A new branch of buddhism arose in Tibet 11th century C.E., called Vajrayana buddhism: the way of the diamond or thunderbolt. This form of buddhism is closely related to Mahayana buddhism, which first rooted in India taking the example of the compassion embodied by the Buddha Gautama (B.C.E. 560-480). Jetsiin Milerepa (1040-1123 C.E.) was the renown student of Marpa the Translator, who taught Milerepa Mahamudra, taking the inseparability of emptiness and appearance as the path to enlightenment. In Mahamudra, the qualities of Buddha-Nature inherently include cognizance, compassion, luminosity, emptiness, non-duality and wisdom as indistinguishable and (simultaneously) unborn. The unborn nature of ultimate reality compared to the transience of worldly life became the foundation of the Tibetan buddhist practice of meditation. It should be noted that the subject of moral behavior is not taught nearly as much as instructions for meditation. Virtue is by no means belittled, but enlightenment is only considered to be attained through the release of the perception of subject and object. Milerepa wrote a concise verse on the matter of Mahamudra titled, Mahamudra: Distinguishing the Provisional from the Definitive Meaning. The writings of this text are not based solely upon the intellect of Milerepa; rather, based on his own certainty of truth based on experience and understanding. My senior independent study thesis is an extensive exegesis of this text divided into five chapters. The first chapter explains the historical background of Vajrayana buddhism and Mahamudra's place in that tradition. The second chapter introduces the text itself, and clarifies the meaning of unfamiliar concepts and words within the text. The next three chapters are a deeper analysis of the major themes present in the verses: the luminosity of the mind and the freedom from the extremes of etemalism and nihilism, the dissolution of the perceiver and perceived, and the inherent quality of compassion in Buddha-Nature.


Harris, Ishwar


Religious Studies

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis

Available for download on Thursday, January 01, 2150



© Copyright 1994 Emese O. Vudy