FROM THE TIME of the beginning of this fortunate eon, or kalpa, there have been four Buddhas. The first of these was Khorwa Jig. The fourth was the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. He taught the 84,000 teachings of Dharma by turning the three wheels of the teaching, and these teachings of his still remain. This monastery (KTD) exists because of the teachings being present in the world, and the purpose of this monastery is to cause the teachings to remain in the world, for the benefit of all beings.
The teachings of the Buddha are divided into various vehicles, or levels of training, which have been variously enumerated from three to nine. Of all these vehicles, the supreme one is the Vajrayana, and through the teachings of Lord Buddha Shakyamuni the teachings of the Vajrayana have come to shine with the brilliance of the rays of the sun.
Through the propagation of the teachings of the Vajrayana, there arose an ocean of learned and attained ones in the country of India. Some of the most famous of these were the Six Ornaments of Jambudvipa, the Supreme Two, the 84 Siddhas, and others; but because of the power and presence of these teachings, there came to be as many siddhas as stars in the sky at night.
The country of Tibet was a realm that was to be tamed by the bodhisattva Chenrezig, or Avalokiteshvara, and therefore, through the power of his aspirations and his compassion, he sent forth into Tibet emanations in the form of translators, Dharma kings, siddhas, scholars, and so forth. The actions of all these emanations was to transmit fully to Tibet the Dharma that existed in India, and to translate it into the Tibetan language.
During this time of extraordinary activity by the countless lamas involved with spreading this great Dharma transmission, as a result of there being many far-separated various regions within Tibet, eight great traditions of Dharma came into being. Called the eight great chariots of the practice lineage, they are all the same in that they all represent the complete teachings of the Buddhadharma. These presently exist as the four main transmissions: Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, and Gelugpa.
Among these transmissions, perhaps the most significant is the transmission of the Karmapas. This transmission is known as Kagyu, which means the "lineage of precept" or "lineage of command." It originated when Buddha Shakyamuni assumed the form of the sambhogakaya, which is the Buddha Vajradhara or Dorje Chang, and transmitted the Vajrayana Dharma of tantra. The tradition of the Kagyu, therefore, is the transmission of tantra in an unbroken succession, or lineage, of the command or precept of Vajradhara.
The Shakyamuni Buddha rupa (statue) in the main shrine room at Karma Triyana Dharmachakra
Of the various ways that this transmission has come down to the present day, one is known as the long lineage, which began when it was received from the Buddha Vajradhara by the bodhisattva Lodro Rinchen, or Ratna Mati. It was transmitted by him to the mahasiddha of India, Saraha, from him to the lord among scholars, Nagarjuna, from him to the mahasiddha Shawaripa, from him to the mahasiddha Matripa, and from him to Lord Marpa the Translator.
According to the close transmission, the lineage begins with the mahasiddha Telo, or Tilopa, who relied upon many great siddhas, yogis, and gurus during his training. It is told that when residing in a place called Somapuri in western India, he practiced without moving for twelve years. At the end of this practice, as a result of his attainment, he met the Buddha Vajradhara face to face, and received teaching, transmission, and empowerment from him. Naropa received the complete teachings from Tilopa, especially the teachings of mahamudra. These were transmitted so completely that it was as if the contents of one vase had been poured completely into another.
These teachings were transmitted by Tilopa to his student mahapandita Naropa, who trusted his guru and did absolutely everything he was told. Tilopa subjected Naropa to what is known as the twelve greater and twelve lesser hardships. By accomplishing these and pleasing his lama in this way, Naropa received the complete teachings from Tilopa, especially the teachings of mahamudra. These were transmitted so completely that it was as if the contents of one vase had been poured completely into another.
Then the teachings were passed down to Lodrakpa, Lord Marpa the Translator. In order to receive the teachings, Lord Marpa made the arduous journey to the land of India three times. During these journeys he showed complete disregard for his own body, possessions, and welfare, and relied upon Lord Naropa and other teachers completely. Through his efforts he received the complete teachings and attained ultimate siddhi in one lifetime.
The third and last time the Lord Marpa went to India, he requested from his guru Naropa the teachings called "the oral teachings of the dakinis" or "the oral succession of the dakinis." Naropa then asked him, "Was it your idea to request these, or did someone else ask you for them?'' Marpa explained that in Tibet he had a student named Thopaga, who had a dream in which it was prophesied that he should receive and practice the teachings of the oral traditions of the dakinis. When Naropa heard this, he joined his palms together, prostrated, and uttered a famous phrase: "In the gloomy darkness of the North, like the sun rising over the frozen snows is the one called Thopaga; I prostrate to that man." And the power of Naropa's respect, when he prostrated toward Tibet, was such that the trees and mountains bent toward Tibet, and in that area of India known as Pulagary, are still in that position today. The person to whom he was prostrating was the supreme being Jetsun Milarepa.
During the first part of Jetsun Milarepa's life, he performed extensive unvirtuous actions. When he came to recognize this, he was possessed by terror, and searched for a lama. He found Lord Marpa the Translator, and relying upon him fully, did exactly what Marpa told him to do. In order to purify Milarepa's defilements, Marpa subjected him to a great deal of difficulty and hardships, which are usually referred to as the eight greater and two lesser extraordinary hardships of Milarepa's training. By means of these he purified his major obscurations and was able to receive the complete transmission of the teachings of Lord Marpa. Having received these, he spent his entire life doing absolutely nothing other than the practice of Dharma in rocky solitudes, in the mountains. He lived in many different isolated retreats, which are usually called the six outer fortresses, the six inner fortresses, and the six secret fortresses. The story of his life and practice, and how he came to obtain the ultimate siddhi in one lifetime, is something you all know from studying his biography.
Milarepa's student was Dakpo Zhonnu, Gampopa. At one point in his life Gampopa was one of the most learned doctors of his time. He then came to study the Dharma with the most learned teacher of his time, Kadampa Geshe, and became the perfect bikkshu. He became a monk who observed the 253 vows or rules with extreme strictness and became the embodiment of the teachings which he was practicing. At this time, hearing the name Milarepa, he became convinced that at all costs he must certainly meet and study with Milarepa, and through his aspirations and his efforts he was able to do so.
Immediately upon Gampopa's meeting Milarepa, Milarepa handed him a skull cup that was filled with alcohol, and told him to drink it. Gampopa, being a perfect monk, thought, "If I drink this it will violate my vows, and if I don't drink it, it will be inauspicious, as this is my first meeting with the teacher." As soon as he thought this, Milarepa said to him, "Don't think so much, just drink it!" Gampopa, immediately realizing that he had no choice, downed all of the alcohol. Milarepa's comment was, "This is excellent interdependence. This is very auspicious because this portends your receiving completely, and realizing completely, all the teachings that I have to give you." And in accordance with that portent at their first meeting, Gampopa received the complete empowerment, transmission, and instructions from Jetsun Milarepa, and relying upon them, attained the supreme siddhi in one lifetime. Lord Gampopa's activity and teaching and benefiting beings was extraordinarily great and extensive, and it was from his time that the Kagyu lineage became a formal transmission and became known as the Dakpo Kagyu, or the lineage of Gampopa. His activity was so extensive that many, many branches of the lineage arose, the foremost of which are called the four greater and the eight lesser Kagyu.
Among all of the disciples of Gampopa, the main figure was the First Gyalwa Karmapa, Lord Dusum Khyenpa ("Knower of the Three Times"). When he was a student his name was actually Khampo Oser, but upon his attainment of siddhi, the miraculous abilities that he demonstrated, and especially the extraordinary knowledge or cognition that he demonstrated, were such that he was given the name by which he is known today. He was famous for being able to know all of the past existences and situations of any sentient being, all of the details of their present situation, and all of the details of their future lives. For that reason he was known throughout Tibet, and is still known to this day, as the one omniscient with respect to the three times, Dusum Khyenpa.
During his lifetime, Dusum Khyenpa performed to absolute completeness all practices and activities for the benefit of beings. Having completed such attainment, he related his intention to begin a succession of rebirths and then left this life at the age of 84.
This stupa in the main shrine room at KTD contains a rupa of H.H. Khakhyap Dorje, the Fifteenth Karmapa, along with the relics of many great Kagyu masters
His emanations, as rebirths, began with the Second Gyalwa Karmapa, Lord Karma Pakshi, the third was Rangjung Dorje, the fourth, Lord Rolpei Dorje, and the fifth, Lord Dezhin Shekpa. The sixth rebirth was Lord Tongwa Donden, the seventh, Chodrak Gyatso, the eighth, Mikyo Dorje, the ninth, Wangchuk Dorje, the tenth was Choying Dorje, the eleventh, Yeshe Dorje, and the twelfth Jangchup Dorje. Then the thirteenth was Dudul Dorje, the fourteenth was Tekchok Dorje, and the fifteenth was, and the sixteenth was Rigpei Dorje, and it was this Sixteenth Gyalwa Karmapa who ordered and began construction of this monastery.
That particular Karmapa left a letter of prediction, in which was stated the place of his next rebirth, the names and descriptions of the parents, and the name and age of the child that will be found.
Every lama of the golden rosary of the Kagyu has had, and does have, extraordinary experience and realization, uncommon experience and realization, extraordinary learning, and extraordinary attainment. And this is true to such an extent that to meet such a lama, to hear his teaching or even his voice, or even to hear the name of one of them has so much blessing, power, and benefit, that any person who makes any of these kinds of contact with them will not be reborn in the lower realms for many lifetimes.
This teaching was given by Very Ven. Kalu Rinpoche at KTD, Woodstock, on the weekend of October 24, 1986.
© It was translated by Lama Yeshe Gyamtso and edited by Andrea Price.