Guru Rinpoche Day Teachings

Ultimate Instructions on Mahāmudrā from the Drikung Lord Jikten Gönpo

Dear friends near and far

As always, I hope this message finds you well, healthy and happy. On this Guru Rinpoche day, I would like to share with you some extremely profound instructions from the first throne-holder of the Drikung Kagyü tradition, Jikten Gönpo. Please take a moment to read these carefully and reflect on them.

The Fivefold Ultimate, Essential Instructions and Eightfold Samayas of Mahāmudrā

Homage to the precious guru!

The precious guru himself said that this ultimate, essential instruction on Mahāmudrā is comprised of five elements: (1) the instruction lineage; (2) the realization of the view; (3) the experience of meditation; (4) the conduct of equal taste; and (5) the certainty that dispels faults.

1) First, the ultimate lineage of Mahāmudrā instructions must not devolve into a conventional transmission of words, nor be interrupted by any person: it is transmitted from the Glorious Vajradhara down to the precious guru.

2) Second, the realization of the view does not merely refer to an abstract understanding of reality: yogis who realize their mind to be unborn through the guru’s blessings realize the inseparability of the unborn nature of mind and of sight and sound, just like water and ice, or sesame and sesame oil.

3) Third, the experience of meditation is the realization that one’s mind is free from all conceptual elaborations.

4) Fourth, the conduct of equal taste refers to the equal taste of emptiness and compassion, of appearance and emptiness, of pleasure and pain, and of illness and the four elements.

5) Fifth, the certainty that dispels faults corresponds to the eight samayas of Mahāmudrā. These consist in:

    1. Realizing one’s mind to be unborn, yet not forsaking the guru and vajra master;
    2. Not criticizing any point of the Sacred Dharma as more or less profound, from the Vajra Vehicle of Secret Mantra down to the Vinaya, nor criticizing any of its followers;
    3. Being free of all hope for enlightenment above, yet constantly keeping dharmic conduct;
    4. Being free of all fear of samsara below, yet shunning all negative action, whether gross or subtle;
    5. Mastering samadhi such that one is free from harm by the elements of water and so on, yet having no personal pride;
    6. Knowing samsara and nirvana to be indistinguishable, yet keeping a view and conduct that accord with those around us;
    7. Understanding buddhas and sentient beings to be one continuum, yet naturally feeling compassion;
    8. Making no difference between meditation sessions and breaks, yet remaining in hermitage.

This was the condensed, ultimate, essential instruction on the samaya lineage of Mahāmudrā.

May you all realize the profundity of these words and their meaning.

Sending you all my love.

Sarva Mangalam,

Phakchok Rinpoche

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.