keskiviikko 19. tammikuuta 2022

Asana as Mudra


Asana as Mudra

When master yogis, mahasiddhas, go about their daily lives, they naturally manifest the yogic seal (skt. mudra) of the two awakened bodies. These two bodies are; mental body of empty phenomena (skt. dharmakaya) and mental body of playfulness (skt. sambhogakaya). Be it day or night, in peaceful or wrathful circumstances, the minds of mahasiddhas are in perfect harmony and balance. This is the great yogic seal, mahamudra, which entirely concerns nonphysical bodies of man. There is no question about the fact that the foundation of yogic accomplishment is the mind.

In human form, however, seals or mudras can take a further expression of physical postures or asanas. Before delving further into the meaning of asana, the reader should remember that the foundation of all and any type of yogic practice is the nature of mind, in other words, basic wakefulness-kindness-peacefulness. If asana yoga is exercised by practitioners who haven't yet established natural state as their default mode of being and remain in the samsaric state, this needs to be simultaneously adressed during asana yoga by appropriate techniques that enable the practitioner to resume recognition of the two awakened bodies whenever it is lost. Without this, the real meaning of asana as mudra will never be understood as mahasiddhas of the past understood them.

The real meaning of asana is mudra, and the real meaning of mudra is asana. Asanas, regardless of their simplicity or complexity, are physical expressions of the awakened nature of all sentient beings. Also, as is commonly said, asanas are a way to stay healthy and strong. From this perspective we could say that asana yoga is maintenance of our body instrument that we use to live in this world. What is interesting is that contrary to advancement in the yoga of mind*, which is irreversible, one can never achieve a state in physical yoga that would be irreversible. If one doesn't practice asana, be it on yoga mat or in any other form, the condition of the physical body begins to deteriorate.

*purification of mind, advancement in bhumis

Asana as Mudra

A common way that asanas are practiced, is to just do the movements and put one's body into some postures. One tenses, relaxes and stretches the muscles of the body and opens its joints through various applications. From the point of view of keeping the body healthy and strong, this is perfectly sufficient. From the point of view of practicing asana as mudra, however, this is incomplete.

For one to understand what asana as mudra means, one has to meet the following requirements,

  1. have recognition of wakeful nature of one's mind

  2. feel the spontaneous unification of the wakeful mind and the physical body

  3. learn to move the body while recognising the wakeful mind

  4. study the alternation of tensing, stretching and relaxing of muscles while recognising the wakeful mind

  5. realise that there is no difference between tensing, stretching and relaxing of muscles while recognising the wakeful mind

  6. realise that all postures and movements, both in and out the yoga mat, are asana as mudra

I have taught extensively on point 1. how to recognise the wakeful mind so I will simply refer to Pemako-website and youtube, and won't repeat anything here but to introduce this idea, asana as mudra, I will write a bit more on point number two because it is a decisive stage.

Unification of the Wakeful Mind and the Physical Body

All types of yogic physical practices begin from a simple standing posture, known as tadasana or samasthiti. Same is true in Chinese yogic traditions.

The real meaning of tadasana is to have wakeful mind and physical body unified, to study the connection and relation of the two, and to learn to adjust the muscles and joints in a subtle manner that enables staying in this posture for long durations (up to 30 minutes), if so wanted, without any discomfort.

To those who want to practice asanas purely for physical benefits, standing in stationery posture might sound pointless. However, in this stage one makes a wonderful discovery after the other about how the body becomes unified, in the midst of basic wakefulness. One's whole being becomes full of delightful light and subtlest of blisses (skt. sahajananda) often discussed in the writings of mahamudra masters. This stage of learning is demanding because it takes some time and effort to strengthen the internal muscles of the body and consequentially feel unification that can be described as sense of unified relaxed strength, that feels as if the body was weightless.

All right, I think this is enough for now. Feel free to contact me if you have questions. I'm happy to share my understanding of asanas.

KR, 19.1.2022

maanantai 17. tammikuuta 2022

If You Learn Them Well, Basics Will Take You to Buddhahood

If You Learn Them Well, 

Basics Will Take You to Buddhahood

From email exchange.

>I guess my start with Pemako practices was too advanced for me. So I will turn around and stick to the basics for a while and will do the tantric trauma therapy sessions. And as far as I understood the basics are sitting and observing, correct?

I will follow your advice and observe my mind as much as possible. Your answer makes completely sense to me. That’s the thing. When you explain something, e.g. in a mail or during the retreat, it does make sense and I get it. But when I have to transfer it do different situations such as the exam situation, I don’t seem to remember of the things you ever said. Thanks again! And hopefully I won’t have to bother you anymore with basic stuff in the future.

-I think that beginning dharma practice is very much like any other art, though dharma is the art of arts because it is about the mind, nevertheless the same principles apply.

When I was a kid I fell in love with jazz music and started practicing jazz guitar. You know, jazz is one of the most complex kinds of music there is but the thing is that in the beginning one is required to establish a foundation by practicing the basics a lot. One learns scales, chords, harmony, melody and basic skills of one's instrument. It is all so simple but can be very boring and frustrating because it all seems a mystery how one is supposed to create jazz music from C major scale, C D E F G and so on. A beginner doesn't understand because she/he hasn't built the foundation, and yet if you listen to a record such as Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, which is the most sold jazz record of all times, the music in it is extremely simple, basic stuff really. Yet, if a beginner just copied the notes played by musicians on the album it doesn't sound even nearly the same.

So how is it possible that a master of jazz is able to create amazing mindblowing heart touching life changing music from the basic scales? This question burned in my mind as a youngster that it kept me up all night practicing endlessly. I would sit and practice up to 14 hours a day, until my fingers didn't move.

All dharma practice starts with genuine heartfelt motivation, you want to attain buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings. Aligning one's energies with this motivation is preceded by acknowledging that the core of our problems is self-delusion. When these two are had and felt you will not have problems in your dharma practice and the path opens up before you like an open highway. On the other hand without these two to inspire and motivate your practice, one will come up with all kinds of self-created obstacles and problems. Not even mahasiddhas can help in that situation.

I don't think you came to Pemako too early or that Pemako is too “advanced” for you. Rather, I think that you need to realise that like learning to play jazz or for one to become a professional yogi (which is what you need to be if you aim for buddhahood in this life), you need time, effort and patience. Like I explained, the path of yoga is about ongoing learning of one's own mind.

So my advice to you, since you study with me, is to pay attention to what I say, think about what I say and apply.

Like Miles's music, what I teach is the basics. It just doesn't seem that way to you because you haven't assimilated the basics yet. However, if you stick to it, you will.

KR, 17.1.2022

sunnuntai 19. joulukuuta 2021

Sri Krishnamacharya's Early Astanga Yoga Blog


Sri Krishnamacharya's

Early Astanga Yoga Blog

This is a link to Anthony Grimm Hall's blog about the origins of ashtanga vinyasa yoga which is a form of physical yoga made popular by Krishna Pattabhi Jois. I am sharing the link to Hall's blog through my blog because Facebook doesn't allow posting the direct link.

The reason why I think Hall's blog is wonderful is because he has not only looked into the historical foundations of ashtanga yoga through Krishnamacharya's early presentations but also has brought a very creative and in a sense fearless presentation of asana and pranayama practice into the world of yoga postures and energy work.

This early, I would say original, spirit of ashtanga gives practitioners much more freedom to practice the postures in a way they want. This is according to the spirit of yoga because it is empowering.

-Kim Thubten Lingpa, 19.12.2021

Grimmly2007-YouTube with hundreds of videos

Vinyasa Krama Yoga-blog

Anthony Grimm Hall's interview 

About Anthony Grimm Hall

After spending five years traveling and working my way around the world in my early twenties (see Susan Griffith's book Work your way around the world) I returned to the United Kingdom and studied Philosophy. After a few years as a Philosophy of Arts teaching assistant at Kent University I taught at a preparatory School before moving to Japan to teach English and work as a teacher trainer for five years. After taking up the Saxophone in Japan i returned to England to study as a Woodwind Instrument Repairer.

My 'Yoga story' is outlined in Kiri Miller's book, Playing Along published next month (Feb 2012) by OUP.

'Grimmly is an ashtanga (and later Vinyasa krama) student without a teacher--an impossible contradiction to many practitioners, but one that is getting more possible all the time. He lives in the United Kingdom and works as a repairer of woodwind instruments. In early 2007, Grimmly's flat was burgled and seven saxophones were stolen. This incident made him so angry, and then so irritated with his own anger, that he decided to take up some form of meditation. In the course of reading about meditation practices, he learned that "a lot of meditators were also doing yoga," so he looked for a yoga book at the library and found Tara Fraser's Total Astanga (Fraser 2006). As an overweight 43-year-old man, he was a bit embarrassed even bringing the book up to the circulation desk. On his blog, he wrote, "Going to a yoga class wasn't something I even considered. A guy here, outside London, might think about going to a gym to get in shape but not a Yoga class, probably not even an aerobic class".

Grimmly began learning the sequence of asana from the book, practicing every morning before work, and soon began to order instructional DVDs and search for YouTube videos to help him develop his practice. He started his yoga blog (Ashtanga Vinyasa krama at Home) in the summer of 2008, after about a year and a half of practicing at home alone six days a week. His posts often invoke a growing community of hidden "home ashtangis" like himself.

As Grimmly developed his home practice, some of his choices posed challenges to ashtanga orthodoxy. For instance, when Grimmly blogged about his decision to begin learning the second series of asana, one commenter told him that he should not be learning any intermediate asana before he could stand up from a backbend: "Then and only then you start to add intermediate to your existing primary. Your teacher would give you each new asana as he saw your progress. . . . Traditionally in India, yoga has been learned from teacher to student, not from a book or video. It's really not right to decide to give yourself postures".

After a year and a half of home practice, Grimmly finally decided to try attending an ashtanga class at a shala. He went two Sundays in a row and was "blown away" by the physical adjustments he received from the teachers there. But a week later, he explained that he doubted he'd go back: "All the time it's just been me on my mat, alone in a room early each morning, my practice...Somehow now, after visiting the Shala, it feels a little like I'm practicing for someone else...I feel more distant from my practice, less involved" (Grimmly 2008b). It's clear from other posts that Grimmly developed his practice using books, famous teachers' DVDs, YouTube videos, other students' blogs, and any other media resources he could find. He often writes about insights gleaned from these sources. Nevertheless, the "live" teaching at the shala somehow alienated him from his practice. While he benefited from the physical adjustments he received, he was willing to forego them in order to maintain a sense of agency and responsibility for his own development: practicing for himself instead of a teacher.

Grimmly and his fellow cybershala practitioners are creating new transmission modalities for ashtanga yoga, from reflective writing to side-by-side slideshows that might reveal hidden traces of corporeal knowledge".

from Playing Along, Kiri Miller (Oxford University press 2012)

In June 09 I came across Srivatsa Ramaswami's 'Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga' and spent the next year working out how best to combine Vinyasa Krama with my Ashtanga practice. I attended Ramaswami's 200 hour Vinyasa Krama Teacher Training course at LMU, Los Angeles July/Aug 2010. I now practice Ashtanga in the evenings and have an integrated Vinyasa Krama practice, asana (based on subroutines), Pranayama and Mediation in the morning. Last year I made home videos of each of Ramaswami's Subroutines and produced practice sheets. Over the last three months I revisited each subroutine, one each morning, writing up practice notes to accompany the subroutines in the evening. These subroutine practice sheets and practice notes form the core of my book, Vinyasa Yoga at Home Practice Book


Future of Dharma Arts in the West


Future of Dharma Arts in the West

Some time ago I was talking with my friend Gyempo who has custom painted some works for me. He lives in Bhutan. I had been messaging with Gyempo's brother Tashi who is a master woodworker who makes thrones and other decorative ornaments such as those in tb temples and monasteries. I couldn't reach Tashi so I asked Gyempo if his brother might be able to make me a big Mahakala mask. He seemed to chuckle to my question and replied that his brother is a woodworker, not a mask maker. How foolish of me to ask a woodworker to make a mask!

Asian dharma culture is abound with art. There is dance, music, woodwork, metal work, sculpting, painting, calligraphy, writing, poetry and probably other forms too. Dharma in the West is a completely new thing but it is somewhat established, and yet there is basically no training whatsoever available in any or most of these artforms. This is very much reflected with how places in the West look. They have way less expression. In fact, I could say that they look dull. Hmm, I wonder if this contributes to the fact that western buddhist groups feel kind of lifeless.

"Visiting Western buddhist centers felt like

I was back sitting in church. They were so puritanistic."

-Lama Vajranatha John Reynolds

I just wanted to bring this up just to bring your attention to this matter. I've spent my adult life, since 2003, studying buddhist calligraphy and painting (see links below) and I'm a keen collector of high quality dharma art that I buy from Asia.

-Kim, 19.12.2021

tiistai 23. marraskuuta 2021

Emotions of the Enlightened Mind


Emotions of the Enlightened Mind

Activities that are graceful, heroic, terrifying,

compassionate, furious, arrogant, possessive and

envious all without exception are perfect

forms of pure, self-illuminated wisdom.”

-Sahajayoginicinta, ancient female master of tantric buddhism

The moment I heard this quote, I jumped at joy! It is so spot on! I had never heard other scriptures or authors express this point like Sahajayoginicinta. The vast majority of authors explain how emotions become neutral. I've never seen any other author say how ”furious, arrogant, possessive and envious” emotions, that on the surface sound very samsaric, are expression of ”pure, self-illuminated wisdom”. This statement is really something else!

I didn't grasp this point until I ended my purification process. Before that point I didn't understand how all emotions, including the ones that used to make me contracted around the notion of self, could be self-illuminated wisdom. It sounded wonky and strange! But I see now how a fully enlightened person is emotionally completely free and actually expresses him/herself perfectly in response to prevailing circumstances or arising situations. After all mind phenomena is seen to be without a solid self, a mahasiddha keeps reacting to external circumstances not based on a notion of self but as an appropriate response. Both before and after enlightenment circumstances might be far from ideal and therefore emotions like depression and frustration keep happening both before and after enlightenment but... the difference between the two is great!

I was never attracted by the idea of becoming an etherically smiling buddha who was always fine with everything and never raised his voice. That sort of buddhahood never made sense to me. Perhaps in the perfect world, where the master in question never needs to worry about anything and only has kind and well-behaving people come to meet him, perhaps then it is fitting to have the expression of a peaceful buddha but to me, and I think to most people, that is an utopia.

In the history of vajrayana we have many accounts of wrathful behaviour of mahasiddhas (and this point has also been purposefully taken advantage of by bad teachers). In my experience, the life of a modern mahasiddha is no different.


torstai 18. marraskuuta 2021

Buddhas of the Future


Buddhas of the Future

Fully enlightened people - mahasiddhas - of the future will be normal laypeople with jobs and families. They won't look any different from other people and their lives look the same as everyone elses, though internally their minds are entirely different from those of other people. But isn't it lovely to realise that finally being fully enlightened, being a buddha, being a mahasiddha, looks exactly like you do. Wow!!!

Kim Thubten Lingpa, 18.11.2021

lauantai 30. lokakuuta 2021

Full Enlightenment vs. Delusions of Secular Buddhism


Full Enlightenment vs.

Delusions of Secular Buddhism

My comment to Guru VikingPodcast episode 119.

I didn't have the patience to listen all of it but it did catch my ear Shinzen Young saying that he doesn't think doneness, i.e. buddhahood is possible. Sigh... another secular buddhist who lots of people look up to who is so unripe in his realisations that he directly contradicts himself with mahayana and vajrayana masters, while claiming to be a proponent of both. Stephen Batchelor, Culadasa Yates, Young... all singing the same tune. Two-three years before his passing Culadasa even admitted that sutrayana "doesn't go far enough", after 50 years of practicing it.

It is (much) better than nothing that there are teachers out there who have had one or few awakenings but compared to any nonphysical (or physical) mahasiddha, all these people are incredibly unripe. Then they in their "wisdom" of "many decades" of meditation with all the "top" teachers who themselves were unripe draw these genious conclusions... I remember Batchelor state, after his 8 years of being a gelugpa scholar monk, that guru yoga is bogus! See Why I Didn't Quit Guru Yoga.

It gets mindbogglingly stoopid when folks who didn't learn to practice well throw away the baby with the bath water, just like that. And that's another reason why tantric guru yoga is so precious because these silly conclusions end right there in the presence of someone who *is* done, a mahasiddha.

People of the world should really learn about the correct practice of tantric guru yoga and call masters - mahasiddhas - to them. Buddha, Jesus, Guru Rinpoche, Milarepa etc, any will do. It is easiest and simplest practice with no need for empowerment or any type of preparation other than being open to receive. It is easier than shamatha, quicker to learn than jhanas, no need to learn long prayers or mantras in foreign languages, and most importantly presence of a guru reveals our basic state or buddhanature, everytime without exception which is what jhanas or shamatha meditation can never accomplish. This is the gift of tantra that anyone anywhere anytime can make use of and receive. And importantly, this is also a way to get beyond unripe stages, where people who don't hang around with mahasiddhas get stuck. This is a way to raise the bar of dharma in the world.

People need to know that it is indeed possible to get "done", fully purified, entirely sinless, fully enlightened, to become a living buddha, just like generations of mahayana and vajrayana masters have said!

-Kim, 30.10.2021