Translator's Introduction [excerpts]
Mahamudra - The Moonlight - The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation represents the advanced doctrine and practice as understood and realized by the Kagyupa Order of Tibetan Buddhism.
This extraordinary treatise provides not only a wealth of knowledge but also methods for realizing enlightenment. In writing this work the great Tibetan teacher Tashi Namgyal (1511-1587) made known many of the ancient secret oral teachings and published them as xylographic prints. In the course of his extensive studies and training, Tashi Namgyal studied with some Sakyapa teachers and even acted as the abbot of Nalanda Sakyapa Monastery, north of Lhasa.
During his later years he functioned as Gampopa's regent and as chief abbot of the monastery of Daklha Gampo, in South Tibet.
This great Tibetan classic, which is widely recognized as an outstanding original work, reveals profound wisdom. The text draws systematically on the vital knowledge and the practical methods of the Buddhist sciences that form the major part of the monastic syllabus. From the sacred law (vinaya) comes the tenet of self-control, the conquest and transformation of the mind. From the essential aspects of logic (pramana) come the methods of determining the nature of reality. From the psychological branch of the sublime doctrine (abhidharma) come the methods of identifying and eliminating the root of self-delusion. From the tenets of the Buddha's transcendental wisdom (prajnaparamita) come the ways of achieving insight into the universal voidness as the ultimate state. From the Mahayana system of self-realization comes the essential practice known as (the twin principles of) transcendental wisdom and infinite compassion. From this ideal emanate the psychological methods for reorienting self-centeredness to a definite concern and compassion for others. From the Buddhist tantric doctrine come the methods of transforming inner delusion and its manifestations into aspects of transcendental wisdom.
The distinct Mahamudra meditation will then reveal the ways of achieving instantaneous insight into the innate perfection of every perception or thought.
The entire text is divided into two parts. The first part contains the principles and practices of tranquility and insight meditation. The second part contains the advanced meditational system according to Mahayana followed by the higher system of Mahamudra (the Great Seal).
The elucidation is written in classical Tibetan prose and is illustrated by innumerable quotations, all drawn from the Buddha's sutras and tantras, from the exegetical treatises of the ancient Buddhist masters, and their mystical poems.
The text begins with a description of the two distinct insights and approaches originating from the Buddha's teachings of the sutras and tantras, that is, the common path of gradual self-realization and the uncommon path of instantaneous self-realization. The stages of the Mahamudra meditation embody these two paths systematically and coherently. The fundamental and advanced meditations on tranquility and insight represent the gradual path, while the actual Mahamudra tradition represents the instantaneous path. The sutric meditations on the gradual path form the foundation, while the Mahamudra meditation represents the nonmystical, direct approach. However, Mahamudra meditation does not employ tantric methods per se. Even though the Buddhist tantra is looked upon as the rapid path self-realization, it is generally considered to be an essential element of the gradual path.
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The Mahamudra's view of a deluded mind stands in contrast to the other three traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The fundamental sutric tradition looks at the deluded mind as evil and therefore to be eliminated. The advanced sutric tradition (Mahayana) treats it as destructive and therefore sublimates it to a compassionate motivation for the good of others. The Buddhist tantra also perceives the negative reality as poison and therefore transforms it into transcendental states of consciousness. By contrast, someone well-trained in Mahamudra treats every deluded thought as a perfect state. Such a deluded thought, when directly observed, instantaneously reveals its innate simplicity, which in turn brings about the dawning of nondualistic wisdom. The Mahamudra meditator looks into the negative experience with a direct insight or at least with a childlike innocence. He actually finds himself faced with the gentle smile of primordial beauty. The Mahamudra tradition describes this experience as holding a Buddha in one's palm. It is said that for a Mahamudra meditator there will always be order in his life, even amid chaos; love amid hatred; light amid darkness; joy amid misery; enlightenment amid confusion.
Mahamudra : The Moonlight -- Quintessence of Mind and Meditation, Takpo Tashi Namgyal, Wisdom Publications, April 2006, Paperback, 532 pages, $34.95