Jesus Yoga & Tilopa’s Mahamudra

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Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden. I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me . .  for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

 

 

 

 

 

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Mind itself is self-liberated dharmakaya. Within which arises self-liberated mahamudra. This key to self-liberated experience I possess.

 

 

 

 

Great masters leave their mark on this world through their teachings and ultimately the lineage of followers who carry on their work. We are greatly blessed in this historical epoch to have access to two of humanity’s great spiritual yogins. Jesus personified compassion. His example and stories have fashioned a mind set that places ‘a love of neighbor as oneself’ at the cornerstone of behavior.

Tilopa was born in India one thousand years after Jesus. From Tilopa we have the quintessential teachings on mind known as Mahamudra. Tibetan Buddhism is predicated on the principal of Mahamudra. In Sanskrit Maha means ‘great’ and Mudra means ‘seal’.  When Tilopa’s lineage was passed on to Naropa and carried into Tibet by Marpa, Mahamudra became phyag-gya-chen-po. Not content with merely translating the literal meaning the Tibetan yogins went one step further and built into their dialogue a vocabulary that infused each particular word with additional significance. Phyag-gya means not only seal but ‘vast’.  Phyag also means ‘hand’ as well ‘cleaning tool’, i.e. a broom or sponge. Therefore, Mahamudra is a meditational system which purifies our mind of impurities. Our mind is left capable of of recognizing it’s own true nature: at once both vast and empty- Dharmakaya. This ‘recognition’ is ‘self-arisen’ therefore ‘self-liberating’ and the experience is complete, ‘sealed.’

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Tilopa’s most famous expression has been I, Tilopa, have no human guru. My guru is mighty Vajradhara.  As Tai Situ Rinpoche (whose calligraphy is shown above) explains: Let us be careful not to misinterpret this declaration. It was made neither through pride nor through ingratitude to the many, often illustrious, teachers who had helped him in the earlier part of his life. It is certain that he appreciated all those scholars, mahasiddhas’ and dakinis’ help a great deal and that he continued to respect them. By this stage in his life, he had attained perfect realization and full mastery of vajra-like samadhi: he was totally inspired by Buddha Vajradhara (Bearer of the Thunderbolt) and possessed his power of absolute certainty — the extraordinary personal transmissions. It would have been a matter of course for his Indian disciples to inquire after his gurus and the traditions he represented. It was natural for him to reply as above, to impress upon them the power and freshness of his own direct realization and his first-hand link with enlightenment.dakpo-tashi-namgyal-001

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Dakpo Tashi Namgyal (1511-1587) was responsible for codifying the techniques we refer to today as Mahamudra. His exhaustive and thorough treatise The Perfect Description of Moonlight that Illuminates the Stages of Ultimate Mahamudra was the first Tibetan text on meditation translated into English (at the behest of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje).

Anyone stuck inside a human body should not consider going through life without the ultimate owner’s manual Clarifying the Natural State.  Concise and clearly written this is a practical, how-to on meditation (sort-of-like the old books on keeping your VW van alive). Consider Three key points: Remain fresh in unconcerned naturalness. Remain artless and uncontrived without judging. Remain unbound and uninvolved with striving.  For this there are Five Analogies: Elevate your experience and remain wide-open like the sky. Expand your mindfulness and remain pervasive like the earth. Steady your attention and remain unshakable like a mountain. Brighten your awareness and remain shining like a flame. Clear your thought-free wakefulness and remain lucid like a crystal.

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In the middle of the twentieth century, shortly after the horrors of the second world war, Autobiography of a Yogi 001three events took place that rewrote our concept of Jesus, the man and his message. First the discovery at Nag Hammadi, Egypt in 1945 of ancient Christian texts buried some 400 years after the death of Jesus. Included among the codices found was a complete copy of the Gospel of Thomas (the above quote is taken from that text). One year later (1946) Paramahansa Yogananda released Autobiography of a Yogi. On October 4, 1948 Harcourt, Merton-Seven Storey Mtn 001Brace published Thomas Merton’s seminal autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain. Seventy years on both of these books have been among the top selling spiritual books. Yogananda and Merton charted parallel paths, one beginning in the West and turning Eastward, the other born in India brought yoga to America and has been instrumental in forging a fresh view on the meaning of Christ.

Thomas Merton was single-handedly responsible for an upsurge in Catholic vocations after SSM was released. His ability to communicate on issues of faith, conscience and inner flaws made him an icon for a generation. He became the public conscience for opposition to nuclear proliferation even when the Catholic Church tried to silence him. Even more importantly he was a one-man band  for inter-faith dialogue. Again the church tried silencing him, even threatening excommunication when he began a now famous exchange of letters with Zen Master D.T. Suzuki. Shortly before his death in 1968 Merton met, and impressed Tibetan lamas who had only recently found refuge in India. The Dalai Lama said Merton was the one who “introduced him to the real meaning of the word Christian.” He also cited Thomas Merton as one of the three most influential influences on his own life.

Christopher Pramuk points out in the best-ever study of Merton’s work, SOPHIA: The Hidden Christ of Thomas Merton the key element Merton focused on: the unity inherent in disparity. “What Zen realization shares with biblical-mystical faith is precisely the disarming experience of ‘a breakthrough . . . a recovery of unity which is not the suppression of opposites but a simplicity beyond opposites’.”

Thomas Merton calls us still to invest new energy and faith in our search for the Hidden Christ within — Christ has planted in the world the seeds of something altogether new, but they do not grow by themselves. . . For the world to be changed, man himself must begin to change it, he must take the initiative, he must step forth and make a new kind of history.

As Merton looked Eastward to expand his relationship with Christian Wisdom Paramahansa Yogananda emblazoned the ancient Indian science of yoga across the face of America, literally from sea to sea. Indian spiritual tradition both praises the human guru and holds their teaching and example as a beacon toward which the student strives and attains. Such is the inherent power in the Indian subcontinent’s message that the mystical path must result in the dedicated practitioners attaining the enlightenment they will then inspire in the next generation. It must be so or the lineage perishes.

The Apostle Thomas carried the teachings of Jesus to India, he lived there, he died there. The Gospel of Thomas has awakened a long dormant element in the Christian tradition. For two thousand years Western Christianity presented Jesus as a being fromyoga-of-jesus-001 whom we could seek pardon and protection but not someone we could ever hope to approach face-to-face as equals.  Now we know that was not the message Jesus gave to his own followers: Jesus said, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you. . .  I am the light of the world which is before all things. From me all things come forth, and to me all things extend. Split a piece of wood, and I am there, lift up the stone, and you will find me. . . Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am, and I myself will become that person, and the mysteries shall be revealed to them.” Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas continues: Jesus took Thomas and withdrew, and told him three things. When Thomas returned to his companions, they asked him, “What did Jesus say to you?” Thomas said, “If I tell you even one of the things which he told me, you will pick up stones and throw them at me; and a fire will come out of the stones and burn you up”. The traditional Gospels state clearly that Jesus gave his close students teachings on a deeper level than presented in the New Testament. This is to be expected, a Master who could heal with extraordinary power, speak deep truths simply and clearly through parable and even indeed walk through his own death experience consciously and produce clear evidence of that experience transmitted some of his own power to others. Luke’s Acts of the Apostles has ample evidence of the disciples newfound powers. The Holy Face veil in Manopello, Italy (The Face of God) is total physical proof of the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus left us a trail and then buried the tracks for two thousand years, until now. It is up to those who believe to seize upon this moment and manifest the Consciousness of Christ through belief, prayer and mediation

Paramahansa Yogananda’s message is inseparable from his own relationship with Jesus. Yogananda wrote in THE SECOND COMING OF CHRISTTruth is no theory, no speculative system of philosophy, no intellectual insight. Truth is an exact correspondence with reality. For man, truth is unshakeable knowledge of his real nature, his Self as soul. Jesus, by every act and word of his life, proved that he knew the truth of his being–his source in God. Wholly identified with the omnipresent Christ Consciousness, he could say with finality, “Everyone that is of the truth will hear my voice”. . . The decipherment of this secret code is an art that man cannot communicate; here the Lord alone is the teacher.  Of course, Yogananda is not downplaying the role his own guru, Sri Yukteswar, played in his life. He is merely echoing Tilopa’s teaching, on the final mountain top we attain our own transfiguration and came face to face with reality in it’s most elemental form — a burning bush, Vajradhara or Moses and Elijah.

Which brings us full circle to the present practitioners of Christianity and Buddhism.

book-of-joy-001No dark fate determines the future. We do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet. This is the power we wield. Lasting happiness cannot be found in pursuit of any goal or achievement. It does not reside in fortune or fame. It reside only in the human mind and heart, and it is here we hope you will find it. Tenzin Gyatso/Desmond Tutu

Happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not. Desmond Tutu

Our human nature has been distorted. We are actually quite remarkable creatures. In our religions I am created in the image of God. I am a God carrier.rabble-rouser-for-peace-001 It’s fantastic. I have to be growing in godlikeness, in caring for the other. I know that each time I have acted compassionately, I have experienced a joy in me that I find in nothing else. Desmond Tutu, Rabble Rouser for Peace, a barefoot schoolboy from a deprived black township who became an international symbol of the democratic spirit and religious faith. The Bible is dynamite . . . nothing could be more radical. . . Prayer and social action is not an either-or proposition. Rather, prayer inevitably drove me off my knees into action.

The Dalai Lama visited Belfast in northern Ireland after the Troubles. He was invited to attend a private meeting where victims and perpetrators of violence were present. The atmosphere was very tense, as the suffering was practically palpable in the air. As the meeting began, a former Protestant militant spoke of how, when he was growing up, he was told by other loyalists that what they did in opposition to the Catholics was justified because Jesus was a Protestant and not a Catholic. Knowing that Jesus was, of course, a Jew the Dalai Lama laughed so hard that he completely changed the atmosphere. Able to laugh at the absurdity of our prejudices and our hatreds, everyone was able to communicate more honestly and compassionately with each other. THE BOOK OF JOY

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“I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone.” Thomas Merton

The Miraculous 16th Karmapa – Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

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Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, the 16th Karmapa, was born in eastern Tibet in September 1923. His arrival followed the particulars laid out in A Dying Song — The Hidden Significance of a Bamboo Flower, An Ornament for the People by Khakhyab Dorje, the 15th Karmapa.

Miraculous 16th Karmapa 001THE MIRACULOUS 16TH KARMAPA, edited by Norma Levine is a compilation of first hand accounts of life changing encounters with Rangjung Rigpe Dorje. His first visit to the West in 1974 preceded the Dalai Lama by five years. The visit was initiated by an invitation from the Dharma Center of Canada at the behest of Lama Namgyal Rinpoche (shown below with the Karmapa, Kinmount, Ontario 1974). Namgyal had been the Canadian seeker George Leslie Dawson before starting to practice Theravada Buddhism in 1956. He traveled to Burma and studied under U Thila Wunta. First he became a monk then an Acharya (Dhamma teacher). He met the Karmapa at Rumtek in 1968. It was his inspired vision that prompted the Mahabodhi Society of the UK to offer Johnstone House, an old hunting lodge in Eskdalemuir, Scotland to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Akong Rinpoche. So began Samye Ling, Vajrayana Buddhism’s beachhead in the West.

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Trungpa and Akong both played pivotal roles while implementing the Karmapa’s visionFreda Bedi for Western Vajrayana Buddhism, albeit while exercising their own totally different styles. In any case none of this would not have been possible without the foresight and wisdom of Gelongma Karma Kechog Palmo, the first Western woman to take ordination in Tibetan Buddhism. Freda Houlston was born in Derby, England, February 5, 1911  She married an Indian man, taking the name of Freda Bedi. She moved to India and took an active role in Gandhi’s freedom campaign. She was invited by Prime Minister Nehru to work for the Central Karmapa, Chogyam Trungpa,FredaBedi, Akong, C. Bedi 001Social Welfare Board. This took her to northern India where she established a school for Tibetan tulkus, Young Lama’s Home School. She took a particular interest in Trungpa and Akong, even inviting them to live in her home. (At left: Chögyam Trungpa, Freda Bedi, Karmapa, Baba Pyare Bedi (Freda’s husband) and Akong Rinpoche – Delhi 1961). It was her insistence that led Trungpa to Oxford to pursue his studies in classical Western philosophy. Freda Bedi 001Akong supported his friend by taking work as a janitor. In 1964 the Karmapa ordained her as a nun, she frequently served as his translator, including his first visit to the West in 1974. Gelongma Palmo was a central figure in Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s mandala when she died in 1977. Vicki Mackenzie has written an excellent new (March 2017) biography, The Revolutionary Life of Freda Bedi: British Feminist, Indian Nationalist, Buddhist Nun. Let us give praise to this blue eyed, English accented woman who transformed Vajrayana Buddhism.

Lion's Roar - DVDThere is a Hopi legend that states the Hopi and Tibetan people were once one. During the Karmapa’s first visit to America he expressed a desire to visit the Hopi, a meeting with tribal elders was arranged at the reservation near the Grand Canyon.  When he exchanged his turquoise, silver and coral ring with one worn by Chief White Bear the rings were identical. During the meeting Sun Chief Dan told the Karmapa the land was enduring a long drought. “I will pray about it,” was Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s reply. When the group began driving to Phoenix the sky was cloudless, upon arrival at the motel the skies darkened, thunder rumbled and a deluge of rain followed. The drought was over. The Lion’s Roar, narrated by James Coburn, is an excellent film account of Rangjung Rigpe Dorje’s life with a focus on his first visit to America.  DHARMA KING (shown below) is a stunning photo biography of the 16th Karmapa prepared under the guidance of the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

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Dance of 17 Lives 001Karmapa - Mahakala 001Many excellent books have been written on the Karmapa. A superb view of the complex story surrounding the 17th Karmapa’s discovery and journey to India is found in Mick Brown’s The Dance of 17 Lives. Mick is of course the author who introduced us to the indomitable Mr. Creme in his fascinating overview of the world spiritual community in The Spiritual Tourist. Now out of print but available in limited supply is Karmapa The Black Hat Lama of Tibet. The authors, Nik Douglas and Meryl White offer an in depth look at the Karmapa lineage. The photos alone make it a must have. The author’s were privileged to receive a private tour of the treasure room at Rumtek monastery in Sikkhim. The photos and descriptions tell it all. The Situ Tulku lineage dates from Drogon Rechen who lived at the same time as Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa. The 16th Karmapa’s greatest legacy lives on in the masterful presence  of the Situ, Gyalstap and Jamgon Kontrul tulkus.The photo below shows a young Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and Padma Wangchuk Gyalpo, the 11th Situ Rinpoche (1938).

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16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and 12th Situ Rinpoche, Pema Tönyö Nyinje -1958 (below)

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Karma Triyana Dharmachakra in Woodstock, New York is the Karmapa’s seat in the West, founded by the 16th Karmapa in 1976. KTD has been under the continuous guidance of Abbot Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche (left) ever since hisKhenpo Karthar - 1976 001Situ Rinpoche & Khenpo Karthar 001 arrival in America.(with Tai Situ Rinpoche above) [Taken by my friend Tsulzang/Steve on the occassion of his ordination at Karma Triyana in 1998] Khenpo Karthar’s loving care is a continuous tide of kindness and wisdom washing the minds of seekers who arrive in Woodstock, New York from around the world hoping to establish, re-discover or invigorate their connection with the Karmapa’s mind stream.

Chogyam Trungpa & Jamphel Drakpa 001.jpgJamphel Drakpa, (left with Chögyam Trungpa) Akong Rinpoche’s brother, served as trangu-tsedrup-khenpo-karthar-lama-yeshe-beard-2016private secretary for the Karmapa at Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim and then as the secretary and treasurer of Karma Triyana in Woodstock. He became a monk, named Yeshe Losal by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, and did a five year retreat in a tiny cottage behind the main shrine building in Woodstock. He then became abbot of Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland. Below, Khenpo Karthar tugs on Lama Yeshe’s beard at the first Thrangu Tsedrup-Long Life Puja held at Karma Triyana in 2016. On this occasion Khenpo Karthar said, “I want to say how happy I am and how fortunate I feel that Lama Yeshe Losal was able to join us for this event. Lama Yeshe Losal is someone who was very much loved and trusted by the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa. And therefore when KTD was first established, the Karmapa placed him here as an assistant or deputy to Lama Tenzin Choyni. At that time he was instrumental in the very founding and proper functioning, creation and maintenance of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra.”

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Tenzin Chonyi (center above with Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the17th Karmapa) was eleven years old when his family fled Tibet and joined the Karmapa. In 1974 Rangjung Rigpe Dorje named Tenzin-La his personal representative to the West. He was the president of Karma Triyana for 38 years. Chojor Radha (right) translated for Rangjung Rigpe Dorje at Rumtek Monastery before studying in England at Cambridge. He joined KTD in 1981 and translated for many great teachers. His death in 2008, shortly after the 17th Karmapa’s first visit to Woodstock, deprived the Vajrayana community of a  precious gem of unparalleled sweet sincerity. I miss my friend.

Thinley Chojor was much loved and respected in the Vajrayana community for his knowledge of the Dharma and his meticulous skill in maintaining the traditional elements of Buddhist Temple art. He came from a long line of Tibetan artisans, his family helped build the Potala during the Fifth Dalai Lama’s reign. He was the shrine master at KTD until his death shortly before the Karmapa’s visit in 2008. We honor his many contributions and his graciousness.

Karmapa's Tara 2 001Ogyen Trinley Dorje, the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, is nudging the Kagyu lineage forward which is not easy with a monastic tradition thrust into a jet stream data driven world from a Tibet that had changed little in the 900 years since the death of the 1st Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa. His artistic talent is evidenced by the Tara painting at left. The attention and insight he brings to environmental awareness is inducing a paradigm shift in the relationship between mystical and earthly reality. Today the Karma Triyana community in America is addressing social issues with an openness heretofore unseen in Vajrayana Buddhism. I fully expect Ogyen Trinley Dorje to elevate female practitioners to their rightful place in the Kagyu mandala which arose spontaneously from Tilopa’s first encounter with Vajrayaogini, Mother of the Buddhas. Tilopa and Naropa both gained enlightenment under the tutelage of dakinis, now the Kagyu lineage will turn full cycle and restore the feminine wisdom foundation of this supreme tradition.

Karma Triyana 001 Bodyless Dakini 001Dorje Chang Thungma 001As the Kagyu has moved Westward from Tibet it has been strongly served by the deep reserve of profound transmitted teachings held by great masters and the dedicated faith, steeped in study, of Western students such as Tony Duff of the Padma Karpo Translation Committee.

Situ Rinpoche - Lineage Blessings 001Devotion is the head of meditation and non-distraction is the body of mediation.’  The Dorge Chang Thungma, written by Benkar Jampal Zangpo over five hundred years ago, is a profound aspiration prayer dedicated to the Kagyu lineage of Gampopa. It’s recitation is a fundamental practice forming a bedrock for understanding the nature of thought. Tai Situ Rinpoche has provided us with unparalleled commentary on the life and teachings of Tilopa as well as the Dorje Chang Thungma. This classic prayer can be experienced on the Power of Lineage Blessing CD/DVD recorded at Sherabling in October 2009. Enlightenment is a continious evolvement of our relationship with the Dharmakaya which is mind’s true nature. This state of mahamudra can never be attained without heeding the voice of the dakinis and the blessings of a teacher.

Stones to Shatter the Stainless Mirror 001Several commentaries on the life and teachings of Tilopa have been published in recent years. Situ Rinpoche’s classic TILOPA published by Samye Ling in 1988 to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Tilopa’s birth best captures the essence of Tilopa’s timeless message: The Voice of the Dakini. Yet, Tilopa’s spirit has survived as a distinctive voice with a message that resonates with each new generation of students. Kiley Jon Clark’s STONES TO SHATTER THE STAINLESS MIRROR:: The Fearless Teachings of Tilopa to Naropa clearly articulates Tilopa’s voice. Kiley Jon Clark‘s work involves bringing Dharma teachings to homeless people.

What follows are excerpts from Situ Rinpoche’s teaching on Tilopa and the origin of the Kagyu  – ‘The unbroken lineage of profound and intimate guidance in the four forms of transmitted mastery’. It all began with Tilopa’s encounter with an aged dakini while he tended his families buffalo as a young boy. Throughout his life wisdom dakinis guided Tilopa’s path.

Tilopa was well advanced on the path when he ventured to Orgyen to receive the lineage transmission showing the way to authentic realization from the faultless wisdom dakini. That dakini issued three challenges to Tilopa before sharing her secrets. The value of re- obtaining these teachings directly from their source would be in the freshness and directness they would have and which Tilopa could pass on, via his own students, to future students of his lineage.

1- For the general wish-fulling gem one needs the key of experience and guidance. Without that guidance, it can never be disclosed.

2- For the wish-fulfilling gem of samaya one needs the profound key of transmitted mastery: without the remedies, it can never be disclosed.

3- For the wish-fulfilling gem of true nature one needs the key of deep supreme awareness: without realisation, it can never be disclosed. 

Tilopa responded to her challenge with his own three assertions. First, The discrete terms of the dakini, teachings revealing mind, The lamp of essence awareness dispelling ignorance’s darkness, Known of itself, occurring by itself and lucid in itself; This key of prophetic guidance and experience – I possess.

The teachings of the dakini, revealing the nature of mind, are couched in their secret speech: ‘secret’ in the sense of self-secret, naturally discrete, because it only makes sense to those sufficiently awakened to understand.Their discrete terms reveal jnana, the bright lamp of essence-awareness which automatically dispells the darkness of ignorance.Essence-awareness totally transcends duality. Knowing itself simultaneously with anything, it is auto-cognisant. Occurring all by itself, it is a spontaneous manifestation that was never produced by causality and conditioning. Naturally clear and therefore scintillatingly intelligent, it is lucid in itself. That is the key of prophetic guidance and experience which he possesses..

Tlopa’s second reply, concerning the wish-fulfilling gem of samaya: Without any production whatsoever, mind itself is the self-liberated (rangdrol) dharmakaya within which arises  self-liberated mahamudra: this key, of self-liberated samaya, I possess.

Tilopa - Rangdrol 001Mind itself is not a product. No process of causality or conditioning has produced it. Therefore mind itself needs no freeing. There is no process to undo or modify, nothing to be liberated and no need for a related causal liberator. The self-liberated character of mind is called dharmakaya. It is really like that and because that is precisely the way it is, the natural radiance and expression of its freedom – the advice of mahamudra pointing to the self-liberation that is already there – occurs in those who become aware of this, mind’s inherent condition.

Of the third key, concerning mind, Tilopa replied: By not making any mental objectification and not creating even an iota of recollection, mind’s essence, everything’s essence, is seen as dharmakaya; this key of realization, I possess.

Tilopa also possessed the third key, that of realization — insight within an undifferentiated dharmakaya, mind as it really is, the essence of everything. He had gained such a profound vision of things through devloping skill in non-speculation; neither making mental objectification (contrived conceptual activity) nor even one iota of recollection. The jnanadakini concluded her transmission to Tilopa with these final words of guidance:

One wishing to acheive a perfect body must strive in the visualization stages. One wishing to achieve ultimate speech must recite the essence mantras. One wishing to achieve nobility of mind must strive in mahamudra.Now go to Cudamani hermitage — there care for Naropa. You will nourish many disciples and bring benefit to many sentient beings.

Having said these verses, the dakini all melted into light and disappeared.

Situ Rinpoche - Samye Ling 001The above teaching on Tilopa were given by Tai Situ Rinpoche at Samye Ling in Scotland in 1988 to mark the 1000th anniversary of Tilopa’s birth. Unfortunately, Rinpoche’s book on these teachings is out of print. Perhaps Dzalendra Publishing and Samye Ling will once again make this masterpeice available.

KAGYU IMAGES: The Lion’s Roar

Sukhasiddhi                                                                   Niguma

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Rangdrol 001The Kagyu (Lineage of Transmitted Mastery) began with the songs of Dakini’s calling to Tilopa one thousand years ago. Thus began a remarkable odyssey transmitted from Master to Disciple unto this present age. The teachings of the dakini, revealing the nature of mind, are couched in their secret speech: ‘secret’ in the sense of self-secret, naturally discreet, because it only makes sense to those sufficiently awakened to understand. Their discrete terms reveal jnana, the bright lamp of essence-awareness which automatically dispels the darkness of ignorance. — from TILOPA by Tai Situ Rinpoche, perhaps the ultimate Dakini Realm instruction manual, published by Kagyu Samye Ling, Eskdalemuir, Scotland, the first Tibetan Buddhist center in the West.

Kalu - Karmapa - Trungpa 001Three remarkable Kagyu Masters ushered the Dharma westward in the twentieth century. Kalu Rinpoche, the 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and Chögyam Trungpa.

Jamgon Kontrul 001Situ Rinpoche 001Two Heart Sons followed close behind. Jamgon Kongtrul and Tai Situ Rinpoche have forged close bonds with Western students. Bringing traditional teachings along with a strong command of Enlish these teachers have assured the survival of Tilopa’s legacy.

Dusu, Khyempa - 17th Karmapa 001Today the Kagyu Lineage is identified with Karmapa, the Black Hat Lama. The First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa pictured above on the left was one of three wild yogis who studied under Gampopa, who instituted the monastic tradition that exists to this day. Dusum Khyenpa and his companions were expelled for consuming alcohol and dancing wildly in celebration of a Dakini festival. Gampopa realized his most talented students had been expelled by the master of discipline when he saw the birds flying away from his monastery and the dakas and dakinis departing. He left his retreat cave and chased after the three yogis imploring them to stay.

Dusum Khyenpa 001Dusum Khyenpa eventually became known as Karmapa, Knower of the Three Times, Man of Action. Many miraculous events are associated with Dusum Khyenpa but none more incredible than the letter he left detailing where he would be reborn. Thus Karma Pakshi became the first incarnate lama in Tibet. This sequence has repeated itself now seventeen times. Before Rangjung Rigpe Dorje died in 1981 he left an amulet with Tai Situ Rinpoche. The prediction letter within the amulet led to the discovery of Orgyen Trinley Dorje born in Tibet in 1985.

KarmapakshiThe Second Karmapa, Karma Pakshi, above, born in 1204, set the standard for intensive mystical mastery we expect of Karmapas. Caught between the demands of conflicting Chinese rulers, Karmapakshi was forced to drink poison, thrown off a cliff and into flames by Kublai Khan. Each time he emerged unharmed forcing the Emperor to recognize his ultimate nobility. While in China he arranged for a giant Buddha statue to be constructed at his monastery, Tsurphu near Lhasa. Upon his return to Tibet he discovered the statue was leaning to one side. He sat in meditation in front of it and, imitating the statue, he leaned to the side. As he slowly righted himself, the statue straightened along with him. (photo by Lawrence Birney)

BELOW – 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso w/ 16th Karmapa (left) & 17th Karmapa (right)

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Karmapa 16 & 17 001The 16th Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and the 17th, Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche, a great and wonderful teacher of the Dharma (below), of Kham, Tibet with the 17th Karmapa. Sangye Tenzin was a veritable wellspring of information and inspiration to all those who came in contact with him. He shone with a genuine desire that all of his students truly ‘get it’, that we appreciate the wish fulfilling gift which he was bestowing on us. His presence was a Rain of Blessing.

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The most pronounced quality of the Kagyu is the relationship between students and master which is passed on from one lifetime to the next, each recognizing the other. Situ & Karmapa 001Tai Situ (far reaching, unshakeable) Rinpoche is the root lama of the Karmapa. He was the one given the letter by Rangjung Rikpe Dorje that led to the discovery of the 17th Karmapa. Here they are shortly after their reunion in a wonderful photo from Ken Holmes’ book Karmapa that details the entire chain of events. Ken is a long time student of the Karmapa and Situ Rinpoche and has lived and taught at Samye Ling in Scotland for many years. He has edited the classic books by Situ Rinpoche published there. He and his wife Katia have also translated Dharma texts.

Situ & Kalu 001Kalu Rinpoche, a meditation master who lived from 1905 to 1989, was instrumental in training many young incarnate lamas. After studying under the 11th Situ Rinpoche, Padma Wangchuk, he helped train the current Situ Rinpoche, Pema Donyo Nyingche Wangmo. They are shown here together shortly after the Tibetan diaspora in 1959. Kalu Rinpoche spent many years in solitary retreat in the Himalayas before the Karmapa asked him to visit the West and teach the Dharma. Homage to Kalu Rinpoche 001He first established a traditional three year retreat program in France. His life story is well told in The Chariot for Travelling the Path to Freedom by Ken McLeod. The drawings of Tilopa and the dakinis Sukhasiddhi and Niguma are from this book which is a must have for Kalu Rinpoche students. Homage to Khyab Je Kalu Rinpoche published by Lama Lodu and KDK Publications in San Francisco is another must. The wonderful photo of Kalu Rinpoche, the Karmapa and Chögyam Trungpa is from this book.

Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche was born September 17, 1990. He was recognized by Situ Rinpoche and made his first visit to the United States in 1995.Bokar & Kalu 001 I was part of the welcoming party when he arrived at Kennedy Airport with his former student, then teacher, Bokar Rinpoche. I had met the previous Kalu Rinpoche and received one empowerment from him. My faith in Situ Rinpoche was complete, but I was apprehensive meeting the new Kalu Rinpoche. After all, we were there to welcome a four year old boy. This was my first experience meeting a young tulku. When they walked through customs the hairs on my arm stood on end. I realized that THIS ACTUALLY WAS KALU RINPOCHE. Kalu & Bokar dancing 001

No experience to date can match that for confirming the authenticity of Vajrayana teachings. The next month was magical. Bokar Rinpoche gave many teachings and transmissions from the Shangpa Kagyu tradition, and we also shared Kalu Rinpoche’s joy at having a fresh young body. Since the previous Kalu Rinpoche had projected such a stern exterior, albeit with an inner radiance and glow, this new incarnation was a fresh bloom on the rose. (Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche photos by my friend and construction collaborator, Steve Petty from Salt Spring Island.)

Bokar & Kalu marmekan 001In 2011, Kalu Rinpoche visited the United States for the first time since completing his formal training. Unfortunately, he chose not to visit New York. Therefore many devoted students who were closely connected to the previous Kalu Rinpoche were unable to see him during that visit. Hopefully, he will return to the US soon and give teachings in New York at his monastery or anywhere else that he feels is appropriate. In fact, I extend an invitation to teach at my home anytime he would like.

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Chögyam Trungpa was a phenomenon. Arriving at Cambridge University from India in the mid-sixties, he perfected his English, learned Western psychology and mastered the culture. After founding Samye Ling in Scotland with Akong Rinpoche he moved on to America, and we are so thankful that he did. Trungpa was a tireless teacher until his death in 1987. He authored close to thirty books which have had a wide impact in introducing Vajrayana to the West. His first book BORN IN TIBET was published in 1966. I read it in the early 70’s. It set me on (as of now) a forty year cascade through the most powerful mental training system on the planet.

The lion’s roar is fearlessness in the sense that every situation in life is workable. Nothing is rejected as bad or grasped as good. But everything we experience in our life-situations, any type of emotion, is workable. From THE MYTH OF FREEDOM.

DRAGON THUNDER: My Life With Chögyam Trungpa by Diana Mukpo, his wife of nearly twenty years, is one of the most enjoyable reads I’ve had in a long time. This is an entertaining view behind the roller coaster carnival of Trungpa’s life. DRAGON THUNDER IS A MUST READ! Chögyam Trungpa: His Life and Vision by Fabrice Midal offers a thoughtful and complete review of Trungpa’s work.

Shambhala was an enlightened society that manifested nonagression. Its geographical location was in the middle of Asia, in the middle, or the heart, of the Orient. The Shambhala society was able to transmute aggression into love. Consequently, everybody in Shambhala attained enlightenment. So they no longer needed to domesticate their animals, and they no longer needed to fight wars. Finally, the whole society, the whole country — including all the buildings — ceased to exist on the earthly plane. This is the story of Shambhala. — Chögyam Trungpa from Midal’s book.

Above all, Trungpa championed the ideal of Shambhala and presented it to the West. fShambhala is a Pure Land, a beyul, the home of the sacred Kalachakra teachings, the Highest Tantra vehicle. In a novel written with my wife Angelina, the  Shambhala teachings are highlighted through a fictional journey which explores their current need in creating peace in the world. PURE VISION: The Magdalene Revelation encourages a closer look at the spiritual forces that infuse the world’s political battles.

Trungpa’s genius manifested itself in many ways, but none more impressive or lasting than the creation of Naropa University in 1974. Today it is a thriving liberal arts college boasting among other accomplishments, The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. The university was named after Naropa, who was the illustrious abbot of Nalanda in eleventh century India. After an encounter with a powerful Dakini, Naropa recognized his knowledge was useless without wisdom. The Dakini empowered Naropa to seek her brother Tilopa who straightens Naropa out, so to speak.

Our story began with Tilopa, or rather with the Dakini’s call to Tilopa. Feminine Wisdom is mother of the Buddhas. Without the discrete terms of the dakini, teachings revealing mind, the lamp of essence awareness dispelling ignorance’s darkness, known of itself, occurring by itself and lucid in itself cannot be recognized — From Situ Rinpoche’s TILOPA as is the calligraphy below.discrete terms of dakini 001Tilopa’s Kagyu oral transmission lineage sprang from the discrete terms of the Dakini, Mahamudra, The Great Seal, Wisdom Beyond Knowledge. The punishing apprenticeship he put Naropa through is the stuff of legend. Naropa passed his lineage on to Marpa who carried the teaching to Tibet, he himself undertook three arduous  journeys to India to obtain his treasures. Milarepa, the poet-yogi, earned his mantle through another epic apprenticeship. Gampopa, guru to Dusum Khyenpa, the First Karmapa, studied under Milarepa.

Tilopa’s teachings are summed up in The Ganges Mahamudra, which he emparted to Naropa on the banks of the great river. There are numerous commentaries and translations of this root text but my favorite is found in MOTHER OF THE BUDDHAS by Lex Hixon. Hixon was a great contributor to our modern spiritual dialogue. Born on Christmas Day 1941, he began his studies with Vine Deloria, a Lakota Sioux elder, at the age of nineteen. Six years later he began studying with Swami Nikhilananda, a disciple of Sarada Devi, Ramakrishna’s wife. Hixon’s epic work on Ramakrishna, GREAT SWAN, is brilliant. It is always worth recalling Ramakrishna, as his life in nineteenth century Bengal is an open mirror to Tilopa’s eleventh century India.

Mother of the Buddhas 001Great Swan 001The dedicated practitioner experiences the spiritual way as a turbulent mountain stream, tumbling dangerously among boulders. When maturity is reached the river flows smoothly and patiently with the powerful sweep of the Ganges.  Emptying into the ocean of Mahamudra, the water becomes ever-expanding light that pours into great Clear Light – without direction, destination, division, distinction or description.  Tilopa – Mother of the Buddhas.

The Kagyu lineage web has been spun by generations of students standing upon the shoulders of their teachers, who in turn became the students in their next life. A story line like this could only continue with the ability to identify these departed masters upon their return.

Jamgon Kontrul - 16 Karmapa 001The third Jamgon Kongtrul, pictured at left with the 16th Karmapa, was universally loved by all who met him. I had the great honor of taking the Kalachakra and Shitro empowerments from him. His death in 1992, at the height of the search for the 17th Karmapa, was a shock to the entire Vajrayana community.

There is no more serious task for any Karmapa than orchestrating the search mission for incarnate lamas. In 1996 the 17th Karmapa informed representatives of Pullahari Monastery that he had information concerning the rebirth of Jamgon Kongtrul. At the moment the Karmapa handed over the letter containing his instructions, there was a single clap of thunder. The Karmapa himself was only eleven years old at that time!

The Karmapa indicated that the 4th Jamgon Kongtrul would be found south of Tsurphu, the E MA HO 001Karmapa’s seat in Tibet. In his exercise book he drew some pictures of the mountains, a river and the house (two storeys with the door facing exactly east) where he would be found.  The Karmapa also mentioned by name several nearby villages and the number of persons in the family (eight). He even informed them of the most auspicious day to begin their search, several months hence. Even so, there were difficulties with the search and the party had to return to Tsurphu for clarification. Perhaps, their faith in an untested eleven year old Karmapa was shaky. The Karmapa seemed to toy with them and merely repeated his instructions. On their return to the area, the group found the fourth Jamgon Kongtrul. The entire story can be found online in E MA HO.

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(left) The Karmapa, Urgyen Trinley Dorje and the Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul, Karma Lodro Chokyi Nyima in 1996. Jamgon Kongtrul today and Tai Situ Rinpoche (above).

As Tilopa promised, the Kagyu lineage will continue to bring a great deal of both temporal and ultimate benefit to the world.

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Lennon/Harrison: Music as Consciousness

In the twentieth century two towering figures reshaped the world, it’s meaning and our minds. George Harrison and John Lennon (shown here on Bob Spitz’s excellent account of The Beatles). Their list of accomplishments is staggering. Simply put, though, George and John introduced Asian culture to Western youth. In 1966 John was reading The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Timothy Leary. This wonderful book is itself based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead the classic teaching by Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche. Tomorrow Never Knows was the first recording made for what became the Revolver album. To Lennon, the book cried out for a soundtrack. He set this road map to the mind with the ultimate garage-rock conceit; a single chord driven furiously from beneath by bass and drums, with only two shifting modal harmonies up top . . . Tim Riley Trying to achieve the effect of Tibetan monks chanting John inspired EMI’s engineers at Abbey Roads Studio to develop two new techniques that were introduced on Tomorrow Never Knows. ADT (Automatic Double Tracking) used two tape recorders to capture one vocal and this was coupled with Flanging, a term applied when one of the tapes is deliberately delayed. The song was styled on Indian classical music using the C note as a tonic and dispensing with traditional chord changes. George supplied the drone effect by playing a tamboura. As radical as the musical concepts on Tomorrow Never Knows it is the thought stream on which the musical scheme floats that reverberate to this day . Turn off your mind relax and float down stream It is not dying, it is not dying Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void, It is shining, it is shining. Yet you may see the meaning of within It is being, it is being Love is all and love is everyone It is knowing, it is knowing And ignorance and hate mourn the dead It is believing, it is believing But listen to the colour of your dreams It is not leaving, it is not leaving These lyrics, written by John Lennon, inspired by Timothy Leary are actually the teachings of Guru Rinpoche/Padmasambhava, who lived in the eighth century and is credited with bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet. Padmasambhava was both yogi and magician. He subdued the many wrathful, craved, demonic elements that held dominion over much of the rugged Himalayan ranges. In doing so he secreted many treasure teachings (ter chos) to be discovered by subsequent followers at more appropriate times for the message. The Great Liberation by Hearing on the Intermediate Steps (known in the West as The Tibetan Book of the Dead) is a manual that details the nature of the after-death state  and provides meditation practices to understand the nature of mind and prepare practitioners for travel through the Bardo realms. The first English translation was made in 1927 by Lama Kazi Dawa Samdup and W. Y. Evans-Wentz who wrote the Preface to Autobiograophy of a Yogi. Bardo means gap; it is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation; death happens in the living situation as well. The bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. There are all kinds of bardo experiences happening to us all the time, experiences of paranoia and uncertainty in everday life; it is like not being sure of our ground, not knowing quite what we have asked for or what we are getting into. Chogyam Trungpa – The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Shambhala Dragon Edition The term ‘treasure-teachings’ is generally extended to include not only concealed ‘earth-treasures’ (sa-ter), but also revelations discovered in a telepathic manner directly from the enlightened intention of buddha-mind (gong ter), and pure visionary experience (dag nang). From The Tibetan Book of the Dead translated by Gyurme Dorje and edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa. Sung Juk yuganaddha/unification/union/non-dual attainment of Buddha’s form/wisdom body, union of bliss/emptiness, attainment of clear light mind/illusory body Sangye Tenzin Rinpoche a Nyingma/Kagyu Lama from Kham who spent twenty years in Chinese captivity. His earnest willingness to transmit the Dharma experience to young Western practitioners will forever be cherished by all who knew him. Kindness is the essence of Dharma. He carried many rare transmissions and passed them on to the 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje among others. He exemplified the Guru Rinpoche lineage. In 1971 George, with encouragement from Ravi Shankar, organized the first rock mega benefit concert at Madison Square Garden for the people of East Pakistan/Bangladesh who had been ravaged by a cyclone and civil war. Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbhar Khan, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Bob Dylan were among the performers. By 1985 over $12 million had been sent to Bangladesh. To this day all sales of the Concert for Bangladesh CD and DVD benefit the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF. In return for your investment you will hear the finest Bob Dylan set ever recorded. For a thorough history of the Bangladesh horror and the United States’ complicit role read Gary J. Bass’ excellent study, THE BLOOD TELEGRAM: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide. Read it and weep. George Harrison gave generously throughout his life to spiritual causes. He exemplifies the Artist/Yogi. Throughout his life as a closet yogi, chanting served as Harrison’s conduit to the mystical world, his favored method of remaining God-conscious and acruing good karma. In a conversation with Mukunda Goswami, he likened life to a piece of string with knots tied in it. The knots represent a person’s karma from previous lives, and the object of a person’s life is to untie the knots already there in order to be free. However, not being aware of that fact, people tend to create more knots while failing to untie the previous ones. Chanting and God-consciousness, Harrison believed, have the power to untie the knots. The key is accepting the truth of the old axiom “As you sow, so shall you reap.” We have no one to blame but ourselves for the situation in which we now find ourselves, but on the other hand we can earn our way back to daylight through positive actions now. And positive action can be as simple as chanting. As Harrison says in “Awaiting on You All”; “But here’s a way for you to get free/ By chanting the names of the Lord and you’ll be free.” Working Class Mystic by Gary Tillery.

There’ll come a time when all of us must leave here Then nothing sister Mary can do Will keep me here with you As nothing in this life that I’ve been trying Could equal or surpass the art of dying Do you believe me? There’ll come a time when most of us return here Brought back by our desire to be A perfect entity Living through a million years of crying Until you’ve realized the art of dying. George Harrison
The time of death arrives for all, uninvited, sudden . . . final.
No tradition has unraveled the intricacies of the death state like Vajrayana (Diamond Thunderbolt) Buddhism. Death and the Art of Dying by Bokar Rinpoche is one in a series of concise elucidations on the principles of Tibetan Buddhism published by Clear Point Press.
In June 1969 Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, Allen Ginsberg, Petula Clark, Dick Gregory and others joined John and Yoko in their room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal. Their ensemble recording of Give Peace a Chance reshaped history. The citizen activist we see in the Occupy Movement are the organic flowering from John and Yoko’s seed ideas. This is it boys, over the hill. Stop the killing, Do It Now.
Subliminally at least, most of us who are old enough, remember when we first heard Give Peace a Chance. Released on July 21, 1969, three weeks before the Woodstock Festival. I was going to summer school at the University of Kansas and thinking of visiting my friend Clippy in Tuxedo, New York. I hadn’t heard of the festival until I arrived in NYC. I though it was a hoax, nobody could assemble those acts. But Michael Lang did, I had actually attended one of his three day festivals in Miami the previous December. Thank you for that and more, Michael.
The Beatles - Love 001Its hard to believe that one of the most imaginative and magical Beatle albums would not come out until 2006. LOVE is an editing collaboration between George Martin, his son Giles and Dominic Champagne from Cirque du Soleil. The second cut opens with the chords from A Hard Day’s Night then Ringo’s drum solo from Abbey Road and seques into Get Back. The effect is phenomenal. But the real tour de force is the drumming from Tomorrow Never Knows mixed with George’s vocal from Within You Without You. C’est Magnifique.
In September, 1969 John performed with Yoko, Alan White, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voorman as the Plastic Ono Band at the Toronto Music Festival. Voorman on bass was an old friend from the Hamburg days who also illustrated the awesome Revolver cover.
Mind Games has never been popular with music critics, it’s one of my favorite John Lennon songs.
We’re playing those mind games together Pushing the barriers, planting seeds Playing the mind guerrilla Chanting the mantra, peace on earth We all been playing those mind games forever Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil Doing the mind guerrilla Some call it magic, the search for the grail Love is the answer and you know that for sure Love is a flower, you got to let it, you got to let it grow So keep on playing those mind games together Faith in the future, outta the now You just can’t beat on those mind guerrillas Absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind Yeah we’re playing those mind games forever Projecting our images in space and in time Yes is the answer and you know that for sure Yes is surrender, you got to let it, you got to let it go So keep on playing those mind games together Doing the ritual dance in the sun Millions of mind guerrillas Putting their soul power to the karmic wheel Keep on playing those mind games forever Raising the spirit of peace and love For me this song resonates with many of the qualities which I love in Lennon’s music . . . druid dudes . . . the karmic wheel . . .  chanting the mantra peace on earth . . . absolute elsewhere in the stones of your mind.Critics suck! Like what makes you feel good.John Lennon received inspiration from dakinis. His poetic chorus in Number 9 Dream,  “Ah! böwakawa poussé, poussé” came to him in a dream.
Dakinis are Feminine Wisdom/Sky Dancers, the guardians of the gates to the Pure Lands. To meet a dakini is to face our own enlightened mind. The great yogis who blazed the paths we follow were all taught by dakinis. Tilopa and Naropa, founders of the Kagyu lineage, both had old hags appear to them and declare that their spiritual attainments which they were so proud of came to naught. Water may wash away stains but never water itself. Perhaps, as Vessantara suggests, “they had so lost themselves in scholarship, that the upsurging forces of inspiration, which dakinis embody, had become dull and neglected. Dakinis are the Dharma felt in one’s gut.”
Simhamuhkha, The Lion Headed Dakini, Sengdoma in Tibetan, was one of the principal teachers of Padmasambhava. Her nature embodies the wrathful force of anger redirected as joy, i.e. enlightenment. Even the most realized teachers do not immediately recognize the dakini, whose ambiguous, semiotic quality accounts for the richness and variety of her lore. Judith Simmer-Brown
Without any production whatsoever, mind itself is the self-liberated dharmakaya within which arises self-liberatred mahamudra: this key, of self-liberated samaya, I possess. Calligraphy by Tai Situ Rinpoche.
This teaching by Tilopa contains the essence of the Kagyu (transmitted mastery) lineage he founded.Tilopa lived in Bagladesh over one thousand years ago, during the day he pounded sesame seed to extract oil, by night he procured customers for a prostitute. Full time, he was an enlightened yogi who trained Naropa who in turn trained Marpa who took the Kagyu transmissions  into Tibet from whence we receive the pure essence of enlightened wisdom from Tai Situ and the Karmapas. For more on dakinis read Dakini’s Warm Breath by Judith Simmer-Brown.The greatest source book for information on Tibetan Buddhism is Meeting the Buddhas by Vessantara (Tony McMahon).Thank you George and John – Life goes on within you and without you.
Aspiration prayer from the Long-Chen Nying-Thig (Heart Essence of the Great Expanse) Assemblage of Vidyadharas translated by Tulku Thondup. Vidyadharas are Knowledge Holders, heart sons of Padmasambhava.
Yeshe Tsogyal, consort and principal student of Padmasambhava. She was the principal steward of the terma tradition that hid spiritual teachings in both physical and spiritual realms to be retrieved by future students. Adverse conditions are the true wealth of the practioner – Guru Rinpoche.