Milarepa's advice to Gampopa

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After speaking of his own meditational experience, endurance, and several

accomplishments – such as his ability to walk across a river without getting wet – Milarepa told Gampopa that his practice of meditation for enlightenment was like an attempt to squeeze oil out of sand: no such result is possible. Milarepa further told him that by practicing his path of method (thabs lam), he would soon see the essence of mind; it is the sesame seed that gives oil. When Gampopa protested that the Kadampa also had mantric teachings, Milarepa declared these to be mere lower mantra, containing theoretical explanations but devoid of crucial practical instructions on how to attain enlightenment. Having received Milarepa's instructions, Gampopa started with the practice of vital energy (rlung). Soon he started to have experiences that he had never had before. Then, although Gampopa had already received the Bde mchog (Cakrasaṃvara) initiation from his earlier teacher, for auspicious (rten 'brel ) purposes, Milarepa initiated him once again. He also imparted other instructions and practices, above all the caṇḍālī (gtum mo, inner-heat, lit. fierce woman) practices. The teachings and initiations Gampopa received from Milarepa included: instructions on caṇḍālī, a Cakrasaṃvara Initiation, exercises for channels and vital energies (rtsa rlung 'khrul 'khor), blessings bestowed within a restrictive oral lineage (snyan rgyud), dohā, sublime caṇḍālī, and the Six Doctrines of Nāropa.


The final advice that Milarepa gave as he sent Gampopa off contains some of his most important instructions. The lama's advice, which may have greatly shaped Gampopa's life, ranged from how one should live as a successful practitioner to mahāmudrā, the reality of all phenomena. Thirteen months after Gampopa's arrival, Milarepa told him that although Gampopa had yet to gain mastery over the channels and vital energies (rtsa rlung dbang thob pa), he had made them serviceable (las su rung ba), and therefore no longer needed to stay with him. He said Gampopa had already received the requisite teachings and now only needed to perfect his practice. Milarepa instructed Gampopa to practice alone until he saw the essence of mind. At that point he should receive and teach students, and go to Sgam po, where he would benefit many in the future. Then, having walked up to the bridge to bid Gampopa farewell, Milarepa said:

"Let us, father and son, talk; take off your backpack and sit here."

Gampopa emotionally prostrated himself and, raising his head, touched it to the feet of Milarepa who sat on one side of the bridge. Gampopa shed many tears, which Milarepa, delighted, called a very good sign. Milarepa handed Gampopa a gold-colored myrobalan146 and a flint, and told him he would need them as he faced difficult choices and downs in his practice. Milarepa then introduced him to the inseparability of the mind- and-energies of mahāmudrā.

Having said, "You are to be a perfected meditator,"

Milarepa went on to say:


"O son, abandon your pride in your ancestors.

Cut the ties to your relatives.

Destroy the ties of attachment to this material world. Practice all teachings as a totality.

Direct your prayers to me, an old man."


Milarepa taught him that mantric practice could be successful only with secrecy,

cautioned not to sell dharma for material benefits, and that practice, not knowledge, is what counts. He said one should not trust those who have dharma only in their mouths, but rather should trust one's own commitment and the words of one's lama. He further advised Gampopa not to associate with those who had a high level of any of the three poisons for that would obscure his practice. Milarepa said: There are people who ask who your lama is and what dharma you practice. If you tell the truth, they won't believe it, but a flame-like anger will burn in them and then cause both them and others to create karma and thus go to lower realms. There are people whose desire is like boiling water: they keep accumulating all kinds of odds and ends, thinking they might need them one day when they get old. They engage in a wrong livelihood, saying they need wealth to accumulate merit. There are people whose ignorance is like a thick dark night: they say now is not the time to meditate on absolute truth; it is impossible to attain enlightenment within one lifetime.


The statement that whoever stays over seven nights among "hearers" (nyan thos, śrāvaka) commits the seventh transgression, also applies to cases like these. Milarepa warned Gampopa to be cautious, patient, friendly, and keep very clean, and pay little heed to superstition.


Go for retreat in mountains, never give up your lama even if you regard your mind as enlightened, never fail to accumulate even the slightest merits, never overlook even the tiniest sin, and never criticize any individual or the teachings. Milarepa sent Gampopa off, asking him to come to the mountain of Brin and Snye nam on the fourteenth day of the month of horse and in the year of the hare.

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Milarepa's criticism of Gampopa's shamatha practice is a classic example of skilful means, considered in light of his advice to someone else with different faculties. Here's Milarepa's song to the shepherd boy:


The lord who's blessed by glorious Naropa and Maitripa

Is Marpa the translator, at his feet I bow.


The great teachers who have only the dharma in their speech

Are experts in explaining things in extensive way

But when it's time for body and awareness to part ways

Their dharma verbosity dissolves into the sky

Luminosity's shining door is obscured by ignorance

And they cringe in their fear of the dharmakaya that shines at death

They spent their whole life studying large baskets of teaching

But when body and mind part ways that does not help at all.


The great meditators who meditate in shamatha

Have powerful experiences, so brilliant and clear

They think that it's vipashyana and rest their mind at ease

But when vipashyana is needed at the point of death,

Luminosity's mother and child they cannot bring together

And so the shamatha they've practiced does not help at all.

In fact, has it not made them take birth as an animal?

Now son, supreme protector, straighten up and listen here!


When you place your body right and rest yourself in equipose

And concepts stop and then appearances all shut down too,

Your shamatha has sunk deep down into a darkened state,

You rouse yourself with mindfulness and it will be like this;

Just like a candle flame, mind will illuminate itself.


Like a flower, it will naturally be vivid and clear,

And like when you look up into a sky that's clear and bright,

Awareness-emptiness is naked, open clarity.


When free of thoughts, your mind settles so luminious and clear,

That is called the dawning of the shamatha experience.

Now take that experience and make it your foundation,

Then supplicate the precious jewels and do as you've prayed you would:

Listen to and reflect on dharma with supreme precision,

Then use vipashyana to understand selflessness well,

Tie to this the sturdy rope of powerful shamatha,

And with the mighty strength that's found in love and compassion,

For the benefit of sentient beings, give rise to bodhichitta,

And with the energy and force that bodhichitta brings,

Use aspiration prayers so pure to start hauling on that rope,

And pull it straight to the pure path of seeing directly.

Vipashyana will realize purity that can't be seen,

And then you'll see mind's hopes and fears for what they really are.


Without going anywhere, you' ll arrive at the Buddha's ground.

Without looking at anything, you'll see dharmakaya.

Without achieving anything, you'll naturally reach your goal.

My son, Genyen Sangye Kyap, work with mind like this.

"Genyen, do X!"


"Gampopa, stop wasting your time on X! Do Y!"


And I like to think, a few years later: "Genyen, stop doing X, you silly bastard. Do Z."

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"Gampopa had perfected the view and the meditations of calm abiding and
superior insight in the Madhyamaka context according to the Kadampa system
when he came to Milarepa. When Gampopa offered his realization to him,
Milarepa said, “As for the aspect of calm abiding in your practice, however good
all of this may be, it does not go beyond being a cause for rebirth in the higher
realms of samsara. As for the aspect practice of superior insight, all of this entails
the danger of divergence into the four deviations from emptiness. It may well
serve as a remedy for some portions of reification, such as clinging to real exis-
tence. However, since it is not able to cut through the entirety of clinging to
extremes, there is the danger that the whole complex of this excellent view and
meditation itself could turn into cognitive obscurations. Hence, if one is fettered,
there is no difference between being fettered by an iron chain and being fettered
by a golden chain.” Later, Gampopa said about this, “If I had not met the great
master Milarepa, I would have risked rebirth as a long-lived god.”
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Hey, Sample Jock :)

Let's take a better look at your topic.


Let's ask these questions:

What exactly is Milarepa saying? Does Gampopa teach Shamatha and Vispassana even after meeting Milarepa?


142. Heat throughout refers to the heat that comes from Fierce Heat practice. As Gampopa says in one interview with Phagmo Drupa, he prefers to teach his disciples by giving them Fierce Heat practice to start with followed by Essence Mahamudra. 143. For bliss, luminosity, and no-thought, see the glossary. 144. Bliss-luminosity is a feature of the combined practice of Fierce Heat and Luminosity. As Gampopa said to Lord Gomtshul, these two practices have to go together.


Duff, Tony (2014-01-10). Gampopa Teaches Essence Mahamudra Volume I (Kindle Locations 2789-2794). Padma Karpo Translation Committee. Kindle Edition.






172. This is an important term in these interviews. The style of Kadampa practice is that you listen to some dharma teaching, then contemplate the meaning of it until you get a correct understanding of it, and then meditate on it by resting yourself in pond-like utter stillness on the meaning you have understood. This is how the teach the classic analytic contemplation (Tib. dpyad sgom) followed by resting meditation (Tib. ’jogs sgom) of the sutra tradition. Milarepa and Gampopa will fault this approach over and over again, because in the end it is really just a type of śhamatha practice that does not arouse the actual vipaśhyanā needed to see reality. In the Mahamudra teachings, there is no mention of this pond-like approach to meditation except to indicate that it is a faulty practice.


Duff, Tony (2014-01-10). Gampopa Teaches Essence Mahamudra Volume I (Kindle Locations 2837-2843). Padma Karpo Translation Committee. Kindle Edition.



Did Gampopa teach Shamatha?


Now that Gampopa has provided the necessary introduction to the nature of mind— which is what is required before embarking on the practice of Mahamudra— this next interview sees Gampopa giving the instructions of the path to be followed when practising Mahamudra. Note how his teaching, which is Essence Mahamudra, corresponds to the Four Yogas of Mahamudra, which is the other main teaching on Mahamudra found in the Kagyu lineage. He starts with shamatha, then moves to rigpa, then moves to unifying appearance and emptiness, and ends with Mahamudra as such. These four steps correspond to the yogas of One-Pointedness, Freedom from Elaboration, One Taste, and Non-Meditation respectively.


Note also how Gampopa’s explanation of shamatha is different from that given in the sutras. In the sutras, shamatha is explained through the nine steps of developing equipoise and the practice always has an outwardly-directed consciousness. In one-pointedness as taught in Mahamudra, the emphasis is on an internally-directed consciousness, with the practitioner using mind as the basis for the development of one-pointedness. You might say, “But using the mind as the basis for the development of one-pointedness is also in the sutras” and this would be correct. There is a difference though in how the shamatha is developed using the mind as the basis for the one-pointedness and this can be seen in the particular way that Gampopa speaks of it. In this practice, the shamatha is developed in such a way that it naturally becomes the vipashyana of the second yoga (which, in this teaching of Gampopa, arrives in the form of a discussion of rigpa).


Duff, Tony (2011-09-28). Gampopa Teaches Essence Mahamudra Volume II (Kindle Locations 438-449). Padma Karpo Translation Committee. Kindle Edition.



It it also appears that Gampopa did teach his version of Shamatha.


Gampopa taught the following.


“First, for shamatha, the four causes that produce it

Are production though the guru’s blessing,

Production from interdependent relationship,

Production from accumulating the accumulations, and

Production from the purification of bad actions.


“Shamatha is the entity of mind unaltered, unspoiled, purified into clearness of what is real (416) , at all times uninterruptedly present. There are two aspects to it: certainty of its appearance and uncertainty of its appearance. Certainty of its appearance is when there is realization of it being like the autumn sky and non-dual with mind. Uncertainty of its appearance involves change and no change in relation to something else; do not entertain hopes of a buddhahood up above and do not entertain fears of a samsara down below. There are four aspects to uncertainty of its appearance: 1) shamatha’s bliss, luminosity, and no-thought; 2) for the experiences, sometimes thinking, ‘I have it’, and sometimes thinking, ‘I don’t have it?’; 3) through no-thought and making a cause for it, there is the danger of falling back; and 4) there is also the danger of it becoming the cause of going into three-realmed samsara.


Duff, Tony (2014-01-10). Gampopa Teaches Essence Mahamudra Volume I (Kindle Locations 1447-1458). Padma Karpo Translation Committee. Kindle Edition.





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@ TI



Gampopa is responsible for creating Sutra Mahamudra. What differentiates sutra and tantra is method. Sutra Mahamudra is counted as pith instruction.

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The original text I quoted in the OP says that Gampopa was actually teaching mahamudra as transmitted by Milarepa ... but which had come to Milarepa from Maitripa via Marpa. That is Marpa held two lineages thus:


direct lineage is









indirect lineage












the indirect lineage is specifically concerned with the transmission of mahamudra.


In the first lineage mahamudra is used as a term specifically to refer to the eventual awakened state but there is no practice or method called mahamudra, while in the second there is a mahamudra method which centres around preparation for a transmission of mahamudra. Shamatha would be used as a preparatory tool to prepare the mind for transmission.

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'that practice, not knowledge, is what counts. He said one should not trust those who have dharma only in their mouths, but rather should trust one's own commitment and the words of one's lama.'


An antidote to legalism.

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4 yogas is Sutra Mahamudra. Jamgon Kongtrul clarifies the schema of sutra, tantra, essence Mahamudra in his "Treasury of Knowledge: Esoteric Instructions" -- http://www.google.com/url?q=http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Treasury_of_Knowledge.html%3Fid%3D1HeYkpovPhEC&sa=U&ei=6coKU6fiLdCdkQfL-YDwBw&ved=0CA0QFjAB&usg=AFQjCNFpTIh4sbMISbu3dnbRr0aW5pcfZg



Yes that may be a widely held view but here is another view from the same source text quoted in OP:



Two points deserve special notice: First, Marpa, aside from receiving numerous initiations and the Six Doctrines from Naropa, received essential teachings from Maitripa; second, Gampopa's instruction emphasizes the essential teaching. These facts clearly suggest that Gampopa's Mahamudra is based on the essential teachings transmitted from Maitripa and refute the assumption that Gampopa's Mahamudra, being nothing but a newly introduced way of teaching of Kadampa, does not represent the Mahamudra of the earlier teachers in the line of his Lama Milarepa. Of the instructions received in song form by Gampopa, the most clear, concise, and complete, which Milarepa gave him just before Gampopa left for Dbus in Central Tibet, also carries the same message.

Edited by Apech

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Contributing factors to the formulation of Sutra Mahamudra include the dohas of the Mahasiddhas, tantras, etc. The differentiation between the "near" and "far" lineage deals with the direct transmission of Mahamudra from Vajradhara or through a line of human teachers.

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...The Mahamudra lineage can be traced according to the "far-lineage" as well as the "near-lineage." The "far-lineage" is traced from the current holders of this profound lineage back all the way to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The "near-lineage" on the other hand is traced from the current holders back to the Indian mahasiddhas such as Saraha, Maitripa, Tilopa and Naropa who received Mahamudra teachings directly from Buddha Vajradhara. However, it should be pointed out that although these Indian mahasiddhas received Mahamudra teachings directly from Buddha Vajradhara (and hence is part of the "near-lineage") they are also holders of the "far-lineage" as they also received Mahamudra teachings from human teachers who were holders of this "far-lineage." Hence, the Mahamudra lineages that are currently held by the various Kagyu lineages are both of the "far" as well as "near" lineages. It should be pointed out that Mahamudra lineages are also found in the Gelug tradition as several past masters of this tradition also received Mahamudra instructions from holders of the Mahamudra in the Kagyu tradition. This lineage of the Mahamudra is known as the "Gelug-Kagyu Mahamudra" lineage — sometimes translated as the "Gelug Whispered Mahamudra" or the "Gelug Oral Mahamudra" lineage.

Most of Kagyu Mahamudra lineages stem from the Mahamudra teachings that were given by Gampopa (1079-1153) to his students. Gampopa himself received Mahamudra from his root-teacher Milarepa (1052-1135) who in turn received it from his root-teacher Marpa (1012-1096). Marpa was a Tibetan who traveled to India and Nepal and received many teachings from the Indian mahasiddhas — the most important being Naropa and Maitripa who transmitted to Marpa the complete Mahamudra ground, path and fruition. Gampopa himself combined the profound teachings of Mahamudra with the graduated approach of practice as taught by the Kadam tradition. The Indian pandit Atisha founded the Kadam tradition in Tibet. Gampopa was a monk in the Kadam tradition before he became Milarepa's disciple. Although there are many scholarly debates in Tibetan Buddhist history over the status and types of Mahamudra, Gampopa seemed to have mainly advocated two possible approaches to Mahamudra. According to Gampopa, Mahamudra can be approached via the way of sutra as well as via the way of tantra. Hence, there is sutra-Mahamudra and tantra-Mahamudra. Sometimes it is said that Gampopa also taught a third approach to Mahamudra which is neither sutra-based nor tantra-based.


The Kagyu Lineage Masters — Tilopa, Naropa and Marpa


From Gampopa onwards, many different Mahamudra lineages began to crystallize according to the different styles of Mahamudra taught by Gampopa and his spiritual descendents. Some of the Mahamudra traditions that can be traced back to Gampopa or his descendents are the tradition of "Simultaneous Production and Union," the "Six Equal Tastes," the "Four Letters" and the "Fivefold Profound Path." These traditions are still upheld by the four surviving Kagyu lineages (Karma, Taglung, Drukpa and Drigung Kagyu)....


P.S. The differentiation between the approaches of Mahamudra is not as necessarily clear cut as the article makes it seem.

Edited by Simple_Jack
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Although some mahamudra instructions, such as that of Tillipa and Maitripa, existed prior to Gampopa, these were simply yogic expressions of the authors' realization. Even when they supplied some details on how to practice it, these instructions were often terse and unsystematic. By contrast, Gampopa's Mahamudra instruction, as a whole, is much longer and constitutes a systematic guide. it often begins, with such a preliminaries, as shifting one's attention from the material to the spiritual world, embracing a conventional enlightened attitude, and meditating for tranquility and insight. It then proceeds to an actual introduction (ngo sprod)403 to the essence of mind. It also explains stages of experiences which are known as Four Yogas (rnal 'byor bzhi). In a real sense, here too, the actual mahamudra instruction, the introduction, is short, but it may appear lengthy when augmented with an exposition of the preliminaries, and Four Yogas.


Gampopa's Mahamudra teaching is thus amplified by conventional Mahayana doctrine that he studied with Kadampa teachers. His actual instruction also embodies the terms we find in the mahamudra instruction of Saraha, Maitripa, and sometimes Tillipa. But his actual instruction is marked by one major difference: Gampopa ignores the methodical mantric path we find in his predecessors. It is ture that the word bliss (bde ba) occurs in his Mahamudra, but without the signification this term in mantric teachings, which refer to the great-bliss-gnosis (bde chen ye shes), whereas Gampopa has in mind the bliss of the experience resulting from tranquil meditation. This is the structure of what Gampopa taught openly in public, without testing the spiritual capacity of his students. This may be a skillful means, as mentioned by later scholars, but more importantly, his inclusions and exclusions, as stated above reflects Kadampa influences on Gampopa. This special way of teaching, althought its intents may be to lead students to the stage of the third colum of the table of the Three Paths given above, could schematized under the first. In his public teaching, Gampopa skips directly from the first to the third colums, ignoring the second, the Path of Transformation. Also, the permissibility of teaching Gampopa's Mahamudra to the masses, and his comments that mahamudra is for a select few lead us to view his publicly taught Mahamudra

as a sutra teaching.



The 'colums' mentioned int he text are 1. sutrayana 2. mantrayana and 3. mahamudra.

Edited by Apech
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