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This section: the Tibetan masters of the Karma Kagyu lineageThe Gyalwa Karmapas, supreme masters of the Karma Kagyu lineage

Marpa Lotsawa
1st Tibetan Patriarch of the Karma Kagyu Lineage

First part of Marpa hagiography  2nd part of Marpa hagiography  3rd part of Marpa hagiography  This section: 4th part of Marpa hagiography


Naropa then said, "Now, Marpa, your realization is entirely equal to my realization. There is no need for you to obtain further instructions or empowerments from me. You must go back to Tibet as my regent, and spread and cultivate this lineage."

Shortly after, Naropa tested Marpa, by summoning him early in the morning. Marpa found himself confronted by Naropa, his guru, and, in the sky, a perfect presence in rainbow light of his yidam, Hevajra, vividly present and precise in every detail. Naropa ordered Marpa to prostrate and said he must choose whether to prostrate to Naropa's body or the sky mandala. Marpa chose the latter but then Naropa simply drew the entire mandala into his own heart chakra, showing it to be no more than his emanation. Through this slight mistake on Marpa's part (underestimating the significance of the human guru's presence), Naropa predicted that, although Marpa had seven sons, there would be no continuity of his family in the future, just as no flower could grow in the sky. However, Naropa predicted that the lineage flowing from Marpa, through his disciples, would continue into the future, and that each successive lineage holder and his students would be brighter and have greater opportunity to achieve realization. And when he heard that Marpa's student was Milarepa, and that Milarepa had had the dream about powa drongjuk, he immediately folded his hands together in a gesture of reverence and respect, and bowed toward the direction of northern India. Naropa predicted that where there are beings living in the womb of darkness, Milarepa would be like the sun radiating upon the stainless snow, removing the darkness. It is said that because of this gesture of profound respect, all the trees there seem to also bow in that direction.

The precition about his son (Dharma Dode) not continuing his spiritual line devastated Marpa. It triggered the obstacles that Naropa had foreseen when the crow stole the yantra. Marpa went through a period of powerful illness which lasted for a year. However, with the blessing of his guru and that of his his dharma brothers and sisters, Marpa returned to health and confidence and was even stronger than before.

Before returning to Tibet and in honour of having received the dakini teachings, the powa drongjuk teachings, these final blessings and empowerment as regent from Naropa, Marpa offered a great feast. With all these extra and very precious teaching from his gurus, Marpa returned to Tibet. Although the journey through India to Tibet was very dangerous, because of his determination and courage he was able to return safely. On the way, he had very significant and powerful dreams of gurus Maitripa and Saraha. From the former, Marpa received, twice, complete transmission of the samatta and vipasyana aspects of mahamudra.

On his return Marpa gave many teachings. He was especially trying to spread the teaching of ejection of consciousness, of which he had the very special transmission. Marpa did not gather a great number od disciples around him and did not become a widely popular guru. He remained a short-tempered and aggressive teacher, and not many students liked him, and not many believed in his realization and his accomplishment. His teaching was a question of quality rather than quantity and his disciples were extremely gifted. When Marpa was passing away, he performed many miracles. And after he passed into parinirvana, his transmissions became very widely cultivated and spread around Tibet. Only then did the people in his village and other villages realize what a highly realized and important person Marpa really was; only then did they start to develop profound feelings for him. After his passing, there were four students who continued to spread Marpa's teachings very actively.