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TOPIC: Mahamudra and Tantric teachings

Mahamudra and Tantric teachings 20 Jan 2012 09:46 #5077

Hello all,

I've been reading around about the Vajrayana school and more or less I see how their practice is divided between Preliminaries, Generation stage and Completion stage. But I don't see them talking about mahamudra in any of those parts.

So I was wondering, how does Mahamudra fit in the tantric framework? any tantric master in the room? :D

Thanks :)
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Mahamudra and Tantric teachings 20 Jan 2012 15:20 #5078

Hi!

What have you been reading, Andy? Be aware that the sources for Vajrayana are varied; some can be very obscure; some can be very tight lipped; some have standards for teaching actual Vajrayana teachings which are (perhaps intentionally) unrealistic for most Westerners, and do a bait and switch, advertising as Vajrayana and then actually teaching Mahayana; and so on and so forth. Many people become discouraged while trying to get simple, applicable, straight information on the topic.

The question of how Tantric practices (visualization, energy/breathing, and postural exercises) relates to Mahamudra (a 'pure' contemplative practice) is complex and can be tackled on at least two different levels, the scholarly/historical/theoretical and the practical.

Briefly, from a practice point of view, I have experience with two different ways these kinds of practices can "fit" together.

One, Tantric practices can produce conditions in the bodymind which make recognizing buddhanature more likely, so Tantric practices can serve to illuminate the "View" of mahamudra-- the nature of mind. Pure attentional/contemplative practices (sitting practices without visualizations, etc) can also lead to this direct introduction.

The second way these practices fit together in my experience is that, once one understands directly and has a "feel" for buddhanature (which means, once one can "flash" that view with confidence, not necessarily walk around in it all day long!) then the tantric techniques can take on a different meaning within that context, as a way of working on integration and stabilization of that View. As I've been instructed, the visualizations and mantra work can be the expression of the nature of mind, a way of integrating that view into the flow of active experience. Does any of this make any sense?

If your aim is to get a better understanding of the View, Buddhanature, then a book like "Clarifying the Natural State" by Tashi Namgyal or another similar meditation manual will lead you step by step through a series of exercises and inquiries to be done in sitting practice which can introduce and clarify that view. A similar teaching in from the Dzogchen tradition would be the Semde practices, very similar to Mahamudra's Four Yogas. Check out "Roaring Silence" by Ngakpa Chogyam for an excellent practice manual on this topic.

I sincerely hope what I've written here makes sense to you. Please ask for clarification if you need to! I'm no master, not even a particularly good practitioner ;-) But I'll happily share anything I can in regards to this topic, as it's how I originally got involved in Dharma and I've been coming back to my roots the past few years.

I have some pdf's I could share if you like; also, there are some great online resources, particularly podcasts, that can really help clarifying this topic, by Western teachers who are masters in these traditions.

Jake
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Mahamudra and Tantric teachings 21 Jan 2012 09:30 #5079

Hi Jake, thanks for that!

You say "Tantric practices can produce conditions in the bodymind which make recognizing buddhanature more likely"

do you mean any set of practices in particular?

Thanks for all the book recommendations! This is what I've been reading:

The Six Yogas of Naropa by Glenn Mullinn
The Bliss of Inner Finer by Lama Yeshe
Mind at Ease - Traleg Kyabgon

and now I'm starting with Guide to Dakini Land: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Buddha Vajrayogini - Geshe Kelsang Gyatso

I'm mainly practicing samatha (Mahamudra style) and Tummo as Loco Austriaco explained in KFD, which if you haven't seen its pretty awesome, he gave a load of details.

It'd be great if you could send me some of those .pdfs and recommend some podcasts! thank you very much! I'll pm you my email address :)
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Mahamudra and Tantric teachings 21 Jan 2012 15:38 #5080

The kinds of practices which optimize conditions for recognizing/appreciating buddhanature are, in my experience, Guru Yoga, deity practice, and some physical exercises like Trulkhor and Kum Nye. There are energetic/breathing practices too, but I don't generally work with those.

There are different approaches to optimizing those conditions in different vajrayana lineages I've practiced in, but the general principles seem to hold. If recognizing nature-of-mind means complete relaxation of dualistic tension, then anything which helps support that by relaxing body, mind and energy is helpful! So some lineages emphasise Tantric Ngondro: prostrations, etc. While others emphasize sitting meditation mixed with some energy practice, like you describe yourself engaging in. A familiarity with both these styles tells me they are doing very similar things in different ways. Lately I've come to a re-appreciation for ritual visualization practices, since they bring body, voice and mind into coordination in a unique way. One is sitting there, perhaps making mudras, visualizing/feeling with the mind, and singing little songs or reciting mantras with the voice. It's helpful for learning how to "be" in the movements of our conditioned being without losing the view of unconditioned mind, which is a clunky way of expressing what I'm getting at but hopefully is a pointer. The idea is that by learning to rest in the natural state while engaging in these ritual activities one exercises the capacity that will eventually grow into resting in the natural state while engaging in mundane activities. At an earlier point in my practice, these same practices were helpful in relaxing body, energy and mind enough to make "complete relaxation" into the simplicity of unconditioned consciousness a shorter step.

I'll get you those pdf's today!
-Jake
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Mahamudra and Tantric teachings 21 Jan 2012 20:20 #5081

great, thanks for the pointers!. I'll keep it in mind for the future.

look forwards to that reading!
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