Dharmakaya Center for
Lumbini Udyana Mahachaitya Website
United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship
Chinese version |  locations & contacts | events | glossary

 Spiritual Director   Khenchen Rinpoche   Kenpos & Lamas 

Teaching Transcripts and Synopses 

== Brief History of the Kagyu Lineage (continued) ==

Tilopa once said, "My guru is none other than Sambhogakaya." The dzogchen teachings from Sambhogakaya and Vajrayogini became known as the "Oral Transmissions". After being initiated and taught various tantric practices, and ultimately perfection, both his knees will be locked and he would be unable to leave his place of meditation. Upon attaining enlightenment, Tilopa sang a vajra song and the lyrics tell that, 12,000 persons in India at that time benefited as a result of Tilopa having attained perfection in his practice.

During his lifetime, Tilopa was a fisherman. Nonetheless, he attained perfection. He handed on his tradition or lineage onto Naropa. Naropa was a prince who took the tonsure and became a monk. He was also one of the dharmapala or gatekeepers of the Eastern Gate of the Nalanda Buddhist University. When Naropa was seeking to be initiated into the lineage of Tilopa, he had to undergo 12 arduous tasks before he attained the same level of mastery and perfection as his guru. It is said that his guru had ordered him to jump off a cliff and he complied without any hesitation. Although he was hurt, he was not mortally wounded as his master Tilopa had empowered him through their strong karmic links.

Brief History of the Kagyu school in Tibet

The bastion of the Kagyu lineage in Tibet was Marpa, the translator. As there were no planes, automobiles and other forms of transportation in those days, the trek to India from Tibet was a journey fraught with danger and hardships. Pilgrims were often the victims of robbers and disease. The former arising from the gold that they brought along as expenses and to pay homage to gurus, the latter arising from the climatic variations between Tibet and India. Despite this, Marpa made a total of 3 trips from Tibet to India and spent a total of 16 years and 7 months in India. On his third trip to India, Marpa was told that Naropa had vanished in the forests of Western India. Naropa had actually entered parinirvana. His body was never found, it was as though he had vanished. It is said that when he is needed, Naropa will reveal himself to those who earnestly seek him. Despite being told that Naropa had vanished in the forest of West India, Marpa sincerely sought out his guru. On this particular occasion, he stayed in India for a period of six months.

Marpa was also initiated into the teaching of various gurus, including Maitripa. He was initiated into the teachings of the "Six Yogas" by Naropa (The Six Yogas of Naropa) and was also initiated into the "mudra" practices by Maitripa. With the blessing of these 2 gurus, Marpa was allowed to bring these teachings back to Tibet with him and initiate others. With the passage of time, the teachings and lineage of Naropa and Maitripa were lost in its land of origin, India. We owe Marpa gratitude for bringing these teachings to Tibet, for without him, there would be no Kagyu lineage to speak of.

Marpa's lineage consisted of two components, the teaching lineage and the practice lineage. Out of his four major or heart disciples; Ngokton Choku Dorje, Tsuldon Wangpa and Medon Chenpo inherited the teaching lineage. Milarepa became the lineage holder, having inherited both components of the lineage.

Milarepa was the greatest yogi in the history of Tibet. Even his most accomplished disciples could not enter parinirvana into the Vajrayogini pure realm, and simultaneously leave one's mortal shell behind. Milarepa had 3 heart disciples: Gampopa who represents the sun, Rechungpa who represents the moon and Shewawo who represents the stars. Rechungpa subsequently established his own lineage. This independent lineage has some links with the Drukpa Kagyu lineage and the Karma Kagyu lineage.

Gampopa was the lineage holder of Milarepa's lineage. He was mentioned by Shakyamuni Buddha in the Samadhiraja Sutra and was the inheritor of the Kagyu and Kadampa lineage. Prior to the time of Gampopa, the Karma Kagyu lineage was a non-monastic order. He subsequently inducted the Vinaya tradition into the Karma Kagyu lineage and it became a monastic order. Gampopa also unified the Kagyu and Kadampa lineages and inducted the teachings of the exoteric tradition into the Karma Kagyu lineage. Before that, the Karma Kagyu lineage only taught the teachings of the esoteric school or tantric teachings. Gampopa also taught a unified mudra based on the teachings of both schools. The mahamudra traces its lineage back to Milarepa while the mudra from the exoteric school was actually the teachings of the mantrayana tradition. Like Shakyamuni Buddha, many bhiksus and bhiksunis came forth to receive Gampopa's teachings during his lifetime. Gampopa had four heart disciples: the First Karmapa, Phakmo Drupa, Badrom and Wangong. From the time of the eight disciple of Phakmo Drakpo, Kagyu lineage evolved into eight schools. Only the Drikung, Drukpa and Taglung lineage remain till this day. Wangong's lineage no longer exists and the Badrom lineage merged with the Karma Kagyu lineage, leaving the Karma Kagyu lineage the only intact lineage that had been handed down from that time.

Brief History of the Karma Kagyu Lineage

The First Karmapa handed down the Karma Kagyu lineage to the current Karmapa, The Seventeenth Karmapa. When each Karmapa enters parinirvana, the continuity of the lineage falls upon his disciples. The Karma Kagyu lineage can be further divided into the Karmapa (Black Hat) and the Shamarpa (Red Hat) lineage. Brief History of the Surmang Lineage The Fifth Karmapa had a disciple name Marsai Dorton, said to be an emanation of Tilopa. His lineage became known as the Surmang lineage and is a lineage within the Karma Kagyu lineage. Marsai Dorton was later conferred the title of Trungpa Rinpoche. The previous Trungpa Rinpoche (Eleventh) was actively involved in spreading the Dharma in the United States.

Brief History of the Surmang Lineage

The Fifth Karmapa had a disciple named Marsai Dorton, said to be an emanation of Tilopa. His lineage became known as the Surmang lineage and is a lineage within the Karma Kagyu lineage. Marsai Dorton was later conferred the title of Trungpa Rinpoche. The previous Trungpa Rinpoche (Eleventh) was actively involved in spreading the Dharma in the United States.

Brief History of the Nendo Lineage

The Tenth Karmapa. had a disciple by the name of Karma Jarmee who was an accomplished and well-known guru. The rites used by the disciples of the Karma Kagyu lineage were composed and arranged by him. His lineage became known as the Nandro lineage and it practices both the teachings of the Kagyu and the Nyingma lineage. Even the Payul and the Dzogchen lineage within the Nyingma tradition have adopted these practices.

This is a brief account of the history of the Karma Kagyu tradition from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha to the present day. In this time of the fourth kalpa of decline, many have said that they have no time to engage in their Dharma practices. I believe all of you must have accumulated merits and cultivated good karma in your previous lives to have encountered or even heard of such an extraordinary lineage. Shakyamuni Buddha once said that the merits of being able to practice the Dharma even momentarily in the age of dregs (Tib. nyig due) or the time of degeneration is equivalent to that of engaging in extended practice in the fortunate aeon (Skt. Bhadrakalpa;Tib. bskal bzang). I hope everyone will work hard in his or her daily practices.


index   pages: 1 2    <<previous

home |  about utbf |  buddhism & transmissions |  teachers & teachings |  centers & locations
projects |  services |  resources |  how you can help 
Copyright © 2003 - 2021  United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship UTBF.ORG
page last update: April 17, 2005   credits