K a r m a . K a g y u . T r a d i t i o n

Tilopa (988-1069)

Excerpts from "The Biographies of the Kagyu Lineage" by the second Shamarpa, Kacho Wangpo

Tilopa was born into a Brahmin family in East India. At an early age he met with the great master Nagarjuna who, by means of his magical powers, induced the state oracle to choose Tilopa as the ruler of one of the many kingdoms which existed at that time in India. However, after some years Tilopa tired of his royal duties became a monk. He was ordained at the Tantric Temple of Somapuri in Bengal.

One day a dakini appeared before him and asked if he wished to attain true enlightenment. Tilopa, seeing that she was a dakini (a female guardian of esoteric teachings), requested her to give him instructions. She initiated him into the Chakrasamvara Tantra which he was able to fully comprehend.

Tilopa practised these teachings for twelve years at Somapuri. He took a yogini (a female practitioner) as his consort, due to which he was expelled from the monastic community. Tilopa travelled far and wide throughout India, meeting many accomplished teachers and receiving their instructions. To earn a living he would pound sesameseeds (S. Til) to produce oil, hence his name. His main guru was the Buddha Vajradhara from whom he received direct transmission of the teachings, in particular the Mahamudra teachings. He lived in desolate places and was known as a great master.

Tilopa had a number of outstanding disciples among whom Naropa became the lineage holder.

Naropa (1016-1100)




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