The history of Vajrayana Buddhism

It is classically said that vajrayana teachings have been taught by all the buddhas of the three times beyond time and space. In this particular world system only during Buddha Shakyamuni’s era have these teachings flourished publicly so that anyone can hear and practice vajrayana instructions. Lord Shakyamuni started giving teachings on vajrayana upon attaining enlightenment, yet publicly, he only taught the teachings of the four noble truths and Mahayana vehicle. From the first century onwards vajrayana slowly flourished. We find that from the seventh through the thirteenth centuries most buddhist scholars and great mahasiddhas practiced both the teachings of sutra and tantra. For example, the buddhist scholars Acharya Nagarjuna and Acharya Asanga practiced vajrayana teachings while remaining bhikshus who also preserved the Mahayana tradition. We also find that some great mahasiddhas such as Tilopa and Naropa mainly practiced the tantric teachings and maintained the appearance of tantric yogins; their primary interest being the propagation of vajrayana teachings. From the early history of Buddhism in Tibet in seventh century until this very moment, the teachings of sutra and tantra have flourished, slowly distilling into a variety of lineages known as the Eighth Great Chariots. Among these lineages, the lineage of Marpa, the Lord of Translators, heart son of Pandita Naropa is well known for the unique series of empowerments, transmissions and instructions of a number of practices found within the anuttarayoga tantric system; a unique practice lineage later known in Tibet as the Marpa Kagyu; a lineage whose activities flourish around the world today.

Introduction to the Anutarayoga Tantra

The difference between sutra and tantra is described in the Lamp of Three Realities: Though both carry the same meaning this one is free from ignorance, There are many methods and it is not difficult to practice, It is taught for people with a developed mental capacity, Therefore, the Vajrayana vehicle is superior. The tantric teachings are classified into four categories: kriya, charya, yoga and anutara. Kriya tantra or action tantra is taught to those whose practice is focused upon external actions such as cleanliness, austerity and so on. Charya tantra or conduct tantra is taught for those who focus upon the balance between external practices surrounding cleanliness and inner practices that are focused upon the generation of concentration. Yoga tantra is taught for those who mainly prefer to practice inner practices that rely upon visualization and a further development of meditatitive stability. For those who possess a high mental capacity and who prefer to practice the teachings on ultimate truth, anutarayoga tantra is taught. In summary, in order to enlighten the four different types of practitioners, the four different tantric teachings were provided by the Buddha. Within this context, the Kagyu Ngak Dzod, or the

Even people who have committed the five heinous crimes can be liberated merely by seeing the colored grains of sand which are used in bestowing empowerments. Mahamudra of clear luminosity. we will simultaneously achieve all the noble results of mundane and enlightenment. the impurities of the mind are removed and one is permitted to practice the completion stage of the ultimate truth of luminosity and emptiness. one is sure to attain enlightenment within seven lifetimes or sixteen lifetimes even if one is not very diligent in their practice. speech and mind. The meaning of the Empowerments In general. Generally. we cannot achieve any of the results of realization and experience. speech and mind are purified such that they become endowed with the potential to transform into the form. one is permitted to practice the union of two truths. the anutarayoga tantra. By receiving the wisdom empowerment. the impurities of body. the impurities of speech are removed so that one can gain the potential to reveal the noble speech of Buddha and one is permitted to practice the completion stage or advance practices such as meditating on vajra wind recitation. mainly consists of tantras that belong to the highest level of tantric teachings. and yet lacks the understanding of Hevajra. By receiving the empowerment of verbal introduction. the secret empowerment. The Four Empowerments of Anutarayoga tantra The empowerments of Anutarayoga tantra can be classified into four types: the vase empowerment. In this sense it is taught that empowerment is the root of all the practices of vajrayana teachings. the Tantra of Hevajra belongs to the Heruka type. Indeed without receiving the necessary empowerment. when empowerment is bestowed. On the other hand. the fourth empowerment is mainly given orally as an introduction to our natural state. one cannot not actually understand the . no matter how diligently we may study and practice the vajrayana teachings. The Hevajra Tantra Among the classification of the six types of female tantra. if we receive empowerment from a qualified vajrayana master. It is additionally said that when one receives empowerment. impurities are removed and one gains the potential to appear in the form of a Buddha and one is permitted to practice the generation stage of visualization. the wisdom empowerment and the empowerment of verbal introduction. In receiving the secret empowerment. These are the benefits of receiving empowerment. By receiving the vase empowerment. thereby creating the potential for transforming the three vajras of body.Treasury of Kagyu Tantra. It is said that even if one is a master of all other tantras. This is why it is called empowerment. speech and wisdom of Buddha.

. conventionally. or one should practice Heruka. The Fifteen Goddesses of Nairatmya Generally. the greatest of which is the realization of the inseparability of wisdom and method. Kukuraja as he is also known. siddhis or accomplishments. he taught this tantra to his chief disciple Aryadeva. while his chief consort Dagmema appeared as the Hevajra’s consort and his eight other consorts as the eight goddess of the Hevajra mandala. it has been said that the Great Bliss should be achieved through the practice of the realization of the emptiness of all appearance. Therefore. He then disappeared into parinirvana without leaving his body behind. The Buddha first taught this tantra when he eradicated the four maras at Bodhgaya. When the dakinis finally offered him permission to preach it. To show this to his disciples. To compassionately aide us in this practice. a feast offering was arranged during which he appeared in the form Hevajra. There are two accounts of how this tantra flourished in India. he received the teachings on the Hevajra Tantra from both of his masters Naropa and Maitripa. or practice manual. Marpa experienced enlightenment and became inseparable from the Hevajra himself. The popular and more common belief is that the Master Saroruha or. based upon this tantra. The lineage of this tantra is mainly transmitted from the generation of Ngakpa families. According to the lineage descending from Marpa’s disciple Ngokton. he turned his consort Dagmema into a small white sphere that dissolved into this heart. in the form of the female buddha Naitrimya. he is generally credited as the one who first introduced the Hevajra tantra and was also the first to compose a Hevajra sadhana.essential points of the vast teachings of tantras and as such. achieved through practice are granted by vajra dakinis. From Aryadeva the practice lineage of Hevajra spread. As a result of this. the Acharya Nagarjuna. In the end. thoroughly clarifying all of the subtle points found within the text. From Naropa alone he received the empowerments of Hevajra seven times and also received the complete cycle of tantric teachings and instructions associated with Hevajra. In terms of purification. when Marpa passed into parinirvana. As the text says: One should practice with the Yoga of Naitrimya. introduced this tantra from Uddiyana and composed many texts on its application and practice. disguised as someone who was dumb stole this tantra from Uddiyana. When Marpa went to India. The empowerment of the Fifteen Goddess of Naitrimya is taken directly from the Hevajra tantra. all efforts to this effect will be meaningless. the perfection of wisdom which is in reality the mother of all Buddhas appeared.

was inspired with the utmost devotion towards Marpa. the king of Uddiyana saw the Buddha’s disciples. The lineage of this empowerment comes from the Great Ngokton who upon hearing the great fame Marpa Lotsapa.yet in this era only the texts are available and nothing more. During the Buddha’s time. As a result of practicing it. the lineage of Marpa and Ngokpa still thrives with its vast storehouse of instructions on two stages of Vajrayana practices. when he returned to India. when Great Mahasidha Saraha introduced many of tantras from Uddiyana. It constitutes the four seats: the seat of oneself. Marpa received the same teaching from Naropa on the Four Seats. when Marpa was staying with Naropa. These instructions were then transmitted and came to flourish through the activities of the generations of Ngokpa fathers and sons. flying back and forth between Uddiyana and Sharavasti. Upon realizing that this woman was actually a dakini. It is generally held that Lord Marpa had found that while both sets of instructions carried the same meaning those of Naropa were more clear and more precise. this tantra was included. he saw an exceptional looking woman. after offering a horse. The Guhayasamaja Tantra The Guhayasamaja Tantra is regarded as the main tantric treatise of method. the seat of other. Later. he experienced the direct vision of Fifteen Goddesses of Naitrimya. his ministers informed him that they were the disciples of Lord Buddha. the Buddha gave the teaching of Guhayasamaja Tantra and by practicing this powerful and unique tantra. Later. He then went to Drowolung where Marpa lived to try to meet the great Marpa. the Great Ngokton practiced the father and mother of Hevajra Tantra as his main personal practice.There were many of great mahasiddhas in both India and Tibet who achieved enlightenment through practicing this. he received the empowerment of the Fifteen Goddess of Naitrimya. The Chatuhpita Tantra The Tantra of Four Seats is called Chatuhpita in Sanskrit. . all of whom had attained arhatship. Lord Marpa first received this tantra in Nepal while on his way to India. the king was deeply moved and prayed to the Buddha until Lord Buddha along with his disciples miraculously appeared in front of him. Hearing the name Buddha. In the earlier times. from Master Phamthingpa who was an important disciple of Naropa. Nevertheless. “who are these people?”. This tantra was taught by Lord Buddha upon the peak of Mount Meru to Maitreya and a gathering of millions of devoted disciples. Although. or the means of realizing the ultimate nature of mind. The king then asked Buddha to give a type of teaching so that he could attain enlightenment without renouncing the worldly pleasure. Later. As per the king’s wish. Later. there were many lineages of practice surrounding this tantra. She then gave the teachings of Four Seats. When the king asked. the seat of union and the seat of secrecy. Marpa made offerings of gold to her so that she might teach. It was then given to Acharya Nagarjuna by the devas and dakinis and subsequently it was transmitted and came to flourish. he received many tantras from Lord Marpa.

he successfully achieved accomplishment whereby his body transformed into the rainbow vajra body. Naropa sent Marpa to Janagarbha who lived in the western region of central India. He gave only one teaching on Guhayasamaja to Naktso Lotsawa. it was entrusted to and kept by dakinis. When Marpa requested Naropa to teach this tantra. Together with this Pandita. The present lineage comes from the Master Vilasavajra and the source of the practice lineage is deeply rooted in the father tantra of Anutarayoga tantric system. So saying. From Maitripa it was passed on to Lord Marpa along with the empowerment. empowerment and instructions to all of his four disciples. he met Janakarsiddhi from Kashmir who also came to Naropa to request the teachings on Guhayasamja. received the teachings on this tantra along with its associated pith instructions. From Marpa Lotsawa. As he practiced Manjushri. Uddiyana. atop Mount Meru. Shri Shawaripa. saying that while the Tibetan people are clearly devoted to Vajrayana practices. This particular tantric treatise was received by Lord Maitripa from his Guru. the extensive treatise of Manjushri was revealed in Uddiyana to the Chinese born master known as Master Tachok. the father and sons of Ngokton family received this lineage and subsequently passed down. the Dhanyakata Stupa in South India and so on. Janakarsiddhi then left Tibet and returned to India from where he departed for Uddiyana. Master Vilasavajra was ordained in Uddiyana where he became master of all five major sciences. Later. Although Marpa gave the teachings. upon meeting Janagarbha. The Tantra of Manjushri The Tantra of Manjushri was taught as an antidote to the ignorance that commonly plagues sentient beings. . This tantric treatise was introduced by the great mahasiddha Saraha. Tushita. the oral instructions were more vast than he had previously experienced. It was Nagarjuna who disseminated this lineage which came down through Chandrakirti and so on. oral instructions of Manjushri and a variety of profound Mahamudra teachings. the heart son of Pandita Naropa. their karmic connection is with Marpa. When Marpa returned back to Naropa. Pandita Janakarsiddhi then went to Tibet where he met the Translator Naktso. the tradition that still exists mainly came down from his disciple the Great Tsurton. Marpa.the king along with his retinue and subjects all attained enlightenment in that lifetime leaving the whole region empty. Subsequently. many commentaries of this text were composed from which various lineages of Manjushri practice flourished. After this tantric treatise was compiled by Bodhisattvas of tenth Bhumi such as Vajrapani. It was taught by Lord Buddha in many places such as the Akanishta realm. Marpa once again received the teaching and empowerment of Guhayasamaja from Naropa and he found that although teachings were the same as before.

he was known as Saraha. he was invited to the god realm where he spent some time. After returning to Tibet from India. This tantra was brought by the Translator Goe Lhaytse and the Jowo Atisha to Tibet. then it gradually flourished in the human world. this tantra appeared from the skull of Buddha. Buddhakapa is generally regarded as one of the first tantric treatises brought to India from Uddiyana. Kukkuripa brought the tantra of Mahamaya from Uddiyana and widely preached it. Naropa provided Marpa with more extensive . When he attained the highest level of accomplishment and maintained the conduct of a mahasiddha. Naropa told Marpa to go to the southern region where there was a poisonous lake to meet the great Pandita Sri Shantibhadra who was regarded as the owner of this female tantra. Marpa requested Naropa to teach Mahamaya. Rahula also received many tantric teachings directly from Vajrapani himself. or Translator Nyoe. Nyo lotsawa stated that one should study Mahamaya treatise if one wants to fully understand the teachings about channel. But the complete lineage of empowerment. Marpa then went to meet with Sri Santibhandra and received from him the complete empowerment and teachings of Mahamaya. After he became a mahasiddha. The Mahamaya Tantra The mahasiddha Kukkuripa first brought the tantra of Mahamaya to the human realm. meaning The Dog Lover. teachings and vast instructions of this treatise only comes from the lineage of Marpa. When Marpa was living with Naropa. Along with Buddhakapala. Kukkuripa was born in Bangladesh. Therefore. Marpa's main lineage of Buddhakapala was held and disseminated by the Great Meyton and the Great Tsuntron. He then returned to the human realm and wandered all over India with Vajrayogini who appeared as a female dog to many people. the present lineage that we follow comes from the Great Tsurton. he preached it to all of his four disciples. drop and wind. he was known as Kukkuripa. he received the empowerment of Buddhakapala from Maitripa and he received the teachings of Buddhakapala from Naropa. He received many Tantric teachings from a number of mahasiddhas who directly received empowerment from Vajrayogini. It is generally held that by virtue of practicing this treatise many masters in India achieved enlightenment and composed texts on how to practice it. The instant after his death.The Buddhakapala Tantra Lord Buddha first transmitted this tantra to Vajrapani along with a retinue of disciples in a pureland after he performed the miracle of temporarily passing into parinirvana. one day he went to market and met Nyoelo. Saraha brought many other tantric treatises from Uddiyana and was responsible for their propagation. who was a travel companion of Marpa. However. When Marpa and Nyo lotsawa had a discussion about the essential points of tantric teachings. During Lord Marpa's second trip to India. Moved by this idea. When Marpa returned. The Buddhakapala tantra was brought to India by the great mahasiddha Rahula of the Brahmin caste three hundred years after Buddha's parinirvana.

Guru Balai Chandra graciously gave this empowerment and the complete instructions associated with its practice to Rechungpa who. When Rechungpa was only fifteen years old. This Guru was widely known for his limitless power and was known to have three eyes that could be seen by anyone. he successfully achieved accomplishment and experienced a vision of Vajrapani. he was suddenly struck by leprosy and experienced tremendous suffering from this painful disease. The Great Wrathful Vajrapani and Small Wrathful Vajrapni The empowerments and practice of Great Wrathful Vajrapani and Small Wrathful Vajrapani were personally given by Vajrapani himself to Master Karma Varja. The Five Deities of Cakrasaṃvara Among the four classes of tantra. Hevajra of the essence tantra and the most essential one. they brought Rechungpa to India and offered him to Guru Balai Chandar. one who practiced Buddhism and one who fostered a hatred towards Buddhadharma and was willing to destroy it at any cost. when there was a conflict between two kings. Lord Marpa says in a song of realization: I have received the Guhayasamaja of father tantra. . To this effect. it's essence is best demonstrated in the treatise of Chakrasamvara. or mother tantra. it flourished. meaning the Vajra of Activity. Chakrasambhava. Mahamaya of mother Tantra. anutarayoga tantra is also classified into two categories. One day. the armies of the non-dharmic King were scattered all over resulting in a resounding defeat. He then preached it to his four main disciples and from them. Vajrapani then gave him all of the instructions. the treatise of Chakrasamvara belongs to the tantra of wisdom. Karma Vajra gave this practice to Master Shinglopa from whom the Master Karnarupa received it. As he practiced it. One day. Since all his wishes were fulfilled by this wooden vajra. found that his leprosy was cured. he was known as Karma Vajra.teachings on Mahamaya. Marpa also received Mahamaya from Kukkuripa who appeared in a vision. the tantra of method and the tantra of wisdom. after he practiced them. master Karma Vajra appeared and by merely showing half of his Wooden Vajra. Rechungpa then returned back to Tibet and propagated this teaching to many fortunate students. When Karma Vajra was a small child he heard a voice from the sky that told him to practice Vajrapani. Out of compassion engendered from witnessing Rechungpa's suffering. Among them. While the term mother tantra is somewhat general. full empowerment and also gave him a wooden five pointed vajra. he was witnessed by three Acharyas who had come from India.

Later during the degenerative age.a series of isolated regions and charnel grounds. he liberated the king. It was then received . this one is transmitted from Master Luyipa. The Five deities of Vajravarahi Marpa Lotsawa went to India four times and met Naropa and Maitripa from whom he received many important teachings and instructions. ministers and subjects of Uddiyana. Marpa then realized that thise was the same teaching which was given to him by his master Naropa. Vajravirahi appeared in human form as a woman who cut open her chest to reveal her heart with a knife made of cystal. When he achieved the ultimate accomplishment. He then became the disciple of Guru Shawaripa. and empowerment into the Chakrasamvara mandala. As a means to liberate Shiva and Uma. Then the timing was right he offered the instructions from this text to his most cherished disciple. Milarepa. he came to be known as Luyipa which means he who eats fish guts. indeed it is one of the five sets of Dusum Khyenpa.the first Karmapa’s personal practice. Vajravarahi then revealed to Marpa the mandala of the five Vajravarahis and the Chakra of Ashta Mantra. and it came to Lord Marpa who received it from Naropa. Since then Chakrasamvara has become one of the most sacred practices of the Karma Kagyu lineage. Among them. Therefore. Luyipa was a scribe for the king of Uddiyana. around 60 thousand people were liberated and all of them attained rainbow body. He then brought the treatise of Chakrasamvara with him from Uddiyana and composed a text for practicing it which became one of the main origins of the lineage of Chakrasamvara practive. the Buddha then taught the tantra of Chakrasamvara. Included within the precious oral instructions that Marpa received was the Spontaneous Arising of the generation stage and the Inseparability of Wind and Mind of the completion stage.the Buddha manifested in the form of Chakrasamvara and appeared on the peak of Mount Meru. and thereby benefit countless other sentient beings. When Marpa was in Bodh Gaya he saw that suddenly a small text appeared in which instructions on practicing the two stages of generation and completion were written in Sinhalese script on paper made of Tali leaves. he would accomplish a great task. through performing a series of miracles. She then gave him the empowerment and blessed him. There are many texts for the practice. Luiypa transmitted the precious liberating instructions to others. All told. Naropa sent Marpa to the great cemetery of Sosaling to attend a feast. Foretelling that Vajravarahi would provide her blessings. Vajravirahi told Marpa to go to Bodh Gaya to visit the holy tooth of Buddha and while there. After having been given empowerment and liberating instructions Luiypa then went to Bangladesh and practiced diligently while eating fish guts as a form or practice. Marpa brought this text back to Tibet and translated into Tibetan. Milarepa also gave this empowerment by using the Mandala of Sindhura to his disciple Gampopa who was prophecized by Lord Buddha.The Chakrasamvara tantra was initially taught by Lord Buddha in the golden age. and that the text was given to him by the deity. when Shiva and Uma came to control all of the original sites where Lord Buddha taught. At the feast.

” Having said that. Beyond the river Ganges. “All the accomplishments come from this. The first Tibetan commentary on how to practice Yamantaka was composed by the Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo. Naropa was very pleased by Marpa's request and said “My son. Kikatsal and Shri Sinha) Naropa said that granting all three would be not appropriate. From these three early lineage holders the practice of Yamantaka gradually flourished in Tibet. You should not underestimate it and you should always practice it. Naropa told Marpa. Continuing. it was transmitted from father and sons of Ngokpa family. . the treatise of Yamantaka started to flourish some time after the third council and since then it has flourished. Buddha. These were Master Lalitavajra in the beginning. He urged Marpa to choose only one out of three. you made the right choice". you didn’t make wrong choice. In India. Naropa placed his hand with with a torma on the head of Marpa and granted this empowerment and the associated instructions for the practice of Vetali. Naropa. Marpa then thought that Vetali seemed to be the most central dharma protector. a thought arose in Marpa’s mind that compelled him to request Naropa to grant the empowerment for three dharma protectors that visibly come to receive torma offerings. From Marpa. The lineage of these empowerments in the Kagyu Treasury are transmitted from Nyo Lotsawa. practiced and propagated these practices together. there is not a dharma protector more powerful than this. The Dharma Protector Vetali At one point during the six years that Marpa spent with his Guru. Buddha then emanated the Mandala of Yamantaka and taught the treatise of Yamantaka. For this reason Tibetan translators often translated. Buddhajnana in the middle and finally the Bramin master Shridhara. When Marpa asked Naropa to grant the three (Vetali. There were three great masters who were publicly known as the ones who propagated the treatises of Yamantaka. Yamantaka and Vajra Bhairava When an army of maras attempted to stop Lord Buddha from attaining enlightenment.manifested the wrathful deities of Yamantaka to destroy all the maras. in fact. and with this in his mind he asked for the empowerment of the first Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa from Gampopa and became one of the five sets of deities of Dusum Khyenpa’s personal practice. Yamantaka and Vajra Bhairava are the same type of deities and their practice is sometimes considered similar. Generally.through remaining in samadhi.

internally. Since then. when Milarepa was in the samadhi of meditation at Chuwar cave. When these three empowerments were transmitted in Tibet. they are the five consorts of five Buddhas. Tara and Vajrasattava from Jowo Atisha. Realizing Milarepa's great inner spiritual strength the Five Auspicious Sisters came to revere Milarepa. the disciples are those who have received the empowerment of any of the four classes of Tantra. the empowerment of three special deities and the empowerment of Wrathful Emanation of Vajrapani are bestowed. it was known as the Empowerment of Three Special Deities. Later. Then they became faithful disciples of Milarepa. The sequence of how the Empowerments are given According to the tradition of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. It is said that among the disciples of Milarepa. They soon came to realize that Milarepa’s realization was firmly grounded in the ultimate nature of phenomena and he had gained mastery over all of the subtle manifestations of samadhi. there are two traditions of giving the empowerment. Externally. Rechungpa serves to liberate human beings while the Five Auspicious Sisters serve to liberate invisible beings. When Guru Padmasambhava came to Tibet. they have became one of the main dharma protectors for sentient beings in general and most specially. In this case the empowerments begin with the empowerment of Guru Yoga and then other main empowerments such as the . The second tradition involves disciples who haven’t received any empowerment before. According to the first tradition. they were invoked to make their commitment again. These are mainly related to the practice of Usnisavijaya which was transmitted from Arya Asanga. his brother. they manifested as five sisters from a worldly family. they appear as the wrathful dakinis of the mundane world and reside in the Sitavana charnel ground situated near Bodhgaya having made the commitment to the Goddess Shri Singha to protect Buddha’s teachings.The Five Auspicious Sisters The Five Auspicious Sisters are the dakinis who protect the secret holy sites of Tibet and they are mentioned in the Vajra Dakini Tantra and Dakini Samudra Tantra. Conventionally. he met Jowo Atisha on the way who himself was on his way to Tibet. Three Special Deities During the Marpa’s third journey to India. and their disciples. Marpa received the empowerment of Usnisavijaya . the Five Auspicious Sisters appeared creating miracles turning the sky and earth upside down in order to check the level of Milarepa’s samadhi. they are the five Dakinis who act as protectors of secret holy sites and secretly. After this the disciples are given the empowerment of the Guru Yoga and then other empowerments such as the empowerment of Hevajra are given simultaneously. making confessions to him and offering the commitment to follow Milarepa’s teachings. for the followers of our lineage. to bring auspiciousness at the beginning of the empowerments. With these types of disciples.

When His Eminence the 11th Tai Situpa gave empowerment to His Holiness the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje. Other minor empowerments are given after that. This year. he first gave the empowerment of Three Special Deities and Guru Yoga to bring auspiciousness at the beginning.empowerment of Hevajra are to follow. and finally gave the empowerment of long life of Machik Drubpai Gyalmo to bring the auspiciousness at the end. . he did so according to the second tradition. And when His Holiness the 16th Karmapa Rigpe Dorje gave the empowerment of the Treasury of Kagyu Tantras. then he gave the other main empowerments including Hevajra to bring auspiciousness at the middle. His Eminence will also follow the tradition of His Holiness 16th Karmapa from whom he received the entire transmission of the empowerments of the Treasury of Kagyu Tantras.