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The Practice Of The

Co-Emergent Mahamudra





The Practice Of The

Co-Emergent Mahamudra

Essence of the Mahamudra






Copyright © 1983, 1991 Great Matter Publications 240 Daly Avenue

Ottawa, ON

K1N 6G2

roshi 7

Yoga of the Co-emergent Mahamudra


By Padma Karpo Ngawang Norbu translated by Sherap Randrol Yeshe Dorje

I prostrate to the precious lineage of the Drukpa Kagyu. This manual of the “Yoga of the Co-emergent Mahamudra “, intended for placing the usual mind of the practitioner face to face with stainless Primordial Awareness 1 , consists of: the preparatory instructions, the essential subject matter, and the conclusion.


The preparatory instructions are both general and specific. The general instructions, which are the starting point, are made clear elsewhere 2 . For the specific instructions, which follow, the basis is refuge and bodhicitta and lead up to guru yoga 3 .

Then, as it is written in the Realizing of Vairochana:

“Straighten the body and assume the vajra-asana; one-pointed mind is the (basis of) the Mahamudra.” Placing the feet in the vajra-asana 4 , rest the hands level and balanced below the navel. Straightening the spine, release the diaphragm and relax the shoulders. Hook the neck in so that the chin touches the knot 5 . Place the tongue against the palate. Usually intelligence is controlled by the senses, primarily vision. Without winking or shifting, place the gaze to the distance of a yoke.


These are called the “seven points of Vairochana”. They constitute the fivefold method of taming the mind through physical means. The vajra-asana regulates the downward-moving wind 6 . The mudra held by the hands regulates the equalizing wind 7 . Straightening the spine and releasing the diaphragm regulates the pervading wind 8 . Bending the neck regulates the upward-moving wind 9 . Placing the tongue against the palate and placing the gaze cause the life- sustaining wind 10 to enter the central channel. When the five winds have entered the central channel 11 , the other branch winds 12 also enter into it, and so dawns the wisdom of non-thought 13 also known as bodily tranquility, stopping the body, or the body resting naturally in its own state. Keeping silence after exhaling dead breath is called the resting or stopping of speech, or speech resting in its natural state. Don’t think about the past. Don’t think about the future. Don’t think that you are practicing meditation. Don’t hold to a view of the openness of all that is 14 as “nothingness”. At this point do not analyse any of the sensory impressions and say that “it is” or “it is not”. At least for a little while, practice completely, keeping the body as calm as a sleeping infant, resting the mind in its natural state. It is said:

“Completely refrain from fabricating thoughts and images, maintain the bodily calm of a sleeping infant, endeavour humbly and rigorously to follow the authentic instructions of the teacher, and without doubt the Co-emergent 15 condition will dawn.” Tilopa 16 has said:

“Do not imagine, do not think, do not analyse, do not meditate, do not reflect; rest the mind in its own place.” The Lord of Dharma Gampopa has said:

“Undistractedness is the path followed by all the Buddhas.” This is called taming the mind 17 , stopping the mind, or the mind resting in its own place. Nagarjuna has said:

“O noble one, the Four Foundations is clearly the only path travelled by the Sugatas. Therefore, keep strong mindfullness at all times for carelessness here leaves all practice fruitless.”


The mental state of mindfulness is nondistraction. It has been defined in the Abhidharma as “mindfulness is complete familiarity with the object of practice”.


This has two sections: the ordinary practices and the extra-ordinary practices. The ordinary practice has two parts:

1) Seeking experience of the natural state, which is the root of meditation through the yoga of one-pointedness 18 ; 2) Examining the the actual nature of the “moving” and the “still” 19 through practice of the yoga of non-fabrication 20 , thus realizing the mind liberated from the round of conditioned experience 21 .


Seeking experience of the natural state which is the root of meditation through the yoga of one-pointedness.

This has two parts: practicing with or without a support. If a support is used, it may be a breathing or a non-breathing object. Two classes of non-breathing objects are described: ordinary objects such as a ball or a small piece of wood; sacred objects like the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. The method of using an object of the first class, that is, an ordinary object like a small ball or a piece of wood follows: Place the ball or stick before you as an object upon which to train the mind. Do not allow the mind to either wander or to identify, just fix your gaze upon it one-pointedly. Meditate upon your teacher as being upon the crown of your head. View him as being in reality Buddha. Supplicate him using the Manam-khama verse 22 . “Grant your blessings so that I may attain the Mahamudra.” Then, having requested blessings, absorb them into yourself and think that your mind is mixed inseperably with Primordial Awareness 23 . Remain in this state of union as long as is possible.


Report to your guru whatever experiences that the mind has from moment to moment and then continue practicing. If the mind is dull, raise your gaze or meditate in a place with a wide, open view of the country. If the mind is sluggish, make use of this technique and train it with undistracted application. If the mind is wandering, sit within the hermitage, lower the gaze and make calm-abiding the principal aim. The second class of non-breathing objects are representations of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. For the body: a rupa 24 ; for the speech:

syllables 25 ; for the mind: a bija 26 . In using the first of these, the bodily form, one may have either a rupa or a thangka 27 , or simply visualize the form of the Buddha as golden, endowed with the major and minor marks, radiant, in the three robes of a bhikksu, appearing steadily before you. In using the second of these objects, a syllable as symbolizing speech, visualize before you a moon disc the size of a thumbnail and upon it HUM as if drawn with a single hair. In using the third of these objects, a bija symbolizing the mind, visualize a seed shaped like an egg at about the size of a pea, radiant, marvellous to behold, and place your concentration upon it. In the second method, using the breath as object, there are the techniques of vajra-recitation and the vase breath. The first, using the vajra-recitation 28 , is: Maintaining bodily and mental calming, concentrate upon each inhalation and exhalation, excluding all else. Count from “one” and “two” up to twenty-one thousand and six hundred cycles. This will allow you to attain clear knowledge of the number of inhalations and exhalations (that occur each day). Next, notice when the breath begins and how it enters. Consider whether the breath enters at more than one point. As a result of these practices the mind will follow the entering and leaving of the breath and you will become well acquainted with the nature of respiration. Then, keeping the mind in close observation upon the respiration, observe the breath at the tip of the nose to the bottom of the lungs, how it comes in and how long it is held. Through this practice you will come to know, as they are, the colour 29 , the duration and the pause between each breath. Then observing the five elements 30 , each as it is, unmixed, the increase or decrease of the number of inhalations or exhalations is to be noticed. Now by visualizing each inhalation as a white OM, the pause between as


a red AH, and each exhalation as a blue HUM 31 , you come to know the time required for each part of the cycle. Next, to practice the vase breath, expel the dead air from within in three exhalations. Gently inhale the outer air through the nostrils. Draw up the vase and retain the air as long as possible. Due to the power of these practices, that which is called mind, so out of control, is tamed because its mount of wind is so tamed.

Practicing the second method of resting the mind in which no supports are used.

This has three parts:

1) Instantaneously cutting off sudden arisals, 2) leaving as it is whatever dawns, 3) and the essential point of letting the mind rest in its own place.

Cutting off sudden arisals at the root is practiced as follows: If having practiced as previously explained, when one finds that mind follows discursive thoughts after noticing an object, restrain them with alertness knowing that to avoid further propagation one should not allow another single thought to arise. Thus continue to practice, cutting off proliferations of arisals the very moment they arise 32 . Extend the length of time in which you continue to apply this method. Discursive arisals will increase, one upon the next, until they seem to be a continuous stream. This is “recognizing discursive thoughts” which is like “knowing the enemy” and is called the first stage of taming which is like a point from which one watches a “waterfall crashing down over jagged rocks”. Once the mind abides for even a single moment, the arising and falling of discursive thought is understood. This understanding however feels that discursive thoughts are increasing in number but this is not so. Discursive thoughts arise endlessly and are neither increasing nor decreasing. A discursive thought arises in one moment; the cessation between that and the next moment is Dharmata 33 .

Next, leaving as it is whatever thought dawns 34 , allow it to do as it does, neither falling into it nor attempting to stop it. Rest in this mind of watching and continue with your practice. Then arisals will cease to proliferate and the abiding in “one-pointedness of resting the mind” will occur. Thoughts will then just


suddenly appear and vanish like falling stars in the sky. 35 As you continue to practice, you will be able to abide longer and longer. This is called the “middle stage of taming”, likened to “a river calmly flowing”. The practice of abiding at ease 36 in this way “settles the sediment”. The Lord of Dharma 37 has said:

“Mind, if not contrived, becomes easy; water, if left undisturbed, becomes clear.” And the Lord of Yogins 38 has said:

“Resting in uncontrived freshness, realization dawns. Maintaining this like a river flows, completeness dawns. Completely give up fabricating and just rest in this, o yogin.” The Venerable Saraha sums up this twofold practice this way:

“When bound, mind runs off in all directions; free it and it will abide in stability. I have come to realize that it is stubborn as a camel.” This explains the essence.

The third stage of letting the mind rest in its own place has two parts:

The first concerns resting the mind as carefully as a brahmin’s thread is spun, keeping a balance between tightening and loosening. In meditation too much tightening will cause the mind to spring away into thoughts. If there is too much looseness the mind falls into dullness. So keep it even. The beginner should first tighten through cutting off arisals and, when strained, should loosen by leaving whatever arises as non-fabrication. This method of alternating tightening and loosening has been explained through the brahmin’s thread and so has come to be known as “taming the mind like spinning a brahmin’s thread”. The second is resting the mind from discursiveness like cutting away the rope around a bundle of straw. This depends upon a complete resolve to maintain undistracted awareness. All of the previous antidotes have involved the arising of the discursive thought: “I must abandon discursiveness”. This is itself a thought. The cessation of discursiveness does not come about through this kind of antidote and so this “mindfulness pursuing from behind” is a stain of practice. Abandon this kind of mindfulness and rest self-settled in the stream of the natural state. This is known as “resting the mind free from activity like cutting the rope around a stook of straw”.


The third is resting like a small child gazing (at the frescoes) in a yidam shrine hall. By tying the elephant of mind to the pillar of mindfulness, the

winds are kept in their respective channels. Through this, there may arise experiences of hallucinations of emptiness like smoke 39 or ethereal shapes, bliss such that one almost swoons, floating in space and dissociation with body and mind in non-thought and so on. View these as neither good nor bad and so don’t inhibit or hold on to them as being meaningful. Not obstructing nor grasping at projections 40 is called “resting like a small child gazing in a yidam shrine hall”. The fourth is resting like an elephant pricked with thorns. When thoughts arise within abiding and the mindfulness of recognition of them arises simultaneously, then the antidote and that which is to be abandoned meet face to face and one discursive thought will not continue into another. When the antidote arises without having to produce it through effort, it is called “naturally-holding mindfulness” 41 . To rest without needing to prevent anything when sensing the movement of thoughts has been likened to “an elephant pricked by thorns”. This is the final stage of abiding and is compared to “a waveless ocean”. There are now still movements but these are recognized within the abiding. Since the mind has found its own condition of abiding within the movements, it is called “dropping the seperation between abiding and motion”. This is the self-recognition of one-pointedness. That which recognizes movement and stillness at this time is called the “vantage of mind appropriate to that” 42 , “self-cognizing intelligence” 43 , or “penetrating insight” 44 . As the Sutralankara


“When, in meditation, great pliancy of body and mind have been attained, that point is known as vantage of mind and investigation.”


The second part of the ordinary practices consists of investigating the true nature of the “moving” and the “still”. This is the yoga of simplicity 45 which leads to realizing the mind liberated from the round of conditioned experience.


This has three parts:

1) investigation of the “moving” and the “still” 2) realizing the mind liberated from samsara 3) the practice of the yoga of simplicity.

In the first practice of the investigation of the “moving” and the “still”, you must examine in this way. With the penetrating insight born through resting in non-thought look into:

What the true nature of the “still” is. How it remains “still”. How it “moves” from this “stillness”. When “moving” does it still have any of the qualities of this “stillness”? Is there any “moving” at all when one stays in the “stillness”? Is the “moving” other than the “still”? What is the true nature of the “moving”? How does the “moving” become the “still”? Thus you come to know that the “moving” is not other than the “still” and the “still” is not other than the “moving”. If the true nature of the “moving” and the “still” is not discerned through this examination then you should look into: Whether the insight which is observing is other than the “moving” and the “still” or whether it is the very nature of the “moving” and the “still”. Investigating with self-cognizing intelligence, no thing can be found because the observer and the observed are found to be nondual 46 . The true nature of this inseperability is beyond cognition and so this stage is called “the view 47 beyond mind” and also “the view beyond concept”. Gyalwa Wangpo has said:

“Mind-made goals, no matter how noble, are all illusions. The suchness beyond concept is not a ‘goal’ because that which sees is inseperable from the seen. This is the instruction that teachers kindly offer to disciples.” The Pandit Shantideva has described this method of investigation:

“Dwelling in the state of samadhi without even a moment’s distraction apply sharp investigation to each mental event as it is.” The Kashyapa-paripriccha sutra tells the metaphor of fire and fuel:


“Rubbing one stick against another produces fire; through this both sticks are burnt away. In the same way penetrating insight is born from the union of the ‘moving’ and the ‘still’ and both are consumed by its birth.” This investigation through penetrating insight is called “the insight practice of the hermits”. It is not at all the same as the “analysis meditation” of the scholar because the scholar’s analysis concerns objects 48 .

The second practice of realizing the mind liberated from the round of conditioned experience is as follows: Do not avoid nor be overcome by whatever thoughts, concepts or obscurations of grasping arise. Allow whatever arises to be as it is without manipulating it. Recognize them at the point of their arising and continually do so and their actual nature will dawn through not avoiding them. Through this method whatever might appear to be an obstacle can be used as aids on the path. Thus, this method is known as “using obstacles as aids on the path”. Through this art of liberation through just recognizing thoughts, one gains understanding of the inseperable nature of the “avoider” and “that which would be avoided”. This is called “the essence of the practice of the sublime path”. From the understanding of liberation there arises deep compassion for the sentient beings who have not recognized the actual nature of their own minds. Although one always dedicates body, speech and mind to the benefit of all sentient beings, through investigation into the nature of things one’s view cannot be stained by self or other. This is like having the power to transmute and drink poisons. This practice is expressed in the line, “Whatever dawns on the path, may I neither avoid nor grasp”.

The third practice is the yoga of simplicity. This has three sections:

1) investigating the three times 2) investigating substance and without substance 3) investigating one or many.

The first, investigating the three times, shows that the past thought has vanished, the future thought has not yet arisen and has no existence, the


present thought cannot be held. Observing in this way, realize that all things have the same nature as the three times. All things are known only within knowing. The realization that arising, dwelling and decaying do not exist in themselves has been expressed by Saraha as:

“The arising of forms is skylike; leaving behind forms, what can arise? The natural condition is unborn and beginningless. Today this is realized by my teacher, the protector’s, demonstration.” Investigation will bear this out.

The second method is investigating substance and without substance is as follows:

Is the mind’s nature a substance? Or if it has no substance, does it exist? If it is a substance, what form does it have? What shape or colour is it? If it is just intelligence, is it impermanent like a thought? If it is without substance, how can it do anything? Who made it? If the mind were material, through investigating one would be able to find some substance but penetrating insight finds it to be something that cannot be labelled or classified as an object. Through this investigation it cannot be classified as without substance or non-existent. Since it is neither substance nor non-substance, it does not fall into either extreme. This is the Middle Way 49 . This conviction does not come from debate or logic but only from the teacher’s instructions which are like being shown a priceless jewel in the palm of the hand. Thus these instructions are also called “the great perfection”. There is the saying:

“When the teacher’s instructions have entered the heart, this is like finding a jewel in the palm of your hand.”

The third method is investigating one or many and is as follows:

Is Awareness one thing?


Or is it many? If it is just one, then how is it Aware in many ways? If it is many, how can this be since they are all Awareness? Looking into this, one finds the mind is not one or many. Since it is free from extremes it is the Mahamudra which abides nowhere. Resting in this samadhi, the practitioner realizes the penetrating insight of primordial intelligence. Nothing else arises. Thus the Mahamudra is “that which is without characteristics”.

Through these practices, all fixated beliefs are clarified and things are seen to be like a dream or a magician’s illusion. Thus it is said:

“Before, behind and in the ten directions, wherever I look I see only that. Today all illusions have ended and I need ask nothing of anyone.”

Next, the extra-ordinary practices has two parts:

1) the yoga of one taste 50 of knower and known 2) the yoga of non-meditation 51 which reveals primordial contact with the total field of events and meanings 52 through the Co-emergent stainlessness of Awareness.


The yoga of one taste is as follows: Using the example of sleep and dreams, recognize all things to be only knowing. Using the example of water and ice, recognize knower and known to be one taste. Using the example of water and waves, bring everything to their natural condition.

The first, recognizing all things to be only knowing through the example of sleep and dreams, is as follows: Whatever is experienced during sleep is not apart from mind. In the same way, the experiences of the waking state are the dreams of the sleep of ignorance 53 . Allow the mind to rest naturally as ideas, all “outer” experiences and one’s own mind arise and realize them as inseperable, transmuting them into one taste.


The Lord of Yogins 54 has said:

“Last nights dream in which knower and known were one was the teacher. Didn’t you understand?” It has also been said:

“Transmute the three worlds, leaving nothing behind, into the essence of great bliss.”

The second practice, of the sameness 55 of knower and known using the example of water and ice, is as follows: Since whatever arises has no nature of its own, they are all transparent 56 . Each thing arises along with everything else. Thus knower and known are of one taste, like water and ice. Whether one says bliss and shunyata, luminosity and shunyata, wisdom and shunyata, these three pairs are the same. It has been said:

“If you fully understand, all things are that; you can’t find anything but that. Hearing, contemplating and meditating, there is just that.”

The third, bringing all things to their natural condition using the example of water and waves, is as follows: Just as waves arise from water, all experiences arise from Awareness, which has the nature of tracelessness. Saraha said:

“As all is born of Awareness, Awareness is itself the teacher.” This teaching is called the “one truth pervading the realm of reality” 57 and as “one pervading all”. The practitioner who has mastered it realizes the tracelessness of all states as the fruition.


Next is the yoga of nonmeditation which reveals the Dharmakaya through the Co-ememergent purity of Awareness. When ignorance has been released, any effort to overcome it ceases and the path ends, the journey is


complete. This is the stage of “beyond learning” 58 which is the supreme fruition of the Mahamudra, passing beyond all suffering and delusion 59 into nonabiding. In the complete versions of The Transmutation 60 it says:

“This is the wisdom of Knowing in itself, it is beyond words and beyond fixation by mind. Tilopa has nothing else to say.

“Know all actions as the display of Knowing. Without imagining, without deliberating, without analysing, without meditating, without inspecting, just keep the mind in its natural state.”


The third part, the conclusion. This consists of:

1) recognizing the Mahamudra and coming face to face with it, 2) understanding obstacles and deviations on the path, 3) knowing the differences between experience, practical knowledge, and theory.

The first, recognizing the Mahamudra and coming face to face with it, is as follows: Establishing the foundation, bringing experience onto the path, differentiating the various experiences and the quality of intensity 61 and stages of the path, having knowledge of the fruition of these. These are the four classes of yogic attainment.

The second, understanding obstacles and deviations on the path, is as follows: The obstacles of appearances are clarified by knowing the inseperability of appearance and awareness. The obstacles of fixation on thought are clarified by knowing the inseperability of mental events and the Dharmakaya. The obstacles arising from grasping at the mind are clarified by knowing the nonduality of knower and known. The three deviations 62 arising from attachment to concentration are corrected by returning to the radical view.


The following four states are deviations from the path:

1) Deviating into voidness which is corrected by practicing transparency as compassion. 2) Deviating into closing off 63 which is corrected by realizing the actual nature of things as they are. 3) Deviating into applying antidotes which is corrected by realizing that the antidote is inseperable from the obstacle. 4) Deviating into the path (as search) which is corrected by realizing the co- emergence of the Mahamudra of fruition.

The third, knowing the differences between experience, practical knowledge and theory, is as follows: Intellectual comprehension of the actual nature of the mind through hearing and contemplating is theory. Understanding one taste is experience. Mastering it through nonfabrication is conviction. Complete knowing comes with complete realization.



1 Ye.shes in Tibetan, jnana in Sanskrit. Yeshe is primordially present and ever-fresh Awareness, the actual nature

of experiencing which displays itself as experiences.

2 These are teachings on the precious oppurtunity of being able to practice, impermanance and death, cause and

effect, the sufferings of samsara or conditioned experience.

3 All Tibetan practices occur in a liturical framework which provides an orientation to the practice which aids the

practitioner in standing free of self-obsession. Most basically this consists of dedicating oneself to the Three

Jewels through refuge, giving rise to compassionate concern for the liberation of all beings through arousing

bodhicitta, and opening oneself to the transmission of the teacher and the lineage through guru yoga because the

teacher is the beginning and the end of the path.

4 The vajra-asana is the name given in the Tibetan traditions to the padma-asana or lotus posture.

5 The adam

’s apple.

6 The downward-moving wind is located in the lower abdomen and circulates through the womb or the seminal

vesicle, the bladder, the thighs and so on. It involves the processes of urination, defecation and menstruation. It

is associated with the colour yellow, the element of earth, and the Buddha-aspect Ratnasambhava. When leaving

the nostrils it is exhaled from both forwards and horizontally with a heavy quality.

7 The equalizing wind is seated in the navel region. It circulates throughout the internal organs and the subsidiary

channels of the limbs. It is involved with digestion, seperating nutrients and so on. This is the wind used in the

dumo or chandali “heat yoga” practice. It

’s colour is greenish yellow, its element is air, and its Buddha-aspect is Amoghasiddhi. It is exhaled from the left

nostril and moves to the left and right from the edge of this nostril.

8 The pervading wind is seated in the crown of the head but circulates through both the upper and lower parts of

the body, especially the joints, and involves moving, stretching and contracting the limbs and opening and

closing the eyes and mouth. Its colour is blue, its element space, its Buddha-aspect is Vairochana. This breath is

exhaled only at the death of the organism. It is important in the Dzog-chen Long-de practices.

9 The upward-moving wind is seated in the centre of the chest and circulates throughout the throat and the mouth.

It involves speech, swallowing food and saliva and also the joints. Its colour is red, its element is fire and its

Buddha-aspect is Amitabha. It is exhaled from the right nostril, is forceful and drifts upwards.

10 The life-sustaining wind is seated in the heart and involves inhalation, exhalation, burping and so on, and is

vital for support of good health. This wind is extensively used in Vajrayana practices. Its colour is white, its

element is water, its Buddha-aspect is Akshobhya. It is exhaled from both nostrils and moves gently downwards.

11 In the Tibetan Vajrayana traditions this channel (nadi in Sanskrit, tsa in Tibetan) is said to run

from the tip of the sexual organ to the perineum and then from there run quite straight to the crown or fontanelle

and then bend down and terminate between the eyebrows. The Hakukaze Soto Zen lineage teaches that the


central channel completes itself by running through the frontal area of the body, describing a wheel, and that only subsidiary or branch channels are involved with the sexual organs.

12 The five branch winds branch off from the life-sustaining wind at the heart. They are: the moving wind (red, enables visual consciousness to move to visual objects), the intensely-moving wind (blue, enables auditory consciousness to move to sounds), the perfectly-moving wind (yellow, olfactory), the strongly-moving wind

(white, taste), the firmly-moving wind (green, tactile). None of these winds enter completely into the central channel except at the point of death.

13 At this point this term is used to indicate freedom from identification with thoughts or mental events.

14 in Tibetan, shunyata in Sanskrit. The term means “emptiness, openness, transparency” as the actual nature of all apperances.

15 Forms and their transparency, knower and known, arise together like sandalwood and its fragrance.

16 The Indian mahasiddha Tilopa (988-1069) was the founder of the Mahamudra which arose through his experience within the Sambhogakaya, the field of spontaneous activity of formless forms.

17 Shinay or zhi.gnas (Tibetan), shamatha (Sanskrit). In the Mahamudra and Mahasandhi traditions this term has

a different meaning than in the scriptural traditions in which it means “tranquilizing the mind” in order to develop concentration states. In the Mahamudra, shamatha is taming or calming the mind and then resting in the mind

’s nature of inner purity, calm and clarity.

18 Rtse.gchig.rnal. ’byor (Tibetan), ekagratayoga (Sanskrit)

19 The “moving” refers to the arising of discursive thoughts, feelings, perceptions and all mental events. The “still” refers to the clear and lucid quality of mind that is experienced through calm-abiding, either through concentration, or as resting in the quality of Knowing itself through continual mindfulness and investigation.

20 Rtse.gchig.rnal. ’byor (Tibetan), aprapanchayoga (Sanskrit)

21 Samsara.

22 Refuge in the Three Jewels and the Four Dharmas of Gampopa. The Four Dharmas are as follow:

“Grant your blessings so that my mind may be one with the Dharma.

Grant your blessings so that Dharma may progress along the path.

Grant your blessings so that the path may clarify confusion.


Grant your blessings so that confusion may dawn as wisdom.”

23 See note #1.

24 “Form”, a statue.

25 Although the text recommends “HUM” , the syllable for “mind”, the syllable “AH” for shunyata or others are often used.

26 A bija (Sanskrit) or thigle (Tibetan) is a “seed “ whose simple form represents awareness without fabrication.

27 A painting on a scroll.

28 “Recitation” refers here to silent counting.

29 The breath has the colour of space. Although it is present, it is subtle and invisible.

30 The five elements are: earth (solidity), water (cohesion), fire (heat), air (cooling), space (openness). This means to observe the complete process of bodymind as it relates to each moment of breath.

31 This is sometimes also called vajra-recitation.

32 In the period following the bare perception or cognition of a mental or sensory event there can be an upswelling of discursive thoughts. Recognizing that this can distort or cover over this moment of bare perception, turn this recognition directly to the thoughts themselves, aiming at the moment that they arise. Although one might not yet be able to actually perceive the actual arising moment, an attitude of looking to that moment is essential here. Through this the tendency to propagate thoughts will drop . If one finds oneself chasing after thoughts to “destroy” them, things have gotten out of hand and are too complex. Return to an attitude of watching the arising of the thoughts and “cutting” them through this alert watching.

33 A moment here has the meaning of a mind-moment, one sixtieth of the duration of a fingersnap. In the moment between one mental event and another there is a “shift” which the text points to as the place to glimpse the Actual Nature or Dharmata (Chos. nyid). This indicates that, although the text is primarily instructing in Sutrayana or “gradual” Mahamudra, the Essence Mahamudra (Nyingpo Chagchen) or the Direct Path is present as an undercurrent.


35 The line is literally: “Then again thoughts are apt to go khyur.khyur.” This is supposed to be the sound that a flashing meteor will make in the sky.

36 Bde (Tibetan), sukha (Sanskrit).

37 Gampopa (1079-1153).

38 Milarepa (1040-1123).

39 Bal.sogs.pai.ston.gzugs

40 Snang.wa

41 Dran.pas.ts ’


42 Manaskara in Sanskrit, can be translated literally as “mental orientation” but is rendered here as “vantage of mind”. This refers to a pervasive mental event which continually invokes attending to whatever presents itself.

43 Svasamvedana in Sanskrit, Rang.rig. in Tibetan.

44 Prajna or sherap is transcendent wisdom or radical insight which sees each detail clearly.

45 Or “non-elaboration” (spros.bral).

46 Observer and observed or knower and known both arise within knowing.

47 View here is lta.wa (drishti).

48 The lhag.thong (vipashyana) of the Mahamudra investigates the very functioning and activity of Awareness whereas the contemplations of the Abhidharma and of the Madhyamika only analyze objects of awareness.

49 Madhya-marga (Sanskrit)

50 Ro.chig.nal. ’byor.

51 ’byor.

52 Chos.kyu in Tibetan, Dharmakaya in Sanskrit. I have adopted Kennard Lipman ’s interesting translation in this case.

53 Avidya.

54 Milarepa.

55 Mnyan.

56 Shunyata.

57 Dharmadhatu

58 Buddhahood.

59 Dukkha.

60 By Naropa

61 There are four levels of intensity of the path of joining (gzugs.khams.kyi.gnas.ris.bzhi) : heat, summit, acceptance, supreme attribute. Heat (drod) is approaching the flame of radical insight through deepening taming and insight. Summit ( is going into radical insight into acceptance ( in which all experience is known to be workable. Supreme attribute (chos.mchog) is the peak of mundane experience and the stepping off point.

62 Attachment to thoughts and mental events, attachment to intellectual reflections on experiences, attachment to fixated concentration states.

63 Sealing the mind away from deepening realization by fixation on attainments.