Mahamudra means 'Great Seal' or 'Great Mudra'. It is a term predominantly used in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism to denote its deepest teachings. These draw upon instructions from all levels of Buddhism, from sutra through to tantra, to provide a range of approaches to enlightenment suited to various people's needs. Mahamudra enables one to realise mind's innate purity, clarity and perfection, summed up by the term buddha nature, the topic of the third and final phase of the Enlightened One's teaching. Buddha nature theory is excellently presented in the masterly work of Maitreya and Asanga - the mahayana uttara tantra shastra - and mahamudra is effectively the practical implementation of the theory found in this text.
Once the pristine nature of mind is known, it is found to be omnipresent. Ther is no one or no thing not stamped with its seal. Hence the name Great Seal. Alternatively, all things are an expression of mind's primordial nature, just as all mudra are expressions of the body. In the secret teachings of tantra -which it would be inappropriate to discuss here - there are four types of mudra, of which mahamudra is the greatest.
It is hard to talk about mahaumudra: the topic is deep and primarily experiential. The experiences are beyond words and need to be cultivated under the guidance of a truly qualified lineage master. A few areas will be discussed in these pages:
A two part essay on Mahamudra and Dzogchen, from Ken Holmes' forthcoming book (copyright 1999 Konemann pubs. Germany, no title yet)
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Taye's spiritual song (doha) on the basis, path and fruition stages of mahamudra
a reminder of the various tantras and yogic practices used at times in the Kagyu tradition to help the disciple attain realisation of mahamudra. These are presented as the four great transmissions that are Tilopa's legacy to the Kagyu lineage