Mahamudra in Theravada?

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by Sanghamitta » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:05 pm

I dont think its that Laura, I think that there are real and essential differences between the Vajrayana and the Theravada, which doesnt mean we cant have mutual respect and learning.
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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by Aloka » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:21 pm

Mahamudra meditation in Vajrayana has to be practiced with teacher input and there are various stages in the development of the practice.

It's been said that it can't really be acurately described by someone who hasn't experienced it for themselves.

Mahamudra meditatation is said to include bliss, clarity, and non-conceptual awareness, and the awareness of the emptiness of experience and phenomena.


Last edited by Aloka on Fri Nov 20, 2009 3:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by mikenz66 » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:32 pm

Aloka wrote: Mahamudra mediatation is said to include bliss, clarity, and non-conceptual awareness, and the awareness of the emptiness of experience and phenomena.
And which of those things is not in Theravada meditation? Observing mind, etc, and seeing it's empty (anatta) nature is a key part of early Buddhist meditation.

Presumably the new-fangled approaches, with their more elaborate descriptions of emptiness, claim to have more detailed and more effective instructions, which are said to require a teacher because they pose more dangers...

Of course, I'm stating this from a "Standard Theravada" framework that would view the parts of the new instructions that are consistent with the Theravada Canon to be correct, and possibly useful... Just as one would view the instructions modern Theravada teachers... I don't see how else it would be useful to discuss it on this Forum...

Last edited by mikenz66 on Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by jcsuperstar » Thu Nov 19, 2009 7:39 pm

i think the only real difference is in the outside forms and the addition of a guru figure.
pretty much every (non theravada) buddhist meditation style i've personally been taught or read about are, basically, the same as those found within the theravada except for specific deity meditations.
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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by LauraJ » Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:28 am

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont think its that Laura, I think that there are real and essential differences between the Vajrayana and the Theravada, which doesnt mean we cant have mutual respect and learning.
Hi Sanghamitta,

Thank you for your encouragement. I feel quick to assume that my explanation is lacking in any concrete way.

I agree, there are a lot of differences between our respective traditions and the more we respectfully discuss, the more a lot of folks might benefit (if people have an interest).

I think that as far as the question about just what Mahamudra is, some folks have made some good attempts at addressing it. And as I mentioned in an earlier post, all legitimate Buddhist schools of meditation will contain śamatha ("tranquility") and vipaśyanā ("insight"). Methods may vary but these are staples of Buddhist meditation (even in Vajrayana).

Your questions are good, and they're really specific. I'm far less learned in Theravada than my own school but I'm still going to give your questions some thought. Thanks for them :)

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by Moggalana » Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:26 pm

There are various types of Mahamudra: sutra Mahamudra, tantra Mahamudra, essence Mahamudra (A brief overview [pdf]). Only the last-mentioned type features "pointing out instructions" which were mentioned above. A skillful teacher might be able to point out the nature of the mind and thus lead the student to a sudden realization of enlightenment. But to receive these instructions, a student normally has to undergo a rigorous preliminary practice (Ngöndro).

In one of his dhamma talks, Ajahn Brahm mentioned a profound discussion he had with some tibetan monks. He concluded that the words, the instructions and techniques might be slightly different. The results, however, are the same. To quote him directly: "Same cake, different icing" ;) There is also an interesting book written by Joseph Goldstein ("One Dharma") which investigates the similarities of buddhism's three main branches (Theravada, Vajrayana, Zen). It's highly recommendable :)
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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by Dmytro » Fri Nov 20, 2009 9:02 pm

Hi Tony,
ashtanga there a similarity between Mahamudra and contemplation of Mind in Theravada?
The term 'Mahamudra' encompasses a wide range of practices.

First, there are widely different:
- Sutra Mahamudra;
- Mantra Mahamudra;
- Essence Mahamudra.

Second, various Mahamudra teachers expound it in quite idiosyncratic ways.

So, it turns out that Sutra Mahamudra, as expounded in some books and by some teachers, has strong parallels with Theravadin practice.

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by ashtanga » Sat Nov 21, 2009 2:42 pm

Thanks everyone for your feedback.


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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by meindzai » Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:42 am

I think it's important to remember that vipassana and samatha are not meditation techniques, but qualities that are cultivated through meditation. Any legitmately Buddhist technique (from anapanasati to zazen) would cultivate one and/or the other to some degree. Sometimes vipassana is emphasized and sometimes samatha is emphasized. It has always sounded to me like mahamudra would fall more on the vipassana side of the scale, a lot like zen's shikantaza.

I don't think the major differences are in execution as much as context and terminology. In Theravada the goal is to see things as they are - anicca, anatta, dukkha, wheras in Mahayana they speak of seeing one's true nature, which an aspect of emptiness, which is really just anicca, anatta, dukkha.

I think if you talk to advanced practitioners of either they would describe the same experiences anyway. I've found that mahayana is just a bit more poetic about it wheras theravada describes things in terms that are more precise and technical.

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Re: Mahamudra in Theravada?

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:21 pm

Msgs inappropriate to the purpose of the Discovering Theravada section were moved to the Dhammic free-for-all section.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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