Tilopa's primary disciple was Naropa who was born into a wealthy kshatriya family (some say they were brahmin) in Kashmir. At age seventeen, he was compelled by custom and his parents to marry, but like Buddha Shakyamuni, after eight years he decided to leave home to become a monk.
After years of
mastering all three levels of Buddhist texts -- Hinayana (Vinaya, Sutra and
including the Prajnaparamita, and the Vajrayana tantras -- he was acknowledged an unexcelled
scholar. Eventually, as Mahapandita Abhayakirti, he became an abbot of Nalanda University.
He searched far and wide, both in towns and in uninhabited
forest, mountain and desert regions for the dakini's brother.
He had many encounters and confusing experiences and in the process, he realized
the limitations of conceptual understanding. Having lost all arrogance,
and all confidence in his old ways but unable to find a new direction, he
became profoundly discouraged and depressed. He finally decided to kill himself by cutting
open his veins.
After each crisis, Tilopa would help Naropa discover a clearer sense of being. At last, there came a time for the highest transmission and in the ancient tantric tradition, Tilopa requested an offering. Naropa, having nothing else, cut off and offered his own fingers. Then Tilopa picked them up, and hit him on the head with a dirty sandal. At that instant, Naropa directly perceived ultimate nature of reality and his fingers were restored.
As a realized master, Naropa roamed the jungle, even hunting deer with a pack of hounds. Sometimes behaving like a child, his shocking activities were intended to reveal the awakened state. He performed various magical feats to draw an audience, and he defeated both orthodox and heretic in argument and debate.
Tilopa's lineage was transmitted through Naropa to us since his previous training enabled him to write prolifically on Vajrayana topics, and these works appear in the Tenjur (commentaries.)
The View, Concisely Put:
Tilopa had prophesied that Naropa would experience a momentous meeting. He certainly did have more than just one, for he encountered in the persons of Khungpo Nyaljor (1002-1064) who founded the Shangpa tradition, and Marpa (1012-1096) the Translator and teacher of Milarepa, two extraordinary practitioners.