The Ganges Mahāmudrā Instructions

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The Ganges Mahāmudrā Instructions

by Tilopa

In the language of India: Mahāmudrā Upadeśaṃ
In the language of Tibet: Chag-gya Chen-pö Men-ngag (phyag rgya chen po'i man ngag)

Homage to Glorious Coemergence!

Even though mahāmudrā cannot be explained, wise Nāropa, you have accepted suffering and endured hardships with devotion to the guru, so take this to heart, you fortunate one!

Alas! Look closely at worldly phenomena. Like dreams and illusions, they cannot last; dreams and illusions do not actually exist. Therefore, renounce them and abandon worldly activities.

Having cut through the bonds of attachment and aversion to people and places, meditate alone in forests and mountain retreats. Remain there in a natural state of non-meditation. When you attain non-attainment, you attain mahāmudrā.

Because engagement in worldly affairs is a meaningless cause of suffering and is without essence, look at the essence of the ultimate truth.

The intellect cannot see the truth that transcends the intellect. You will not discover the truth beyond action by means of deliberate action. If you want to attain the truth transcending mind and effort, cut through the root of the mind and rest in naked awareness.

Allow the water muddied by discursive thoughts to settle naturally. Without affirming or negating what arises, leave it as it is. When there is no acceptance or rejection, appearances are liberated into mahāmudrā.

Cut the root of a living tree, and its hundreds of thousands of branches and leaves will wither. Likewise, by severing the root of the mind, the foliage of saṃsāra will dry up.

The darkness of a thousand eons is dispelled by the light of a single lamp. Likewise, the luminous clarity of mind instantly dispels the negativities and obscurations amassed over eons.

If those of lesser ability cannot abide in this state, they should hold the key points of the winds and cast awareness into the essence. Through various gazes and ways of focusing the mind, persevere until you abide in awareness.

When you gaze into the midst of the sky, fixed concepts of “center” and “boundary” will cease. Likewise, when mind looks at mind, thoughts will cease and you see the nature of mind.

When mist and clouds disperse into the sky, they neither go nor remain anywhere. Likewise, the waves of thoughts arising in the mind subside when mind sees itself.

As space transcends color and form, it is changeless and not tinted black or white. So too, your own mind is beyond color and shape, untainted by the light and dark phenomena of good and evil.

Just as the brilliant essence of the sun is not obscured by the darkness of a thousand eons, so too, the luminous essence of mind cannot be darkened by eons in saṃsāra.

Though space may be described as “empty,” space itself cannot be expressed in this way. Likewise, although mind's nature may be pointed out as “luminous,” there is no basis for labeling it through any such expression.

In space, what depends on what? Likewise, your own mind—mahāmudra—has no supporting ground. When you relax in an unaltered, natural state, the bonds are released and you are undoubtably freed.

Thus, the nature of mind is like space; there is no phenomenon not included in it.

Abandon all physical activities and rest at ease. Be silent and let words be like an echo. Without a single thought, look at the definitive experience that lies beyond the mind.

The body has no essence, just like a hollow bamboo reed. Mind, like open space, transcends the realm of thought. Release your mind within this state, neither confining nor allowing it to roam.

Mind without a focal point is mahāmudra. By habituating this, you will attain supreme awakening.

Mind is luminous by nature, devoid of any reference point. Without a path to tread, you enter the path of the buddhas. When you habituate to non-meditation, you will attain unsurpassed awakening.

Transcending every dualistic notion of perceiver and perceived is the king of views. Being undistracted is the king of meditation. Making no deliberate effort is the king of conduct. Having neither hope nor fear is to realize the fruition.

The unborn ground-of-all is free from the obscuring veils of karmic imprints. Rest in the unborn essence without discriminating between meditation and post-meditation. When you recognize appearances as self-projections, the phenomena produced by the conceptual mind will cease to be.

Complete release from all extremes is the foremost king of views. Boundless, deep, and vast is the foremost king of meditation. Natural and effortless abiding is the foremost king of conduct. Natural abiding, free of any hope, is the foremost king of fruitions.

In the beginning, mind is like a torrent, rushing down a gorge. In the middle, it flows gently like the River Ganges. In the end, it's like a stream returning to the sea—its mother.

Proponents of the secret mantra and the pāramitā vehicles, the vinaya, and the other scriptural authorities will not reveal the luminosity of mahāmudrā by expounding on their texts and philosophical traditions.

In a mind without engagement and free of wanting anything, thoughts arise and subside on their own, like ripples on water. Hidden by the rising tide of wants, luminosity cannot be seen.

Observing vows conceptually, you betray the point of actual samaya. Neither focused on an object nor abiding anywhere, if you do not wander from the actual truth, the unimpaired samaya is a light in the darkness.

If, free of any wish, you do not dwell in the extremes, you will see the meaning of the Buddha's teachings, all without exception. If you heed this truth, you will be liberated from the prison of saṃsāra. If you settle in it evenly, the veils of negativity and ignorance will be burnt away. Thus, it is referred to as “the torch of the teachings.”

Foolish people who lack interest in this truth are forever being carried off by the torrents of saṃsāra, and their misery will never end. How sad that they experience the intolerable pains of evil states!

If you want release from these sorrows, rely on a wise guru, for when his blessings infuse you, your mind will be freed!

When you rely on a consort, the wisdom of empty bliss will arise, so enter into union—the blessing of method and wisdom. Bring it down slowly, hold it, reverse it, and draw it back up. Bring it to the places in the body and let it spread throughout. When you remain free of desire, the wisdom of empty bliss will appear.

Like the waxing moon, your life will expand, without graying hair; you will have a radiant presence and the strength of a lion. You will swiftly achieve the common attainments and enter the ultimate siddhi.

May this essential advice on mahāmudrā dwell within the hearts of fortunate ones!

This is what the Siddha Tilopa said to Nāropa on the banks of the River Ganges. May it be virtuous!

| Translated by Ina Bieler and edited by Kay Candler in 2017. Slightly revised in 2021. English translation © 2021 Ina Bieler. All rights reserved. (Reproduced here with permission.)


Tibetan Edition

tai lo pa. "phyag rgya chen po'i man ngag." In bstan 'gyur/ (dpe bsdur ma). Beijing: krung go'i bod rig pa'i dpe skrun khang, 1994–2008. (BDRC W1PD95844).Vol. 26: 1621–1625.

Version: 1.1-20220622