Life of Marpa
Marpa, the first Tibetan founder in the Kagyü lineage, was born in 1012 in southern Tibet of relatively prosperous parents. A young man with a violent temper, he was sent by his parents to study the Dharma. However, he became frustrated by his experiences with various teachers, and decided to go to India.
After an arduous trek through the Himalayas, in the
forest of what is now Nepal he found the siddha, Naropa. For twelve years,
he studied with him and also with others, such as Maitripa, from whom he
also received instruction on Mahamudra. He learned the local languages and
so, was able to translate essential texts into Tibetan.
Back in Tibet, he attracted a group of students
including Milarepa. Finally, well into middle age and against the
objections of his family, he set out for a third and final journey to India.
Now, Marpa and Dagmema had had seven sons, but only
one, Darma Dode, was particularly gifted. He was mortally injured
while riding on his way to a festival. As he lay dying in his parents' house, he
performed phowa, the ejection of consciousness. His consciousness
entered the body of a pigeon, that flew to India just in time to enter and
revivify the body of Tipupa, a brahmin boy who had died.
Marpa died at age 84 amidst many auspicious signs. People reported seeing a rainbow and showers of flowers. They experienced the sound of music, and delightful scents on the air.
It is said that Naropa escorted him to a celestial realm accompanied by hosts of dakas and dakinis, just as he had promised.
Marpa brought to Tibet the lineage of Tilopa and Naropa. He translated many important Indian texts, and he also is credited with the tradition of dohas, songs of realization later made famous by Milarepa. (Khenpo Tsultrim continues that doha tradition, today.)
A recent edition of Dharmachakra, the magazine published by New Zealand Karma Kagyu Trust, includes a letter from the Gyalwa Karmapa concerning the Kagyu curriculum. He requested that Kagyu monasteries practice the 13 tantras of Marpa.
Called Kagyu Ngak Dzod, they consist of a group of vajrayana teachings and empowerments transmitted by Kagyu lineage master, Marpa Lotsawa. The collection was compiled by Jamgon Kongtrul the Great (1813-1899.)
They were being done in retreat, but now they will be part of regular practice in order to preserve, and derive benefit from, the tantras that Marpa had instituted. In this way, the lineage continues to flourish.
Each one is a yidam, or deity, practice. In addition to the practices of Dorje Phagmo, Demchok Lha Nga, and Gyalwa Gyamtso that are performed by all Kagyu monasteries, HH Karmapa assigned the pujas as follows:
monastery deity, -ies