Mahamudra and Yogacara

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Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 22, 2013 2:55 pm

Here it is shown how the practice of Mahamudra and Yogacara match:

Maitreya's Dharmadharmatavibhaga:

"The comprehension of the correct
Yogic practice in four points
Is the yogic practice of observation,
The yogic practice of nonobservation,
The yogic practice of the nonobservation of observation,
And the yogic practice of the observation of nonobservation."

(Karl Brünnholzl: Mining for Wisdom within Delusion, p 167)

Rangjung Dorje's Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer:

"When observing objects, they are seen to be the mind,
devoid of objects.
When observing the mind, there is no mind, as it is empty of an entity.
When observing both, dualistic fixation is spontaneously freed.
May we realize the natural state of the luminous mind."

(Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche: Song of Karmapa, p 14)

Go Lotsawa's Commentary on The Distinction between Phenomena and the Nature of Phenomena:

"You may wonder, "Such is certainly the case, but if one holds that this text of the Bhagavan Maitreya is also a text of what is known as the yogas of Mahamudra, do the four yogas of this [Mahamudra] fit with those [four yogic practices in the Dharmadharmatiivibhaga]?" They do fit very well. The first [Mahamudra yoga] is to look inside and then to focus on [everything being] one's own mind. As for the explanation [in] the second [yogic practice] that there is nothing external, it is the [Mahamudra yoga of] freedom from reference points in which one realizes that all phenomena that are objects of the mind lack any basis or root. The realization that both what appears as [if] external and the inner mind free from reference points are of one taste is the yogic practice of the nonobservation of observation. To not meditate through deliberately focusing on even the nonduality of subject and object is called "nonmeditation," which is the fourth [Mahamudra] yoga."
(Mining for Wisdom within Delusion, p 320)

Do you know of other correlations?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:25 pm

Which Yogacara? The one that posits an existent "mind?" Or later interpretations? :smile:

That's an interesting "take" on the Four Yogas by Go Lotsawa, I'd not seen that before! Thanks.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 22, 2013 4:38 pm

conebeckham wrote:Which Yogacara? The one that posits an existent "mind?" Or later interpretations? :smile:


Which Yogacara posits an existent mind? It seems to me that only Tibetan apologetics invented that. Vasubandhu certainly did not.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Mon Jul 22, 2013 6:05 pm

Astus wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Which Yogacara? The one that posits an existent "mind?" Or later interpretations? :smile:


Which Yogacara posits an existent mind? It seems to me that only Tibetan apologetics invented that. Vasubandhu certainly did not.

Yogacara is the "Mind Only" school. I do not know of a variant that does not posit the existence of Mind, unless you mean "Absolute Yogacara", which is a Gelug pejorative for Shentong. Shentong does not posit an existent Mind, but they do posit something else.

However my information comes from Tibetan sources, so I don't know the history in India. These things do evolve over time.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Mon Jul 22, 2013 8:09 pm

smcj wrote:Yogacara is the "Mind Only" school. I do not know of a variant that does not posit the existence of Mind, unless you mean "Absolute Yogacara", which is a Gelug pejorative for Shentong. Shentong does not posit an existent Mind, but they do posit something else.
However my information comes from Tibetan sources, so I don't know the history in India. These things do evolve over time.


This is a useful summary by Dan Lusthaus: What is and isn't Yogācāra.

Mahayanasutralamkara, ch. 6:

"Realizing intellectually that there is nothing apart from mind, she understands then that mind (itself) has no (ultimate) existence. Understanding that duality has no existence, such a genius dwells in the ultimate realm which has no (duality)."
(tr. from "The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature", p 52)

28th verse of Vasubandhu's Trimsika:

One does abide in the realization
Of mere [representation of] consciousness
When one does not perceive also a supporting consciousness,
For, the graspable objects being absent,
There cannot either be the grasping of that,
[Namely, the grasping of the supporting consciousness].

(tr. T.A. Kochumuttom in "A Buddhist Doctrine of Experience", p 258-259)

When consciousness itself
Does not observe any focal object,
It rests in the very being of mere consciousness
Since there is no apprehender without something apprehended.

(tr. K. Brunnholzl in "Mining for Wisdom within Delusion", p 262)

When in perceiving the sphere of objects, wisdom (jnana) no longer conceives any idea of object, then that wisdom is in the state of vijnaptimatrata. Because both the object to be grasped and the act of grasping by consciousness are not there.
(tr. Swati Ganguly in "Treatise in Thirty Verses on Mere-consciousness", p 130)

Mahayanasamgraha, ch. 3:

"When the mind encounters these objects, its knowledge of the rope is also negated. When with a parallel insight one eradicates the apparent names and objects that appear in these six images, then discriminative, defiled understanding in mental words will no longer arise, just as in the knowledge of the snake. In suppressing objectivity in these six images, just as was the case with the knowledge of the rope, by relying on the wisdom of suchness, the understanding of conscious construction only itself can be rejected.
In this fashion, in understanding that the images discriminated by the mental words appear as objective, the bodhisattva fully understands the imagined pattern. In understanding the meaning of conscious construction only, he fully understands the other-dependent pattern. But how does he understand the reality pattern?
By abandoning any idea about conscious construction only! At that moment the bodhisattva clearly understands the imagining of mental words, which long since had been yoked to the permeations of hearing doctrine, and he suppresses any idea of their correspondence with the external world. These [ideas] no longer arise because their apparent objective status no longer has any cause and thus they do not even arise as an imagining of the mental words of conscious construction only. This implies that the bodhisattva dwells only in non-imagination in regard to all objects and names, and in virtue of non-imaginative wisdom he realizes and abides in the Reality Realm of suchness. He then enters the reality pattern because of the arising of non-imaginative wisdom wherein subject and object are entirely identical."

(tr. J. P. Keenan in "The Summary of the Great Vehicle" p 64)
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Mon Jul 22, 2013 9:58 pm

Here it is shown how the practice of Mahamudra and Yogacara match:

Mahamudra isn't married to any one perspective. I know western practitioners that have never heard a word about the various philosophical schools on emptiness. Their teachers didn't tell them about it because they didn't need to hear about it in order to do the practice. Gelugpas also practice Mahamudra, but only accept the Prasangika Madhyamaka as definitive. Their practices work just fine.

But in any case it is fun to talk about on the internet.

As a self professed pseudo-intellectual, I prefer to find a good synopsis by a reliable source rather than wade through the volumes of literature. Since I'm a Kagyu, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's "Progressive Stages of Mediation on Emptiness" works just fine. He goes through all the major perspectives: Shravaka, Cittamatra, Svatantrika, Prasangika, & Shentong. In the chapter on Cittamtra (a.k.a. Yogacara) he says:

"Mind is empty of such a distinction between itself and what is other to it. If the meditator were to rest his mind in its own nature and see this emptiness, then all confusion would disappear and the mind would be bright and clear and self-aware. This mind is called the self-illuminating, self-aware mind (Tib. shes pa rang rig rang gsal). It is called this because it is the mind experiencing itself (Tib. rang gis rang myongs ba).

As we shall see, the Madhyamikas do not accept such a mind..."

..and so on. But admittedly this is a modern day perspective on the school.

Historically in the Karma Kagyu camp, some incarnations of the Karmapa are Madhyamikas, some and some Shengtongpas. The Mahamudra doesn't change though. The practice is not dependent on the philosophical perspective, which is in always said to be an attempt to articulate the ineffable anyway. And, as Khenpo Tsultrim points out, all Mahayana schools claim to be able to sit in uncontrived emptiness, regardless or their articulation of what that is supposed to be.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Jinzang » Tue Jul 23, 2013 2:04 am

The late Traleg Rinpoche wrote a book on the Influence of Yogacara on Mahamudra. I haven't read it, but his other stuff is quite good,.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Tue Jul 23, 2013 3:01 am

Jinzang wrote:The late Traleg Rinpoche wrote a book on the Influence of Yogacara on Mahamudra. I haven't read it, but his other stuff is quite good,.

Thanks for the tip. That link has an excerp that pertains to this discussion quite strongly. I'd copy & paste, but that might be a no-no.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Tue Jul 23, 2013 9:24 am

smcj wrote:Mahamudra isn't married to any one perspective.


True. But if you look at the initial post, it shows how a Yogacara practice - the four yogas - is actually identical to a Mahamudra method, stage by stage. And this is not only something I have noticed, but so did old masters like Go Lotsawa.

Since I'm a Kagyu, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso's "Progressive Stages of Mediation on Emptiness" works just fine.


If you use a source that emphasises a different perspective you cannot learn the actual teachings of another school. You have to look at the authentic teachers of Yogacara to see what they say. It's just like reading a Theosophist or a Muslim writer in order to learn Buddhism - it is inevitable that they don't present a correct view. Since the three quotes from fundamental Yogacara treatises contradict the idea that they teach some sort of substantial mind, that criticism does not stand.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:20 am

You have to look at the authentic teachers of Yogacara to see what they say. It's just like reading a Theosophist or a Muslim writer in order to learn Buddhism - it is inevitable that they don't present a correct view. Since the three quotes from fundamental Yogacara treatises contradict the idea that they teach some sort of substantial mind, that criticism does not stand.

Two of the quotes you gave were Brūnnholzl translations. The third is from a prayer by the IXth Karmapa who was I believe (my history is a little shakey here) not a Yogacarin but a Shengtopa. Khenpo Tsultrim is, among other things, Brūnnholzl's informant/instructor on these subjects. Within the Karma Kagyu camp KTGR is the go-to guy on this subject. All the major Kagyu writers in English use him as their source of information. Hookam got her PhD. from Oxford by studying with him. I'm sure that in order to get his Khenpo degree he not only is familiar with the texts quoted, but has them memorized, has debated their significance thoroughly, and has taught them extensively

I'll stick to KTGR's synopsis.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:54 am

smcj wrote:I'll stick to KTGR's synopsis.


When I said "authentic teachers of Yogacara" I meant those who uphold Yogacara as their primary doctrine and are regarded as Yogacara teachers. As for KTGR, when he talks about Shentong in that book, he identifies its source as the five treatises of Maitreya, and that includes the Dharmadharmatavibhaga where the four yogic practices are mentioned and then connected to the four yogas of Mahamudra by commentators. In Brünnholzl's Center of the Sunlit Sky he practically identifies Shentong as Yogacara, since it is based on Yogacara texts:

"There is no Shentong-Madhyamaka nor any need to make one up. The subdivision of Madhyamaka into "self-empty" and "other-empty" is obsolete. ... It is all the more inappropriate to wrongly subsime it - as many Tibetan doxographies do - under the questionable category of "Mere Mentalism" and thus regard it as inferior to Centrism. It would definitely contribute to the appreciation of this Yogacara system for what it is if it were called neither Mere Ment Mentalism nor Shentong but simply "the Yogacara System of Maitreya/Asanga" or "the lineage of vast activity."
(p 445)

Therefore, what is identified as Mind Only in KTGR's meditation book is only a lower stage to reach the correct understanding of actual Yogacara.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Tue Jul 23, 2013 5:12 pm

There is a "pith instruction" special lineage of Shentong which KTGR holds, and which is not really "Yogacara," as I understand it. I wonder how that fits in to the assertions being made?
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:30 pm

Cone, I was wondering when you'd join in. I'd hoped you had more background info to offer. In any case, nice to see you contributing.

Astus wrote:In Brünnholzl's Center of the Sunlit Sky he practically identifies Shentong as Yogacara, since it is based on Yogacara texts:

Yes, he does. It is a very unusual assertion. (Pg. 445 "Before I am excommunicated from the Kagyu lineage for making this statement, let me say that I am just... ) The only other place/person that makes that assertion to my knowledge is KTGR. Brunnholzl is, I believe, showing KTGR's influence in saying so.
"There is no Shentong-Madhyamaka nor any need to make one up. The subdivision of Madhyamaka into "self-empty" and "other-empty" is obsolete. ... It is all the more inappropriate to wrongly subsime it - as many Tibetan doxographies do - under the questionable category of "Mere Mentalism" and thus regard it as inferior to Centrism. It would definitely contribute to the appreciation of this Yogacara system for what it is if it were called neither Mere Ment Mentalism nor Shentong but simply "the Yogacara System of Maitreya/Asanga" or "the lineage of vast activity."
(p 445)

Therefore, what is identified as Mind Only in KTGR's meditation book is only a lower stage to reach the correct understanding of actual Yogacara.

Yes, in KTGR's book Mind Only is called Cittamatra. He reserves the term Yogacara as a synonym for Shentong. (see Pg. 8, "Progressive Stages...") Since this is an unusual usage of the term I deliberately decided to use the more standard Yogacara=Cittamatra=Mind Only definition in my previous post.

SO, evidently you are following KTGR's lead (via Brunnholzl) in using Yogacara as a synonym for Shentong. That's fine with me, but you should have made that clear at the outset.

I'm entering a busy phase, won't be able to post much for a while.
Last edited by smcj on Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jul 24, 2013 6:59 pm

smcj wrote:Cone, I was wondering when you'd join in. I'd hoped you had more background info to offer.


I love Brunnholzl's books...but there's only so much polemics I can take. In the end, it's all conceptual. I'm frankly more interested in practice. I have to admit that my "view" (tawa) has been greatly clarified by Brunnholzl's writing.


smjc wrote:
Astus wrote:In Brünnholzl's Center of the Sunlit Sky he practically identifies Shentong as Yogacara, since it is based on Yogacara texts:

Yes, he does. It is a very unusual assertion. (Pg. 445 "Before I am excommunicated from the Kagyu lineage for making this statement, let me say that I am just... ) The only other place/person that makes that assertion to my knowledge is KTGR. Brunnholzl is, I believe, showing KTGR's influence in saying so.
"There is no Shentong-Madhyamaka nor any need to make one up. The subdivision of Madhyamaka into "self-empty" and "other-empty" is obsolete. ... It is all the more inappropriate to wrongly subsime it - as many Tibetan doxographies do - under the questionable category of "Mere Mentalism" and thus regard it as inferior to Centrism. It would definitely contribute to the appreciation of this Yogacara system for what it is if it were called neither Mere Ment Mentalism nor Shentong but simply "the Yogacara System of Maitreya/Asanga" or "the lineage of vast activity."
(p 445)

Therefore, what is identified as Mind Only in KTGR's meditation book is only a lower stage to reach the correct understanding of actual Yogacara.

Yes, in KTGR's book Mind Only is called Cittamatra. He reserves the term Yogacara as a synonym for Shentong. (see Pg. 8, "Progressive Stages...") Since this is an unusual usage of the term I deliberately decided to use the more standard Yogacara=Cittamatra=Mind Only definition in my previous post.

SO, evidently you are following KTGR's lead (via Brunnholzl) in using Yogacara as a synonym for Shentong. That's fine with me, but you should have made that clear at the outset.

I'm entering a busy phase, won't be able to post much for a while.



A while back, we had a thread here about the Three Natures....can't find it now. But it was interesting--the question that was being addressed was whether Yogacara posited something as an absolute existent--and the assertion, if I recall, was that the dependent, purged of the imaginary, was the perfect nature...which would lead to the conclusion that the dependent "exists." I may be remebering this incorrectly....but for those of you interested in concepts and polemics, have at it....!!!
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:21 pm

Hi Cone, I added a line, "Nice to see you contributing", but you'd already seen and quoted me before the edit went into effect. I did not mean to sound rude.
...but for those of you interested in concepts and polemics, have at it....!!!

The internet isn't for practice. In fact, in my case, it is for wasting time to avoid practice. :toilet: But this stuff lends itself well to discussion, so as far as "waste of time" activities go, it is better that World of Warcraft!
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Wed Jul 24, 2013 7:33 pm

:smile:

No worries....I didn't think you were rude at all.

As I see it, Brunnholzl's stance is that Yogacara, at least as understood in Maitraya/Asanga's Five Treatises, does not postulate a "mind only" or what he calls "mere mentalist" position...he feels Yogacara does not assert an absolute existent phenomena ("mind"), but that it does assert a transcendent (beyond existence and nonexistence) Buddha Nature.

Malcolm had previously argued that Yogacara asserts that the dependent nature exists--but not in the way we "perceive it" (via the interaction of the imaginary nature). His position, and the position of most critics of Yogacara, in other words, is that it posits the Dependent Nature, purged of the Imaginary Nature, as the Perfect Nature. If this is true, does the Dependent Nature=Buddha Nature?

From the POV of Mahamudra, Does "Ordinary Mind" (in it's specific Mahamudra sense) equate to the Dependent nature?

There's some conceptual issues for us all to chew on, if we'd like.....this is the Internet, after all, as you note! :smile:
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Astus » Wed Jul 24, 2013 10:52 pm

I didn't mean this thread to slip into a debate about what is and what isn't Yogacara. I find it most fascinating that a primary Mahamudra method actually has a Yogacara source. So I'm interested if there are other things within the Mahamudra tradition that can be connected to Yogacara.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby In the bone yard » Sat Jul 27, 2013 10:01 pm

Hinayana
Mahayana
Vajrayana

Depth of realization:
Yogacara falls under Mahayana
Mahamudra falls under Vajrayana

There is only one path (through realization), so the Mahayana vehicle would have to encompass the Hinayana vehicle and the Vajrayana vehicle would have to encompasses both (or all).
If you can skip the Hinayana or Mahayana and go straight to Vajrayana then sign me up please! :jumping:
The more we try to learn the more complicated it becomes. It is a waste of time isn't it?
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Jinzang » Sun Jul 28, 2013 2:05 am

Astus wrote:I didn't mean this thread to slip into a debate about what is and what isn't Yogacara. I find it most fascinating that a primary Mahamudra method actually has a Yogacara source. So I'm interested if there are other things within the Mahamudra tradition that can be connected to Yogacara.


Kagyu mahamudra pracitioners almost always hold to the gzhan stong view, which is just another name for the Yogacara-Madhyamaka synthesis.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Sun Jul 28, 2013 4:49 pm

Actually, I think the majority of Kagyu Mahamudra practitioners don't really understand the subtle points of philosophy, nor do they need to.....Mahamudra is a practice tradition, essentially. They may say they are Shentong, but the formulation of any conceptual stance is not really beneficial to Mahamudra practice.

If we're talking conceptually, Shentong does indeed seem to support the "view" of Mahamudra to a great degree. But any philosophical view can be detrimental to practice, ultimately. (I said "Can Be"--it doesn't HAVE to be, but there are various types of people....) The main thing to understand about Shentong, therefore, is that what it is said to "posit" is actually transcendent and beyong the realm of intellect or conceptual grasping.

As I understand it, some Kagyupas espouse what they call a Rangtong view, others espouse a Shentong....but there are different interpretations of Shentong, as well. Brunnholzl walks you through the varieties....
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