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The source of Karma Kagyu Mahamudra Teaching

Marpa - the Source of Dakpo Kagyu

The Kagyu Lineage traces its origin back to the historic Buddha Shakyamuni and the Primordial Buddha Dorje Chang through many great masters to Marpa, the great translator and yogi, who brought huge volume of the unbroken lineages from India to Tibet, and initializing the Marpa Kagyu (also known as Dagpo Kagyu). Among his 108 masters and yogis, Naropa and Maitripa were his principal teachers.

Both of them transmitted Mahamudra teachings to Marpa. Marpa then transmitted the teachings to Milarepa, and then from Milarepa to Gampopa. Gampopa, also known as Dakpo Lhaje, pioneered in establishing the framework of the lineage by unifying Milarepa's Mahamudra lineage with the stages of the path tradition of the Kadampa lineage. This lineage and tradition is known as the Dhakpo Kagyu. Gampopa's Dakpo Kagyu tradition gave rise to four main or major schools founded by his accomplished disciples, including Düsum Khyenpa the First Karmapa, who established the Karma Kagyu lineage. This tradition has remained strong and successful due mainly to the presence of an unbroken reincarnate line of the founder, the successive Karmapas and his disciples. This lineage, form Droje Chang through Marpa's masters to Marpa, and through Marpa to Milarepa, Gampopa, Karmapa till now. Those who ever become the holder of the lineage were listed on the Karma Kagyu Lineage Tree.

About Tilopa's Lineage

Tilopa received, condensed into one and transmitted four important transmission lineages in addition to his direct revelation from Vajradhara. Called the "four special transmission lineages", this transmission is known as the indirect lineage.

According to the view of Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, the "four special transmission lineages are:

The southern special transmission:
Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, and Matangi.
The western lineage:
Dombipa, Vinapa, Lvabapa (Kambala), and Indrabhati.
The northern lineage:
Luyipa, Dengipa, Darikapa, and Sukhadhari.
The eastern lineage:
Sukhamahasiddhi, Thanglopa, Shinglopa, and Karnaripa.
Note: Dombipa and Darikapa were incarnations of Kenting Tai Situpa.

The first Jamgon Kongtrul the Great explained that these four directions referred to the places from where these teachers came or where they manifested their activities. According to his view, the four special transmission lineages are:

From Caryapada:
The inner heat (San. candali; Tib. gtum mo) yoga lineage.
From Nagarjuna:
The illusory body (San. mayadeha; Tib. sgyu lus) and the luminosity (San. prabhasvara; Tib. 'od gsal) yoga lineage.
from Lvabapa (Kambala):
The dream (San. svapna; Tib. rmi lam) yoga lineage
From Sukhasiddhi:
the bardo (San. antarabhava; Tib. bar do) and the ejection of consciousness (San. samkranti; Tib. 'pho ba) yoga lineage.

Tilopa also inherited other transmission lineages, such as the practice of the prajna consort (Tib. shes rab ma) from Indrabhuti; and the transference of consciousness (Tib. 'pho ba grong 'jug) from Matangi.

Remarks: About Nagarjuna

In the Buddhist history, Nagarjuna is a very important mahasiddha. But there were not only one Nagarjuna in historic documents. There were at least three siddha Nagarjunas, who respectively appeared in 1st-3nd century, 8th-9th century and 10th century, and they all had a disciple called Aryadeva. It was said that Nagarjuna perfected longevity practice, thereby living for centuries in India. And in tradition, typical of much Indian hagiography, they were deemed as the same incarnation when they had the same name and their hagiographies were combined together. But for clarifying the history of the lineage, we will try to distinguish them under limited information.

Usually we can distinguish their lived period by other people mentioned in the document. For example, the southern special transmission went to Tilopa began from Nagarjuna, who should be the one appeared in 1st-3nd century. Because Chandrakirti appeared in 7th century. This Nagarjuna was an Indian philosopher. He wrote the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) comments which had great influences on both Mahāyāna and Vajrayana Buddhism.

And the Nagarjuna mentioned by the first Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, should be the same one in the lineage tree, should live in 8th-9th century, when was the main period the 84 mahasiddhas appeared and also the bloom of Vajrayana Buddhism in India, because Saraha appeared in 8th-9th century and Shawaripa appeared at the beginning of 9th century.


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