Having explained the dream to Gampopa, Milarepa now said, "You no longer have to stay with me. As you have reached complete realization, you must go out and benefit beings." And Milarepa directed him to the East, to a place called Gampo Tashi Riwo, where he was to begin his enlightened activity to benefit beings. It it through his long sojourn there that Sonam Rinchen became known as Gampopa - the One from Gampo. In that place there was one huge mountain, like a jewel in a mandala encircled by seven other mountains, or like a king on a throne it was surrounded by seven reverent bowing ministers.
As his parting teaching, Milarepa explained to Gampopa: "While you are alone there, benefiting beings, you may miss many things. Sometimes you may miss food, and at these times you must enjoy the food of meditation; sometimes you may experience cold and miss having clothes, and at these times you must enjoy the inner heat of tummo; sometimes you may miss your guru, and at these times you must remember that your mind and the mind of the guru are inseparable. There is no greater guru than the awareness or realization of the inseparability of your own and the guru's mind."
When Gampopa left, Milarepa told his students, with a sense of extreme joy, that the "U-pa Tonpa" (another name for Gampopa) would be a great being and benefit many beings. ("U" is central Tibet, and "pa" means "person," so "U-pa" means a person who comes from central Tibet, and "Tonpa" means "teacher.") Milarepa told them that he had had a dream about a white crane that flew high in the sky and perched on top of a huge, tall mountain. Having perched there, he then attracted uncountable other cranes, which landed there. Suddenly they all scattered, and the land of Tibet became white with cranes. This dream symbolized, said Milarepa, that Gampopa would be spreading the Dharma widely in Tibet.
Following Milarepa's advice, Sonam Rinchen went to that special mountain, to which were attracted many bodhisattvas who were to become his disciples. They were, in fact, emanations of followers from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha: those who had promised to help Chandra Prabha Kumara spread its inner meaning. These bodhisattvas had been practising Dharma for many lives and so, when Gampopa simply gave one instruction, they all attained realization, without having to go through hardships of the practice. So in that manner, the 51,600 students, who were emanations from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha, received Gampopa's teachings and promised to support them.
Out of all the bodhisattvas gathered together, three were particularly outstanding. They became known as the three Khampas, because they all came from the eastern part of Tibet known as Kham. One of these students, whose name was Dogyal, was a direct emanation of the Buddha himself, who had promised, with his disciples, to help Chandra Prabha Kumara spread the Dharma. The second one was from Due, the Due Khampa. This student's name was U-ser, and he was to be His Holiness Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa. He was called U-ser because "U" means "head," and "ser" means "gray". Since he had been born with gray hair, he got the nickname "grayhead." The third one's name was Saltong Shok-gam and he was from Namchen. "Sal" means "clarity," "luminosity," and "tong" means "emptiness," "sunyata." "Shok-gam" means "harelip," so his name, Saltong Shok-gam, meant "the one born with a harelip who has the realization of clarity and emptiness."
Except for the three Khampas, all the rest of the 51,600 students kept extremely pure discipline of the vinaya, or monastic ordination. The three Khampas, however, were very, very wild. Because they were completely realized, they were beyond any negative accumulations for their actions. So they did not keep the strict discipline of a monk. Over and over again they asked permission of Gampopa to let them drink alcoholic beverages. Finally he gave them permission and told them they could have three skull cups of barley beer each. They were pretty happy with that.
One day, they took their beer up into the mountains to a beautiful location. It was the Vajrayogini day, the 25th of the month on the Tibetan calendar. So because of the day, and because they wanted to show how the beer didn't really affect them, they decided to perform some miracles, as a gesture. So Dorje Dogyal was chasing the trees of the forest, and they were all running from him. And Saltong from Namchen was bringing water in a fish net. Then U-ser performed a miracle such that from the tip of one finger came the wind, and from the tips of all his fingers on his other hand came air and fire together. And they were having a wonderful time performing miracles.
They had a great day on top of the mountain. They enjoyed the beer, performed many miracles, and sang many doha songs. In the evening they returned to the monastery, where all the other students lived. Yet they were still excited, having enjoyed themselves so much, and they were still singing and dancing.
Now every monastery has a Discipline Master. Singing and dancing were not permitted at all in the monastery, and this disturbance greatly annoyed the Discipline Master. He began to beat them with his long, broad stick and told them they must leave the monastery immediately. Dogyal requested that they be allowed to spend the night, as it was already dark outside. He let them stay the night, but they had to agree to leave before dawn.
Before dawn, the three of them left the monastery, beginning the long descent down the mountain into the valley. Now it happened that Gampopa himself was not actually in the monastery but above it, in a retreat hut, practicing meditation. He told one of his attendants that he had seen, as if in a dream, a vision of all the dakas and dakinis leaving the monastery, and he wanted to know what was happening there. He felt that maybe something had happened to those three yogis (he called them Milarepas). So he sent his attendant down to see if anything had happened. When his attendant reached the valley, he saw the three yogis prostrating themselves toward Gampopa. They were doing this because they had not been able to say good-bye in person when the Discipline Master made them leave. The attendant returned and informed Gampopa that not only were the three yogis leaving, but all the birds were leaving along with them and not only were they making prostrations, but the grass and trees were bending toward where they were departing. Gampopa knew that their leaving was not good; he knew that the gathering of so many students was because of the commitment of these emanations from the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. So Gampopa himself went down to the valley and asked them please not to depart.
After requesting them not to depart, he sang a song that explained who these three yogis were, how they were not ordinary beings but emanations of past enlightened beings who had been present during the time of Shakyamuni Buddha. Knowing this, the others at the monastery never again had negative feelings toward the Khampas' unusual behavior.
Gampopa passed away in 1053, and later the four main students of Gampopa (there were four by then) spread his teachings by what have come to be known as the "four great" schools of the Kagyupa. Then there were eight students of Dogyal, who also spread the teachings in the "eight lesser" schools of the Kagyupa.