Mahamudra and tantra

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Mahamudra and tantra

Postby wukong » Sat Oct 13, 2012 5:20 pm

Sorry if this is an old chestnut but....

Could anyone comment on the relationship between mahamudra and tantra? I couldn't find any useful threads on first glance.

I was wondering, is the insight aspect of mahamudra tantric or more akin to theravada vipassana?

Looking forward to your replies and help with this

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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:49 pm

In my opinion, Mahamudra is explicitly Tantric, despite my own school's "Sutra Mahamudra" categorization. I think Mahamudra is the realization of the ultimate, and also a name for the Ultimate State itself. It relies on a Guru, and Guru Yoga is the essential aspect, so it is by definition Tantric.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby Jinzang » Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:14 pm

Well, if mhamudra were a tantric path, they wouldn't use the term "sutra mahamudra." Actually, though mahamudra is taught in a tantric context, the view and practice are sutra.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:59 am

The view and practice are sutra in some sense....but also Tantra in some sense. "Introduction" is not a Sutra feature. And Sutra Mahamudra was a relatively new development, frankly---Gampopa's great kindness and his awareness of the need for skillful means should be praised.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:10 am

Mahamudra is the result of the completion stage.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:21 am

Jinzang wrote:Well, if mhamudra were a tantric path, they wouldn't use the term "sutra mahamudra." Actually, though mahamudra is taught in a tantric context, the view and practice are sutra.


The view of Mahamudra is upadesha. The practice is yoga of two stages. Co-Emergent Mahamudra is also tantric, primarily relying on instantaneous transformation as the deity and guru above the crown, along with Vajrasattva recitation and mandala offering. Sutra Mahamudra also utilizes the upadesha instructions, but relies on shyamatha and vipashyana from the sutra path, so it is also tantric in that the instructions come from the guru's experience lineage.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby viniketa » Sun Oct 14, 2012 2:06 am

Just a reference: Brown, Daniel, (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahāmudrā Tradition. I'm just finishing it. It seems a good overview of the Mahāmudrā tradition; I like the way in which the author places the tradition in the history of both Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and in the three major methods of practice: sūtra, tantra, & essence.

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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby mindyourmind » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:27 am

viniketa wrote:Just a reference: Brown, Daniel, (2006). Pointing Out the Great Way: The Stages of Meditation in the Mahāmudrā Tradition. I'm just finishing it. It seems a good overview of the Mahāmudrā tradition; I like the way in which the author places the tradition in the history of both Indian and Tibetan Buddhism and in the three major methods of practice: sūtra, tantra, & essence.

:namaste:


I'm still busy with that book. It's brilliant, an absolute practice manual.

It really should help the OP with the sutra / tantra question.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby MalaBeads » Sun Oct 14, 2012 12:14 pm

Hope this link works. It is an excellent talk by Daniel Brown who is, I agree, brilliant. The subject is Mahamudra but he covers other topics as well.


http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F% ... TVINiwRw3w
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby wukong » Sun Oct 14, 2012 1:47 pm

Hi folks, OP here. Just a big thankyou for your replies. Very useful. I will look up all the things yous suggested. It just goes to show how valuable a site like this is

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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby viniketa » Sun Oct 14, 2012 5:19 pm

MalaBeads wrote:Hope this link works. It is an excellent talk by Daniel Brown who is, I agree, brilliant. The subject is Mahamudra but he covers other topics as well.


http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F% ... TVINiwRw3w


Thank you for the link. Nice talk!

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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Oct 14, 2012 6:30 pm

The best text on this question is "Water Crystal," by HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:39 pm

"Mahamudra" is a multivalent term.
It can refer to the "Absolute State," it can refer to methods and techniques, and it can also refer to lineages.

Ultimately, Mahamudra is the Nature of Reality. It is that which is to be realized. In terms of concepts, there are myriad ways to explain or describe it, but they all fall short of the mark, as it's really about "experience." However, one can say it is "Emptiness/Appearance coemergent," or "Emptiness/Awareness coemergent," or "Emtpiness/Bliss coemergent"--these are all common conceptual descriptions. It's the Two Truths Inseperable of Madhyamika, it's the Freedom from Extremes, it's the Primordially Pure Basis, even.....the Dharmakaya, the Dharmadhatu, etc.

With regard to relation to Tantra, we really speak most often of Tantra as a "method," or group of techniques, or as a subset of Mahayana Buddhism. In that regard, the goal of all these techniques, collected under the two categories of creation and completion stage yogas, is the realization of Mahamudra. In Tantric terms, one hears of "Clear Light," "Unchanging/Immutable Bliss/Emptiness," and these are all related to the state of Mahamudra.

With regard to lineages, there are a large number of Mahamudra lineages, and they differ greatly in terms of the methods to be used. Deepbluehum's previous posts relate to the Drikung Fivefold Mahamudra tradition, mainly, which is a specific Tantric Path, and also to the Ganges Mahamudra of Tilopa, which is a source text dealing primarily with what is often called "Essence Mahamudra," though it also contains some references to Tantric methods. Some would say that Essence Mahamudra is actually a special form of Tantric Mahamudra, in fact. If one understands the ultimate meaning of "Tantra," this makes sense.

In the Karma Kagyu explanations, there is reference to three lineages or systems: Sutra Mahamudra, Tantra Mahamudra, and Essence Mahamudra. Much has been made of these divisions, and whether Sutra Mahamudra even "exists," as a genuine stand-alone tradition. In practice, it's pretty rare (non-existent?) to see these methods completely divorced from all traces of "Tantra," i.e., Guru Yoga, and Deity Yoga/The Two Stages, though there may be differences in emphasis and technique; it's taught that Samatha, Vipassana, and the combination of the two, together with instructions on the Nature of Mind, practiced in a gradual way, as a path, reflects "Sutra Mahamudra" and this tradition is attributed to Gampopa, as skillful means for those who did not have the aptitude or ability to practice the Two Stages. Essence Mahamudra is also rarely encountered as a "stand-alone" system, either--this is the method where, after the Pointing Out Instruction is successfully transmitted, the student maintains this awareness. In my experience, the Karma Kagyu teachers rely on a combination of all of thse methods and lineages, and it's my opinion that this reflects the forefather's methods as well--those of Saraha, Maitripa, as well as Tilopa and Naropa.

There are also various other presentations of Mahamudra--they are upadesha, and also technical explanations, but I think that they ultimately derive from, and point to, the Ultimate Meaning of Mahamudra.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:09 pm

From Water Crystal:

3.1 The Nature of Mahamudra:
Abiding nowhere, free from all characteristics, and pervading
everything, it is described as space, as Lord Matripa said:
"Mahamudra, that which is unified and
beyond the mind,
Is clear yet thoughtless, pervasive,
and vast like space.
[Its aspect] of great compassion
Is apparent yet devoid of any nature,

Manifesting clearly like the moon in water;
It is beyond all terms, boundaries or center.
Polluted by nothing, it is stainless
and beyond hope and fear.
It cannot be described,
like the dream of a mute."

The nature of mahamudra, which is thus described, is not
sullied by even the . tiniest hint of elaboration of reference points
and characteristics. It is the self-sprung natural mode of existence,
which is beyond the mind. It is the nature of great luminosity, the
innate natural state itself, in the nature of which flows the complete
intent of the definitive meaning of the sutras and tantras, [all] in
one flavor, like streams flowing into the ocean.

4. The Classification of Mahamudra:
4.1. Common
4.2. Uncommon
4.3. Special

4.1 The common [mahamudra] relates to the approach taken
in the sutras and tantras; as the Sagaramatiparipriccha-sutra (Sutra
Requested by Ocean of Wisdom) says,
"Ocean of Wisdom! All phenomena are impressed with the
seal of complete liberation; they are non-dual and utterly pure."
And, " .. .like the center of space, all phenomena lack diversity.
Therefore, all phenomena are impressed with the seal of equality."
It says in the Maitreavatarasutra, (Engaging Maitreya Sutra), "Noble
Son! All phenomena are [impressed with] the seal of emptiness."
Thus, fifteen types of seals are tnentioned there, and the Questions
of Gayanaganga Sutra mentions ten types of seals.

In the lower tantra division: the Manjushri Root Tantra labels
the gesture of the hands binding into a mudra as mahamudra. In
the Abhisambodhi of Vairochana the attributes of deities are labeled
as mahamudra.

In the higher tantra division: four factors are labeled
mudra: karmamudra, samayamudra, dharmamudra and
mahamudra. Apparently, there are many such [uses of the term]'
However, the conclusion is: It is shown in all sutras and tantras
that the essence of Tathagata exists, from primordial time,
inherently in the minds of sentient beings, and the nature of mind
is shown as luminosity. 'These [statements] and the like, wherein the
basic mode of existences is described, [indicate] the mahamudra of
the base.

As means to make manifest the essential element, there are
Dharma teachings that show freedom from elaborations, the variety
of emptiness, the lack of true existence of all phenomena, selflessness,
equality and unity; all these [indicate] the mahamudra of the
path.

All the teachings about awakening into the primordial wisdom
of omniscience, such as those on the four bodies, the five primordial
wisdoms, and the like, indicate the mahamudra of the result.

4.2 How the Uncommon Mahamudra is Taught:
In this context, the emptiness that is supreme in all aspects and the
unchangeable bliss becoming of one flavor is held to be mahamudra.
It is held that the unchangeable bliss in the quote, "Mahamudra
is unchangeable bliss," does not refer to the imputed primordial
wisdom, which is based on experiences derived from karmamudra
and jnanamudra, or the like. Rather, it is held to be the natural
co-emergent bliss, as taught very extensively in the Seven Sections
of Accomplishment (grub pa sde bdun) and the Indian Text on
Mahamudra (phyag chen rgya gzhung), among many others.

In conclusion, the tantras and the texts by the mahasiddhas
show the basic mode of existence of all phenomena: the natural
emptiness; the natural co-emergence; the equality; the unchangeable
bliss; the great bliss; the freedom from arising, ceasing and
abiding; and the profundity, peace, and non-elaboration. One
should know that all these show mahamudra.

4.3 The Special [Mahamudra]; the Short Path: In general,
the fully awakened teacher, the Conqueror, taught 84,000 heaps
of Dharma. In terms of the stages of their practical application,
each of them falls into one of three categories: the path based on
abandonment; the path based on transformation; the path based
on recognition.

The path based on abandonment refers to the Paramita approach,
in which the objects to be abandoned are abandoned by
regarding them and their antidotes as distinct from one another.
The path based on transformation refers to the Secret Mantra
approach, in which generating one's body in the form of a deity is
transforming the support, and taking the afflictive emotions as the
path is transforming the Dharma.

The path based on recognition refers to the mahamudra [approach],
in which there are no objects to be abandoned, no antidotes,
nothing to transform, and nothing that transforms. This
means that one attains buddhahood by recognizing and getting
used to the certainty that dharmakaya, the nature of mind which is
primordially birthless, is innately present within oneself. Therefore,
it is regarded as a short path, separate from the tantra as well as the
sutra, [path].

In some cases, it is also referred to as the path of blessing. It is
held that, without the necessity of depending on the paths of sutra
and tantra, liberation is attained through the single-sufficient path
of mahamudra when a guru who possesses realization transmits it
to a disciple who is fortunate and has given lip the activities of this life.

That is, as Hevajra says,
"Unspoken by others, the co-emergence
Cannot be found anywhere.
Be it known that it is [found]
By following the guru till the end,
And your own merits."

Moreover, [all of] the Conqueror's discourses, the sutras and
tantras in their entirety, were delivered as methods for realizing the
mode of existence, the suchness, of all phenomena. Ultimately, the
practice of mahamudra also culminates with this suchness, as Jowo
Je said,
"All the eighty thousand and
Four thousand heaps of Dharma,
Culminates into this suchness."
Also, the Great Brahman Saraha said,
" .... it is reading and it is also concentrating and meditating,
It is also knowing the commentaries by heart."

The Utterly Non-abiding Tantra says,
"Once one eats the food of uncreated
absolute nature,
It provides the satisfactions of all
tenet systems without exception.
Not realizing this, the childish ones
rely on terms and words.
Everything is characterized by
one's own mind."

Hevajra says,
"It is mantra recitation, it is austerity
and it is the generosity of burnt offerings.
It is those beings in the mandala,
and it is the mandala;
In brief, everything is
a reflection contained within the mind."


This is a definitive telling of the Dakpo Kagyu Tradition by HH Drikung Chetsang Rinpoche
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:52 pm

Those words accord with the presentations I've heard--the Nature of Mahamudra being the Ultimate, and the three "classifications" correspond as well:

Common=Sutra
Uncommon=Tantra
Special=Essence
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby viniketa » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:08 pm

conebeckham wrote:Those words accord with the presentations I've heard--the Nature of Mahamudra being the Ultimate, and the three "classifications" correspond as well:

Common=Sutra
Uncommon=Tantra
Special=Essence



I've just begun investigating Mahāmudrā, but conbeckham's two posts are very much in line with what Ive read, to date. In reading the Brown book I mentioned, his own lineage is "essence", but he emphasizes that there are elements of each in practice.

This is likely true of any "essence" approach, is it not? One doesn't receive a "pointing out" or "direct transmission" and become instantly "enlightened", capable of handling all life throws at one with perfect grace and equanimity. This still takes study and practice. If "sutra" is the "gradual" path, "essence" is the "steep" path...

Please correct me if I am mistaken.

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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:38 pm

viniketa wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Those words accord with the presentations I've heard--the Nature of Mahamudra being the Ultimate, and the three "classifications" correspond as well:

Common=Sutra
Uncommon=Tantra
Special=Essence



I've just begun investigating Mahāmudrā, but conbeckham's two posts are very much in line with what Ive read, to date. In reading the Brown book I mentioned, his own lineage is "essence", but he emphasizes that there are elements of each in practice.

This is likely true of any "essence" approach, is it not? One doesn't receive a "pointing out" or "direct transmission" and become instantly "enlightened", capable of handling all life throws at one with perfect grace and equanimity. This still takes study and practice. If "sutra" is the "gradual" path, "essence" is the "steep" path...

Please correct me if I am mistaken.

:namaste:


Garchen Rinpoche give Ganga Mahamudra transmission which is a direct pointing to the nature of clarity-emptiness as the base, path and fruit, also called by Gampopa, "the single white remedy." Due to the this master's great realization, it is possible to receive swift blessings and direct realization of the natural state within the confines of the transmission. As Gongchig states, "A great master can draw realization out of a student quickly." He recommends using the Ganga Mahamudra as a supreme daily recitation to support the practice. In the Kagyu lineage, strict lines between classes of teachings are purposely blurred, due the the "Single Vision" view of the three yanas shared by all Kagyu Schools. So that even though you might thing of your practice as Essence, you will still regularly gather the two gatherings, transform dharmas, take vows, etc., because, for example, "the essence of the vow is imperceptible form." This is how Kagyu works.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:28 pm

I'm in agreement with DeepblueHum's comments....

The way it is explained, in Karma Kagyu at least, is that the actual Essence Mahamudra practitioner is super-rare. Mr. Brown can call himself one, but I note his CV refers to detailed study of, for example, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal's "Moonbeams" and 9th Karmapa's "Ocean of Certainty," both of which outline, mainly, "sutra-style path." And yet, I think aspiration, and devotion, are keys to grasping the Esssence, and those things rely on merit.....in a sense, the Essence Instructions can be taken as sort of "kernel" that is included in most presentations of Mahamudra. It may be the Ganges Mahamudra, or it may be Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, or it may be Niguma's Mahamudra of the Amulet, but the general presentation includes gradual presentations in this day and age as well.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:32 pm

Yes. According to Gongchig, Buddhahood is only realized gradually. Even if one trains according to the single white remedy, one "gets used to" realization gradually. And that implies many more instructions and practices along the way.
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Re: Mahamudra and tantra

Postby conebeckham » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:43 pm

From my personal point of view, and with the caveat, that this is not expressed as any official position of anyone who actually can teach such things--I think there's a difference between realization of the nature, and "abiding" in the nature, and being fully integrated with the nature. I believe that Essence Mahamudra is about sudden "realization," but not sudden and complete abiding or integration.

But I also think there may have been supreme beings, in the past, who may have experienced completion simultaneous with the initial realization. That, at least, is a theoretical possibility in my mind. Some stories of Mahasiddhas bear that out.
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