Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche. Essentials of Mahamudra: Looking Directly at the Mind. Somerville, Mass.: Wisdom Publicatons, 2004. Paperback, ix + 276 pp.
The Tibetan ( Kagyu) mahāmudrā teachings, which go back to at least the tenth-century Indian master Tilopa, have gained a certain popularity in Western Buddhist circles, possibly because—like Zen—they hold special appeal for those who want to dispense with unnecessary ritual and ratiocination.
While the mahāmudrā approach is indeed, as the subtitle of the present book suggests, a direct route to perceiving the true nature of mind, it is not as easy a path as some of its Western would-be votaries make it out to be. This becomes very apparent from the sixteenth-century adept Tashi Namgyal’s well-known work entitled Moonlight of Mahāmudrā, on which Thrangu Rinpoche’s book is based. As is obvious from the literature on these extraordinary teachings, they contain numerous subtleties that only an advanced practitioner can properly elucidate.
Following the structure of Tashi Namgyal’s illuminating work, Thrangu Rinpoche’s book is one of the most lucid and succinct introductions to the mahāmudrā teachings available. It includes his answers to questions posed by students who were on mahāmudrā retreats with him. For those wishing to consult Lobsang Lhalungpa’s English translation of the Moonlight of Mahāmudrā, Clark Johnson, the editor of the present volume, has helpfully included the requisite page references in brackets.
In the first of two parts, Thrangu Rinpoche explains the relationship between mahāmudrā and the methods of shamata (equanimity) and vipashyana (insight). He then goes straight on to outlining the history of themahāmudrā teachings and their basic practice. His discussion also covers the obstacles and flaws arising in the process of practicing mahāmudrā and the dawning of true knowledge.
Whether you would like to have a basic understanding of mahāmudrā or want to start practicing these teachings on the basis of correct understanding, this volume will not disappoint you. Of course, the best way to learnmahāmudrā is from a teacher who has realized its characteristic state of awareness. Until then, the reader will be in good hands with Thrangu Rinpoche’sEssentials of Mahamudra.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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