Mahamudra thoughts are an ancient method of working on the clearing out the inner channels and chakras from the inside. The purpose of all mahamudra is to see emptiness, or ultimate reality, directly. When we do see emptiness directly, all of our inner winds or prana are concentrated in the central channel of our inner body.
Since the inner winds and our thoughts are linked together like a horse and its rider, we can bring the winds to the central channel if we bring the thoughts there: wherever the rider decides to lead, then the horse must follow. Later we will work from the outside, to bring the wind-horse to the central channel, which will also help the rider arrive there.
Our discussion of mahamudra thoughts will start with some general notes about what “mahamudra” means. We begin with some introductory text from His Holiness the First Panchen Lama.
The First Panchen Lama, Lobsang Chukyi Gyeltsen (1565-1662), was one of the greatest masters of Tibetan Buddhism. He wrote over 250 separate books and essays, totalling more than 5,000 pages; the vast majority of these works are commentaries upon a wide variety of tantric practices. The following explanation of the “Great Seal,” or Mahamudra, is taken from “A Lamp for Making Things Even More Clear”: An Expanded Explanation of the Root Text for Mahamudra according to the System of the Precious Tradition of the Virtuous Ones.
This text is a detailed explanation of a shorter verse piece that he wrote on the same subject, entitled “The Highway of the Victorious Buddhas”: A Root Text on the Practice of the Mahamudra in the Precious Tradition of the Teachings of the Virtuous Ones. These two works together are considered one of the best presentations of Mahamudra ever written.
Grab the reins of the horse, and the rider has to come with it. In the yoga tradition, we work with the outside of the body to affect how the winds travel on the inside. As they go, so go the thoughts; and if the thoughts go to the central channel, we see emptiness directly.
The following presentation on the physical mahamudra practice from the yoga tradition comes from one of the greatest classics of yoga ever written: Light on the Yoga of the Sun and Moon, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. It was written by the yogi Swatmarama, and is thought to date from about 1700.
Please note that the practices described in the following section should never be attempted without the personal guidance of a teacher trained in an authentic lineage. They are presented here only for purposes of a preliminary introduction to the theory of mahamudra winds. This warning is quite serious, since—if done improperly or without the proper preparation—these practices can be detrimental to both physical and emotional health.
Options for Further Study
To deepen your study on both the thoughts and winds side of the mahamudra practice, please refer to the following courses on The Knowledge Base:
Daily Practice Series Course 09: The Emptiness of the Mind (Mahamudra) (1999, Soquel, Geshe Michael Roach)
This meditation practice focuses on understanding ultimate reality (emptiness) on a more advanced level. Mahamudra is meditation on the ultimate nature of one’s own mind. We meditate on our mind, examining it on six different levels, each one leading to a more sophisticated understanding of our mind and its nature. Meditating on the ultimate nature of one’s own mind is an important part of a larger practice that leads to the direct perception of ultimate reality. The direct experience of ultimate reality is a key meditative realization that assures very quick enlightenment.
Mahamudra: Two Worlds Side by Side (1998, San Francisco, Geshe Michael Roach)
A one-night course by Geshe Michael Roach in San Francisco on August 28, 1999. This teaching is about a special style of meditation called Mahamudra. This course will be based on a teaching about Mahamudra by The First Panchen Lama and will give an introduction to Mahamudra, a discussion about the advantages of studying the emptiness of the mind, as opposed to the emptiness of objects in general, and a description of beginning Mahamudra meditation for you to incorporate into your daily meditation practice.