Kagyupa-Oral Lineage

Kaygupa is the third largest school of Tibetan Buddhism. It is also known as “Oral Lineage” or Whispered Transmission school because it emphasizes on oral esoteric transmission from teacher to disciple and Kagyu means “oral transmission” in Tibetan. Along with Sakya and Gelug schools, Kagyu school is known as “New Transmission schools” or “Sarma” which is different from “Old Translation school”,Nyingma. Due to the personal transmission, Kaygu has many branches and lineages. It was established in the eleventh century, the same century when Sakya and Gelug was established. There are two origins of Kagyu: Shangpa Kagyu and Dagpo Kaygu. However, Shangpa Kaygu went downhill in the fourteenth and fifteenth century and Dagpo Kaygu has developed quickly. So today when we mention Kagyu, we usually means Dagpo Kagyu more than Shangpa Kaygu. Marpa (1012-1097), the Translator, who was the first Kaygu Tibetan and translated many Vajrayana teachings from India including Mahamudra. Marpa studied from the Indian yogi Naropa (1016-1100). Naropa was the principal disciple of mahasiddha Tilopa (988-1089) and he codified Four Lineages of Instructions into Six Doctrines of Six Yogas of Naropa, which consist of a combination of different yoga tantras using the energy-winds, energy-channels and energy-drops to achieve the state of Mahamudra. Marpa’s most significant student was Milarepa (1040-1123) who became the holder of Marpa’s meditation. Gampopa (1079-1153) was the disciple of Milarepa and he combined the stages of traditional path into one lineage which was Gagpo Kagyu. In contrast, Shangpa Kagyu was descended from Naropa’s consort, Niguma. As Gagpo Kagyu developed, there were twelve sub schools including four primary schools and eight secondary schools. The four primary branches were Karma Kamtsang, Barom Kagyu, Tshalpa Kagyu, and Phagdru Kagyu. The eight secondary branches were Drikung Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Kartsang Kagyu, Shugseb Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, Trophu Kagyu, Yabzang Kagyu and Yelpa Karyu. The Kagyu lineages existing today are Karma Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu, and Drukpa Kagyu. The main doctrine of Kagyu is Mahamudra, “the Great Seal”, which includes four stages of meditation practice and the Six Yogas of Naropa are important practice in all Kagyu schools.

Milarepa, Yogi of Tibet


Marpa, the Translator


Tsupu Monastery


Read more religion of Tibet

1.Animism  2.Bon or Bonism  3.Nyingma  4.Sakya  5.Gelugpa  6.Kargyupa