Tilopa

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"Talika" redirects here. For the village in Iran, see Talika, Iran.
Tilopa

Tilopa (Prakrit; Sanskrit: Talika or Tilopada) (988–1069) was born in either Chativavo (Chittagong), Bengal or Jagora, Bengal in India. He was a tantric practitioner and mahasiddha. He developed the mahamudra (Tibetan: phyag rgya chen po) method, a set of spiritual practices that greatly accelerates the process of attaining bodhi (enlightenment). Naropa is considered his main student.

Life[edit]

Tilopa was born into the priestly caste – according to some sources, a royal family – but he adopted the monastic life upon receiving orders from a dakini (female buddha whose activity is to inspire practitioners) who told him to adopt a mendicant and itinerant existence. From the beginning, she made it clear to Tilopa that his real parents were not the persons who had raised him, but instead were primordial wisdom and universal voidness. Advised by the dakini, Tilopa gradually took up a monk's life, taking the monastic vows and becoming an erudite scholar. The frequent visits of his dakini teacher continued to guide his spiritual path and close the gap to enlightenment.[1]

He began to travel throughout India, receiving teachings from many gurus:

As advised by Matangi, Tilopa started to work at a brothel in Bengal for a prostitute called Dharima as her solicitor and bouncer. During the day, he was grinding sesame seeds for his living.[2] During a meditation, he received a vision of Buddha Vajradhara and, according to legend, the entirety of mahamudra was directly transmitted to Tilopa. After having received the transmission, Tilopa embarked on a wandering existence and started to teach. He appointed Naropa, his most important student, as his successor.[1]

Teachings[edit]

Six Words of Advice[edit]

Tilopa gave Naropa a teaching called the Six Words of Advice, the original Sanskrit or Bengali of which is not extant; the text has reached us in Tibetan translation. In Tibetan, the teaching is called gnad kyi gzer drug[3] – literally, "six nails of key points" – the aptness of which title becomes clear if one considers the meaning of the English idiomatic expression, "to hit the nail on the head.”

According to Ken McLeod, the text contains exactly six words; the two English translations given in the following table are both attributed to him.

Six Words of Advice
First short, literal translation Later long, explanatory translation Tibetan (Wylie transliteration)
1 Don't recall Let go of what has passed mi mno
2 Don't imagine Let go of what may come mi bsam
3 Don't think Let go of what is happening now mi sems
4 Don't examine Don't try to figure anything out mi dpyod
5 Don't control Don't try to make anything happen mi sgom
6 Rest Relax, right now, and rest rang sar bzhag

Mahamudra instructions[edit]

Tilopa also gave mahamudra instruction to Naropa by means of the song known as "The Ganges Mahamudra,"[4] one stanza of which reads:

The fool in his ignorance, disdaining Mahamudra,
Knows nothing but struggle in the flood of samsara.
Have compassion for those who suffer constant anxiety!
Sick of unrelenting pain and desiring release, adhere to a master,
For when his blessing touches your heart, the mind is liberated.[5]

Attachment and enjoyment[edit]

One of the most famous and important statements attributed to Tilopa is: “The problem is not enjoyment; the problem is attachment.”[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Dorje Chang
Kagyupa school Succeeded by
Naropa