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What is Mahamudra Meditation & How It Helps You Face Reality?

Life often throws you in situations that make you agitated, confused, and lost. Did you know at such times you can practice a specific Buddhist meditation that shows you how to deal with reality? I am referring to “Mahamudra Meditation”. I am not sure if you have heard about this before. In this post, you will discover “What is Mahamudra Meditation” and how its regular practice will help you to work with your own mind & attain freedom from suffering.

What is Mahamudra

The word Mahamudra can be split into two Maha + Mudra wherein Maha means “Great” and Mudra means “Seal”. So in a literal sense, Mahamudra means “Great Seal”. In simple words, it conveys, there is no greater truth in life than reality. You need to accept and understand reality the way it is.

Today many of us are busy creating a different world (reality) in our minds. The ancient Mahamudra teachers say whatever you construct in your mind as reality is nothing but a fantasy. These fantasies are often flawed as they are driven by the experiences and perceptions you formed about life.

Mahamudra practice teaches you to understand the true nature of your mind and explore the intimate relationship between mind and reality. It shows you how to see reality by removing the layers of perception & conditioning in your mind.

Why Should You Practice Mahamudra Meditation

The Mahamudra practice helps you discover the nature of your mind i.e. your true self and its relation to reality. When our mind is confused it burdens us with worries, anxiety, and stress. To make matters worse we force our mind to manipulate reality, we strongly resist the reality and this increases our suffering.

Buddha says ignorance is the main cause of this suffering. You imagine life to unfold in a certain manner in your mind and cling to that image as your reality. However, life often does not work the way you want it to happen – This creates tension and you start fighting with reality.

The goal of the Mahamudra meditation practice is to take hold of your mind, free it from sufferings that afflict your mind, and allow your suppressed innate qualities such as compassion, kindness, wisdom to flourish. It lays the foundation that unlocks the path to awakening/enlightenment.

True Nature of Your Mind

What is Mahamudra Meditation - True Nature of Mind

Understanding the true nature of the mind and meditating on it is the most important thing in Mahamudra. As the mind gives rise to emotions, pain, pleasure, we practically experience everything through our mind.

To understand the nature of the mind you need to find the mind. Wait a minute…do you know where is the mind located? Is the mind located in our brain? Our mind and brain the same thing? Although these two terms are often used interchangeably however mind & brain are not the same.

What is Mahamudra Meditation - True Nature of Mind

The brain has a structure, it is a physical thing. You can touch the brain, it is made up of nerve cells, neurons, and blood vessels. On the other hand, the mind is a mental thing, you cannot touch a mind, it is not made up of any cells, and neither does it have a definite shape or structure.

The mind does not have any substantial characteristics, it is simply nonexistent. Wait for a second… If the mind is nonexistent then who hears, knows, and remembers things? Isn’t that the mind? Of course, it is the mind.

The question is: where is the mind that thinks, sees, and remembers things? We are looking for the mind that experiences, feel. Where does it dwell? We cannot find it anywhere. This non-finding of the mind is the lack of its existence and lack of any nature of its own. This lack, non-finding of mind is called “emptiness”.

Emptiness means the mind is not a solid or a fixed entity. Mind is aware, it knows, it has the ability to reflect, understand and experience…it is not dead. This ability to see, understand, think is often referred to as the mind’s wisdom. Hence, we can say the mind exists in the union of wisdom & emptiness. It is empty (as you cannot find it) but at the same time is has the wisdom (the capacity to know & understand).

When you understand the nature of the mind, you also understand the nature of everything that emerges from the mind. So the thoughts that arise in your mind, the emotions that you feel: If you look directly at the nature of these thoughts and emotions, they are similar to the nature of your mind – It is empty.

Thoughts, emotions that arise in your mind are nonexistent, they don’t have a specific shape or color. So if you try to find, where do these thoughts or emotions originate or reside? You cannot find anything. As the nature of these thoughts & emotions is empty i.e. there is an absence of location or substance then these thoughts themselves are not inherently harmful.

Once you understand the true nature of the mind then meditating upon the nature of the mind is easier. Because when thoughts arise in your mind during meditation, you don’t get upset with them or try to suppress them. You simply investigate the nature of these thoughts, you simply look at the thoughts to see what it is: from where did it arise, where is it coming from, where does it go? Just like bubbles that arise in water from somewhere and disappear somewhere.

With this understanding let’s study the classic Buddhist meditation posture that can be used when practicing Mahamudra meditation.

Vairocana Posture (Seven-Point Meditation Posture)

When it comes to practicing meditation your body posture is very important. You can practice sitting in the seven-point posture to maximize the effectiveness of your meditation session.

Watch the below video in which Mindah, a Buddhist practitioner, demonstrates the right meditation posture that aligns you into a triangle that helps to increase the flow of energy between your mind, body & spirit.

Step 1: Your Legs

You can cross your legs and sit on a cushion. You can sit with a half-lotus position especially if you are a beginner. A full lotus position of placing both your feet on your thighs can be difficult if you are just starting out. You can even sit on a chair, with your feet flat on the floor.

Step 2: Your Back

Your back must be straight in line with your head and neck while you sit for meditation. You should not lean backward or forward while sitting in this posture. You can even use an additional pillow under your hips for some support.

Step 3: Your Shoulders

Loosen your shoulders as you sit for the practice. Try not to slouch, spread your shoulders and keep them even with each other.

Step 4: Your Head

Your head should be balanced and your chin slightly tucked in. Your head should not hang too much forward or be tilted too far back. Ensure your neck muscles are relaxed & not too stiff.

Step 5: Your Hands

If you are sitting cross-legged then place your hands on your lap. If you are sitting on a chair then rest your hands on your thighs. You can even place the hands in “Dhyana Mudra” i.e. resting your right hand on the left with thumb-tips lightly touching.

Step 6: Your Eyes

You can keep your eyes half-open so that you can gaze at a point 4 to 5 feet on the floor. I prefer to close my eyes as it helps me to relax faster. It is recommended to keep the eyes half-open if you feel sleepy during sessions.

Step 7: Your Tongue

Let the tip of your tongue touch lightly to the roof of the mouth (upper palate). This will ensure the saliva flows back into the throat instead of filling in the mouth.

How To Practice Mahamudra Meditation

To achieve Mahamudra you need to practice two meditations. Shamatha & Vipassana meditation. Shamatha is a practice of calming the mind by being mindful of one’s breath. Once the mind is calm then you can practice Vipassana meditation to observe your thoughts & emotions.

This practice of calming the mind and observing helps you to reflect on the reality of your thoughts & the nature of the mind. With this deepened understanding of self & nature of mind, you understand yourself, your thoughts, and the extent to which your thoughts & emotions are real.

Shamatha Meditation

For the majority of us, the mind is never at rest, it is either disturbed or agitated by all kinds of thoughts. So the first thing to do is to stabilize our minds. So by practicing Shamatha meditation you can calm the racing mind.

Step 1: Sit comfortably on a cushion or a chair with your back straight. You can adopt the seven-point meditation posture explained above.

Step 2: Follow your breath to calm your mind. You can use the 4-7-8 breathing technique developed by Dr. Andrew Weil which forces the mind and body to focus on regulating the breath rather than ruminating over thoughts.

  • To start, close your mouth and slowly inhale through your nose for a count of four i.e. (from to 1 to 4)
  • Hold your breath till the count of seven i.e. (from 4 to 7)
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth on eight, make sure you exhale with a big sigh. This helps the body to relax faster.
  • The above was one breath cycle – Do a total of 5 – 10 breath cycles, so that your body, the mind is completely relaxed.

Step 3: Once you are in a fully relaxed state, then consider looking directly at your mind and ponder on the following questions:

  • Does my mind have any shape or color or form?
  • Where does my mind dwell? Does it have any location? Is my mind aware?
  • Does my mind have a source or origin?

As you ponder on the above questions, you would come to an understanding that your mind is formless, there is no color or shape. It cannot be found anywhere. At the same time, it is wise as it can reflect and understand things.

It is completely free from birth, existence, and death. Please allow yourself to rest in this understanding, the significance of this revelation, and enjoy the feelings associated with this.

Continue with Shamatha meditation till you train your mind and experience some stability.

Vipassana Meditation

With Vipassana meditation you look for insight, you look at the nature of the mind and its thoughts, and by doing so you understand the nature of thoughts and reflect on their reality.

Step 1 & Step 2: They are the same as stated in Shamatha meditation. You need to calm your mind and go into a relaxed state of mind

Step 3: As you experience tranquility, you ponder on the following questions. This time you will be looking into the nature of the thoughts and emotions that arise in your mind.

  • Do your thoughts/emotions have a shape, color?
  • Where do these thoughts/emotions reside?
  • What is the source of these thoughts/emotions?
  • What is the meaning of these thoughts?
  • Are these thoughts being projected onto you basis of other thoughts?
  • Are these thoughts relative in nature i.e. they are interdependent on some things?

As you ruminate over these thoughts, you would come to an understanding that these thoughts/emotions do not have a form of themselves. It does not have a source nor can be found anywhere. Thoughts do carry a certain message but they are either relative in nature or are interdependent on concepts, conditions that are beyond your imagination.

What is The Outcome of Practicing Mahamudra Meditation

When we practice Shamatha meditation you are able to stabilize your mind and you are able to see your thoughts. You are in a relaxed state of mind wherein you can identify different thoughts as you have become calm. This is a very important step in the process of Mahamudra.

After this, when you practice Vipassana meditation you are able to see the true nature of the thoughts/emotions that arise in your mind. You understand that these thoughts are empty, they are simply harmless.

You stop clinging on to them, you understand these thoughts/emotions are impermanent & empty in nature. This realization helps you to free yourself from the thoughts/emotions which otherwise can be quite destructive.

This is how Vipassana meditation helps you in gaining / developing insight that eventually leads to freedom & liberation from suffering.

Learn Mahamudra Meditation From a Buddhist Teacher

If you enjoyed reading this post and wish to take Mahamudra practice to the next level. You now have the opportunity to learn the ultimate teaching & be guided on every step by an experienced master.

I am referring to the renowned American Buddhist teacher Dr. Reginald Ray who has created an online course Mahamudra For The Modern World. This is a powerful training program for anyone seeking to engage in this life-altering journey, that allows you to discover the ultimate reality and awaken the boundless freedom which is our fundamental nature.

Please note I receive compensation if you click on any links mentioned in this post to purchase a product or service from the third-party website. Also, purchasing a product or service from the above links does not increase your purchase price, however, it is a great way to thank me if you enjoy my content and find my suggestions useful. I only recommend products and services that I have personally used or thoroughly researched.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Chas

    Hi Satish,

    Thank you for this wonderful post on Mahamudra Meditation. I don’t do a daily meditation, but I do occasionally meditate. I was into it quite a few years ago, and got away from the daily routine. I used a different technique, but I must say I like yours as well. you describe the correct posture, which I never had a guide like this to look over an make sure I have the sitting half lotus correct.
    You also have a wonderful description of the actual mind that I never really thought about before. I will try your technique and see how it works. And I will certainly be coming back to get this yoga method done correctly.

    1. Satish

      Hi Chas,

      I hope this post encourages you to start your daily meditation practice. Thanks for your comment ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  2. Kathy

    Hi Satish,

    I really enjoyed reading your explanation about the mind. It’s totally true that much of what we perceive as reality is down to conditioning and our reaction to life events. Mahamudra meditation sounds very interesting. I tried meditation a few years ago after attending a workshop in London. I practiced the exact breathing techniques you described, and viewing any thoughts as a third party. The only thing I didn’t master was posture. I understand it’s importance with regard to the flow of energy, but would it still work if you weren’t sitting correctly?

    1. Satish

      Hi Kathy,

      Posture is important to maximize the effectiveness of your meditation practice. Although, you don’t have to always sit in Lotus position when you sit to meditate however make sure whether you sit on a mat or on a chair maintain a straight back, so that your head, neck and back form a 90-degree angle with your knees. This helps in free flow of energy (prana) in your body. Hope this helps ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  3. Suvankar

    Hi Satish,

    The first thing I’d say, it’s a very very informative article that I didn’t expect during my recent search! Recently, I started feeling mental irritation probably due to the extreme workload in the last few months; no vacation time, lacking with quality family time, it’s really depressing situation. I know, there is no medication for my illness but meditation can help me out. So, I started searching and discovered your awesome article.
    To be honest, I never knew what is Mahamudra Meditation and how It can help me out. But now I completely understood after reading the complete explanation. I think this gonna help me face the reality of life and offer me an ever-refreshing feeling.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Satish

      Hi Suvankar,

      I am glad you found this post useful. If you are new to meditation then you may want to check the meditation instructions before you start your practice. Start Shamatha meditation for 3-5 mins for the first two weeks, see how it feels and then increase your time. Wishing you all the best with your practice ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  4. William Carvell

    Hi Satish,

    This is a super interesting article! I’ve never known all that much about meditation as a whole, but you make it pretty easy to understand. I’ve heard that it’s not uncommon for business leaders to set aside time for meditation so I’ve always had some interest but never really made time for it. I’ll be coming back to your site to learn more about this for sure!

    1. Satish

      Hi William,

      Meditation helps in keeping our mind young & prevents it from rusting. It is healthy practice to devote few minutes daily towards the same. Very similar to our body…if you do not exercise regularly our body does lose flexibility and strength. Try out small, 2-3 minutes for few weeks, notice the difference then incorporate it in your daily routine ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  5. Nina

    Hi Satish,

    I have tried meditating before. When I consistently do it, I do start to calm myself. The practice you described above sounds much better than what I do. I think my New Year’s resolution will be to practice Mahamudra meditation….I will start easy and grow from there. The world we live in is full of stress and uncertainty. However, if I can control my mind as you suggest through meditation, I will be living a more calm, content life. Thanks for sharing this article. I plan on sharing it with my family.
    Nina

    1. Satish

      Hi Nina,

      I am happy to know that you found this post useful. Thank you for your comment and I hope you do make meditation a daily habit from this year onwards ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  6. Markus

    Hi Satish,

    Mahamudra sounds interesting but hard for me to practice… I keep myself pretty stressful person. I always need million things to do and actually never really rest and give my mind “free time”. I actually think I should try that… Thank you for really interesting post. I will take a better look in to Mahamudra Course.

    1. Satish

      Hi Markus,

      Probably you came across Mahamudra recently hence you are finding it difficult but give it some time and you will notice this will help you to work with your own mind & attain freedom from stress & sufferings. By all means check out the course Mahamudra for the Modern World to learn the ultimate teachings of Tibetan Buddhism ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  7. Barbara McGinley

    Hi Satish,

    This is a wonderful article on meditation. You pointed out some great tips on the topic of Mahamudra Meditation.
    I wasn’t aware of this particular form of meditation, so it was very helpful to me to learn about it.
    I plan to look into practicing some of the methods you have written about.

    1. Satish

      Hi Barbara,

      Glad to know that you found this post useful, do let me know once you start practicing it ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

  8. Hi Satish,

    I really enjoyed reading your website and wanted to say I am quite close to meditation from living 5 years in Thailand. I have spent many a time in temples both site seeing and for Kharma. I agree with the power of the mind from where we can learn to adapt to reality to improve or even better eradicate anxiety or depression and general bad Kharma. Mahamudra Meditation is something I will look more into now I am back home in England Thanks for sharing a well presented, detailed breakdown of Mahamudra Meditation and I wish you the best.

    1. Satish

      Hi Stephen,

      Thanks for sharing your experience and your comment. I am glad you like the post, do let me know once you start practicing Mahamudra Meditaion ~ Stay Blessed 🙂

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