Masters of Mahamudra
Masters of Mahamudra

Masters of Mahamudra

Songs and Histories of the Eighty-Four Buddhist Siddhas

By Keith Dowman

This is a translation of the lives and songs of realisation of the 84 Buddhist Mahasiddhas, who lived in India between the eighth and twelfth centuries. Keith Dowman—who collected these histories and songs of realisation—brings them together in a way that delightfully illuminates lives which were often highly unconventional.

The book offers an explanation of the development of Tantra, from the particular perspective of Mahamudra. Mahamudra—like Dzogchen—teaches that enlightenment is possible through any personal situation or predication – as long as one has the direct inspirational guidance of a personal teacher. Amongst the eighty-four Mahasiddhas there were those whose objects of meditation were sensually delightful: flowers, bird-song, music, and sexuality. Amongst the Mahasiddhas were those who gained realisation through their livelihoods: a King, a restauranteur, a senile weaver, a prostitute, a housewife, a musician, a cowboy, a vintner, a cobbler, a gambler, an academic, a potter, and an oil manufacturer. There were those who practised through their dispositions: an indolent, a thief, a beggar, a grieving widower, a hedonist, a compulsive liar, a snob, and a moron.

The accounts act as inspiration for Buddhists seeking to understand the possibilities of practice in their full and hectic lives. We are shown that what functioned for the Mahasiddhas—their students and teachers—can function for us in relation to the teachers to whom we have access today. If we are able to establish a close personal relationship with a Tantric teacher – what was possible in ancient India can become possible now.

Masters of Mahamudra is beautifully illustrated by the line drawings of HR Downs.


Aro offers retreats on the method of the Mahasiddhas.

Another book on the Mahasiddhas is Buddhist Masters of Enchantment, also by Keith Dowman.

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