Who is Naropa ?

Naropa (1016 – 1100 CE), an Indian Scholar-Saint, heralded the beginning of a rich tradition in Buddhist philosophy. His legacy and lessons traversed the Himalayas and shaped the identity and culture of many peoples and continues to have a lasting impact in the modern world. His life is upheld as an example of determination, perseverance and endurance. His teachings of the Six Yogas of Naropa are one of the fundamental pillars of Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. His legacy of experiential learning and active compassion helped civilization flourish far beyond its immediate Buddhist community.

At the turn of the first millennium, Naropa was born into a long line of kings and noblemen. He embraced a spiritual life at an early age and became Chancellor of Nalanda University. Because of his intellectual agility and fierce oratory skills, he became the “Northern Gatekeeper” of Nalanda – a moniker of great distinction. Despite his worldly success, Naropa encountered Varja Yogini, appearing as an old ugly woman, who humbled him by pointing out his spiritual misconceptions and urged him to find his destined guru, Tilopa. Upon finding Tilopa, Naropa underwent twelve major and twelve lesser hardships to purify his karma and test his determination. Each of these legendary hardships broke down Naropa’s misconceptions and furthered his understanding of the universe which ultimately led to the state of Varjradhara and Perfect Enlightenment. Upon the moment of enlightenment, Naropa was offered the Six Bone Ornaments by Dakinis and flew into the sky. Today, these ornaments are one of the most revered relics of Buddhism and historic symbols of a great Himalayan odyssey.

After attaining enlightenment, Naropa taught throughout the region emphasizing a tradition of experiential wisdom, the Six Yogas of Naropa which include milam (dream yoga), tummo (the yoga of inner heat), bardo (the yoga of the intermediate stage), gyulu (the yoga of illusory body), osel (the yoga of clear light), phowa (the yoga of transference of consciousness), and devotional practice. Today these teachings are considered core tenets of Buddhism. From Naropa, several Buddhist traditions flourished throughout India, Central Asia and beyond. His life and teaching marked the beginning of a new era of Buddhism that continues to thrive in all corners of the Himalayas and the world Test.

Six Ornaments of Naropa

The Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa are some of the most significant Buddhist relics in active use. Naropa wore the Six Bone Ornaments upon the moment of enlightenment and is an historic artifact of Himalayan culture. The great translator Marpa was a student of Naropa and received extraordinary teachings of Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa. By perfectly ccomplishing these practices, Marpa obtained enlightenment. Upon this accomplishment, Naropa declared: “The blessings of Master Krishnacharya breathed life into the lineages of Eastern regions, the Master Aryacharya has blessed the lineage of the South, and the King Indrabhodi transmitted his spiritual influence to the Western lineages. bestow the waves of grace to the lineages of the North, the Lands of Snow. You have nothing more to do here - return to Tibet. I impart to you the power of my legacy; I appoint you my regent on the Roof of the World. The Land of Snow abounds in potential disciples, worthy vessels for my teachings.”

Then, Naropa offered Marpa the Six Bone Ornaments and prophesized that the Six Bone Ornaments would remain in the lineage that sprang from Naropa and would be used as devotional support.

Marpa goes on to be a significant Buddhist figure spreading the teachings of Naropa and the Six Bone Ornaments continue to offer devotional support. Marpa entrusted the Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa to the great disciple, Ngokton Choku Dorje (1036-1102 CE) with the instructions to safeguard the Six Bone Ornaments until the seventh generation when he shall return the Six Bone Ornaments to the rightful master. The seventh Ngokton lineage holder, Ngokton Jangchub (1360-1446 CE) encountered the Gyalwang Drukpa and announced that the Gyalwang Drukpa is the incarnate of Naropa, the scholar saint and presented the Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa.

For close to a thousand years, the Six Bone Ornaments have been used as a relic of devotional support. Devotees believe that worthy seekers of truth may obtain enlightenment by merely seeing it and is regarded as a living piece of Himalayan history. Now, every 12 years, on the roof top of the Himalayas, he Gyalwang Drukpa dons the Six Bone Ornaments in Ladakh, India at one of the Himalayas’ biggest gatherings. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world flock to the month long ritual to partake in one of the oldest, most sacred ceremonies of the Himalayas. For many, they come to pay homage, others come to receive blessings, but to the people of the region it is a symbol of devotion, compassion and a reminder a rich heritage.

The Gyalwang Drukpa

His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa (www.drukpa.org) is a world-renowned humanitarian, author, environment alist, and champion of gender equality. Recipient of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Award and India’s Green Hero Award for his work in sustainable development, the Gyalwang Drukpa is recognized as the preeminent voice for modern issues now facing the Himalayas. The Gyalwang Drukpa is head of the Buddhist Drukpa Lineage, originating from the scholar-saint Naropa who founded Indian Buddhism over a thousand years ago.

Drukpa Buddhism is steeped in celebrating diversity and active community service, and has over 27 million followers worldwide. Notable initiatives started by The Gyalwang Drukpa include breaking the Guinness World Record for tree-planting, the annual “Eco-Pad Yatra” to spread environmental education, the women’s “Kung Fu Nuns” movement featured in Time Magazine, the first Himalayan large-scale dog rescue sanctuary, cross- border clean water programs, several medical aid projects, and the award-winning Druk Pema Karpo School in Ladakh, designed to preserve indigenous culture while empowering communities with modern skills. The school was featured in the PBS E^2 Series, and is the location of the utopic school seen in the blockbuster film, “3 Idiots”. Students and professionals visit the school from around the world to study its unique mission and design – a model for numerous enterprises now in development.

The Gyalwang Drukpa also initiated the Live to Love movement (www.livetolove.org), a secular philosophy that encourages communities to use kindness and wisdom to heal the modern world’s challenges, and to celebrate diversity of faiths, cultures, and sexual orientation. Live to Love International is the resulting global network of non-profit organizations focused on those goals, pioneering multiple local and cross-border projects throughout the Himalayas and beyond. These works affect the larger culture of the Himalayan community, improving quality of life for 1.3 billion people throughout the region.

The Drukpa Lineage

The Drukpa Lineage (the “Dragon Lineage”) is an integral part of Himalayan and Central Asian legacy and culture. Dating back to the Indian scholar-saint Naropa, the Drukpa Lineage is woven throughout the history of Buddhism, India, the Himalayas and Central Asia.

The Drukpa Lineage follows the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in philosophy, i.e. the philosophy of “enlightened for the benefit of others” and the methods are based on the Tantrayana teachings passed down from the great Indian saint Naropa, who was born a prince in 1016. It acquired the name “Drukpa” in the twelfth century when the reincarnation of Naropa, Tsangpa Gyare, saw nine dragons fly up into the sky from the ground of Namdruk. The present Gyalwang Drukpa is the twelfth incarnation of the founder of the Drukpa Lineage.

The Drukpas are best known for taking its meditation practice off the mat and into the world – converting compassion into action to tackle the world’s challenges.

Because the Lineage makes its home along the most important historic trading routes, its core tenet of Ultimate Truth fostered and nurtured great civilizations throughout the region including modern day Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Vietnam.

Today, the Drukpa Lineage sprawls over major parts of the Himalayas, especially in Ladakh, Kinnaur and ahaul-Spiti in India, as well as Bhutan and Nepal. Bhutan, also known as “Druk Yul” or “Land of Thunder Dragons”, honours the Drukpa Lineage as its state religion. The lineage is also widely practiced in many countries throughout the world, especially Vietnam, another nation deeply influenced by the legends of “Dragons”.For its contribution to India and its neighbours, on 14 May 2014, Department of Posts – Government of India celebrated Buddha Purnima with the release of a commemorative stamp on the Drukpa Buddhists, a rare and perhaps first recognition given by the Indian government to a particular Buddhist lineage.