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The Kagyu, Kagyü, or Kagyud (Tibetan: བཀའ་བརྒྱུད།, Wylie: bka' brgyud) school, also known as the "Oral Lineage" or Whispered Transmission school, is today regarded as one of four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The central teaching of Kagyu is the doctrine of Mahamudra, "the Great Seal".
The early Kagyu tradition soon gave rise to a large number of independent sub-schools or sub-sects. The principle Dagpo Kagyu lineages existing today as organized schools are the Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu and the Drukpa Lineage.
- 1 Nomenclature, orthography and etymology
- 2 Origins
- 3 Dagpo Kagyu
- 3.1 Four primary branches of the Dagpo Kagyu
- 3.2 Eight Secondary branches of the Dagpo Kagyu
- 4 Shangpa Kagyu
- 5 Kagyu Doctrines
- 6 Kagyu Literature
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 Sources
- 10 Further reading
- 11 External links
Nomenclature, orthography and etymology
Strictly speaking, the term bka' brgyud "oral lineage", "precept transmission" applies to any line of transmission of an esoteric teaching from teacher to disciple. There are references to the "Atiśa kagyu" for the Kadam or to "Jonang kagyu" for the Jonang and "Ganden kagyu" for the Gelug sects. Today, however, the term Kagyu almost always refers to the Dagpo Kagyu and, less often, to the Shangpa Kagyu.
"Kagyu" and "Kargyu"
A note is in order regarding the two forms Dkar brgyud pa and Bka' brgyud pa. The term Bka' brgyud pa simply applies to any line of transmission of an esoteric teaching from teacher to disciple. We can properly speak of a Jo nang Bka' brgyud pa or Dge ldan Bka' brgyud pa for the Jo nang pa and Dge lugs pa sects. The adherents of the sects that practice the teachings centering around the Phyag rgya chen po and the Nā ro chos drug are properly referred to as the Dwags po Bka' brgyud pa because these teachings were all transmitted through Sgam po pa. Similar teachings and practices centering around the Ni gu chos drug are distinctive of the Shangs pa Bka' brgyud pa. These two traditions with their offshoots are often incorrectly referred to simply as Bka' brgyud pa.
Some of the more careful Tibetan scholars suggested that the term Dkar brgyud pa be used to refer to the Dwags po Bka' brgyud pa, Shangs pa Bka' brgyud pa and a few minor traditions transmitted by Nā ro pa, Mar pa, Mi la ras pa, or Ras chung pa but did not pass through Sgam po pa. The term Dkar brgyud pa refers to the use of the white cotton meditation garment by all these lineages. This complex is what is normally known, inaccuratly, as the Bka' brgyud pa. Thu'u kwan Blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma sums up the matter: "In some later 'Brug pa texts the written form 'Dkar brgyud' indeed appears, because Mar pa, Mi la, Gling ras, and others wore only white cotton cloth. Nevertheless, it is fine if [they] are all called Bka' brgyud." At Thu'u kwan's suggestion, then, we will side with convention and use the term "Bka' brgyud."
One source indicates:
[T]he term "Kagyu" derives from the Tibetan phrase meaning "Lineage of the Four Commissioners" (ka-bab-shi'i-gyu-pa). This four-fold lineage is
- the illusory body and transference yogas of the Guhyasamaja and Chatushpitha Tantra, transmitted through Tilopa, Nagarjuna, Indrabhuti, and Saraha;
- the dream yoga practice of the Mahamaya from Tilopa, Charyapa, and Kukuripa;
- the clear-light yoga of the Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, and other Mother Tantras, as transmitted from Hevajra, Dombipa, and Lavapa; and
- the inner-heat yoga, Kamadevavajra, Padmavajra, Dakini, Kalpabhadra, and Tilopa.
Kagyu begins in Tibet with Marpa Lotsawa (1012–1097) who trained as a translator with lotsawa Drogmi Shākya Yeshe (Wylie: 'brog mi lo tsā ba shākya ye shes, 993–1050), and then traveled three times to India and four times to Nepal in search of religious teachings. His principal gurus were the siddhas Nāropa - from whom he received the "close lineage" of mahāmudrā and tantric teachings, and Maitrīpāda - from whom he received the "distant lineage" of mahāmudrā.
Together Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa are known as "Mar-Mi-Dag Sum" (Wylie: mar mi dwags gsum) and together these three are considered the founders of the Kagyu school of Buddhism in Tibet.
Marpa's guru Nāropa (1016–1100) was the principal disciple of Tilopa (988-1089) from East Bengal. From his own teachers Tilopa received the Four Lineages of Instructions (bka' babs bzhi), which he passed on to Nāropa who codified them into what became known as the Six Doctrines or Six Yogas of Nāropa. These instructions consist a combination of the completion stage (Skt. sampannakrama; Tib. rdzogs rim) practices of different Buddhist highest yoga tantras (Skt. Anuttarayoga Tantra; Wylie: bla med rgyud), which use the energy-winds (Skt. vāyu, Wylie: rlung), energy-channels (Skt. nāḍi, Wylie: rtsa) and energy-drops of the subtle vajra-body in order to achieve the four types of bliss, the clear-light mind and realize the state of Mahāmudrā.
The Mahāmudrā lineage of Tilopa and Nāropa is called the "direct lineage" or "close lineage" as it is said that Tilopa received this Mahāmudrā realisation directly from the Dharmakāya Buddha Vajradhara and this was transmitted only through Nāropa to Marpa.
The "distant lineage" of Mahāmudrā is said to have come from the Buddha in the form of Vajradara through incarnations of the bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mañjuśrī to Saraha, then from him through Nagarjuna, Shavaripa, and Maitripada to Marpa. The Mahāmudrā teachings from Saraha that Maitripa transmitted to Marpa include the "Essence Mahāmudrā" (Wylie: snying po'i phyag chen) where Mahāmudrā is introduced directly without relying on philosophical reasoning or yogic practices.
Marpa and his successors (Marpa Kagyu)
Marpa established his "seat" at Drowolung (Wylie: gro bo lung) in Lhodrak in southern Tibet just north of Bhutan. Marpa married the Lady Dagmema, and took eight other concubines as mudras. Collectively they embodied the main consort and eight wisdom dakini in the mandala of his Yidam, Hevajra. Marpa wanted to entrust the transmission lineage to his oldest son, Darma Dode, following the usual Tibetan practice of the time to transmit of lineages of esoteric teachings via hereditary lineage (father-son or uncle-nephew), but his son died at an early age and consequently he passed his main lineage on through Milarepa. Darma Dode's incarnation as Indian master Tiphupa became important for the future development of Kagyu in Tibet.
- Milarepa (1040–1123), born in Gungthang province of western Tibet, the most celebrated and accomplished of Tibet's yogis, who achieved the ultimate goal of enlightenment in one lifetime became the holder of Marpa's meditation or practice lineage.
- Ngok Choku Dorje (Wylie: rngog chos sku rdo rje) (1036–1102) - was the principal recipient of Marpa's explanatory lineages and particularly important in Marpa's transmission of the Hevajra Tantra. Ngok Choku Dorje founded the Langmalung temple in the Tang valley of Bumthang district, Bhutan—which stands today. The Ngok branch of the Marpa Kagyu was an independent lineage carried on by his descendants at least up to the time of the Second Drukchen Gyalwang Kunga Paljor (Wylie: 'brug chen kun dga' dpal 'byor, 1428-1476) who received this transmission, and 1476 when Go Lotsawa composed the Blue Annals.
- Tshurton Wangi Dorje (Wylie: mtshur ston dbang gi rdo rje) - (or Tshurton Wangdor) was the principal recipient of Marpa's transmission of the teachings of the Guhyasamāja Tantra. Tshurton's lineage eventually merged with the Shalu Monastery tradition and subsequently passed this down to the Gelug founder Je Tsongkhapa, who wrote extensive commentaries on the Guhyasamāja Tantra.
- Meton Tsonpo (Wylie: mes ston tshon po)
Other important students of Marpa include:
- Marpa Dowa Chokyi Wangchuck (Wylie: mar pa do ba chos kyi dbang phyug).
- Marpa Goleg (Wylie: mar pa mgo legs) who along with Tshurton Wangdor received the Guhyasamāja Tantra.
- Barang Bawacen (Wylie: ba rang lba ba can) - who received lineage of the explanatory teachings of the Mahāmāyā Tantra.
Jamgon Kongtrul (1813–1899) collected the initiations and sadhanas of surviving transmissions of Marpa's teachings together in the collection known as the Kagyu Ngak Dzö (Tibetan: བཀའ་བརྒྱུད་སྔགས་མཛོད་, Wylie: bka' brgyud sngags mdzod, "Treasury of Kagyu Tantras").
Milarepa and his disciples
Gampopa (1079–1153) combined the stages of the path tradition of the Kadam order with teaching and practice of the Mahāmudrā and the Six Yogas of Naropa he received from Milarepa synthesizing them into one lineage, which came to be known as Dagpo Kagyu—the main lineage of the Kagyu tradition passed down via Naropa as we know it today. The other main lineage of the Kagyu is the Shangpa Kagyu, passed down via Niguma.
Following Gampopa's teachings, there evolved the so-called "Four Major and Eight Minor" lineages of the Dagpo (sometimes rendered "Tagpo" or "Dakpo") Kagyu School. This phrase is descriptive of the generation or order in which the schools were founded, not of their importance.
The principle Dagpo Kagyu lineages existing today as organized schools are the Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu and the Drukpa Lineage. For the most part, the teachings and main esoteric transmissions of the other Dagpo Kagyu lineages have been absorbed into one or another of these three independent schools.
There were twelve main sub schools of the Dagpo Kagyu derived from Gampopa and his disciples. Four primary branches stemmed from direct disciples of Gampopa and his nephew; and eight secondary branches derived from Gampopa's disciple Phagmo Drupa. Several of these Kagyu traditions in turn developed their own branches or sub-schools.
The terminology "primary and secondary" (che chung) for the Kagyu schools can only be traced back as far as Kongtrul's writings (19th century). The Tibetan terminology "che chung", literally "large (and) small," does not reflect the size or influence of the schools, as for instance the Drikung school was in the 13th century probably the largest and most influential of them, although it is, according to Kongtrul, "secondary".
Four primary branches of the Dagpo Kagyu
Karma Kagyu (Karma Kamtsang)
The Drubgyu Karma Kamtsang, often known simply as Karma Kagyu, was founded by one of Gampopa's main disciples Düsum Khyenpa, 1st Karmapa Lama (1110–1193). The Karma Kagyu itself has three subschools in addition to the main branch:
- Surmang, founded by Trungmase, 1st Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche, a student of Deshin Shekpa, 5th Karmapa Lama, this sub-sect was centered on Surmang Monastery, in what is now Qinghai
- Nédo Kagyu (Wylie: gnas mdo), founded by Karma Chagme (Wylie: kar ma chags med, 1613–1678), a disciple of the 6th Shamarpa (Wylie: zhwa dmar chos kyi dbang phyug, 1584–1630)
- Gyaltön Kagyu
Rangjung Dorje, 3rd Karmapa Lama, was influential in the spread of Buddha-nature teachings, which are still being taught in contemporary Kagyu. He also influenced Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, the founder of the Jonang school who systematized the shentong teachings.
The Barom Kagyu was founded by Gampopa's disciple Barompa Darma Wangchuk (Wylie: 'ba' rom pa dar ma dbang phyug, 1127–1199/1200), who established the Nak River Barom Riwoche Monastery (Wylie: nag chu 'ba' rom ri bo che) in 1160.
An important early master of this school was Tishri Repa Sherab Senge (Wylie: 'gro mgon ti shri ras pa rab seng ge, 1164–1236).
This school was popular in the Principality of Nangchen in Kham (modern Nangqên County, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, southern Qinghai) where it has survived in one or two pockets to the present day.
Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920–1996) was a holder of the Barom Kagyu Lineage.
The Tshalpa Kagyu was established by Zhang Yudrakpa Tsöndru Drakpa (Wylie: zhang g.yu brag pa brtson 'gru brags pa, 1123–1193), who founded Tsel Gungtang Monastery (Wylie: tshal gung thang). Lama Zhang was a disciple of Gampopa's nephew Dagpo Gomtsul Tsultim Nyingpo (Wylie: dwags sgom tshul khrims snying po, 1116–1169).
The Tshalpa Kagyu tradition continued to function independently until the 15th century when it was absorbed by the Gelug, who still maintain many of its transmissions. All of the former Tshelpa properties became Gelug possessions under the administration of Sera monastery.
The Phagmo Drupa Kagyu (Tibetan: ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད, Wylie: phag mo gru pa bka' brgyud) or Phagdru Kagyu (ཕག་གྲུ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད) was founded by Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (Tibetan: ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པ་རྡོ་རྗེ་རྒྱལ་པོ, Wylie: phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110–1170) who was the elder brother of the famous Nyingma lama Ka Dampa Deshek (1122–1192) founder of Katok Monastery. Before meeting Gampopa, Dorje Gyalpo studied with Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (sa chen kun dga' snying po) (1092–1158) from whom he received lamdre transmission.
From 1435 to 1481 the power of the Phagmodrupa declined and they were eclipsed by the Rinpungpa (Wylie: rin spungs pa) of Tsang, who patronized the Karma Kagyu.
The Phagmo Drupa monastery of Dentsa Thel "was completely destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in 1966-1978"
Eight Secondary branches of the Dagpo Kagyu
The eight secondary lineages (zung bzhi ya brgyad or chung brgyad) of the Dagpo Kagyu all trace themselves to disciples of Phagmo Drupa. Some of these secondary schools, notably the Drikung Kagyu and Drukpa Kagyu, became more important and influential than others.
One of the most important of the Kagyu sects still remaining today, the Drikung Kagyu (འབྲི་གུང་བཀའ་པརྒྱུད་པ) takes its name from Drigung Monastery founded by Jigten Sumgön, also known as Drikung Kyopa.
The special Kagyu teachings of the Drikung tradition include the "Single Intention" (Wylie: dgongs gcig), "The Essence of Mahāyāna Teachings" (Wylie: theg chen bstan pa'i snying po), and the "Fivefold Profound Path of Mahāmudrā" (Wylie: lam zab mo phyag chen lnga ldan).
Lingre Kagyu refers to the lineages founded by Lingrepa Pema Dorje (Wylie: gling ras pa padma rdo rje) [1128-1188] also known as Nephupa after Nephu monastery (sna phu dgon) he founded near Dorje Drak (rdo rje brag) in Central Tibet (dbus). Lingrepa's teachers were Gampopa's disciple Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo; Rechungpa's disciple Sumpa Repa; and Ra Yeshe Senge, a lineage holder of Ra Lotsawa.
The Drukpa Lineage was established by Ling Repa's main disciple, Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), who established monasteries at Longbol (Wylie: klong rbol) and Ralung Monastery (Wylie: rwa lung). Later, Tsangpa Gyare went to a place called Nam Phu where, legend has it, nine roaring dragons rose from the ground and soared into the sky. The Tibetan word for dragon is Druk (Wylie: 'brug), so Tsangpa Gyare's lineage and the monastery he established at the place became known as the Drukpa and he became known as the Gyalwang Drukpa. This school became widespread in Tibet and in surrounding regions. Today the Southern Drukpa Lineage is the state religion of Bhutan, and in the western Himalayas, Drukpa Lineage monasteries are found in Ladakh, Zanskar, Lahaul and Kinnaur.
Along with the Mahamudra teachings inherited from Gampopa and Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, particular teachings of the Drukpa Lineage include the "Six Cycles of Equal Taste" (Wylie: ro snyom skor drug), a cycle of instructions said to have been hidden by Rechung Dorje Drakpa and discovered by Tsangpa Gyare, and the "Seven Auspicious Teachings" (Wylie: rten 'brel rab bdun) revealed to Tsangpa Gyare by seven Buddhas who appeared to him in a vision at Tsari.
The Shuksep Kagyu (Wylie: shug gseb bka' brgyud) was established by Gyergom Chenpo Zhönnu Drakpa (Wylie: gyer sgom chen po gzhon nu grags pa, 1090–1171), who founded the Shuksep Monastery in Nyiphu. The Shuksep Kagyu emphasized the Mahamudra teachings of the Dohas, spiritual songs of realization by Indian masters such as Saraha, Shavaripa, Tilopa, Naropa and Maitripa. A notable member of this lineage was the nun Shukseb Jetsun Choying Zangmo.
The Trophu Kagyu (Wylie: khro phu bka' brgyud) was established by Gyeltsa Rinchen Gön (Wylie: rgyal tsha rin chen mgon, 1118–1195) and Künden Repa (Wylie: kun ldan ras pa, 1148–1217). The tradition was developed by their nephew, Thropu Lotsawa, who invited Pandit Shakyasri of Kashmir, Buddhasri and Mitrayogin to Tibet.
The most renowned adherent of this lineage was Buton Rinchen Drub (1290–1364) of Zhalu, who was a student of Trophupa Sonam Sengge (Wylie: khro phu ba bsod nams sengge) and Trophu Khenchen Rinchen Senge (Wylie: khro phu mkhan chen rin chen sengge). Other notable teachers of this tradition include Chegompa Sherab Dorje (1130?-1200)
The Yazang Kagyu (Wylie: g.ya' bzang bka' brgyud) founded by Sharawa Kalden Yeshe Sengge (d. 1207). His foremost disciple was Yazang Chöje Chö Mönlam (1169–1233) who in 1206 established the monastery of Yabzang, also known as Nedong Dzong, in Yarlung. The Yazang Kagyu survived as an independent school at least until the 16th century.
The Yelpa Kagyu (Wylie: yel pa bka' rgyud) was established by Druptop Yéshé Tsekpa (Wylie: drub thob ye shes brtsegs pa, b. 1134). He established two monasteries, Shar Yelphuk (Wylie: shar yel phug) and Jang Tana (Wylie: byang rta rna dgon).
The Shangpa Kagyu (Wylie: shangs pa bka' brgyud) differs in origin from the better known Marpa or Dagpo school that is the source of all present-day Kagyu schools. The Dagpo school and its branches primarily came from the lineage of the Indian siddhas Tilopa and Naropa transmitted in Tibet through Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa and their successors. In contrast, the Shangpa lineage descended from two female siddhas, Naropa's consort Niguma and Virupa's disciple Sukhasiddhi, transmitted in Tibet in the 11th century through Khyungpo Nenjor. The tradition takes its name from the Shang Valley where Khyungpo Nenjor established the gompa of Zhongzhong or Zhangzhong.
For seven generations, the Shangpa Kagyu lineage remained a one-to-one transmission. Although there were a few temples and retreat centres in Tibet and Bhutan associated with the Shangpa transmission, it never really was established as an independent religious institution or sect. Rather, its teachings were transmitted down through the centuries by lamas belonging to many different schools.
The central teaching of Kagyu is the doctrine of Mahamudra, "the Great Seal", as elucidated by Gampopa in his various works. This doctrine focuses on four principal stages of meditative practice (the Four Yogas of Mahamudra), namely:
- The development of single-pointedness of mind
- The transcendence of all conceptual elaboration
- The cultivation of the perspective that all phenomena are of a "single taste"
- The fruition of the path, which is beyond any contrived acts of meditation
It is through these four stages of development that the practitioner is said to attain the perfect realization of Mahamudra.
The Six Yogas of Naropa
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In terms of view, the Kagyu (particularly the Karma Kagyu) emphasize the Hevajra tantra with commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, the Uttaratantra with commentaries by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and another by Gölo Shönu Pal as a basis for studying buddha nature, and the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje's Profound Inner Principles (Tib. Zabmo Nangdon) with commentaries by Rangjung Dorje and Jamgon Kongtrul as a basis for tantra.
- Schaeffer 2001, p. 40.
- Smith & Schaeffer 2001, p. 40.
- Thurman 2003, p. 42.
- These four lineages of instruction are enumerated by Situ Panchen as: 1. The instructions on mahāmudrā (Wylie: phyag rgya chen po'i gdam ngags); 2. The instructions on tummo or "heat yoga" (Wylie: gtum mo'i bka' babs, Sanskrit caṇḍāli); 3. The instructions on luminosity (Wylie: 'od gsal kyi bka' babs); 4. The instructions on Karmamudrā (Wylie: las kyi phyags rgya'i bka babs)
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- Thaye, Jampa A Garland of Gold. Bristol: Ganesha Press, 1990. ISBN 0-9509119-3-3
- Thinley, Karma. The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet (1980) ISBN 1-57062-644-8
- Brunnholzl, Karl. Luminous Heart: The Third Karmapa on Consciousness, Wisdom, and Buddha Nature Snow Lion Publications, 2009.
- Rinpoche, Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang. The Practice of Mahamudra Snow Lion Publications 2009.
- Rinpoche, Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen. The Great Kagyu Masters: The Golden Lineage Treasury Snow Lion Publications 2006.
Drikung Kagyu sites
- Site of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa
- Drukpa Kagyu Lineage - Dorzong Rinpoche
- Drukpa Mila Center ~ a Bhutanese Drukpa Kagyu Center
Karma (Kamtsang) Kagyu
Sites associated with Trinlay Thaye Dorje
Sites associated with Urgyen Trinley Dorje
Karma Kagyu sites
(Note: Karma Kagyu related sites that apparently do not take sides on the so-called "Karmapa controversy").
- Samdrup Dhargay Chuling Monastery
- Shangpa Kagyu Network
- Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab (Founded by Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche), New York, NY, USA
|This article uses material from Kagyu on Wikipedia (view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0.|