Introduction to Shambhala Mahamudra
Acharya Richard John kindly wrote this article to help introduce the Shambhala Mahamudra Weekend Retreat he is leading at the Victoria Shambhala Centre on May 3rd – 5th, 2013. For more information about that program, and to learn about Acharya John, click here.
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Mahamudra, meaning “Great Symbol” or “Great Seal” in Sanskrit, refers to the true nature of mind and the ultimate nature of reality. As the Vidyadhara explained, neither word is comparative: “Great” does not mean something bigger or grander, and “symbol” is not representing something else. Rather, the experience of “things as they are” is great in itself: beyond limitations, complete, ultimate. And everything is a symbol of itself—in the Vidyadhara’s words, “everything is redundant.” Nothing further is needed. If we know how to truly be and experience life directly, reality speaks for itself.
The tradition of mahamudra evolved among the mahasiddas of India over a thousand years ago. Their methods of realizing the Buddha’s teachings entered Tibet through Maitripa, Marpa and others, forming the basis for the highest teachings of the Kagyu and other New Schools. Known as the path of liberation, and parallel to trekcho within the dzogchen tradition of the Nyingma lineage, mahamudra relies upon the process of hearing, contemplating and meditating to develop the prajna able to directly experience reality. The actual meditation practices of mahamudra are shamatha and vipashyana.
Some of the most revered texts for practicing mahamudra were written by Wangchuk Dorje, the 9th Karmapa. His pith instruction text, Pointing Out the Dharmakaya, has been used for Mahamudra practice in the three-year retreats at Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, which is the inspiration for this program.
Complete Mahamudra is a vajrayana practice dependent upon receiving transmission from the guru—pointing out the nature of mind—which Shambhala students do at Sacred World Assembly. But the tradition also provides valuable tools for anyone practicing shamatha and vipashyana and wishing to deepen their meditation, whether newer students or tantrikas.
Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is teaching a twofold vision of practice for us as warrior-practitioners: In order to establish the enlightened human society envisioned by both sakyongs, it is imperative for us to deepen our own realization as individuals and as a society. Not theoretically, but actually—and soon.