by avoiding these three points of deviation).

If you are obsessed with the boon of bliss and grasp at it to have true existence, you will be reborn as a god in the Desire Realm; if with clarity, in the Form Realm; and if obsessed with are non-conceptuality, in the Formless Realm.

(You also need to avoid the four places for a loss of voidness).
[1] Once you have ascertained (voidness) by means of the reasoning “parted from being either the same or different,” you might think either, “All phenomena, by their own essential natures, have passed into being a (total) void,” or, “The mere absence that is the negation of (truly established) existence, which (I have derived from) having analyzed with my intellect – this is the voidness of everything.” Making (either of these) your meditation is a loss of voidness in terms of its character. Since, by means of that, you might have become coarse with regard to behavioral cause and effect, rid yourself of meditations on voidness that grasp (it as) an absence of that (causal relationship) and that (leave it as) something intellectually derived. Having done that and then having examined the essential nature of that grasping at an absence (in these two faulty ways), be uncontrived (without making up anything).

If you look at the nature of the thought that grasps at non-existence, it will automatically subside and dissolve in its own place in the same manner as any other thought. The nature of all thoughts, even subtle ones such as grasping, is a clear, vivid awareness.

[2] From not having the realization that all (disturbing emotions) to be gotten rid of and their antidotes (namely, their voidnesses) are void, then when many things – disturbing emotions, negative conceptual thoughts, and so on – arise on your mental continuum, you might take them as your enemy, thinking, “These are stealing the life of my liberation.” Then thinking, “These should be destroyed by voidness,” you might hold those two as (“things”) to be gotten rid of and (“things” that are their) antidotes. From having done that and then meditating on voidness is a loss of voidness in terms of it being an antidote. For that, then having recognized (the essential nature of) that conceptual thought itself that grasps at those disturbing emotions or what is to be gotten rid of and what is their antidote as separate (“things”), set (your mind) in (the state) lacking anything to stop or establish.
[3] When you realize this – that the supreme pathway mind for attaining Buddhahood is voidness – but without realizing that the basis, pathway and resultant (minds): all three are voidnesses, then you might think that voidness (as only a pathway mind) is the superior one among the pathway minds and that the pathway minds other than that are inferior, and thus not think of the method part (of the practice, such as bringing the disturbing emotions and negative conceptual thoughts also into your practice as pathway minds). (This) is a loss of voidness in terms of it being a pathway mind. Therefore, having recognized that essential nature itself of the conceptual thought that clings to voidness (as only a pathway mind) and holds it as the superior one among the pathway minds for that (attainment of resultant Buddhahood), examine it (further). By having done that, be aware of the voidness of everything (basis, path, and result) as being a voidness without anything to be gotten rid of or antidotes, and (without) superior or inferior (methods).

The next place where you can lose Voidness is when doing the tantric development stage practices of dissolving everything into Voidness with a mantra before visualising a meditational deity.

[4] (When practicing the generation stage of anuttarayoga tantra), you might have spread out and applied as a crowning seal to everything voidness as a mantra or as something intellectually derived, but which you have had no actual experience of, and then only thought, “Everything is voidness.” Or you might have been dismissive of karma and behavioral cause and effect, thinking, “Since everything is voidness, then because nothing can be established (as even conventionally existing), then what can be done by means of constructive acts, which are phenomena affected (by cause and effect)?” (This) is a loss of voidness in terms of it being a crowning seal. For that, then having examined and recognized (the essential nature of) that very thought, “(Everything) is voidness,” set (your mind) in its real nature, parted from conceptual thoughts about (voidness) being its own natural face.
These intellectually derived voidnesses, however, are not totally improper in all aspects. If beginners do not do any intellectually derived meditation, then even if they are taught voidness from the start, they will be unable to realize it. Since (that is so) and since, if they familiarize themselves (intellectually) with the real nature (of everything), in the end they will naturally come to realize voidness (nonconceptually), then even meditating on an intellectually formulated voidness is proper. However, in the end, since (such type of conceptual meditation) is a place for a loss of mahamudra, you must rid yourself of it.

A beginner refers to anyone who has not yet achieved the path of seeing and its bare non-conceptual perception of Voidness, in other words anyone who is not an Arya. If someone has collected an enormous amount of merit in his previous lifetimes, he may “skip ahead” and gain such bare perception immediately upon meditation. This is rare. The more usual process is as follows.

First you develop a presumptive understanding of Voidness based on hearing a correct explanation. Presumption is reaching a correct conclusion either for a wrong reason or even a right one but which you do not understand. Your Guru teaches you about Voidness and although you do not really understand what he has said, you repeat his words and have an idea of Voidness based on hearsay.

Next, by repeatedly thinking about and logically analysing what he has said, you gain a valid inferential understanding of Voidness based on the intellectual, conceptual process of logical reasoning. By repeating this logical process and focusing on Voidness by mixing your actual understanding of it with an auxiliary conceptual one, such as the mental image of space or a vacuum, so that you have a more readily accessible object for concentration on Voidness, you will eventually achieve its bare, non-conceptual perception. This comes about not by a mystic leap of faith, but through the law of cause and effect as the result of your accumulation of merit. Therefore a mental image of Voidness such as one of a vacuum and a conceptual understanding based on logic are necessary aids for the full realisation of Voidness. But they must ultimately be abandoned, for they tend to make a “thing” out of Voidness, which it is not, and can be a place for losing it such as when spreading out an intellectually formulated image of a Voidness as if it were a thing.

These, then, are the hindrances that are the “four places for a loss (of voidness).” Because (they hinder stable realization of mahamudra), do not mix up what is to be gotten rid of and what is to be adopted like that. Then, within that state, set (your mind) in an uncontrived manner on top of whatever dawns, without making presumptions (that something incorrect is correct mahamudra realization). Without having moved from that fresh and clean (state) and without doing (such things as) holding your body in a severe posture, holding your breath, or the likes, 

Such methods, as found in the six yogas of Naropa, are useful for achieving the Mahamudra insight, but once achieved are no longer needed.

set your mind at ease, at its own leisure, without stopping, establishing, getting rid of, or adopting anything in terms of the conceptual thoughts: “constructive,” “destructive,” “ethically unspecified,” and so on, (but just set it) in a naturally simple state, without grasping at whatever dawns.

(That is) the third point (for enhancing your progress).

The Six Dangerous Gorges and the Three Hindrances

Furthermore, (to enhance your progress, you need to be able to pass safely through the six dangerous gorges where enemies can rear up and ambush you).
[1] Suppose that (you had been experiencing) great satisfaction dawning regarding (your ability to control) conceptual thoughts and emotionally disturbing states in your meditation. But then, at one point, your conceptual thoughts became coarse and numerous; you were unable to bring them under control in your meditation and that upset you violently. When (that happens, that is called “the dangerous gorge in which) conceptual thoughts have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the very thoughts themselves and the essential nature of those very thoughts and, without regarding them as faults, think of them with kindness. 

For instance, if a thought of anger arises, regard it as an opportunity to cultivate patience or, if of desire, to meditate on the impermanence of what you want. Ultimately, however, if you merely focus on them, they will naturally subside.

Having done (that) and having then taken them as the actual matter of your meditation, then since their natural face, parted from mental fabrication, will dawn as Dharmakaya, cultivate (the realization that they are) like that.
[2] Suppose that previously whatever disturbing emotion arose, you were able to clean it away with (an intellectually made analysis of) voidness. 

This refers to being able to eliminate a delusion through a logical intellectually formulated analysis of its Voidness. For instance, if you desire a person or an object and after analysing whether it is the same or different from its parts, you conclude that it is neither and therefore lacks true existence, your desire will fail apart as you see there is no solid, concrete object for it.

But then, at one point, a disturbing emotion – longing desire or the likes – arises and you are powerless. (That is called “the dangerous gorge in which) disturbing emotions have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the essential nature of whatever disturbing emotion has arisen. Having done (that) and having then set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), it will purify itself away, automatically in its own place, without (your needing to) get rid of it. Since (the disturbing emotion) will pass into automatically purifying itself away on top of the voidness of its vividly clear aspect – which is, in fact, bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality – cultivate (your practice) like that.
[3] Suppose when you had searched for the mind with investigation and scrutiny, then having not found it – having seen that all phenomena cannot be established (as truly and findably existent) – you had been dismissive of everything: what is to be gotten rid of, what is of help, what is constructive and what is negative. Because of that and because of having taken as the main thing the family-trait of the boon experience of starkness, then, from yourself, others, and everything having passed into a void, you grasped to a voidness in which there was no awareness to do anything. (That is called “the dangerous gorge in which) voidness has reared itself up as an enemy or in which a blackness has spread out.” 

Both the extremes of existence and non-existence must be refuted. But if you had to choose, it is better to fail to the former rather than to nihilism. Nagarjuna has said that Voidness refutes all true existence, but if you do not understand it, it is better to understand phenomena. Consider the example of a snake. If you say it is void and nothing, and do not respect its relative nature, it may bite you and you will die. Likewise you can fall to a lower rebirth in a hell from disregarding the fact non-virtuous actions bring unfortunate results.

For that as well, recognize (the essential nature of) that very grasping at voidness itself. Having done that and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), then since (such grasping) will be eliminated, set (your mind) in a state like that.

In other words, in the same manner as before, focus on the nature of the thought that grasps at Voidness or nihilism, and it will naturally subside.

[4] Suppose you were aware of appearances as dependently arising phenomena, but nevertheless clung to them by grasping them, in their (ultimate) voidness, still to be (conventionally) truly existent functional phenomena. Then either you developed claustrophobia or you became paranoid or obsessive about whatever assorted appearances you saw. That absorbed state of unhappiness in that (situation) is called “(the dangerous gorge in which) appearances have reared themselves up as an enemy.” For that, recognize the essential nature of those appearances and of that grasping them to be truly existent functional phenomena. Having done that and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything, such grasping) will be eliminated.

You might have a presumptive, intellectual understanding that, for instance, a father and son are interdependent: you cannot have a son without a father, and so forth. Yet you may still grasp at them to exist inherently as dependent arisings. From such grasping, objects may begin to appear as enemies. To hell creatures suffering from extreme paranoia, everyone is seen as their enemy and every object is a weapon.

A classic example is of the tailor who lost his needle and, feeling that he had swallowed it, developed an acute stomach ache. His friend saw that he had merely dropped the needle on the ground, but could not convince him that this was his lost needle. He therefore suggested that the tailor move his bowels. He did and the friend discreetly placed the needle in the stool. As soon as the tailor saw the needle, his stomach ache miraculously disappeared. Likewise when you see the true nature of your grasping at appearances, they and your suffering will disappear.

[5] Then, suppose, having meditated like that, then even when you develop an (emotional) faith, compassion, and so forth more than others (have), you lose them, in a naturally simple manner, without having purified them in their real nature of mahamudra. From (being in that situation), then, suppose you have developed compassion toward others who do not possess those good qualities and have thought, “Now, if I’ve worked to benefit others, it will be of greater benefit than (doing) this (mahamudra meditation).” From (thinking like that), then engaging yourself in benefiting others, while not accomplishing, but rather casting aside (developing) other good qualities for yourself, (is called “the dangerous gorge in which) compassion has reared itself up as an enemy.” 

An example is suppose you see a hunter who is having difficulty killing a deer and, feeling compassion for this cruel person, you decide to help him. If you were to give up your own compassion for animals and your vow not to kill, and help him shoot the beast, then emotional compassion has arisen as an enemy.

For that as well, recognize that attitude of emotional compassion. From having done that, and having set (your mind) in a state of neither stopping nor establishing (anything), then by extensively offering prayers in a state of that vividly clear compassion being made clear in its intrinsic nature of mahamudra, you will eliminate it rearing up as an enemy. Then, the dependent arising of benefiting others will operate properly.

Being able effortlessly to help others comes about due to cause and effect as the result of your prayers to be able to do so, as well as from your joint realisation of compassion and Voidness. While you are working towards Enlightenment, it is essential to have compassion and help others, but you must use wisdom.

There is a great difference between a Bodhisattva using unconventional behaviour to help someone because he sees what will be ultimately beneficial and a beginner with no realisation who, being very emotional, helps others in a bungling fashion which does not really benefit the other person and only harms his own practice. Do not presume to be a Bodhisattva when you are not and use compassion as an excuse to act impetuously on your emotions. But of course if someone is about to fall, you should help him. You must use common-sense.

[6] Further, suppose that, having not ascertained the (mahamudra) view, you asserted, “From having learned in great detail grammar, logic and so forth, I shall realize the view that is there from the start” and then you discarded meditation. That is called (“the dangerous gorge in which) cause and effect has reared itself up as an enemy.” 

It is incorrect to feel that the result of learning worldly sciences will be your understanding of Voidness. It is the other way round. When you have gained insight into Voidness, all other knowledge and wisdom will follow. This does not mean, however, that you should not study anything until you gain the full realisation of Voidness, but you should keep your priorities straight.

For that, exert effort in meditation itself on the view and, by cultivating that without hopes or worries, (such danger) will be eliminated. Practice in that way (in order to enhance your progress).
In addition, no matter which (of the three hindrances) occur – sickness, (harm from) demonic forces, or hindrances to absorbed concentration: namely, the trio mental dullness, flightiness of mind and foggy-mindedness, and the likes – investigate the individual essential natures of each of them in terms of (it having) a color, shape or the trio: an arising, an enduring and a passing. Without stopping or establishing (anything), decisively conclude that they cannot be established (as anything) by their intrinsic nature.
Alternatively, do the practice of tong-len, giving and taking, having practiced bringing sickness and (harm from) demons (into your practice) as the four corpuses of a Buddha. (Practice that) without indulging in any hopes or worries whatsoever – worries that sickness will come (to you from others) or hope for benefit (to go from you to others).

The Voidness of the sickness is the Svabhavakaya, the clarity and awareness of its pain the Sambhogakaya, its form the Nirmanakaya and the inseparability of the three the Dharmakaya.

Or, for mental dullness, flightiness of mind, and so on, if you become mentally dull in terms of activity, focal object, and so forth, use flightiness of mind as a method (to perk yourself up), and for flightiness of mind, use mental dullness as a method (to calm yourself down). 

These are temporary remedies and are like Santideva’s advice in the “Bodhicaryavatara” to use jealousy as an opponent for pride and so forth. If you feel pride, place yourself in someone else’s shoes and feel jealousy for yourself.In this way you will curb your pride. Likewise if you have mental dullness, incite some agitation to bring yourself to a balanced state.

Further, having examined the essential natures of that mental dullness and flightiness of mind, then by setting (your mind on their essential natures), they will be eliminated.
Although there are many (such methods for) eliminating hindrances, I have not written (them all) here for fear that this would become too wordy. Thus, you need to become aware (of them) from the lips of your guru. Moreover, for those of you with the highest capabilities, there are no hindrances to be eliminated, since you will have stable realization of everything as being primordially parted from mental fabrication.
These dangerous gorges, (in which disturbing emotions, conceptual thoughts, and so forth rear up as enemies), occur at the time when you on the stage called “a single taste,” (when you have an accustoming pathway mind – the path of meditation). 

This stage is after you have become an Arya with bare non-conceptual perception of Voidness and while you are on the first seven Bodhisattva stages on the path of meditation. In other words, they occur when you have already seen Voidness, but because of your instincts of delusion and ignorance, disturbing thoughts and grasping continue to arise, particularly during your post-meditational period.

According to mahamudra, since these (enemies) jump up (at that time because of) the habits of the disturbing emotions and conceptual thoughts hardened on your mental continuum, it is said that that they are (to be taken as) indications (of Nirmanakaya, a corpus of emanations) to be cleaned away in voidness. 

A rosary is made of beads, yet, none of the beads are the rosary, neither are all the beads piled together. A rosary is a mental label or an imputation on a collection of beads strung together. Likewise what is a habit or instinct giving repeated rise to a familiar pattern of behaviour? A habit is but a mental label, an imputation on a series of similar events which, if you grasp at as being truly existent, gives chronic rise to its perpetuation.

Therefore see the Voidness of your habits and instincts of delusion. When a delusion arises, understand that its form is the Nirmanakaya, its awareness aspect Sambhogakaya, its Voidness Svabhavakaya and the inseparability of the three Dharmakaya. In this way they can be “wiped clean” by Voidness.

(However,) according to the general pervasive (teachings, such as those of the Sakya system of) lamdray, the pathway minds and their results, and the like, it is said that (these dangerous gorges) dawn at the time of the complete stage with signs, from the dependent arising of gathering together the minds and the energy-channels, energy-winds and creative energies, through the force of (the various complete stage practices that are in) the homologous classes with that-and-that disturbing emotion and conceptual thought.

This refers to another level of methods used to overcome disturbing thoughts and delusions. On the completing stage of anuttarayoga tantra with signs, you deal with and harness the energy-system of the subtle body. This system includes energy-channels (nach; tza) equivalent to the body, energy winds (prajna; lung) equivalent to speech, and creative energies (bindu: t’ig-le) equivalent to the mind.

Consciousness rides through this system on the energy winds and when they run rampant so do your deluded thoughts. When these winds are channelled into the central energy-channel at the heart centre, these thoughts will automatically subside.

Furthermore, each of the delusions is homologous with a corresponding good quality. Thus there are certain practices such as the “Six Yogas of Naropa” in which a delusion and the good quality in its category become blended and thus the energy of the delusion is effectively transformed into something useful. This occurs through dependent arising, in other words as a result of the particular practice used. Thus desire becomes blended with bliss through the psychic heat (tum-mo) practices, anger with the realisation of the lack of true independent existence through the illusory body techniques, closed-mindedness with Clear Light by means of dream yoga and so forth. Such practices utilise the energy-system outlined above.

Although there may be many such things – the places for a loss, the dangerous gorges and the hindrances from sickness, demonic forces and the hindrances to absorbed concentration – perhaps just this much summarizes (them all). And as for the methods to eliminate (all these) faults, become aware that they as well are similar to those (mentioned here).
These, then, are the stages for eliminating the three points of deviation, the four places for a loss, the five [sic] dangerous gorges and the three hindrances. Having become aware of the faults (of these) and the benefits (of eliminating them) like that, make an effort and do not mix up what is to be adopted and what is to be discarded.
(Those are) the (fourth and) fifth points (for enhancing your progress).

The Benefits of the Practices and the Stages and Pathway Minds According to Mahamudra

Furthermore, as for the way in which benefits arise (from these mahamudra practices), the benefits of the preliminaries are that they bring about the fulfillment of your own provisional and ultimate aims. That is because they are fitting to be the basis for your (attaining) pathway minds (leading to liberation and Buddhahood) and (better) future rebirths (as their working basis).
Not only that, but by having meditated on the difficulty of obtaining the respites and enrichments (of a precious human body) and on death and impermanence, and by having thought about behavioral cause and effect, having turned your mind away from concern for this life, you gain conviction in (karma) and (thus) the ability to safeguard (your vows of ethical discipline) even at the cost of your life.
By having thought about the shortcomings of samsaric rebirth and, having developed disgust for uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth on the three planes of compulsive existence, having then developed renunciation, the determination to be free, you will thereby wish to attain only a purified state (of liberation).
By having meditated on love, compassion and the bodhichitta aim, and having thus parted yourself from wishing for your own happiness (alone), you will come to think of only the welfare of (all) limited beings.
By having made effort in the yoga of the hundred-syllable mantra (of Vajrasattva) and (from that,) having had indications of purification of your negative karmic forces occur in actual (waking life) and in dreams, you will thereby (easily) develop boon experiences and stable realizations.
By having made mandala offerings, your body will be blissful, your mind clear, your desires few, and you will gain incalculable positive force.
By having meditated on guru-yoga, your firm conviction (in his or her good qualities) and appreciation (of his or her kindness) will flare up more and more. Absorbed concentration and inspiration will come about (from that) and thus you will effortlessly develop boon experiences and stable realizations. Whether or not you develop the actual fundamental part (of this mahamudra practice, shamatha and vipashyana,) will depend on this (guru-yoga).
As for the actual fundamental part (of the practice), the benefits of shamatha are that you develop faultlessly the boon experiences of bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality. Because of that, your craving will diminish for food and clothing; your (body) will have luster and brilliance; your mind will be flexibly fit; you will gain the five extrasensory eyes, heightened awarenesses, and so on; and your disturbing emotions and conceptual thoughts will be outshined.

They will be outshined by the brilliance of your mental quiescence, like the stars by the sun so that they do not appear.

The five extra-sensory eyes are of (1) fleshly sight to see far distant objects, (2) celestial sight for past and future rebirths, (3) that of discriminating awareness to have bare perception of Voidness, (4) that of the Dharma to see the mental capacities of others so that you know how and what to teach them, and (5) the sight of a Buddha to understand everything omnisciently. According to the “Abhisamayalamkara” of Maitreya each of these is attained progressively on the five paths to Enlightenment.

As for the benefits of vipashyana, those with the highest capabilities will traverse the levels of bhumi-mind (of arya bodhisattvas) and pathways of mind (that they span) all at once. Those of middling (capabilities) will develop them in a leap-ahead manner some, at one time, all at once and then some in stages. Since those of least (capabilities) develop them in progressive stages, they traverse from the beginner level of mind to the tenth-level bhumi-mind in progressive order.
Further, as for the way they traverse them, it is in accordance with the way in which the four times three, or twelve yogas dawn in them (which is as follows):

The five paths and ten Bodhisattva stages to Enlightenment, as outlined previously, can be divided in many ways and traversed through a variety of techniques. There are the general methods of each of the classical Indian Buddhist schools and the different classes of tantras. According to the system outlined by Gam-po-pa in the “Jewel Ornament of Liberation”, these stages can be divided into thirteen: the stages of wishing, fervent regard, the ten Bodhisattva ones and that of Buddhahood. In the Dzog-ch’en or Great Completion system there is yet another way of dividing them. Here in Mahamudra the five paths and ten stages are divided into the twelve yogas. But regardless of how the pie is cut, the basic material covered, insights gained and goal achieved is the same.

[1] (In general, with your attainment of a stilled and settled state of shamatha,) you can set your mind, as much as (you wish), in a state of bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality. But, one alternative (that might happen) is that by setting (your mind) in meditation, then sometimes, even in meditation, (these three boon experiences) do not come and sometimes, even not in meditation, they do come. (This stage at which) you have not gained control, to a great extent, over your absorbed concentration is the lesser (stage of) single-pointedness.
[2] When (your mind) is securely settled such that it is not harmed by distractions and, whenever you are in meditation, (these three boon experiences) come, you have gained control over your absorbed concentration. (This is) the middling (stage of) single-pointedness.
[3] When (the three boon experiences) dawn with no mental wandering even in violent circumstances and with no discontinuity, and when all conceptual thoughts have been stilled in that state, and you are mixed into that state even when sleeping and are never separated from it in all your activities, (this is) the great (stage of) single-pointedness.
(At this point) because you will make around you a constant (mental) environment of the boon experiences, the realization might occur that this occasion is (the stage) of great no further training (in other words, enlightenment). But other than the boon experiences dawning as (if they were) a stable realization, this is not an actual stable realization (of the essential nature of the mind). These (stages of single-pointedness) are (simply) at the time of the building up and applying pathway minds (the so-called paths of accumulation and preparation).
Because you do not quite recognize (the essential nature of) your mind, boon experiences with grasping at (their) voidness are the principal feature of your shamatha. By having cultivated not clinging to the real nature of these boons, these experiences will become purified. All enduring aspects of bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality shatteringly perish (so that this state simultaneously dawns and liberates itself in each moment) and you see the (deepest) truth of their actual nature. In other words, once the three voidnesses – that of bliss, clarity and nonconceptuality – still into a state of not being objects (conceptually clung to), then that essential nature of pure awareness dawns pristinely, like having peeled away the skin (of a fruit) or having found a treasure. 

Here the skin is your obsession with the boons or flash experiences and your grasping at their true existence. When these disintegrate and are peeled away, you arrive at the fruit within, namely the void nature of your mind characterised by a bliss, clarity and bare non-conceptuality that, being voids arises and subsides simultaneously in each moment.

With this, you attain a Mahayana seeing pathway of mind (a path of seeing). It is also called “the stage of being parted from mental fabrication.”
[1] When, at this point, you are still not completely separated from the vicinity of the grasping that is clinging to voidness and you have only just slightly seen the essential nature of the mind, (this is) the lesser (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.
[2] When you have purified that from its root and, in accordance with your stable realization, normal awareness has become distinct as not being an object (conceptually clung to, this is) the middling (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.
[3] When that has become stable, but you are uncomfortable (with this realization of normal awareness) in terms of (external) appearances, though comfortable (with it) in terms of (internal) conceptual thoughts, you need to purify that. By having done that and thus having gained the stable realization that everything is void, without there being even one among all phenomena that is not void, then when you have thereby cut (all) interpolation concerning the voidness of all phenomena, external and internal, (this is) the great (stage of) being parted from mental fabrication.
During subsequent attainment periods of these (three stages of being parted from mental fabrication, external) appearances dawn as illusions. You have stable realization of the intrinsic nature of bodhichitta. Having rid yourself of the eighty-two factors that a seeing pathway of mind gets rid of, you do not take rebirth and (then, after living a lifetime,) turn away from (any of the three planes) of uncontrollably recurring samsara and their (four stages of) compulsive existence (birth, pre-death, death and the bardo in-between state), except by the power of aspiration prayers (to do so in order to help others). Because of that, it is called “the attainment of a first-level bhumi mind, ‘extremely joyous,’ or a pathway mind of seeing.” By having cultivated that very state for a long time, you will fly up to (the stage of) a single taste.
At that (former stage, being parted from mental fabrication), you were comfortable (with the realization of normal awareness) in terms of all phenomena being one with respect to their not being established by their self-nature or their lack (of being truly void), but you were still a little uncomfortable (with it) in terms of whatever undiminished, fresh and clean conceptual thoughts that dawn. By having purified that, (now) whatever dawns, fresh and clean, is, by itself, sufficient (for gaining stable realization of normal awareness), regardless of whether or not you are able to part it from the mental fabrication of it being neither (truly) void nor (truly) not void.

Although you must be free of all extremes such as grasping at Voidness, that is nihilism, or at non-Voidness, namely true existence, such mental fabrications are purified anyway merely by seeing the nature of the here and now in which such distorted thoughts as these simultaneously arise and subside like drawings on water.

[1] When you have the stable realization that, whether atop appearances or voidness, whichever one, on each, all phenomena of the pathway minds, as many as there might be, are complete in terms of having the single taste of the essential nature that you have stably realized as the (ultimate) Dharma, (this is) the lesser (stage of) the single taste.

The abiding foundation of the here and now is the single taste of both appearances and Voidness in the pristine awareness of the inseparability of these two. Thus whether you are aware of an appearance or its Voidness, you see the single taste of both, namely this abiding foundation of the pristine awareness of all the teachings of the paths.

[2] Since at that (lesser stage) experienced (objects) were still mixed as one of a pair with decisive awareness (of their essential nature, 

This conviction is that this is the experience of the here and now, thus implying your grasping to it as a “thing”.

now) by having purified that, everything mixes into one in terms of its purity in its actual nature – (such seeming pairs as) appearances as external material objects without exception and mind as internal knowings without exception, specific awareness and deep awareness, and so forth. Therefore, in short, when compulsive existence and the tranquil peace (of nirvana) dawn, straight as an arrow, as equal; (in other words, when) uncontrollably recurring samsara and released (nirvana dawn, straight as an arrow,) as inseparable, (this is) the middling (stage of) the single taste.
[3] When the multiplicity (of all phenomena) dawn as being of a single taste and then, from that, dependently arising appearances diffuse (in accord with) being skillful in means, then, with the single taste dawning as multiplicity, (this is) the great (stage of) the single taste.

In the dissolution process of the bodily elements as outlined previously consciousness progressively relies on less elements. Thus earth dissolves into water, meaning that consciousness can no longer rely on the solid element. Then water dissolves into fire, fire into air or energy-wind and that into space. Three stages follow this; the white, red and black experiences as the white and red creative energies or Bodhicitta fall from the crown centre, rise from the navel and meet at the heart. After this comes the Clear Light Dharmakaya experience which can be had at death, falling asleep, fainting or in advanced tantric meditations. Through this process you come to realise the single taste of everything in the Dharmakaya.

After this the re-evolution process of the elements occurs in which consciousness undergoes the black, red and white experiences and then progressively relies on the elements as energy-wind, fire, water and earth re-emerge during the process of entering the b’ar-d’o, rebirth, waking up and certain advanced tantric practices. This occurs through interdependent origination, here referring to cause and effect, and is propelled by skilful means in order to assure a form that will be beneficial to others.

To realise the single taste of appearance and Voidness through both the dissolution and re-evolution processes is the advanced stage of a single taste.

(Now) you have attained patience for (all) phenomena as they have no (true) arising. (These three stages of the single taste) cover the interval between the second- and seventh-level bhumi minds. Some explain that (they include) up to the eighth as well.

There are numerous ways of defining the twelve yogas of the Mahamudra classification system of the paths and stages. According to the general explanations found in the works of the Third K’am-trul Rinpoche, another less complex set of definitions is as follows.

The stages of single-pointedness have the achievement of mental quiescence. At its early stage the boons appear alternately, sometimes happening and sometimes not. At the intermediate stage they come automatically and at the advanced they are mixed inseparably with Clear Light even in dreams.

The stages free of mental fabrication are free of grasping at the mind as having any of the four extreme modes of existence— true existence, total non-existence, both and neither. The extreme of both refers to grasping at phenomena to have true existence on the relative level and total non-existence ultimately. Although all phenomena have neither true nor total non-existence, the extreme of neither is to grasp conceptually at this fact as if this mode of existence were a “thing”. At the early stage free of mental fabrication you realise the mind is void of inherent arising, enduring and ceasing. At the intermediate you have no grasping at either appearance or Voidness. At the advanced stage you cut off completely all over- and underestimation of mentally fabricated modes of existence.

On the stages of a single taste, appearances and the mind become completely mixed. At the early stages all things of a dual nature mix into an equal taste of Voidness. At the intermediate, appearances and the mind are like water mixed with water. At the advanced you see the arisal of the five types of pristine awareness out of the same taste.

All such definitions are not contradictory and are based on a meditational master’s personal experience.

Furthermore, although there are many distinguishing characteristics between each of the ten Bodhisattva stages, one of them is that at each of the stages you fully perfect one of the ten perfection (parameters). Thus on the first it is generosity and then progressively moral discipline, patience, enthusiastic perseverance, meditative concentration, discriminating wisdom, skilful means, power, prayer and pristine awareness. Discriminating wisdom (prajna; she-rab) is of Voidness, discriminating between correct and incorrect modes of existence. Pristine awareness (jnana; ye-she) is of the inseparability of the two levels of truth, of appearance and Voidness. Either may sometimes be loosely referred to as “wisdom”.

At that (former stage, the single taste), your total absorptions and subsequent attainments were mixed (in a single taste). However, there were still (some) taints of grasping at voidness during subsequent attainment periods. By having purified that, everything is purified in the sphere of reality, dharmadhatu, without even the slightest difference between what is to be attained and the one attaining it, and between meandering and non-meandering (from this realization) during total absorption and subsequent attainment periods.
[1] When you are parted from all signs of (a dualism of) what is to be meditated upon and the one meditating upon it, (this is) the lesser (stage of) no further meditation and the eighth-level bhumi mind.
[2] Since at that (lesser stage) it was sometimes (still) possible for a slightly grasping (consciousness) to occur, (now) by having purified that, when (all) becomes one in the great total absorption of deep awareness, (this is) the middling (stage of) no further meditation, the ninth- and tenth-level bhumi minds.
[3] After that, when the sword of discriminating deep awareness slashes off the cognitive obscurations together with the dormant factors, then the mother clear light, which is the totally pure sphere of reality, and the child clear light, which is mirror-like deep awareness, become mixed into one. (This) unified pair with no further training, (this) manifestation of the enlightened state of a Buddha, is the great (stage of) no further meditation, the bhumi-stage mind of a Buddha.
In other words, by having progressed through eighth-, ninth-, tenth- and (this) eleventh-level bhumi minds, the natural purity of primordial simultaneously arising (mirror-like deep awareness and the sphere of reality) that you have enlighteningly rendered manifest is a Dharmakaya, a Corpus Encompassing Everything. 

The Buddha bodies can be divided into two; the Dharmakaya and Rupakaya, or the Wisdom and Form Bodies. The former is the result of a Buddha’s perfect abandonment of all obstacle and fulfils his own purposes. The latter are from this perfect accomplishment of all good qualities and arise from his Bodhicitta in order to fulfil the purpose of others.

Dharmakaya is free of arising, ceasing and enduring. It is the permanent, unconditioned, naturally pure, abiding nature of the mind and all reality. The pristine awareness of the void sphere of all things sees Voidness. That which is mirror-like reflects all knowable phenomena without any obstruction. Thus the Dharmakaya being the simultaneity of these two pristine awarenesses, the mother and child Clear Lights, is often referred to in other contexts as its being the omniscient mind of a Buddha and the Voidness of that mind.

The natural purity of conceptual thoughts, which is the mind of limited beings, that you have made manifest is a Sambhogakaya, a Corpus of Full Use. 

The most common sutra definition of Sambhogakaya, the Utility Body, is that form Body having five certainties. It has certainty of (1) form, it always utilises a body having all hundred and twelve major and minor signs of a Buddha, (2) teachings, it always utilises the Mahayana teachings, (3) disciples, it always teaches to a circle of Arya Bodhisattvas, (4) place, always in pure-land Buddha-fields and (5) time, until the end of samsara. Here it is defined as the natural purity of thought. These two definitions are not incompatible.

Arya Bodhisattvas are those with a Bodhicitta motivation who have bare, non-conceptual perception of Voidness. By the virtue of such insight, their surroundings become a pure-land Buddha-field. The natural purity of thought is something that only such beings can perceive. Therefore Sambhogakaya is that purity of thought or awareness as visible only to Arya Bodhisattvas. If, however, you are confused about this natural purity, then thoughts deceive you into believing they have true existence and thus you cannot see Sambhogakaya.

The natural purity of seemingly (external) appearances as objects under the influence of circumstances, that you have made manifest, is a Nirmanakaya, a Corpus of Emanations. 

Just as if a floor of aquamarine is not polished, the reflection of the God Indra will not appear in it, likewise, if the minds of sentient beings are not pure they will not see a Buddha even if one were standing before them. Thus Nirmanakaya or Emanation Bodies of a Buddha are the natural purity of appearances to the minds of ordinary beings. They appear as phenomena arising from causes and circumstances and can be classified into three categories.

Supreme Nirmanakaya, such as Buddha Shakyamuni, have all the major and minor signs and enact the twelve deeds of a Buddha-descent from Tushita, birth in a royal family, worldly sport, renunciation, austerities, Enlightenment under the bodhi tree, turning the wheel of Dharma and so forth. If you did not have the merit and purity to see Shakyamuni as the Buddha, he would appear to you only as a tall man with big ears. If you have the purity of mind, your Guru will appear to you as a Buddha.

Ordinarily appearing Nirmanakayas are emanations as monkeys, birds and so forth for specific purposes to teach specific sentient beings. Certain Nirmanakayas appear as master artists, physicians, musicians and so forth to teach through their particular media. Thus the pure appearance of a Nirmanakaya depends on the purity of the mind of the beholder.

And, with (these) three or a limitless number of Buddha Bodies, then – through their enlightening influence to benefit others, beyond imagination, effortlessly and without conceptual thought – effortlessly bringing about, throughout the bounds of space, benefit to wandering beings until uncontrollably recurring samsara has been emptied out, (this) is the ultimate good quality (that you make manifest).

There are many ways of enumerating and defining the Buddha bodies. In general tantra teachings, the enlightened body, speech and mind are explained as Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya, respectively. In some systems in addition to the four usual bodies there are the Vajrakaya or Adamantine Body of the immutability of Enlightenment, the Jnanakãya or Body of Pristine Awareness and so forth. But regardless of how many bodies are described, their virtuous conduct (samudacara; Tr’in-la) in helping sentient beings is the same.

A Buddha is free of all thought, of all conceptual processes. He knows everything through bare perception. Thus when he helps others, he does so spontaneously without any thought. His virtuous conduct, therefore, is effortless. This is because while a Buddha was still on the paths to Enlightenment he made innumerable prayers to be able to benefit all sentient beings. His ability to do so once enlightened is the result of these prayers and requires no further conscious effort or thoughts. Just as a cloud has no thoughts to benefit crops and yet when it rains this automatically happens, likewise a Buddha benefits all beings.

There are several aspects of a Buddha’s virtuous conduct, known as liberation through seeing, through hearing, recalling and being touched. Thus by merely seeing a Buddha, hearing his words, recalling them or being touched by his hand, you can become liberated from suffering. This does not mean that this comes about magically and you need not do anything on your own part. Such an instantaneous liberation may occur in extremely rare cases due to the person’s enormous previous accumulation of merit. But more usually such a seeing and so forth plants a seed of karmic association with Enlightenment and inspires you to strive towards this state.

All such things happen, however, with no conscious effort on the part of the Buddha. For instance, the mere sight of His Holiness the Dalai Lama can fill you with inspiration to, practise the Dharma, with His Holiness not needing to do anything on his part. The stupas or monument in Bodh Gaya where Shakyamuni Buddha manifested Enlightenment has no thoughts and makes no efforts, yet most people who see it are moved to circumambulate it and inspired to religious thoughts.

The classic example for how liberation through seeing and hearing operate are in terms of the god Indra. Indra sits in his heavenly crystal palace and without doing anything his appearance is renected on all the facets of its wails. People on earth see his beautiful reflection and are inspired to work to achieve his state. Likewise, Indra has a heavenly drum, the sound of which is so moving that people develop profound insights from merely hearing it.

Thus just as the sun and moon have no intentions to benefit people, a Buddha fulfils the aims of others effortlessly through his virtuous conduct and without any thought.

Since (that is the case), therefore if you exert effort to foster the good qualities, one after the next, from the preliminaries up to (the stage of) no further meditation and not to let those already developed degenerate but rather (for them) to increase further, (all) those good qualities will come about. Therefore, enhance your enthusiasm in accord with that and practice.

(That is) the sixth point (for enhancing your progress).

Concluding Definitions

Therefore, mind-itself as an intrinsic part of yourself – except for merely whether you realize or not that it has double purity, ultimately and deeply, from the start – is called the “accordant nature” or “mahamudra.”

The very nature of the mind itself is also known as the Buddha-nature. Its two purities are the natural one of this abiding nature— it is primordially pure from time immemorial—and the purity achieved when the fleeting taints obscuring it have been removed. This is like polished gold having the two-fold purity of its natural condition as well as that achieved when all tarnish has been removed.

[1] That which you have as an intrinsic part of yourself is (called) “basis-time (mahamudra).”
[2] Mind-itself, during the interval from having entered from that (basis) into meditation on the pathway minds up to a tenth-level bhumi mind is (called) “path-time (mahamudra).”
[3] That which has been awakened from the slumber of unawareness and which has manifested its totally perfect deepest (truth) is called “resultant-time mahamudra.”

The basis, path and fruit Mahamudra are interdependent and cannot exist alone, just as is the case with a child, adult and old man. You cannot be an old man if you have never been a child or an adult. Likewise the fruit Mahamudra comes about through the basis and path ones.

(As for the mahamudra view, meditation, behavior and result:)
[1] To examine (and behold) the totally perfect abiding nature and be parted from all (dualistic notions of objects) to be grasped and (awarenesses) that grasp (them) is the (mahamudra) view.
[2] To meditate, without meandering, on the deepest point of that (view) is the (mahamudra) meditation.

You need a unity of correct view and meditation. To have the latter without the former is like being a blind man on an open plain. You can go nowhere. To have just the correct view but not to meditate is like being a miser; your knowledge is of no benefit to yourself or others. But with both you have two wings to fly to Enlightenment.

[3] To cultivate whichever of the four activities is appropriate and be parted from all (dualistic notions of) something to be done and someone to do it is the (mahamudra) behavior.

These four are the activity that is all good, the hidden one, that of being in crowds and that which brings victory in all directions, as explained above.

[4] To be parted from all (dualistic notions of) something to be meditated upon and someone to meditate, with (the implicit) expectations and worries (that come with them), such as worrying about falling down into samsara, wishing to rise up to attain Buddhahood and so on, is the (mahamudra) result.
When you have made yourself aware of what are, in fact, the deepest points concerning the (mahamudra) view, meditation, behavior and result in accord with that; then enhance your perseverance.
Have firm conviction in and appreciation for your guru, with your trust placed totally in him or her. Turn away from clinging by parting yourself from clinging to uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth and this life. Rely at all times on being mindful not to meander (from the mahamudra practice). With your inessential plans kept (merely) short-term and few and (executed straight up and down like) a bellows, then when such attitudes arise as concern for the eight transitory things in life, conceptual thoughts about this life, concern about saving face, and so on, flatten these bumps. Having done that, forcefully cut the rope that binds you to your selfish concern for this life. In other words, you need to make effort to cultivate at all times what you have developed in meditation, without passing into a state of unconcern.

Thus you need always to be mindful and alert. If you learn to read and write, what use are they if you do not practise? If you acquire a precious object and do not take care of it, it will become ruined or lost.

Although there are many differences between a boon experience and a stable realization, nevertheless (in general):
[1] If for the meditator there is his or her own mind (on the one side) and (on the other) the meditation with bliss, clarity, nonconceptuality and starkness being meditated or being experienced, (it is) a boon experience.

It should be noted that the same technical term is used for flash experiences and the boons. They are steeped with belief in duality and, though beautiful and alluring, are as impermanent as the flowers in a mountain meadow. Insights, on the other hand, are more solid and stable.

[2] If you realize with bare cognition, not (just) a presumptive understanding, that there is no duality of meditator and meditation, (this is) a stable realization.
Therefore, having differentiated between what are in fact boon experiences and stable realizations, then in a state of not having entered into clinging to those (boon experiences) and holding them as supreme, cultivate them with effort at all times – (this) is important.

Although the boons are not supreme, they are the basis for penetrative insight. Therefore by intensifying and cultivating them with no attachment, insights will definitely follow.

Concerning that, of the four seals:
[1] The seal of behavior, karmamudra, is a pathway mind for those of duller wits. (Through it) you achieve the actual attainments of the plane of sensory desires.

There are many levels of meaning to the four seals. Here the seal of activities, karmamudra, refers to practising (1) the peaceful actions to pacify sickness and interferences, (2) those to increase your life span, good qualities and merit, (3) those to gain power over the elements and (4) the wrathful ones to eliminate harm, obstacles and hindrances. As a result of these you can gain good health, long life, wealth, power and so forth, which are the powerful attainments of the Desire Realm.

[2] The seal of close bonds, samayamudra, and [3] the seal of Dharma, dharmamudra, are the pathway minds for those of middling wits. (Through them) you achieve the final actual attainments of the State Beneath Nothing Else, Akanishtha (the highest state of samsara).

The seal of commitments, samaya mudra, is the keeping of the vows and commitments of the various Buddha-families. The seal of Dharma, dharmamudra, is visualising yourself as a meditational deity. To apply these without the realisation of Voidness can only bring you to the peak of samsara, but not to Enlightenment. You can achieve the common powerful attainments of extra-sensory and physical powers and so forth, but not the supreme one.

[4] The great seal, mahamudra, is the pathway mind for those of sharpest wits. It is the method for achieving the supreme actual attainment (of enlightenment).

Therefore by applying all four seals progressively to your practice, you will reach the fully enlightened state of a Buddha.

Inseparable appearance/voidness, bliss/voidness, knowing/voidness, clarity-making/voidness, parted from all mental fabrication, cannot be indicated by a guru and cannot be intellectually understood by a disciple. It cannot be made intelligible with words, being parted from all (notions that) it is “this” and not “that.” Yet there isn’t any phenomenon that great blissful awareness, as something that can be experienced, but not identified, does not pervade in the world of appearances, samsara and nirvana.
It is a great state beyond the intellect, yet, although the trio: mind, conceptual thought and Dharmakaya, have abided simultaneously from the start, yet because that is not realized, now it is indicated with guideline instructions by the gurus as something that has been blended into one as an inseparable unified triad. Since that is the case, it is called “mahamudra simultaneously arising as merged.”

When you blend the mind, thought and Dharmakaya, it is not like mixing flour and cement powder, but rather like pouring water into water. The nature of thought is the same as the nature of the mind: they are both Dharmakaya. Thoughts, though deceptive, are not to be abandoned nor should you strive to establish their cessation. By recognising their nature, they become purified and you realise the Dharmakaya and are a Buddha. When you do not understand them, you are deceived about thoughts and are a sentient being.

Thoughts, mind and Dharmakaya have been simultaneous from beginning less time. If you ask which came first, deception or Enlightenment, this is the same as the proverbial question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” It is not that first you had Enlightenment and then you became unaware of it, nor is it that first you were unaware and then became enlightened. They are simultaneous and beginning less. Yet, a Buddha has no thought and no deception. What does this mean?

Thought is pervasive with Dharmakaya, therefore you cannot say that a Buddha has abandoned thought, since this would imply he has abandoned Dharmakaya. But since a Buddha recognises thought as the Dharmakaya, thoughts do not arise on his mind-stream and all his activity and manifestations are non-conceptual, spontaneous virtuous conduct without any thought.

From the lineage that has passed from Vajradhara to Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa (Mi-la Ras-pa) and Gampopa (sGam-po-pa), the lineage of meditation methods and so on deriving from (direct disciples) of Gampopa are: (1) Zhang (Zhang) mahamudra and Barom (‘Ba’-rom) mahamudra.
Those deriving from the lineage of (Gampopa’s disciple) Pagmo-drupa (Phag-mo gru-pa, Pagmo-drupa) are: (1) Drigung (‘Bri-khung) Kagyu mahamudra, (2) Taglung (sTag-lung) Kagyu mahamudra, (3) Chen-nga (sPyan-snga) Kagyu, (4) Mar-yey (dMar-ye) Kagyu, (5) Shugseywa (Shug-se-ba) Kagyu, (6) Tropu (Khro-phu) Kagyu, (7) Yangzang (g.Yang-bzang) Kagyu, and (8) Drugpa (‘Brug-pa) Kagyu, through the lineage of Ling-raypa (Gling Ras-pa), Gya-raypa (rGya Ras-pa), and so on.
But in particular there is the especially distinguished Karma Kamtsang (Kar-ma kam-tshang) mahamudra, which has the undissipated warmth of inspiration from the unbroken lineage deriving from Gampopa through (his direct disciple, the First Karmapa) Dusum-kyenpa (Dus-gsum mkhyen-pa) down to my guru, the omniscient (Fifth Zhamar Rinpoche) Konchog-yan-lag (Zhva-dmar dKon-mchog yan-lag), as well as the undissipated warm moisture of the breath of the dakinis. Since (this tradition) known as “mahamudra simultaneously arisen as merged” has a lineage that mixes into one the transmissions of all the mahamudra (lineages) that have spread out in multitude and is the source of all good qualities, it is famed in the world like the sun and the moon. Therefore, since, if you have practiced it like pressing a rock against a broken bone to set it, it is decided for sure that you will develop boon experiences and stable realizations, without the power (to hold them back), practice like that.
(That is) the seventh point (for enhancing your progress).

Author’s Colophon

Samdey Lama Samten-kunga (bSam-sde Bla-ma bSam-gtan kun-dga’) has insistently entreated me with these words, “Please indicate (the mahamudra teachings) here by taking as the main thing getting to know, face to face, (the essential nature of the mind), pointing a finger directly at the practice, without doing anything (further) such as quoting scriptural sources and the like.” Because of that, then although I have no experience myself, I Mipam-chowang (Mi-pham chos-dbang) or Vajreshvara (the Ninth Karmapa Wangchug dorjey, Karma-pa dBang-phyug rdo-rje), have dutifully written this during my meditation sessions at Zhoka-or House (Zho-kha ‘or-gyi khang-pa) in accordance with the words of the previous gurus. It has twenty, twenty-two, or twenty-five meditation topics.
By the positive force of this, may I and all other motherly limited beings, by having turned sincerely away from clinging to the desirable objects of the senses, see the essential nature of the mind.
Shubham astu sarvajagatam, may all the world be pure.
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