Kagyu Sect of Tibetan Buddhism

Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism is also known as Oral Lineage. The tradition is one of the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism along with Nyingma, Skaya, and Gelug. The lineage is often called the practice lineage. The tradition places great importance to Intensive meditation practice of Guru Yoga, The Power of devotion and transmission from the master to disciple. Mahamudra “The Great Seal” in the prime teaching of the Kagyu.

Early Origin in India

Kagyu traces their lineage back to the Indian saga Tilopa. He is said to have received direct instruction from the Vajradhara (Dorje Chang). Vajradhara’s Teaching is considered superior to the Sakyamuni (The Historical Buddha). Because Shakyamuni’s teaching is bond the human capabilities whereas Vajradhara has the complete enjoyment body. In Order to understand the completely the teaching of the master with Complete enjoyment body, one must reach a certain level of realization. So instruction of such Buddha is far more superior to that of the emanation bodied buddha like Shakyamuni.

Beside Tilopa, Kagyu lineage count on the important figure like Nagarjuna, Saraha, Savari, and Maitripa as the member of lineage. The primary student of Tilopa is Naropa. He was a very well learned scholar of Buddhism and rose to the rank of abbot of Nalanda University. He lacked the deeper understanding of teaching despite the scholarly knowledge.

History of Kagyu in Tibet

Kagyu tradition begins in Tibet Marpa Lotsawa ( the translator from Mar). He is trained as the translator and he traveled to India three times and four-time to Nepal in search of religious teachings. His master is Naropa from whom he received the close Lineage of Mahamudra and Tantric teaching.

Upon returning to Tibet, Milarepa becomes his principal student. Gompopa Become the principal student of Milarepa. It is Gompopa who started the monastic institution of Kagyu with the fusion of tradition of Kadampa Monastic culture. This marks the starting of Dagpo Kagyu. This school later subdivide by his student into four subschool.

The four main sub-school of Dagpo Kagyu are

  1. Karma Kagyu
  2. Barom Kagyu
  3. Tsalpa Kagyu
  4. Pagdru Kagyu

Pagyu Kagyu later spilt into eight sub school, found bt Phagmodrupa’s eight main students. Currently, only three out of eight sub school remains. Pagyu Kagyu ruled Tibet during the 14th and part of 15th Century. Here is the list of eight subschools of Pagdru Kagyu.

  1. Drikung Kagyu
  2. Drukpa Kagyu
  3. Taklung Kagyu
  4. Martsang Kagyu
  5. Shugseb Kagyu
  6. Trophu Kagyu
  7. Yamzang Kagyu
  8. Yelpa Kagyu

Some important figures in Kagyu Lineage

A) Marpa Lotsawa

The real name of the Marpa is Chokyi Lodro of Mar (Name of Village). He was trained as a translator under Drogmi Yeshi. He traveled to India three-time and to Nepal four times in search of Buddist teaching. His Principal Teachers were Naropa and Maitripa.

B) Tilopa and Naropa

Tilopa and Naropa are the great Panditas (Scholars) and Siddhas ( accomplished saints) of Nalanda University in ancient India. Tilopa received the teaching of four special transmissions; The yoga of 1) Illusory Body and transference of Consciousness, 2) Dream Yoga, 3) Luminosity and 4) Yoga of Inner heat from two original sources, called the direct and indirectly Lineage. The direct lineage of the teaching was Buddha Vajradhara. The indirect lineage comes from four main teachers of Tilopa called the “four special transmission lineages.” Naropa received these teachings from Tilopa and Naropa thought to the Marpa.

C) Milarepa

Milarepa is the primary student of Marpa, to whom Marpa pass these Lineages. He is the most renowned Tibetan Tantric yogic, who achieved enlightenment in one lifetime.  He held the lineage and tradition of practice lineage.

D) Gampopa

Also known as Dakpo Lhaje. He is the principal student of Milarepa. He was prophesized by Buddha himself in Sutras. He 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 had three heart disciples: Düsum Khyenpa, Phakmo Drupa and Saltong Shogom. Düsum Khyenpa (1110-1193), also known as Khampa Usey (literally, the “white-haired Khampa”), became known as the First Karmapa, who established the Karma Kagyu lineage.

The Main Monastery of Kagyu in Tibet

  1. Tsurphu Monastery
  2. Drigung Monastery
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