MAHĀMUDRĀ is a multivalent term of great importance in later Indian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism. It also occurs occasionally in Hindu and East Asian Buddhist esotericism. Best translated from Sanskrit as "the great seal," mahāmudrā denotes a ritual hand-gesture, one of a sequence of "seals" in Tantric practice, the nature of reality as emptiness, a meditation procedure focusing on the nature of mind, an innate blissful gnosis cognizing emptiness nondually, or the supreme attainment of buddhahood at the culmination of the Tantric path. Mahāmudrā is best known as a central feature of the philosophical view, meditative practice, and conception of enlightenment in the Bka' brgyud (Kagyu) sect of Tibetan Buddhism, but it has a place in most Tibetan Buddhist traditions, as it did in late Indian Buddhist Tantric literature. It has inspired devout meditation, profound philosophy, and brilliant poetry throughout the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist world for over a millennium. Any attempt to write a "history" of mahāmudrā is complicated by the concept's complexity, as well as uncertainties about the Indian and Tibetan texts and authors crucial to understanding it. With these difficulties in mind, this survey will attempt to reflect general scholarly consensus on the evolution of the concept of mahāmudrā in India, its articulation in Tibet, practices characteristic of it in Bka' brgyud tradition, and controversies over its interpretation.
MahĀmudrĀ in India
The history of mahāmudrā in India may tentatively be traced through the roughly chronological Tantric traditions that arose there and the works of the great adepts (mahāsiddhas ) who expounded on Tantric themes in song and treatise.
Mahāmudrā in the Tantras
In the ritually focused kriyā and caryā Tantras, as in much Indian yogic literature, the term mudrā refers to a hand-position that "seals" religious procedures. Perhaps the first text to mention mahāmudrā is the Mañjuśrīmūlakalpa (c. seventh century), where the term refers primarily to a "five-peaked" hand-position said to be the "heart-gesture of the tathāgatas," pure and stainless, the accomplishment of all worldly and ultimate aims, the highest of all dharmas. Mahāmudrā is mentioned with increasing frequency in the more soteriologically oriented yoga Tantras (first appearing in the late seventh century). In such texts as the Tattvasaṁgraha and the Vajraśekhara-tantra, mahāmudrā is linked with three other mudrās —the action (karma ), pledge (samaya ), and dharma seals—employed to confirm particular meditative attainments. Mahāmudrā here connotes a series of hand positions, mantra recitations, and visualizations that symbolize and help to effect one's complete identification with a deity's divine form or awakening mind (bodhicitta ). The mahāyoga Tantras (first appearing around the eighth century) maintain the yoga Tantras' concern with complex, maṇḍala -based meditative practices (the "creation stage," utpattikrama ), but also emphasize yoga within the human subtle body (the "completion stage," utpannakrama ), and explicitly evoke erotic, violent, and other transgressive themes. In the Guhyasamāja, an important mahāyoga Tantra, mahāmudrā has multiple meanings, including a contemplation-recitation conducive to the adamantine body, speech, and mind of the tathāgatas ; and the object—emptiness—through realization of which "all is accomplished." Elsewhere, the Guhyasamāja describes the awakening mind—synonymous with māhamudrā —as primordially unborn, empty, unarisen, nonexistent, devoid of self, naturally luminous, and immaculate like the sky.
In the elaborate, sexually charged, and profoundly gnostic yoginī Tantras (first appearing around the late eighth century), mahāmudrā emerges as a major Buddhist concept. Though still connected there to creation-stage maṇḍala -practice, it is more often related to completion-stage meditations involving the manipulation of mental and physical forces in the subtle body so as to produce a divine form and a luminous, blissful, nonconceptual gnosis. In the completion-stage discussions in such Tantric systems as the Hevajra, Cakrasaṁvara, and Kālacakra, mahāmudrā has three especially important meanings. First, it may refer to a practitioner's female consort in sexual yoga practices. Second, as before, it is one of a sequence of mudrās corresponding to various Buddhist concepts, experiences, and path-stages. Here, though, it usually is the culmination of the series, a direct realization of the nature of mind and reality that transcends and perfects other, more conventional seals, including those involving actual or visualized sexual yoga. Third, mahāmudrā by itself connotes the ultimate truth, realization, or achievement of yoginī Tantra practice: the great seal that marks all phenomena and experiences; a synonym for suchness, sameness, emptiness, space, and the goddess Nairātmyā (no-self); unchanging bliss beyond object and subject, shape, thought, or expression; and the ultimate gnostic attainment, mahāmudrā-siddhī.
Despite mahāmudrā 's apparent origin in the Tantras, the "canons" of mahāmudrā texts identified later by Tibetan scholars consist primarily of collections of Tantric commentaries, treatises, and songs attributed to the elusive, charismatic, and unconventional mahāsiddhas who were prominent in north Indian Buddhism before and just after 1000 ce. Many of these mahāsiddhas practiced the yoginī Tantras, and thus placed mahāmudrā near the center of their conceptual world, alongside such related notions as the yoginī or ḍākinī, emptiness, great bliss, the innate (sahaja ), and nonduality—and the gnosis comprehending all of these. They often expressed themselves in colorful and paradoxical language, and utilized a "rhetoric of immediacy" to emphasize a natural, nonconceptual approach to life and liberation.
Three of their collections were given special attention by Tibetan traditions. The "Seven Texts on Attainment," including Padmavajra's Guhyasiddhi, Indrabhūti's Jñānasiddhi, and Lakṣmīṅkarā's Advayasiddhi, are poetic commentaries on themes in the mahāyoga and yoginī Tantras. Mahāmudrā is mentioned occasionally, usually denoting "ultimates" such as the nature of mind, nonconceptual awareness, and a buddha's dharma body; mahāmudrā also is explicitly synonymous with such common terms as the innate and nonduality. The "Trilogy on the Essential" comprises the "King," "Queen," and "People" couplet-treasuries (dohākoṣas ) credited by Tibetan tradition to Saraha. These texts seldom refer to mahāmudrā, but they do mention related concepts like the innate, nonduality, great bliss, the yoginī, and buddhahood; other songs ascribed to Saraha mention mahāmudrā often, describing it as, for instance, "the lamp of innate gnosis," the union of method and wisdom, emptiness, uninterrupted bliss, and mind itself. The "Twenty-Five [Texts] on the Dharma of Unthinking," attributed to Maitrīpa (1007–1085), contain few overt references to either mahāmudrā or unthinking (amanasikāra ), but do discuss the attainment of a nonconceptual realization equivalent to mahāmudrā. Maitrīpa addresses mahāmudrā frequently in other texts ascribed to him, most notably the Mahāmudrākanakamālā, which provides a long list of "ultimate" synonyms for it, and concludes that "the path of mahāmudrā is unthinking."
Other siddhas also expounded on mahāmudrā, including Nāgārjuna, Śavaripa, Tilopa, Nāropa, Virūpa, and Vajrāpani. The mahāsiddhas not only sang mahāmudrā 's praises, but sometimes analyzed it in terms of other Tantric mudrās, as well as Mahāyanā "Perfection Vehicle" concepts like emptiness, mind-only, and tathāgata-garbha, or buddha-nature. They also divided mahāmudrā into sequences of basis, path, and result—or view, meditation, action, and result—and increasingly identified it as a distinct style of meditation in which, by various means, one settles nonconceptually into contemplation of the nature of mind as empty, luminous, blissful gnosis.
By the end of the Buddhist period in India, mahāmudrā evoked a variety of meanings, whether ritual, yogic, ontological, or soteriological, and it had become a crucial Buddhist term that could describe the nature of reality and of the mind, a ritual or meditative procedure for seeing that nature, and the enlightenment ensuing from that realization. Its usages sometimes were deeply Tantric, as when related to completion-stage notions like great bliss and luminosity, and sometimes more evocative of philosophical and meditative themes in Mahāyanā wisdom traditions, including Madhyamaka and Yogācāra. Though these Tantric and non-Tantric approaches would eventually be distinguished, in the syncretic milieu of late Indian Buddhism, they were virtually inseparable.
MahĀmudrĀ in Tibet
Some Tibetan Buddhists probably were familiar with mahāmudrā (Tib., phyag rgya chen po ) as early as the ninth century, during the imperial period, when Indian Tantras using the term were first translated into Tibetan. Mahāmudrā 's real importance in Tibet, however, dates from the eleventh-century "renaissance" of Buddhism there. Traditions originating in this period all were shaped by the mahāyoga and, especially, yoginī Tantra systems that dominated late Indian Buddhism, so they usually accounted for mahāmudrā in their descriptions of the Buddhist path. Mahāmudrā was relatively peripheral among the Bka' gdams (Kadam), who de-emphasized the Tantras in favor of practices concerned with renunciation, compassion, and wisdom; the Sa skya (Sakya), who were heir to many mahāsiddha traditions, but tended to restrict the term to the final result of the Tantric path, mahāmudrā-siddhi ; and the Rnying ma (Nyingma), whose central concern was the Great Perfection (Rdzogs chen ), which is described much like mahāmudrā, but arose from different Tantric contexts. Mahāmudrā was more central to Zhi byed, Gcod, and Shangs pa Bka' brgyud, where it was closely connected to both Tantric practices and Mahāyāna wisdom perspectives. These traditions never developed strong institutional bases, and their practices eventually were absorbed by other sects.
Early Bka' brgyud
It was in the traditions of the Dvags po Bka' brgyud (Dakpo Kagyu) that mahāmudrā became central, and their long-term success helped assure mahāmudrā 's place in Tibetan religious discourse. The Tibetan progenitor of the Dvags po Bka' brgyud was Mar pa Chos kyi blo gros (Marpa, 1012–1097), a farmer and translator who traveled to India to acquire texts and teachings, and who studied there with the mahāsiddha Maitrīpa, under whose guidance he claimed to have attained mahāmudrā -realization. Tradition also claims he met the scholar-yogin Nāropa (c. 966–1040), who taught him the completion-stage practices called the "Six Dharmas of Nāropa" (inner heat, illusory body, dream, clear light, intermediate state, and consciousness-transfer), as well as mahāmudrā instructions received from his teacher, Tilopa (fl. tenth century). Mar pa and his greatest disciple, the ascetic yogin Mi la ras pa (Milarepa, 1028/40–1111/23), adapted Indian Tantric song styles to Tibetan forms, and mahāmudrā is often referred to in poems attributed to them. Their usages are multiple, but two are especially prominent: mahāmudrā as related to Tantric completion-stage practices like the Six Dharmas of Nāropa, and mahāmudrā as a wisdom-tradition technique for directly seeing the nature of mind as primordially empty, luminous, and blissful—though Mar pa and Mi la ras pa probably did not make such a distinction.
Mi la ras pa's disciple Sgam po pa Bsod nams rin chen, or Dvags po lha rje (Gampopa Sonam Rinchen, 1079–1153), however, apparently took mahāmudrā to connote realization of the ultimate either through completion-stage Tantric practice (the "path of means") or "Perfection Vehicle" wisdom and insight (the "path of liberation"). For the latter, initiation is not required; one must, rather, secure the blessings (byin rlabs ) of one's guru, who gives a direct indication (ngo sprod ) of mind's nature. Sgam po pa also described mahāmudrā as an "essential vehicle" beyond sūtra or Tantra, a realization that seals all phenomena and leads to enlightenment, either gradually through four yogas—one-point-edness, simplicity, single taste, and nonmeditation—or suddenly, in an insight given such names as the "thunder-strike" (thog babs ) and the "white medicinal simple" (dkar po gcig thub ). By combining Tantric and mahāmudrā teachings learned from Mi la ras pa with virtue-based practices drawn from the Bka' gdams, Sgam po pa laid the basis for later Bka' brgyud ideology and praxis, and his disciples and subdisciples—who included both scholarly monks and "crazy" (smyon pa ) hermits—founded numerous subsects that became the backbone of institutional Bka' brgyud, most notably the Kar ma, 'Brug pa (Drukpa), and 'Bri gung (Drikung).
In subsequent centuries, 'Bri gung 'Jig rten gsum mgon (Drikung Jikten Sumgön, 1143–1217) promulgated the Fivefold (lnga ldan ) Mahāmudrā, in which realization of the mind's true nature is the culmination of gradual practices drawn from Mahāyāna and the Tantras; and the more radical Single Intention (dgongs gcig ), where all principles and procedures are subsumed under a single gnostic realization. Zhang tshal pa Brtson du grags (Zhangtselpa Tsöndudrak, 1123–1193) emphasized the sudden realization of mahāmudrā as the "white medicinal simple," but also explored it in terms of sūtra-based Buddhist philosophical schools and paths to liberation; slow, rapid, and instantaneous practices; the four yogas; and so on—as with 'Jig rten gsum mgon, mahāmudrā became a concept embracing all of Buddhism. The 'Brug pa master Gtsang pa Rgya ras pa (Tsangpa Gyarepa, 1161–1211) and others began to describe a "canon" of Indian mahāmudrā texts drawn from the songs and treatises of the mahāsiddhas, the Tantras, and such Mahāyāna texts as the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras, Samādhirāja-sūtra, and Uttaratantra-śāstra. They also identified a number of lineages of mahāmudrā instruction, the most important of which went back to Mar pa, thence in India either to Tilopa and Nāropa (the near lineage) or Saraha, Nāgārjuna, Śavaripa, and Maitrīpa (one version of a distant lineage).
The third Karma pa, Rang byung rdo rje (Rangjung Dorje, 1284–1339), wrote a popular poetic epitome of mahāmudrā, analyzed it in terms of philosophical concepts like tathāgata-garbha and extrinsic emptiness (gzhan stong ), and explored similarities between mahāmudrā and the Rnying ma Great Perfection. Gtsang smyon Heruka (Tsangnyön Heruka, 1452–1507) composed classic hagiographies of Mar pa and Mi la ras pa, and the definitive collection of Mi la's songs; mahāmudrā features prominently in all three. Dvags po Bkra shis rnam rgyal (Dakpo Tashi Namgyel, 1512–1587) wrote a still-influential compendium on mahāmudrā covering sūtra and Tantra sources, gradual and sudden paths, calm and insight meditation, and the four yogas. 'Brug chen Padma dkar po (Drukchen Pema Karpo, 1527–1592) composed mahāmudrā meditation manuals, a history of Bka' brgyud lineages, and treatises examining mahāmudrā in relation to Tantric theory and Madhyamaka philosophy. Synthetic trends emerged, too. Partly inspired by the Bka' brgyud, the first Panchen Lama, Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan (Lobsang Chökyi Gyaltsen, 1570–1662), revealed a Dge lugs (Geluk) mahāmudrā tradition—involving both sūtra and Tantra approaches—that was traced to Indian mahāsiddhas, but more directly credited to the sect's founder, Tsong kha pa Blo bzang grags pa (Tsongkapa Lobsang Drakpa, 1357–1419), who supposedly received it in a vision from the wisdom bodhisattva, Mañjuśrī. Rnying ma pas absorbed mahāmudrā into their Great Perfection system, while Karma chags med (Karma Chakme, 1613–1678) brought the Great Perfection within the compass of Bka' brgyud mahāmudrā schemes. The nonsectarian (ris med ) master 'Jam mgon kong sprul Blo gros mtha' yas (Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye, 1813–1899) wrote extensively on mahāmudrā, published Indian and Tibetan mahāmudrā texts, and entered into comparative discussion of "ultimates" with members of other traditions.
In the modern era, mahāmudrā has continued to be central to Bka' brgyud (and to a lesser degree, Dge lugs) theory and practice. It often has been taught by modern lamas, and has great appeal for Western Buddhists, who often regard it as a simple and natural approach to spiritual life, free of the categories and complexities of more "culturally embedded" Buddhist practices.
Though the articulation of mahāmudrā was an ongoing process, and formulations of its practice were various, certain patterns eventually emerged. In a typical Bka' brgyud account, mahāmudrā generally is divisible into basis, path, and result, or, alternatively, view, meditation, action, and result. The basis is usually tathāgata-garbha, the mind's actual or potential enlightened nature. Rightly viewing the basis provides the motive for entering the path. Paths are multiple, and divisible into meditation and action. In an instantaneous path, one abides in the nature of mind and acts spontaneously and compassionately right from the beginning. In a Tantric path, one identifies with a deity such as Vajrayoginī and masters completion-stage practices like the Six Dharmas of Nāropa, attaining perfect gnosis and skill in acting, even if unconventionally, for the sake of others. In a gradual non-Tantric path (the one most commonly described), meditation commences with standard devotional practices directed to one's guru and various deities. One next attains mental tranquility through concentration on a single object—usually the nature of mind itself—thereby experiencing clarity, bliss, and nonduality. With the mind concentrated effortlessly on itself, one proceeds to insight meditation, in which an analytic search for any nonmental phenomenon anywhere, or any truly existent mind of any sort, yields literally nothing—or emptiness. One moves then through the four phases of mahāmudrā yoga: one-pointedness, where one is fixated on the nature of mind; simplicity, where all mental elaboration is stilled in the experience of emptiness; single taste, where all phenomena are seen to be sealed by emptiness; and nonmeditation, where the distinctions between meditation and action, between sentient being and Buddha—indeed, all dualities—are resolved in a perfectly integrated understanding. As meditative realization deepens, one's actions are increasingly natural, joyous, and beneficial to others. When one is utterly delusion-free and completely identified with the luminous, blissful, nondual gnosis that is one's inmost nature, one achieves the path's result: the dharma, enjoyment, and emanation bodies of a fully enlightened buddha—which are no different from the emptiness, luminosity, and appearances of the mind itself. This is mahāmudrā-siddhi.
Discussions of mahāmudrā in Tibet raised several important philosophical and religious issues, which were debated vigorously. Sa skya Paṇḍita Kun dga' rgyal mtshan (Sakya Paṇḍita, 1182–1251) argued that some Bka' brgyud mahāmudrā teachings derived not from pure Indian lineages, but from discredited Chinese Chan influences; that there could be no such thing as a sūtra-based mahāmudrā because mahāmudrā-siddhi only can result from advanced Tantric practice; and that the Bka' brgyud rhetoric of immediacy was spiritually dangerous because it suggested that enlightenment was attainable through sudden insight alone, without recourse to gradual, virtue-based religious methods. Later Bka' brgyud (and Dge lugs) scholars rejected Sa skya Paṇḍita criticisms, asserting that mahāmudrā 's Indian roots were unassailable, its meaning articulated in both sūtras and Tantras, and its "sudden" rhetoric inclusive of virtue—and intended only for advanced practitioners.
Controversies also arose over whether mahāmudrā as a gnosis realizing emptiness is intrinsically empty of inherent existence just as worldly phenomena are (the rang stong view), or empty solely of worldly qualities extrinsic to it, itself being pure and permanent (the gzhan stong view); whether meditative experiences of clarity, bliss, and nonduality reflect genuine attainment, or are merely deceptions; and whether the multiple terms by which Tibetan Buddhists described the ultimate (mahāmudrā, Great Perfection, Madhyamaka, and so on) had identical or different referents. This latter discussion resonates still among contemporary Buddhists, who debate how mahāmudrā might relate to other Tibetan notions of ultimacy, to ideas and practices in other Buddhist traditions (especially Zen and vipassana meditation), and to reports of mystical experience the world around. Thus, though mahāmudrā is a concept specific to Indian and Tibetan Buddhist cultural settings, its implications transcend those contexts and suggest pan-Buddhist and universal human religious concerns.
Broido, Michael M. "Padma dKar-po on the Two Satyas." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 8, no. 2 (1985): 7–60. One of a number of scholarly and philosophically sophisticated articles by Broido on the philosophy of Padma dkar po.
Chang, Garma C. C., trans. and ed. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism. 2 vols. New Hyde Park, N.Y., 1962; reprint, Boston, 1989. The greatest collection of the poems of Tibet's greatest poet, with ample references to mahāmudrā. For songs attributed to a range of Bka' brgyud masters, see Nālandā Translation Committee, The Rain of Wisdom (Boulder, Colo., 1980).
Dalai Lama, H. H., XIV, and Alexander Berzin. The Gelug/Kagyü Tradition of Mahamudra. Ithaca, N.Y., 1997. Detailed commentary on the first Panchen Lama's seminal Dge lugs mahāmudrā text. For an account of completion-stage Tantric mahāmudrā according to the Dge lugs, see Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Clear Light of Bliss: Mahamudra in Vajrayana Buddhism (London, 1982; 2d ed., 1992).
The Eighth Situpa and the Third Karma pa. Mahāmudrā Teachings of the Supreme Siddhas. Translated by Lama Sherab Dorje. Ithaca, N.Y., 1995. Includes the third Karma pa's popular "Aspiration Prayer of Mahāmudrā," with a learned and citation-rich commentary on it by the eighteenth-century scholar Si tu paṇ chen Chos kyi byung gnas.
Farrow, G. W., and I. Menon, eds. and trans. The Concealed Essence of the Hevajra Tantra, with the Commentary Yogaratnamālā. Delhi, 1992. Includes Sanskrit and English of the root-Tantra, and English translation of Kāṇha/Kṛṣṇācārya's commentary on it. See also David Snellgrove's two-volume edition and translation of the root-Tantra: The Hevajra Tantra (London, 1959).
'Gos lo tsā ba Gzhon nu dpal. The Blue Annals. Translated by George N. Roerich. Calcutta, 1949–1953; reprint, Delhi, 1979. This great chronicle, written by a Bka' brgyud pa, contains countless references to mahāmudrā traditions in Tibet from the eleventh to fifteenth century.
Guenther, Herbert V., trans. Ecstatic Spontaneity: Saraha 's Three Cycles of Doha. Berkeley, 1993. Idiosyncratic and philosophically challenging translation of Saraha's "Trilogy on the Essential." Earlier works by Guenther include The Life and Teaching of Nāropa (London, 1963), which is a translation of a hagiography of Nāropa, with detailed discussion of the Tantric practices he received from Tilopa, including mahāmudrā and the Six Dharmas ; and The Tantric View of Life (Boulder, Colo., 1972), which contains frequent references to mahāmudrā, and many quotations from little-studied texts by Indian Buddhist mahāsiddhas.
Gyaltsen, Khenpo Könchog, trans. and ed., and Katherine Rogers, co-trans. and ed. The Garland of Mahamudra Practices: A Translation of Kunga Rinchen 's Clarifying the Jewel Rosary of the Profound Fivefold Path. Ithaca, N.Y., 1986. A sixteenth-century account of the 'Bri gung Bka' brgyud Fivefold Mahāmudrā practice.
Gyatso, Janet. "Healing with Fire: The Facilitations of Experience in Tibetan Buddhism." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 67, no. 1 (1999): 113–147. Discusses the concept of "experience" in relation to Tibetan Buddhist meditation traditions, including the Great Perfection and, especially, mahāmudrā.
Hookham, Susan K. The Buddha Within: Tathagatagarbha Doctrine according to the Shentong Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhaga. Albany, N.Y., 1991. Discussion of Tibetan disputes over intrinsic and extrinsic emptiness, with special focus on the Uttaratantra, an Indian poetic treatise regarded by Bka' brgyud pas as central to Perfection-Vehicle mahāmudrā.
Jackson, David P. Enlightenment by a Single Means: Tibetan Controversies on the "Self-Sufficient White Remedy. " Vienna, 1994. Analysis of the debate over mahāmudrā between Sa skya pas and Bka' brgyud pas; contains much useful information on and extracts from the writings of Sgam po pa and Zhang tshal pa.
Jackson, Roger R., trans. and ed. Tantric Treasures: Three Collections of Mystical Verse from Buddhist India, pp. 53–116. Oxford, 2004. Includes original texts and translations of Saraha's "People" Dohākoṣa, and dohākoṣas by Kāṇha and Tilopa. For Indian Buddhist songs in a related genre, see Per Kvaerne, An Anthology of Buddhist Tantric Songs: A Study of the Caryāgīti (Oslo, 1977).
Karma Chagmé. A Spacious Path to Freedom: Practical Instructions on the Union of Mahamudra and Atiyoga. Translated by B. Alan Wallace. Ithaca, N.Y., 1998. One of several translations of the most famous attempt at a mahāmudrā /Great Perfection synthesis; includes commentary by a modern Rnying ma lama, Gyatrul Rinpoche.
Kragh, Ulrich. "Culture and Subculture: A Study of the Mahāmudrā Teachings of Sgam po pa." M.A. research paper (speciale ), University of Copenhagen, 1998. Surveys Sgam po pa's literary output and discusses his complex views on the nature of mahāmudrā.
Kvaerne, Per. "On the Concept of Sahaja in Indian Buddhist Tantric Literature." Temenos 11 (1975): 88–135. Pioneering study of a term often regarded as synonymous with mahāmudrā, especially in its Indian context. For a more recent study, see Ronald M. Davidson, "Reframing Sahaja : Genre, Representation, Ritual, and Lineage." Journal of Indian Philosophy 30 (2002): 45–83.
Martin Dan. "A Twelfth-Century Tibetan Classic of Mahāmudrā : The Path of Ultimate Profundity: The Great Seal Instructions of Zhang." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 15 (1992): 243–319. Pioneering translation of Zhang tshal pa's great poem on mahāmudrā.
Mishra, Ramprasad. Advayasiddhi: The Tantric View of Lakṣmīṅkarā. New Delhi, 1993. Sanskrit text, English translation, and commentary on one of the "Seven [Texts] on Accomplishment."
Namgyal, Takpo Tashi. Mahāmudrā: The Quintessence of Mind and Meditation. Translated and annotated by Lobsang P. Lhalungpa. Boston, 1986. Excellent, if under-annotated, translation of Dvags po Bkra shis rnam rgyal's classic tome, the Phyag chen zla ba'i 'od zer (Moonbeams of mahāmudrā ); a wealth of philosophical analysis, practical advice, and textual citations. For other mahāmudrā manuals, see Stephan Beyer, trans., The Buddhist Experience: Sources and Interpretations, pp. 154–161 (Encino, Calif., 1974), which is meditation advice from Padma dkar po; Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, The Lamp of Mahamudra, translated by Eric Pema Kunsang (Boston, 1989), an account by a modern lama; and Jamgon Kongtrul III, Cloudless Sky: The Mahamudra Path of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyü School, edited and translated by Tina Drasczyk, Alex Drasczyk, and Richard Gravel (Boston, 1992), which includes a poem on mahāmudrā by the first Jam mgon kong sprul, and a practical commentary on it by a recent successor.
Robinson, James B., trans. Buddha 's Lions: The Lives of the Eighty-Four Siddhas. Berkeley, 1975. Straightforward translation of Abhayadattaśrī's Caturaśītisiddhapravṛtti, the most influential Indian collection of mahāsiddha hagiographies; it also includes a list of all works attributed to the mahāsiddhas in the Peking Tibetan Tripiṭaka. For an alternative translation, see Keith Dowman, Masters of Mahāmudrā (Albany, N.Y., 1985).
Ruegg, David Seyfort. "A Kar ma bKa' brgyud Work on the Lineages and Traditions of the Indo-Tibetan dBu ma (Madhyamaka)." In Orientalia Iosephi Tucci Memoriae Dicata, edited by G. Gnoli and L. Lanciotti, pp. 1249–1280. Rome, 1988. This study of a sixteenth-century work includes interesting material on the relation among Tantra, Madhyamaka, and mahāmudrā.
Snellgrove, David L. Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. 2 vols. Boston, 1987. Classic account of Indian Buddhist Tantra and the early Tibetan renaissance; helpful for understanding mahāmudrā within its broader social and religious context. For a briefer, but still authoritative discussion of Indian Buddhist Tantra, see Paul Williams, with Anthony Tribe, Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition, pp. 192–244 (London, 2000).
Tāranātha. The Seven Instruction Lineages: bKa' babs bdun ldan. Translated and edited by David Templeman. Dharamsala, India, 1983. See pages 2–14. Life stories of the lineage holders of various Indian practice-traditions, including that of mahāmudrā, by a sixteenth-century Tibetan philosopher and historian.
Tatz, Mark. "The Life of the Siddha -Philosopher Maitrīgupta." Journal of the American Oriental Society 107 (1987): 695–711. The best scholarly study of the life of the great eleventh-century Indian mahāmudrā master.
Thaye, Jampa. A Garland of Gold: The Early Kagyu Masters of India and Tibet. Bristol, UK, 1990. Includes brief biographies of Indian and Tibetan teachers crucial to Bka' brgyud mahāmudrā traditions, and translations of dohās by Tilopa, Nāropa, Śavaripa, Mar pa, and Mi la ras pa. For more extensive biographies, drawn from an early Bka' brgyud source, see Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen, trans., The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury, edited by Victoria Huckenpahler (Ithaca, N.Y., 1990).
Roger R. Jackson (2005)
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