The Song of Mahamudra
The Song of Mahamudra, by Tilopa (988-1069) as sung to his disciple Naropa
Mahamudra is beyond all words and symbols,
But for you, Naropa, earnest and loyal, must this be said.
The void needs no reliance; Mahamudra rests on nothing.
Without making an effort, but remaining loose and natural,
One can break the yoke, thus gaining liberation.
If one sees nothing when staring into space,
If with the mind one then observes the mind,
One destroys distinctions and reaches Buddhahood.
The clouds that wander through the sky have no roots, no home;
Nor do the distinctive thoughts floating through the mind.
Once the self-mind is seen, discrimination stops.
In space, shapes and colours form
But neither by black nor white is space tinged.
From the self-mind all things emerge,
But the mind by virtues and vices is not stained.
The darkness of ages cannot shroud the glowing sun.
The long eons of samsara never can hide the mind’s brilliant light.
Though words are spoken to explain the void,
The void as such can never be expressed.
Though we say “the mind is a bright light”,
It is beyond all words and symbols.
Although the mind is void in essence,
It embraces and contains all things.
Do nothing with the body but relax.
Shut firm the mouth and silent remain.
Empty your mind and think of nothing.
Like a hollow bamboo rest at ease in your body.
Giving not nor taking, put your mind at rest.
Mahamudra is like a mind that clings to nothing.
Thus practicing, in time you will reach Buddhahood.
The practice of mantra and perfections,
Instructions in the sutras and precepts,
And teaching from the schools and scriptures
Will not bring realization of the innate truth.
For if the mind when filled with some desire should seek a goal,
It only hides the light.
One who keeps the tantric precepts, yet discriminates,
Betrays the vows of awakening.
Cease all activity; abandon all desire.
Let thoughts rise and fall as they will like ocean waves.
One who never harms the non-abiding nor the principles of non-distinction,
Upholds the tantric precepts.
He who abandons craving and clings not to this or that
Perceives the real meaning given in the Scriptures.
In Mahamudra all one’s sins are burned.
In Mahamudra one is released from the prison of this world.
This is the dharma’s supreme torch.
Those who disbelieve it are fools who ever wallow in misery and sorrow.
To strive for liberation one should rely on a teacher.
When your mind receives the teacher’s blessing, emancipation is at hand.
Alas, all things in this world are meaningless;
They are but sorrow’s seeds.
Small teachings lead to acts;
One should only follow teachings that are great.
To transcend duality is the kingly view;
To conquer distractions is the royal practice.
The path of no-practice is the way of the Buddhas.
One who treads that path reaches Buddhahood.
Transient is this world.
Like phantoms and dreams, it has no substance.
Grasp at neither the world nor your kin.
Cut the strings of lust and hatred.
Meditate in woods and mountains.
If, without effort, you remain loosely in the natural state,
Soon you will win Mahamudra and attain the non-attainment.
Cut the root of the tree and the leaves will wither;
Cut the root of your mind and samsara falls.
The light of any lamp dispels in a moment the darkness of long eons;
The strong light of the mind in but a flash will burn the veil of ignorance.
Whoever clings to mind sees not the truth of what’s beyond the mind.
Whoever strives to practice dharma finds not the truth of beyond-practice.
One should cut cleanly through the root of the mind and stare naked.
One should thus break away from all distinctions and remain at ease.
One should not give and take but remain natural,
For Mahamudra is beyond acceptance and rejection.
Since consciousness is not born, no one can obstruct or soil it.
Staying in the unborn realm,
All appearances will dissolve into the ultimate dharma.
All self-will and pride will vanish into nothing.
The supreme understanding transcends all this and that.
The supreme action embraces great resourcefulness without attachment.
The supreme accomplishment is to realize immanence without hope.
At first a yogi feels his mind is tumbling like a waterfall;
In mid-course, like the Ganges, it flows on slow and gentle;
In the end it is a great vast ocean,
Where the lights of child and mother merge in one.
(From Will Johnson, “Yoga of the Mahamudra : The Mystical Way of Balance”)