Shangpa Lineage


Vajradhara is the primordial buddha, the dharmakaya buddha. Vajradhara, depicted as dark blue in color, expresses the quintessence of buddhahood itself. Vajradhara represents the essence of the historical Buddha’s realization of enlightenment.

Historically, Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree in Bodhgaya over 2500 years ago and then manifested as the Buddha. According to Buddhist cosmology, he was the Fourth Historic Buddha of this fortunate eon. Prince Siddhartha’s achievement of enlightenment, the realization, or wisdom of enlightenment itself, is called the dharmakaya, the body of truth. When he expresses that realization through subtle symbols, his realization is called the sambhogakaya, the body of enjoyment. When such realization manifested in more accessible or physical form for all sentient beings as the historical Shakyamuni Buddha, it is called the nirmanakaya, the body of manifestation.

The dharmakaya, synonymous with Vajradhara Buddha, is the source of all the manifestations of enlightenment. Vajradhara is central to the Kagyu lineage because Tilopa received the vajrayana teachings directly from Vajradhara, the dharmakaya buddha. Thus, the Kagyu lineage originated from the very nature of buddhahood.

That realization of the nature was in turn transmitted within the Golden Rosary by Tilopa.





NIGUMA (10/11th century)

The wisdom Dakini Niguma was born in Peme in Kashmir, India during the time of Buddha before the time of Shakyamuni. At that time her father was the Brahmin Shantasamnaha and her brother was the Great Sage Naropa. In Niguma's past lives she practiced the path for three immeasurable eons. In this life she came to realization just by meeting a realized lama and receiving a few teachings. Her impure illusory body then arose as perfect body.

She dwelt in the three pure states and saw the face of Vajradhara himself. She received the four complete empowerments from the emanated Mandala of Tantric Mahayana.She developed omniscient wisdom in the sutras, tantras, oral instructions and teachings.

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SUKHASIDDHI (10/11th century)

Sukhasiddhi was born in Western Kashmir and was a wife and mother of three sons and three daughters. Sukhasiddhi was a kind and generous lady and would give what she had to those who were more destitute. One day when the family had only one pot of rice left to eat her family went in different directions in search of food, leaving Sukhasiddhi alone at home. When a more destitute man knocked upon her door begging for food Sukhasiddhi offered him the only food the family had. When her husband and children came back with out having found any food to eat and learned that Sukhasiddhi had given the last of their food to the beggar she was chased out of her house because of her generosity.


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KHYUNGPO NALJOR (10/12th century)

Khyungpo Naljor was born in a year of the tiger in the southern part of Tibet, into a distinguished family. The clan of the Khyung, or Garuda, the legendary great bird that is guardian of the north. His father's name was Khyungpo Chujar, and his mother's, Tashi. Thus, his own name meant "the Yogin of the Garuda clan." A portent marked his birth: The great Mahasiddha Amogha came flying through the air from India and made the prophecy that this newborn child, who was already highly realized, would in time come to India and there receive the profound transmissions that would make him a greater guide of beings. The qualities of Khyungpo Naljor began to manifest while he was still very young. When he was five years old, he told detailed stories about his past existences, and revealed insight into his lives to come, and into the future in general. By the age of ten he excelled in reading, writing, arithmetic and both Chinese and Indian astrology.

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MOKCHOKPA (1110-1170)

Mokchokpa was born in Lhabu in the Shang Valley of Namling County in Western Tibet. In his youth, he studied many texts, including the Prajnaparamita. He received both maturing and liberating teachings from Lama Burgom Nakpo, a disciple of the lord Rechungpa and spent five years with him. Khyungpo Naljor told him that during a dream Amithabha Buddha said that I am to give you the instructions of the Shangpa one-to-one guru to disciples Transmission and Mokchokpa received all the Shangpa teachings and became the Shangpa lineage holder.


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KYERGANGPA (1143-1216)

Kyergangpa was born to the Ba family in the upper reaches of Nang County. He studied and practiced intensely during his teenage years. At the age of sixteen he joined the retinue of his uncle Thamche Khyenpa who was proceeding to Draklha. He received the complete Avalokiteshvara teachings from a great practitioner of Avalokiteshvara, Pakpa Chegom Through practicing in solitary retreat for four and half years Kyergangpa received a vision of Avalokiteshvara. Through his teacher Tsari Gompa in Lato, he received the complete instructions of Rechungpa. Kyergangpa spent five years with Lama Penpukpa Chenpo and receive all the practices and instructions of lord Atisha. From Mokchokpa the great adept at Lhabu in Shang he mastered the teachings on Clear Light Yoga, Dream Yoga, and Illusory Body Yoga and had uninterrupted vision of many Deities.

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RIGONGPA (1175-1247)

Rigongpa was born to a family in Yol, was naturally inclined to the Dharma and sought at an early age to devote his life in benefiting others. He met his and stayed with him in Kyergang. Lama Kyergangpa transmitted all of the secret mantras to Rigongpa leaving nothing out. Lama Kyergangpa told Rigongpa about his past and future lives and advised Rigongpa to lead the life of a Secret Yogi, drinking beer, eating food offerings, wearing old rags and enjoying mixed company. Kyergangpa told him that Rigongpa that he would establish connections with many students and would have ten fully realized disciples who would hold his transmission and the relics of the Shangpa Lamas. Rigongpa had visions of many Dakas and Dakinis, especially Sukhasiddhi from whom he received the four complete empowerments and the main points of secret practices.

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SANGYE TÖNPA (1213-1285)

Sangye Tönpa was born to a Bon family in Kharek Tse Silma. At his birth, the adept Amogha flew down from the sky to offer wondrous prophecies about the new born. Khyungpo. He wanted to practice Dharma from a very young age and became a monk at the age of thirteen. He took his vows from the famous Lama Tsarirepa and he was given the name Tsondue Senge. But Sangye Tönpa was able to serve Tsarirepa only for a short time before he died. After studying with several Lamas, he felt the need to receive teachings from a genuine Secret Yogi. He set out to meet Lama Rigongpa who was recommended by both Lama Zhupa Nakpo and the teacher Dokton. Sangye Tönpa then became the sole lineage holder of Rigongpa's oral instructions. He received the Illusory Yoga, Inner Heat Yoga, Illusory Body Yoga passed down through all the lineage masters from Vajradara to Rigongpa.

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SHANGTÖNPA (1234-1309)

Shangtönpa was born in Ra family at Kongya in Shang, and could read and write fluently by the time he was eight years old. Shangtöpa felt no desire or greed and felt great revulsion for Samsara while developing passion and faith in the lamas and the three jewels. Shangtonpa was free of any laziness and was ordained as a novice monk before the abbot Nyitokpa and the teacher Tsulshe at the age of thirteen. He studied engaging in the Bodhisattva's Path and the Prajnaparamita with his teachers Ba and Shakya Shangtonpa Bumpa and presented new commentaries on both of these texts. His teachers congratulated him and advised him to teach them. He was renown all over Central and Western Tibet as Tonpa Sangwa [Excellent Teacher] because of his intelligence he naturally understood the complete text by just reading the first line of the topic of a text.

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Khyungpo Tsultrim Goon was born to father Ponpo Gone and mother Chemo Kinden in the female firebird year. His parents wanted him to become the head of their household since he was the first-born Son. Tsultrim Gon wanted to follow the path of Dharma and escaped from his home by taking the supplies of his brother who was supposed to become a monk. Tsultrim Gon met Lama Shangtonpa who became his spiritual guide and gave him the name Khyungpo Tsultrim Goon and granted him the empowerments of Six Yoga's of Niguma, and the complete instructions for each of the Six Yoga's and many other teachings.


GYALTSEN BUM (1261-1334)

Gyaltsen Bum was born to father Choekyong Tsen and mother Yangmode from the wealthy Shudgye family at Konglam Tsatang. Gyaltsen Bum recited the Mani Mantra as soon as he was capable of conscious. So, his father asked Drinchen Riwa to inform him about the lineage of Avalokiteshvara and teach him about the Mani Mantra. Gyaltsen Bum learned to read and write at the age of six and with a single glance at the Manjushri Uttering the Names Tantra, the Heart Sutra, or the Twenty-One-Praises to White Tara, Gyaltsen Bum knew what would follow without missing a beat.


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ZHONNU DRUP (?-1319)

Zhonnu Drup was born in a farmer's house at Nyang in Tibet, his father was Gyalpo Tsepel and his mother was Gyamo Kedren. He became a monk at the age of ten before the abbot Chimpa Yidshin Norbu and took full ordination at the age of twenty. Under the guidance of the teacher Lokyawa he excelled in learning. At the age of twenty-one he stopped his intellectual studies and approached the Sakya Lamas to get Tantric teachings for actual attainments and considered both the words and the meaning that those teachers expressed.


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RIDRÖ RECHEN (14th century)

Ridrö Rechen was born in Eastern Tibet, the oldest of five children, his father was Ayul and mother was Ngag Kek from a very virtuous family who lived in the mountains practicing yoga. Ridro Rechen took the lay vows of a monk at the age of nine and was given the name Ridro Rechen by Senge Dra. He received instructions from Senge Dra and was able to practice them in his dreams Ridro Rechen spent time in retreat in the plains below the village and by the age of twelve could teach the transmission of the Hevajra Tantra. At the age of eighteen, he gave commentaries on Engaging in the Bodhisattva's Path and knew the Prajnaparamita teachings by heart. At nineteen he spent about a year in Tsurpu practicing Cho and studied the Sakya branch of Buddhism with Sixth Kenchen abbot. When he was twenty-eight, he expounded on the commentaries and traveled to many monasteries throughout Tibet. Ridro Rechen met the great Shangpa adept Khyungpo Tsultrim Gon and practiced the Six Yoga's of Niguma under his guidance. After six years of practice, he asked for further meditation instructions and Khyungpo Tsultrim Gon granted his request and gave him many more teachings. Later, he presented himself to Lama Zhonnu Drup who gave him the responsibility for the Shangpa lineage. Ridro Rechen took over Dechen and maintained the teachings there before he passed away at the age of sixty-nine. During his passing the sky was filled with a rain of flowers and rainbows were seen above.

SHANGKARWA (1353-1435)

Shangkarwa Rinchen Gyaltsen was born in the female water snake year to father, Ponyig Zangpopal and mother Josema Palchen. When he was three both his parents passed away and he was placed under the tutelage of two monks Shakya Senge and his uncle Rinchen Woeser who taught him how to read and write. Shangkarwa took monks vows and at the age of eight. At the age of twelve he went to a large temple in Zamtsar and took further vows before the abbot Zepa Gyaltsen and Shakya Pal and received the name Shangkarwa, Precious Royal Banner. He took full ordination at the age of twenty and studied extensively with several teachers. According to his uncle's advice he went to meet the great scholar Khyungpo Tsultrim Gon and received the practices of Clear Light Yoga, Dream Yoga, and so on. Shangkarwa received empowerments from Buton who transmitted to him his wisdom mind stream. In all Shangkarwa received more than twenty times various Tantric Commentaries. From the great teacher Jangchub Tsemo he received the four complete empowerments of Guhyasamaja. Unfortunately Lama Tsultrim Gon passed away before Shangkarwa receive the entire Shangpa lineage teachings. Shangkarwa then met and received from Ridro Rechen Sangye the entire cycle of teachings of the Shangpa lineage and entrusted him with responsibility for the lineage. Shangkarwa mastered the Clear Light Yoga, Dream Yoga, Samadhi Meditation and his realizations where powerful enough to control even the external elements. Shangkarwa passed away at the age of eighty-two with numerous auspicious signs.

PALZANG (1398-1465)

Sangye Palsang was born near Taksang in the mountains west of Lhasa to the Be family, his father was Pon Rinpoche Zang and mother was Tsebum Pal. His parents suffered much grief because they had lost their first child but hermit Ridro Rinchen and scholar and translator Jangchup Tsemo assured them that they would soon have a wonderful child and asked the parents to protect him. When the child was born his parents named him Name Sangye Palsang. As a small child Sangye Palsang was very kind and compassionate to all of the animals. He began to help the villagers by writing letters and reading documents when he was ten because was the best at writing letters in the province. At the age of fifteen, Sangye Palsang took novice monks' vows before the abbot Kenchen Galway Shangpa. He studied with Shangkarwa and by the age of eighteen was able to give new explanations on the texts. In his nineteenth year, he took the full monks' vows with Shangkarwa as his abbot, Lopon Kansan as the action teacher and Lama Sangye Dorje as his secret preceptor. Sangye Palsang trained in the two kinds of bodhichitta; following this he received instruction for the yoga's of Niguma, including the teachings on Inner heat yoga. After one year of practice he experienced the blazing heat of bliss and the realization of Illusoriness arose in him. He gained a clear understanding of the Dream yoga practices of transformation as well as a continuous experience of the clear light nature of mind. When Sangye Palsang passed sweet smells and a clear radiance filled the room and when his body was cremated rainbows shown in the sky.

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