What is Sutra Mahamudra?

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Thomas Amundsen
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What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu May 26, 2016 1:17 am

Hi all,

I'm asking this partially on behalf of a friend, I don't have any intentions to practice Mahamudra. But I am also a bit curious myself because some of the things I have read recently are really intriguing and complicated. I could pull out some quotes and links to sources, but there are just too many different viewpoints and it would be a huge mess. Instead, I'd like to just start from scratch.

What is so-called "Sutra Mahamudra"? Is it something that can be practiced entirely (from here to Buddhahood) in a non-tantric context? How similar is it to Ch'an, and specifically Silent Illumination practice? Is there any Indian basis for Sutra Mahamudra, or is it entirely Tibetan? I am particularly posting this in the Kagyu forum in order to avoid the sectarian polemics with the Sakyapas.

Thanks! :namaste:

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2016 2:06 am

Well....my opinion on the subject is that Gampopa devised this system based on pith instructions, as well as references to Sutra and Tantra. As a path of practice and instruction, it relies on samatha and vipassana methods, as well as instructions from tantric sources and various dohas, and most especially pith instructions from the guru.

Much is made of it being "based on sutras," but ngondro and guru yoga are presented as part of the path, and even creatin stage practices and kumbhaka can be presented as well. It does not rely on extensive creatin stage or advanced tantric completion stage methods. Also, with regard to the object of samatha and vipassana, "sutra Mahamudra" takes the ultimate object as the mind itself, and largely avoid analysis.

I think it's beneficial, relatively safe, and potentially powerful. I don't believe it's "pure sutra" nor do I feel it is just a presentation of HYT' s two stages.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu May 26, 2016 7:22 am

conebeckham wrote:Well....my opinion on the subject is that Gampopa devised this system based on pith instructions, as well as references to Sutra and Tantra. As a path of practice and instruction, it relies on samatha and vipassana methods, as well as instructions from tantric sources and various dohas, and most especially pith instructions from the guru.

Much is made of it being "based on sutras," but ngondro and guru yoga are presented as part of the path, and even creatin stage practices and kumbhaka can be presented as well. It does not rely on extensive creatin stage or advanced tantric completion stage methods. Also, with regard to the object of samatha and vipassana, "sutra Mahamudra" takes the ultimate object as the mind itself, and largely avoid analysis.

I think it's beneficial, relatively safe, and potentially powerful. I don't believe it's "pure sutra" nor do I feel it is just a presentation of HYT' s two stages.
Thank you, Cone. :namaste:

I have a couple follow-up questions, if you don't mind. You mentioned that ngondro and guru yoga are presented as part of the path. Are there any presentations that do not require ngondro and guru yoga? The gist of the situation is that my friend is a Ch'an practitioner and is seeking to enrich his Silent Illumination practice via Sutra Mahamudra. He would very much want to avoid any kind of tantric Buddhism and would not be willing to receive empowerments from a guru or engage in creation stage meditation. Is Sutra Mahamudra something that would be viable in this situation? Even if it's not completely compatible, is it possible to engage in at all, even if it cannot be taken to the complete end result of Mahamudra? And if so, do you have any recommendations on which particular teachers would be best suited for such a presentation of Sutra Mahamudra?

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Vasana » Thu May 26, 2016 7:42 am

Shamatha and vipassana are sutra and also prerequisites for gradually approaching mahamudra. Alhough vipassana has different connotations in each.

Recognizing the union of the two and stabilizing this recognition to its conclusion is spoken of in mahamudra commentaries and pointing out instructions and also in Dzogchen Semde to a degree.

AFAIK , sutra emphasises the empty aspect of shamatha but generally views the movement of thought as an obstacle to overcome rather than integrate.

So i don't know about sutra mahamudra using those exact terms, but the ingredients for the realization of mahamudra using other terms is definitely found in sutra. Prajnaparamita?

Perhaps it's a semantic issue?
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by maybay » Thu May 26, 2016 8:09 am

For a teacher goto Chokyi Nyima.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by smcj » Thu May 26, 2016 8:21 am

Brunnhōlzl has a good bit to say about this in his "When Clouds Part", specifically about how Gompopa's Mahamudra was based on the "Uttaratantra". However it was complicated and I have given away my copy, so I can't be the one to cite him. Perhaps one of the guys over on the other thread that we're all excited about having just purchased it could read the introduction and contribute here.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=18555
Last edited by smcj on Thu May 26, 2016 8:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Grigoris » Thu May 26, 2016 8:47 am

tomamundsen wrote:I have a couple follow-up questions, if you don't mind. You mentioned that ngondro and guru yoga are presented as part of the path. Are there any presentations that do not require ngondro and guru yoga? The gist of the situation is that my friend is a Ch'an practitioner and is seeking to enrich his Silent Illumination practice via Sutra Mahamudra. He would very much want to avoid any kind of tantric Buddhism and would not be willing to receive empowerments from a guru or engage in creation stage meditation.
I have met teachers that seem to think that this is possible, but they are an extreme minority and do not express the view of the Kagyu lineage in general. You cannot avoid Ngondro if you want to practice Sutra Mahamudra. One part of this is the Vajrasattva purification practice. This requires empowerment etc... Another aspect of Ngondro is Guru Yoga. If he wants to get an idea of what is required in Sutra Mahamudra, your friend should read Mahamudra: The Ocean of True Meaning. But this text actually requires a lung, so again one will have to fall into the tantric "trap"
Is Sutra Mahamudra something that would be viable in this situation? Even if it's not completely compatible, is it possible to engage in at all, even if it cannot be taken to the complete end result of Mahamudra? And if so, do you have any recommendations on which particular teachers would be best suited for such a presentation of Sutra Mahamudra?
No matter how hard you try: no Guru, no Mahamudra (Sutra or otherwise).
Last edited by Grigoris on Thu May 26, 2016 9:06 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by fckw » Thu May 26, 2016 8:51 am

This is probably the best book on the subject currently in the market: http://www.amazon.com/Pointing-Out-Grea ... 0861713044. I won't say it's only or entirely Sutra Mahamudra (if there is such a thing) though, yet it's an excellent book.

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Simon E. » Thu May 26, 2016 9:05 am

Sherab Dorje wrote:
tomamundsen wrote:I have a couple follow-up questions, if you don't mind. You mentioned that ngondro and guru yoga are presented as part of the path. Are there any presentations that do not require ngondro and guru yoga? The gist of the situation is that my friend is a Ch'an practitioner and is seeking to enrich his Silent Illumination practice via Sutra Mahamudra. He would very much want to avoid any kind of tantric Buddhism and would not be willing to receive empowerments from a guru or engage in creation stage meditation.
I have met teachers that seem to think that this is possible, but they are an extreme minority and do not express the view of the Kagyu lineage in general. You cannot avoid Ngondro if you want to practice Sutra Mahamudra. One part of this is the Vajrasattva purification practice. This requires empowerment etc... Another aspect of Ngondro is Guru Yoga. If he wants to get an idea of what is required in Sutra Mahamudra, your friend should read Mahamudra: The Ocean of True Meaning. But this text actually requires a lung, so again onε will have to fall into the tantric "trap"
Is Sutra Mahamudra something that would be viable in this situation? Even if it's not completely compatible, is it possible to engage in at all, even if it cannot be taken to the complete end result of Mahamudra? And if so, do you have any recommendations on which particular teachers would be best suited for such a presentation of Sutra Mahamudra?
No matter how hard you try: no Guru, no Mahamudra (Sutra or otherwise).
This... :thumbsup:
Back to fishin' folks... :namaste:

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Losal Samten » Thu May 26, 2016 9:35 am

tomamundsen wrote:I am particularly posting this in the Kagyu forum in order to avoid the sectarian polemics with the Sakyapas.
The Sakyapa's second of the Three Visions is basically the same as Sutra Mahamudra, aka practicing shine-lhagtong with quotations from the mahasiddhas sans empowerment.

http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?p=213024#p213024
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?p=101824#p101824
BuddhaFollower wrote:Its a farcical teaching since the term Mahamudra does not occur in sutra.
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?p=339983#p339983
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Thu May 26, 2016 4:08 pm

tomamundsen wrote: What is so-called "Sutra Mahamudra"? Is it something that can be practiced entirely (from here to Buddhahood) in a non-tantric context? How similar is it to Ch'an, and specifically Silent Illumination practice? Is there any Indian basis for Sutra Mahamudra, or is it entirely Tibetan? I am particularly posting this in the Kagyu forum in order to avoid the sectarian polemics with the Sakyapas.

Thanks! :namaste:
Because emptiness is explained in detail in Buddha’s Sutra teachings and is a part of Mahamudra, some texts say that it is Sutra Mahamudra, but actual Mahamudra is necessarily a realization of Highest Yoga Tantra.

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2016 5:10 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
tomamundsen wrote: What is so-called "Sutra Mahamudra"? Is it something that can be practiced entirely (from here to Buddhahood) in a non-tantric context? How similar is it to Ch'an, and specifically Silent Illumination practice? Is there any Indian basis for Sutra Mahamudra, or is it entirely Tibetan? I am particularly posting this in the Kagyu forum in order to avoid the sectarian polemics with the Sakyapas.

Thanks! :namaste:
Because emptiness is explained in detail in Buddha’s Sutra teachings and is a part of Mahamudra, some texts say that it is Sutra Mahamudra, but actual Mahamudra is necessarily a realization of Highest Yoga Tantra.
Since we are in the Kagyu subforum, I will take the time to point out that the Kagyu lineages do not subscribe to this opinion.

Tom--I recommend Thrangu Rinpoche's teachings on the "SamadhirajaSutra" for your friend.
http://www.rinpoche.com/samadisutra.html
http://www.amazon.com/King-Samadhi-Comm ... 9627341193
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by smcj » Thu May 26, 2016 5:47 pm

I must say that this is all a tempest in a teacup. Does anyone really think that Mahamudra, as practiced in all its forms by the Dakpo Kagyu, is not a authentic path to enlightenment?

Really?
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by heart » Thu May 26, 2016 7:36 pm

BuddhaFollower wrote:
heart wrote:It would make it older than Zantongs invention (your words) of the 17 Tantras of Dzogchen by the way. :smile:
I never said that. I said Zhangton wrote the Vima Nyingthig.

And that idea is from Malcolm:
Malcolm wrote:Zhangton wrote large parts of the Vima Nyinthig, i.e. the gold, copper, agate, conch and turquoise lettered between 1115-1118. I think some of the other texts in the collection are texts he received from Chegom.
Doesn't matter, essence mahamudra is an old and very valid tradition that have brought countless beings to enlightenment, so what is there really to have opinions about? You have ambitions to become an academic? These discussions have a very limited interest and for they sure don't improve our practice.

I really don't know anything about sutra mahamudra except for what I read in books.

/magnus
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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu May 26, 2016 9:47 pm

Thank you all for the answers. This has been really helpful. I think we have all the information we need on our side now. My question's been answered, but I don't mind if people continue with related discussions.

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Thu May 26, 2016 9:49 pm

smcj wrote:I must say that this is all a tempest in a teacup. Does anyone really think that Mahamudra, as practiced in all its forms by the Dakpo Kagyu, is not a authentic path to enlightenment?

Really?
I think I'm missing a connecting piece here. How does Dakpo Kagyu relate to the conversation so far? Is there a specific aspect of Sutra Mahamudra that has been mentioned which is specific to that school?

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2016 10:15 pm

tomamundsen wrote:
smcj wrote:I must say that this is all a tempest in a teacup. Does anyone really think that Mahamudra, as practiced in all its forms by the Dakpo Kagyu, is not a authentic path to enlightenment?

Really?
I think I'm missing a connecting piece here. How does Dakpo Kagyu relate to the conversation so far? Is there a specific aspect of Sutra Mahamudra that has been mentioned which is specific to that school?
"Dakpo Kagyu" merely means all the lineages (4 greater, and 8 later) lineages that trace their roots back to Gampopa. Reading Gampopa, and also Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, you can get a good idea of the general presentation of Mahamudra according to Gampopa.

There are a variety of presentations of "Mahamudra lineage" for each of the current heirs of Gampopa's lineage...the Drikungpas have their "Five Fold Mahamudra" and the "GongChik" has relevance to all sorts of Mahamudra. The Drukpa's have their presentation and they rely mainly on Pema Karpo, the Karma Kagyus have their "Ocean of Certainty" and other texts from Karmapas and Situpas, and the Tsalpa Kagyu relied on Lama Shang's presentation, (but good luck finding any Tsalpa Kagyupas these days.)



This is worth reading:
http://www.wisdompubs.org/sites/default ... review.pdf Read Thrangu Rinpoche's forward, and the Translator's intro, especially.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2016 10:21 pm

As Thrangu Rinpoche points out in the forward, and as I should have noted earlier on, there's an easy way to answer the question "What is Sutra Mahamudra."

For Tantra Mahamudra, the object, and method, is the mind of bliss/emptiness conjoined, which is the result of the Completion Stage with Signs.

For Sutra Mahamudra, the object, and method, is the mind of luminosity free from conceptual elaboration, which is the result of conjoined Samatha/Vipassana and profound pith instructions.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by Malcolm » Thu May 26, 2016 10:40 pm

conebeckham wrote: For Sutra Mahamudra, the object, and method, is the mind of luminosity free from conceptual elaboration, which is the result of conjoined Samatha/Vipassana and profound pith instructions.
Which of course is no different that prajñāpāramitā.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: What is Sutra Mahamudra?

Post by conebeckham » Thu May 26, 2016 10:45 pm

Malcolm wrote:
conebeckham wrote: For Sutra Mahamudra, the object, and method, is the mind of luminosity free from conceptual elaboration, which is the result of conjoined Samatha/Vipassana and profound pith instructions.
Which of course is no different that prajñāpāramitā.
Well, of course, it's the Perfection of Wisdom. But, Pith instructions?
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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