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Dartmoor Pony.
Prana is likened to a horse.

The translator, Garma C. C. Chang

The Buddhist scholar Garma C. C. Chang (1920-88) was the editor and translator of Teachings and Practice of Tibetan Tantra. The book was first published in 1963, and reprinted in 2004. Chang's aim was to introduce several vital texts about Buddhahood and how to discover it within one's own body-mind. (Chang 2004, 11)

Garma Chen-Chi Chang - Garma is Dharma in Tibetan; he added it to his name, Chen-Chi Chang, or in the Chinese style, Chang Chen-Chi, (pinyin: Zhang Chengji) - was an authority on Buddhist philosophy, born in China and educated at Kong-ka Monastery, at Meia Nya in eastern Tibet. The monastery is in a line of Kargya Schools. Chang came to the United States after World War II and was a research fellow at the Bollingen Foundation in New York from 1955 onward.

He wrote many books, including The Practice of Zen (1959), The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa (1962), and Teachings and Practice of Tibetan Tantra (2004). The latter corresponds to Teachings of Tibetan Yoga (1993) Both versions derive from a first edition of 1963.

In his book on Tibetan tantrism (2004), Chang writes about generating internal heat in the body, tummo.* He also teaches tantric doctrine about erotic mysticism, on how sexual bliss can be made godly. (5-7)

* "Good proof of that pudding": A 1982 study of the physiological effects of Tummo has been made by Benson and colleagues, who studied Indo-Tibetan Yogis in the Himalayas and in India in the 1980s. Conducted in Upper Dharamsala in India, it found that the subjects, three monks, exhibited the capacity to increase the temperature of their fingers and toes by as much as 8.3 ◦C. (WP, "Tummo > Scientific investigation")

Chang searched for universal truth, and his writings about the Mahayana tradition have illuminated the path for others. His first published English Buddhist text was the Practice of Zen. It is Chinese Zen he draws on. Earlier, he had translated The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa into English in the 1950s.

Adding to this, his book on Tibetan Tantrism is hard to grasp at just a couple of readings, as John C. Wilson writes in the book's introduction. Chang's book is intended as a source of reference, a pointer, and he hopes it may prove useful to some. (9, 15)

From Garma C. C. Chang's Foreword

Passion-desires are identified with transcendental Wisdom. (12)

The Innate Light, Dharmakaya, is normally hidden "in" the Centre of the Heart Chakra. (12)

Prana (vitality) and mind work in unison in reciprocal rhythms. (12, 13)

Through realising the essence of mind as Transcendental Wisdom, one realises the essence of prana as the inexhaustible act of Buddhahood. (13)

Liberation and Skilfulness depend on proper cultivating the Innate Mind. The dominant Tantric practises are called the Arising and Perfecting Yoga. (14)


From The Song of Mahamudra by Tilopa

The song was composed by Tilopa when he imparted this teaching to Naropa on the bank of the Ganges River.

Tilopa (Sanskrit: Talika or Tilopada, 988–1069) was born in Bengal. He is credited with developing the Mahamudra method, which is a set of spiritual practices. On travels throughout India he learnt of such as insight, dream yoga, inner light and inner heat. He is regarded as the human founder of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism through the Indian Buddhist yogi Naropa (956-1041), who is considered the main teacher of the Tibetan Marpa, who initiated Jetsun Milarepa of the line.

Mahamudra means literally 'great seal' or 'great symbol'. It includes methods

  • of fitting the nature and essence of the mind, or the mindstream's innate clarity in other words;
  • of meditating on mind itself, that is, to directly experience many phenomena of one's own mind;
  • of stabilising transcendental realisation.

Both Tranquillity approaches and Insight approaches are found, as well as practices to remedy common problems of meditation. The instructions are detailed.

The Kagyu lineage divides the Mahamudra teachings - outlooks and meditation techniques - into three types, 'sutra Mahamudra', 'tantra Mahamudra', and 'essence Mahamudra'. There are main practices in the range of practices. There exist discourses about Mahamudra in other traditions than the Kagyu lineage too.

The following are excerpts and abstracts from the Song of Mahamudra in Chang's translation. His translation of the poem is ◦here. Another translation to compare with is ◦here.


Relax, put your mind at rest.

In time you will realise the Innate. (26)

If the mind should seek a goal through some desire, it hides the Inner Light. (27)

Follow only teachings that are great. (28)

Stare naked to know. (29)

Meditate in the woods and the mountains, and maintain the "natural state" without effort. (28)

Remain loose and natural, gain Liberation. (25)

In Self-mind distinctions or discrimination stops. (25)

The essence of the mind is a great vast ocean where lights merge into one. (30)

What is referred to is, more specifically, is (1) the innate Light which exists within oneself at all times, and (2) the realization of that Light, a realization that may vary.

Supreme Action embraces great resourcefulness without attachment. (29)

Fools wallow in misery and sorrow. (27) 


  1. Relax in time from such as seeking goals.
  2. Follow the great and observe them.
  3. Meditate to gain Liberation, that is, drift beyond terms like "Liberation" too as you go on diving well.
IN NUCE Relax amply, observe the great teachings and gain from meditation.


From the Vow of Mahamudra

The following is gist from a poem by the third Garmapa [Karmapa] Rangjang Dorje [1284-1339]. Rangjang Dorje was a noted scholar who composed many significant texts. He was born in Tingri, in western Tibet and studied Buddhist doctrinal systems and Tibetan medicine. He travelled throughout Tibet and China to preach, found monasteries, turn people toward the dharma, and to deal in politics.

A karmapa is the Lama that heads the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. [◦More]

The Vow of Mahamudra is used as a daily prayer by the Ghagyuba Lamas.


LoLet flowing thoughts ever subside, and observe unbearable compassion

The Great Symbol [Great Perfection, or Mahamudra] is called the Great Middle Way and embraces all. (35)

Mind-Essence is radiant. (32)

[Calm down:] Let flowing thoughts subside [for a while]. (34)

True pity is unbearable. Great compassion is unbearable too. (36)

Voidness [Sunyata] is [deep in] mind. (34)

Always observe. The mind manifests through convictions too. (Cf 33) 

Buddha's Self-nature is the same as your own Self-nature. (36)

Realize the Self-nature. (35)

Discern ably. (34) — That logical reasoning may help toward arriving at the Truth, is part of the teaching. (48)

LoLet savoury goodness be fulfilled beyond playwords

Share joy and goodness in Dharma. (31)

May all my good wishes be fulfilled, and readily. (36) Truth is far beyond playwords. (35)

LoEnjoy great bliss and happiness - they are "my own Self-face"

In the final Truth [state] there is neither this nor that. (34) (5)

Ever enjoy. (31)

May I ever follow the Supreme Path of [at least quite] unbearable compassion! (36)

Knowing one is knowing all. (35)

Continuing practice of self-sustaining Practice-of-no-effort may serve Great Bliss and Radiant Light and is free. (35, mod) ✪ 

Rest at ease. (34)

The essential practice: Without distraction, add nothing. (32)

Beyond thought is self-sustaining practice. (35)

Craving for ecstasy should dissolve. (Cf 35)

(7) Buddhaland is in Essence. It may be constructed to be a realm. In Tibetan teachings, Buddha's bodies include the Dharma body (the field, loka, of righteousness) and the body of Universal Essence (36, 48)

Powers gained through meditation, clairvoyance and like, may I use them to serve my Buddha-land. (36)

May I behold my own Self-face! (34)


  1. Let flowing thoughts ever subside, and practice almost unbearable compassion.
  2. Let savoury goodness be fulfilled beyond playwords. How? Dive well.
  3. Enjoy great bliss and happiness if you care to, your own Self-face.
IN NUCE Let flowing thoughts of good things to do subside for a spell as you enjoy native bliss in deep meditation, in your own Self.


From the Essentials of Mahamudra Practice

Below are extracts from a synopsis given by the Venerable Lama Kong Ka, who was Garma C. C. Chang's mentor. The complete essay is on pages 37–48 in his book.


LoNot to cling suggests spontaneity

Not to cling to anything is called essential. (38)

"Naturalness" means the yogi does not make any effort and be spontaneous. (38)

Never forget to practice the "looseness" and "spontaneity". (Cf 46)

Essence and moral truths are in essence identical. (40)

Merge distracting thoughts into the Path. (44)

Utilize conditions to further Realization. (43)

One may be distracted during daily work, forgetting the Essence. If so, bring back the Awareness, and the subtle Essence is wont to pop up again. (42, 43)

Practice meditation on the sickness as you can, while adhering to the three essentials: equilibrium, relaxation, and naturalness. (Cf 44, Tpt 37)

In the experience of Blissfulness some get extremely glad, enthusiastic, and enter ecstasy to become unaware of day and night. (41)

LoTry to get near the Inward Essence daily

Great Awareness tends to make keener or brighter. Cf. 38, 39, etc.) Try not to lose the Essence, and try to bring the meditation experience into your daily activities. (42)

LoGreat awareness and stability are much the same, a lot related

Practice the natural mind to keep your Self-Awareness, and you are practicing Mahamudra. (Cf 46)

One is to focus on quiet meditation first, and next apply Great Awareness to his daily activities. (Cf 37)

The cure and the cured are the same [higher up]. Hence, Dharma-practice and desire-passions are not two different things [deep inside]. (40)

Steady mind, clear and bright awareness, crystal clear consciousness, and stable. (38-39) ✪ 

"Awaringly" remain in a loose and natural state. (44)

To "loosen the mind" is to remain in the natural state without [very much] effort, and without distractions. (38)

To keep the mind loose implies that one should try to further and sharpen its bright awareness. (39)

To practice, keep loose and gentle, and remain balanced. Activities should be carried out in a smooth, relaxed, and spontaneous way. (39)

What helps: Elevate your mind, and practice of Self-mind [Self-nature]. (Cf 37)

Bright and Essential Awareness in its natural state is Mahamudra. (Cf 43)

To always be trying to correct faults is most likely to have strayed from the Path [of Mahamudra]. (41)

Awareness and Realization may be broadened in time, by keeping the subtle Awareness alive. (43 (7)

Try not to lose Self-Awareness at any time. (42)

Abide in this immediate, present moment with bright awareness. (Cf 45)

At the very moment compassion arises, practice meditation on it. (Cf 44] (8)


  1. Not to cling suggests spontaneity. Buddhism stresses "not clinging".
  2. Try to get near the Inward Essence daily through diving within in deep meditation.
  3. Great awareness and stability are much the same; the two are very much related.
IN NUCE Do not cling, and draw near to your inward Essence. Then you may get much stabler and aware too.




The gentle Vase-breathing has it in it to do a beginner much good with little or no hindrances: Hold the air for a short while [eg, half a second], release it [calmly] before there is any strain, then draw in another breath and hold it again for a very short while. Repeat ten times; this is called a sensible round. (Cf 60)

A main feature of soft and gentle Vase-Breathing is to put a gentle pressure on the lower parts of the abdomen. (125)

LoQuiet and very simple could mean aligned with Essence and Light

The Void is otherwise called the Innate Light. (Cf 98)

A quiet place matters too. (Cf 83)

Pith-instructions, which may also be rendered as "Key-Instructions", consist of the essence of the conveyed Tantric teaching. They are usually very simple, precise, yet practical. (Cf 121)

LoHelp the capable to gain by applying top teachings

Through Central Channel Awareness one is to heed delicately the Heart-Centre to improve. cf Tpt 63, 64, 72, 94) (3)

One is to set forth things to help the capable to attain Buddhahood. (Cf 52)

Dream Yogas are of Light. (Cf 51)

One is to apply the instructions to gain Liberation. (Cf 110)

LoOne is to let preliminaries merge into actual practice

The Three Treasures are the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. (109, 128) (5)

To progress a bit, preliminaries are required. These include kindness. (53)

One should at times meditate on the transiency of life. (Cf 115) ✪ 

Merge Self-illuminating Essence with the Light-of-Death (Innate Light) when death comes. (110)

Buddha's nature lies within [or well beyond] one's own body-mind complex. [It depends.] (Cf Tpt 124) ◇◇

Adhere to the Self-Yidam Body. (Cf 112)

Compose body, mouth, and mind and adhere to the middle way. (51, class="d">cf Tpt 84)

Recognise the Innate Light when it emerges. (95)

Tantrism is based upon the view of the identity of Samsara and Nirvana. (116) (8)

A good yogi should keep his inner experiences secret, and not tell anyone about them except his Guru, and renounce all meaningless activities. Nor should he eat extremely spoiled fish. He should also avoid overeating rich food, and should not exhaust himself greatly by any activity. Tpt 76, 77, 89)

The Eight Worldly Gains encompass gain, praise, and joy. (Cf 126)

Tummo [Tumo, Dumo, or Chandali yoga] is essentially "the Fire of Transcendental Wisdom that burns up all ignorance and vice." (Cf 73) (9)


  1. Quiet and very simple could mean aligned with Essence and Light.
  2. Help the capable to gain by applying top teachings.
  3. One is to let preliminaries merge into actual practice.
IN NUCE Quietly help the capable beyond preliminaries into actual practice.

In an after-death state

Bardo - the intermediate state between death and rebirth - provides a good opportunity for Enlightenment. (Cf 121)

If he is to be born in a happy realm, he sees a white light, brilliant as the moon. (105)

He hears the boom of ocean waves. (106)

He falls in love with the place where he is to be reborn as soon as he sees it. (107)

He who sees the splendid, heavenly mansions, with male and female angels, is to be born in one of the heavens. (107)

The Further Fields

Dr Alexander Berzin (1944–), who served as the Dalai Lama's archivist, maintains in "The Meaning of Tantra" (2002) that "Buddha's teachings include both sutras and tantras," and "The tantras present advanced practices."

Sanskrit tantra means warp of a loom or strands of a braid, and the root of the word tantra is stretch or continue. In tune with this connotation, the Tibetan scholars translated the term as gyu (rgyud), unbroken continuity - a succession of segments. In short, we put pieces together through sorting them well, and take such steps as suit our capacities. [Compare the Gold Egg model]

Individual beings experience something; act with intentions and experience the immediate and long-term effects of what they do. Furthermore, individual beings interact with one another, but remain distinct, even in Buddhahood, Enlightenment. They are not the same person, tells Berzin. Each has unique connections - some individuals can meet and benefit from a particular Buddha and not from another. And individuals go on, also when transformed into Buddhas, he teaches.

On the path to enlightenment, practitioners work, and confusion occasionally stops and one's innermost qualities function well or better, presumably.

Various Buddha-figures represent several Buddha qualities and works these Buddhas may do. They represent Buddha-nature factors and in so doing often have multiple faces, arms, and legs. The array of faces and limbs represent themes. Some such Buddhas correspond to ishta-devatas. This Sanskrit term denotes favourable deities we are naturally attracted to, that is, our preferred or "chosen deities". They are deities meant for meditation practice. In Tibetan Buddhism, the istha devatas are spoken of as special deities. The Tibetan yidam (yi-dam), on the other hand denotes the intended meaning as 'mind-aligned'. Practitioners align with the ishta devata's (or sound yidam's) qualities and activities.

However, Buddhist schools present tantra in slightly different ways. They teach differently and by different methods.


Tibetan tantra intro, Vajrayana, Garma Chang, Kong Ka, Naropa's six yogas, vase-breathing, Literature  

Berzin, Alexander. "The Meaning of Tantra". Study Buddhism/Berzin Archives. [◦Link]

Chang, Garma C. C., ed and tr. Teachings and Practice of Tibetan Tantra. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004 (1963). ⍽▢⍽ Same content and page numbering as his Teachings of Tibetan Yoga: Introduction to the Spiritual, Mental, Physical Exercises of the Tibetan Religion. Reprint ed. New York: Citadel Press, 1994 (1963).

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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