Origin and development of the Shangpa Kagyü tradition

One of the most reclusive and unknown Order s of Tibetan Vajrayāna Buddhism is the Shangpa Kagyü. Although the name Kagyü suggests that it is one of the many Kagyü traditions originating with Marpa (1012-1097), the Shangpa Kagyü has a different origin.

The Shangpa Kagyü originates with Khyungpo Naljor (984-1139?) a Tibetan who traveled seven times to India and studied under about one-hundred and fifty accomplished masters. Among the most accomplished masters were the two Kashmiri female masters Niguma and Sukhasiddhi, both of whom (like Tilopa) received pure vision realizations from the Buddha Vajradhara. Some report Niguma to be the ex-wife/consort of Nāropa others report her to be his sister. In any case both Nāropa and Niguma spent years together in separate neighboring caves in Pulahari, just north of the present day Srinagar.

Sukhasiddhi was the student of the accomplished Mahāsiddha Virūpa (Birawa) who is the origin of the Sakya tradition. Khyungpo Naljor received both the "Six Doctrines of Niguma" as well as the "Six Doctrines of Sukhasiddhi" and in turn he developed his own "Five Golden Doctrines" which were passed on to four generations of meditating recluses.

Due to the reclusiveness of this tradition they never built their own monasteries and details of the transmission lineage are scarce. The Shangpa Kagyü were often associated with the Jonang Order , and some members (Taranatha) of the Shangpa lineage were also members of the Jonangpa Order . The Shangpa Kagyü tradition did survive into the present day. In the 19th century the first Jamgon Kongtrul received all the Shangpa transmissions which were passed on to subsequent members of the Karma Kagyü.

Mahāsiddha (Métripa)


Ḍākinī Niguma/Vimalaśri(1025-?)
(Nāropa's ex-wife/consort

Mahāsiddha Rahula
(S. India)


Ḍākinī Sukhasiddhi
disciple of Birawa (Virūpa)

Mahāsiddha Vajrasanapa
(Dorjé Denpa)

Khyungpo Naljor

Mokchok-pa Rinchen Tsöndru

Kyergang-pa Chökyi Sengé

Rigong-pa Sangyé Nyentön

Sangye Tönpa (1213-1285)

Sangye Tönpa (1213-1285)
|_ (Khedrub Choje Zhonnu Drub (d.1319))
|_ Tsangma Shangtönpa (1234-1309)


Namkha Naljor
|_ (Je Tsongkapa)
|_ Jinpa Tsangpo
|_ Tangtong Gyalpo (Tsöndru Zangpo) (1361-1485 or 1385-1464) had three pure visions of Niguma


Gyagom Lekpa Gyaltsen
|_ Kunga Drolchok (1507- 1566)
|                        ↓
|                        ↓                ?
|                        ↓                |_Lochen Gyurmé Déchen (Sakya) (1540-1615)
|                        ↓                        |
|                        ↓                        |_ Ngawang Chödrak (Sakya) (1572-1641)
|_n.n.                ↓
        |                ↓
|_ Jetsun Taranata (1575-1634) had pure visions of Niguma

|_ Rigzin Tsewang Norbu (Nyingma) (1698-1755)
↓        |
?        |_ Thrinley Shingta -the 7th Gyalwang Drukpa (1718-1766)

|_Jamyang Kyentsé Wangpo (1820-1892) -had a pure vision of Tangtong Gyalpo

|_ n.n. (a reincarnation of Kyergang-pa Chökyi Senge)
|_ Lama Karma Norbu (Zhenpen Özer) - a reincarnation of Mokchok-pa Rinchen Tsöndru
|_ 1st Jamgon Kongtrul Thaye (1813-1899)
|_ Tashi Chöpel
|        ↓
|_ Tashi Özer (1836-1910)
|_ 1st Kalu Rinpoché (1905-1989) - an "unofficial" incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul
|_ Bokar Rinpoché (1940-2004)
|_ Benchen Tenga Rinpoche (1932- )
|_ 2nd Kalu Rinpoche (1990- )

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