The following is an excerpt from Milarepa’s Kungfu: Mahāmudrā in His Songs of Realization by Karl Brunnhölzl.
The way we analyze our mind in mahāmudrā meditation needs to be experiential, not through thoughts, logic, or reasonings. We ask our mind questions, which are, of course, conceptual in some way. But the important point is that the answer must come from our experience, not from yet another concept about our mind. For example, if we ask ourselves what color and shape our mind has, it is not good enough to think, “Of course, mind does not have any color or shape, everybody knows that” and move on. That is not the answer here. The answer can only come from actually looking at our mind when it, for example, sees something blue and rectangular, and then looking at the texture of that experience. We ask ourselves, “Is the mind that sees blue, blue? Is it rectangular when it sees something rectangular? What is the difference between the blue and the mind? What is the difference between the rectangular and the mind? What is the difference between the blue and the rectangular in the experience of seeing? Does my mind feel different when I see something red, green, yellow, round, or triangular? If so, how?” All these questions need to be answered based on our own personal experience, not by the standard phrases in meditation books. Also, this kind of investigation is not limited to color and shape but extends to any characteristics that we could describe or find in directly experiencing our mind.
"The answer must come from our experience, not from yet another concept about our mind."
To sum up meditation as presented here by Milarepa, we may have a lot of terms to label meditation, some of them being more experiential and some more technical. But according to Milarepa, meditation is the continuum of mind’s own luminosity, free of any clinging, grasping, and solidifying. This is the unaltered nature of our mind, just as it is, without any clouds, obscurations, tampering, or fabricating. If we just manage to simply let our mind be, that is a big step toward mahāmudrā meditation; in fact, in mahāmudrā, that could simply be it. If we relax completely, mentally and physically, we are ready or prepared for the highest meditation; or rather, that actually is the highest meditation, in that it is the most natural and uncontrived way of meditating. That is why a lot of teachers explain that meditation is really the deepest form of relaxation.
This aspect of relaxation is primarily the free-of-clinging part of luminosity, but the other important aspect is that meditation here is not only relaxation in the sense of just hanging out or spacing out. There are many forms of relaxation, such as going to a spa, watching a movie, or just lying on the couch, but mahāmudrā meditation is different from all those. In addition to mind being relaxed, there is a sense of vivid awareness and wakefulness, which is called “luminosity” here. These are the two basic characteristics of meditation as described by Milarepa: being completely relaxed but at the same time being wide awake and noticing everything that is going on.
"Meditation is the continuum of mind’s own luminosity, free of any clinging, grasping, and solidifying."
In the two main types of meditation, calm abiding and superior insight, both the aspect of relaxation and the aspect of awareness are present. In calm abiding, we work more with the aspect of mind relaxing and resting, but there still needs to be some awareness. If we lose this dimension, the mind might still be resting, but this resting is not crisp or vivid. In the practice of superior insight, we mainly work with the aspect of awareness. However, our awareness operates within a state of mind still being relaxed and resting. This awareness then focuses on realizing what this mind that is sometimes still and sometimes moving truly is. What is the essence of that which rests? What is the essence of that which relaxes? What is the essence of that which moves? What is the essence of that which is aware?
As Milarepa said, just resting our mind will not lead to awakening or buddhahood. We need this element of keen and sharp awareness, this “wisdom dawning from within.” The key for that, as Milarepa says, is “undistracted mindfulness.” Thus, mind’s basic state of awareness goes hand in hand with the functional mindfulness on the path. We could say that this basic awareness is like a mother and mindfulness is like her child. This is reflected in the expression of “mother luminosity meeting child luminosity.”
"Awareness operates within a state of mind still being relaxed and resting."
Though the functional awareness on the path that we cultivate is called “mindfulness,” we need to understand that there are two kinds of mindfulness in mahāmudrā: deliberate or contrived mindfulness and nondeliberate or natural mindfulness. In the beginning, everybody’s mindfulness, be it in meditation or otherwise, has some element of deliberation and contrivance, as we make an effort to not be distracted from a given object. But what we actually aim for in mahāmudrā is to reconnect with the most fundamental level of awareness of our mind, which is mind’s true condition or its inner space of luminosity, which is naturally aware of its own essence. Eventually, all coarse and subtle ripples of deliberate mindfulness merge back into the ocean of mind’s panoramic and nonreferential awareness. Merely not being distracted from that state is what is called “nondeliberate mindfulness” or “uncontrived mindfulness.” However, there is no agent that is mindful and there is no referential object to be mindful of. There is no “me” that is mindful, no thought of being mindful, no meditation that is cultivated through being mindful, not even a mind or mental factor that is mindful. Thus, this uncontrived and natural nondual mindfulness is very different from any kind of deliberate or conceptual mindfulness that focuses on an object that is other than itself. Needless to say, this kind of mindfulness is a far cry from the conventional understanding of the term in other Buddhist contexts, let alone what is propagated as “mindfulness” these days in the “mindfulness industry.” It simply is the state of being naturally and effortlessly undistracted from mind’s essence, without anyone or anything that needs to be mindful.
"In mahāmudrā, we aim to reconnect with the most fundamental level of awareness of our mind. "
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