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Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff

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Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
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3/12/16 1:47 AM
I recently really enjoyed reading this little article on Mahamudra practices on wikipedia. I thought others might enjoy it also.

Some of the books it references are fantastic, like Clarifying the Natural State.

Anyway, enjoy!

Daniel

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/12/16 4:50 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
excellent!  really a great summary.  it brought me back to my four year affair with the kagyu lineage.  my last living teacher was sharma rinpoche.  he still has a great center here in germany where his brother jigme teaches.

his focus was not on mahamudra because he felt the western practitioners didn't have a deep enough foundation in simple mindfulness and concentration.  this was my experience and this led to the devoluted path and eventually to here.

i read lots about the lineages coming out of northern india which eventually formed the kagyu line amoung others and there is some great folklore and fabulous teachings and very inspiring characters.  i got my start in the "Diamond Way" as represented by lama Ole Nydahl but the cultish nature of that scene (jet set guru) and lack of really dep practiotioners to rely on aided in coolong my ardor for that particular branch.  but they throw great parties!

i love the path i am on but am open to the "something more" which is pointed to in the mahamudra teachings and feel i am in a place where i can , once again, start exploring the teachings. 

for the intellectually minded i highly reccomend reading any of nagarjuna's work.  for the great visualizers amoung us some of the basic practices such as the vajrasaatva purification meditation is bliss inducing, relatively simple and absolutely perfect fo anyone suffering from guilt due to unwholesome action. 

the deeper teachings, like kalachakra and any of the deeper tantras require serious dedication and a great investment in time and learning which was the greatest obstacle for me.

in any case the wiki is really impressive.  thanks for the memories.

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/13/16 6:24 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks, Daniel, appreciate it.

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/14/16 6:43 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hi Dan

Thanks for posting this. I was curious about your views as to when teachings like Mahamudra and Dzogchen begin to feel most relevant. Or when the pointers in these practises start to make most sense. I cant remember where I had read it, but I recall reading something around it being most accessable after 2nd or 3rd path, but I may have read that wrong. Does it relate to a shift from a focus on phenomena to the knowing quality of experience?

Any thoughts, most welcome. 

Barry

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/14/16 11:34 AM as a reply to Barry D.
Barry WatsonHi Dan

Thanks for posting this. I was curious about your views as to when teachings like Mahamudra and Dzogchen begin to feel most relevant. Or when the pointers in these practises start to make most sense. I cant remember where I had read it, but I recall reading something around it being most accessable after 2nd or 3rd path, but I may have read that wrong. Does it relate to a shift from a focus on phenomena to the knowing quality of experience?

Any thoughts, most welcome. 

Barry
Hi Barry,

If we define mahamudra or dzogchen simply as "aware of awareness" or "self-cognizance of awareness", and if these practices are taught well and carefully, with enough context, it can make sense very early on. To me it has. But... the mind, as it is fragmented, restless and conditioned, it can be too steep of a slope. That being said, I think it affects greatly how these practices of knowing awareness are taught, (too rarely when they are taught in the first place).

I know there is controversy among different teachers what the four paths experience-wise actually mean but if we take Daniel's definition which I think works well, the processing of phenomena continues even after the 4th path, though not in the same way as prior to 4th path. Just a side mention.

My own experience and the experience of a couple of people who I know through this forum, arhats/4th paths both of them, is that mahamudra or dzogchen with the above definition, really does get relevant and natural with 4th path. There is much to go from here but it does get natural at that point, nonmeditation comea about naturally. Of course, it gets somewhat natural even after 1st, 2nd and 3rd paths but it really snaps on at 4th.

Cheers,

Baba Kim Katami





RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/15/16 7:05 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
The wikipedia article clarifies Tibetan Buddhism for me in several ways. It's very well written and structured, and reveals a basic framework that's intelligible relative to the Therevada (that I'm most familiar with). Judging from the style and range of source material, the article seems trustworthy.

One obstacle has been the distinctive visual strangeness, and density of Tibetan sense of decoration – dramatic use of color and exotic symbolism ("deities",mandalas,…), and a tendency towards s/w crowded presentation. My very first retreat (led by Spirit-Rock) was at the "Vajrapani Institute" retreat center, and also a later retreat (with Shaila Catherine on Jhana / Insight). At the end of the latter retreat, with rather deepened concentration, tho not yet jhanic absorption, the s/w baroque decorative scheme suddenly seemed to make sense – the vivid contrasting colors, the walls jammed with buddha-pictures of all sorts, the golden statues of the Buddha and the lama who founded the place. Gazing at it all, there was a momentary sense like "of course!" (Maybe life at such high altitudes, which affects the blood, conditions that visual style. In classical Chinese medicine, it's considered that the mind/spirit and memory reside in the blood.)

Nearly thirty years ago, back in acupuncture college in San Diego, I had attended a weekend ritual held by a group of Lamas – supposedly an initiation into the "Blue Buddha", aka. "Medicine Buddha". Went thru it all, but no distinct effect noticed; just memory of elaborate altar setups with flowers, bowls of butter, grains/beans, statues, and hours of chanting in Tibetan.

Anyway, this Mahamudra article sheds a lot of light, by way of it's basic schema that appears similar to Theravada, as well as it's comparison with Mahayana framework.

For instance, the "three types of teachings" – (1) "sutra mahāmudrā," (2) "tantra mahāmudrā," and (3) "essence mahāmudrā" – appears to resemble the Theravada pariyatti-patipatti-pativedha scheme, i.e. (paraphrasing definitions from the article):
  -  sutra, textual study (1) learning the wording of the doctrine (pariyatti),
  -  various methods (2) practising it (patipatti),
  -  direct instruction by lama (3) penetrating it (pativedha) and realising its goal.

Then there's the emphasis on what lookslike anapanasati :
"
For the Kagyupa, in the context of mahāmudrā, mindfulness of breathing is thought to be the ideal way for the meditator to transition into taking the mind itself as the object of meditation and generating vipaśyanā on that basis."
and
"…"your breathing is the closest you can come to a picture of your mind. It is the portrait of your mind in some sense..."
where the penchant for visualization comes in again.


Also an obvious intertwining of concentration and insight practice
. Vipassana  – 5 looking, 5 pointing practices – "They all presume some level of stillness cultivated by mahāmudrā shamatha.'

And the "4 yogas":

1. one-pointedness (S.
ekāgra, T. rtse gcig)
clearly concentrative ekaggata;

2. simplicity (S. niṣprapāncha, T. spros bral) "free from complexity" or "not elaborate."

the Sanskrit looks to be in Pali "ni-papanca", without proliferation (or obstacle); maybe the modern "KISS" – "keep it simple, stupid";

3. one taste (S. samarasa, T. ro gcig)
in Pali the same word: "sama-" even, tuned (same root as samma) + "rasa" juice, flavor -- equanimity?

4. non-meditation (S. abhāvanā, sgom med) The state of not holding to either an object of meditation nor to a meditator. Nothing further needs to be 'meditated upon' or 'cultivated at this stage.
Same in Pali "abhāvanā" free of becoming (practice, development). This seems less emphasized in what I've seen in Theravada – the Buddha's last words suggest perserverance, for all levels of path (?); and more a Mahayana theme -- the thorough sense of relinquishment as seen in the "Heart Sutra".


Also interesting the passing references to "bhumis", as in Kim Katami's scheme publicized here recently. In outline seems to resemble his, though the variations seen the various Tibetan strands suggest it's not that standardized. And, as suspected from Katami's rendition, probably to some extent a matter of highly subjective intrepretation.

And so on. On the other hand, the plethora of lineages and traditions – as complex as the visual patterns in Tibetan iconography. Somewhat an accomplishment on the part of the authors (of the wikipedia article) to glean such a clear picture of the basic systems – assuming that it's accurate.


re: tom moylan (3/12/16 2:50 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram)
"…for the intellectually minded i highly reccomend reading any of nagarjuna's work.  for the great visualizers amoung us…"
Looks like I should investigate Nagarjuna… and again, that emphasis on visualization?

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/23/16 7:47 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:

For instance, the "three types of teachings" – (1) "sutra mahāmudrā," (2) "tantra mahāmudrā," and (3) "essence mahāmudrā" – appears to resemble the Theravada pariyatti-patipatti-pativedha scheme, i.e. (paraphrasing definitions from the article):
  -  sutra, textual study (1) learning the wording of the doctrine (pariyatti),
  -  various methods (2) practising it (patipatti),
  -  direct instruction by lama (3) penetrating it (pativedha) and realising its goal.


As I understand it, Sūtra Mahāmudrā, Tantra Mahāmudrā, and Essence Mahāmudrā are considered three alternative approaches, not three sequential stages of the same approach. That understanding comes from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche's Wild Awakening, excerpted here:

http://steamboatbuddhistcenter.org/_/Arc_of_the_Path_files/Three%20Classifications%20of%20Mahamudra.pdf

DPR says that the Sūtra Mahāmudrā approach is so named because it supposedly relies on the Prajñāpāramitā Sūtras. What the connection is, I do not know.

DPR characterizes Sūtra Mahāmudrā in that PDF: "The meditation of Sūtra Mahāmudrā essentially consists of resting one's mind, free of mental activity, in the state of nonconceptual wisdom."

It is Sūtra Mahāmudrā that Loch Kelly aims to present, in Westernized form, in the book discussed on the other thread:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5788022

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/24/16 5:20 AM as a reply to Barry D.
hi barry,
tantra and vajrayana includes some basic / initial practices which use the full spectrum approach including mantras, visualizations, merit dedications and and and..

so, seen from that perspective 'tibetan' teachings can be helpful anywhere along the path. 

there are MANY teachings and practices which are considered too complex or too subtle or requiring a lot of deep wisdom which fall under the gist of your question.

the classic "pointing out" mahamudra instruction, for example, was given to Naropa by his teacher / guru Tilopa after only years of study, practice and accomplishment.

when i did a phowa retreat several years back, i felt very certain that it was exactly what i needed at the time and under the lineage in which i took that empowerment, there were zero prerequisites other than having previously taken refuge.

i later read that most other lineages required that the practitioner must have "at least" reached "the path of seeing", which corresponds to 1st path here.

the takeaway for me is that while any additional wisdom will certainly help understanding the more subtle and non-dual aspects of any teaching, most can have benefit on the more gross levels as well.  also, some people are "sutta" people and some people are "tantra" people meaning that some people have skills and capacities (visualization, deep faith in a guru, certain degrees of realization perhaps) which make tantrayana or vajrayana the right thing for them which are, for others, simply too complex or destabilizing to be of safe value.

RE: Mahamudra on Wikipedia: good stuff
Answer
3/24/16 6:55 AM as a reply to Derek.
re: Derek (3/23/16 7:47 PM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"As I understand it, Sūtra Mahāmudrā, Tantra Mahāmudrā, and Essence Mahāmudrā are considered three alternative approaches, not three sequential stages of the same approach."

Thanks for that link – a good clear explanation, like the wikipedia article (also assuming that it's accurate).

So then Sūtra Mahāmudrā appears similar to Theravada, for instance using texts and "shamatha and vipashyana meditation". Interesting it's considered the "simple" approach; uses, obviously, Mahayana notions, but also that "pointing" idea prominent in the Wikipedia summary of Mahamudra.

Tantra Mahāmudrā, apparently aka Vajrayana (I was wondering where that "3rd vehicle came in), is where all the rich visualization and rituals comes out, using deity iconography to "mirror" the mind.

Essence Mahāmudrā then seems to depend upon person-to-person transmission, which may make it s/w iffy, difficult to verify. Perhaps what Kim Katami claims to do?