In Mahamudra, we must first learn the seven-point meditation posture, which is also known as the seven-point posture of Vai- rocana. This meditation posture is intended to balance the mind and body through the seated posture. In India, the sitting meditation pos- ture is called the full-lotus position, and we know it as the crossed- legged position. As it is often seen in Buddhist statues, the legs are depicted in the vajra posture, with both legs crossed and the soles facing upwards. This is why it is called the vajra position.
By sitting in the full-lotus position, the body and mind are completely balanced, discursive thoughts are removed, and blood circulation is improved. The body is able to remain soft, yet it is also able to endure discomfort. Moreover, through the seven-point meditation posture, one can obtain the primordial wisdom, achieve meditational stability, and directly attain buddhahood.
Why is it called the seven-point posture of Vairocana? It is because Vairocana Buddha, the Great Sun Tathagata, is the central Buddha of the Five Dhyani Buddhas and the principal deity of Esoteric Buddhism. Being the main deity in both the Vajradhatu Mandala and Garbhadhatu Mandala, his status and position symbolize universal luminosity.
Forming the Wisdom-Fist Mudra [Bodhyagri Mudra], Vairocana presides over the Vajradhatu or Diamond Mandala as the “Vairocana Wisdom Dharmakaya.” In the Garbhadhatu or Womb Mandala, he displays the Dharmadhatu Mudra and is called “Vairocana of Reasons Dharmakaya.”
According to the Buddhist scriptures, the image of Vairocana is described as follows:
The golden-colored Vairocana is enthroned on an eight- petaled lotus. Appearing as a bodhisattva, he is seated cross- legged on a jeweled lotus. He wears a five-buddha crown dec- orated with white sashes. Behind him, there is a five-colored halo with a round aura on top. He emanates rays of magnifi- cent and vibrant lights from his entire body, and he has dark maroon hair that falls to his shoulders. Vairocana is adorned with glittering earrings and attired with tiers of precious jew- els, blue pearls, and ornaments that fall down to his knees. He wears jade or pearl armlets on his arms, and golden bracelets on his wrists. Vairocana’s hands are crossed with the palms facing upwards. The right hand rests on the left hand with two thumbs touching each other. He places this mudra beneath the navel and enters into meditative absorption. He also wears a thin layer of white celestial clothing, a skirt made of mul- tiple textiles such as blue brocade and silk, and a green sash wrapped around his waist.
The inner merits of Vairocana represent the bright dharma realm of suchness, and the outer merits represent the illumination of all sen- tient beings without hindrances. These merits are perfect, constant, and unchanged. The merits also embody the Buddha-nature of all sentient beings and buddhas, so the brilliance of the merits is omni- present. It is called the “Light of a Tathagata,” which equally illuminates all dharma realms.
Vairocana is always sitting and is never seen in a standing posture.
This carries a deeper meaning. Since he is the central figure of the Dhyani Buddhas, he is depicted in images as entering into profound deep meditation. Thus, the teachings of Mahamudra begin with the meditation posture of Vairocana, where the legs are crossed in the full-lotus position and the soles of the feet face upwards.
Some who have short legs or stiff joints may find it impossible to cross their legs and form the full-lotus position. However, they should at least attempt to adjust their soles to face upwards and pull their legs towards the body to achieve a balanced posture.
The hands form the Dharmadhatu Mudra with palms facing upwards, resting beneath the navel point. The right hand is placed over the left hand. One may form an alternate mudra with the tip of the middle fingers touching each other and the thumbs placed at the lower portion of the index fingers. We can use either of these two mudras,so long as the mudra that we form is consistent.
Keep the chest up and slightly move the shoulders backwards. The chin is slightly tucked in, just like a soldier would raise his chest and tuck his chin in during training.
Press the tongue lightly against the upper palate. This is of vital importance. Taoists refer to this as “bridging heaven and earth” or “building a celestial bridge.” When animals go into hibernation, they also rest with their tongues touching the upper palate. When a practitioner first practices Mahamudra, he will not be able to enter into true tranquility if his tongue does not touch his upper palate. In India, the act of pressing the tongue against the upper palate is called khechari.
Aside from touching the tongue to the upper roof of the palate, the tongue must also be rolled far backwards towards the throat (slipping behind the nasopharynx) and press against either nasal opening. In this way, one achieves the balance between body and mind, and the disruptive flow of breath is calmed. Through this method, one’s lifespan can be extended and one’s essence is kept in place without deple- tion. By pressing the tongue against the upper palate, the tongue must also curl like a hook, which is then placed against the inner nostril. The Taoist views the tongue as a bridge between one’s shen or spirit that resides in the head, and one’s body and heart.
The next aspect of Vairocana meditation is the act of gazing at an object. Even though most Mahamudra practitioners sit cross-legged in the lotus posture, form the mudra beneath the navel (resting on the lap), lift their chests, and press the tongue against the upper palate, their minds may still wander and generate discursive thoughts. Thus, when we want to pacify our mind, we must first focus on one point. One begins training by taking an object, placing it within five and a half feet of one’s gaze, and concentrating on it without letting the gaze waver. In time, one should be able to gaze longer and once the focus becomes fixed, the mind will stabilize. Without focus, the mind will wander. When the mind drifts away, the gaze will lose focus and the person will become stupefied. Therefore, one must train the mind to focus on one point first. That is the key to pacifying the mind.
There are five families in Esoteric Buddhism, and the first is the tathagata family, also known as the buddha family. The principal bud- dha of the buddha family is Vairocana Buddha. The mother of the tathagata family is Buddha-Eye Bodhisattva (Locana). Vairocana is flanked by Golden-Wheel Vajra, wrathful Acala and Acala’s consort Aparajita-Vidyarajni. The heart of the tathagata family conceals the secret mantra, and the mandala is surrounded by many attendants. These constitute the divisions of the buddha family. When we begin the practice of Mahamudra, we must first learn the meditation pos- ture of Vairocana, so that we may gain access into the buddha family and attain buddhahood in this very body.
Meditating in the full-lotus position allows the winds [qi] to flow and circulate in the lower body. Therefore, it is not just an aesthetic pose. This position facilitates the smooth circulation of the downward-moving wind.
Place the hands evenly [on your lap], with the tips of the middle fingers touching each other, and keep the thumbs close to the lower portion of the index fingers. This helps the body and mind to stay completely composed, and also improves the balance of the body temperature, the circulation of winds, and the blood circulation.
By raising the chest and tucking the chin in, the winds can circulate smoothly throughout the whole body. If we do not maintain a good posture, there will not be a sufficient amount of winds available and we will likely doze off during practice. Many people have asked me why they fall asleep during meditation. This is the result of not raising the chest or tucking the chin, which leads to absence of winds. Too much relaxation will lead one to fall asleep.
When the tongue is pressed against the upper palate, it allows the upward-moving wind to move downwards, and the downward-moving wind to move upwards. The two winds mutually nourish each other through this approach. This important point shall be elucidated on in Chapter Four.
The act of gazing at an object is also the same method of Focusing on the Tianxin Spot [located at the forehead; also known as the seat of the spiritual eye] introduced in the book, The Illuminated Way of Meditation. By focusing the mind, one enters into meditative absorption. We can hold a vajra about five and a half feet away from us and gaze at it. When we look at the vajra, we should revere it as though it were the Chinese emperor’s long jade tablet. This will make the meditation more meaningful and tangible.
Vairocana, the Great Sun Tathagata, once expounded dharma at Mahesvara’s palace. At that time, the golden-colored, glittering Vairocana wore a hairknot crown with the Five Buddhas sitting above.
He radiated many colored lights and was dressed in a white silk celestial robe. His majestic manifestation serves as evidence of his perfect enlightenment in the Suddhavasa Heaven. Some people assume that Vairocana, the Great Sun Tathagata, is the Sun God. Although the Great Sun Tathagata is synonymous with the sun itself, which turns darkness into brightness, I feel that sunlight is also divided into day and night, and there are places where sunlight can never reach. Thus, the word “great” is added to the word “sun” to signify that the light of the Buddha is prevalent in the day, night, and inside or outside, be- cause the wisdom light of the Great Sun Tathagata shines throughout all dharma realms with equal strength.
I shall tell a secret to my readers. When Vairocana was teaching in the Palace of Mahesvara, there was a kumara [child] in the audience whose name was Padmakumara.
Padmakumara placed his palms together in respect and asked the Buddha, “Why is the Tathagata seen sitting, and not standing?”
“To sit is to abide in the great dharma realm of tranquility. I make full use of the seven-point meditation posture to instruct sentient beings.”
“How should they be instructed?” Padmakumara asked.
“By means of Mahamudra, which is constant and indestructible, and harmonizes the body and mind.”
Padmakumara’s questions initiated a series of events where I would deliver sentient beings at a specific time in the distant future as Padmakumara. I accepted the decree of Vairocana and manifested here as Padmakumara to transmit the Mahamudra. This is how it all started.
The event was a celestial secret, which was neither mysterious nor improvised. Everything has its cause and effect.
Mahamudra is anything but simple. One begins with the sevenpoint posture of Vairocana, which balances and controls the functions of the winds and channels. Through the techniques of the full-lotus position, meditation mudra, raising the chest, tucking the chin, pressing the tongue against the upper palate, and gazing at an object, the body and mind are harmonized. Only by mastering these prerequisites and setting a good practice foundation can one begin to cultivate the essential teachings of purity and perfect realization. Before one can arrive at the state of non-meditation and non-attainment, one should start with the preliminaries and attain fruition in meditation.
Mahamudra involves the practice of winds, channels, and light drops. This is the approach for attaining buddhahood in this very body. It is not an empty theory. It requires the individual to put it into vigorous practice, to cultivate, and to gain a real spiritual response. After that the cultivator shall know that I, Sheng-yen Lu, did not make this up and what I have said here is absolutely true.
Through fearless expedient means, I lead indi- viduals through my teachings so that they may be liberated from the suffering of this world, and gen- erate the causes and conditions of buddhahood to attain the path of liberation.