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Tilopa's Instructions on Mahamudra

Mahamudra is beyond all words
And symbols, but for you, Naropa,
Earnest and loyal, must this be said:

The Void needs no reliance.
Mahamudra rests on naught.
Without making an effort,
One can break the yoke
Thus gaining Liberation.

If one sees nought when staring into space,
If with the mind one then observes the mind,
One destroys distinctions
And reaches Buddhahood.

The clouds that wander through the sky
Have no roots, no home; nor do the distinctive
Thoughts floating through the mind.
Once the Self-mind is seen,
Discrimination stops.

In space shapes and colors form,
But neither by black nor white is space tinged.
From the Self-mind all things emerge, the mind
By virtues and by vices is not stained.

The darkness of ages cannot shroud
The glowing sun; the long kalpas
Of Samsara ne'er can hide
The Mind's brilliant light.

Though words are spoken to explain the Void,
The Void as such can never be expressed.
Though we say "the mind is a bright light,"
It is beyond all words and symbols.
Although the mind is void in essence,
All things it embraces and contains.

Do naught with the body but relax.
Shut firm the mouth and think of naught.
Empty your mind and think of naught.
Like a hollow bamboo, 
Rest at ease your body.
Giving not nor taking,
Put your mind at rest.
Mahamudra is like a mind that clings to naught.
Thus practicing, in time you will reach Buddhahood.

The practice of Mantra and Paramita,
Instruction in the Sutras and Precepts,
And teaching from the Schools and Scriptures will not bring
Realization of the Innate Truth.
For if the mind when filled with some desire
Should seek a goal, it only hides the Light.

He who keeps tantric precepts
Yet discriminates, betrays
The spirit of samaya.
Cease all activity, abandon
All desire, let thoughts rise and fall
As they will like the ocean waves.
He who never harms the Non-abiding
Nor the Principle of Non-distinction,
Upholds the Tantric Precepts.

He who abandons craving
And clings not to this or that,
Perceives the real meaning
Given in the Scriptures.

In Mahamudra all one's sins are burned.
In Mahamudra one is released
From the prison of this world.
This is the Dharma's supreme torch.
Those who disbelieve it
Are fools who ever wallow
In misery and sorrow.

To strive for Liberation
One should rely on a Guru.
When your mind receives his blessing
Emancipation is at hand.

Alas, all things in this world are meaningless;
They are but sorrow's seeds.
Small teachings lead to acts;
One should only follow
Teachings that are great.

To transcend duality
Is the Kingly View;
To conquer distractions is
The Royal Practice.
The Path of No-practice
Is the Way of Buddhas.
He who treads that Path
Reaches Buddha-hood.

Transient is this world --
Like phantoms and dreams.
Substance it has none.
Renounce it and forsake your kin,
Cut the strings of lust and hatred.
Meditate in woods and mountains.
If without effort you remain
Loosely in the "natural state,"
Soon Mahamudra you will win
And attain the Non-attainment.

Cut the root of a tree
And the leaves will wither.
Cut the root of your mind
And samsara falls.

The light of any lamp
Dispels in a moment
The darkness of long kalpas.
The strong light of the mind
In but a flash, will burn
The veil of ignorance.

Whoever clings to mind sees not
The truth of what's Beyond the mind.
Whoever strives to practice Dharma
Finds not the truth of Beyond-practice.
To know what is Beyond both mind and practice,
One should cut cleanly through the root of mind
And stare naked. One should thus break away
From all distinctions and remain at ease.

One should not give or take
But remain natural,
For Mahamudra is beyond
All acceptance and rejection.
Since the Alaya is not born,
No one can obstruct or soil it.
Staying in the "unborn realm,"
All appearance will dissolve
Into the Dharmata; all self-will
And pride will vanish into naught.

The supreme Understanding transcends
All this and that. The supreme Action
Embraces great resourcefulness
Without attachment. The supreme
Accomplishment is to realize
Immanence without hope.

At first a yogi feels his mind
Is tumbling like a waterfall.
In mid-course, like the Ganges,
It flows on slow and gentle.
In the end, it is a great
Vast ocean where the Lights
Of Son and Mother merge in one.

According to Marpa, this Upadesha (Sanskrit for instructions or explanation how to do) was given by Tilopa on the banks of the Ganges.


alaya:  Sanskrit expression for the ground of existence, the unborn.

samaya: Skt. for commitment, bond of duty or obligation.

Paramita: here it means the practice of trying to be virtuous by working on the "Perfections."


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