An Introductory Discourse
Mahāmudrā has three modes: Sutra Mahamudra, Mantra Mahāmudrā, and Essence Mahāmudrā.
Sutra Mahāmudrā is attaining the stage of complete buddhahood through traversing the five paths and ten bhumis.
Mantra Mahāmudrā is experiencing the four joys via the third empowerment, which lead to the four levels of emptiness. The four types: joy, supreme joy, nonjoy, and innate joy lead one to the means for realizing the ultimate view of Mahāmudrā. In the traditional statement “to reach the true wisdom by means of the symbolic wisdom,” the symbolic wisdom refers to the four levels of emptiness invoked by the four joys while true wisdom is Mahāmudrā of the natural state. Introducing Mahamudra of the naked, natural state in this way is called Mantra Mahāmudrā.
Essence Mahāmudrā is described in terms of essence, nature, and expression. The essence is nonarising, the nature is unobstructed, and the expression is what manifests in manifold ways. Essence Mahāmudrā is pointed out through skillful means as follows: “Essence Mahāmudrā is your naked, ordinary mind resting in unfabricated naturalness.”
Although the teachings on Essence Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen of the Natural State use different terminology, in actuality they do not differ at all. Through such teachings, the mind at the time of death merges with dharmakaya the instant that the material body disintegrates. It is also possible to attain true and complete enlightenment in the dharmadhatu realm of Akanishtha while still remaining in this physical body.
This state of Mahāmudrā is the flawless realization of all the learned and accomplished masters of India, without exception, the Six Ornaments and Two Supreme Ones as well as the Eighty Mahasiddhas. Simply hearing the word ‘Mahāmudrā’ leads to the end of samsaric existence.
As Sherab Özer, the great master tertön of Trangpo, wrote:
“Mahāmudrā and the Great Perfection
Differ in words but not in meaning.”
In terms of ground, path and fruition, Ground Mahāmudrā is the nonarising essence, unobstructed nature, and expression manifest in manifold ways. The Dzogchen teachings describe these three aspects as essence, nature and capacity.
Path Mahāmudrā is naked, ordinary mind left to rest in unfabricated naturalness.
Fruition Mahāmudrā is the final seizing of the Dharmakaya Throne of Nonmeditation.
The Four Yogas of Mahāmudrā are called One-pointedness, Simplicity, One Taste, and Nonmeditation. The stage of fruition is realized when the dharmakaya throne of nonmeditation is attained.
One-pointedness, the first yoga of Mahamudra, has three levels: lesser, medium, and greater. One-pointedness,for the most part, consists of shamatha and the gradual progression through the stages of shamatha with support, without support, and finally to the shamatha that delights the tathagatas. During this process fixation gradually diminishes.
The next stage, Simplicity, basically means nonfixation. During the three levels of lesser, medium and greater Simplicity, fixation falls more and more apart. While One-pointedness is mainly shamatha, Simplicity emphasizes vipashyana.
One Taste is the state of mind in which shamatha and vipashyana are unified. Appearance and mind arise as one taste. One does not need to confine appearances to being there and consciousness to being here, but the dualistic fixation of appearance and mind mingle into one taste in the space of nonduality.
When in retreat at Gampo Mountain, Lord Gampopa told one of his disciples, “The mingling of appearance and mind is like this!” As he simultaneously moved his hand freely through the room’s main pillar, the upper and lower parts of the pillar disconnected, not touching each other. The caretaker was later frightened and thinking the roof would fall down, he placed a piece of slate between the pillar sections. Gampopa’s act was an expression of reaching the greater level of One Taste, the stage at which the world and beings, all dualistic phenomena, mingle into one taste in the space of nonduality. Dualistic concepts such as good and bad, pure and impure, pleasure and pain, existence and nonexistence, objects to be accepted or rejected, adopted or avoided, as well as hope and fear: everything intermingles as one taste, the royal seat of dharmakaya.
At this level there still might remain some sense of enjoying the spectacle of one nature, one taste, but at the fourth stage, Nonmeditation, even subtle concepts of watcher and something watched, meditator and object of meditation, are dissolved within the space free from mental constructs. Thus, the Dharmakaya Throne of Nonmeditation is attained. Dzogchen calls this stage the exhaustion of phenomena beyond concepts. Nothing needs to be meditated upon or cultivated; that is dharmakaya.
“At the time of One-pointedness don’t fixate.
During Simplicity don’t fall into extremes.
Don’t cling to the taste of One Taste.
Nonmeditation transcends conceptual mind.”
Here I have given a short and comprehensive outline of Mahāmudrā.
Nagi Gompa, Nepal 1988
From the book ‘Heart Lamp,’ a translation of two texts by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol – ‘Lamp of Mahamudra’ & ‘Heart of the Matter.’
(Translated by Erik Pema Kunsang)