Universal reality is like a seal, because there is no way out.
From 1981: Public and Private Time by Adele Hulese, Big Love author:
The transition from family business to Buddhist center had not been completely easy, especially for Joyce Green, Ian’s mother. She had worked very hard for Sandhurst Town for some years. Suddenly, teams of young Buddhists had been foisted on her and were now invading her kitchen and her life. Aflame with righteousness, they threw out her mousetraps and fly-sprays and sometimes treated her less than respectfully. Her husband spent each week in Melbourne, but Joyce lived in a house immediately adjacent to the new center. During Lama Yeshe’s visit, Joyce graciously moved out so he could stay there in comfort. Max and Maggie Feldmann filled the place with orchids. Joyce Green ended up accepting the situation and generating the highest regard for Lama Yeshe, who gave her a beautiful Tibetan carpet.
About seventy people took the Heruka Chakrasamvara initiation, during which they all placed little bits of gum leaf on their heads instead of the traditional flower. Many had no idea what to do with the strip of red cotton cloth with which one covers the eyes at a certain point in the initiation. Some placed these cloth strips over their mouths, but those kinds of details didn’t faze Lama Yeshe who laughed all the way through. As he was about to give the students the bodhisattva and tantric vows he said, “These vows are a little bit dangerous, but don’t worry.”
The teaching began with a reminder that nothing could be achieved without reference to the four preliminaries: taking refuge, actualizing bodhicitta by being totally open to others, purification and the practice of guru yoga.
The term mahamudra has the literal meaning of “great seal” and Lama Yeshe explained this in his own unique style.
From Lama Yeshe’s Bendigo teachings on mahamudra, August 1981:
Universal reality is like a seal, because there is no way out. All levels of existence—organic, non-organic, permanent or impermanent—are of the nature of non-self-existence. Guru Shakyamuni said something like, “Not seeing is the perfect seeing.” Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Mahamudra is a strange thing that you have to learn. Not perceiving phenomena as dualistic is the perfect experience of seeing. Mahamudra is very different from shunyata, but the particular characteristic of mahamudra is an emphasis on how to experience shunyata, rather than explaining what it is.
When you have a small experience of mahamudra you drop out of heavy concepts, such as feeling that your body is a difficult combination of atoms rather than a transcendental experience. To develop mahamudra, concentration is not enough. Lama Tsongkhapa said, “Samadhi is not enough to eliminate the concept of ego.” We need the unity of concentration and mahamudra to achieve that, but first of all we need to neutralize the mind with breathing meditation. Then we slowly use the mind to watch our thoughts. But this is not watching in the usual sense. Language is a problem here. Take sunlight, for example. The sun doesn’t have to say, “I am shooting out sunlight.” Similarly, this “watching” doesn’t have a thinking process; it is just being.
I want you to understand: Mahamudra is beyond words, beyond growing, beyond cessation. Don’t just trust my words. It doesn’t matter how much I use words, it still comes from my conception. So go…touch…then go beyond the words. Just watch and let go. Mahamudra emphasizes no intellect. At a certain point intellect is the enemy. Then the real transformation comes.
When I was first studying I thought that if one were to understand all of Buddhism—the philosophy, Madhyamaka and everything—then one would certainly knock out the ego. First I thought that, but then I checked and realized that my conception was not true. People could learn the words and ideas of the doctrine, by way of teachers, but somehow this did not stop all problems of the ego. That is possible. I was surprised. That’s why I feel that the mahamudra teaching is in touch with the heart.
Your view of yourself, your own intuition and simultaneously born ego—these have to be investigated. Fundamentally, you have to understand that anything you perceive on the basis of your five sense consciousnesses will be perceived dualistically as inherently self-existent. Everything. The moment you open your eyes everything is perceived in an entirely deluded, dualistic way.
Traditionally, when we teach mahamudra, instead of sitting inside meditating, the student walks around in order to be able to experience moment to moment. In that way the student captures the thief of the ego’s projections. So this time, even during the break times, you should try skillfully to investigate and discover the non-self-existence of the perceived absolute quality of the “I.” At a certain point, when you seek the I in that way, then you—the I that is being sought—and the seeker you, both are dissolved. Subject and object both dissolve. That is the experience. The fantasy concept of I that we hold is so built up that when it dissolves you may experience fear. This is a natural reaction. Leave it. Just let go.
Lama Tsongkhapa always emphasizes the unity of hearing, analytical checking and penetrative meditation. Take, for example, my own practice. I teach Westerners meditation, but some of my geshe friends think that first you have to study for thirty years, just as we Tibetan monks studied. After that you meditate. They negate what I am doing. But I just do. I don’t know why I do. That’s really my answer.
Now, in mahamudra the unique way of presenting universal reality is a particular emphasis on meditation on our own consciousness as the object. Normally our meditation object is something like Buddha’s image, the figure of a deity, and so on. But this time we contemplate our own consciousness. The characteristic of consciousness from the Buddhist point of view is its clean clear nature. It is like crystal, a mirror that takes on a reflection. Consciousness doesn’t have substantial physical energy. It has no color, no form. It is like space energy. Its nature is non-duality. Meditation on consciousness easily leads to mahamudra, which is why at the beginning you concentrate on your own consciousness.
First you clear your mind by focusing on your breathing. When you have reached a point where your mind is clear and quiet, then do not start thinking concepts like, “How beautiful, how wonderful.” No. You just rest there, being continuously mindful. It is not necessary to reach a state in which your mind is completely bright and clear. If you achieve the object to some extent, then that’s good enough; just let go. And at the same time use your subtle mind for analytical checking, such as perceiving whether the ego is existent or not. When you investigate such a concrete entity as the I, it naturally ends up disappearing, automatically. It cannot stand up to investigation. So at the same time you experience non-duality, or mahamudra.
This is the way to develop penetrative insight (Skt. vipasyana). Your own subtle mind moves like a fish, which swims through the water without disturbing the ocean. First it seems that the I has some sort of existence, but when you reach a certain point it dissolves. The experience is that both subject and object dissolve. At that point you let go. Lama Tsongkhapa says that at this point we should never allow any kind of object—such as form, color or deity—to arise. So even if a special fantastic vision comes, do not follow it.
Also watch Lama Yeshe answering questions on Mahamudra.