Kill the Mind to Reveal the Sahaja – Mahasiddha Tilopa

Tilopa Sahaja

These words are from the Dohakosha of the great Indian Mahasiddha Tilopa. He lived around 10th/11th CE in Bengal. Tilopa’s sahajīya poetry – his dohas, are composed in Apabhramsha, a dialect spoken those days in the North Indian plains which is one of the precursors of modern day Hindi.

māraha citta ṇivvāṇeṃ haṇiā

tihuaṇa suṇṇa ṇirañjaṇa pasiā

Kill the mind !

Having destroyed it with nirvāna,

Enter the undefiled [wisdom of]

The emptiness of the triple world.

– Mahasiddha Tilopa

Explanation of the verses

The mind which is caught in the net of myriad concepts is the mind of samsara – going weary in its confused pursuits. This samsaric mind is annihilated when wisdom (prajna) blazes high and reveals the emptiness (sunyata) of all these concepts. Nirvana is the annihilation of this mind of confusion (vibhrānta citta). With nirvana Tilopa Sahajathere is the undefiled wisdom (nirañjana jnana) of the empty (sunya) nature of the three worlds. Then, though the three worlds appear with all its vividness, they are seen to be illusory and empty of essence. The myriad displays of the phenomenal world is no more powerful in entrapping one in myriad concepts. Then, the co-arisen wisdom (sahaja jnana) – the inborn wisdom of the original nature of mind – can no longer be overpowered.

Sahaja means the co-arisen. Particularly, it refers to the stainless wisdom that is the very nature of mind. Ordinarily, we miss to recognize that nature of mind and wanders in contrived and distorted states of mind in Samsara. The Yogi recognizes the Sahaja which is non-dualistic (advaya) and non-abiding (apratisthitha).

About Mahasiddha Tilopa

Born in Bengal Tilopa entered the Mahayana Buddhist Monastery of Somapura which was also a centre of Vajrayana practice. His main gurus are said to be Nagarjuna, Krishnacarya, Lavapa and a yogini named Subhagini. Later he leaves monastery and lives among the Candalas. Some records say that he stayed and practiced in the banks of Ganga in the North and the charnel grounds of Kanchi in South India. Tilopa pounded sesame, producing sesame oil. His name is supposedly derived from that (til – sesame). Living that way he attained sahaja jnana.

Later when he started teaching, he made his life into his message, which is in essence –

Just as how till oil is hidden in till as an essence, Sahaja jnana is hidden in our own mind.

2 thoughts on “Kill the Mind to Reveal the Sahaja – Mahasiddha Tilopa

  • October 5, 2019 at 7:50 pm

    hello, thanks so much for such amazing articles.
    Concerning above poem of Tilopa and verse : ,, Kill the mind,,
    probably word ,, intelect,, may be more adequate?

    • October 6, 2019 at 6:09 pm

      Dear Jerry,

      Thank you for your comment and question.

      In this case, the word used by Tilopa is citta, and that means mind. Citta or mind is a compounded phenomena belonging to Samsara. It arises due to the power of causes and conditions such as karma and vasana. The undefiled state that Tilopa refers to is, the uncompounded state of wisdom that is revealed naturally when the compounded mind ceases or diffuses.

      Anything to do with the mind that is subject to compounding is also subject to destruction. And, only when all that is subject to destruction is penetrated, one reaches the ground of the true nature of undefiled wisdom.

      To be precise, the correctness of the usage of the word, mind, depends upon its definition. There are two ways in which the word is used within the Buddhist parlance.

      Case 1
      A classical definition of the word citta (or Mind) in Buddhism, as in Yogacarabhumi Sastra is,
      “The first conceptualization of these (appearance of objects) is known as citta (mind)”. In other words, the apprehension of the object is mind.

      Also, according to Acharya Asanga,
      “Citta (mind) is alayavijnana (all-ground-consciousness) containing all seeds (sarvabijaka), impregnated with the vasanas (habitual imprints) of aggregates (skandha), elements (dhatu) and sense-bases (ayatana)”

      In this way of using the word mind, it refers to a relative truth (samvrti satya), a compounded phenomena that holds a contextual understanding of its object.

      The uncompounded, unconditioned state of the wisdom of Nirvana is thus beyond mind.

      Case 2
      In the second approach, the nature of mind is equated with the phenomenon of mind itself. The nature of mind is clear and knowing no matter whether it is compounded as a samsaric phenomenon or not. From that perspective even the undefiled wisdom of nirvana is in the same nature as that of the samsaric mind.

      Thus, in Mahamudra tradition, the wisdom awareness is also referred to as ‘ordinary mind’. Here, ordinary means, the state of being nakedly aware, totally free from all compounding. From this perspective of usage, ordinary mind is devoid of compounding and utter simplicity of emptiness. And, from that perspective, what is destroyed is the complexities of compounding that comes over the ordinary mind.


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