Great Kagyu Masters, The

The Great Kagyu Masters

The Golden Lineage Treasury

Translated by Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen

Edited by Victoria Huckenpahler

Lion Publications

P.O. Box 6483

Ithaca, New York 14851

©1990 Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen

(excerpted by permission)




The Supplication to the Kagyu Forefathers


The Buddha


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(excerpt and illustration)

The Four Great Dharma Kings of Tibet


( illustration )

Jetsun Milarepa

( illustration )



The Glorious Phagmodrupa

The Twenty Verses of Praise to the Great Drikungpa

Dharma Lord Jigten Sumgon

The Life Story Called “Meaningful to Behold”

The Continuous Stream of the Blessing Lineage


At Nalanda University he [ Naropa ] became Chancellor
and gave teachings and monastic vows, as well as meditation instruction.
One day there appeared a woman with thirty-two ugly signs—brown hair standing
on end, a bulbous forehead, wrinkled and pitted face, coarse eyelashes,
bloodshot, watery eyes, flat nose, twisted, gaping mouth, pendulous lips
and buckteeth, lolling tongue, goiter, pendulous ears, coarse, green skin,
trembling, gnarled hands, and a hump on her back. Sneezing and yawning,
crying and laughing, limping and leaning on a walking stick, she asked,
“Do you know the words of the Dharma, or the meaning of the Dharma?” Naropa
replied, “I know the meaning,” and the woman wept. Then he said, “I know
the words of the Dharma, ” and she laughed with joy. Then he asked, “Who
understands the meaning of the Dharma?” She replied, “My brother.” He said,
“Please take me to him. ” She said, “Pray, meditate and search. ” With
this she disappeared.

By seeing this woman of the thirty-two ugly signs, he
understood the thirty-two negative qualities of samsara in their outer,
inner and secret aspects. By outer aspect it is meant that the thirty-two
subtle and gross causes and effects of samsara give samsara the nature
of suffering; by inner aspect it is meant that there are thirty-two impure
components to the body; by secret aspect it is meant that in the thirty-two
channels of the body there are thirty-two vital energies. Through meditation
on these, one can achieve the co-emergent wisdom. Realizing the truth and
its opposite, he said:

The mind, deluded by the appearance of samsara,

Sees the faults of others with the senses.

It is darkened by the prison of samsara;

It is made intolerable by the fire of samsara;

It is caught in the spider web of samsara;

It is stuck in samsara as the bee is in nectar;

It is encased in samsara like a silkworm in a cocoon.

There is no substance to the hollow tree of samsara.

Samsara is like the moon’s reflection in water,

Without essence;

Samsara is like an animal chasing a mirage;

He who desires samsara falls into a pit.

Samsara is like being trapped in the jaws of a crocodile;

Samsara is like wandering in the land of the rakshas;

Samsara is like a poisonous snake which destroys anyone
who sees or touches it;

Samsara is bordered by the precipice of karma;

Samsara is like a wave in water, or fog;

Samsara is tied by the lasso of karma;

Samsara is bound by the seal of karma;

Samsara is the density of darkness;

Samsara is the deep mud of the three poisons;

Samsara is the dance of impermanence;

Samsara is the enchantment of this life;

Samsara is the shadow of birth and death;

Samsara is a merciless hunter;

Samsara is snared by the hound of death;

Samsara is a vast, sorrowful field of grasping and fixation;

Samsara is the galloping horse of the eight worldly dharmas;

Samsara is caught by the iron hook of desire;

Why should I not search for the Lama

While I have this precious, impermanent body?

Thus he gave away all his treasures, his Dharma texts
and other belongings, saying: “Now I will search for the perfect Lama”
. . .

 . . .  Again Naropa continued his search, this
time in a mountain known as Awakara in Parata Gyen. Although he met these
emanations of the Lama, he grew discouraged, thinking: “I have not seen
the Lama because of my negative tendencies which have not been purified.”
And he sang this lament:

Though following the prophecy of the Dakinis

And giving up the place Where the root of all the teachings

Separating from friends who have the three vows

And disregarding the advice of my counsellors,

I have not found the Lama, even by enduring mental suffering.

This body is creating obstacles.

Therefore why not search for the Lama

By giving up this body?

With this he raised his sword and tried to kill himself.
But from the sky a voice spoke:

By killing the Buddha

How can you find the Lama?

Mendicant, perhaps I am the being you seek.

Naropa looked into the sky and wept. Overcome with emotion,
he folded his hands at his heart and said:

Like a cloud in the sky, you are always changing.

I, though searching, could not find the precious one.

Alas! Will you not look on me with compassion?

Allow me to follow you.

Tilopa replied, “From the beginning I have followed you like
a shadow. But because of your obscurations you did not see me. Your name
will be Drime Ziji (Stainless Dignity).

You, Drime Ziji,

Are the wish-fulfilling tantra,

The secret teaching of the Dakinis.

Now you have become a proper vessel for the precious

Thus he spoke, and chose him as his disciple. Then Tilopa
gave him the Nine Teachings of the Formless Dakinis which are the great
qualities of the family of the proper vessel.

B. The Four Explanations to Realite the Superior Qualities

1) Vajradhara Explains Non-returning:

The sign of bliss

Showing the source of bliss,

That which shows the path of enlightenment

To all sentient beings,

The Lord of beings,

Possessor of the eye of Dharma

Is non-returning.

2) Explanation by the Yidam Deity:

At midnight in the Pullahari Monastery, Chakrasamvara

The Lama (Naropa) is like a great tree

Which has the nature of the unborn body;

He is attended by disciples, like birds.

Naropa possesses the unborn body.

The Lama is like a great river

Which is the stream of the stainless teaching;

He purlfies the stain of afflicting emotions.

Naropa possesses the inexpressible speech.

The Lama is like space

Which is like the sun of wisdom,

Free from obscuration.

He dispels the darkness of all sentient beings.

Naropa possesses the non-conceptual mind.

3) The Lama Also Explains the Disciple as a Proper Vessel:

All the disciples of Tilopa then asked, “You are a great
saint, immaterial like a cloud in the sky. Therefore, whom should one attend
if one searches for peace?” Tilopa said:

Naropa, unforgetting recollection,

Attended me during twelve hardships;

He has my suchness.

The future searcher of teachings

Will attend Naropa

If he wishes to have the realizations.

4) Naropa, Himself, Explains Self-liberated One

The path of Mahamudra

Not objectified in the mind,

Free from elaboration and inexpressible,

Realizes the primordial wisdom

With the unobstructed mind.

Because of this

There is no need to ask anyone.

I am the self-liberated yogin,

The appearance of nonduality.

This ends the outer aspect, in which Naropa was recognized
as a proper vessel by enduring the hardship of searching for the outer


Enduring the hardships of practice, Naropa reveals the
meaning of the signs. The inner aspect has two parts: (A) opening the maturing
path empowerment, and (B) kindling the light of method of the liberation

A: Opening the Maturing Path Empowerment

Sitting on an empty plain, Tilopa began pounding pegs
into the ground. He remained silent, his mind in the nondual state. Naropa
did prostrations, circumambulated him, and making mandala offerings requested
instruction. Tilopa then manifested thirteen signs whose meaning Naropa
understood and explained:

To the Lama, who is like a precious gem,

One should have unchanging faith and devotion.

One’s mind should be clear as a crystal,

And drink the stream of the stainless instructions,

Loosening the knot of the eight dharmas of this life.

Many water vessels have but one taste;

Appearances are like a rainbow,

Without real substance.

The Dharmakara is unborn;

The reflection in the mirror is emptiness-bliss.

The Dharmakaya drop exists in oneself;

The knot is free from expression, thought and speech;

The dumb explain details without words;

The tree ripens the fruit naturally.

Tilopa said:

You explain the thirteen knots of signs.

You are a being who understands the signs,

The wish-fulfilling gem of the secret Tantra,

The secret teachings of the Dakinis.

Look at the mirror of wisdom teachings,

The empowerment which ripens those who are not ripe.

Naropa said:

How can I, who am blind, see,

Obscured as I am by the darkness of ignorance?

Tilopa replied:

Look on that which cannot be seen.

In the nature of the unseen

Liberate those without liberation.

The yogin will be liberated

By seeing the meaning.

Naropa said:

Retrieve the precious gem of the mind

From the ocean of samsara

By depending on the ship of the Lama.

Seeing the maturing path

I, the yogin, am happy.

. . . Tilopa said:

In the non-duality of samsara and nirvana Labor may exist,


11. After a year Naropa requested further teachings. Tilopa
said, “If you want the teachings, offer me your consort.” Naropa obeyed,
but the woman showed her attachment for Naropa by giving him a sideways
glance. Making a show of anger, Tilopa beat the woman, but still Naropa
remained tireless in his devotion. Nor did there arise in him wrong view;
indeed, the merit of offering his consort to Tilopa caused him to rejoice.
Tilopa asked, “Does all go well with you?” Naropa replied:

Without expectations I offer the wisdom consort
To the Lama Buddha.

Therefore I, the yogin, rejoice.

Tilopa said:

In the great path of Dharma-as-Such

It is well to be happy, Naropa.


Enduring the hardship of offering the cherished body,
Naropa kindles the light of bliss. The secret aspect has two parts: (A)
blazing the light of bliss, the twelfth trial; and (B) blazing the light
of stainlessness.

A. Blazing the Light of Bliss

12. After enduring these major sufferings for twelve years,
Naropa made a mandala offering and requested further teachings. Journeying
to a place shrouded by a dust storm, he settled the debris with his own
blood and made an offering heap of hs eyes, nose, tongue and limbs. Then
Tilopa appeared and asked him, “Do you fare well, Naropa?” Naropa replied:

The mandala of this contaminated body

Is offered to the Lama.

I, the yogi, fare well.

Tilopa said:

The contaminated, essenceless body

May be offered, Naropa.

The Secret Teachings of the Dakinis

Are the wish-furfilling Tantra.

Look in the mirror of the nondual mind.

Naropa said:

I am blinded by the darkness of ignorance;

How can I see?

Tilopa replied:

Look at that which cannot be seen.

Within the unseen

The yogi, seeing the meaning, is self-liberated.

After going through the twelve hardships, Naropa was given
the Phowa teachings. Until this time he had experienced only minor sufferings.
Hereafter, he experienced no mental suffering, thus becoming like Sadaprarudita.

B. Blazing the Stainless Light

Naropa remained within that which cannot be seen and was
liberated within the unseen. Offering his realization to Tilopa, he said:

The precious gem of the mind

Depends on the vessel of the Lama.

Liberated from the ocean

Of the Three Realms of samsara,

I, the yogin, fare well,

Seeing the meaning of nonduality.

Realizing that Naropa was attached to the substance of the
teachings, Tilopa said:

The method of proceeding

From joy to greater joy

Is to be unattached

To the substance of the Lama’s teaching.

Naropa replied:

Liberated in the unseen by non-grasping,

Burning the cloth of afflicting emotions

With the spark of nonduality,

I fare well.

Thus he achieved the effortless Mahamudra realization, the
twelve interdependent links and their reverse order.


Enduring the hardship of disobeying orders, Naropa achieves
the result. The ultimate aspect consists of two parts: (A) directly achieving
the realization of the fruit, and (B) receiving the prophecy of the Lama.

A. Directly Achieving the Realization of the Fruit

Naropa received all the teachings, did prostrations, and


One day Tilopa appeared in the sky and said:

By sitting, the blind cannot see form;

By sitting, the dumb cannot speak;

By sitting, the deaf cannot hear;

By sitting, the lame cannot walk;

By sitting, the root of the tree cannot remain stable;

By sitting, one cannot realize Mahamudra.

. . . Naropa asked:

Then should I practice meditation?

Tilopa replied:

By liberating oneself from attachment

One need not engage in the meditation experience.

Naropa asked:

Then, again, should I perform the action?

Tilopa replied:

When you are free from outer fixation and inner

There is no need to perform action, Naropa.

Naropa asked:

Then should I realize the view?

Tilopa replied:

Not perceiving non-observation,

There is nothing to see in reality, Naropa.

Naropa asked:

Then should I achieve the result?

Tilopa replied:

When one is free from the duality of hope and

There is no fruit to achieve, Naropa.

Naropa felt confused, and said:

The nature of form is appearance;

It is not inherently born.

If something exists, there is reason to act.

If it does not exist, is there the need to act?

This self-awareness—

Blissful clear mind—

Is nothing but emptiness.

If it exists, there is a reason to be attached.

But without existence, what is the use of grasping?

This mind, self-aware and empty,

Is free from the duality of extremes.

There is reason to experience if there is meditation.

What is there to experience since there is no


In the great bliss

Of the spontaneously accomplished one,

If there is virtue and non-virtue

There is a reason to ripen the result of happiness

and suffering.

In the nature of the equality state,

Why accept virtue and reject non-virtue?

Tilopa replied:

Until you realize the nature of the unborn,

The interdependent origination of appearance,

Do not abandon the chariot wheel

Of the two accumulations, Naropa.

When the master shows the path of unborn mind

There arises a multi-colored appearance.

Release the mind like a crow from a ship

And experience enjoyment, Naropa.

In the mind-as-such, self-awareness and clarity,

If you do not realize interdependent arising

You will be bound by the experience of attachment, Naropa.

In the unborn, free from elaboration,

Freely enjoy.

If you realize this temporal experience

Of recollection and introspection as illusion,

Be carefree, Naropa.

Various are the thoughts of grasping and fixation,

The cause of birth in the darkness of samsara;

Cut directly whatever arises

With the sharp axe of realization, Naropa.

If one attaches the mind

To the enjoyment of form, sound and others,

One is like a bee stuck in honey;

Be free of grasping, Naropa.

Again Tilopa said:

In the nature of the vajra body

All the paths and bhumis are accomplished.

Subjugate the maras in the four wheels

By he meeting of positive interdependence of mind and

In this one lifetime

Realize in an instant the co-emergent wisdom;

Perfect the unity of clarity and emptiness.

By meditating simultaneously on the five stages

All the energy of the recitation of the vajra word

Comes into the path directly.

One will achieve all the qualities respectively

And accomplish the four bodies and five wisdoms.

Naropa said:

I see my errors dimly, like the moon.

It is deep, the mud of the three-times samsara.

The knot of karma is tightly bound

By harmful thought.

The heap of darkness-ignorance is dense.

Wrapped in the cocoon of worldly pleasure,

Stuck in the honey of grasping,

Meditation disappears like clouds,

Or like writing in water.

Scattered is the experience of turtle hair,

Vanishing is the realization of sky-flowers.

So how can the blind give up grasping?

Tilopa prophesied by singing the song of the six vajra dharmas:

In the Pullahari Monastery,

In the monastery of nonduality,

In the illusory body,

Burn the fuel of dream habit

With the tummo of wisdom-fire, bliss-heat;

Release the thought of grasping and fixation.

In the inexpressible monastery

Of the great bliss Mahamudra.

Cut the continuity of envy in the bardo

With the sharp sword of realization

Of inherent co-emergent wisdom;

Release the grasping of perception-attachment;

Traverse the secret path of the wish-fulfilling gem;

Cut the root of the tree of eternal view;

Explain the sign of the dumb.

Cut the continuity of samsara by magnificent blessing;

Recognize the mother and son like old friends.

Kyeho! This is self-awareness wisdom

Which is beyond words and not an object of the mind.

I, Tilo, can show nothing.

Just understand the intrinsic self-awareness.

Do not bring non-observation into the mind.

There is not even a dust-particle of recollection

In the mind-as-such, self-awareness.

I, Tilo, have shown nothing.

All that is unborn

Is self awareness, self-clarity, emptiness.

Emptiness is free from birth and cessation;

Why should there be doubt?

Thus Naropa was liberated and said:

The path of Mahamudra

Is non-observation in the mind.

The mind, free from elaboration, inexpressible,

Free from obscurations, and seeing wisdom,

Has nothing to ask of anyone.

I am the spontaneous, stainless, self-liberated yogin.

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