There are many different forms of Chakrasamvara appearing with different number of faces, hands, and number of surrounding retinues. In the Drigung Kagyu lineage, the most popular and common Chakrasamvara deity practice is in the form of the Five-deity Chakrasamvara. The Five-deity Chakrasamvara includes the central deity of the two-armed, single-faced male Chakrasamvara deity in union with the female Vajravarahi deity (these two in union are taken as a single deity) and four surrounding dakinis in the four directions.

Yidam practice is a very special tantric practice in which one transforms one’s normal, samsaric experience of reality into an extraordinary experience of the true state of all phenomena. While the teachings of the sutra-level consider ignorance as the root cause of samsaric existence, the tantric teachings identify the ordinary appearances as the root cause of samsara. The practice of Yidam is a special and profound method to quickly transform ordinary appearances into enlightened appearances. To be more accurate, this practice uncovers the actual state of appearances and reveal them to be pure and empty unceasingly. Yidam practice does not make ordinary appearances into something they are not — pure and empty of inherent existence. Rather, it uncovers the purity and emptiness that have always been there but obscured and unseen. Due to the tantric nature of these teachings, it is best that one receive the details of these teachings directly from an authentic teacher of the lineage. It is hoped that this brief description of Yidam practice as the second section of the Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudra will encourage the reader to seek out these profound teachings from a valid and reliable teacher of the lineage when the time and conditions are right. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang,

“If one’s body, the King of Deities is not stabilized on this Unchanging Ground, The retinue of dakinis will not assemble. Be sure, therefore, of your body as the yidam.”

The third section of the Five-fold Path is the practice of Guru-yoga or the practice of attaining union with the wisdom mind of the Teacher (guru). There are many types of teachers — our parents as our first teachers, our grade school teachers who taught us to read and write, teachers in the secular arts and sciences, spiritual teachers who gave us the Refuge vows, those who gave us the lay or monastic vows, the Bodhisattva-vow preceptors, Vajra-teachers who conferred tantric empowerments on us and finally those teachers who introduced to us the nature of our mind. In a sense, the Teacher referred to here in the practice of guru-yoga is all of them; all of these teachers. However, it is not so much a practice directed at a particular individual or person whom we call our “Teacher” but the basic wisdom-mind within all these teachers who have taught us. By having confidence in and relying on this basic wisdom-mind that we locate within our teachers (and in particular in the teacher(s) who introduced to us the nature of our mind), we strive to recognize this same wisdom-mind that is inherent in us. In particular, we need to rely on an authentic and experienced teacher who has him/herself recognized his/her own nature of mind and can help us recognize ours as well. The practice of Guru-yoga is extolled in the tradition as the most direct and profound method to the quick recognition of the nature of mind. Many Kagyu teachers have taught that the quickest and surest way to recognize the nature of mind is a mind filled with devotion. When devotion is present, recognition of the nature of mind is not far. Kyobpa Rinpoche sang,

If on the Guru, the Snow Mountain of the Four Kayas, The Sun of Devotion fails to shine, The Stream of Blessings will not flow. Attend, therefore, to this mind of devotion.

The Guru-yoga practiced as the third section of the Fivefold Profound Path is slightly more involved and detailed than the Guru-yoga practice found in the set of practices found in the inner foundational practices (ngondro). Specifically, the Four-kayas Guru-yoga” is practiced here. These four kayas or “bodies” refer to the Emanational body (Skt. nirmanakaya, Tib. trul-ku), Enjoyment body (Skt. sambhogakaya, Tib. long-ku), Reality body (Skt. dharmakaya, Tib. cho-ku) and Nature body (Skt. svabhavikakaya, Tib. ngowo nyi-ku) which is the inseparability of the first three bodies. Within this context, the first three bodies are considered relative truth and the fourth body is ultimate truth. A practitioner will first practice the Emanational body Guru-yoga practice where the Teacher is visualized in the form of Shakyamuni Buddha (herself in her ordinary form). She then meditates on the Teacher on the Enjoyment body level as Vairochana (and herself as the yidam) Buddha and for the Reality body in the form of Vajradhara Buddha. Finally, when she arrives at the Nature body level of guru yoga practice, the Teacher meditated on without any form, color, name or shape.

The current Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes: “Externally are the three bodies of the Teacher, the relative truth (On the level of) absolute truth the self-arising luminosity of the teacher Is the nature of one’s own mind. The Teacher, one’s own mind and the Buddha are inseparable Appearing as the manifestation of the Nature body.”

When the mind has become ripened through Guru-yoga practice, one finally arrives at the heart of the Five-fold Profound Path — the actual practice of Mahamudra itself.

Regarding the Mahamudra, again, the present Drigung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche writes: “Sustain the fresh, non-arising mind without delusion. In this uncontrived, natural state Completely avoid the fabrication of meditation and meditator The non-meditating, undisturbed, ordinary mind Remains non-attached and non-separated Free from hope and fear, grasping and letting-go Rejection and acceptance, meditation and post-meditation.”

We will not be discussing this topic any further as Mahamudra is best learnt directly from a living teacher. However, there is a link to a simple but yet profound teaching on Mahamudra given spontaneously by one of the most important Drigung Kagyu lineage masters alive today — His Eminence Garchen Rinpoche who is the main Drigung Kagyu Rinpoche in Eastern Tibet.

Finally, there is the section on Dedication as the fifth section of the Fivefold Profound Path. Dedication is one of the most distinctive features of Buddhist practice — a practice that is done at the end of all practices be it of the hinayana or mahayana (both sutra and tantra levels). By dedicating the merit of one’s practice for the welfare of all sentient beings’ complete liberation from all suffering and the causes of suffering one ensures that one’s practice remains pure and beneficial. As with most practices, there are relative and ultimate aspects (and it is important to remember that one does not privilege one aspect over the other but rather perfectly practice on both levels as they are in reality inseparable). On the ultimate level of Dedication — Dedication in the context of Mahamudra — one dedicates the merit with the understanding of the emptiness of oneself, the merit dedicated and the dedication itself; the threefold emptiness.

The Five-fold Profound Path of Mahamudra is a complete path to the attainment of perfect enlightenment within one lifetime. Many practitioners in the past have taken this Path and arrived at the other shore of complete peace. At the present, there are also many sincere practitioners of this Path practicing under the expert and compassionate guidance of the lineage teachers of the Drigung Kagyu lineage. There are also many other sincere practitioners of Mahamudra tradition of Gampopa following the different Mahamudra traditions that have developed out of Gampopa’s basic Mahamudra system. Furthermore, aside from the purely Kagyu Mahamudra lineages, there is also the Mahamudra practice lineage within the Gelug lineage. Mention should also be made of the “union” of Mahamudra and Dzogchen practices derived from some lineage masters of the Kagyu and Nyingma.

“In order that all beings who have been my mothers May quickly be liberated from samsara and May attain perfect enlightenment, I dedicate all merit accumulated by Myself, and all ordinary and enlightened beings in the three times As well as the merit of the innately pure Buddha-nature.”