Highest Yoga Tantra and Mahamudra 

By Master Sheng-yen Lu
Translated by Cheng Yew Chung, Edited by Dance Smith

This was translated from Grandmaster Lu's 51st book, 無上密與大手印.

CHAPTER 18 - Mahamudra of Opening the Crown

Miss You Suqing, a disciple of mine who lives in Kumamoto, Japan, asked me what exactly was the Yoga of Phowa. I replied by saying that the Yoga of Phowa is the Yoga of Opening the Crown, a Tantric practice of gaining accomplishment through the transference of consciousness where it is transformed into the dharmakaya, sambhobakaya, and nirmanakaya.

Here is a further elucidation on this yoga:

Tantric practitioners have often regarded the Yoga of Phowa as the swiftest dharma gate, for it is said to yield the quickest results and is the most direct way to open the crown. Once the crown is opened, one certainly attains accomplishment by gaining rebirth in the Pureland.

The success of practising any dharma gate hinges upon the spiritual foundation of the individual. Some may cultivate the opening of the crown and achieve results in one day. Others may have to cultivate for forty-nine days before they accomplish the opening of the crown. This is due largely to their respective spiritual foundations.

The Yoga of Phowa is one of the major practices of Kagyupa. Some people have commented that once the crown is opened, the individual may gain rebirth in the Western Pureland at any time. Of course, when a person gains rebirth, his physical body dies. This results in the shortening of ones life. That is why individuals who practise this yoga do not live a long life. Therefore many Tantric practitioners feel that the cultivation of the Amitayus Long-life Practice is necessary once the individuals crown is opened.

However, I feel that once the Yoga of Phowa is mastered, it proves that gaining rebirth in the Pureland is a certainty. As to whether ones life would be shortened by this practice or not is inconsequential, as life itself is an ocean of suffering and offers no escape from birth, old age, sickness and death. What appears as the joy of life is nothing but suffering. It would be better to leave early and be done with this life. Therefore, since the Yoga of Phowa can reduce ones life span, why not practise it?

The recent past saw two masters who were famous for this practice of Phowa: Noble Sheng-lu (1871-1941) and Noble Duga.

I shall elucidate on this Yoga of Phowa as follows:

Sit in the Seven Points of Vairocana position.

Regulate ones breath 21 times with the Yoga of Psychic Heat.

Chant the Supplication Prayer:

Homage to you, Guru Vajradhara! 
Protect me upon my accomplishment of Phowa! 
Homage to you, Tilopa! 
Help me enter your glorious light, 
Where all dharma is pure and supreme! 
Homage to you, Marpa and Milarepa! 
Radiate light upon me through Mahamudra! 
Homage to you, all lineage holders! 
Above my crown you shall sit in your lotus thrones. 
My faith is firm and strong. 
Every guru dissolves into a sea of clear light. 
In the supreme dharma realm where you dwell. 
I pray that I may swiftly gain the wonderful dharma and attain bodhi. 
I wish to practice the Phowa and merge into Emptiness 
So that I may peacefully abide in the true buddha realm

Visualize Vajradhara seated above your crown with a blue-coloured body manifested in his sambogakaya form, draped with fine buddha garments adorned with the most precious and wonderful jeweled ornaments. His arms are held in front of his chest, with the right arm crossed over the left, holding a vajra in his right hand and a bell in his left. The lineage holders sit above your crown in ascending order, forming a straight line; each resides within a circular aura of rainbow light. At the bottom of the lineage is seated the Holy Red Crown Vajra Guru Noble Lian-sheng, who is the living guru on earth.

Next visualize the gurus transforming themselves into rainbow light. This light dissolves into your body, and together they form a single magnificent vajra body. Visualize yourself transforming into a body of emptiness and luminosity, where you find a central channel with a wide top in the middle of your body, with an opening shaped like a trumpet. At its base it is narrow with the end sealed off. Above the trumpet opening at the top are seated the lineage holders, whose root guru is the Vajradhara. Your central channel is aligned in a straight line with the central channel of the root guru, Vajradhara, whose pathways are interconnected and clear. This means your central channel is linked to the central channel of Vajradhara.

Next, visualize within your heart a blue coloured seed syllable HUM that also exists within the heart of Vajradhara.

As you exhale, shout out the sound ZEE and visualize the syllable HUM within your heart ascending towards the top trumpet opening of your central channel. Shout the sound ZEE continuously 21 times. With the twenty-first shout, the syllable HUM finally reaches the top of the trumpet opening of the central channel.

Next exhale and shout out the sound GA while visualizing the syllable HUM descending gradually from the top opening of the central channel until it finally returns to the original place within the heart with the twenty-first GA.

Thus, you shout the sound ZEE twenty one times and shout the sound GA twenty one times. When you shout, you must stretch your vocal capacity and shout out loud. This is making use of the voice to vibrate the syllable HUM within your heart so as to cause it to ascend and descend.

You should practise this Yoga of Phowa once a day. By making use of the power of two mantra seed syllables and the power of thought, and performing the practice sitting in the Seven Points of Vairocana posture, one attains the goal of opening the crown.

The Phowa practitioner, upon dying, moves the syllable HUM within his heart out of the central channel into the blue syllable HUM within Vajradhara, so that both HUM syllables merge. In this way, the heart of the Tantric practitioner is merged with the heart of the lineage holders, which is seen as the clear light of ones own heart dissolving into the clear light of the lineage holders. This is the true accomplishment attained through the Yoga of Phowa.

One must take note of these key points when practising the Yoga of Phowa:

1. This practice places great importance on the power of the gurus blessing. The Vajra Guru is Vajradhara, who is the essence of all gurus. His heart mantra HUM, radiating the lights of the five wisdoms, exists primarily as the wonderful vajra nature of all buddhas. We must be respectful and sincere in our reliance on our vajra guru, so that we may gain the blessing of the master. Thus, we should not attempt to practise this Yoga of Phowa however we please without receiving proper guidance from a master.

2. Though this practice is simple, it is nevertheless powerful. It is a wonderful method that is drawn from the great perfection of guru yoga, and it leads to the realm of true reality. When one achieves yogic response with this practise, the prana energy that rises to the crown chakra of ones head may form a protrusion such as that seen on the statues of the Buddha. A minor bruise may form, with a few droplets of blood and fluid flowing out from the crown chakra. In the past, those whose crown was opened would insert a stalk of kusha grass into the crown chakra as evidence of the opening.

3. A person whose crown chakra is opened will find that upon death his spiritual essence emerges through the crown chakra. The soul of the individual is self-realized as it moves out of the physical body through the crown chakra and ascends up the wire-like central channel which is linked to the crown. Before death and during ones daily practice, one may visualize the light of the lineage holders dissolving into oneself through the crown and filling the body of meridians and chakras with power. One may transform this strength and power into a body of pure light. Whenever I enter into the meditative absorption of Mahamudra, the pure light of the lineage holders is transformed into the infinite pure light within me. These pure lights are able to respond to each other.

4. I feel that ordained monks who truly know their self-nature and seek realization from deep within themselves are those who understand the dharma and practise it. Pitiful are those monks who are unclear about the truth and practise only the psychic arts. These arts are external doctrines. What I embrace is the meditative absorption of inner realization, and not those non-Buddhist doctrines. If my disciples truly understand this, they are to be considered true disciples of True Buddha School. These practices deal with the cultivation of drops!

5. When I observe the many Americans who live only in materialism, I find them pitiful. The priests who preach their sermons want everyone to worship the Lord and to keep their thoughts kind and loving. In this way, the Lord shall bless us all. Through prayers, we keep open the line of communication to the Lord and, when the time comes, we shall ascend to the heavenly kingdom. However, the Catholic and Christian teachings, through relying on prayers (which is seeking outside oneself), would not help anyone reach the heavenly kingdom if the hindrance of ignorance is not removed. Thus, a large number of believers of the Catholic and Christian faiths are not saved in the end, for these people only know how to seek the truth outside themselves, and are unaware of how to seek the truth within. Thus, they stop at the superficial level and are unaware of the inner truth.

The Mahamudra of Opening the Crown blends both approaches of seeking outwardly and inwardly into one method, and seeks a response from the Highest One. This is the response attained at the dharmakaya level. Today I have many western disciples who are aware of this practice, and a few of them have achieved the opening of the crown. They feel a sense of tranquillity in their body and mind, and abide in the supreme Samadhi of quiescence.

The Tantric teachings, having found their way to the west, certainly are an eye opener for westerners. The practice of Mahamudra has allowed me to become one with the universe, with my guru, and with all sentient beings. Indeed the true teachings of self-realization have been established in the west and many westerners have taken refuge.

Whoever reads this chapter and follows the guidance of his or her guru by cultivating the drops and opening the crown shall attain the inner realization of his heart. Had I not made my compassionate vows to help all gain the realization of their true minds, it would be impossible to distribute this current of pure light into the hearts of sentient beings, and benefit them greatly.

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01 - Homage to the Lineage Holders of the Mahamudra
02 - Mahamudra is the Method of Attaining Buddhahood
03 - The Meditation of Vairocana
04 - Psychic Heat, Drops and Inner Fire
05 - The True Practice of Speech Purification
06 - The Fourfold Mindfulness of Nagarjuna
07 - Blessings of the Guru on Mahamudra
08 - Ekagrata Meditation
09 - The Circulation of Mantra and Breathing
10 - The Techniques of Mahamudra
11 - The Dual Functioning of Tranquillity and Contemplation
12 - The Spiritual State of Supreme Bliss
13 - The Spiritual State of Immovability
14 - The Mahamudra Practice of Dreaming
15 - Clear Light Mahamudra
16 - Mahamudra of Leaving the Physical Body
17 - The Bardo Deliverance Yoga of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva
18 - Mahamudra of Opening the Crown
19 - The Samadhi of Observation
20 - The Mahamudra of Eternity, Bliss, True Self, and Purity
21 - The Mahamudra of Dispelling Delusion
22 - The Levels of Mahamudra
23 - The True Significance of the Master
24 - The Affection Practice of Ragaraja
25 - The Yoga of Great Secret Accomplishment
26 - The Practice of the Mantra of Vajrapani
27 - A Brief Introduction to the Many Practices of Tantrayana
28 - The Conclusion to the Highest Yoga Tantra and Mahamudra