By Amit Jayaram May 1997 Tilopa was one of the 84 mahasiddhas of ancient India and is regarded as the first human holder of the Dagpo Kagyu lineage, having received esoteric instruction directly from the primordial Buddha, Vajradharya. The Song of Mahamudra, quoted in its entirely in this article, is the transmission of his wisdom to his disciple, Naropa It was Chaung Tzu, the crazy Taoist master, the genius of the absurd, who used the phrase ‘easy is right’. It is a phrase that any religious seeker would do well not to take seriously. If this phrase hangs about loosely in the psyche as one is delving into oneself, it is very probable that the dead seriousness, do-or-die attitude and air of pompousness that seem to necessarily characterize the religious pursuit—but which may well be impediments in the quest—die a natural death at the hands of a sense of humor, a light-heartedness, an ability to step lightly without giving oneself airs. And ‘natural’ is the keyword. If spiritual discovery is a revelation of one’s own nature, it could not possibly be anything but natural. But practices, disciplines and rituals that are often anything but natural, are generally considered pathways to the divine. So much so that a curious idea has taken root: that this world is terrible and full of sin. One has to turn one’s back on it and become an ascetic, forsake worldly pleasures and do penance, if one wants to encounter the divine. Perhaps that is not true. Perhaps, the divine is not separate from existence, but immanent in existence. But that idea, curious or not, is the view of the majority. Ironically, this division of the world into two distinct parts, the acceptance of one and rejection of the other is in the quest for non-dualism. And, while a lot of these seekers will be very aware, even if superficially, of the spiritual danger of dualism and addiction to likes and dislikes, they create that very dualism, that very slavery to likes and dislikes through their division of the world into two. What is the process? With experience, we all gather memories, scratches left behind by that which no longer exists. Through the act of choice, we then divide these memories into two parts: what we like and what we don’t like. All that we like is gathered together in a loosely assembled unit we think of as ourselves, which we support and defend. All that we don’t like represents the inimical, the unfriendly, the danger and the fear most of us live with almost all our lives. Having divided ourselves down the middle, there is a constant battle going on within us—fragile easiness with the known and naked terror of the unknown. To protect ourselves from these existential terrors, which we ourselves have created, we use devices such as the need for intelligibility and the need for identity. Is the need for intelligibility a normal, sensible human need to make sense of the world, or altogether another animal? Is it perhaps a means of allaying our fears by achieving a higher sense of supposed control of the world around us—through the act of constantly pushing everything into a straitjacketed definition? To put it another way, does a psychologically happy and secure person (not a person who is ‘adjusted’ to a mad society) bother about intelligibility at all? Is it merely a symptom of fear and insecurity? Is the need for identity a normal human need, or a much more complex affair? Is it merely the visible result of a divided consciousness which identifies with a part of its memories, defined as desirable, and runs away from another part of its memories, defined as undesirable? Is the need for identity nothing but a symptom that consciousness is rootless and divided, looking for a home in the fragments of a dead past—when, in fact, it is alive and pulsating with life energy in the here and now? Can life, which is vibrant and dynamic, become a lifeless referent, circumscribed by an identity constructed out of the reflected images of what is no more alive? Essentially, when one is secure and happy, does identity matter? Whichever way one looks at it, the root, the starting point of division and fragmentation is the act of choice. Which is why J.Krishnamurti spoke so emphatically about choice less awareness, perhaps the most sparse and delightfully cultural definition of an awakened state. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tsu also greatly emphasizes the danger of choice, and the divisions it creates. As a matter of fact, scores of enlightened masters have emphasized this point. This is the fundamental approach of Tantra—which is really not an approach at all; and is probably best communicated through a joke Osho tells about a butcher friend in the same context. It was near closing time. A man came to the shop and asked for a chicken. The butcher went inside and brought out the only bird, threw it on the scales and said, ‘Five rupees.’ The man thought a little and said he’d like a bigger chicken. The butcher went inside again, waited a while, came out with the same chicken, threw it on the scales and said ‘Seven rupees.’ The man thought again, and said, ‘Tell you what, I’ll take both.’ And the butcher was in a fix. This is what Tantra does: it says, ‘I’ll take both,’ and in the very statement deals a deathblow to duality, which cannot exist without choice. And this is transcendence. Tilopa, one of the greatest Tantra masters of all time, communicates what he can of this vision to his disciple Naropa—not because he feels it can be communicated, but because Naropa is so earnest and loyal that he must try. The Song of Mahamudra is a rare jewel. Its clarity, depth and insight is profound. If one enters into its inner spaces with an open and uncluttered mind, its impact can be stunning. Mahamudra is beyond all words and symbols,But for you, Naropa, earnest and loyal, must this be said: The void needs no reliance; Mahamudra rests on naught. Without making an effort, but remaining loose and natural,One can break the yoke thus gaining liberation. Tilopa starts in a manner reminiscent of Tao Te Ching. Where Lao Tsu says the Tao cannot be told, once told it is no longer the Tao, Tilopa says: Mahamudra is beyond all words and symbols. The act of definition means drawing a line around something, including something and excluding something else. This is impossible if the subject is totality. Totality can only be expressed paradoxically or hinted through parables and stories—it is not subject to linear expression. This is the problem most enlightened beings have faced. There is no language that can describe it. 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. eeing 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 canno
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