Introduction to Mahamudra: the Co-Emergent Unification
~ Drikung Kyopa Jigten Sumgon

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche gave teachings on the Drikung Kyopa Jigten Sumgon’s Introduction to Mahamudra, the Co-emergent Unification on April 16 and 17 2023.

The recordings of these precious teachings can be found @ H.E. Garchen Rinpoche Long Life Ceremony: Day 5 and Day 6 on Youtube.

Below is: Introduction to Mahamudra teachings (with transcription).

The teachings are from:

Long Life Ceremony for H.E. Garchen Rinpoche by Drikung Kagyu Lamas on April 16 and 17 2023

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche gave teachings on the Drikung Kyopa Jigten Sumgon’s Introduction to Mahamudra, the Co-emergent Unification

The recordings of these precious teachings can be found @ H.E. Garchen Rinpoche Long Life Ceremony: Day 5 and Day 6 on Youtube.

Links on YouTube as follows:

April 16

H.E. Garchen Rinpoche Long Life Ceremony: Day 5 AM Session 1 // Apr 16, 2023 // Drikung Kagyu Lamas – YouTube

April 17
H.E. Garchen Rinpoche Long Life Ceremony: Day 6 AM Session 1 // Apr 17, 2023 // Drikung Kagyu Lamas – YouTube

Teachings given by H.E Garchen Rinpoche, translated by Ina Bieler. May the blessings be endless!

*A transcription of the teachings can be found below.


Transcription for the purpose of study, reflection and practice.

The transcription is from the recording of the English translation by Ina Bieler. Ina translates, the Tibetan transmission given by H.E. Garchen Rinpoche. The written transcription follows the translation directly, with little editing of the text. Please excuse any errors. Thank you.

All rights reserved (copyright) to Garchen Buddhist Institute. 

[…] include the times in the recording where the teaching is translated into English.


[25:27] And so dharma friends and spiritual masters, all the Lamas here. I am going to give a brief instruction on the Mahamudra, the Co-emergent Unification by Jigten Sumgon. I will give these instructions really in the form of… almost like a transmission for the sake of auspiciousness because this practice text has a really excellent lineage.

I will offer this to you as a mandala offering. And it is said in the Uttara tantra that… “the Enlightened activities to benefit beings emerge effortlessly”.

This is actually related to how I have received this text – in the beginning, when I first came to America. Drupon Lodro actually invited me to his house and also His Holiness Chetsang Rinpoche was there.

There was this pile of khatags and these khatags were not folded nicely. I thought that, maybe I will fold them nicely, so then His Holiness can easily pass them also out to others. As I was folding the khatags, I found this text wrapped in one of them.

When I saw that it is the Co-emergent Unification of Mahamudra text, I was quite amazed by that. It also contains a handwritten note by His Holiness himself, in the small print at the end of the text.

This is a text by Lord Jigten Sumgon and when I saw this text, I really thought about this quote in the Uttara tantra… “that the enlightened activities really are accomplished effortlessly”. […] His Holiness loves me very much but he also didn’t really have the intention of giving me this book. I just came across the book. I was new to America, new to teaching the dharma – I didn’t really know what to say. I was teaching a little bit on the preliminary practices but since I am in America – in America you have to teach the dharma. I really didn’t have anything to say. Then I got this book, this book reached my hands and then this gave me something to teach about.

Enlightened activities…

Maybe the attendants just left it [the text] in the khatag. But when I found it, I felt this is really very precious. […] At first, I taught this text, when I came to Arizona and gave a teaching on Mahamudra in Tucson. I really felt it was very fortunate for me to find this text. His Holiness really accomplished his enlightened activities in this way effortlessly. [The text] it just naturally reached my hands. I am not really someone with great qualities or much learning. Since I was in America, I also have to teach the Dharma and His Holiness said you have to teach Mahamudra. So this is what I then did.

Up until then, I did have some understanding, through my own personal practice but I didn’t really know how to teach the dharma. Although really, on an ongoing basis, I was reading the Ganges Mahamudra. I was still in Rochester at the time and I gave teaching on that text [Ganges Mahamudra], for the first time […]. I said, “I will give teachings on that”.

In Rochester there was this thangka of Tilopa, an old thangka. When I saw this image of Tilopa – a really indescribable feeling arose in me. Then someone wanted to take a picture of me, together with the thangka. So I was standing in front of the thangka, having a picture taken. The way this picture turned out, is that Tilopa’s foot is exactly in my heart and it is kind of translucent. I really felt that this is a sign, that my own mind, the Guru’s mind and the Buddha’s mind are one – that I am never really separated from Tilopa’s mind.

[30:16] When I saw this picture, (the photograph), a really strong trust in that, arose within me. Then I felt that I have to teach on Mahamudra, to the best of my abilities. There were some people who wanted to listen to those teachings. […] At that time the translator was Khenchen Konchog Rinpoche and he was sitting right next to me, when I gave these teachings. Khenchen Rinpoche also said at that time, “When you are teaching on the Vajrayana, the secret mantra, you are making it a little bit difficult for me”. But then these are the words and so this is what I had to teach on. Regarding the lineage [of these teachings…], the lineage of Mahamudra – this lineage goes back to Gelong Pachung Rinpoche and there are a few occasions I have met him.

Meetings with Pachung Rinpoche

It was when I was in Tibet, when I had leave from prison. I was just coming back from visiting my mother […]. I was not allowed to go to Lhasa at that time, so I was going around and arrived in a place called [?]. I met with a person who seemed to look like a monk because he didn’t have hair. This person – this monk, said to me “You need to go to Lhasa because Gelong Pachung Rinpoche is asking for you to come”. But I said, “I am not allowed to go to Lhasa”. I was just wondering about this monk. I thought, he probably would not tell me a lie. But I couldn’t go because I was not allowed to go. Then, flooding blocked the road and I couldn’t go any further. I was so happy about that because now I had no other place to go, than to go through Lhasa.

Then I called back in […] Nangqen [?] and said, “I am not able to travel through this road, I need to go to Lhasa”. So then I was bound to go to Lhasa and was actually able to meet Pachung Rinpoche. At that point, Pachung was already quite ill and he hadn’t talked in several months. When I met him, he also didn’t say much. But he did say, “Look at the nature of your mind”. And then he touched my crown. And he said, that I must uphold the lineage of the Drikung Kagyu (the Drikung Kagyu lineage of practice), of the transmission lineage of Drikung Kagyu. I agreed to that (I accepted) and so that was the first time I was able to meet him.

[…] The second time was when I was actually going to leave. I had been in Lhasa for a couple of weeks and then I had to go back home. There were several people who had rented a car together, (several travellers) and we were about to leave in a car. I received a phone call from His Holiness Chungtsang Rinpoche, who said that “You cannot leave now because Pachung Rinpoche (Gelong Rinpoche) has just passed into nirvana. You have to come and perform the funeral ceremonies”. And so that really made me also remember that monk, that I first met, who seemed to be a real person, but in the end, actually nobody knew of such a person. […] (A person that could not be found after all). But he was the one who told me to come to Lhasa on Pachung Rinpoche’s request.

And then I met Pachung Rinpoche and he told me “to look at my mind”. Then when I was going to leave again, he passed into Nirvana. I was able to perform all the funeral ceremonies and I really felt that all of these occurrences were quite auspicious. Again an example of this Uttara tantra quote, that said, “the enlightened activities are accomplished spontaneously or effortlessly”.

37 Bodhisattva Practices

In terms of – alongside Mahamudra – another practice, that I have continuously engaged in – is the 37 Bodhisattva Practices. And this is a transmission I had mainly received from my Guru [Siddha] Chimey Dorje. I have been reciting this prayer continuously. Every time I read it, my devotion in these teachings really increases.

[35:49] So I have also received this image, that is inside of the small booklet of the 37 Practices that we are passing out. It is of the meditation place of the bodhisattva [… Gyalse] Tokme [Zangpo], who composed this book. When I saw this, tears really streamed forth and a really special devotion arose. I really felt that this is actual devotion because I wouldn’t just cry for no reason, but it just happened spontaneously when I saw this image.

Some people may think, when they see that, [the meditation place] “Oh that’s not really [… Gyalse] Togme actually, after all – it is just a house and the place where he meditated. But really what pervades is his dharmakaya mind, his mind of bodhicitta – that is the mind of all the Gurus’, who are alive and who have passed away. Maybe this is also due to a karmic imprint in my mind, but a very special experience arose when I saw that, which is why I also wanted to share that with my Dharma friends and add that to the text.

Introductory text of Mahamudra

I’m going to introduce this text here, of Mahamudra to the best of my abilities. It will be more in the form of a transmission, since we won’t be able to go into everything. Also, there is no need because you have all great understanding of these teachings and there are many lamas here. I will just point out the special qualities of this book, because the more we hear about this, the more our devotion to the teachings will also increase. So, all of this really is an example of this quote again from the Uttara tantra, “the enlightened activities to benefit sentient beings are accomplished effortlessly”. For example, like it was with my meeting with Pachung Rinpoche and so forth. All these teachings, of the 37 Practices or the Mahamudra teachings.

Background story

So, what I am sharing is the enlightened qualities of the Buddha and the enlightened activities of the Buddhas. I actually myself am, I’m a very sinful person and there’s probably no-one who is more sinful than I am. So, I have encountered many hardships in the past. I’ve entered the war like a barbarian – fought in an army. I really am, fully aware of my great negativity. There’s no point in talking too much about that. But, it still happens to be, then due to the force of karma – one who also needed to uphold and preserve the teachings. At the same time, I’m fully aware of all the negativity that was created during the war time. And, even though I do regard myself as someone of great negativity, I still am not separate ever, from the great qualities and the blessings of the hold dharma.

And also know that – all negativity is just a temporary obscuration and obscurations can become purified. I am fully confident in that. Milarepa had said, “that one needs to gain an actual experience in meditation practice”. He said, “in his mind an increasing and unstoppable certainty in his own experience has arisen”. So that is the kind of confidence or trust that I have really developed in the holy dharma. I just wanted to share this background story with you. Also, on the livestream, there are many who love me and who like to listen to what I say and so this is an opportunity to share this with you.

Transmission of the Mahamudra teachings

And so now, I’m going to explain these teachings to the best of my abilities, in the form of a transmission – giving some explanation, on the basis, of my own understanding. Even if you all know about these teachings, if you hear about them again, a greater faith in the teachings may develop within you.

Milarepa had said, “that one must: gain certainty in the view [unmistaken], an experience in meditation and then bring it all to perfection in the conduct”. So regarding this teaching, [it] is related to the View, which we need to first ascertain. We need to decide upon the View within our mind. And so when you hear about these teachings over and over again, then this kind of certainty, a confidence, an understanding of these teachings will arise.

First to explain the name of the title. This is a teaching on Mahamudra or in Tibetan, chakgya chenpo. The first word chakgya, the “mudra”. “Chak” and “gya” refer to emptiness. And so, what is empty – is the self that we believe truly exists. We think there is a self, “I”, but when you try to find it, you can’t find it.

So, the “I” does not actually exist – but all sentient beings in the six realms believe that such an “I”, “self” really exists. And after the body has died, this concept of “I” – this imprint continues to go on. It is said in the 37 Practices, that “all suffering without exception comes from wishing for one’s own happiness”. So, there is this concept of an “I”, and attachment to a “self”. And from this self-grasping [self-clinging] arise the six afflictive emotions and they create samsara.

[Editor note: samsara – delusion of separation, (of a separate self, separate from the nature of true reality). Unaware of the nature of true reality, is false concept of duality].

So “chak” means that there is the emptiness of the self. There is no self. And when you realise there is no self, you realise that the mind is just like space, as also Milarepa had said.

So our body, when we look at our body – the body is comprised of the five elements. Our flesh and bones are the earth element. The blood is the water element. The breath is the wind element. The body heat is the fire element and the mind is the space element.

And so of these elements, the mind, or space element, is the most important one. And within space there is no duality. For example, if you have a hundred phones, they are all powered by one electricity – the same electricity.

So again, this “chak” in “chak-gya” is the emptiness of the self. And then “gya”, the second syllable, means vast or expansive. And that is when there is no self. And you realise there is no self. You realise the mind abides like space, which is vast and all-encompassing. So that is the meaning of the word “Mahamudra” – “chakgya chenpo”.

And so where can we find it? [this self]. No-one can see, no-one can find it. For example, where can we see that self? It is nowhere to be found. But then, for example, even a little ant thinks that there is a self and goes around thinking “I” exists.

Co-emergent Mahamudra

So this co-emergent Mahamudra (the “co-emergent Mahamudra“). The “co-emergent” means, “innate” or “inborn”.

Although no self exists – we believe in the existence of a self. And this belief in “me” and “I”, is what obscures our mind – that which is inborn (innate to us).

The Buddha had said, “All sentient beings are actually Buddhas, they are only obscured by adventitious stains”. So, this concept of “I” is an adventitious stain that arises.

[47:51] We think that everything is mine. “This is my cup…” and so forth. And so, this empty nature of the “I” is the “chak” in “chakgya” and the “gya” is the vastness of the mind – that is realised when you see there is no self. Then co-emergent Mahamudra, is a hidden state that no-one has recognised. It is a nature that is innate to one. And of course those who see the nature of the mind, see co-emergent Mahamudra.  

And then the name [co-emergent Mahamudra] says, “It is the ornament that is the luminosity of the primordial awareness that dispels the darkness of ignorance”. So, “dispelling the darkness of ignorance”. It is said, “if you see it [co-emergent Mahamudra] you are a Buddha. Not seeing it, you are a sentient being wandering in samsara”. When one recognises that no self exists, then the darkness of ignorance is cleared away.

Believing there is a self is like finding oneself in darkness. And while we are in a state of darkness, there is a belief in the existence of a self. The mind is referred to as the “consciousness”. So, we are all familiar with our consciousness. We call it the “consciousness” for as long as we have not recognised the nature of the mind.

When you recognise the nature of this consciousness, then that is referred to as “primordial wisdom”. Primordial wisdom is the nondual mind. Milarepa had said, “I do not see consciousness, I see primordial wisdom. I do not see sentient beings, I see Buddhas”.

But if we do not recognise consciousness as primordial wisdom, we will also not be able to see the sentient beings as Buddhas. So, we first need to recognise primordial awareness – nondual primordial awareness.

The meaning of the “ornament

In the title it says it [co-emergent Mahamudra] is an ”ornament”.

There are the six realms of samsara [that correspond to the delusory states of mind]. Or three planes of existence (the Gods and humans and so forth). All of these realms are actually a pure land. When you see things with a pure perspective, then you have the six pure lands. This is how it appears to someone who sees the ultimate truth – who sees that all appearances are the deity. All sounds are the mantra and all mental arisings are the dharmakaya. So, that is the meaning of the ornament.

Preliminary reflections

Next, begin with the preliminaries – consisting of four practices. […] There are three sections. It begins with karmic cause and effect – to understand karma is what is most important.

Karmic cause and effect
Even though the mind is actually the Buddha, if one does not understand or trust in karma, one will develop the six afflictive emotions – which will create the six realms of samsara. This will cause the mind to freeze into an iceblock. So, of the preliminary reflections, the reflection on karma and death and impermanence are most important.

And so, regarding karma cause and effect, […] the seeds for karma are within the mind. Everyone will have to die – there is no-one who will not have to die. We all know about death and impermanence. However, since the mind does not die – the mind transcends birth and death, it will take on [karma] lifetime after lifetime. Lord Jigten Sumgon said, “that which wanders in the ocean of samsara is the body”.

There are six kinds of bodies in samsara, experiencing various kinds of suffering. Reflect on karma and think that – after I have died, I will continue to follow my own karma. It is very important to reflect upon karma and death and impermanence.

Then it says, so cultivate – generate, a strong sense of renunciation by contemplating death and impermanence and completing abandoning short-sightedness. Think those who are born in the past have died. Those who are taking birth are destined to die. Those who are now alive will die. I too may die today or tomorrow, leaving everything behind. Nothing being of any use. Then meditate on compassion for all suffering sentient beings by reflecting on how … not recognising themselves, not realising that their mind is the truth-body dharmakaya – grasp at an “I” that does not exist. Grasp at “self” that does not exist.

Karma, death and impermanence

Sentient beings who do not know that a self does not actually exist – grasp at self and therefore are bound to experience suffering. So, it is most important to understand karma, death and impermanence. Mainly we encounter difficulties because we pay no attention to karma.

It is also said that, if one has not developed true certainty in karma cause and effect, then one’s talk about the profound emptiness is just a lie. 

We do need to understand the subtle workings of karma cause and effect. How we need to understand that, for example is – if an afflictive emotion arises, but you do not act out on it. You might think that, “now I’ve not accumulated any karma because I haven’t done anything”. But that is actually not the case – what causes the imprint in the mind is the afflictive emotion.

For example, when you get very angry, then you keep being angry and then these imprints are reinforced within the mind. The imprints grow stronger and thicker and eventually will be reflected in your activities of body and speech.

For example, when you get very angry, you have this tendency towards anger – and you get very angry. Then immediately your face changes and you say something nasty to someone. And that is because the imprint is there in your mind. The water has frozen into an iceblock.

So therefore, Lord Jigten Sumgon also said that, “to me the preliminaries are more profound than the main part practices”. And here, with the preliminaries we need to understand that to be an understanding of karma cause and effect.   

Regarding karma, Lord Jigden Sumgon also said that “karmic manifestations […] ripening are the natural manifestations of one’s moment to moment thoughts”. So, this is a quote I have reflected on over and over again and found it very beneficial.

I also remember […] when I see for example, a little animal. There are all kinds of animals. Some are very subtle, extremely small and some are as large as mountains. Sentient beings in the six realms appear in this myriad of ways, due to the different kinds of merit or lack of merit that they have accumulated.

There are for example, animals who possess a very small level of merit and as a result of that, they also take birth in a very small body. But then there are some who have very large bodies and lack merit. There are all kinds of different animals and the appearance of each of these, has a very precise cause.

But it all comes from not having realised the nature of mind. When one does not see the nature of the mind, one will develop ordinary, unrestrained, afflictive emotions. When they are unrestrained, they will leave karmic imprints in the mind and then these karmic imprints will manifest as one’s experience. One follows one’s own karmic winds. So, from a practical perspective what is a karmic wind?

Karmic wind

For example when anger arises, then instantly you change. Your face changes, what you say changes. You say something nasty and so on. So that is causes by the karmic wind within you. For someone who has experience with practice, they will first know that mind is nondual, inseparable from others. When an afflictive emotion or feeling arises, then they will immediately recognise that. They will know how to be afraid of the afflictive emotion, while understanding that ultimately the afflictive emotion is empty. And recognising that, one transforms the five afflictive emotions into the five kinds of primordial wisdom.

So one who realises the natural state of the mind, recognises that self and others are inseparable and through this knowledge, they are able to let go of the feelings cast by the afflictive emotions.

Heedful of karma cause and effect

In the 37 Practices it also says that, “in all our activities we must be mindful of what we do. What is the state of my mind?” It is very important to be heedful of karma cause and effect at all times – until one has reached the furthest limits of practice. Until one has realised the nature of mind – it is very important to be mindful of the workings of karma.

Regarding karmic ripening. Karma ripens in different ways. There is the result of full maturation. There is the result, corresponding to the cause. There is experience, corresponding to the cause and activity, (corresponding to the cause) – and that is a topic that you should discuss with each other, over and over again. Especially if you are a dharma practitioner – you should discuss this with one another and not just let it be with a mere understanding of karma – but really go into it and discuss that with each other.

So reflect for example, upon the result corresponding to the cause. Once you understand that, then think about the activity and the experience corresponding to the cause.

First the mind needs to be very clear and with a clear mind you can reflect that, if I am not careful then after this life, I might be reborn as this animal for example.

And then, understand the suffering of the animals. When the mind is clear then you will be able to sustain like a feeling, an awareness of karma.

There’s a really excellent saying in Tibet, when we say that, “if you want to know what you did in a past life, look at your present body and if you [… wish to know] where you will go next, look at your present karma, your present actions”. If you hold onto these words in your mind, you will really understand karma.

Guru Yoga

Next is the Guru Yoga that swiftly instils blessings. The roots from which develop all experiences and realisations are the Guru’s blessings and your devotion to the Guru. The [Anuttara?] tantra says, “Unspoken by others, the co-emergence can not be found anywhere. Be known that it arises from following the Guru for an extended time and from your own merits”.

The Display of Samaya also says, “Meditating for a hundred thousand aeons on a deity who possesses the major and minor marks, is not equal to remembering the Guru for even a moment. Better than a million mantra recitations is a single supplication to the Guru. This is the practice of Guru Yoga”.

After that, it mentions – visualise your body as the yidam deity. The visualisation of the yidam deity is an antidote to the grasping at self. It says, “Even greater than visualising a deity, is to cultivate devotion for the Guru for just a moment”.

It is said that, when you recognise that the Guru is the dharmakaya, […] this is the perfect nondual devotion. When you recognise that the Guru is the dharmakaya, then you recognise that the Guru is inseparable from your own mind.

Then you recognise that the deity is inseparable from your own mind. So, the Guru is the dharmakaya. The deity the sambhogakaya and the deity’s mind is also inseparable therefore, from the Guru’s mind. There is the experience of the nirmanakaya, the actual form of the Guru. The Guru’s body represents the Sangha, the speech represents the Dharma, and the mind represents the Buddha. If you understand this, then whatever practice and blessings that your Guru possesses – the power of that will arise within your own mind – through the power of your devotion to the Guru.

Milarepa also said that, “disciples should possess faith and compassion. But isn’t there a disciple who also possesses devotion?” So even though a disciple must possess the qualities of compassion, a disciple really must have great devotion to the Guru. The more devotion arises within you, the greater your love, (your love will actually increase as your devotion increases). When devotion increases and love increases, you see the nature of your mind.

[…] This feeling often can arise when you think about the suffering of a sentient being or when you think about someone you love very much. For example, when someone that you love very much is far away and calls you om the phone, you might start crying. So, there is a special kind of feeling and it is similar to the devotion that you feel to a Guru. When such a strong feeling arises, you may then see, on an experiential level, the nature of your mind. How your own mind is inseparable from the mind of the Guru.

It says then, “I am going to make supplications to the Guru who is the embodiment of the four kayas”.

The Four Kayas

There is the dharmakaya which is like space. The space-like dharmakaya is where all Buddhas are inseparable within the expanse of primordial wisdom, (all the Buddhas are inseparable). Then there is the sambhogakaya. The sambhogakayas are the various gods, the various yidam deities that appear according to the varied needs of sentient beings. For example, in the Prayer of Dewachen it says, “that from Amitabha’s right hand a billion Chenrezig’s appear and from his left hand a billion Tara’s appear,” and so forth.

So there are billions of emanations but they all have the same mind. Just like a thousand phones are powered by the same electricity. The nature of the mind is just like this electricity, or the dharmakaya is like the electricity. Then the sambhogakaya is the various activities that are performed through the electricity. The nirmanakayas manifest directly, actually in this world and there are many different forms of nirmanakaya.

But the most important is actually the fourth kaya, the essence kaya, the svabhavikakaya. The svabhavikakaya, (the essence kaya), is to recognise that your own mind is inseparable from the Guru’s mind.

So knowing that, already half your mind has become inseparable from the Guru’s mind. The mind becomes inseparable, when you meditate on the Four Immeasurables, in particular immeasurable love. When immeasurable love arises, your mind becomes one with the mind of all the Buddhas, of all the Bodhisattvas. It is just like you have one moon in the sky that is reflected in a thousand different vessels of water.

The svabhavikakaya (essence kaya)

So, the svabhavikakaya (essence kaya), is to recognise that your mind is inseparable from the guru’s mind. It is that mind that is free of conceptual thinking – that mind is inseparable from the guru and inseparable from all the Buddhas.

When the mind, in an instant becomes free of grasping at a self – the ice-block is melting. When the ice-block melts into water – water can be used for many things.

So as an antidote to grasping at a self we visualise ourselves as the yidam deity and of the four kayas, the most important kaya is the essence or svabhavikakaya.

We need to recognise that – my own mind is inseparable from the guru and the guru’s mind is the dharmakaya. Or as Jigten Sumgon had said, “I am a yogin who has recognised the guru’s mind, the Buddha’s mind and my own mind to be one”. So, when you reflect on this over and over again, you will recognise that you are actually never separate from the guru.

Practice the guru

Then as a way that we practice the guru – there are some who visualise the guru in the form of a deity, sitting on a lotus throne, with the various implements and ornaments of the deity. Then there are some who have particularly strong devotion to the guru and they visualise the guru just as he or she appears in real life. This is also a way to practice according to the practice lineage of blessings – a way to receive that guru’s blessing.

In brief, what is essential is that we develop great love and faith and devotion in our minds. It is not about the outer appearance of the guru. It is about cultivating love and devotion.

Of course, if you are able to visualise the outer appearance of a deity, then you are accumulating great merit. But what is really most important is to cultivate great devotion. Then if you have devotion, you can visualise the guru in any form.

Then it says, so then having meditated, thus dissolve the root and lineage guru’s into the guru’s heart, like drops of rain and flakes of snow, melting into the sea. Thus meditate – on the guru as the embodiment of all guru’s. Then in the end the guru dissolves.

You meditate that the root and lineage guru’s dissolve into the guru’s heart, like snowflakes dissolving – then what this represents is that their body, speech and mind is all the same. The body is the Sangha, the speech is the dharma, the mind is the Buddha.

The mind of all the Buddha’s, the mental continuum of all the Buddha’s of the three times is not separate – their mind is one.

The Seven Branch Offering

After that we are offering The Seven Branches and The Seven Branches are an antidote to the six afflictive emotions and the last one the seventh – is of dedicating the roots of virtue as an antidote to self-grasping. The Seven Branches are very important and especially in Milarepa’s Guru Yoga practice – The Seven Branches and also the Mandala Offering are very profound. The words, really are profound words, explaining the ultimate truth.

Supplication to the guru to grant blessings

Next in the text, we then supplicate to the guru to grant blessings. After the supplication, we visualise that from the guru – (the guru above our crown), a stream of nectar flows from his body – forehead, throat and heart, in the colours white, red and blue [respectively]. The nectar then enters the brahma-aperture at your crown – at the opening of your crown. It washes away all the non-virtuous deeds, obscurations and samaya transgressions of beginningless time in samsara.

And so, this nectar that pervades your body is the nectar of bodhicitta, of altruism and that is also what we call a blessing. When you are filled with altruism or altruism arises within you, that is when the blessings have actually entered your mind. The real blessing is the mind of bodhicitta or altruism and nectar appears in the form of water but also the five elements [which] are the deity by nature. But here, in this context we need to understand the nectar to have the nature of bodhicitta.

At the end the guru dissolves into you and your mind rests evenly in meditative equipoise.

The third section – the practice of Vajrasattva

Then the third section is the meditation and recitation of the hundred syllable mantra – the practice of Vajrasattva. The visualisation again is similar but here it is also very beneficial to have an understanding of the channel and the chakras in one’s bodies. Also, that there are subtle channels pervading your entire body and reaching each and every pore of your skin and these channels are filled with nectar.

There are many different aspects to the practice – of training in the channels and the winds. But here in this context, again it is bodhicitta that pervades the body, so the visualisation is similar. At this time we are visualising Vajrasattva above our crown, also having the nature of the guru. Again, a stream of nectar emerges and it fills up our entire body and purifies us, mainly it purifies our mind.

What needs to become purified, through the nectar is self-grasping, dualistic thinking and really self-grasping is purified through the altruistic mind. So that is the nature of the nectar. An altruistic mind (a real feeling) – as a genuine feeling of altruism arises within you, then everything becomes purified this way. Therefore the point of altruism here is an important one to understand.

Then you visualise in this way how this nectar purifies you over and over again and you visualise that Vajrasattva is inseparable from the guru. So, the outer appearance is the appearance of Vajrasattva but the inner mind is one and the same. The guru is indivisible from Vajrasattva.

At the end of that practice then Vajrasattva dissolves into you and your mind has become completely purified, just like having purified water – become completely pure and you recognise the essence kaya – svabhavikakaya. Again, reflect on the svabhavikakaya, over and over again and also reflect on death, impermanence and karma over and over again.

The fourth section – the practice of the mandala

Then the fourth section is the practice of the mandala and we have an accomplishment mandala and an offering mandala.

First, we visualise the accomplishment mandala as the universe and so on and then we visualise a throne in the centre. A throne upon which sits the root guru and then in the East the yidam deity, in the south the Buddha and so forth.

We visualise the mandala and so the actual purpose of the mandala offering is something that we actually need to understand.

A beginning practitioner might think that, well the Buddhas need all these many offerings, (so this is like the billion-fold universe that you are offering when we offer a mandala). But that is not the case and that is also why we added the mandala offering of the Milarepa Guru Yoga practice into our Ngondro text – to exemplify what the mandala actually means. What we are really offering up is the self-grasping of the infinite sentient beings contained within this universe.

We are really offering up self-grasping and so we added the mandala of Milarepa’s Guru Yoga because the meaning of these words is very easy to understand and endowed with many blessings. When you read it, a strong feeling may arise within you. This particular mandala offering is very important because it shows that, what we are really offering is the self-grasping of all the sentient beings in the three realms of samsara. Then what we receive in return is the altruistic mind. Or, in other words, the more we let go of self-grasping – the greater our altruistic mind will increase.

The second part of the text – the main body

This completes the four sections of The Preliminaries and then we come to the second part of the text – the main body, which consists of two pointing out instructions that is, pointing out the innate nature of mind and pointing out upon appearances.

The first one, pointing out the innate nature of mind consists of calm-abiding and special insight. Within calm-abiding there is, first the calm-abiding with a focal object and then the calm-abiding without a focal object.

Regarding the calm-abiding with a focal object it says, assume properly the body posture, the physical key points and think about [… achieving] Buddhahood for the sake of sentient beings. Visualise your body in the form of the yidam deity and meditate on the guru above your crown with heartfelt devotion.

Without harbouring any thought of past, present or future – look out and set your mind on any focal object in front of you, such as a pebble or a tiny stick and keep your mind undistracted from the object for even a moment.

[…] Now we come to the essence of all meditation practice: samatha and vipassana (calm-abiding and special insight).

Meditation practice

Samatha and vipassana (calm abiding and special insight)

Regarding samatha, it is the thought-free mind. The present state of mind that does not entertain any thoughts of the past or anticipate the future. Samatha (calm abiding), is a practice that maybe practiced by various other traditions around the world. The special quality of the Buddhist way of practising it, is the mind generation – that is why we said, first vow to achieve Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings.

In the Buddhist practice, even if we practice the slightest virtue, we do so with a mind generation of bodhicitta. This mind generation of bodhicitta is what will lead us to Enlightenment.

This is also the essence of all sadhana practice. It begins with a mind generation of bodhicitta and then ends with a dedication.

In whatever we do, we think of the benefit of sentient beings and that is really the most important in the beginning. Then we engage in the practice of samatha and this is something you are all familiar with, especially the Lamas are familiar with. In brief, if you are not able to stay without thoughts, then first you rely on the calm abiding with a focal object and if it is easier to stay without thought, then you rely on the calm abiding without a focal object.

It says, one should remain focused and then rest briefly and meditate again as before. One should therefore meditate in short but frequent periods in the four sessions. The spiritual masters all say, we should keep our sessions short but frequent. The shortest of all sessions really is the time when we go to pee, but what this also means is that we need to merge our practice with all our activities.

First we understand the view, then having understood the view, we engage in meditation practice. We practice sustaining mindfulness and awareness. Then in our conduct, in our day-to-day activities – we must experience what we have gained in meditation as we encounter various sense perceptions (six sense perceptions). When we say, practice short sessions but frequently, it really means over and over again – to practice at all times really. Then it says, in between sessions do not be distracted by dualistic confusion and maintain constant nonconceptual mindfulness.

Self and other are inseparable

So in between sessions and your activities – when dualistic thoughts arise, instantly recognise these thoughts and recognise that actually, self and other are inseparable. For example, this room appears to be filled with people but actually our mind is one and the same. Just like many phones are powered by the same electricity. We begin to think that we know that, but then again, we begin to think “Oh, there are all these people and we are separate”. But actually we are not separate. When you rest in the natural state of the mind, that is when you recognise that we are actually all one and the same and the dualistic thinking is just a karmic imprint in the mind.

Resting within the natural state

Then Tilopa said, “through different ways of looking and guarding the mind – be disciplined until awareness abides in its natural state”.

There are various ways of looking, different ways of gazing when we meditate. For example, looking far into the distance and so forth. But one can rely on whatever kind of gaze that suits one the best. For the mind, guard the mind, that is really most important. Be undistracted in guarding the mind. In brief, that means never separate from mindfulness. Milarepa said, “that aside from abiding, resting within the natural state there is no other perfection of meditative concentration than that”. So always abide within an undistracted natural state – from that, the four yogas of single-pointedness, freedom from elaboration, one taste and meditation will naturally arise.

It is also said, “that non-distraction is the path of all the Buddhas”.

Also in The Seven Verses of Supplication to Tara for Protection, there is a supplication to the “Mother Goddess of Mindfulness”. In all our activities [… we think] “I am doing these things. I am doing this. I am doing that. There is this awareness that – I am doing all of this.

Look directly at the nature of this clear awareness (Great Mother Tara)

Look directly at the nature of this clear awareness. This awareness is actually Tara. Even though we think that […] I am doing this, I am doing that, this awareness – thinking that, in ultimate essence really is Tara. If you always bring that up in your mind, then eventually you will not forget about that. It will never leave your mind.

So these verses, these Seven Verses of Supplication to Tara for Protection are also a method to sustain mindfulness, especially this verse, “Mother Goddess of mindfulness protect beings”. This Mother Goddess of mindfulness is your own mind, your own mindfulness. It is the mind of dharmakaya, the dharmakaya is the Great Mother Tara.

When you begin to meditate

Some beginning practitioners, when they first meditate say that, now I have even more thoughts than before. But actually that is a sign of knowing how to meditate. It is actually a good sign. It is a sign that you are recognising your thoughts. If you don’t recognise your thoughts, you will just act out on them and leave karmic imprints in the mind and not recognise anything.

But when you begin to meditate, you begin to recognise the thoughts within your mind and it is actually good to recognise the thoughts. It is just like recognising a thief that has entered a house. You are recognising your own confusion. So, it is actually good if you recognise that there are so many thoughts in your mind. But then when they arise, don’t grasp at these thoughts just let them be. But understand that it won’t happen that there will be no thoughts.

Then we […] focus the mind one-pointedly without even a moment of distraction. While there is nothing at all to meditate with – the focal object or sign, do not allow even a moment of distraction. When we meditate and thoughts arise, don’t entertain the thought. Recognise the thought, then stop the thinking. If you do not, if you recognise the thought but then you keep thinking about this, then you will have an endless chain of thoughts. One thought, leading to another thought.

However sometimes it is necessary – we think about things. If you think about things mindfully then it is ok to think about something, but you should not allow the mind to slip into this endless chain of thoughts that go unrecognised.

At this point you will reach a […stage] where you are able to rest in a state of meditation at will. So that you are able to always abide within a meditative state and that is actually called […] the stage of single-pointedness, (the small or lesser single-pointedness) and at the level of lesser single-pointedness we are able to abide in an undistracted state.

So that is the chapter on focusing. The next [chapter] is loosening and maintaining the body posture and gaze as before – by relaxing your body and mind. Let your awareness be relaxed and released in its natural state – in the mode of thinking nothing. Being not distracted from this state, as you maintain constant mindfulness – an experience of mind, being vividly pristine will dawn.

Then it says, “The nature of mind is unelaborated like an ocean, a crystal or a flower in space and so forth”. Here at this point, the mind will be very clear. You are in a state of loosening or relaxation and within that, it is said, “You find this union of clarity and emptiness”. There is nothing there. It is just like empty space but there is a clear awareness, a clear emptiness – that is the nature of Vajradhara and in that state you are very happy. It is said that, “The thought-free state of mind is a state of great bliss”.

2:03[…] There is a quote in the section on loosening, “And the nature of mind is unelaborated like an ocean, a crystal or a flower in space”. It is awake, naked and clear. It is neither to be focused on nor distracted from. Accustom yourself to this as much as possible.

The second stage ‘Freedom from elaboration’

So here we come to the second stage of ‘Freedom from elaboration’. Thoughts arise but one doesn’t continue to think, one doesn’t entertain thoughts. One is able to completely stop them without analysing these thoughts at all. There is no thinking about anything whatsoever – there’s no analysis of the thoughts that arise.

So thoughts arise, but then they just naturally go away again like merging into space – that is ‘freedom from elaboration’.

It says, ‘The mind is like the ocean, a crystal or a flower in space’. Like an ocean, the mind reflects all appearances – just like an ocean reflects the planets and the stars but the ocean remains unmoved by them. Or when a wave appears on the ocean, it only appears on the surface, it does not move the ocean on the bottom. So it is like an ocean, or like a crystal, like a mirror.

A mirror can reflect various objects. For example, things appear to us, sounds, smells, taste, touch and so forth. Things do appear but the crystal or the mirror doesn’t grasp at them. One doesn’t engage the mind in a subject, object duality – thinking that, “Oh there is this object here, it’s this and it’s that”. One sees the things, but one doesn’t conceptualise them.

Ordinarily we develop thoughts of attachments and aversions

So ordinarily we develop thoughts of attachments and aversions and the subtle counterparts to attachments and aversion are hope and fear. Hope is the subtle version of attachment, and fear is the subtle version of hatred and anger. When hope and fear […become] stronger, they develop into attachment and hatred.

Abiding within a state of equanimity

At this point, when one reaches this point of practice, one abides within a state of equanimity without thinking about anything whatsoever. In the Ganges Mahamudra [… it says], “Without a single thought, decisively look at the ultimate nature”.  

“Without a single thought,” is to know what appears – so you clearly see an appearing object, but there is not a single thought about it. But there is decisiveness. You know its true nature.

So to someone who does not really have any familiarisation with meditation, at this point they will develop doubts. They will look at the mind and then wonder, “Is it this or is it not?” It is said, that at that moment, when these doubts arise, one should remember the guru. Actually my guru, Khenchen [Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche] himself, also mentioned this quote, which I don’t clearly remember now, but in essence he said that, “A yogin who develops thoughts, should single-pointedly think of the guru”. When doubts arise, think of the guru and generally remain within a state without thinking of anything whatsoever, and look at your mind. Your mind is like an ocean, like a crystal or like a flower in space. It is all of these simultaneously.

Your own clear and pure mind

First in the Serkhangma, the Golden Temple, there is this verse which ends with saying, “When you recognise the self-born view, you recognise it to be the guru”. Your own clear and pure mind is the guru, that is what you should resolve.

Or, as we have said, “My own mind, the guru’s mind and the Buddha’s mind are one”. This is the understanding you should gain. So thank you all my dharma friends.

When one person meditates then all sentient beings benefit from that. There is this quote from The Great Liberation Sutra, that I came across when I was very young. When I saw it, I was really quite impressed and this is really where my own meditation practice began. And so that quote says, “It is a greater benefit to spend a single session in meditation, than it is to save the lives of all sentient beings in the three realms of samsara”.

So especially the Lama’s and the monks assembled, act for the benefit of sentient beings and that is our aspiration. When we meditate, we are actually bringing benefit to all sentient beings and also we are benefiting ourselves. It brings benefit to oneself and others.

So Rinpoche’s teachings and the event is quickly coming to an end and we have offered a Long Life Ceremony. There were all the expenses for the event, a thousand and eight-eight dollars are left which was offered for food. […] So whatever is left is offered back to the centre.


( continued…)

See page entitled: Introduction to Mahamudra (Day 2)


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