REVIVING MARPA THE TRANSLATOR’S LINEAGE AND LEGACY: Hevajra Tantra, Marpa-Ngog Lineage, Six Bone Ornaments of Nāropa, Editions and contents of Marpa’s Collected Works and Drikung Kagyu

“The lineage is not renowned
Yet it possesses the Dharma vision of ḍākinīs.
The forefather is not renowned
Yet Tilopa is the innate face of Buddha.
The guru is not renowned
Yet he possesses the Dharma vision of Nāropa.
I, myself, am not renowned
Yet I am the heart son of Nāropa.
The pith instructions are not renowned
Yet they are three wish-fulfilling gems.
The distinctive Dharma is not renowned
Yet they are the mixing and transference, absent in all others,
And the aural transmissions, absent in all others”


—–by Marpa Lotsawa (Excerpt from Marpa’s Life Story by Ngog Dode)[1]


On 11th August, the Drikung Kagyu head, HH Tinley Lhundrup , together with scholar-translator, Dr. Cecile Ducher, and HE 11th Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche, commemorated the anniversary of the Mahaparanirvana of Marpa Lotsawa‘s student, Ngog Choku Dorje (rngog ston chos sku rdo rje, 1023-1090).  The full video of the event can be seen here.

Many people will have heard of Marpa’s famous other student, Jetsun Milarepa but perhaps not so much about Ngog.  Recently, the Karma Kagyu head, HH the 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, gave a brief introduction to the Marpa-Ngog tradition, see my article about that here. In this, the Karmapa explained the different transmissions from Marpa passed down to Ngog, and how these were later compiled and preserved by Jamgon Kongtrul in the Treasury of Kagyu Mantras (Kagyu Ngag Dzo).  This month from 23rd August, the 17th Karmapa will give two weeks of teachings on the origins of Secret Mantra, looking at the Marpa-Ngog tradition in particular (see image below):

In this website post, Part I is a brief summary (together with edited transcripts) of the Marpa-Ngog event including information on the Hevajra Tantra and its connection to Kagyu lineages, and the current Drikung Kagyu initiatives to revive Marpa’s works and legacy.

Part II is my own research on the five current editions of the Collected Works of Marpa. Considering the first Collected Works was published in 2004, it is surprising (that as of now) neither an outline of these Works, nor any of the texts have been translated or published in English. Thus, I offer the first published English translation of the outline/contents of the Lhasa 2009 edition.

There is also now a section on this website dedicated to new research and translations on Marpa, see here.

As a Dharma translator myself, the life and works of Marpa are inspiring indeed. His arduous and challenging journeys to India, no flights, hotels, luxury buses, internet, laptops etc. available then! Yet, he persevered despite it all and managed to get all the empowerments and transmissions from the Indian Mahasiddhas, such as Nāropa and bring that to Tibet. This current revival of Marpa and his teachings and legacy is wonderful news indeed. I also hope to do more research and translation on this topic in the future. However, as Marpa says in the opening quote here, it is not about fame or followers but about the authenticity of the lineage and the teachings. In the words of 11th Choeze Rinpoche, ‘may the Marpa-Ngog lineage flourish like the sun, moon and the ocean!”

Written, translated and transcribed by Adele Tomlin, 12th August 2021.



Marpa the Translator

According to HH Drikung Kyabgon Chetzang Rinpoche, in his book from From the Heart of Tibet, chapter 18 (The Music of Awakening):

“The tradition of the great translator, Marpa, has been neglected in all Kagyu schools, although for the Kagyupa he is the most important connecting link in the transmission from India to Tibet. Many of his teachings are in danger of being lost, and with them goes the central pillar that upholds the spiritual edifice of the schools.  Marpa is wrongly considered to have been relatively uneducated, and therefore of lesser significance, but Marpa represents the main trunk of the Kagyupa, from which many schools branched off.“

Slide from Cecile Ducher’s presentation on Marpa’s Teachers

Marpa received teachings from 108 Indian gurus, his two main gurus were mahasiddhas, Nāropa and Maitripa.  Marpa had four main disciples who are known as the “Four Pillars”:

  1. Milarepa,
  2. Ngog Choku Dorje,
  3. Meton Tsonpo, and
  4. Tsurton Wanggi Dorje.

The main line of transmission of the Drikungpa follows the lineage from Milarepa through Gampopa to Phagmodrupa and Jigten Sumgon. However, Marpa transmitted a series of tantras to Ngog Choku Dorje that were known as the Seven Mandalas of Ngog. This tradition, with its own transmissions and initiations, but without special commentaries and teachings, lasted for seven generations. The transmission of the seven mandalas was also primarily upheld by the Drikung Kagyu lineage, and to save them from oblivion, Jamgon Kongtrul [Karma Kagyu and Rime master] combined them with other teachings of Marpa to form the Kagyu Ngag Dzo [for more on that work, see here].  

Lineage transmitted from Marpa to Ngog Choku Dorje

The Mahaparanirvana event began with a speech by the current  Drikung Kagyu head, HH Chetsang Rinpoche, (from 23 minutes in Youtube video). He first gave some background on the life of Marpa and Ngog Choku Dorje.  

Nairātmyā  – female consort/aspect of the Hevajra mandala

According to Chetsang Rinpoche,:

“Ngog met Marpa when he was about eighteen years old. The first empowerment Marpa gave to Ngog was the fifteen-goddess deity mandala of Nairātmyā, the female aspect of the mandala. Normally, we practice the nine-deity Hevajra mandala, but Ngog practiced the fifteen goddess mandala of Nairātmyā and attained realisation of that. After that, he got the other tantric cycles such as the male aspect the nine deity Hevajra, then the other cycles of Mahayama, complete with all the transmissions and instructions, and also founded his own monastery in Zhung, Tibet.”

Drikung Kyabgon then explained how Ngog had offered up ‘three abandonings’ of all his possessions (first, it was his nomad possessions of cattle, yaks, tents; second, all his texts and third, all his sheep) to Marpa to get the all the tantric cycles and the instructions and empowerments.

“Then, he got the blessing and prophecy from Marpa who told him Ngog’s lineage will continue for seven generations and they will all become vajra masters, and this actually happened. Afterwards, Ngog was mainly known for upholding the Hevajra lineage that he got from Marpa.”

Importance of the Hevajra Tantra in the Marpa-Ngog lineage, meaning of name Hevajra and visualisation

17th Century Tibetan thangka of Hevajra from the Marpa-Ngog Kagyu tradition.

Chetsang Rinpoche then spoke about the importance of Hevajra as a tantra in both the Kangyur and Tengyur:

“I cannot give extensive teachings online on the Hevajra Tantra as it should be between teacher and student. We know the appearance aspect of Hevajra. As for Hevajra in the many texts, the many collections of Kangyur and Tengyur, we can see how important the Hevajra tantra is. It is the first tantra that is considered in the Tantra collections, so there is a lot of Hevajra literature. For example, in the Dege Tengyur collection on the actual root tantra there are 38 commentaries, 89 texts that deal with the male aspect, and the female aspect, there are 18 texts. There are 10 texts that consider the explanatory tantras. On the aspect that deals with the subtle channels and winds and so on, there are 25 texts. That amounts to 180 texts on the tantra itself.

In Tibet, the two main lineages famous for upholding the Hevajra practice are Sakya and Kagyu lineages. One scholar, Tsarchen  Sonam Gyamtso composed a work that explains the Hevajra tantra, he did research and put it very clearly as to how it is upheld these days. He begins with teaching traditions of accomplished Indian masters, including  traditions that go back to Nāropa and Maitripa. These have the complete path, there are other traditions but they don’t have the complete path. The Sakya scholar says that in the Tibetan tradition, the only one that is complete is the one from Marpa that was passed onto Ngog from the Zhung area, this is the complete one. It’s path of liberation, generation stage, the six limbs, completion stage, the key instructions on merging and transference and they have the backbone of the explanations on root and explanatory tantra. It is the complete path that goes back to Nāropa. There are other lineages like Repa and Tralpa but these all lack a complete path.

The name for Hevajra in Tibetan is ‘Kye Dorje’ , so He and Vajra is like He! O!, like addressing someone. Vajra means emptiness, ‘O emptiness!’ This symbolizes it is the essence of the teachings of all the Buddhas, likewise the deity in union should be understood as the male aspect is method and the female aspect symbolizes wisdom. The union of method and wisdom. Accumulation of merit and wisdom. In terms of the practice path, the male aspect is clarity and awareness and female is emptiness etc. this embrace is thus the union of bliss and emptiness.”

He then went on to describe the visualization of the eight-face, sixteen arm deity and the symbolism of the implements[see footnote 2 below for the transcript of that]. He ended his talk by explaining how two years ago he gave teachings on Hevajra in the Milarepa centre in Germany, but due to the pandemic, he was unable to continue. They are now planning to hold a Great Practice (Drubchen) of the male and female aspect in about one year, and to also  give empowerments when hopefully the situation will have improved. The next Nairatmya Drubchen will be led by a female chant master.

On a sidenote, concerning the Hevajra practice, a reader/supporter of this website told me that Bokar Rinpoche in his book Tara The Divine Feminine mentioned a story of Virupa who spent many years doing Chakrasamvara practice which did not bring him realisation. After changing yidam practice to
Hevajra , Virupa attained realisation very quickly.  Bokar Rinpoche said that it is rare example of very strong connection with a particular yidam from previous lives.

Marpa’s Legacy and Transmissions from Indian Mahasiddhas and the six bone ornaments of Nāropa
HE 11th Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche

HE 11th Choeze Kuchen Rinpoche (who spoke after the Drikung Kyabgon) described how Marpa gave up a wealthy and privileged life to go to India to pursue the Dharma:

“When he reached Nepal and heard the name Nāropa Pandita, a deep devotion arose in him and he decided not to return home until he had got all the teachings from Nāropa himself, one of the foremost scholars of Nalanda University. When he met Nāropa, he accepted Marpa as his disciple, because Marpa’s arrival had been predicted by Tilopa.” Nāropa sent Marpa to various Indian masters to get the tantric teachings, and he faced many obstacles trying to do so. When Marpa returned, Nāropa gave him all the teachings and transmissions again. It was a trial to test Marpa….

Marpa went three times to India. His first journey was to find his gurus. His second journey was to perfect Mahamudra. His third journey was to decode the dakini script as prophesised…..

Many Tibetan masters travelled to India, yet there were no Tibetan masters like Marpa who travelled to India three times, and stayed for such a long time and getting teachings from so many Mahasiddas, and he was appointed as the regent of the Mahasiddha, Nāropa. I personally feel that this historical person has not been appreciated enough by the historians and Vajrayana practitioners and followers. The most important crucial feature of his visits to India was the time he went. It was around the beginning of Arab invasions. Buddhism in India was feeling under attack with a hostile atmosphere and slowly sliding towards extinction. Hence, Marpa’s timely quest for authentic Indian masters and translating the precious teachings into Tibetan, was undeniably one of the greatest contributions to sustain Buddhist tantras and liberation of countless beings, for which we are eternally grateful. When Marpa returned to Tibet many people sought teachings from him, including his four main heart-sons whom he appointed as his regents…

Despite his realisations, Marpa spent the remainder of his life as a humble farmer. Though common people saw him as a farmer, many others saw him as Hevajra himself, and there are many stories of him performing extraordinary miracles and having attained full enlightenment.”

Indian Mahasiddha, Nāropa

Rinpoche also spoke about the importance of Hevajra to both Marpa and Ngog:

“Among all the teachings that Marpa received, Hevajra held a very special place for him. It is said that Nāropa gave Hevajra to Marpa as his first instruction and was his personal yidam since then. Marpa then also gave Hevajra to Ngog Choku Dorje as his first empowerment, and appointed him regent of the Hevajra teachings. Marpa also gave Ngog the famous six sets of bone ornaments of Nāropa as an auspicious blessing [3].”

Current Gyalwang Drugpa Kagyu head wearing the six bone ornaments of Naropa in 2016 in Ladakh, India.

[Here is a video taken of the event in 2016 in Ladakh, India.]

Choeze Rinpoche then explained the importance of reviving and maintaining the Marpa-Ngog Lineage:

“The rise and flourishing of the Hevajra teachings can be understood from the life of Ngog Choku Dorje, who attained the full rainbow body without leaving any physical remains dissolving into space…..Again, his following seven descendants composed many commentaries on Hevajra, practising it and attaining realisation. These seven are known as the Precious Seven (Rinchen Dunden) of the Ngog Lineage……However, the Hevajra teachings are also regarded as one of the most profound and secret and very few have been able to prove their worth as disciples and even fewer to be able to accomplish it. So over time, it seems to have declined to its lowest point.

Therefore, to revive these precious teachings, HH Drikung Kyabgon has been working for the past two decades, by searching and collecting the works of Marpa. Practicing what he preaches, he also went on retreat in the holy mountains of Lachi. Finally in 2006, HH gave empowerments and instructions to tulkus, monastics and yogis and yoginis at the main Drikung Kagyu Changchub Ling for one month. I felt tremendous devotion to practice this remarkable teaching. When I offered a mandala at that time, HH told me ‘I know you want to go on Hevajra retreat, so be ready’. It seemed like he had read my mind, as I really wanted to do that retreat. He took us to the mountains and gave numerous pith instructions on Hevajra[4]. Due to his kindness and blessings, during that particular retreat I had the most meaningful and rich results. I am very fortunate to be his foremost disciple of Hevajra transmissions.”

Choeze Rinpoche explained that he was so delighted that Drikung Kyabgon had compiled an edition of Marpa’s Collected Works, that he sponsored the printing costs of the first edition:

“It was the first of its kind to be published in the 1000-years history of Kagyupa lineage. This effort is one of the greatest contributions to the entire Kagyupa lineage and will play a key role in the revival of the Mar-Ngog tradition….It is now our responsibility as his students to put our best efforts into practicing these teachings with devotion and getting the blessings.”[4]

The meaning of ‘Kagyu’, Four Descents of Transmission and the Four Pillars
Contemporary image of Ngog Choku Dorje

The final talk by scholar-translator, Dr. Cecile Ducher (an academic expert on Marpa and his student Ngog) gave an overview into the lineage and background of Marpa-Ngog.  Ducher explained how the Tibetan word: ‘Kagyu’ comes from the Tibetan term ‘Ka-bab-zhi’ meaning the ‘four oral descents/currents’. Ducher translates babs as currents, I prefer to use the word ‘descent’, although it has that sense of a current of water ‘falling down’ from one higher place to a lower place.

Ducher also gave a summary of the four main students of Marpa known as the four pillars.   Milarepa is generally seen as holding the ‘practice lineage’ of Marpa, and the three other students/pillars as holding the ‘explanation lineage’. Ngog is considered to be the Southern Pillar. Ngog also taught Milarepa briefly. Ducher showed photos of key places in the life of Ngog in Tibet, which she visited in person:

Photo of Ngog seats in Tibet (Cecile Ducher, 2021)

Ducher went onto explain how the Ngog lineage was passed down to Drikung Kagyu, going via Sakya master, Lochen Sonam Gyatso and then the Karma Kagyu master, 4th Zhamar Rinpoche to the 16th Drikung throne-holder, Gyalwa Kunga Rinchen:

Hevajra Drikung Kagyu lineage from Marpa-Ngog (Ducher, 2021)




Marpa’s Collected Works – Image from the Lhasa 2009 edition.

Considering how important Marpa was to the Kagyu lineages but also to Tibetan Buddhism and Vajrayana on the whole, I was surprised to learn that his Collected Works had only recently been collected and published in Tibetan, and that as of yet, no outline of these works is available in English, never mind the actual contents. 

I found five recent editions of Marpa’s Collected Works (gsung ‘bum/_mar pa chos kyi blo gros/). Four are on TBRC, one was printed in 2001 (the edition collected by Chetzang Rinpoche), two were printed in 2009 (one in India and one in Lhasa, Tibet), the other in 2011 in Beijing, China.

  1. DRIKUNG KAGYU, LHASA TIBET, 2004 EDITION. This edition is in Volumes 5 and 6 of a collection of texts from the Drikung Kagyu, as well as some texts from other Kagyu orders. Edited by Agon Rinpoche and published in Lhasa, Tibet.[5]
  2. DRIKUNG KAGYU, INDIA, 2009 EDITION. Is a computer input edition published in 2009 by the Drikung Kagyu Institute, India. 3 volumes.[6]
  3. BEIJING, CHINA, 2011 EDITION. 7 volumes. [7]
  4. LHASA, TIBET, 2009 EDITION. 3 volumes.[8]
  5. There is also a four-volume set being sold online by Namsze Bagdzo, in Tibetan, but is does not say when it was published and by whom. (see image). It is not listed on the TBRC website.

The 2004 Drikung Kagyu Lhasa edition is a block-print pecha text, with lovely illustrations of  Marpa’s  four main Indian teachers.

First page of the Marpa’s Collected Works, Lhasa Edition 2004

Front cover of edition being sold by Namze Bagdzo.

The outline/contents of these Collected Works has not been translated into English. Thus as my offering for the Marpa-Ngog commemoration I offer the first translation in English of the outline of the Collected Works published in Lhasa, Tibet in 2009.  I hope to do a more detailed analysis and outline of these works in due course.




First Section:  The Blessing Lineage of the Oral Descent (བཀའ་བབས་བྱིན་བརྒྱུད)

This contains four main texts:

  • The General Explanation of the Oral Descent Lineage  (བཀའ་བབས་བྱིན་བརྒྱུད ་ཀྱི་སྤྱི་བཤད་ལ།)
  • Lineage of Blessings of Realisations (རྟོགས་པ་བྱིན་རླབས་ཀྱི་བརྒྱུད་པ།)
  • Lineage of Experiential Oral Transmissions (བཀའ་བབས་ཉམས་ཀྱི་བརྒྱུད་པ།)
  • Life-Stories of the Four Oral Transmissions (རིང་བརྒྱུད་བཀའ་བཞི་བླ་མའི་རྣམ་ཐར།)

Second Section: Life-Stories, teachings and songs (གཉིས་པ་རྣམ་ཐར་དང་གསུང་མགུར།)

This contains six main texts/sections:

  • Glorious Tilopa’s Life-Stories, teachings and songs (དཔལ་ཏཻ་ལོ་པའི་རྣམ་ཐར་དང་གསུང་མགུར།)
  • Glorious Nāropa’s Life-Stories, teachings and songs (དཔལ་ནཱ་རོ་པའི་རྣམ་ཐར་དང་མགུར། )
  • Teachings on practice on inner suffering
  • Vajradhara Tilopa and Naropa’s wisdom, realizations and songs (རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང་ཏཻ་ལོ་པ་དང་ནཱ་རོ་ཡེ་ཤེས་དངོས་གྲུབ་ཀྱི་རྣམ་མགུར། )
  • Interpreter Marpa Lotsawa’s Vast Life-Story, Meaningful to See. (སྒྲ་བསྒྱུར་མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱའི་རྣམ་ཐར་ཆེན་མོ་མཐོང་བ་དོན་ཡོད། )
  • Marpa Lotsawa’s Songs (མར་པ་ལོ་ཙཱའི་རྣམ་མགུར། )

Third Section: Dharma cycle on Empowerments (གསུམ་པ་དབང་གི་ཆོས་སྐོར།)

This volume contains eight texts on empowerments:

  • Blessings of Dagmema (བདག་མེད་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས། )
  • Four Empowerments of Mahamudra (དབང་བཞི་ཉམས་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ། )
  • Concise Words on the activities of the Empowerments (དབང་གི་བྱ་བ་མདོར་བསྡུས་ཚིགས་བཅད་ཅན།)
  • Ripening Glorious Heruka Empowerment Lineage Instructions (དབང་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་གདམས་པ་དཔལ་ཧེ་རུ་ཀའི་སྨིན་བྱེད།)
  • Ritual of the empowerment of the Vajradakinis (རྡོ་རྗེ་མཁའ་འགྲོའི་མེ་དབང་གི་ཆོ་ག །)
  • Instructions connected to the empowerment on the Union of Sun and Moor of the Luminous Clarity (དབང་འབྲེལ་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་གདམས་པ་འོད་གསལ་ཉི་ཟླ་ཁ་སྦྱོར་གྱི་ཞལ་གདམས།)
  • Teachings on the ultimate nature via symbols and the instructions on liberating demons empowerment (དབང་བདུད་འགྲོལ་གྱི་གདམས་པ་དང་བརྡ་ཡི་སྒོ་ནས་གཉུག་མའི་དོན་བསྟན་པ།)
  • Teaching Supplement on Practice of the Empowerment (དབང་གི་ཕྱག་ལེན་ཁ་སྐོང་བསྟན་པ་བཞུགས།)

Fourth Section: Glorious Chakrasamvara Dharma Cycle (བཞི་པ་དཔལ་བདེ་མཆོག་གི་ཆོས་སྐོར། )

This section contains eighteen texts and sadhanas about Chakrasamvara and Vajravarahi.

Fifth Section: Cycle of Mahamudra (ལྔ་པ་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོའི་སྐོར།)

This volume contains nine texts on Mahamudra teachings, including one on the Gangama Mahumudra, and explanations of Tummo and the View.

Sixth Section: Naropa’s Six Yogas Cycle (དྲུག་པ་ནཱ་རོ་ཆོས་དྲུག་གི་སྐོར།)

This volume has twenty-nine texts, generally giving explanations on various topics connected to the practice of  the Six Yogas of Naropa.

Seventh Section: Short/Close Lineage Dharma Cycle (བདུན་པ་སྙན་བརྒྱུད་ཀྱི་ཆོས་སྐོར།)

This volume contains many texts, about the close lineage of Tilopa and the ‘formless dakinis’ and also texts about Chakrasamvara and Hevajra.



Cécile Ducher Building a Tradition The Lives of Mar-pa the Translator Cécile Ducher (Indus Verlag, 2017) see:

Andrew Quintman, “Marpa Chokyi Lodro,” Treasury of Lives,

Adele Tomlin (2021) GOLDEN TEACHINGS OF KAGYU TANTRA: Marpa the Translator and student Ngog, the Seven Ngog Mandalas, Thirteen Tantras of Marpa, Kongtrul’s Treasury of Kagyu Mantras

Adele Tomlin (2020) The Treasury of Kagyu Mantras (Kagyu Ngag Dzo): Composition, Sources, Contents and Editions



[1] This quote is on p.185 in  “Rje mar pa’i rnam thar” In Marpa’s Collected Works (Mar pa bka’ ’bum) 2004 edition. This is my translation of this quote, which  was originally translated and cited in Ducher (2017: 12) and is very apt for this post. I have changed the translation to use my own terminology and taken out Ducher’s use of rhetorical questions like ‘How’ or the word ‘my’. These words are not contained in the original Tibetan and it seems unsuitable that Marpa, a highly realized yogi practitioner, would use the word ‘my lineage’ and ask why it is not famous and so on.  The passage in Tibetan is making statements as opposed to complaining about the situation etc. I have also kept the repetition of the same Tibetan words, by repeating the same English words. For reference, Ducher’s translation is here:

“How could my lineage not be famous
When it is endowed with the spiritual vision of ḍākinīs?
How could my forefather not be famous
When he is Tilo, the one and only Buddha?
How could my guru not be famous
When he is Nāro who possesses the eye of Dharma?
How could I not be famous
When I am Nāro’s only heart-son?
How could my instructions not be famous
When they are three wish-fulfilling gems?
How could my special teachings not be famous
When they are the mixing and transference which no one else has
And the aural transmission that no one else owns?

(brgyud pa snyan par mi drag tu/ mka’ ‘gro chos kyi spyan can yin/ mes po snyan par mi sgrag tu/ te lo sangs rgyas nyag cig yin/ bla ma snyan par mi sgrag tu/ nAro chos kyi spyan can yin/ nga rang snyan par mi sgrag tu/ nA ro thugs kyi bu cig yin/ gdam ngags snyan par mi sgrag tu/  yid bzhin nor bu rnam sum yin/ khyad chos snyan par mi sgrag tu/ kun la med ba’i bsras ‘pho yin/ kun la med ba’i snyan rgyud yin/).

[2] HH Chetzang Rinpoche described the visualisation of the deity:

“There is the appearance of the Hevajra deity’s famous form of eight faces and sixteen arms. The explanation of the meaning of the symbolism is that the central face is blue, like the sky, which symbolises the empty nature of phenomenon. The right is white, representing pacifying activity; the left is red, for controlling;the two rear, remaining faces are black, symbolizing wrathful activity. The upper is smoke-coloured, and represents supreme and common siddhis.

 In terms of the hands, on the right side, the eight hands are symbolizing elimination of eight kinds of diseases by the animals held in the hands. In the first hand, there is the elephant, that represents elimination of lung disease. Then the blue horse represents elimination of respiratory diseases, like Covid these days. Then there is the brown donkey held in the third hand, representing psychological illnesses, and the fourth hand, a red ox for blood diseases and  TB. In the remaining right hands, is held an ash-coloured camel for elimination of leprosy, a red human for elimination of skin diseases, deer animal for elimination of liver diseases and a black cat for elimination of spleen diseases.

The implements held in the eight left hands in the skull cups, represent eight masteries. The first is the earth goddess, symbolizing mastery of awakened body, then the white water goddess, mastery of awakened speech; then the smoke-coloured wind goddess is for the mastery of awakened mind. Then, the red fire goddess is for mastery of awakened qualities; the white moon goddess for the mastery of awakened activity; the  red sun goddess for mastery of miracles, the black yama is for the mastery of being able to go anywhere, and the yellow lord of wealth for mastery of desires,

The deity is standing on a seat of corpses that symbolize the four maras, which create obstacles to our practice and development. Standing with one leg on the corpse of the God Brahma, symbolising the subduing the Mara of afflictive emotions. Another leg standing on the corpse of Shiva, symbolising the subduing of Mara of the aggregates. The other two deities represent the other Maras of the deity’s child and that of death.”

[3]  “The Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa are some of the most significant Buddhist relics in active use. Naropa wore the Six Bone Ornaments upon the moment of enlightenment and is an historic artifact of Himalayan culture. It was presented to him by dakinis and flew into the sky.

Upon Marpa’s accomplishment of enlightenment, Naropa declared: “The blessings of Master Krishnacharya breathed life into the lineages of Eastern regions, the Master Aryacharya has blessed the lineage of the South, and the King Indrabhodi transmitted his spiritual influence to the Western lineages. Bestow the waves of grace to the lineages of the North, the Lands of Snow. You have nothing more to do here – return to Tibet. I impart to you the power of my legacy; I appoint you my regent on the Roof of the World. The Land of Snow abounds in potential disciples, worthy vessels for my teachings.”
Following this declaration, Lord Naropa offered to Marpa the bone ornaments, which he was wearing and his rosary of rubies, as well as other ritual objects. Lord Naropa laid his noble hands upon the head of his regent Marpa, blessed him and gave him more instructions and then left to engage in victorious activity in all directions, beyond mundane existence.  Marpa entrusted the Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa to the great disciple, Ngokton Choku Dorje (1036-1102 CE) with the instructions to safeguard the Six Bone Ornaments until the seventh generation when he shall return the Six Bone Ornaments to the rightful master.

Then came the time when the Seventh Ngok, Ngokton Jangchub (1360-1446), encountered the Gyalwang Drukpa – Kunga Paljor, the Second Incarnation. Ngonton Jangchub then granted the Gyalwang Drukpa the totality of the articles transmitted in the lineage of Ngok, and offered him the Six Ornaments and the initiation vase of Lama Ngok, amongst other treasures. By proclaiming him holder of his articles, he finally declared: “The Dharma returns in the hands of its Sovereign!” and he then announced that the Victorious Dragon was the Incarnation of the Lord Naropa.

Since then the Incarnations of the Gyalwang Drukpa have successively inherited the Ornaments, which they kept as devotional support. The Gyalwang Drukpa offered them for viewing so that those fortunate beings who see them may accumulate merit.

Devotees believe that worthy seekers of truth may obtain enlightenment by merely seeing it and is regarded as a living piece of Himalayan history. Now, every 12 years, on the roof top of the Himalayas, the Gyalwang Drukpa dons the Six Bone Ornaments in Ladakh, India at one of the Himalayas’ biggest gatherings. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world flock to the month long ritual to partake in one of the oldest, most sacred ceremonies of the Himalayas. For many, they come to pay homage, others come to receive blessings, but to the people of the region it is a symbol of devotion, compassion and a reminder a rich heritage.”

[4] From The Heart of Tibet book: “Today, Marpa’s teachings have been scattered, and only parts of their transmissions are preserved by a few lamas. Rinpoche has long been actively seeking out holders of these transmissions to receive the teachings from them. From Khenchen Petse, a Nyingma master from Kham, he received the Manjushri Nama Samgiti, one of the Seven Mandalas of Ngog, and from the Dalai Lama he received the Marpa tradition of the Guhyasamaja Tantra.

…..Dezhung Ajam transmitted a combination of Sakya and Kagyu Hevajra teachings to Khenpo Ape, an outstanding scholar and founder of the Sakya College in Dehra Dun and of the International Buddhist College in Kathmandu, and Rinpoche received the Hevajra transmission from Khenpo Ape in Kathmandu. During this transmission Rinpoche relied on a commentary from the Marpa tradition that Gene Smith had discovered in a private collection in Japan, and since then he has published this text. Tantric practice consists of two stages, the generation stage and the completion stage. The process of generation (kyerim) contains visualizations and recitations, and the completion stage (dzogrim) encompasses work with subtle energies and the Path of Mahamudra. Today the Kagyupa mainly rely on the Chakrasamvara Tantra for the generation phase and the Six Yogas of Naropa for the completion stage, although the process of generation was originally based on the Hevajra Tantra.” 

[4] Regarding HH Drikung Kyabgon’s mission to revive this original tradition and re-establish it in all Drikung monasteries.  It is said (ibid.) that:

“In the course of his studies, he has discovered additional remarkable commentarial works that he is examining and revising. He received a previously unknown text by Marpa on the Hevajra Tantra from a man from eastern Tibet who had worked for a long time in the archives of the Potala, where numerous works were simply jumbled together, but at least they were preserved. He discovered the unknown work by Marpa among them and instantly recognized the work’s significance, but because he was unable to take anything out of the Potala, he carefully copied the text and added his copy to a collection of Taklung Kagyu texts. Rinpoche had access to that collection, and thus to the copy of Marpa’s text, because he actively supports the currently weak Taklung Kagyu lineage and is personally supervising the education of the young Taklung Shabdrung in Dehra Dun. He has painstakingly revised this previously unknown work containing unique teachings of Marpa and published it in a special edition containing the root text, Marpa’s commentary, and Rinpoche’s own notes, with his explanations of concepts that Marpa left unexplained or that are difficult to interpret.”

[5]. ’Bri gung bka’ brgyud chos mdzod las rje mar pa’i bka’ ’bum. Computer Input. A-mgon-rin-po-che (ed.). Lhasa, 2004. Vol. 5, pp. 167.4–188.1. W00JW501203.

[6] Drikung Kagyu Institute, Dehradun, Uttarakhand. 2009. par gzhi dang po/. gtso sgrig pa/ ‘bri gung skyabs mgon che tshang ‘phrin las lhun grub/. Computer Input. W1KG16461.

[7] krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang /, pe cin/. 2011. dpal brtsegs bod yig dpe rnying zhib ‘jug khang nas bsgrigs/. Computer Input. W1KG14303.

[8] ser gtsug nang bstan dpe rnying ‘tshol bsdu phyogs sgrig khang /, lha sa/. 2009. Computer Input. dpal mnga’ bdag sgra sgyur mar pa lo tsA ba chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung ‘bum/. W1KG12222.

6 thoughts on “REVIVING MARPA THE TRANSLATOR’S LINEAGE AND LEGACY: Hevajra Tantra, Marpa-Ngog Lineage, Six Bone Ornaments of Nāropa, Editions and contents of Marpa’s Collected Works and Drikung Kagyu

  1. Great post again.
    Concerning Hevajra practice Bokar Rinpoche in book about Tara mentioned story of Virupa who spent many years for Chakrasamvara practice which did not bring him realisation. After changing yidam practice for
    Hevajra , Virupa attained realisation very quickly.
    Bokar Rinpoche said that it is rare example of very strong connection with particular yidam from previous lives.

    1. Hello and thanks for the interesting info! Can you give the name of the book you mention by Bokar Rinpoche, and the page number at all? I would like to include this info in the article but need to source it. Yes, I think one can feel the connection with a yidam this life, that one has had strong connections with in past lives.

      1. Book details : ,, Tara the Feminine Divine,, by Bokar Rinpoche. Concerning number of page where Virupa story is mentioned , in Kindle edition is : location 32 in 1208, or just 11%. Hope it helped.

  2. may this extraordinary and marvelous teaching reman with all sentient beings until samsara ends.
    May all the masters of this tradition be healthy and having long life to continue turning the sacred

  3. Concerning Tara book by Bokar Rinpoche mentioned above, there is another interesting ( mind blowing) story there told by Kunu Lama from whom Dalai Lama received many teachings. Story happened in mid forties in Tibet and is about one Westerner who attained rainbow body!!! in house where Kunu Lama was meditating ( so witnessing ). Bokar Rinpoche said that the story is example that Dharma can bring realization both
    for practictioners from East and West !:) In Kindle edition the story is on page signed as :24%.

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