The life of Gampopa

From Nyal, in East Tibet, Gampopa (1079-1135) was the son of a physician, and became a medical doctor himself. He married in his early twenties, and fathered two children. Several years later, an epidemic took both their lives. His wife fell sick of the same disease, and similarly failed to respond to his ministrations. She begged him as she died not to marry again, but to become a monk.

After her death, Gampopa became a novice in the Kadampa tradition. Working with many masters, he achieved a high degree of proficiency in theory and practice. Yet one day, he overheard a conversation about a yogi called Milarepa. Feeling a surge of devotion in response and understanding that this must be his true teacher, he set out on a hard but eventually successful search to find him.

Gampopa was entrusted by Milarepa with the complete Kagyu transmission. In Dagpo in south-east Tibet he founded the hermitage of Daglha Gampo, where he attracted many disciples, from whom the four “major” Kagyu branches were to come into being. These branches spread Gampopa’s dharma system of the two streams of Mahamudra and Kadam throughout Tibet. One of the main disciples of Gampopa, and founder of the Karma Kagyu school, one of the four “major” Kagyu branches, was Dusum Khyenpa, the first Karmapa.


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