Moonbeams of Mahamudra
Whatever we do as our practices, it is necessary to have the motivation of universal compassion, or bodhicitta. One of the more important reasons is that our yearning for happiness and well being is shared by all sentient beings. The reason why we haven’t achieved enlightenment is our self grasping attitude, which binds us to samsara. Cultivating compassion is a direct antidote to self grasping. The Buddha taught 84,000 teachings to eliminate 84,000 emotional attachments. But all of them can be traced back to the self cherishing attitude. The direct antidotes to this are the understanding of emptiness and the practice of compassion. So all our spiritual practices should be informed by these. Sometimes these two are referred to as the coemergence of the ultimate view and compassion.
The most important method for eliminating the false concept of self is compassion. From beginningless time our false concepts have become hard like ice and need to be melted by the fire of compassion. From one point of view it is hard to practice compassion without distinction to all. But from another way it is easy, because the great happiness it brings about. When we consider the suffering great anger brings about we can infer the great happiness that universal compassion brings. It is also important to acknowledge the preciousness of human life and the opportunity it gives us to achieve happiness. Although all beings seek happiness it is only humans who have the ability to do something about it, so we should rejoice in this fact.
Mahamudra came to Tibet from India and it is primarily preserved in the Kagyu tradition. There are many Mahamudra texts, but Moonbeams of Mahamudra is one of the fundamental texts. It is considered one of the three fundamental texts. I have received the oral transmission and commentary from Chetsang Rinpoche. He received the transmissions from his Drikung teachers and from Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche and the Sixteenth Karmapa. There will not be much time for commentary today, I will give the oral transmission. The text is long and I may not complete it. Receiving the oral transmission is considered important. The purpose of the oral transmission is to give the blessings of the lineage masters. Some of you might doze off, but it doesn’t matter. Some teachers can read really fast, but I can’t do that, so this will take a long time. Some teachers read very fast and it’s said they have six tongues. I only have one tongue and it’s very thick.
One of the instructions this text gives is to relax your posture and not make it too tight. Similarly you should relax your mind. But if you relax too much, you are just are chasing thoughts. So you have to find the proper balance. An analogy used in Tibet is spinning wool, which can’t be too tight or too loose. When you are practicing Mahamudra, sometimes you may feel exhausted from trying to maintain the view. At this point you should stop and relax and do something else. Then you can come back to meditation.
The mahamudra view is that all things are empty. This is easy to substantiate because even from the scientific point of view it is established that there is no ultimate permanent existence. More important than establishing intellectually that things are empty, is to get rid of our inherent grasping at true existence. Intellectual understanding does not stop the grasping of true existence. But if you cling to Mahamudra or emptiness, that is much harder to eliminate that clinging to true existence.
I will only explain some crucial points because there isn’t much time. The instruction says we should rest our exhausted mind in its natural peace beyond any mental fabrications. If you can rest your mind in its essential purity which is beyond dualism, that is Mahamudra. There are three aspects of mind: clarity, direct awareness, and natural freedom and ease. If you can rest your mind in that, that is Mahamudra. What is direct awareness? That means not to chase after past thoughts or project into the future, but to remain in the present awareness. This is not something born anew at this moment. This is something that has always been there as the primordial nature of the mind. The third aspect is natural freedom and ease. This refers to ordinary awareness. Ordinary awareness does not refer to our gross conceptual thoughts. It refers to the the essential bare nature of mind which is simply awareness free from dualistic states of mind. It does not refer to something you, acquire through practice but is mind free of projections. If strong emotions arise and you do not chase after them, and instead you try to pinpoint what they are in the process of investigation, they cannot be found. That state beyond identification is referred to as the natural state. Resting in the natural state of mind means being aware of this state of mind.
Mahamudra has to be realized in your mind. It is not external or material. So it is important to have blessings of the lineage, and in fact this is essential for Mahamudra. The transmission confers the blessings of all the lineage masters going back to Buddha. It is important to gain the transmission not only for the permission to practice but to gain any realization from the practice.