The Ganges: Essential Instructions on Mahamudra

Advice to Naropa by Mahasiddha Tilopa


given by
His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche


Homage to glorious coemergence!


Intelligent Naropa, forbearing of suffering, you have endured hardships and are devoted to the guru.  Thus, though mahamudra cannot be shown, take this to heart, you fortunate one!


O! Look well at worldly phenomena! Like dreams and illusions that cannot last, they do not exist in actuality.  Therefore, giving rise to disenchantment, abandon worldly activities.  Completely severing the connections of attachment and aversion – the domain of samsara – meditate alone in mountain and forest hermitages! 


When, through remaining in an ongoing state of non-meditation, non-attainment is attained, mahamudra is attained.  These worldly affairs are the useless causes of suffering.  Look at the ultimate essential meaning [the realizes] the futility of deliberate action!


The truth that transcends the intellect will not be seen by means of the intellect.


The point of non-action will not be reached by means of deliberate action.  If you want to achieve the point of non-action transcending thought, sever the root of mind itself and rest in naked awareness!


Leave the polluted water of conceptual thoughts in its [natural] clarity.  Without affirming or denying appearances, leave them as they are.  When there is neither acceptance nor rejection, [mind] is liberated into mahamudra.


For example, [if] the root of a tree with flourishing branches and foliage is cut, its ten thousand branches and hundred thousand leaves whither.


For example, even the accumulated darkness of a thousand aeons is cleared away by a single lamp flame.  Similarly, an instant of the luminosity of mind itself dispels aeons of accumulated negativity and obscuration without exception.


If people of inferior intelligence [can] not abide in the ultimate meaning, they [should] hold the vital point of wind energies and give up exerting [themselves] in awareness.  Until you abide in the ongoing state of awareness by means of myriad gazes and [modes of] focused attention, make effort!


For example, if you examine the center of space, the one who fixates on the boundary and center ceases to be.  Likewise, when you investigate the mind with the mind, the multitude of thoughts ceases and you see the nature of mind.


For example, [when] vapors from the earth or clouds disperse into space, they have gone nowhere and yet do not remain anywhere.  So it is with the multitude of thoughts that arise from the mind: by seeing the mind itself, the waves of thoughts dissipate.


For example, space transcends color and form.  It is immutable and without a tinge of black or white.  Similarly, the mind itself, beyond color and form, is untainted by the white and black phenomena of virtue and evil.


For example, the clear and pure orb of the sun is not eclipsed by the darkness of a thousand aeons.  Likewise, aeons in cyclic existence cannot obscure the luminous essence of mind itself.


For example, although space is labelled ‘empty,’ space itself is indescribable by such [terms].  Similarly, though the mind itself is described as ‘clear light,’ there is no basis for designating it as such through verbal expressions.


For example, in space, what is supported by what?  Like [space], the mahamudra that is mind itself has no supporting ground.  Rest at ease in the uncontrived, innate continuity.  When the bonds are loosened, there is no doubt of release.


In that way, the nature of mind is like space.  There is no phenomenon not included in that.


Completely give up physical activity and remain at ease.  Without much speech, [sound] is like an echo.  Without thinking, look at decisively resolved reality.


The body is insubstantial, like the hollow stalk of a reed;  and the mind, like the center of space, transcends the realm of thought.  Rest at ease in that state, without releasing or placing.  When the mind is without a focal point, that is mahamudra.


By habituating yourself to that, unsurpassable a wakening is attained.


When there is no object of focus, the mind is naturally clear.  When there is no path, the path of the Buddhas is entered.  By habituating non-meditation, unsurpassable awakening is attained.


Transcendence of all subject and object [duality] is the king of views.  When there is no distraction, that is the king of meditations.  When thee is no deliberate effort, that is the king of conduct.  When there is neither expectation nor doubt, the fruition is made manifest.


The uncreated ground of all is clear of the obscuring veil of propensities.  Do not engage meditation and post-meditation, [but] rest in the uncreated essence.  [Thus, outer] appearances, [inner] perceptions and intellectual faculties are exhausted.


The complete release of limits is the supreme king of views.  Boundlessness, deep and vast, is the supreme king of meditations.  Freedom from action, abiding in its own state, is the supreme king of conduct.  Freedom from expectation, abiding in its own state, is the supreme king of fruitions.


To a beginner, [mind] is like a waterfall.  In the middle, it flows gently, [like] the River Ganges.  At the end, it is like the confluence of a stream [with the ocean] – like the meeting of mother and child.


The luminosity that is mahamudra will not be seen through expounding the [secret] mantra and paramitta [vehicles], the scripture collections including the vinaya, or even through individual philosophical scriptures and tenet systems.


When you fabricate nothing in the mind and are devoid of any wish, [thoughts] are like self-arising, self-subsiding ripples in water.  When a wish arises, luminosity is obscured and not perceived.


Preserving the vows conceptually, you violate the samaya on the level of ultimate meaning.  If [mind] does not stray from the non-abiding, unobjectified ultimate meaning, the unimpaired samaya is a lamp in the darkness.


When, devoid of any wish, you are not confined to a position, all the teachings of the scripture collections without exception will be realized.  If you exert yourself in this truth, you will be freed from the prison of samsara.


If you [cultivate] even meditation upon this truth, all unawareness, negativities and obscurations will be burnt away.  [Thus,] it is known as the lamp of the teachings.


Those foolish people who are disinterested in this truth are continually carried off and wasted by the great river of cyclic existence.  How sad that they [endure] the unbearable suffering of evil rebirths!


If you want release from suffering, follow a masterful guru!  Becoming infused with [the guru’s] blessing, your mind will be liberated!


If you rely on the action mudra, the wisdom of bliss and emptiness will arise.  [Thus], unite the blessings of method and wisdom!


The [seed essence] should slowly descend, stop, reverse and spread.  It should be brought to its innate abode and pervade the body.


When there is no fixation to that, the wisdom of empty bliss arises and, flourishing like the waxing moon, one [attains] longevity without greying hair.  One becomes lustrous and radiant, with power like that of a lion.  The common attainments will be swiftly accomplished, leading to the supreme [attainment].


May this essential advice on mahamudra abide in the hearts of fortunate transient beings.


On the banks of the River Ganges, this was taught to Naropa by Lord Tilopa.  May it be virtuous!


Translation by Ari Kiev, with editorial suggestions by Khenpo Konchog Tamphel.