Mindstream is a compound lexical item composed of mind and stream used to translate a term from Buddhist philosophy. In Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) it may be understood as an upāya (Sanskrit) doctrine of the nonlocal, atemporal metaphorical stream of moments(Tibetan: bkod pa thig le) or 'quanta of consciousness' (Tibetan: thig le; Sanskrit: Bindu) proceeding endlessly in a lifetime, between lifetimes (Tibetan: Bardo), from lifetime to lifetime, prior to engagement in the Bhavacakra of Samsara and beyond as an inclusive 'continuum' (Tibetan: rgyud) rather than an individuated, separate, or discrete perceptual, cognitive, or experiential entity, as in the conception of the Ātman. Waldron (undated) states:
Indian Buddhists see the 'evolution' of mind i[n] terms of the continuity of individual mind-streams from one lifetime to the next, with karma as the basic causal mechanism whereby transformations are transmitted from one life to the next.

Dzogchen Rinpoche (2007: p.82-83) establishing the processive reciprocality of the training of the mindstream and the Buddhadharma, holds that:

The Buddhadharma is a process, one through which we train and tame our own mindstreams. One approach is to go to the root of what we mean by "I," our sense of self or individual self-identity.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (1996: unpaginated) in contextualizing and redressing what he believes to be the general misconception of anātman (rendered as "no self") and ātman (rendered as "self"), in relation to the view he holds of the intention of Shakyamuni Buddha, states:

...the Buddha was asked point-blank whether or not there was a self, he refused to answer. When later asked why, he said that to hold either that there is a self or that there is no self is to fall into extreme forms of wrong view that make the path of Buddhist practice impossible.
This clear evocation of what later became canonized in Buddhist discourse as Madhyamika or "middle way", is key to tender a description of the ineffable Mysterium Magnum of the "Great Continuum" that is rendered in English as "Mindstream": the nondual resolution of ātman and anātman.

In the entwined Dzogchen traditions of Bönpo and Nyingmapa, the Mindstream is constituted by a continuum of gankyil comprised of the Five Pure Lights of the Five Wisdoms which unite the trikaya. These 'tantric correlations' (or Twilight Language) are evident in the iconographic representation of the Five Jinas and the saṃpanna-krama of the gankyil and mandala in Dzogchen sādhana. The 'supreme siddhi' or 'absolute bodhicitta' of the Dzogchenpa is when the Mindstream of their 'bodymind' (a rendering of namarupa) is 'released' (a rendering of Nirvana) as the Rainbow Body. Capriles (2004: p.35) defines the 'consciousness of the base-of-all' (Skt., alayavijñana; Tib., kunzhi namshee) as congruent with the 'Mindstream' (Skt., santana; Tib., gyü) and mentions vasanas, bijas, and tathata:

The consciousness of the base-of-all was not conceived as an immutable absolute, which is how the Atman of Hinduism is described; in agreement with the Hinayana idea of a succession of instants of knowledge, it was explained as a continually changing stream of consciousness (Skt., santana; Tib., gyü), and was said to be the vehicle that carries the karmic imprints (vasanas or bijas) that go from one life to the next. In turn, from the standpoint of experience, the consciousness of the base-of-all is an ample condition that yogis may find by absorption. Though the consciousness of the base-of-all is of the nature of thatness (Skt., tathata; Tib., dezhinnyia)—the absolute nature that is the single constituent of all entities—this consciousness is also the root of samsara.

Nomenclature, orthography and etymology

The nomenclature and etymology of the Mindstream (Tibetan: dam pa'i byin rlabs or sems-rgyud; Sanskrit: citta-santāna) is convoluted and tied to: the historical context of Buddhism in India; the historical development of Buddhism; the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism, the syncretic and dialogic doctrinal development of Buddhism; and to the secession of Buddhism from, and its persistent entwining relationship with, Sanatana Dharma and other Indian religions, Chinese religions and Bön.

心相續 (Chinese)

The Chinese rendering of 'Mindstream ' (Tibetan: sems kyi rgyud) is constituted by three characters: (Romanized: sam) (Romanized: soeng) (Romanized: zuk).

CantoDict Project Online (2007) defines the character 心 (sam) as:
[1] [n] heart [2] mind [3] conscience; moral nature [4] intention; idea; ambition; design [5] [n] core; middle; center; inside [6] one of the 28 constellations [7] Kangxi radical 61

CantoDict Project Online (2007) defines the character 相 (soeng) as:
{1)[1] [v] examine; study; read; [2] [n] countenance; appearance; facial features; looks; bearing; posture [3] [n] prime minister (in feudal times) [4] [v] assist; help {2)[1] each other; one another; mutually; reciprocal [2] substance.

CantoDict Project Online (2007) defines the character 續 (zuk) as:
[a] continue; carry on [b] succeed.


Citta (Sanskrit) holds the semantic field of "that which is conscious", "the act of mental apprehension known as ordinary consciousness", "the conventional and relative mind/heart". Citta has two aspects: "...Its two aspects are 'attending to,' and, 'collecting' of impressions or traces (Sanskrit: vāsanā) cf. vijñāna. Citta is often rendered as "sems" in Tibetan. or Santāna (Sanskrit) holds the semantic field of "eternal", "continuum", "a series of momentary events", "life-stream".

In the Sanskrit language, citta-santāna may be parsed as per the analyses of Keown, et. al. (2003: p.62) who state:

Literally, "the stream of mind", a general term used to indicate the continuity of the personality of an individual in the absence of the permanently abiding 'self' (ātman) that Buddhism denies.

dam pa'i byin rlabs (Tibetan)

In the Tibetan language, dam pa'i byin rlabs may be parsed into dam pa'i which contains the semantic field of "flow", "stream"; whilst the semantic field of byin rlabs holds "blessing", "sacred", "empowerment", "inspiration". Therefore, "empowering flow from the sacred" which has been rendered into English as "mindstream".

Sems-rgyud or sems kyi rgyud (Tibetan)

The Tibetan term rgyud holds the semantic field of "continuum", "stream", and "thread". Interestingly, it is the term that Tibetan 'translators' (Tibetan: lotsawa) employed to translate and render the Sanskrit term "tantra".

Thugs-rgyud (Tibetan)

Thugs-rgyud may be parsed into "thugs" and "rgyud".

Please refer above for "rgyud". Thugs holds the semantic field: "Buddha-mind", "(enlightened) mind", "mind", "soul", "spirit", "purpose", "intention", "unbiased perspective", "spirituality", "responsiveness", "spiritual significance", "awareness", "primordial (state, experience)", "enlightened mind", "heart", "breast", "feelings" and is sometimes a homonym of "citta" (Sanskrit).

Thugs-rgyud holds the semantic field and has been rendered into English as: "wisdom", "transmission", "heart-mind continuum", "mind", "[continuum/ stream of] mind", "nature of mind" and is a homonym for "sems rgyud" or "rgyud".

Mental continuum

Berzin (2007) identifies "mental continuum" as Tibetan: sems-rgyud and Sanskrit: "santana" and defines it as:
The stream of continuity of mental activity (mind, awareness) of an individual being, which has no beginning, which continues even into Buddhahood, and, according to Mahayana, has no end. According to the Hinayana tenets, it comes to an end when an arhat or Buddha dies. Also called a "mind-stream.

Metaphoric foundation

There are two entwined mindstreams according to the Two Truths, the absolute and relative, that are ultimately non-dual. The Divine Mindstream of 'consciousness' which is engaged in the phowa sadhana, for example; and the mindstream of thought, ideation (Tibetan: sem; Sanskrit: manas) and which James named "Stream of Consciousness", for example; are founded upon the metaphor of the stream which is endemic to Buddhist literature and worldview.

Gyatso, Jinpa & Wallace (2003: p.97) identify two kinds of consciousness continuum and associate the most subtle state of consciousness continuum, elsewhere identified within this Wikipedia article as the 'mindstream substrate' with what is known in Tibetan Buddhist, Dzogchen and Bonpo discourse as 'clear light':

In Vajrayāna Buddhism the subtlest state of consciousness is known as clear light. In terms of categories of consciousness, there is one type of consciousness that consists of a permanent stream or an unending continuity and there are other forms of consciousness whose continuum comes to an end. Both these levels of consciousness - one consisting of an endless continuum and the other of a finite continuum - have a momentary nature. That is to say, they arise from moment to moment, and they are constantly in a state of flux. So the permanence of the first kind is only in terms of its continuum. The subtlest consciousness consists of such an eternal continuum, while the streams of the grosser states of consciounsness do end.

Sogyal Rinpoche (1994: p.73) frames the importance of the stream metaphor in relation to meditation and the nature of mind, the objective of meditative sadhana:

In the ancient meditation instructions, it is said that at the beginning thoughts will arrive one on top of another, uninterrupted, like a steep mountain waterfall. Gradually, as you perfect meditation, thoughts become like the water in a deep, narrow gorge, then a great river slowly winding its way down to the sea, and finally the mind becomes like a still and placid ocean, ruffled by only the occasional ripple or wave.

As Bucknell, et. al. (1986: p.112-113) in linking , Mahāmudrā and David-Néel state:

In Buddhist literature the mental condition in which sequences of imagery and verbalizing run on endlessly is often compared to a flowing stream. We find in the oldest section of the the term 'stream of consciousness' (). The same metaphor is often found in the Tibetan literature. The guru Padma Karpo spoke of 'thoughts...following one after the other as if in a continuous stream'; Mipham Nampar Gyalba observed that the 'stream of images flows unbroken'; and in the Vow of Mahāmudrā, there is reference to 'the mind river'. This manner of speaking is also common at the present day. Tarthang Tülku refers to 'the stream of mental images' and 'the flow of thoughts and images'; and David-Neel, in a discussion of the meditation practices she observed in Tibet, speaks of 'the continual, swift, flowing stream of thoughts and mental images...'
The stream metaphor has also been found appropriate by western psychologists. William James wrote: 'It flows. A "river" or a "stream" are the metaphors by which it is most naturally described. In talking of it hereafter, let us call it the stream of thought, of consciousness, or of subjective life. James's term 'stream of consciousness' has since become widely adopted in a variety of contexts.

Historical development of the Mindstream doctrine

The rudimentary origins of the Buddhist upaya doctrine of the mindstream may be tentatively found in the Pudgalavāda which was at one time the ascendant form of Śrāvakayāna. Priestley (2005: unpaginated) holds that the Pudgalavāda:
...thought of some aspect or dimension of the self as transcending the aggregates and may have identified that aspect with Nirvana, which like most early Buddhists they regarded as an eternal reality. In its involvement with the aggregates through successive lives, the self could be seen as characterized by incessant change; but in its eternal aspect, it could be seen as having an identity that remains constant through all its lives until it fulfils itself in the impersonal happiness of Parinirvana. Although their account of the self seemed unorthodox and irrational to their Buddhist opponents, the Pudgalavādins evidently believed that only such an account could do justice to the Buddha’s moral teaching, to the accepted facts of karma, rebirth and liberation, and to our actual experience of selves and persons.

Manjushrimitra states in the Bodhicittabhavana, a seminal early text of Ati Yoga that the: "The mental-continuum (citta-santana) is without boundaries or extension; it is not one thing, nor supported by anything.

Mindstream is a conflation subsuming 'heartmind' (Sanskrit: bodhi-citta) and 'wisdom-mind' (Sanskrit: jnana-dharmakaya; Tibetan: ye-shes chos-sku).

Lusthaus (undated) in mapping the development and doctrinal relationships of ālaya-vijñāna, tathāgatagarbha, Yogācāra, ātman, Abhidharma, and the Mindstream states:

Several Yogācāra notions basic to the Abhidharma wing [of Yogācāra] came under severe attack by other Buddhists, especially the notion of ālaya-vijñāna, which was denounced as something akin to the Hindu notions of ātman (permament, invariant self) and (primordial substrative nature from which all mental, emotional and physical things evolve). Eventually the critiques became so entrenched that the Abhidharma wing atrophied. By the end of the eighth century it was ecliped by the logico-epistemic tradition [of Yogācāra] and by a hybrid school that combined basic Yogācāra doctrines with Tathāgatagarbha thought. The logico-epistemological wing in part side-stepped the critique by using the term citta-santāna, "mind-stream", instead of ālaya-vijñāna, for what amounted to roughly the same idea. It was easier to deny that a "stream" represented a reified self. On the other hand, the Tathāgatagarbha hybrid school was no stranger to the charge of smuggling notions of selfhood into its doctrines, since, for example, it explicitly defined the tathāgatagarbha as "permanent, pleasurable, self, and pure (nitya, sukha, ātman, śuddha). Many Tathāgatagarbha texts, in fact, argue for the acceptance of selfhood (ātman) as a sign of higher accomplishment. The hybrid school attempted to conflate tathāgatagarbha with the ālaya-vijñāna.

Dzogchen Rinpoche (2007: p.84) asserts an unsourced paraphrase or pastiche of a view attributed to Nagarjuna:

Nagarjuna says that the mindstream of every unenlightened being is permeated by the heart essence of buddhahood. The fundamental nature of our mindstreams is tathagatagarbha, or buddha nature, the seed and heart essence of an enlightened being. It is this quality that gives us the capacity to become buddhas.

The view in the direct quotation above is generally attibuted to the Yogachara. It is clear that the first sentence in the above quotation holds the position attributed to Nagarjuna. It is unclear whether the latter two sentences in the quotation are also that of Nagarjuna, or alternatively the position of Dzogchen Rinpoche.

Waldron (2003: p.178) renders Vasubandhu's Yogacara account from the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya of 'cyclic causality' (bhavacakra), kleśa and karma in relation to the mindstream:

...the mind stream (santāna) increases gradually by the mental afflictions (kleśa) and by actions (karma), and goes again to the next world. In this way the circle of existence is without beginning.

Mindstream in sadhana

In the 'Discourse on Mindfulness' (Pali: Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta) located within the Majjhima Nikaya of the Pali Canon, Buddha Shakyamuni is rendered as foregrounding 'mindfulness' or the enduring presence of the immediacy of experience and a foundational practice to Buddhist spiritual discipline and a preliminary to śamatha (Sanskrit) and vipaśyanā (Sanskrit). Fenner (1994) provides an accessible point of entry to satipaṭṭhāna sadhana:
In this meditative practice, we learn to recognize and observe the individual components that make up the full range of human experience. The exercise is to attend to the different processes and phenomena that occur in the here-and-now as we are sitting in meditative posture or engaged in the various activities of our lives. This involves systematically observing our experience to find out what is there.
The experience of satipaṭṭhāna sadhana provides the 'outer' or coarse experience of the mindstream or the flow of representation and mentation and is intimately connected with the technical term 'sotapanna' (Pali). Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche clearly charts the developmental relationship of the sadhanas of shamatha and vipashyana:
The ways these two aspects of meditation are practiced is that one begins with the practice of shamatha; on the basis of that, it becomes possible to practice vipashyana or lhagthong. Through one's practrice of vipashyana being based on and carried on in the midst of shamatha, one eventually ends up practicing a unification of shamatha and vipashyana. The unification leads to a very clear and direct experience of the nature of all things. This brings one very close to what is called the absolute truth.
In the context of the skillful mindstream doctrine, this 'absolute truth' is cognate with the mindstream substrate, the base or foundation of mind, lucidity and consciousness and is known in the Nyingmapa and Bonpo traditions of Dzogchen as the 'clear light' (Wylie: 'Thoughts without a Thinker'od gsal) also rendered as 'inner radiance' and 'luminosity'.

Buddhist and Hindu Tantric sadhana, and particularly that entwined heritage promulgated by the Mahasiddha, involve the sadhaka 'generating a linkage' kye-rim between their mindstream with that of a guru or yidam as a precursor to 'fully aspecting' dzog-rim their yidam and ishta-deva and their "spiritual personality". The mindstream and the imaginal interiority of visualization are employed in the kye-rim mode of meditative trance sadhana and the internal construction of the buddhafield, mandala and refuge tree.

Gyatso (1998: p.27) translates Jigme Lingpa's autobiographical work "Dancing Moon in the Water" ('Chudai Garken'; Wylie:?) that foregounds Dream Yoga sadhana:

Then, again while sleeping for a bit,
through the force of the blessing

from realizing the heart-mind continuum,
the conceptual thoughts of the ground-of-all
woke as the Dharma body.

I became absorbed
in the spectacle of empty radiant light,
a manifestation without conceptions.

Then it spread,
moved into an external manifestation,
and I saw,
in the awareness-radiation
of vision-producing radiant light,
several self-produced patterns
on the surface of a rock
shined upon by the sun.

Lati, Zahler and Hopkins (1983, 1997: pp.24-25) through the institutionalized lens of the Gelugpa and their graduated and developmental 'stages of the path' (Tibetan: lamrim), frame the sadhana that Shakyamuni Buddha employed to extinguish that which was unwholesome in his mental continuum and mention: artha, maitri, karuna, bodhisattva, bodhi, śūnyatā, pāramitā, five paths, bhūmi and dharma:

...Buddha...came to discard his own welfare (don, artha) and to have concern for the welfare of others; and he cultivated love (byams pa, maitri) and compassion (snying rje, karuṇā), which served as the root for the special mind, the Bodhisattva attitude. Bodhisattva (byang chub sems dpa') means "hero with respect to contemplating enlightenment (byang chub, bodhi)." Thus, he changed his original attitude of cherishing himself and discarding others to that of cherishing others and discarding his own welfare. He also meditated on emptiness (stong pa nyid, śūnyatā). Through cultivating in union the wisdom realizing emptiness and the special Bodhisattva attitude, the altruistic mind of enlightenment, and through accompanying these practices with the six perfections (phar phyin, pāramitā) - giving (sbyin pa, dāna), ethics (tshul khrims, śīla), patience (bzod pa, kṣānti), effort (brtson grus, vīrya), concentration (bsam gtan, dhyāna), and wisdom (she rab, prajñā) - he ascended the five paths (lam, mārga) - the paths of accumulation (tshogs lam, saṃbhāramārga), preparation (prayogamārga, sbyor lam), seeing (mthong lam, darśanamārga), meditation (sgom lam, bhāvanāmārga), and no more learning (mi slob lam, aśaikṣamārga) - and the ten grounds (sa, bhūmi) and completed the collections of merit (bsod nams, puṇya) and exalted wisdom (ye shes, jñāna). He was able to extinguish all faults in his own mental continuum (rgyud, saṃtāna) and to accomplish all auspicious attributes. He was able to achieve the wisdom that knows phenomena (chos, dharma) and their status, and when he did this, he became a Buddha. Thus, a Buddha is not someone who is produced causelessly; ...[but] is produced in dependence on causes.


Though a conceptual mystery, mindstream may be conceived as nonlinear and wholistic. The medium and conduit of mindstream is æther or space and is unbounded by temporality or locality. Welwood describes it in this way:

If the contents of mind are like pails and buckets floating in a stream, and the mindstream is like the dynamic flowing of the water, pure awareness is like the water itself in its essential wetness. Sometimes the water is still, sometimes it is turbulent; yet it always remains as it is – wet, fluid, watery. In the same way, pure awareness is never confined [n]or disrupted by any mind-state. Therefore, it is the source of liberation and true equanimity. (Welwood, 2000)

Welwood introduces "pure awareness", the essence-quality of the mindstream, and may be considered synonymous with 'natural mind' rigpa (Tibetan) or the primordial and principal constitutional consciousness of being and accessible by (and the point of origin of) all sentient beings. 'Sentient beings' is a technical Vajrayana term denoting the mindstream(s) of all those consciousness(es) not yet aware of the emptiness and fullness of perfection. Welwood (2000: unpaginated) links the mindstream with the trikaya:

In terms of the Buddhist teaching of the three kayas, we could say that the contents of consciousness belong to the nirmanakaya, the realm of manifest form. The pulsation of the mindstream, with its alternation between movement and stillness, belongs to the sambhogakaya, the realm of energy flow. And the larger, open ground of awareness, first discovered in moments of stillness, is the dharmakaya, the realm of pure being (the thing-in-itself), eternally present, spontaneous, and free of entrapment in any form whatsoever. (Welwood, 2000)

The Buddhist and Bön teachings of mindstream and heartmind inform one another, as does bodymind. As Chodron (1991) states: "Just as the body is a 'continuity' even though it has parts, the mindstream or consciousness is also a 'continuity', although it has parts." Hawter (1995) succinctly relates that: "All of our actions lay down imprints on our mindstream which have the potential to ripen at some time in the future." This should not imply that the mindstream is linear and only flows one way, but the mindstream is understood in the Himalayan Tradition to flow all ways, always. For Morrell (1999): "The Mahayanists also contend that the mind forms a continuous, unending and unbroken mindstream or flow of consciousness, from beginningless time and indestructible. Thoughts and feelings in the mindstream are regarded as of supreme importance to Buddhist practice."

Kelzang Gyatso (1708-1757 CE), His Holiness Dalai Lama VII is translated in Mullin (1982) as stating that: "all things in the world and beyond [a]re simply projections of names and thoughts. Not even the tiniest atom exists by itself, [i]ndependently [or] in its own right" (Mullin, 1982: 53). Therefore, the Universe is the thoughtform of the collective mindstream of all sentient beings (and there is nothing which is non-sentient; pansentience). This pansentient totality is the great continuum, the "great perfection" or "total completion" (Tibetan: rdzog pa chen po) of Dzogchen and Ati Yoga (Tibetan: shin tu rnal 'byor where " shin tu" holds the semantic field "total", "complete", "absolute" and " rnal 'byor" holds the semantic field of "yoga"; Sanskrit: "Ati" holds the semantic field "primordial", "original", "first"; "yoga" holds the semantic field "communion", "union").


For an example of an iconographic representation of the mindstream refer this 'icon' (Tibetan: thangka) of Tapihritsa

Use and application

In an unknown (though insightful) commentator's purport to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras Sutra I.34, pranayama, meditation on the breath, is linked to the mindstream:

Thus the outflow of the breath, being associated with release, it is used to release the negative energy, thoughts, and emotions which interrupt the Divine mind-stream. Since breath is related to our basic energy, in this light then, we can also understand how we can can regulate the cit-prana and soothe and clarify the mind by bringing our awareness back to the exhalation of the breath and the regulation of the breath. This will bring freshness and clarification to the mindstream.

When His Holiness the Dalai Lama is asked "what is the nature of the mindstream that reincarnates from lifetime to lifetime?" (1997) he answers making reference to the soul, continuum, the Sakya master Rendawa, the composite of body and mind, the aggregates, alayavijnana, and the Mind-Only school, as follows:

If one understands the term "soul" as a continuum of individuality from moment to moment, from lifetime to lifetime, then one can say that Buddhism also accepts a concept of soul; there is a kind of continuum of consciousness. From that point of view, the debate on whether or not there is a soul becomes strictly semantic. However, in the Buddhist doctrine of selflessness, or "no soul" theory, the understanding is that there is no eternal, unchanging, abiding, permanent self called "soul." That is what is being denied in Buddhism.

Buddhism does not deny the continuum of consciousness. Because of this, we find some Tibetan scholars, such as the Sakya master Rendawa, who accept that there is such a thing as self or soul, the "kangsak ki dak" (Tib. gang zag gi bdag). However, the same word, the "kangsak ki dak," the self, or person, or personal self, or identity, is at the same time denied by many other scholars.

We find diverse opinions, even among Buddhist scholars, as to what exactly the nature of self is, what exactly that thing or entity is that continues from one moment to the next moment, from one lifetime to the next lifetime. Some try to locate it within the aggregates, the composite of body and mind. Some explain it in terms of a designation based on the body and mind composite, and so on.... One of the divisions of [the "Mind-Only"] school maintains there is a special continuum of consciousness called alayavijnana which is the fundamental consciousness.

Waldron links Vasubandhu, bhavachakra, klesha and karma:

Vasubandhu describes this classic account of cyclic causality in terms of one's 'mind stream': "the mind stream (santana) increases gradually by the mental afflictions (klesa) and by actions (karma), and goes again to the next world. In this way the circle of existence is without beginning (anadibhavacakraka)." (AKBh III 19a-d; Poussin, tome 2, pp. 57-59; Shastri, pp. 433-34.)

Vajranatha states:

When we look inside of ourselves and just observe, we find that there is only a stream of consciousness (T. shes-rgyud, S. vijnana-santana). The Buddha introduced this term long before William James did some hundred years ago. When we say “my mind”, this refers not to a thing or a vestment. Yet this stream of consciousness has a continuity and an individuality. Our stream of consciousness is separate from those of other people. There are individual streams of consciousness and individual mental processes. We are not all One Mind. If we were, as soon as one of us realized something, all of us would simultaneously realize it.

Mindstream and initiation

Yuthok et. al. (1997: p.46) elucidates the intimate connection of the mindstream, initiation and mandala:

It is only through initiation that the blessings of...a mandala may be stamped on the individual's mindstream. Initiation can be given and received only when the time, location and circumstances are appropriate. Only an enlightened, undisputed master may bestow it. The initiation is not given to large crowds of people. It may be received only by disciples who are receptive by virtue of their faith and devotion. If the transmission is successful, disciples will experience it at some level. This may be physical, mental or verbal. People who receive the physical form of blessing sometimes move about and shake. Those who receive verbal blessings may utter all sorts of mantras that they never heard before, which block out their perception of normal sounds. When the mindstream is blessed, the mind is inundated with a new vision of reality. Initiations normally rely on an external mandala, usually painted in sand or on cloth. Once a disciple is initiated, he must re-initiate himself daily through regular practice. Eventually, this will lead him or her to realisation.


In general Himalayan spiritual discourse, Atiyoga is held to be the peak of the Dharma of the Nine Vehicles for both the Nyingmapa and Bonpo and is comparable to the complete realization of Mahamudra for the Sarma traditions. Though this hierarchical view is the general paradigm, Atiyoga is also the unity, fulfillment and primordial base of all the other Yana. It is commonly held that Atiyoga speaks its own language and this is impenetrable for those who have not had empowerments, lung and direct experience, establishing the clear view of the nature of the mindstream. In the other Yana there is the doctrine of inter- and intra-permeable mindstreams, that support the entwining nirmanakaya or tulku lineages of the re-embodiment and 'treasure' (Wylie: gTer) traditions. Padma Translation Committee's rendering of an embedded quotation of one of the famed "Twelve Vajra Laughs" (drawn from the 'Pile of Jewels Tantra'; Wylie: Rin po che spungs pa' rgyud) cited in the Nelug Dzö one of Longchenpa's 'Seven Treasures' (Wylie: mDzod bdun) is clearly an example of the technical twilight language of Ati Yoga and the pedigree of the 'skillful' doctrine of the mindstream:
Listen further, O Vajra of Speech! Behold the nature of phenomena, empty and all-pervasive timeless awareness. How marvelous--it is unborn and abides timelessly, coemergent with being itself. Even if a person were to seize a sharp weapon and slay all beings at once, that person's mindstream would still be free of benefit or harm. Ha! Ha!

In a Peircean or de Sassurian semiotic analysis of the semantic signifier "mindstream", the signifier mindstream denotes an ineffable signified of an open and pervasive mystery: To limit the limitless by stating that it may not subject itself to boundaries or limit itself by grace is bunk. Sky is a limitless limit. Ati Yoga is a verb. Ati Yoga: "ati" or "adi" a Sanskrit term that holds the semantic field "beginning", "wellspring", "origination"; and "yoga" a Sanskrit term that may be rendered most appropriately into English in its full semantic analogue, "communion". Therefore, the verb or process of Atiyoga is to commune with the primordiality of the unknowable and pregnant 'void' or 'zero' (Sanskrit: śunyā). The perfect infinitive tense "to commune" was employed to convey an embedded philosophical view of the viewless Great Perfection. Void, is Emptiness, is Sky, is Space, is Zero: a garland of analogues. In the Dharmic traditions, Dharma has a 5000 year tradition of being conveyed and rarefied by realization forded through analysis and grammar of alphanumeric systems and semiology both esoteric and exoteric. Case in point in Ati Yoga, the final or thirteenth bhumi of the 'absolute bodhichitta', being the varnamala, the 'garland of bija'. 'Atiyoga' begins and ends with "Ah". For the Nyingma who self-identify as the ngagpas, siddhas and sadhakas of "Secret Mantra", "Ah" is the bija mantra of the nature of the mindstream of Samantabhadra. Unlike the Dzogchen tradition of the Nyingma, the Bonpo Dzogchenpa have a sophisticated technical and iconographic language and semiology for limiting that which cannot be limited.

See also




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  • http://www.bodhipath-west.org/glossary.htm (accessed: Saturday January 13, 2007)

External links

  • July 15, 2006 A quotation from the Dalai Lama discusses the nature of the mindstream and how it is placed within the Vajrayana tradition (accessed: December 13, 2007)

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