I am attracted to the idea of meditating upon the mind as a path to liberation, as I understand is emphasized in mahamudra. However, I dislike the idea of guru yoga, or meditating in reverence or worship towards living or recently deceased individuals, like the 16th Karmapa. Holding another person up on such a pedestal rubs me the wrong way, and I do not know if I can honestly practice guru yoga. (I wouldn’t mind meditating upon the Buddha. I understand you are supposed to imagine the guru as the Buddha, but I do not want to do that either.)

Do you have any recommendations on what to do? Are there other schools that offer meditation upon the mind, but do not have such emphasis on the guru aspect?

Similarly, I am discouraged by having to do so many prostrations, but this is not as discouraging as guru yoga.

3 Answers 3


The Surangama Sutra lays out just such a path, focused on the mind and meditation on the nature of mind. The Buddhist Text Translation Society will let you download a free copy of theirs, or you can buy one if you prefer a physical book.

  • Thank you for the fine reference.
    – Eoin
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 2:57

I'd recommend Shamatha with the mind as an object or without an object (awareness of awareness) as taught by Alan Wallace, see e.g. the later sessions of this retreat: The Way of Shamatha Retreat with Alan Wallace - YouTube (there's a little bit of guru yoga in few separate sessions, but they're not neccessary for the main shamatha practice) or his book "The Attention Revolution". This practice can also be combined with paths like mahamudra or dzogchen, but doesn't have to.

  • Thank you. Do you know of any schools that meditate on the mind, but don’t emphasize guru yoga? I have been meditating by myself for a long time and want to find a school primarily so that I can find a teacher.
    – Eoin
    Commented Dec 16, 2021 at 17:56
  • Unfortunately, I don't know specific schools, I just meditate on my own so far, too. Maybe some online courses might be close to what you are looking for, e.g. the ones by Alan Wallace within Wisdom Publications, like maybe this one for example: wisdomexperience.org/courses/shamatha-vipashyana. You could also ask other students of Alan Wallace for recommendations e.g. here: facebook.com/groups/awstudents
    – anyone
    Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 14:31
  • Thank you very much.
    – Eoin
    Commented Dec 22, 2021 at 0:27

I'm from the same viewpoint too. I often wondered about Zen/Chan and Mahayana versus Vajrayana. My guess is the crux shouldn't be rituals and forms, if that's the original non-aim.

Also Nubchen Sangye Yeshe who's Guru Rinpoche's disciple summarized Mahayana covering 4 paths.

  1. Sutrayana (gradual) - basically foundations of #2,3,4. Own learning/understanding and application.
  2. Sutrayana (sudden) -Zen/Chan etc. Includes Koans, direct pointing. Adatra t combination of 3 and 4 but without rituals/images etc.
  3. Maha-yoga (gradual) - Visualization, yogas, includes Mahamudra and usually Shamatha first, then Vipashyana.
  4. Ati-yoga/Dzogchen (sudden).formless and objectless meditation.

Nonetheless you will realize all paths are actually the same, combinations of Shamatha and Vipyashana (Vipasanna) in specified orders. Surangama as pointed earlier also works and fall under Sutrayana (gradual).

However, the above 4 bullet points are a bit of false options because one needs to prepare the mind before the instant paths are made available. That means only 2 essential paths of Sutrayana and the Yogas. Whichever picked is based on the cause and conditions your in. (Also expedient means provided by the earlier practioners)

So for example, usually need years of Shamatha to have mental stability (from defilements), or need guru to have a direct experience of true nature before you can do Dzogchen repeatedly in normal lay life. One could also do the same with development/completion visualizations with an appropriate Yidam etc. to lay the foundations leading up to Shamatha. Visualizations contain meditation components.

I haven't got a clear conclusion as yet but this is what I gathered so far. Thankfully I'm also physically based in the confluence of all major practices including the cultures and languages.

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