Maitripa on mahamudra
Today I’d like to share an essential instruction of mahamudra by the great Indian mahasiddha Maitripa. Maitripa was a student of the mahasiddha Shavaripa, an early master of the Mahamudra lineage, and originator a mahakala transmission lineage based upon his visionary experiences in a cave on a mountain just north east of Bodh Gaya. This site is also the location of Śītavana charnel ground, also known as Cool Grove charnel ground. It was commonly believed that Cool Grove was a place frequented by ghosts, a place where strange things happened, and where wild animals would come and eat the remains of people who were brought here after death. Śītavana is listed as one of the eight great charnel grounds. It was a place for profound meditation, but also a place of danger.
Maitripa was one of the central teachers of Marpa Lotsawa, the great Tibetan translator who brought the early Kagyu lineage instructions from India to Tibet. Maitripa’s mahamudra instruction was unique and goes back to the great siddha Saraha, who is credited with being the source of the Mahamudra lineage. It is believed that Maitripa spent a good deal of time in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas, near the town of Mirik, in West Bengal.
Maitripa’s Essential Mahamudra Verses
To innermost bliss, I pay homage!
Were I to explain Mahamudra, I would say—
All phenomena? Your own mind!
If you look outside for meaning, you’ll get confused.
Phenomena are like a dream, empty of true nature,
And mind is merely the flux of awareness,
No self nature: just energy flow.
No true nature: just like the sky.
All phenomena are alike, sky-like.
That’s Mahamudra, as we call it.
It doesn’t have an identity to show;
For that reason, the nature of mind
Is itself the very state of Mahamudra
(Which is not made up, and does not change).
If you realize this basic reality
You recognize all that comes up, all that goes on,
The all-pervading dharma-body.
Rest in the true nature, free of fabrication.
Meditate without searching for dharma-body—
It is devoid of thought.
If your mind searches, your meditation will be confused.
Because it’s like space, or like a magical show,
There is neither meditation or non-meditation,
How could you be separate or inseparable?
That’s how a yogi sees it!
Then, aware of all good and bad stuff as the basic reality,
You become liberated.
Neurotic emotions are great awareness,
They’re to a yogi as trees are to a fire—FUEL!
What are notions of going or staying?
Or, for that matter, “meditating” in solitude?
If you don’t get this,
You free yourself only on the surface.
But if you do get it, what can ever fetter you?
Abide in an undistracted state.
Trying to adjust body and mind won’t produce meditation.
Trying to apply techniques won’t produce meditation either.
See, nothing is ultimately established.
Know what appears to have no intrinsic nature.
Appearances perceived: reality’s realm, self-liberated.
Thought that perceives: spacious awareness, self-liberated.
Non-duality, sameness [of perceiver and perceived]: the dharma-body.
Like a wide stream flowing non-stop,
Whatever the phase, it has meaning
And is forever the awakened state—
Great bliss without samsaric reference.
All phenomena are empty of intrinsic nature
And the mind that clings to emptiness dissolves in its own ground.
Freedom from conceptual activity
Is the path of all the Buddhas.
I’ve put together these lines
That they may last for aeons to come.
By this virtue, may all beings without exception
Abide in the great state of Mahamudra.
This was Maitripa’s Essential Mahamudra Instruction (in Tibetan: Phyag rgya chen po
tshig bsdus pa), received from Maitripa himself and translated by the Tibetan translator
Marpa Chökyi Lodrö.
© Nicole Riggs 1999. Reproduction welcome
if not for profit and with full acknowledgement.