Nyal, in East Tibet, Gampopa (1079-1135) was the son of a doctor, and
a doctor himself. He married in his early twenties, and fathered two sons.
Several years later, an epidemic took both their lives, despite his skill.
His wife falling sick of the same disease, and similarly failing to respond
to his ministrations, begged him as she died not to marry again, but to
become a monk.
One might question her motives, but nevertheless, at the age of twenty-six,
Gampopa became a novice in the Kadampa tradition. He applied himself,
working with many masters, and achieved a high degree of proficiency before
- at thirty-two - hearing talk of Milarepa.
Feeling a surge of devotion in response to these tales, and understanding
that this must be his true teacher, he set out on a gruelling but eventually
successful search to find him.
Gampopa, a talented writer, of great insight, was entrusted by Milarepa
with the complete Kagyu transmission - the only one of Milarepa's students
so honoured - before leaving Milarepa to go into retreat at Dagpo in South-East
Tibet. There he founded the monastery of Daglha Gampo, where he drew many
disciples. Four of these were to found the four "major" Kagyu
branches. Eight "minor" branches would appear later. One of
the four, Dusum Khyenpa was both the next Kagyu lineage-holder, and the