JE TSONGKHAPA AND THE KAGYU LINEAGE: Marpa’s Guhyasamāja and Nāropa’s Cakrasaṃvara and Six Yogas. ‘Good Deeds’ teaching by 17th Karmapa (Day 12)

Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419)

“If there is Guhyasamāja there are teachings of Tsongkhapa,  and if there is no Guhyasamāja, then there are no Tsongkhapa teachings.”

The Gelugpa founder and master, Je Tsongkhapa, Lobzang Dragpa (1357-1419)  has been  mentioned several times during the 17th Karmapa’s current teachings on the 8th Karmapa’s ‘Good Deeds’.  Previously,  the 17th Karmapa explained how after doing many great deeds in China, on the 5th Karmapa’s return to Tibet, many people came to welcome him and Je Tsongkhapa sent a letter to the 5th Karmapa, preserved in the Collected Short Works of Je Tsongkhapa, which says: “For the teachings of the Buddha to flourish, there is no one greater than Dezhin Shegpa, the Karmapa”.  Along with the letter, Tsongkhapa also sent a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni sitting in the seated position of Maitreya from Reting monastery. The Sixteenth Karmapa brought the statue with him when he fled Tibet and it is currently kept at Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim.

The 17th Karmapa also previously taught a Praise that the 8th Karmapa composed about several lineage masters, one of them being Je Tsongkhapa, see here.

Due to lack of time, for today’s post I have focused on Day 12 (for video of teaching see here), in which the 17th Karmapa spoke again about Je Tsongkhapa and his connection to Karma Kagyu (annotated with sources and references where possible).

Using quotes from Tsongkhapa and his disciples, the 17th Karmapa clearly explained why Tsongkhapa was very much a supporter and lineage holder of Kagyu teachings (particularly tantric practices) of the Kagyu founders, Nāropa and Marpa.

To end this post, I have included other information relating to Tsongkhapa’s connection to the 4th Karmapa and the Kagyu Lama, Umapa Pawo Dorje, as well as the songs written by 8th Karmapa praising him even though he refuted Tsongkhapa’s philosophical views. Finally, there are the verses that 17th Karmapa reported Je Tsongkhapa saying to him during his escape from Tibet.

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 10th March 2021. May it be of benefit!

Je Tsongkhapa and Marpa Lotsawa’s Guhyasamāja
Marpa the Lotsawa (1012-1097)

After speaking about an outbreak of Covid-19 among the monks at the Gyuto monastery in Dharamsala, India, a place where he had happily stayed in exile for eighteen years, the 17th Karmapa went onto explain that Gyuto[1] and Gyume are the two great tantric monasteries and very important for Buddhist teachings in general and, in particular, for the tantric teachings of Je Tsongkhapa[2], which are based on the three tantras[3] brought from India to Tibet by Lhodrak Marpa the Translator[4] (1012-1097).

15th century Tibetan thangka of Guhyasamāja (see Guhyasamaja (Buddhist Deity) – Akshobhyavajra (Himalayan Art)).

The 17th Karmapa explained how Marpa, one of the main founders of the Kagyu lineages, was also the source of the tantric practice and philosophy of Je Tsongkhapa:

“Generally, there are three main yidams (Sang de jig sum) in the Gelug tradition are Guhyasamāja, Cakrasamvara, and Yamantaka. Je Tsongkhapa probably regarded Guhyasamāja[5] to be the most important. For that reason, there is a well-known saying that: “if there is Guhyasamāja there are teachings of Tsongkhapa,  and if there is no Guhyasamāja, then there are no Tsongkhapa teachings.”

Jamchen Choje Shākya Yeshe (1354-1435). Follower and student of Je Tsongkhapa who wrote a liberation story about him.

A close student and follower of Tsongkhapa, Jamchen Choje Shākya Yeshe (byams chen chos rje shAkya ye she (1354-1435) [6], wrote a secret liberation story of Tsongkhapa that says: 

On a throne studded with many jewels
Is the omniscient Buton Rinchen Drum
Who gave him the root tantra of Guhyasamāja
And said, “Be the master of this.”
I supplicate the glorious guru.

He gave him the volume, and with a mantra and mudra,
Blessed him on the top of his head.
He realised that the points of mixing and phowa from Lhodrak Marpa
Are the tantra and the pith instructions of the Noble One.
I supplicate the glorious guru.

This describes how Je Tsongkhapa developed certainty that Marpa’s instructions on ‘mixing’ and phowa are the true meaning of the tantras and the pith instructions from Nagarjuna and his disciples.

Drukpa Kunleg (1455-1529)

Likewise, he also cited Drukpa Kunleg (1455-1529) [7], who was someone who would say whatever he thought or came into his mind. Once, Drugpa Kunleg met some mountain retreatants who lived a simple life and they told him “that all those philosophers worry and debate about the words but don’t really understand the meaning. The best at understanding the meaning is the practice of the Kagyupas.” Drugpa Kunleg replied that was not correct. Drugpa Kunleg told them “you don’t understand so just shut up and listen to this. The Gelugpas have the tantras that Marpa brought from India, such as Guhyasamāja, Cakrasamvara, Yamantaka and Hevajra. They practise and meditate on the path of unified creation and completion. They have the point of prana and mind entering the central channel; the unmistaken practice in the Gelugpa school.”” He also spoke about the Sakya school having this too and told them “this won’t fit in your mind so shut up and listen”.

[The mixing instructions referred to here are those that were also passed down from Naropa to Marpa, called ‘the nine-fold mixing’. In his Path to Illuminate the Five Stages Je Tsongkhapa developed a comprehensive practice on this.]

Quotations from Je Tsongkhapa and his disciples regarding the Kagyu tenets

The 17th Karmapa then gave quotations from some of Je Tsongkhapa’s own disciples that show he followed and supported Kagyu tenets.

“Je Tsongkhapa’s own disciple, Chennga Sonam Gyaltsen (sPyan mnga’ bsod nams rgyal mtshan, 1378-1466) [8]of the Pagdru Kagyu lineage, said in Questions and Answers: A String of Vaidurya that Je Tsongkhapa not only never refuted the Kagyu tenets but also said they could be proven to be in his own tradition.  

In terms of view, generally, Je Tsongkhapa liked the Prāsaṅgika [Consequentialist] view, and among that especially the teachings of Candrakīrti. Tsongkhapa said that Lord Marpa was also a Prāsaṅgika, as evidenced by Marpa’s song:

On the banks of the river Ganges in the east,
Due to the kindness of the great guru Maitripa,
I realised the ground, the non-arising dharmatā
The mind blazed in emptiness.

His argument was that Maitripa taught the non-arising dharmatā to Marpa and that is the meaning of the Cakrasamvara tantra. Another of Je Tsongkhapa’s disciples, Lhenchik Kyepay Dorje, said that there was no-one who upholds the teachings of the tradition of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva without adornment better than Marpa. In that way, they asserted that Jetsun Marpa was a Prāsaṅgika proponent. Others said again and again that, in Tibet, there is no greater vajra master than Marpa.”

Milarepa’s Song
Marpa and Milarepa, master with student.

“The Prāsaṅgika falls into two traditions: one presents the relative truth as phenomena as mere existents saying they become true; the second maintains that they do not become true. The first is a presentation of relative truth. As support for this, Je Tsongkhapa and Je Milarepa both said similar things about this.   One of the songs of Milarepa makes this similarity clear:

In accordance with all you beginners’ thoughts,
The omniscient buddha said that
Everything exists. 

That is the conventional or relative truth of the existence of phenomena.

In terms of the ultimate truth, 
There is not even a buddha…

That is the ultimate truth of the non-existence of phenomena.

The existent appearing as things
And non-existent emptiness
Are inseparable in essence and one flavour.

Ultimately, samsara and nirvana and relative phenomena are merely words, but relatively they are inseparable.  Je Tsongkhapa taught that the joining together of the Madhyamaka teaching of emptiness and the realist view that things truly exist is the unique teaching of the Kagyu. This establishes the interdependence of phenomena appearing as things yet being empty by nature.

Je Tsongkhapa said that linking appearance and emptiness in this way without contradiction was a particular view of the Kagyu school.  He pointed to a saying of Lord Gampopa, “When you realise emptiness, you must see interdependence thoroughly,” and asserted that this was a really important point.

Phagmo Drupa

Je Tsongkhapa also praised Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo [9] [phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po (1110-1170) a direct disciple of Gampopa] as an authoritative being. He also said that Gyalwa Yangupa Chenpo, was a yogi who had realization of the perfection stage and praised him highly.

He praised the view of Mahāmudrā (since it did not refute the prajna that individually discriminates) as excellent. Though later scholars accused Mahāmudrā of being a Hashang or nihilistic view, Tsongkhapa himself did not say this and said it was excellent.

Also, in Tibet at that time, the three tantras of Guhyasamāja, Cakrasaṃvara and Hevajra were extremely important. Tsongkhapa’s main tantric practices were Guhyasamāja and Cakrasaṃvara. In Guhyasamāja tradition out of the Marpa and Go Lotsawa traditions, he stated that the best tradition on the Guhyasamāja Tantra came from Marpa. As there were aspects that had not been so clear in that Guhyasamāja tradition previously that were greatly clarified by Marpa, he said that Marpa’s pith instructions were absolutely necessary to develop certainty[10]. He made Marpa’s tradition the main one.

Nāropa’s Cakrasaṃvara and Six Yogas
Naropa (Palpung Sherabling)

Likewise, he made the Cakrasaṃvara tradition from Nāropa the most important, filling in those teachings from other Indian masters. With Hevajra, although there is no great explanation or practice of that in the Tsongkhapa tradition,  he primarily made the Ngog tradition of Hevajra to be the most important. In terms of the perfection stage of the father and mother tantras, he asserts that the Six Yogas of Naropa gives the clearest and best explanation of the crucial points.”

[Je Tsongkhapa wrote some texts about the Six Yogas of Nāropa which were passed down the Gelug lineage. One of these has been translated into English, see here [11].]

Je Tsongkhapa did not dislike the Kagyu lineage and positively supported it

“Although there are different terminologies, the actual teaching on view, meditation and conduct in the presentations by Tsongkhapa and the Kagyu are basically the same. There are differences in explanation but no huge difference in meaning.

There is no clear example or instance that show Je Tsongkhapa was displeased or disliked the Kagyu in any way. If he sometimes refuted their view, we have to remember that he also refuted the views of Indian masters. He did not dislike the Kagyu. In fact, as one of his students, Pagdru Chenga Sonam Gyaltsen said, “Je Tsongkhapa taught that the precious Kagyu lineage was in accord with him and we should be delighted about that.”

Likewise there was another student of Tsongkhapa called Baser Khachupa (‘ba’ ser dka’ bcu pa). He was one the four main masters of the ten disciplines. Some people say there are four main masters, and others say there is one, whatever people say, Baser Khachupa was one of these.  In the 5th Volume of Je Tsongkahapa’s Collected Works there are some notes on Guyhasamaja by Khachupa [ ‘ba’ ser dka’ bcu pas rje la gsan pa’i gsang ‘dus bskyed rim zin bris/[12]]. I received an old text of his on explanation of the Kagyu teachings,  which says that the teachings of all the Buddhas on compassion and wisdom was condensed into one brought into Tibet by the great masters of the Kagyu tradition, and the one who is teaching and distributing these was his own lama, Je Tsongkhapa. So one should never say that  that Tsongkhapa did anything to harm the Kagyu teachings. On the contrary, he supported and propagated them.”

The qualities of Tsongkhapa and how his followers may have impeded the spread of his teachings

“There are some who say that Tsongkhapa’s view of emptiness was not the final view that fits with the earlier teachings of great masters. We need to really examine if this is actually true or not.

For example,  in the Golden Garland of Eloquence (legs bshad gser gyi ‘phreng ba) Je Tsongkhapa wrote, “I have not described the nature free of the elaborations of the eight extremes, as Nagarjuna and his disciples did, because the words alone would scare people.” So we can infer from this passage that he had his own particular presentation of the Madhyamaka at that time.

Not only that, Tsongkhapa’s direct disciple Go Lotsawa Zhonnu-pel [‘gos lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal (1392-1491)] wrote in his liberation-story that “Je Rinpoche appeared in Tibet, like a buddha appearing in this world. When Tsongkhapa went to sojong and other rituals, he was so magnificent, it felt as though the very mountains began to shake.”

In another text, The Great Medicine of Amrita [13], it says that “even Vajrapani would be unable to understand the qualities of Je Tsongkhapa.” So there is no higher praise that one could give Je Tsongkhapa. Yet, is is said that his students did not always pay close attention to his great qualities. 

When Tsongkhapa was teaching about the definitive and provisional meanings [nge don and drang don] he said there were ways of presenting them which do not contradict the teachings in the Sublime Continuum [Uttaratantrashastra]. With a teacher like that of great qualities and activities it would have been usual to have immediately presented a mandala and supplicated him to explain more, but no-one did and so they didn’t get an explanation of what he meant by that. Thus, as Go Lotsawa taught, this shows some followers paid attention to some of Tsongkhapa’s teachings but did not pay attention to other aspects of him, such as his great qualities.

Later, when you look at the Precious Garland of Explanations, or Jamyang Shepa’s teachings, these are rated highly in the Gomang monastery and Amdo areas, but most of the other Gelugpa followers and not paid so much attention to those teachings. So, that is why there many controversies in the Nyingma tradition about the tenets and teachings of Tsongkhapa.

Also, in Tsongkhapa’s instructions on Nāropa’s Six Yogas, Endowed with the Three Confidences (nA ro chos drug gi ‘khrid rim yid ches gsum ldan/) there are Tsongkhapa’s views on simultaneist and gradual approaches to enlightenment and he said that the simultaneist have to have a high realization. He also said that is was not necessary to give the four empowerments to highly realized students.

In the old Tibetan tradition, they would build a teaching up and pay attention if it was a bit unusual or different. Yet if it was the same as a teaching before, they would almost ignore it.  Shakyamuni Buddha had many different ways of teaching, such as Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana. Je Tsongkhapa was such a great scholar and master and had many different ways of teaching. Yet some students have really focused on why one aspect of his teachings are logical and so on, to the exclusion of other aspects of his teachings. This is the reason, why  Tsongkhapa‘s own followers may have become an impediment to the spread of his teachings widely among all the other lineages. So that is how I think about it sometimes.

In any case, it important it is for us to look at things from a broad perspective. The more we can view things from all perspectives and consider Je Tsongkhapa beyond a narrow sectarian view, we can see how he had a great effect on the teachings and  benefitted the teachings in general and had a lasting influence on all Tibetan lineages. Sometimes it is difficult to explain things in ways that everyone can understand clearly.”

The 8th Karmapa’s attitude towards a conflict between Gelugpa and Kagyu monks
8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

After teaching more on the text ‘Good Deeds’ by 8th Karmapa, the 17th Karmapa concluded the Day 12 teachings by speaking about a historical conflict that happened between some Kagyu and Gelugpa monks, and how the 8th Karmapa diffused it, he explained that:

“These days there are people who do not put the teachings into practice correctly. They seek only to defeat their enemies and help their friends. They are under the power of the maras and, just as a shoot cannot grow from the ashes of a burnt seed, the Three Jewels cannot protect them. If we do not believe the teachings of the Buddha and follow a mistaken teaching instead, it is impossible for the Three Jewels to help us.1.03)

On one occasion, some of 8th Karmapa’s students were travelling through Kongpo. On the way, they arrived at some Gelugpa monasteries, at Powo Drotungpa, but the monasteries did not let them in. The Gelugpa monks must also have harmed them in some way because in Kongpo there were a lot of the Kagyu communities and monasteries and they got together and assembled an army and ready to go to war. The war did not go well so they summoned even more people, with the intent of destroying all the Gelugpa monasteries in Kongpo. So when they did this, Mikyo Dorje intervened, saying, “If you harm even the smallest of the Gelugpa monasteries, it’s the same as cutting my throat.“ As a consequence, they listened to what he said and left the Gelugpa monasteries untouched.

Some people, who were biased towards Karma Kamtsang, then came to the Karmapa and accused him of ignoring the benefit of the teachings and even accused him of destroying the Karma Kagyu teachings. Mikyo Dorje responded, “No matter what negative things people say because of this situation, I will take them on myself. Whether I have destroyed the teachings or not, comes down to this point right now in this crisis situation: Do we have the antidotes in our being? Do we have virtue in our being or not? It does not help to pretend we have those things when we don’t.” Many of the Kamtsang complained that because the Gelukpa had been creating problems, something had needed to be done about it and criticized the 8th Karmapa at that time.

However,  Yangri Tonpa Kunsangwa, a good retreatant and practitioner, understood and praised Mikyo Dorje, “Now, the Karmapa has really shown us the signs of practice. He used to leave handprints and footprints. Those are probably signs of accomplishment, but the real sign of accomplishment is that, in response to harm, he is actually bringing benefit.“ So a few people praised him

The majority of Kagyu followers criticised Mikyo Dorje’s actions and said he was not ‘manly’ or brave enough. When the armies left, then the Gelugpas from Tse Gungtang monastery sent monks to see Mikyo Dorje at the Garchen and make confessions to him. They told him that, last year,  as he had kindly protected them during the conflict, they now had faith that he was Avalokiteshvara. If we wanted to wage war on you we could do it but as we recognize your activities were those of Avalokiteshvara, we will not and they had come to confess to him. One of the Gelugpas then requested the lung of a wrathful Guru Rinpoche practice. Mikyo Dorje replied, “You Gelugpa are coming to ask me the Karmapa for a Nyingma dharma. Isn’t that just laughable?”

There had been some conflict between the Gelugpa and the Kagyu during the time of the 7th Karmapa. There was no real reason for the conflict, just misunderstandings amplified by rumour and people not really thinking about it properly. As there was no real way to resolve or communicate about them well.   The greatest source of conflict was the Kagyu monastery in Lhasa, so Mikyo Dorje abandoned that. Thus, generally, the Kagyu and Gelug monasteries in Kongpo had good relations with each other. This is a good example of his activity. People say that if the hard—headed followers of Kagyu had acted as they wished, this would not have been possible, but it was by acting on the advice of 8th Karmapa that these friendly relations arose.”

Kagyu teachers of Tsongkhapa

Although the 17th Karmapa did not refer to this in his teaching, according to his Treasury of Lives biography:

“In addition, at the age of three, Tsongkhapa took lay upāsaka vows from the 4th Karmapa Rolpai Dorje (karma pa 04 rol pa’i rdo rje, 1340-1383) and received the name Kunga Nyingpo (kun dga’ snying po). He also followed a Kagyu lama, Umapa Pawo Dorje (dbu ma pa dpa’ bo rdo rje, d.u.), to act as an intermediary with Mañjuśrī. Tsongkhapa had met this Kagyu lama when he was thirty-three. By this time Tsongkhapa had completed his work on The Golden Garland and was, with Pawo Dorje, studying Candrakīrti’s (seventh century) Madhyamakāvatāra. Pawo Dorje and Tsongkhapa undertook a retreat together during this period and Tsongkhapa is said to have posed numerous questions to Mañjuśrī through Pawo Dorje. Eventually, however, Tsongkhapa himself began to experience visions and was able to communicate with Mañjuśrī directly, receiving instructions and tantric empowerments, most importantly those related to Mañjuśrī and Vajrabhairava.”

Praises and Refutations by the 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje

The 17th Karmapa previously taught about a song written by the 8th Karmapa in praise of four lineage masters, one of whom is Je Tsongkhapa, see here.

In addition, the 8th Karmapa wrote a specific song In Praise of the Incomparable Tsong Khapa:

“When the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu, Kadam
And Nyingma sects in Tibet were declining,
You, O Tsong Khapa, revived Buddha’s Doctrine,
Hence I sing this praise to you of Ganden Mountain.”

—from Thurman, Robert (2009). Life and Teachings of Tsong Khapa. Library of Tibetan Works & Archives.

However, the 8th Karmapa also refuted Tsongkhapa’s tenets, which is discussed at length by Karl Brunnholzl in The Center of the Sunlit Sky: Madhyamaka in the Kagyu Tradition There is a sixty-page section comparing the views of Tsongkhapa to those of Mikyo Dorje’s, “whose writing, not only is a reaction to the position of Tsongkhapa and his followers but addresses most of the views on Madhyamaka that were current in Tibet at the time, including the controversial issue of ‘Shentong-Madhyamaka.’” The texts by 8th Karmapa are:

  1. Treatise on the Madhyamakalankara of Chandrakirti. On the various methods of interpreting Madhyamaka philosophy. Written by Karmapa 08 Mikyo Dorje. Mi bskyod rdo rje. (dBu ma la ‘jug pa’i rnam bshad dpal ldan dus gsum mkhyen pa ‘i zhal lung Dwags brgyud grub pa ‘i shing rta). Published by Nirthatha International India (1996) by the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje. TBRC W22279.
  2. The Lamp that Excellently Distinguishes Shentong Madhyamaka. Written by Karmapa 08 Mikyo Dorje. Mi bskyod rdo rje, dBu ma gzhan stong smra ba’i srol legs par phye ba ‘i sgron me. In karma pa sku phreng rim byon gyi gsung ‘bum phyogs bsgrigs/. TBRC W3PD1288. 60: 22 – 55. lha sa/: dpal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ‘jug khang /, 2013?
Pleasant Melody of the Right-Turning Conch’ Je Tsongkhapa’s words to 17th Karmapa on his escape from Tibet

Even though this was not mentioned in the 17th Karmapa’s teaching, here are the words that 17th Karmapa reported Je Tsongkhapa saying to him on his escape from Tibet:

Om Swasti.

From the state of peace, in nature an expanse of profundity and clarity,

The vast space of dharmakaya, all-pervading absolute truth,

Resounds graceful music, connate magic,

The pleasant melody of myriads of excellent virtues.

At the sunset of Shakyamuni’s doctrine,

The approach of the waning of the youthful rays,

Appears a torch smiling like the moon’s face,

Three secrets that gracefully ornament the sky of the victor’s doctrine.

In the vast park of endless existence,

Bloom poisonous leaves, the appearances of bewilderment.

The suffering of these appearances, their taste and potency,

Is this really worthy of praise as a true medicine?

On the vast face of the luminous sky

Clouds of merit play, delighting all.

Through the cooling, honeyed rain of camphor, bodhicitta,

May all enjoy the nutriment of the definitively secret result.

On the calyx, a thousand varieties of discernment,

Rests sweet dew, the full potency of virtues long established.

Upon its being drunk by the bee, the clear intellect,

Songs are sung, accompanied by the dance of great bliss.

In evil times of the full five-fold degeneration, the obscuration of youth,

The behavior of beings is the dance of madness,

Uncertain and without trust.

May it be bound by the light of altruistic morality.

Dedicate the sun of virtues, that goddess resplendent

With the ornaments of complete joy,

Arising from the slopes of the eastern mountain, genuine altruism,

To all beings including myself.

The youth of mundane joy and well-being is impermanent.

One cannot know when it will be destroyed.

I aspire, through unending, peaceful conduct without aggression,

To the achievement of splendid happiness for all beings.

Finally, in the garden of dharmadhatu, akanishta,

In unity beyond elaboration, the nature of liberation,

May you and I enjoy the taste of dharma, profound and lucid,

In the state of vast purity and equality.

While I was escaping to India, this was said to me in Mustang by the great Tsongkhapa, the victor of the east.”

This was dictated by His Holiness the Seventeenth Gyalwa Karmapa to Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Translated by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Lama Yeshe Gyamtso. Translation copyright © 2000 by the translators. See: Rumtek Dharma Chakra Centre – The Pleasant Melody of the Right Turning Conch.


[1] In terms of the origin of Gyuto monastery, Tibet: “In 1474 (AD), the Wood-Horse year, Kunga Dhondup Pel Sangpo (1419-1486) started teaching tantra at U-tö Jampaling monasery, and gradually his disciples increased and thus the name Gyuto (Upper) Tantric Monastery came into being. In the later part of life, when the water level of the Kyichu River rose and posed danger to the city of Lhasa, Depa Kyisho, the governor of Kyisho region, requested him to ward off the threat of flood.

Kunga Dhondup, together with his disciples, performed peaceful and wrathful rituals and calmed down the river. As an appreciation for his kind deed, Depa Kyisho offered him the Ramoche Temple, including its internal objects. Kunga Dhondup founded a tantric monastery inside the temple and started teaching tantra. Later, by the kindness of the successive Dalai Lamas, the monastery expanded both in terms of monks’ number and tantric training and practice. It became an excellent monastic seat for the studies of monastic discipline, tantric practice and meditation, and has thus become an exemplary monastic seat.”

[2] “At the age of three, Tsongkhapa took lay upāsaka vows from the Fourth Karmapa Rolpai Dorje (karma pa 04 rol pa’i rdo rje, 1340-1383) and received the name Kunga Nyingpo (kun dga’ snying po). Then at the age of eight he received the novice ordination of a srāmanera, together with the name Lobzang Drakpa (blo bzang grags pa), from the Kadam master Choje Dondrub Rinchen (chos rje don grub rin chen, b. 1309). Dondrub Rinchen, a great practitioner of Vajrabhairava, had been in contact with Tsongkhapa and his family since the boy’s birth, and is said to have received prophecies of the child’s importance from his own teacher and deity.” See: Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa – The Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalayan Region

[3] “During his first year under Nāropa’s guidance, Marpa received initiation and instruction in Guhyasamāja tantra, and practiced until he had clear realization of it. (Marpa’s Guhyasamāja lineage would later spread widely in Tibet, and is still practiced within the Gelugpa school that would receive it from Marpa Kagyu lamas centuries later.) Marpa next asked for the Hevajra tantra, for which Nāropa sent him to Jñānagarbha, who trained him fully in the practice. Marpa then requested transmission of the Mahāmāyā mother tantra, and for that he was sent on a terrifying journey to meet the highly unconventional mahāsiddha Kukkuripa, who likewise generously instructed him fully in that and in other practices.”  Marpa Lotsāwa (1012-1097) – KTD (

[4] Marpa Chokyi Lodro – The Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalayan Region

[5] “Other important tantric works include his works on Guhyasamāja, especially his 1401 Commentary on the Vajrajñānasamuccayanāma Tantra(ye shes rdo rje kun las btus pa zhes bya ba’i rgyud)and the 1411 Exposition of the Five Stages of Guhyasamāja (gsang ‘dus rim lnga gsal sgron)Texts on the Guhyasamāja Tantra feature prominently in Tsongkhapa’s collected works, making up the majority of his eighteen volumes of writings.” See Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa – The Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalayan Region.

There are said to be  five principal lineages for this form of the meditational deity Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamāja. They are the Atisha, Marpa, Go Lotsawa, Khache and Chag traditions (Jowo lugs/ mar lugs/ ‘gos lugs/ kha che lugs/ and chags lugs).

[6] “Shākya Yeshe likely first encountered Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa (tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419) in the first years of the fifteenth century. He served as a personal attendant to Tsongkhapa, who was three years younger, during a strict two-year meditation retreat from 1407 to 1409, charged with preparing tea and food for his master. Shākya Yeshe had the rare opportunity to observe his master round the clock for a great number of years and to attend his teachings. Over time, Shākya Yeshe became one of Tsongkhapa’s closest disciples due to his humility and loyalty to his master, and the number of sacred teachings he received.”

[7] Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), also known as Kunga Legpai Zangpo, Drukpa Kunleg (brug pa kun legs), and Kunga Legpa, the Madman of Drug (brug smyon kun dga’ legs pa).

[8] Chennga Sonam Gyaltsen was a Drigung Kagyu lama from whom Tsongkhapa received the Six Teachings of Nāropa.

[9] Pakmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo – The Treasury of Lives: A Biographical Encyclopedia of Tibet, Inner Asia and the Himalayan Region

[10] This page Guhyasamāja Marpa system [Chapter 2] (, deals with the ‘Guhyasamaja Marpa system’ of the Blue Annals (deb-ther sngon-po.  This chapter belongs to Book 8 (The famous Dakpo Kagyü (traditions). It explains how Buton recived the instruction on Guhyasamaja of the Marpa lineage and how that was passed down to Tsongkhapa.

[11] The Six Yogas of Naropa: Tsongkhapa’s Commentary Entitled A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Naro’s Six Dharmas. Tr. Glenn C. Mullin (Snow Lion Publications (2005)).

[12]  See Collected Works of Je Tsongkhapa, Volume 5. TBRC W29193. Scanned from a printing of the Tashi Lhunpo Printery woodblocks.

[13] zhu lan sman mchog bdud rtsi’i phreng ba/. In Collected Works of Tsongkhapa, Volume 1, TBRC W22273.

2 thoughts on “JE TSONGKHAPA AND THE KAGYU LINEAGE: Marpa’s Guhyasamāja and Nāropa’s Cakrasaṃvara and Six Yogas. ‘Good Deeds’ teaching by 17th Karmapa (Day 12)

  1. I really feel fortunate and joyful when I encounter with this website.( I do hope that this website will be flourished in the future for all sentient beings.THank you with deep appreciation

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