Mahamudra, The Great Seal – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #3/12

mahamudra-sealEtymologically, Mahamudra is a combination of two Sanskrit words: maha, or great, and mudra, translated in this context as seal. In ancient times, minus the ease of communication that we take for granted, seals were the only way to confirm the authenticity of, say, a royal command. If an old world monarch sent an order to an outlying province to execute a corrupt minister before sundown, that message would have to bear his personal seal in order for it to be obeyed. And in the context of samsara or relative reality, Mahamudra is that seal of authenticity, for its characteristics are ubiquitous even in the tiniest aspect of samsara.

Samsara, our guru defined as the condition of being forced by the power of one’s own karma to repeatedly take on an impure body and mind; in other words, the minds and bodies we currently wear are the sole creation of our personal karma created over thousands of lifetimes. It’s okay to have a mind-body system, he’d say with a laconic grin, but not one that is forced on you.

As for Emptiness, it is an inadequate translation of the Sanskrit word Shunyata, the fecund void from which all things manifest, and for which no equivalent exists in the western philosophical paradigm. Why did western scholars use the word empty to describe Shunyata? Because the perception of an object depends on who is doing the perceiving — and it is therefore empty of having a fixed and permanent nature of its own. One man’s meat is another man’s poison….beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. These truisms refer to a great truth — that every pair of eyes that views an object is compelled to see it differently.

Why the word compelled? Because we are each literally forced to perceive an object in a particular way. Watch a movie with a couple of friends for instance, and all three of you might have a contrasting opinion – you love it, Keshav hates it, Anthea is bored. So the movie itself is essentially empty of having a fixed nature and is no more than a blank screen upon which each viewer projects his or her personal likes and dislikes.

soaring_hawkThis phenomenon holds true even when folks agree on a thing, for individual perceptions differ at least slightly. And when non-humans perceive the same object, there are no common labels: for instance, what a soaring hawk sees when he looks down at a patch of forest a human can only speculate upon.

Another critical teaching of eastern philosophy is that before we can see properly, we must first cultivate the right view, the correct filter through which to perceive the reality we inhabit. This view is critical particularly to the seeker of ultimate freedom.

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11 thoughts on “Mahamudra, The Great Seal – Samsara’s Seven Flavors #3/12

  1. Hi Mira, another great post. Your explanation of Shunyata is another way from my point of view of explaining what the shamans teach that we create our own reality,. even the physical body we inhabit is a creation of our consciousness through our karma. Really mind blowing stuff if you really take it in and as my mind relaxes into this I feel a tremendous vastness and inner freedom.

    • Long long ago when i moved decisively away from all organized religion and into the investigation of Spirit alone, I KNEW that there was a single undercurrent running beneath all higher belief systems — and i guess that today I would call that mysticism. On this deep label-less level, all pure beings/souls know the same thing — which is why the enlightened shaman is no different from the jnani, the rishi, the buddha. Yes, it blew my mind too–which is why almost 20 years later i am trying in my little way to share this precious wisdom with the world, in as demystified a fashion as possible.

      On Mon, Oct 14, 2013 at 10:57 PM, mira prabhu

      • Rare to find kindred souls — especially among women — my best kalyanamitras have always been men — and now i have a few good female ones too. Mostly i find negative emotions can flare up between women more quickly than with men — because we take things much more personally and are oh so delicate when it comes to our inner systems and emotional reactions. So when I find a woman I can vibe with, I am thrilled. Love!

      • Yogi Bhajan taught that women are 16 times stronger and 16 times more sensitive than men, but that we are also 16 times more emotional and that is often our downfall. Through my kundalini yoga practice I have found that my emotions are much less disruptive and under the control of my spirit.

      • I agree — two things have caused us women to fall under male oppression — the wateriness of our emotions and our physical disadvantages — unless we have learned a martial art or whatever. Yes, your sadhana would have helped enormously, as mine does, every single day. People often praise me for doing what i do — i tell them i have no choice — if i want to grow in peace and happiness, i must meditate and work on refining my spirit. otherwise my negative emotions would drag me into the gutter, wild stallions that they can be….a few days ago a woman i vaguely know was battered on the mountain path road here — an elderly oriental woman walking at 3 am in the morning! She nearly died. Only meditation could calm me down after hearing this — not any old meditation, but Vichara — investigating the True Self.

        On Wed, Oct 16, 2013 at 11:42 PM, mira prabhu

      • Too right, Mira. These days my Sadhana is becoming my life something that everything else revolves around. It had taken years to reach this point, for me. Now I have to do it everyday same as I have to breathe or eat. I want it.

    • Learning Mahamudra and applying it to my life has helped me enormously — which is why i wrote that series of posts — it was a tough post to write because i had to condense about 100+ pages of notes down to readable posts….thanks for your wonderful support!

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