Fivefold Mahamudra

Our discussion this afternoon is about the fivefold mahamudra and why it is necessary to reach enlightenment. The essence of the Dagpo Kagyu teachings is the mahamudra.

But the stages of the path of mahamudra in the different Kagyu branches is different. We in the Drikung practice mahamudra through the fivefold mahamudra path.

Phagmodrupa had 800 students he had given the umbrella and 500 he had given the golden umbrella. But when he taught the mahamudra his other students were not able to come to a definitive understanding.

When Jigten Sumgon came Phagmodrupa, he first gave him the guru yoga practice. Jigten Sumgon said he didn’t need any other teaching than guru yoga to achieve enlightenment. Jigten Sumgon sat meditating on guru yoga in his home.

Before going into retreat Jigten Sumgon made seven branch offerings from 25 to 100 times before each teaching was given. Other people said he used to make offerings and now he doesn’t come to teachings at all.

So Phagmodrupa told him he had to come to teachings. Jigten Sumgon came to teaching and Phagmodrupa said the fivefold mahamudra teachings are the essence of dharma, and Jigten Sumgon developed great confidence in them. Phagmodrupa said until achieving enlightenment, do not separate yourself from these five practices.

All the Kagyu traditions have mahamudra. But mahamudra is like a lion. Mahamudra with the five branch practices is like a lion with eyes.

Without these it is like a blind lion. When Jigten Sumgon meditated on guru yoga he was not doing guru yoga alone, he was doing the full practice.

The fivefold mahamudra condenses:

the three baskets of teachings,
the four classes of tantra, and
the pith instructions into one teaching.

In the Gong Chig it says the 84,000 teachings are the antidotes to the 84,000 afflictive emotions. So we need all the teachings. However, if when you practice unless you can condense them, you will not be able to complete the practice. So you have to extract the essence, like taking butter out of milk.

Atisha came to Tibet between the earlier and later flourishing of the dharma. In Western Tibet Rinchen Zangpo had set up a temple with statues of all the deities of the different classes of tantras.

The deities of were arranged according to the class of tantra. So Atisha was invited to this temple and went to view these statues.

Atisha spontaneously composed a verse of praise before each statue. This caused Rinchen Zangpo to develop great faith in him.

Atisha started questioning Rinchen Zangpo, who was able to answer every question. So Atisha was impressed and said if you have a teacher of this caliber I did not need to come to Tibet. Each day Rinchen Zangpo would meditate in front of each deity and do a practice in front of each.

When Atisha witnessed this he asked how do you practice each deity. Rinchen Zangpo said, you practice according to how its set out in the text.

So Atisha said it looks like the translator is rotten and I was actually needed in Tibet. You have to bring all the teachings to one point and condense them into a single practice. So Rinchen Zangpo asked Atisha for instruction. Because he was a great scholar, he didn’t need to say much.

So Rinchen He set up inner and outer boundaries to his retreat. Rinchen Zangpo prayed that if he passed the outer boundary the dharma protectors should cut his throat and if he passed the inner boundary he should suffer an untimely death. While sitting in retreat, a ball of light of five colors left his body and went into the sky. This represented his passing into the pure lands.

So if you practice all the deities have to be brought together. After Phagmodrupa passed away Jigten Sumgon went into retreat in a cave. When he achieved enlightenment, he fully understood the mode of abiding of all phenomena.

When he instructed his disciples, he told them we have to practice the fivefold mahamudra. Jigten Sumgon taught many systems of practice.

But in essence they all come back to the fivefold mahamudra. Some were pith instructions and some were more extensive, but they all came back to the fivefold mahamudra. We should all be practicing the fivefold mahamudra.

Because the fivefold mahamudra is the path to enlightenment, if you do not practice the fivefold mahamudra, your practice will not lead to enlightenment.

The fivefold mahamudra comes down to the three excellences:

first generating the enlightened attitude,
performing the practice, and
finally dedicating the merit.

The first branch of fivefold mahamudra is bodhicitta, which is the essence of the cause..
The second is the yidam deity, which is the essence of practice.
The third branch is guru yoga, which is the essence of qualities.
The fourth branch is mahamudra, which is the essence of meaning.
The fifth branch is dedication, which is the essence of method.

If we look at sutra and tantra, the generation of bodhicitta and dedication fall into the sutra vehicle.

The creation and completion stages of deity practice. are the essence of tantra, method and wisdom. Creation stage refers to Chakrasamvara yidam practice and completion stage refers to mahamudra practice.

To meet with success in the path you need the blessing of guru yoga, so it is like a helper for the four other methods.

So why do we need all five of these? Of these five, mahamudra is the root of the other branches. But if you just meditate on mahamudra, your practice has emptiness but lacks compassion and will not lead to full enlightenment. If you have compassion without emptiness you will not gain enlightenment.

Emptiness without compassion will only lead to the fruit of the lower vehicles. So you need to develop both. We need both method, the creation stage, and wisdom, the completion stage. Completion stage purifies obscuration of mind and creation stage purifies the obscuration of appearances. So that is why both are necessary.

When we do creation stage, we need completion stage, so that we do not view the form of the deity as a substantial reality. So in this way each branch depends upon the others.

Bodhicitta is the essence of the Mahayana. Without it all the other branches cannot lead to full enlightenment. When we do each practice there are many places where we can get tripped up.

To avoid these we need the blessing to follow the path, which comes from guru yoga. If you want to give rise to primordial wisdom, you need to see the lama in the form of the dharmakaya.

If you don’t enlightenment will not arise in you. All the previous Kagyu masters have relied on devotion, so if you lack it, you are off the path. When an ordinary being meets their teacher they cannot see them as other than ordinary.

As we practice, we can see the teacher as Nirmanakaya. As we progress we can see the teacher as Sambhogakaya.

Finally we can see the teacher as dharmakaya. So we practice visualizing the lama as the four kayas, including Svabhavikaya. You can understand these as being progressively profound and subtle, the outer, inner, secret, and essence practices. As you see the lama, you receive the blessings from the four kayas. Eventually you realize you do not need to look outside yourself any more.

I will not go into too much more detail. First we generate the mind of enlightenment, do the creation and completion stage practice, then the guru yoga and finally the dedication. The dedication is so that we do not lose merit of practice through the faults of anger, wrong view, doubt, or regret.

We have to look into our purpose for doing the practice. Dedication is what makes the fruit come forth. Practice without dedication is like an arrow that has not been shot. Dedication is divided into relative, and absolute, which does not conceive of the three spheres of dedicator, dedication, and beings dedicated to.

So now you see the need for these five stages of practice: First there is bodhicitta. Without bodhicitta, practice does not lead to enlightenment.


Because without it you fall into the lower vehicle, because you only think of your own benefit.
Secondly, we have the yidam deity practice. Without it you cannot overthrow ordinary appearances.

Then thirdly, you must have devotion to the lama to give rise to experience. So it is extremely important.
Fourth is mahamudra. Without it you cannot cut off the root of existence.

The fifth, dedication of merit, is necessary because without it whatever merit generated will not last. So now if you have all five branches, all stages of practice are included and you do not need anything else.

We have five afflictive emotions and this practice transforms them. Bodhicitta transforms hatred. Yidam practice is the antidote to arrogance, the grasping to a self. Meditating on the lama counteracts jealousy. Mahamudra counteracts ignorance or delusion.

Tilopa said that thousands of eons of darkness can be vanquished with one lamp. So similarly mahamudra counteracts delusion. Finally dedication counteracts desire and attachment. Desire is attachment and clinging and keeps us from giving. So giving counteracts attachment.

So we have five dharmas brought onto the path through the fivefold mahamudra.

These ]]five fruits]] are relative bodhicitta, which gives rise to absolute bodhicitta which is mahamudra. Yidam practice exhausts the appearances of ordinary body, speech and mind.

The guru yoga leads to the true nature of mind itself. When you meditate on your mind as inseparable from the lama’s you give rise to unfabricated devotion and realize the true lama, the nature of your mind.

Practicing the mahamudra leads you to find the Buddha is not outside yourself and leads beyond hope and fear. Fifth, dedication results in the accomplishment of your aims without effort.

Next comes how fivefold mahamudra overcomes the five classes of demons. Bodhicitta overcomes the male demons, which are the result of hatred. Yidam practice overcomes the spirits of Mara, which are the result of arrogance.

Guru yoga overcomes samaya breaking spirits, the results of jealousy. Mahamudra overcomes the [[naga] spirits]], who take birth as a result of illusion. Dedication overcomes female evil spirits, who are the embodiment of desire.

Practice overcomes birth in the five realms, which is the result of the five kleshas. Asuras and humans are grouped as one, so there are five realms instead of six. Mahamudra also develops the five primordial wisdoms.

Each wisdom is the purification of its corresponding klesha.

Bodhicitta leads to mirrorlike wisdom.
Yidam practice leads to the wisdom of equanimity.
Guru yoga leads to the all accomplishing wisdom.
Mahamudra leads to the wisdom of the dharmadhatu.
Dedication leads to discriminating wisdom.

There is much more I can say and I can’t say I fully understand the text. Beginners should practice each stage in succession. But at the end we see they are all not separate from the nature of mahamudra. So why do we do them in succession?

When bodhicitta is complete we call it bodhicitta mahamudra.
When in creation stage we realize the unity of emptiness and appearance, we call this mahamudra of the deity.
When we realize our minds are inseparable from the lamas and give rise to unfabricated devotion, this is devotion mahamudra.
In mahamudra when we see all phenomena in samsara and nirvana are not dual, we realize the mahamudra of the abiding nature.

When we dedicate without dedicator, object dedicated, or beings dedicated to, we realize mahamudra that is beyond the three spheres. These are not just nice words. If we practice we will realize this.

When we practice, we should practice all five in a single session. In every moment we should practice all five. So how do you do this? How do you make sure you don’t leave anything out? If you do Chenrezig practice, you begin with refuge and generation of the enlightened mind, which is bodhicitta practice.

When you visualize yourself as Chenrezig, that is yidam practice. Visualizing Amitabha on your crown is the lama practice.

Completion stage practice is mahamudra.

At the end is dedication, which is dedication practice. When you eat, you should meditate on compassion, which is bodhicitta. See your body as the abode of the deity, which is yidam. Visualize your lama in your throat which is guru yoga. See everything as a dream, which is mahamudra. And dedicate at the end of the meal, which is dedication.

In brief, the Drikung tradition of the fivefold mahamudra is practiced by all the Kagyu traditions. The Drukpa Kagyu and Karma Kagyu mahamudra texts accept fivefold mahamudra as valid. All the great Kagyu masters have come to enlightenment on this path. But the individual must be diligent and work hard.

If not practiced the qualities of the practice will not manifest.. Buddha said I only; show the path. Jigten Sumgon said I have extracted butter from milk. Whether you taste it is up to you. So tonight’s topic was how fivefold mahamudra is indispensable. I didn’t go into body of practice I hope this is acceptable.

Q: We have been told that Lord Jigten Sumgon’s guru yoga practice is not other than mahamudra practice. This is the first time I have understood why. Could you explain how guru yoga practice can be seen as fivefold mahamudra practice?

A: Yes, it is fivefold mahamudra in essence. It includes all the branches of fivefold practice. But the mind generation and devotion are up to you. The tradition of fivefold comes from Milarepa’s instruction to Lekshe Kumbum (sp?) It became better known from Gampopa.

Q: I understand the nature of mind is emptiness. But after we realize this, how then do we relate to the phenomenal world?

A: Unobstructed benefit for beings does not arise for beginners. After reaching full enlightenment one is able to do this. By making great aspirations and dedications one is able to work beings spontaneously and effortlessly without objectifying them.

Q: Assuming we practice generation stage of Chakrasamvara for five years, why would one switch to completion stage practice of Vajrayogini?

A: There is no real distinction. The six yogas are the path of method. Vajravarahi is the deity of the 6 yogas and it is helpful to meditate on her.

During fivefold mahamudra one meditates on Chakrasamvara. If you can stabilize the visualization of one deity, you can do them all. Fivefold Mahamudra is the path of liberation and traces itself back to the class of tantra it comes out of. It’s not that Chakrasamvara doesn’t help you meditate on the channels. But our tradition uses Vajravarahi when doing these practices.

Q: What is the Tibetan word for devotion and what is its meaning?

A: Depa is translated as faith and means confidence and trust. One realizes one’s lama possesses qualities of enlightened activities and will be able to give you the siddhis. At this point faith produces devotion. There are two types, fabricated and unfabricated.

Q: How does analytical mahamudra practice fit into the fivefold mahamudra?

A: In mahamudra you have both shamatha and vipashyana. In mahamudra you develop the ability to abide in meditation. But abiding is not of much benefit, we need to see its nature and this is where vipashyana comes. Within the five practices there are many subpractices and analytical mahamudra is included within mahamudra.

Q: Are afflictive emotions overcome in order, or all at the same time?

A: When afflictive emotions arise we need to recognize them. In sutra we apply the antidote and in tantra we liberate them. When we do this, they progressively grow less. But we don’t have control over how they arise, so we cannot liberate them in a particular order. We need to recognize them as they come up. They grow subtler and subtler as we progress on the path.