Andrew Quintman

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:


The Kagyu (Bka’ brgyud) tradition is one of the principal lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, famous for its emphasis on meditation and yogic practice, especially the Six Doctrines of Naropa (Na ro chos drug) and the doctrine of mahāmudrā. Although the tradition took root in Tibet during the Chidar (phyi dar) or “later dissemination” of Buddhism in the 11th century, it traces its origins to the great Indian tantric adepts known as siddhas. The Kagyu is often counted as one of four Tibetan Buddhist sects, together with the Nyingma, Sakya, and Geluk, although Tibetan historians commonly recognized a diverse array of religious systems, including the Kadam, Lamdré, Zhijé, Jonang, and the closely related Shangpa Kagyu. Many Tibetan lineages use the generic term kagyu (literally “oral transmission”) to emphasize the oral dissemination of their teachings through successive generations, thereby demonstrating their legitimacy and authority as valid sources of instruction. For this reason, the traditions under discussion here are sometimes specified as the Marpa Kagyu (Mar pa bka’ brgyud), the “Oral Transmission of Marpa,” in order to describe the stream of tantric Buddhist doctrines and meditation practices taught by the renowned Tibetan translator Marpa Chokyi Lodro (Mar pa Chos kyi blo gros, b. c. 1012–d. 1097). Marpa famously studied with the Indian masters Maitripa (b. c. 1002–d. 1077) and Naropa (b. c. 956–d. 1041), the latter of whom himself trained under the mahāsiddha Tilopa. In Tibet, Marpa taught his newly translated systems of doctrine and practice to a small group of disciples, including the acclaimed poet and meditator Milarépa (Mi la ras pa, b. c. 1040–d. 1123), who in turn passed them to Gampopa (Sgam po pa, b. 1079–d. 1153). Gampopa merged these tantric systems with the monastic and scholastic approaches he learned during his previous training under Kadampa masters. With Gampopa’s disciples, the Kagyu split into numerous institutional divisions, known in Tibetan as the “four major” and “eight minor” Kagyu subsects.

Article.  8802 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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