The Great Kagyu Masters:

The following article is from the Spring, 1991 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

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The Golden Lineage Treasury

Translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen
Edited by Victoria Huckenpahler
Forthcoming from Snow Lion May 1991 $12.95

No one is insincere in his own regard, but ignorance and confusion cause most beings to create their own suffering. For this reason the Buddha, who began as an ordinary being, determined throughout three limitless kalpas to sacrifice his own comfort, and with great effort and loving motivation to accumulate merit and wisdom and purify all obscurations. In Bodh'gaya he completely annihilated the mountain of ego and fully developed pervading compassion and primordial wisdom; thereafter he turned the wheel of Dharma three times not out of the intention to establish a religion, but rather to free all beings. He taught for forty-five years.

By the strength of his boundless compassion, the Buddha's holy and precious teachings travelled generally throughout all of Asia, and particularly in Tibet, producing scholars and realized beings as numerous as stars in the sky. One way in which these teachings were perpetuated was through the system of lineages in which the instructions were transmitted from one lineage membet to the next, from guru to disciple, in an unbroken succession. This method maintains the continuity of blessing and experiences.

The present text, compiled by Dorje Dze Od, recounts the lives of the great beings forming the Kagyu lineage, also known as the lineage of transmission. This noble line has been likened to a golden rosary, for each of the individuals constituting it is as precious and perfect as the finest gold.

The following are extracts from the life of Tilopa:

Manifesting as a Human Being and Overpowering the Dakinis

In East Bengal in a city called Zako lived a family of three:the father was known as the Brahmin Salwa; the mother was known as the Brahmin Saldenma; and the daughter was known as the Brahmin Saldron. As no son had been born to them, the man andwoman made offerings and prayed to the worldly gods, the triplegem, the spiritual friends (gurus) and Chakrasamvara. In thisway a son was born. When he was shown to astrologers and others who read signs, some recognized in him the marks of a god, others the marks of a human being, and still others the mark of a Buddha. None could agree on who he was:

We do not kncrw if this child

Is a god, naga, or yaksha.

Still, guard this excellent being with care.

The boy was given the name Brahmin Salyo.

When he was growing up, a fear some, ugly woman came to care for him. She said, There is no place where one can avoid death." The boy's mother therefore asked her, What can I do for him?" And the woman replied, addressing the boy:

Herd buffalo

And read scriptures.

There you will find the prophecies of the Dakinis.

With this she disappeared.

One day, while the Brahmin Salyo was herding buffalo and reading the scriptures under the shapa tree, the woman appeared again, this time asking his name, the country of his birth, and the name of his parents. My country is Zako in the East. My father is the Brahmin Salwa; my mother is the Brahmin Saldenma; my sister is the Brahmin Saldron; and I am the Brahmin Salyo. This tree is the shapa root and I am tending buffalo to earn my living, as well as practicing the Dharma by reading scriptures." She replied: This is not how it is." He asked: Then what is the truth?" She replied: Your country is Oddiyana in the North; your father is Chakrasamvara; your mother is Vajrayogini; your brother is Pant-sapana, and I am your sister, Bliss-giver. If you want to find the true buffalo go to the forest of the bodhi tree. There the stainless Dakinis hold the ear-whispered teachings." He replied: If I go there, the Dakinis will pose obstacles and prevent me from succeeding." She said:

Yogi, you can get the teachings.

You have received the predictions

And kept the samaya vows.

Acting as a Non-human Teacher

The Saint Tilopa became famous by receiving the teachings directly from the Wisdom Dakinis in Oddiyana. When he was asked who his Lama was, Tilopa replied:

I have no human teacher;

My Lama is the Omniscient One.

Looking down from the sky, the Dakinis said:

Tilopa, who realized the two truths

And is expert in the five aspects of knowledge,

You have no human teacher;

All your Lamas are omniscient ones.

Subduing the Heretics

Seeing a heretic doing harm to the Buddha's teaching, Tilopa said to himself: It is time to subjugate this being." He therefore agreed to enter a debate whose outcome would determine which man's path would prevail. The king acted as mediator in this debate on language, logic and other subjects. As in the building and destroying of the mandala shrine, the heretic stopped the sun in its course and Ru (Tilopa) caused it to set. Then he halted the sun, but the heretic could not cause it to set. Ru said, Cut your locks and enter my path." But the yogin became angry and radiated flames in his direction, saying:

I can shake the three realms;

There is no yogin I cannot terrify.

Tilo then manifested a larger flame, and sent both it and the heretic's fire back to him. Thus, the heretic's belongings were completely burned, even to his thick mane of hair.

I am Tilopa,

Who has achieved omniscience.

The heretic developed great devotion, and with all his disciples did prostrations, offering a mandala and requesting teachings. Thus the assembly were liberated. The heretic became known as Yogin Nakpo Kewa and thereafter resided in the Central Wood Forest Cemetery.

Showing the Evident Cause and Effect

A heretic, holding the view of the Lokayatas (atheists of ancient India), was preaching this doctrine to all the people of the Rada country. A Buddhist scholar refuted his arguments, saying that cause and effect exist. But it could not be determined which of the two men was right because there was no judge present. When Tilopa arrived in the midst of the debate, the men asked him to act as judge. At the end, Tilopa said, He who acknowledges cause and effect is the victor." The heretic then said, I wish to debate with you." Tilopa defeated him by his extraordinary insights, and gave him the teachings. Then the heretic said, Since I don't see cause and effect directly, I don't accept your doctrine. If it is true, please show me directly. Only then will I accept the Buddha's teachings." With a snap of the fingers, Tilopa showed the heretic the burning tortures of the hell realms. The heretic saw a copper pot filled with molten metal, but empty of human beings. He asked the guardian of hell, Why are there no beings in this pot? The man replied, In the Rada country in Jambudvipa there is a heretic who doesn't believe in cause and effect, and who is creating negative karma by spreading wrong views. After his death we will cook him in this pot!" The heretic then said to Tilopa, It may be true that one is born in hell through negative karma, but perhaps it is not necessary to engage in virtuous actions." Tilopa said, Come, I will show you." In a moment Tilopa took him to the Heaven of the Thirty-Three Gods. There, in each god's palace was a divine couplea god and goddess. In one palace, however, was a goddess standing alone. The heretic asked, Why has she no consort?" The goddess replied directly, In Jambudvipa there is a being who is just now changing his view, understanding cause and effect, giving up non-virtuous action and practicing virtuous action. After his death, he will be reborn here." Thus, the heretic developed deep devotion. Tilopa said, Sinful beings, motivated by negative karma, suffer the mental phenomena of hell, but virtuous beings, motivated by positive karma, enjoy the mental phenomena of the higher realms." He then gave the heretic the teachings and liberated him. From that day he became known as Yogin Dina, and resided in Palkyiri.

Subjugating the Butcher

A butcher was taking the lives of many animals and giving their meat to his son. Tilopa, seeing that it was time to tame him, transformed the meat into the cooked flesh of the butcher's son, meanwhile hiding the son himself. When the butcher took the lid off the cooking pot and saw his son's flesh, he began to weep. Tilopa said, If you cease taking life, I will restore your son to you." The butcher agreed and Tilopa returned his son to him. The man purified his negative karma, promised not to engage in any further wrong action, and developed devotion. Tilopa gave him the teachings and liberated him, saying:

The result of one's negative actions

Will return to oneself.

In this way Tilopa chose him as a disciple. From that day the man became known as Yogin Dechye Gawa and resided in the land of the Rakshas.

Subjugating the Singer

Once there was a skillful singer who was in the habit of entertaining the assembled crowd. When Tilopa arrived he said to the man, Why are you howling so?" The singer became angry and said, Let us engage in a singing contest." The singer knew only worldly songs. With enlightened voice Tilopa sang many celestial songs. The singer developed deep devotion and asked to be his disciple:

Where, precious one, do you come from?

You have subjugated me.

Tilopa replied:

I am the singer Tilopa

Inhabiting the entire world of Brahma.

I come here as a beauteous singer:

Now I wander off, directionless.

Tilopa then gave him the teachings and liberated him. From that day the man became known as Yogin Yangdan, and resided in Nagara.

Appearing as a Manifestation of Chakrasamvara

Tilopa took the vows of a monk at the temple on the grounds of the Blazing Cemetery of Lakshetra, in the Ashoka garden, near the river Salanadi, because the Abbot there was his uncle and the Acharya his mother. He became known as the Bhikshu Kalapa. In the morning he meditated in a small hut; in the evening the monks gathered and said ritual prayers. Occasionally they had to do the monk's purification renewal practice, and were punished if they violated the discipline. Tilopa did the opposite: Early in the morning he killed a mass of locusts on the road, separated their heads from their bodies, and heaped them up in two piles; in the evening he went to a tavern and ate the barley residue left over from making beer. His uncle, Dawo Shonnu, who was in charge of the monastery, could no longer tolerate such behavior. He and other monastery officials spoke privately to Tilopa and told him to cease his unconventional behavior. They also warned that if he missed the purification renewal practice he would be severely punished. But Tilopa went out and killed more locusts. At one point he was seen by the King who was journeying toward the monastery for ceremonial prayers. The King was so shocked that he asked, Who is your Abbot and who your Acharya?" Tilopa replied:

The place is the Ashoka garden.

My uncle is Abbot and my mother Acharya.

I am Bhikshu Kalapa.

Many millions of kalpas ago

I spoke with the victorious Shakyamuni,

Nagarjuna, Aryadeva, and Vajradhara.

I have travelled to a hundred Buddhafields

And I have seen the one hundred faces of the Buddha.

I have attained the blissful level And have understood the interdependence of cause and effect.

I have realized the Dharmakaya of Dharmata.

Even the great Saraha

Cannot match my realization.

I have not killed any sentient beings.

Thus he sang, and with a snap of the finger caused all the locusts to spring to life and fly away in radiant light. Then everyone understood that Tilopa was an emanation of Chakrasamvara. He became widely known and everyone felt deep devotion for him.

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