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Esoteric Teachings of the Tibetan Tantra, by C.A. Musés, [1961], at

p. 291


By Garmapa Rinchen Dorje

With Commentary (in smaller type)

by the translator and

notes by the editor


I pray to the Guru, to the Yidam, and to those holy beings in the Mandala,
I pray to the Buddhas and to their Sons (Bodhisattvas) in the Three Times and in the Ten Directions,
Remember me, have compassion and pity on me,
Bless with accomplishment my wishes.

First, according to the traditions of Buddhist Tantric ritual, a supplication is offered to one's teacher (who is considered more important than the Buddhas), next to one's patron Buddha, then to the Darginis, Guardians, and other beings of the Mandala who grant protection and certain powers to the yogi. This supplication to the esoteric or Tantric lineage is followed by one to the esoteric lineage of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the past, present, and future, and in all directions of space.


The pure action of my body and my mind
My virtuous deeds and those of all sentient beings
Are like clear streams flowing from the Snow Mountain
  —devoid of the defilements of the Three Circles
May they flow freely into the great ocean—
  the ocean of the Buddha's Four Bodies.

p. 292

The pure action of body and mind and the virtuous deeds of sentient beings exist (pure in essence) only if one realizes that the action, the doer, and the receiver (The Three Circles) are alike empty and void. The unimpeded realization of this enables one to merge with (obtain) the Four Bodies of Buddha, or the three-in-one—the Dharmakaya, the Sambhogakaya, the Nirmanakaya, in the all-encompassing (Tantric) Body of Universal Essence.


Until I attain the Four Bodies of Buddha,
May even the name of Samsaric miseries and sins
Be unheard in all my future lives
While I enjoy the happy Dharma-Oceans.

It is a long journey from sentient being to Buddhahood. Even a diligent and well-gifted person, after strenuous efforts, may not attain Buddhahood in one lifetime, even though he depends on Mahamudra which is considered an "Abrupt" or "Sudden Enlightenment" teaching like that of Zen. Therefore, in Buddhist countries, people are made mindful of this and taught to pray for auspicious conditions and favorable environments in their future incarnations.


May faith, intelligence, diligence and leisure,
Good Gurus and the essential teachings come to me,
May I practice rightly without stumbling and hindrances—
The blessings of Dharma filling my future lives.

Mahamudra is not just philosophical. Without faith, intelligence, diligence, favorable environment, and skilled teachers there would be no base for its study and practice and no result for sentient beings still existing in the realm of causation.

p. 293


The Holy and Wisdom reckonings liberate me from ignorance
The pith-instructions destroy my dark doubts forever
Through the light from meditation, vividly and unmistakenly, I behold Reality
Increase, O Light of the Three Wisdoms!

Buddha taught that to judge rightly one should rely on the admonishments of the Sutras and on one's own innate reason (the Holy and Wisdom reckonings). By not leaning blindly on just one or the other, one is less likely to err.

Some doubts can be dispelled through intellectual reasoning, but more subtle and deeply intrenched doubts cannot be eliminated through reasoning or study of the Sutras. These can only be destroyed by the "pith-instructions"—the clear, precise, practical instructions given by one's own Guru.

The real nature of mind can best be compared to the transparent brightness of physical light. Here, however, the word "light" is also used in a symbolic aspect to refer to the experience of the Three Wisdoms of the Foundation (the undeveloped Buddha-nature in every sentient being), of the Path (the partially realized Buddha-nature from meditation practice), and of the Fruit (or full enlightenment).


The Root-Principle is the Two Truths—the absence of the concrete and the null views
The superb Path is the Provisions—without either the exaggerating or minimizing views
The Fruit is the Two Benefits of neither Nirvana or Saṃsara
In future life, may I meet such right teachings.

p. 294

These three terms—Root or Foundation, Path, and Fruit—are frequently used terms to explain the complete philosophy and procedure of Buddhism, though in Hinayana, general Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism the terms Root, Path, and Fruit are applied differently. Here, the author points out that the basis or "Root" of Mahamudra is the view which transcends Yes and No, which goes beyond the truth of either existence or non-existence. The Path of Mahamudra is knowing the mind in its essence without either adding or deducting anything to its original nature. The Fruit is Buddhahood, the realization which transcends the concepts of both Nirvana and Saṃsāra. This Fruit is expressed in the Two Benefits—blessings accruing to oneself and blessings bestowed on others.


The Essence of Mind is the Two-in-One—the void and radiant original source,
Mahamudra, the Diamond-Practice, is the Purifier
The Purified are the flickering and insubstantial Blindness and Defilements
May I attain the immaculate Dharmakaya, the purified Fruit.

Mahamudra is called the "Diamond-Practice" because it is held to be the strongest antidote for delusory thoughts and worldly desires. To the sentient beings the Blindness (ignorance) and Defilements (desires) appear real and substantial, but the enlightened being knows them as insubstantial and nonexistent.


The View of Mahamudra lies in neither adding nor deducting from the nature of mind
Being mindful of this, (the View) without distraction, is the root-action of Mahamudra
Of all meditations, this is the highest practice p. 295
Let me always find this right teaching of the View, Action, and Practice.

To understand the nature of mind is easy if one can recognize it without making any mental effort, and grasp it instantaneously as it is at this very moment. The practice of Mahamudra lies in the constant awareness of this view. Other teachings using visualization, mantras, and bodily and prana exercises must all employ effort and are With Form. Compared to them, the practice of Mahamudra, effortless and Without Form, is superb.


All Dharmas (manifestations) are the expression of mind
The mind is of no-mind—void in essence
Void, yet not extinct, it manifest all
Let me observe this essence, and retain this immutable view.

Dharma: In Buddhism "Dharma" has two meanings. It means "Doctrine" and is also a general term to include all "objects, manifestations, and existences".


In our confusion, we consider the self-manifestation (which never came into being) apparent in outer objects
In our blindness, we hold the self-awareness to be the real ego
Because of the Two Clingings, sentient beings wander in Saṃsara
May I cut this root of Confusion and Blindness.

Two Clingings: 1) The Clinging of Ego—clinging to the individual conditioned and continuously changing consciousness

p. 296

as the ego. 2) The Clinging of Dharma—clinging to objects and manifestations as real.


"Nothing really exists!" Buddha, himself, sees no existence
"All is not empty!" since the causes of Nirvana and Saṃsara exist
This, is the Middle Path of the Two-in-One, neither agreeing nor contradicting.
May I realize the discrimination-free Mind-essence.

One trying to understand Buddhism is often puzzled by its apparently contradictory statements such as, "Everything exists," "Nothing exists," "There is an ego," "There is no ego," "Meritorious deeds are beneficial," "Meritorious deeds do not exist." Such statements can be understood only if one learns to think from the standpoint of different categories of truth. For instance, in the Mundane category (or point-of-view) everything exists; but from the standpoint of Transcendental truth, nothing exists. * This distinction in Buddhist philosophy between the Mundane and Transcendental views must be kept in mind.

p. 297


No one can describe that by saying, "This is it!"
No one can deny that by saying, "This is not it!"
Such is the Non-created nature of Being which transcends the realm of Consciousness
May I attain, decisively, this uttermost truth.

Because "the Non-created nature of Being—Mind-essence" lies beyond the realm of words and thoughts, it is indescribable; therefore, it can neither be affirmed nor negated. Furthermore, this Mind-essence though beyond words and thought is, nevertheless, all-pervading. Since it embraces all, no one can deny it by saying of anything, "This is not the Mind-essence".


Ignorant of this, we drift in the ocean of Saṃsara
If one realizes this essence, there is no other Buddha
In the final truth, there is neither Yes nor No
May I realize the Dharma-nature—the principle of Alaya!

The cause of Saṃsara is the Blindness—the subject-object pattern of thought which does not exist in the dualistic-free Mind-essence. Enlightenment or the attainment of Buddhahood is nothing but the complete realization of this Mind-essence. The experience of the final realm of truth lies beyond the opposites and thoughts of Yes and No.


The manifestation is mind, the Voidness is also mind
The enlightenment is mind, and the Blindness is also mind p. 298
The springing of things is mind, and their extinction is also mind
May I understand that all Increasing and Decreasing inhere in mind.

All activities, existences, experiences, Sangsaric or Nirvanic, all stem from the mind. If one understands and realizes the mind, he understands and realizes all.

'Increasing' and 'Decreasing' here means the two opposites: the purity and defilement, the merits and sins, the enlightenment and blindness etc.


Unsullied by intentional practice or meditation-with-effort
Away from the Worldly-Wind of distraction
With no effort and correction, I rest comfortably on the natural state of mind
May I find the adroit and subtle teaching of Mind Practice.

The difference between Mahamudra and other types of meditation is that in Mahamudra no meditation-effort and no correction is employed; but in most other types of meditations such as visualizing a subject, holding the breath, meditating on love and divine mercy a mental effort is always required *,

p. 299

concentration—choosing one and rejecting the other—is always stressed, whereas in the practice of Mahamudra, no effort whatsoever is required. After one has realized the essence of mind, concentration or non-concentration, distracted thoughts and Samadhi all become Mahamudra itself. Though for the beginners of Mahamudra, the distractions are obstacles for their meditation, they still should not 'intentionally practice Mahamudra' or meditate Mahamudra with effort. Because any effort or intentional practice helps not but impedes the realization of Mind-Essence. Hence, to comfortably rest on "the awareness of mind" and observe it is the key-instruction of Mahamudra.


The waves of Thought-Flow—strong and weak, clear and dim—subside
Without disturbance the River-of-Consciousness flows naturally
Far from the mud of drowsiness and distraction
Let the steady and immutable Ocean of Samadhi, absorb me!

The chief difficulty for the meditator arises from the habitual flow-of-thought common to everyone and which, according to Buddhism, has had this characteristic flowing nature from the very no-beginning. Besides this uncontrollable and habitual thinking the two chief obstacles hindering the meditator are drowsiness and distraction. Only through the attaining of a steady Samadhi can these obstacles be overcome.

p. 300


Repeatedly contemplating the incontemplatable mind,
Clearly discerning the indiscernable meaning,
I forever eliminate the doubts of Yes and No
Let me surely behold my original face.

"Original face"—A symbolic term denotes the original Buddha-nature innate in every sentient being from the very no-beginning. It is interesting to note that this term, "Original face", is widely used in Chinese Zen as well as being found in the Mahamudra teaching of Tibet. [Here we have a fleeting reference to the all-important gotra concept. See our introduction. Ed.]


When I observe the (outer) objects, I find nothing but my own mind
When I observe my mind, I find nothing but the Voidness
Observing both mind and objects, free am I from the Two Clingings
Let me realize the true nature of the illuminating Mind-essence.

In the first step of Mahamudra practice, the yogi is taught to observe the outer objects and to keep on observing them. Continuing in this, he will come to the actual realization (not merely through belief or intellectual reasoning) that all objects are the phenomenal reflections of mind. Then he is taught to observe the mind, itself. From this continual observance, the yogi finally arrives at the realization that mind, itself, is merely voidness. When the yogi observes both mind and objects he is liberated from the Two Clingings—the Clinging of Ego which is the subjective-illusory conception of mind, and the Clinging of Dharma, which is the objective-delusory conception of mind. When one realizes the illuminating Mind-essence, one finds

p. 301

that neither ego nor objects exists. [The two-fold egolessness—of persons and of things—taught also in the Lankavatara Sutra, one of the texts basic to Mahamudra and Zen. Ed.]


Because that transcends the mind, it is called the Great Symbol
Because that frees from the extremes, it is called the Great Middle Way
Because that encompasses all and embrace all, it is called the Great Perfection
Let me understand that knowing one is knowing all.

The Great Symbol (Tib. Pyag Rgya Chen Po) literally means "The Great Hand-Seal," referring to the custom of ancient times when the Emperor signed imperial edicts with the print of his hand. Mahamudra is like the imperial law which was supreme in its own realm and came to be called "The Great Symbol," being acknowledged as the teaching which could not be violated and which surpassed all others.

Since Mind-essence is intrinsically apart from the subject-object pattern of thought, the teaching of realizing the Mind-essence is in this respect called the teaching of the Great Middle Way (Tib. Dwu Ma Chen Po). Since Mind-essence intrinsically encompasses all and its teaching is the consummation of all teachings, it is called the Great Perfection (Tib. Rdzogs Pa Chen Po). If one succeeds in practicing one teaching, no matter by what name it is called, he succeeds in realizing all.


With Clingings absent, the great bliss continuously arises
With no form to cling to, the radiant light outshines the dark hindrances p. 302
May I constantly practice the practice of no-effort—transcending mind
The natural and spontaneous Non-Discerning.

The sufferings and miseries of sentient beings are the result of 'tensions' which are originated from the 'fundamental tension'. Buddhism denominates this fundamental tension as 'clinging' (Tib. atsin Pa). If one can eliminate, or even subdue this Clinging to some extent, a great bliss or Nirvanic ecstasy will arise.

Hindrances cannot exist without being embodied in forms; therefore, if the yogi can realize in his Mahamudra meditation that no forms whatsoever exist at all, he automatically overcomes all hindrances.

Any effort, or intentional practice in Mahamudra meditation is redundant, useless, and even harmful since the Mind-Essence is ever-present and has always existed. The closest description one can give of the experience of the enlightenment mind is the feeling of a natural and spontaneous non-discriminating, subject-object-free awareness.


The craving for ecstasy and good experience in meditation naturally dissolves
The evil thoughts and blindness rest innately pure in Dharma-dhatu
In the "ordinary mind" there is no loss or gain, no claim or disclaim.
Away from words, let me realize the truth of Dharma Essence.

It is common for the yogi to cling to the rapture, brightness, and pleasant visions and feelings experienced during meditation-practice. Buddha, however, has warned that those who continue to crave such experiences cannot liberate themselves. In practicing Mahamudra rightly, the yogi will find his craving for such ecstasies diminish and finally dissolve.

p. 303

Dharma-dhatu may be translated as "the Universal Whole" in which evil thoughts and virtues, blindness and enlightenment are innately identical *.

There is a famous Zen story that once a monk asked the Zen master Chow Chu, "What is Tao (reality or path)?" The master answered, "The ordinary mind is Tao." This "ordinary mind" can be easily misunderstood as referring to the ignorant and illusory mind of the ordinary person. However, it really means the Mind-essence which the enlightened being sees and which is not a new mind or something which is different in essence from the common mind. The enlightened see mind as it is—natural, common, and intrinsic. In this sense, Mahamudra denotes the Mind-essence as "the ordinary mind" wherein one finds no loss or gain, no claim or disclaim, since it excludes all discriminations and includes all differentiations.

Before actually and directly realized the Mind-essence, whatever philosophy or theories one holds ("Reality is one," "Reality is two," "Truth is this or that") are nonsense like 'Playwords' of children. When one directly and actually realizes the Mind-essence, he reaches the world-beyond or the state called here "Away From Playwords."

p. 304


Not knowing their natures are identical with Buddha's
Sentient beings wander endlessly in Sangsara
To those misery-bound who have undergone endless sufferings
May I forever pity ["Succour" would be a better translation then the condescending "pity," we feel. Ed.] them with the unbearable great compassion!
May I forever pity them with the unbearable great compassion!


Right in that moment when the Great Compassion arises
Emerges nakedly and vividly the Great Voidness.
Let me always find this unmistakable Two-in-One Path
And practice it day and night.

The teaching of Buddhism on Great Voidness and Great Compassion is not rightly understood by most people. These two are, actually, one entity manifested in two aspects. But to the Sangsaric beings, these two are seemingly irreconcilable since in many characteristics they seem opposed, the wisdom seems 'cold' while the compassion is 'warm'; the Voidness has no object while the Compassion demands an object, etc. Only the Buddha and enlightened beings can merge the two, or, more accurately speaking, realize and unfold the identicalness and simultaneous-existing-nature of the two. Here the author points out that the unmistakable sign of the experience of the enlightened being is that during the moment of enlightenment, when the great Voidness is seen, the Great Compassion automatically arises, or, in some cases, a great and unbearable compassion, should it ever arise, will automatically bring forth the emergence of the Great Voidness.

[In this stanza is expressed the essence of the Buddhist Tantra: that the Śunya (or prajñā) and active Love (or vajra)

p. 305

must be and are forever joined at the heart of reality. Here is the true inner meaning of the profound Yab-Yum symbolism of the phrase "the jewel (or diamond, i.e. upāya, vajra) is in the lotus (padma, śunya, prajñā)." In the terms of the Hindu Tantra, with its emphasis on the formative center and energy, Śakta and Śakti are forever united in a not indistinct, but rather in a dynamic polar union. Ed.]


With meditation-produced clairvoyance and other miraculous powers
May I ripen all the sentient beings and adorn Buddha's Pure Land
May I fulfill the compassionate vows of all Buddhas
And eventually achieve the highest enlightenment and perfections.


The power of the compassion of Buddha
The power of the loving Bodhisattvas
The power of all virtues and good deeds
May I bind these powers into one great force
By which the pure vow of mine
And the benevolent wishes of others may be readily fulfilled!


296:* We most strongly disagree with the translation of the idea that there is nothing that is not Sūnyatā as "there is nothing that exists." Sūnyatā is by no means non-existence (see our comments on notes 55 and 96). Until this is clearly understood, Zen and Mahamudra will remain word-play, only sparkling but unenlightening. Without experienced knowledge of the nature of Sūnyatā no treatise on Mahamudra is very helpful, and with such experiences, such treatises are unnecessary except as confirmation. The transcendental view is not that "nothing exists," but rather that it is not true to say either "nothing exists" or "everything exists." The view that there is nothing that exists is the "Nihilistic Extreme" criticized in Tsong-kha-pa's text of Nāropā. See note 95 and the text of page 238. Ed.

298:* Here the translator is repeating, and we fear incorrectly, a conversation between himself and the editor, who pointed out to him that in the true meditation of love (not "on" love, as it is a meditation without seed) there is a spontaneous awakening and melting of Bodhi Heart, distinctively characterized by the fact that no mental effort is required. The translator, in saying here that mental effort is required in the love-meditation, evinces that he did not apprehend either the editor's meaning p. 299 or that meditation. Long before the Buddhist Mahāmudra sect, the Hindu Tantra and the higher yoga practice of Patanjali taught the effortless meditation—become part and parcel of spontaneous living—"without seed" or partaking of the nature of the unconditioned.

303:* Here we strongly disagree; Dharma-dhātu may not so be translated; defilements and the buddha-nature are not at all identical in the context of Dharma-dhātu, much less innately so. If they were, and hence if blindness and enlightenment were innately identical, there would be no point in either the translator's translation or comments, nor indeed in the existence of this or any other book. The expression of the matter by the translator tends to confusion. We would rather see it put that the essential Buddha-nature is the self-nature of all things, and constitutes the ultimate reality stripped of all manifestation, and even the ultimate substance of those manifestations we call evil or defilements. It is important to point out, however, that in the saṃsara, what is evil uses the innate nature parasitically, while what is good tends to increase the explicit manifestation (nirmanakāya forms) of the Buddha-nature.—Ed.

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