Naropa

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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 Abhidharma), Mahayana including the Prajnaparamita, and the Vajrayana tantras -- he was acknowledged an unexcelled scholar.  Eventually, as Mahapandita Abhayakirti, he became an abbot of Nalanda University.

One day, while he was studying texts of logic and grammar, he was visited by a dakini in the form of a very old, bearded woman leaning on a cane, with a dark blue face in which red eyes sparkled.  She asked if he understood what he was reading, and was delighted and laughed when he answered did.  She cried though, when he claimed that he also understood the inner sense of what he had been reading.  She then directed Naropa to seek out her "brother" for the true meaning, but did not specify who her brother was, and then she disappeared.

The monks thought he had gone mad and tried to dissuade him from ruining his career as a scholar, but he took his begging bowl and staff, and left. 

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.

Tilopa, as a blue-black man with bloodshot eyes and a yogi's topknot, appeared to him and accepted him as his disciple.  During his twelve years of tutelage, Naropa's karma was purified by means of physical, psychological, and spiritual torments of many kinds. 

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.

Transmission

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:

This mind that knows emptiness
Is itself the awakened mind, bodhicitta.
The Buddha potential is just this.
The sugata essence is just this. 

Because of tasting what is,
It is also the great bliss.
The understanding of secret mantra is just this.
Means and knowledge is just this.

This self-knowing, while one is still defiled,
Does not depend on other things,
So self-existing wakefulness is just this.
Being aware, it is cognizance.

A natural knowing that is free of thought.
This self-knowing cannot possibly form thoughts. 
Without conceptualizing 'a mind,'
Since it is not something to be conceived,
This original wakefulness, cognizant yet thought-free,
Is like the wisdom of the Tathagata.

Therefore, it is taught, "Realize that luminous mind
Is the mind of original wakefulness,
And don't seek an enlightenment separate from that."

~ Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche's Songs of Naropa (Rangjung Yeshe Publ. )

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. 

 

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