The Path

Stay with me here. I know this post is long. It’s 28 verses outside of what I’m writing, in fact.

People sometimes ask me how I can be into some of the trippy shit that I practice (or study). The geeks are generally non-spiritual. The occultists are focused on qabalah and non-mainstream Western beliefs. The academics just shake their head and say “Maintain your objectivity” (whatever that might be in this world). Regardless of these camps, many look at Vajrayana or Dzogchen and just see a bunch of colorful “other” with the Dalai Lama as a very photogenic, interview-friendly front man for it.

I’m not into it to become a faux Tibetan. I’ve read enough scandal sheets and pages to know about abuses of people within the Tibetan religious community. I know how Chogyam Trungpa died. All that reaffirms for me is that people are people. Full stop. The Tibetans are people just like the rest of us and they fuck up just as much. The tradition is still beautiful and insightful in spite of our fractured and flawed natures.

The below verses are attributed to Tilopa, the guru of the famous teacher, Naropa. They speak to Mahamudra which isn’t quite Dzogchen but is of a similar nature (without getting into it) from within the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism (most Dzogchen practitioners are in the Nyingma school). It speaks to the nature of mind and, to me, speaks just as well to Dzogchen as anything else. Reading this, if you really read it, you can get a sense of the profound nature of this path. You can get a glimmer of the candle flame that draws us, as moths, into its fire.

Tilopa’s Mahamudra Instruction to Naropa in Twenty Eight or So Verses

Homage to the Great Ones! Homage to Mahamudra! Homage to what is!

What is, is. What more can one say? Mahamudra cannot be taught or learned.

Still, Naropa, you have practiced earnestly, so here’s a tip:

Does space have a foundation?

Like space, Mahamudra depends on nothing; relax in the flow of essence – All Is Well.

Staring into the empty sky, vision ceases; just so, when mind attends to mind itself, repetitive and obsessive thought peters out and Awareness peeks out from under blankets of delusion and reveals its innocent nakedness.

Like morning mists evaporating in bright sunshine, waves of mental creations dissolve when you behold your own original nature.

Space has no color or shape and cannot be stained either black or white; just so, mind’s essence is beyond the play of opposites and can neither be tainted by darkness, nor embellished by light.

The mechanics of time is powerless to tarnish the crystal clarity of the sun’s heart; likewise, clouds of ignorance have no power to obstruct the clear light of mind’s essence.

Although space is called “empty”, actually it is inexpressible; although the nature of mind is called “clear light”, that’s really just a play of words. The mind’s primal nature is like space – all-pervasive.

Be still, easy, and relaxed, let sound reverberate as an echo in silence and observe the whole thing come down in natural harmony.

The body is like a hollow bamboo, the mind, like space, extends omni-directionally:

relax into your intrinsic nature without resistance - mind with no purpose is Mahamudra - yes, that’s it!

The clear light of Mahamudra cannot be found in the realm of the known.

By clinging to the known, practice fixates, yet when all interpretation on perception ceases, when the heave of the ocean is one with its peaceful depth, when the chronic argument with oneself is forgotten, the unbroken focus of our practice is a lamp lit in spiritual darkness. Right now, let it shine!

Free of intellectual conceits, abandoning dogma, the truth of every school and scripture is revealed.

Absorbed in Mahamudra, you are free from illusions; Poised in Mahamudra, guilt and negativity burn off; you, just as you are, are the Great Emancipation!

The fool in his ignorance, ignoring Mahamudra, only beats a paper head against non-existent walls. Have compassion for those who suffer constant anxiety!

Sick of restlessness and trusting one’s own heart, find a true Guide, for when their blessing touches your heart, the mind is liberated. The heart rejoices – you will not know it, you will be it!

Hey now! Hey now! Listen with joy! It’s just as you are right now!

Investment in this dream body is futile; it is the cause of every worry. Since such involvement is pointless, let’s be realistic!

Nonduality is our obvious condition; a silent mind is real meditation; spontaneity is genuine action; when hopes and fears have been incinerated, what remains is what has ever been –


Beyond identification with any image the mind is naturally clear: follow no path if you want to walk in the footprints of the Free; employ no strategies to gain what has never been lost.

Hey now! Hey now! Listen with a little sympathy! With insight into your pretense of lack, realizing that nothing lasts, that all is a kind of fiction, a meaningless trick provoking frustration and boredom, turn around and abandon your house of cards.

Be surgical with attachments and consider wherever you are as the solitude of the forest or mountain retreat; abide there in a state of non-meditation and, attaining no-attainment, you attain Mahamudra.

A tree branches out and sprouts leaves, yet when its root is severed its foliage withers; just so, when the core of the personal story is seen through and recognized as an error of vision and appreciation, what is there left to affirm or defend?

A single lamp dispels the darkness of a thousand blind alleys; likewise, a single flash of the mind’s clear light unravels bundles of conditioning and fixed habit patterns – let it shine!

Hey now! Hey now! Listen with joy! Mind cannot grasp itself; non-doing cannot be understood by compulsive doing; to realize the truth of non-action and no-mind, cut the mind at its root and rest in naked awareness.

Allow the mud of thinking to clear; stop projecting - leave appearances alone: this very world, without addition or subtraction, is Mahamudra.

The Mystery itself dissolves your confusion: don’t try to change things, just rest in the unborn essence, allowing all conceptions of yourself and the universe to melt away.

True vision opens every gate; True meditation plumbs the infinite depths; True activity is unpredictable yet decisive; the true goal is ordinary being devoid of hope and fear.

At first your practice is like a river falling through a gorge; in mid-course it flows like a gently meandering stream; finally, as a river merges with the ocean, it ends in consummation like the embrace of lover and beloved.

If you can’t comprehend what I’ve told you, simply persist as you truly are - Awareness itself.

Don’t be distracted, your very own mind is what makes all this real.

In selfless service to all beings, happiness will arise: breathe deeply and let the breath of compassion circulate through your heart, be a blessing to all you meet by meeting yourself in all!


This translation into English has been done by Kunzang Tenzin in 1977, after transmission of the oral teaching by Khamtrul Rinpoche in Tashi Jong, Kangra Valley, India, and then foolishly transliterated by bob, one seasonal morning in the Redwoods of the Northern California Cascades.