Mahamudra: Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance

By: 9th Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje

Book Description


Mahamudra, or the Great Seal, refers to a Mahayana Buddhist system of meditation on the nature of the mind and is undertaken for realizing Enlightenment. This text, by the Ninth Karmapa (1556-1603), is one of the most famous expositions of this meditational system. It covers both the preliminary practices as well as the actual Mahamudra meditations of mental quiescence (shamatha) and penetrative insight (vipasyana), Explaining the stages and paths as traveled in this system, it represents a complete path to Enlightenment. 

Accompanying the root text is a commentary given orally by Beru Khyentze Rinpoche, based on the teachings of his guru, His Holiness the Sixteenth Karmapa. 

As a proper relation with a Guru is essential for realizing Mahamudra, also included is the basic text on Guru devotion by the first century B.C. Indian master Asvaghosa with an oral commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey.


`The Mahamudra, Eliminating the Ignorance of Darkness' is an extraordinary book - revealing, yet short - which focuses, as its title suggests, on the nature of the mind.

However, it arrives to that by reviewing the I. Preliminaries (outer, inner, conditions), II. Mental Quiescence Meditation (samatha, zhi-na), III. Penetrative Insight Meditation (vipasyana, lhag-t'ong), and IV. Enhancing Your Practice (what to do, what not to do, benefits). In its only 176 pages, it represents thereby a complete path to Enlightenment.

Despite its economy in words (which I found very positive), the text is very rich in unveiling arguments and questions, such as (p.63): `Now look scrupulously at the nature of your mind when it is in full, perfect mental quiescence. By nature, does it have a colour, a form, a shape? Does it have an arising, a ceasing, an enduring, or not? Is it outside, inside, or where is it settled? ...'

The commentaries by H. E. Beru Khyentze Rinpoche (1947) are very sharp, such as (p.77): `It has always been the case, for the nature of the mind is permanent'.

Considering the importance of a spiritual guide for the realization of Mahamudra, the text also includes the `Fifty Stanzas of Guru-Devotion', written by the Indian Buddhist poet-philosopher Asvaghosa in the second century C.E., and commented by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey (1921-1995).

The author of `The Mahamudra, Eliminating the Ignorance of Darkness' is the The Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje (1556 - 1603), who wrote many condensed commentaries on sutras and tantras, including three treatises about Mahamudra which have since been - and still are - central in the teachings and transmissions of Mahamudra in the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism: `The Ocean Of Definitive Meaning', `Pointing Out The Dharmakaya', and this one, which is the shortest. Today, all three are available in English.

This book, finely translated by Alexander Berzin, has been published (First Edition: 1978) under the auspices of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA, Dharamsala) in its remarkable effort to make available teachings from the many traditions of Buddhism in Tibet.

I do strongly recommend this book, and personally consider it a 'must have' for anyone seriously interested in Mahamudra, as by the Karma-Kagyu lineage.

by Eduardo Tramontini (Buddhist name: Karma Trinley Zangpo)

The 9th Karmapa (Wang-ch'ug dor-je) wrote three famed texts on Mahamudra. The longest one, the Ocean of Definitive Meaning (or Ultimate Meaning) was published with commentary by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche twice ("The Ninth Karmapa's Ocean of Definitive Meaning" and "An Ocean of Ultimate Meaning"). Likewise, Thrangu Rinpoche published his commentary of "Pointing Out the Dharmakaya." The present work is one of the shortest (maybe the shortest) of the 3 texts by the 9th Karmapa (1556-1603). It is, thus, quite concise--reminiscent of "The Practice of Mahamudra" by Chetsang Rinpoche in that regard. Beru Rinpoche's commentary (paragraph by paragraph) is also quite concise, but virtually always contributes greatly to the reader's understanding of the text and of Mahamudra. The translation by Alexander Berzin seems first rate to me. I'd give the main book 4.5 stars. However, in addition to this text, the book also includes the 1st century BCE text "Fifty Stanzas of Guru-Devotion" by Aryasura (or Asvaghosa) with commentary by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey who is presumably the co-author of the very fine modern classic, "Advice from a Spiritual Friend." It was writtn during the reign of Kanishka of the Kushan dynasty--known for his ancient coinage. It includes much detail about how to choose and treat one's Guru. However, its context must be considered. For example, it is considered unseemly to point your feet (still the case in Asia) and to step on your Guru's shadow. Some of the items could be considered either Tibetan-specific beliefs or culture or even superstition, but considering the age of the text, these should be overlooked by the Western reader. There is some practical advice still useful today.


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