What is Mahamudra? It literally means 'the great gesture' and represents a total orgasm with the universe. When two lovers are deeply in tune with each other, in harmony, in accord, the moment of orgasm is said to be much more than a release. It becomes an electric phenomenon, where both feel a oneness and a freedom from physical boundaries. When this union happens between a seeker and the universe, it is exponentially deeper and higher. This is called Mahamudra.

The key phrases that follow give us a deep insight into Tilopa's easy-is-right approach: Without making an effort and loose and natural. Effort is always a barrier, according to Tilopa, because that which makes an effort is the ego, the self identified with the remnants of the past. If the self remains, it defines and limits; the very making of the effort becomes the hindrance. That which says it wants a state of no thought is itself a thought. And how can thinking stop thought?

The phrase loose and natural is important too. Being natural is good insofar as one is not being unnatural or forcing oneself to do something. But even being natural can turn into a fetish, and make one stilted. The word loose is significant. When one is loose and natural, even that stiltedness is not possible: it is a state free of external discipline and structure, of let go, of receptivity in which realization is said to knock at your door.

If one sees naught 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 colors form,
But neither by black nor white is space tinged.
From the Self-mind all things emerge;
The Mind by virtues and by vices is not stained.

Seeing naught when staring into space is a Tantra technique in which the seeker looks into the sky without looking at anything. When one is attuned, clouds disappear and only the sky remains. This has a parallel in meditation, where one observes the mind with the mind—the clouds are the thoughts that float by and the witnessing consciousness is the sky. The moment one sees that one is the witnessing consciousness, one breaks through the illusion of identification with names and forms, and achieves Buddhahood.

Just like a crowd consists only of the individuals who compose it, the mind consists only of the thoughts that constitute it. There is no crowd apart from people and no mind apart from thought. The distinctive thoughts are homeless; when one sees this, one becomes fully aware, the witness.

The shapes and colors that form in space are not our real nature. Our identification with them is false. When one thinks one is tinged, it is only because of a false identification. At this moment of realization, one sees that all things emerge from the inner sanctum of the witnessing consciousness. And that the witnessing consciousness always remains pristine, pure, unsullied by the names and forms that emerge from it.

The darkness of ages cannot shroud the glowing sun;
The long kalpas of Samsara ne'er 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 bright as light," it is beyond all words and symbols.
Although the Mind is Void in essence, all things it embraces and contains.

As darkness is absence of light, ignorance is absence of enlightenment. As darkness cannot be fought with or destroyed except by bringing light into the space, the darkness of ignorance cannot be destroyed by operating on it, only by lighting the lamp of enlightenment. The effort to fight with darkness is what we know as morality; religion, on the other hand, is the process of awakening the light within.

And Tilopa emphasizes the fact that enlightenment is always total and sudden, not partial or gradual. Even if darkness has persisted for millennia, a small light will banish it immediately. Similarly, even if samsara, or identification with the world, has existed for long kalpas, or eons, the sun of enlightenment will expel it in a flash. No working on karmas, no improvement and betterment.

Tilopa then quickly emphasizes that these are all metaphors, fingers pointing to the moon. Naropa should not grab his finger, take him literally. That which is real can only be witnessed, not spoken about. And the Void may be ineffable in the sense that it cannot be grasped, but it is the ultimate source and fountainhead of all that is. This is the paradox. As Jesus said, only he who dies can be reborn.

Do naught with the body but relax,
Shut firm the mouth and silent remain;
Empty your mind and think of naught.
Like a hollow bamboo, rest at ease with your body.
Giving not, nor taking, put your mind at rest.
Mahamudra is like a mind that clings to naught.
Thus practicing, in time you will reach Buddhahood.

Tilopa doesn't recommend any postures, contortions, exercises or routines. He just wants you to relax, feel nice and easy with yourself. In that silence, sitting peacefully, all happens by itself, understanding arises of its own accord. When the moment is enough, there is no goal, no desire to be elsewhere, no turbulence. Then energy has another dimension, the dimension of celebration in the moment.

How does one empty the mind? Not with effort; that would go against Tilopa's grain. By watching. By becoming a witness. Watching passively, as one watches a river; not actively, as one waits for a lover. In this silence and ease, thoughts recede on their own, one's mind becomes empty effortlessly.

One becomes like a hollow bamboo, silent and receptive, at ease with one's body. In that silence and receptivity, the divine manifests itself. Then, one is not identified. Then, one neither gives nor takes, but stands aloof. In that poise, that equanimity, that transparency and grace, the mind is silent, at rest.

In such a state, the mind does not cling to anything and is transformed to Mahamudra—a presence, a benediction, a state of grace. If one practices this, not doing anything, but slowly dissolving and melting and merging into the feeling of being at ease, here and now, the feeling of blessedness deepens over time, until it culminates in Buddhahood.

The practice of mantra and paramita, instruction 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.

He who keeps Tantrik Precepts, yet discriminates, betrays the spirit of samaya.
Cease all activity, abandon all desires, let thoughts rise and fall as they will,
like ocean waves.
He who never harms the Non-abiding, nor the principle of non-distinction,
upholds the Tantrik Precepts.

He who abandons craving, and clings not to this and that,
Perceives the real meaning given in the Scriptures.

Tilopa says that chanting mantras and practising paramita, or compassion, following instructions given the religious sutras and following traditional precepts and teachings will not help a seeker attain enlightenment. For the simple reason that, no matter what the quest, it creates a goal. A goal creates desire, a tension between what is and what should be, which strengthens and nourishes the ego. Such a state is of the nature of darkness, of identification, and can only hide the light of awakening, not reveal it.

There is little point in following Tantrik precepts externally, if one discriminates and becomes identified. Because that betrays the very spirit of samaya: being in the eternal now, unidentified, aloof. When one witnesses the rise and fall of one's thoughts, unconcerned, like one watches ocean waves—clinging to none and repelling none—beyond activity, beyond desire, beyond craving, one perceives the real meaning of the scriptures. Not by following someone else, by imitation, through goals and desires, which can only lead one astray.

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 guru.
When your mind receives his blessing emancipation is at hand.
Alas, all things in this world are meaningless, they are but sorrow' seeds.
Small teachings lead to acts. One should only follow teachings that are great.

In the East, the need for a guru has always been emphasized. The guru is himself enlightened and can thus be a catalyst for the disciple's transformation, a window through which he has his first glimpse of the blue sky of awareness.

The distinction between small and great teaching is critical. Ethics, morality, improvement are born of effort; they are superficial, lead to acts and modified behavior. Meditation and awareness transform and transmute one's being and lead to enlightenment—they are called great teachings. In ignorance, you are asleep, and only sin is possible. In a state of enlightenment, you are awake, and virtue is the natural result of all your acts.

To transcend duality is the Kingly View.
To conquer distractions is the Royal Practice.
The Path of No-practice is the Way of all Buddhas.
He who treads that Path reaches Buddhahood.

Transient is this world, like phantoms and dreams,
Substance it has none. Renounce it and forsake your kin,
Cut the strings of lust and hatred, and meditate in woods and mountains.
If, without effort, you remain loosely in the "natural state", soon Mahamudra
you will win, and attain the Non-attainment.

Transcendence is freedom from choice, it is going beyond, like a child one day transcends toys: it is effortless and natural. And when one transcends, one sees there never was any duality. It was in error in perception, born of confusion and prejudice. It is the Kingly View and Royal Practice, because it is not born of struggle and aggression, but of insight and understanding. It is the path of no practice.

When one treads this path, one sees that the world is transient, that relationships are fleeting. Then, one's renunciation is not physical escape, but a renunciation of the mind and its attachment. Then, no one is one's kin and, when one is meditative, the woods and mountains are wherever one is.

Effortless, loose and natural, enlightenment is always at hand, close by. And enlightenment by its very nature is Non-attainable, because it is not a goal, but one's very nature—only that which is separate can be attained.

Cut the root of a tree and the leaves will wither;
Cut the root of your mind and Samsara falls.
The light of any lamps dispels in a moment the darkness of long kalpas;
The strong light of the mind in but a flash will burn the veil of ignorance.

Whoever clings to the 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.

The key insight here is contained in the opening sentence. It is not a question of developing a good character, of improvement, disciplines and techniques. Like pruning a tree's leaves, such practices only make it grow thicker. If one is to break free of one's illusory bondage to Samsara, one has to cut the root of the mind. It is only then that Samsara falls. One cuts the root by becoming choice less—because the invisible act of choice is the primal root that nourishes and nurtures the huge tree of the mind. Freedom is not of choice, but from choice, and arises through awareness.

One should not give or take, but remain natural—for Mahamudra is beyond all
acceptance and rejection.
Since the consciousness is not born, no one can obstruct or soil it;
Staying in the "Unborn" realm, all appearance will dissolve into
All self-will and pride will vanish into naught.

Once one is settled in awareness, one sees that one neither gives nor takes, one merely witnesses. The witness is beyond, far beyond acceptance and rejection, born of choice and identification.

Tilopa says that the inner abode, is Unborn and therefore cannot die. Since it is unmanifest, its purity is pristine, eternal—it cannot be sullied. In this state, the world of appearances dissolves into dharmata, or its elementary nature; self-will and pride, which were always illusory phantoms, once and for all disappear into nothingness.

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 Son and Mother merge in one.

The supreme understanding is also the ultimate transcendence. Then, the being is no more bounded, but a mere fragrance and acts with the greatest resourcefulness, yet is wholly untarnished by attachment to its actions. And what is the supreme accomplishment? It is the realization that the divine is not separate from existence, but immanent in it, and that one is identical with this immanence. In this immanence, there is no past, no future. It is a state of perfect equanimity beyond the grasp of the hope and desire they create. Awareness beings torrentially, proceed with grace and dignity—and finally dissolves inseparably into the very consciousness that gave it birth.

The author expresses his indebtedness to Tantra: The Supreme Understanding by Osho.

Mahamudra from a Bhuddist view