Mahāmudrā: Part Three


Kyabje Zopa Rinpoche continues his concise commentary on The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra by the First Panchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyältsen. This is the third of three consecutive posts. 


Returning to the meditation on the absorption of the guru as Vajradhara[1] next one thinks:

The direct cause of dharmakāya, the tantric mahāmudrā that is the isolation of mind: the path which is the transcendental wisdom of great bliss nondual with bliss-voidness, is now actualized in my mind. I receive the blessing to realize emptiness, cut the ignorance, transform into loving-kindness, compassion, bodhicitta and now mahāmudrā which is the unification of the clear light and the illusory body.

One should think:

Due to not having realized the supreme realization of mahāmudrā, I and all sentient beings have been suffering from beginningless time in saṃsāra. But each sentient being in each of the six realms have been the cause of all my past happiness. They will also be the cause of all my present and future happiness. Therefore I am going to free them from all suffering and bring them to the state of full enlightenment. For that reason I must achieve enlightenment myself. It is for this reason that I am going to do meditation on mahāmudrā.

Contemplating in this manner, one can then offer the short maṇḍala and make a strong request such as in the Mahāmudrā Requesting Prayer:

I must completely sever the mental continuum of ignorance that clings to the concept holding the I and things to be truly existent. I must generate the thought of enlightenment, the loving kindness. Please may I be blessed to attain the highest state of mahāmudrā, the path of total unification.[2]

While making this prayer, feel that you are purified and receive all the blessings.[3]

As a preliminary to this request you need to visualize the guru upon your crown with feelings of such intense, dauntless devotion and faith from the bottom of your heart, or your bones, that tears well up in the eyes and the hairs of the body stand up! This is the kind of mind with which you should do the request. Though I haven’t gone here through the whole outline of the topic of guru devotion, this is the essence of how to meditate on the guru. You can’t make this kind of special mind in the same manner that you make chai (Indian spiced tea). Without strong devotion, which in turn depends upon strong purification, and a collection of extensive merit, it doesn’t happen. How quickly one attains enlightenment depends on how much devotion one has. If more devotion, realizations easily come. For this reason it is called the root to the path to enlightenment. Great limitless skies of realizations and benefits come from it, including all the qualities of the Buddha’s holy body, speech and mind. One’s own enlightenment and the enlightenment of all others also. So one must make very strong requests to the guru who then absorbs into oneself and blesses one’s mind. [4]


As a consequence of this absorption your vision becomes clearer and, on this occasion, you are able to recognize how the nature of phenomena is illusory. Regarding the object of recognition, it is worth mentioning that in the account of doing analysis on the merely labeled vase given in the Middle Lamrim, Lama Tsongkhapa leaves out the object to be refuted, which is the first of the four points of the four-point analysis.[5]

Anyhow, we label guru on the dharmakāya (the completely pure primordial mind) in this context of the absorption whereas in other contexts we might label onto the nirmāṇakāya which is in an aspect with which we are able to directly communicate and from which we can receive guidance. For example, as I mentioned before, in the context of the Praises and Supplication to the Gelukpa Mahāmudrā Lineage, each time we reach the refrain at the end of the stanza:

gyü dag dzin thri wa chhö pa dang / jam nying je jang sem jong pa  dang

May I be blessed to completely sever the continuum that is clinging of  self-grasping,

To generate loving-kindness, compassion, and the pure mind of enlightenment,

lam zung jug chhag gya chhen po yi / chhog nyur tu thob par jin gyi lob

And to quickly attain the path of unification, the highest state of  Mahāmudrā.[6]

we absorb a replica of that holy being and lineage lama by seeing them as an embodiment and continuation of the first one, Vajradhara, who is inseparable from the root guru. So each time we repeat this verse [from the Praises and Supplication] and reach the end of the stanza we first purify and then absorb a replica of the holy lineage lama into ourself. Though each lineage lama can be visualized in the aspect of Dorje Chang (Vajradhara) as just mentioned, what we must do is see them as actually the root guru. Not only are they the same as one’s root guru but they are the same as Vajradhara. This is how we must meditate.


So much faith is generated by knowing the life stories of these lineage lamas. By hearing them we are also inspired to achieve their realizations and qualities ourselves. We seek to have the mahāmudrā within ourselves. This is the essence of the way in which we meditate on guru yoga. By seeing every lineage lama in the aspect of our root virtuous friend inseparable from Vajradhara, we can put together [consolidate] all the guru yogas, such as the guru yogas of Lama Tsongkhapa, Guru Śākyamuni Buddha, Guru Tārā, Guru Mañjuśrī and so forth. One lama said: “Without the guru there is no Hevajra…except for the guru, I have no other meditation.”[7] What this means is that there is no deity that you visualize that is not the guru. Therefore this lama calls every deity “guru this, guru that.”

So it is the same when we do the lineage lama prayers. When we say “Lama Tsongkhapa,” “lama” does not refer to someone who might just happen to work in a government office in Nepal or even in the Indian police-force (where sometimes we get people called Lama this or Lama that). Rather, it means our own root guru, one’s own virtuous friend. You are looking at this as one. Why Lama Tsongkhapa? Because he had incredible qualities and brought unimaginable extensive skies of benefit for sentient beings and the Buddha’s teachings. Not only did he achieve the enlightenment realizations but he explained the most difficult points of sūtra and tantra that were misunderstood by even many other learned meditators. He gave the clearest Dharma explanations and clarified the Buddha’s teachings, dispelling the wrong views of others concerning the Dharma practice of the path. Up to now, Lama Tsongkhapa’s teachings have been preserved and very extensively spread and revealed to the ten directions of the world. This is now especially the case for the Western countries that haven’t yet had these teachings. All of this came from Lama Tsongkhapa’s realizations. By knowing Lama Tsongkhapa’s life story and seeing the guru and Lama Tsongkhapa as one, it is much easier to develop devotion.

vajra01 copy


Full publication details of cited texts are found in the bibliography


[1] Geshe Doga reminds us that at this point of the preliminaries concerning guru yoga practice and making heart-felt supplication,  we have visualised “Manjushri on top of one’s crown, with Vadjradhara on top of Manjushri’s crown and Lama Tsong Khapa at Manjushri’s heart.” He notes how another commentary (composed in verse form) describes a stacked variant of this visualisation:

The embodiment of wisdom Manjushri, is crowned by Vajradhara,
At whose heart is Lama Tsong Khapa the wisdom being,
To you the precious guru who encompasses all,
I make this supplication,
Please kindly bestow upon me the realisations
of Mahamudra, the ultimate unification.

Geshe Doga, Mahamudra: The Great Seal of Voidness, Translated by the Venerable Michael Lobsang Yeshe, Tara Institute Study Transcript, 14th October, 2008, 1.

[2] This is verse two (the refrain) in the Supplication Prayer to the Mahāmudrā Lineage Gurus. See  full text. Geshe Doga, commenting on the same verse:

This request includes three main points: 1) To sever the dualistic mind of grasping to true existence; 2) For the mind imbued with bodhichitta to be cultivated within one; 3) for mahamudra, the inseparable path of unification, to be spontaneously realised within oneself. Here “inseparable” [translated as “total unification” above] indicates the unification of bliss and wisdom that is to be realised within one’s mind.

Geshe Doga, Mahamudra, ibid.

[3] Geshe Doga continues:

Having made supplications to the Lama in this way, one needs to develop the conviction that the Lama accepts the request. The text explains the request being accepted by the Lama in the rupakaya aspect, which is the form body of the Lama, and acceptance by the Lama in the dharmakaya. The acceptance by the rupakaya where the guru verbally tells us that he has accepted our request. With the Dharmakaya acceptance, one imagines that the Guru with his primoridal wisdom mentally accepts one’s request. That is the difference between the two modes of acceptance…Then, having made these supplications, one needs to visualize the Guru actually entering into oneself from the top of one’s crown to reside in one’s heart. Then one can continually recall the guru at one’s heart. Of course there are particular times in deity visualisations where one has to dissolve oneself completely into voidness, at which moment everything dissolves into voidness. However one needs to understand that while dissolving the guru at one’s heart, the ultimate state of the mind of the Guru is always inseparable from oneself. In whatever activity one engages, it is good to constantly remember that the guru is at one’s heart.

Ibid, 1-2.

Geshe Dogs further explains there benefits: 

Maintaining an awareness of the guru as being with oneself at all times really helps in many practical ways. For example, it can help to prevent one from engaging in negative deeds. In particular, that awareness can help to develop a conscientious mind that encompasses a sense of shame in relation to oneself and consideration in relation to others. These two states of mind are said to protect us from all misdeeds. Without shame and consideration there is nothing to stop us from engaging in negative deeds. Thus an awareness and visualisation of the guru encompassing all the buddhas is very helpful in our daily lives. We rely upon the supreme object, the guru, when we have difficulties in life. 

Ibid, 14th October, 2008, 2. 

[4] Regarding the manner of absorbing the guru, in verse 24 of The Auto-commentary on the Root Text for the Gelug/Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra, ‘The Lamp of Re-clarification,’ the First Paṇchen Lama, Losang Chökyi Gyältsen, instructs:

After having generated intense faith in the lama, to the point where tears roll down from one’s eyes and the hairs on one’s body stand on end, one then makes strong supplications from the depths of one’s heart, at which point the Lama dissolves into oneself and blesses one’s mental continuum. Within a state of great awe, leaving aside all conceptions regarding temporary and ultimate hopes and aspirations as well as any doubt that something undesirable may happen now or in the future—thus culminating in a mental state that is free of past memories, looking forward to the future or having any discursive thoughts in the present—without modifying one’s state of mind, one remains in that state of awe for a short duration. While maintaining this mind frame, one must be careful not to fall into a state of complete absence of mental engagement, like being unconscious or falling asleep. Rather, one should maintain the stability of the mind that is free of distractions and safeguard that state of mind by deploying the guard of mindfulness.

Geshe Doga, Mahamudra, 2 December, 2008, 4.

[5] See Hopkins, Final Exposition, 87. The point here may be: because Tsongkhapa has explicitly and extensively dealt with the point earlier in his text in relation to selflessness of person, that understanding is to be drawn upon and (implicitly) applied here. This reading is perhaps supported by Tsongkhapa’s own opening reference to “refutation through moving over the reasoning explained earlier” (ibid.). So is Lama Zopa Rinpoche likewise suggesting, via this apparent aside, that we should draw upon our earlier meditative experience of emptiness as we spontaneously engage in this absorption?

[6] An alternative English translation of this prayer by Yongdzin Yeshe Gyältsen (with additions by Pabongka) is found in Willis, Enlightened Beings, appendix 2, 101–6.

[7] Lama Zopa Rinpoche notes that Hevajra is a common tantric practice in the Sakya and, to a lesser extent, the Gelug traditions. See Heart, 161, for a famous story regarding such fundamental misrecognition, even on the part of accomplished practitioners.




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