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Glorious Nāropa’s Life of Liberation and Spiritual Song


Glorious Nāropa’s Life of Liberation and Spiritual Song

[As Told by the Translator Marpa to the Translator Ngok and Son][1]


Translated by Naropa’s Tibetan IV class of 2013

Sarah Harding, instructor, and

Jordan Ganz, Laura Goetz, Tucker Smith,

Celso Scott Wilkinson, Dan Garbes, Mike Engle




Homage to the precious holy gurus!


I bow at the feet of Glorious Nāropa,

the yogi who, without concern for life or limb,

served the holy guru

and attained the vajra body.


The Great Master Nāropa had immeasurable excellent qualities, which cannot all be expressed. Nevertheless, they are summarized in four levels: outer, inner, secret, and suchness aspects of spiritual biography.


1) Outwardly, he was recognized as a worthy recipient based upon hardships at the time of seeking prophecy.

2) Inwardly, he unraveled the symbolic meaning based upon the hardship of taking suffering into experience.

3) Secretly, he filled the lamp of methods based upon the hardship of performing the offering of giving up what is cherished.

4) In suchness, he manifested the results based upon the hardship of fulfilling the requests and observing the commands.


Each of these four consists of two parts:


1) Outwardly, (A) the greatness of being the type who is a worthy recipient and (B) the greatness of realizing the prophecy.

2) Inwardly, (A) unveiling the vision of the empowerment, the path of maturation and (B) filling the torch of skillful means, the path of liberation.

3) Secretly, (A) lighting the lamp of bliss and (B) lighting the undissipating lamp.

4) In suchness, (A) showing signs in conduct and (B) manifesting the results.


Nāropa’s Life of Liberation will be explained by these four pairs, or eight parts.

 naropa caligraphy image


  1. Outwardly, He Was Recognized as a Worthy Recipient Based upon Hardships at the Time of Seeking Prophecy


  1. The Greatness of Being the Type Who Is a Worthy Recipient


The Indian city called Kashmir is a kingdom of some hundred thousand villages. In its center is the capital, full of luxuries and surrounded by multitudes of elephants, carriages and horses. There were gardens and servants. There, the king father was called Śantivarman. The queen was called Śrimatī and the daughter Śrijñāna. Since they had no son, they made copious offerings to the guru and Jewels, and gave in charity to the people. They also made offerings to all the special holy objects and prayed for a son.

In the month of Gyal (approx. December) a son was born. He was well endowed with special signs and was shown to a Brahmin sign-reader, who said:


This one is like the son of Shuddhodana.

Staying in the home, he’ll be a lord of the people.

If he ordains, the two accumulations will be fulfilled

and he will become a buddha in this lifetime.


With that prophecy, he named him Prince Samantabhadra. The prince matured rapidly and remained naturally endowed with qualities. His father worried that he would leave home to become a homeless wanderer and abandon the kingdom, so he did not give him many studies, such as reading and writing. However, unbeknownst to his parents, the prince easily gained knowledge through study. He wished to take ordination but his mother would not permit it. His response was:


Without relying on the Dharma, whatever one does

is suffering, so I listen to the holy Dharma.


He listened to many teachings from Brahmin Master Āryākāśa of the brahmin caste. Once he had learned the five areas of classical knowledge,[2] he took lay ordination and was given the name Ākāśagarbha. Then he instructed thirty or forty paṇḍitas who had come along with his parents, who were not pleased that he was engaged in the Dharma. The king said:


Parents are the nature of the Jewels.

Not listening to them with a loving mind

is to abandon the kingdom like a wad of spit.

What Dharma does not heed one’s parents?

We beg you to live as a householder.


That was to say that he needed to maintain the kingdom by getting married. The prince replied:


The six kinds of beings are the nature of parents.

One or two as parents is not attested, however,

if you can find one who dwells without bias in purity,

stainless of being a heretic, with mahāyāna disposition,

then you may command me.


The father was not happy about that, so he asked a minister whether such a princess could ever be found for the prince. The minister said:


Oh great king,

do not be discouraged.

The world realm is vast

and if we search for Stainless, we’ll find her.


Having said that, the king gave him a present of much gold and sent him to search. In the eastern region of Bhagala he found the daughter of the Brahmin Tiṣya called Vimalā (Dri ma med pa, “stainless”). The prince married her and made her a student. But the prince became disenchanted with that situation. He consulted with Vimalā and told her not to make obstacles to the Dharma. The prince said:

Since women have various faults,

my own buffalo mind sinks

in the toxic swamp of deception.

It is better if I become a monk.


Then, in the pleasure grove of the temple of Kashmir, Nāropa took novice ordination with the abbot Buddhaśaraṇa and the master Jñānaprabha[3] and received the name Buddhajñāna (Sangs rgyas ye shes, “Buddha Wisdom”). Then, since novice ordination does not consummate the Buddha’s doctrine, he went to the temple in central India called Khetra and received full ordination training with the master Dharmajñāna, the abbot Dharmaguru, and the master Dharmabodhi.[4] He became known as the Monk Dharmadhvaja (Chos kyi rgyal mtshan, “Banner of Dharma”).

There, he finalized his studies and reflections, surpassing all those scholars and students. Becoming a great upholder of the scriptures (piṭaka), an assembly gathered around him and he gave explanations. He became known as the Elder Śāsanadhāra (gNas brtan bsTan pa ‘dzin pa, “Holder of the Doctrine”). Then he was invited to replace the late Avadhūti, the scholar of the western gate at Nālandā. He became a great paṇḍita who conferred empowerments on the scholars. Debating with both Buddhists and non-Buddhists, he was thrice victorious, and boasted:


The hook of researching the conventional meanings

draws in the bad opponents like food for sparrows.

The sword of reasoning, grammar, and logic

severs from the roots the tree of bad opponents.

The torch of reasoning and scripture

clears up the darkness of the evil opponent’s ignorance.

The jewel cluster of the three noble vows

cleans the stains of impure delusion.

The device of esoteric instructions

conquers the city of illusion and wrong livelihood.

Before the eyes of the king and great paṇḍitas,

sharpened and sharpened from Nālandā,

the heretics’ living tree was burned to the ground

and the victory banner of Buddha’s teaching was planted.


Thereafter everyone at Nālandā called him Abhayakīrti (dPal ldan ‘Jigs med drags pa; “Glorious Fearless Renown”).


This was a time of doing the scholar’s job: explicating the dharma, bestowing precepts,[5] doing consecrations, arousing the aspiration [for awakening in the students], and bestowing the blessings of empowerment. During this time he did much research. In the evenings he would look at volumes of Dharma, and meditate on creation and completion stages in between. Then one time while explaining a teaching, an old woman appeared with thirty-two marks of ugliness. There she stood, alternately crying and laughing. Nāropa asked her what it meant, and she said:


“I’m delighted by the way you explain the teachings, but cry over the meaning.”


“Well what do you know?” he asked.


“In your dharma explanations, do you explain based on knowing the words or from knowing the meaning?”


“I know the words,” he replied


“So it is!” she exclaimed.


“Who is there that knows the meaning?” asked Nāropa.


“My brother knows, ” she retorted.


“Please take me to meet him,” he implored.


“Now he came, but you do not see. If you pray you will meet him.” Then she disappeared.


Once Nāropa had seen that woman there with thirty-two signs of ugliness, outwardly he became aware of the thirty-two defects of samsara, which are subtle and obvious causes and results, and understood that the nature of cyclic existence is suffering. Inwardly, he understood that because of thirty-six impure substances one’s own body is an impermanent and destructible phenomenon. Secretly, he understood that based on the vital points of the thirty-two radial channels being the thirty-two bodhisattvas, he must realize coemergent primordial awareness. He understood these three ways of understanding by differentiating the cause and effects backwards and forwards of those vital points. He said:


Cyclic existence is thinking of others’ faults and capabilities.[6]

It is an unbearable fire pit, a deep dark dungeon,

the swamp of three poisons deep and turbulent,

suffocating in the worm’s cocoon, caught in the trap’s jaws,

tied in the devil’s hobble, unwillingly falling into the pit,

a wild beast chasing a mirage, bound by karmic knots,

a bee stuck in honey, milking the cow of this life,

suspended on an island of cannibals, tied by the noose of death,

in perverse seasons and degenerate bad activity,

meeting the shades of birth and old age, powerless before the death lord,

tormented by the hounds of death like a wild animal trapped,

hunted mercilessly without refuge down a narrow treacherous path,

the long narrow path to the vast prairie of dualistic fixation,

chased by the horse of eight concerns, spearheads beating drums.

Life is a dancer performing impermanence, a plantain without pith,

the moon in water unrecognized appearing wrongly as water bubbles,

vanishing like mist or water ripples; yet am I attached to false conventions.

Meditating on this passing precious opportunity now,

why would I not seek the guru?


Then Nāropa renounced all of his supports, implements, and texts—things that a renunciate should abandon—with the intention of meaningfully donating to the Dharma. “I go to seek the genuine guru who teaches the meaning of dharma,” he announced, and prepared to set out on the road. But the keeper of the north gate, Jitāre Drale Namgyal, spoke up:


The root of the doctrine is the sangha.

To give that up is not Dharma. Please stay!


The keeper of the east gate, Durdharṣacandra, said:


The root of the doctrine is friends with vows.

To abandon friends is not dharma. Please stay!


The keeper of the south gate, Krṣiṇā, said:


The root of the doctrine is vow-keeping morality.

To give up morality is not dharma. Please stay!


Then everybody there at Nālandā said:


We supplicate you with one voice.

We will be clueless and stupid

without a wise doctor of Dharma.

Glorious Abhayakīrti,

please stay for our sakes!


Nāropa replied:


Since the born will die, the gathered part,

and the collected dissipate, for myself

how is there a path of freedom and deathlessness?

Even with mastery of the five areas of knowledge

and various treatises on logic,

even knowing the meaning of an ocean of scripture,

if I will be bereft of an authentic guru,

I cannot quench the heat of my thirst.

The essence of the ocean-like tantras

is a river of blessing elixir.

If my being is not satisfied

by the spiritual powers of the guru’s blessing,

even with multiple sets of magic, qualities, and clairvoyance,

I do not see the meaning.

Instead, no matter what, I will seek

the genuine guru in reliance on



Carrying his monk robe and walking staff, Nāropa set out travelling to the east. At that moment a sound came from the sky:


With the help of Cakrasaṃvara

the prophecy of the guru buddha will transpire.


Nāropa said:


In that case from now on

why shouldn’t I practice Cakrasaṃvara?


He went to the Nambu Flower charnel ground and built a grass hut. After he finished it, he completed the recitation practice of one or three hundred-thousand seven-syllable Cakrasaṃvara mantras. The earth trembled, light and pleasant aromas wafted and other signs appeared. In a dream, two ḍākinīs bestowed a prophecy and story, which actually happened as they predicted.


Tilopa, in the Eastern direction,

embodiment of non-dual emptiness and bliss,

protector of beings, with blissful emanations:

There is the guru buddha. Go look for him!


After hearing these words he left. For one month he travelled all over but did not find the guru. He lamented:


Alas, the pure guru buddha,

sought but not found: the devil’s deceit.


And again harkening from the sky:


Don’t serve the devil of laziness.

If you search, you will find the guru buddha.


Again he set off to search.



The First Minor Hardship


One time, passing through a narrow precipice, Nāropa came across a leper with a goiter. With swollen limbs, she was sitting there blocking the path. Nāropa said “move over” covering his nose, he gingerly jumped over her. She said:


Being without concepts is the reason to find the guru.

Genuine reality is the indivisibility of everything.

It is to be without concepts and free of all extremes.

You, with all of your concepts,

how will you ever find the guru?


Then she was gone in a snap of the fingers.



The Second Minor Hardship


One time when Nāropa was crossing an empty desert, he encountered a dog with its upper body diseased and the lower part rotten and crawling with maggots. Since it was sitting there cutting off his passage, Nāropa stepped over and the dog said:


Without the arising of great compassion

for the six types of migrators who are essentially your parents,

and thus not to enter the path of the great vehicle,

seeking elsewhere, how will you find the guru?


“What are you?” exclaimed Nāropa.


How could you find the guru while you cling

to regarding others as inferior.


Saying that, the dog vanished.



The Third Minor Hardship


Another time on the road he came across two men beating a person about the head. He asked, “Have you seen Telopa?”

“I’ve seen him and will show you,” said one man, “but first help me beat this man’s head.”


Nāropa thought to himself, “I cannot help you beat the man’s head.” The man said:


In the doctrine of great compassion,

if you do not beat the head of self-fixation

with the hammer of empty non-self,

how could you find the guru by searching?


Saying that and snapping his fingers, Nāropa fainted. When he came to and looked around, there was no one there.



The Fourth Minor Hardship


Again going on his way, Nāropa found a person pulling out the intestines from the torso of another man, and, brandishing a sword, he chopped them up. “Have you seen Telopa?” Nāropa asked. “Help me with this and I’ll show you,” he said. When Nāropa did not help him, he said:


If you do not decisively cut the continuity of samsara

with the sword of unborn nature of phenomena

from within a nonreferential state,

how will you find the guru?


He then disappeared.



The Fifth Minor Hardship


Nāropa travelled through the countryside asking everyone he met, but they all said they didn’t know. Then he met a man by a river who was cleaning a lot of human flesh and he queried him, but again the man spoke as before. Nāropa had a reaction to the sight, and the man said:


If you do not clean in self-liberated samsara

the stains of your own mental concepts

in the river of profound instructions,

how will you find the guru?


And he vanished.



The Sixth Minor Hardship


Again as Nāropa was going along the road he met a few people and asked the question. They said, “A governor of the realm passed by this road. Go ask him.” Arriving there, Nāropa asked that ruler, who said “Take my princess, be my subject; then I will show you.” He stayed there and did that, but later the princess rejected him and went to another. He became angry and was thinking of doing some magic when a voice came from the sky:


Anger based on desirables

causes birth in the bad places.

How will you find the guru?

Weren’t you deceived by the child of illusion?


Thinking that was true, Nāropa listened to it and departed.



The Seventh Minor Hardship


When Nāropa arrived at the basin of a river, he met a few women and asked, “Haven’t you seen Telopa?” They replied, “On the other side of this mountain in a forest there is a hunter. You should ask him.” There, among many wild deer in the thick forest, he met that hunter—a black man wearing yellow mountain clothes and carrying bow and arrows. “Have you seen Lord Telopa?” Resting on his bow, the hunter said:


I kill the roaming deer of dualistic clinging

in samsara’s forest of habitual patterns

on the mountain of the body of clinging to “I”

with the arrow of nonattachment to illusory bodies

drawn from the bow of clear light experience.

This hunter who loves killing

tomorrow will go to the dwellings to beg.


Saying that he disappeared.



The Eighth Minor Hardship


The next day, Nāropa came to a temple where there was a noisy crowd of people gathered, and asked them, “Have you not seen the lord Telopa?” “Of that we have no knowledge, but there is a beggar called Telopa in there,” they said. “Go on in, that’s him.” Before him Nāropa found a man putting lice in a fire and many lice were burning up. Nāropa did prostrations and circumambulations, and requested him to take him as a disciple and give him instructions. The man said, “Burn this handful of lice in the fire.”


Sentient beings cycle in the three realms

on the great expanse[7] of path of true nature.

To slay this duḥkha of concepts and habits,

go and kill by exhausting it!


But Nāropa was unable to kill.


The louse of self-born and self-consuming concepts:

If you don’t kill it, how will you find the guru?

I am a fisherman following the sea.


Saying that, he disappeared.



The Ninth Minor Hardship


The next day Nāropa went to another area where there was a respectable old couple with their two kids, plowing a field. The monk Nāropa asked, “Have you seen Telopa?” They said, “First, as it is lunchtime, please stay and eat.” Scooping up a bunch of fish with a strainer and boiling them, the noblewoman drew out the cooked fish. Nāropa would not drink the fish soup so she threw it to the ground and all the fish flew away. She yelled:


For one who is bound by concepts the guru is difficult.

If you don’t eat these fish of conceptual thoughts

that run after desirable things,

how will you find the unborn guru?

I will now go to kill my parents.


Then the place and everything disappeared without a trace.



The Tenth Minor Hardship


Again, the next day, as Nāropa was wondering if he would find Telopa or not, he came across a man on the road who was binding his parents and tying them up with rope.

“Have you not seen Telopa?” he asked.


“Help me kill my parents and I’ll tell you,” said the man.


Nāropa thought, “I’ve come seeking the Dharma, how could I help commit an act of immediate retribution?” The man said:


Without killing the parents, the three poisons

that churn the ocean of samsara,

how can you find the guru by seeking?

As for me, I go to see the show.


Then he vanished.



The Eleventh Minor Hardship


When the next day arrived, there was a large crowd gathered in one area. There were many groups of blind people gathered, and in their midst was a man with one eye. He was describing each person, their shape and colors, and there was great amazement. Also, that one-eyed man could even see them with his back turned. “Do you not see Telopa among them?” Nāropa asked. The one-eyed man said:


Externally we do not see Telo.

If you would seek Telo from your heart,

attend to a guru with lineage.

Brandish the sword of realizing the view.

Release the knot of the eight concerns in your actions.

Race the stallion of bliss-clarity in meditation.

Bask in the self-luminous sun as a result.

Kindle the bonfire of great bliss in your experience.

Look on the wish-fulfilling gem of realization.

One eye[8] sees many as a single value.

Look without seeing, like the blind.

Listen without hearing, like the deaf.

Move without coming and going, like the crippled.

Applaud without birth, like the dead.



The Twelfth Minor Hardship


Continuing his search, Nāropa arrived at the mountain “Adorned with Herbs” (Parpata rGyan) in Ālaṃkara. As soon as he thought of asking to be accepted, Telopa always disappeared. Broken hearted because even though he met all those emanations of the guru, it didn’t do any good. Thinking, “Now because of impure ripening of my habitual tendencies, I haven’t really met him.” He began to cry, and lamented:


Having followed the prophecy of the ḍākinīs

and abandoned the sangha, the root of the doctrine.

leaving the dharma friends with vows,

and disregarding loving advice,

though I took on suffering and hardship,

I did not find the guru.

Perhaps my body is an obstruction.

Why not seek the guru by discarding it?


Just as he was pulling out a razor blade the master arrived as a layman with a matted topknot and a swarthy complexion. He said:


Slaying the buddha to find the guru,

will any guru be found?

Am I not the beggar you want?


Looking into space and crying, Nāropa put his hands together at his heart and fervently supplicated:


Like a cloud in the sky, you are shifty.

How could I find the master by searching?

Did the guru not regard me with compassion?

From now on, please accept me with compassion.


Thus he beseeched, and the Lord Telopa said,


You are the worthy, brilliant, stainless one.

Now you become the recipient of instructions

of the wishfulfilling gem of Secret Mantra,

the secret abode of the ḍākinīs.


And Telopa accepted him.


That was the greatness of his type as a worthy disciple.



I.B. The Greatness of Realizing the Prophecy


First there is Glorious Vajradhāra’s prophecy of not-regression:


Through great bliss, source of bliss,[9]

you show the way to enlightenment, protector of beings.

Mind without concept, lucid clarity free of embellishment,

you become a protector with spiritual vision.

Bhagavan who explains the root—you will not return.[10]


Secondly, the yidam Glorious Cakrasaṃvara pronounced:


In the hermitage Puṣpahari, at midnight,

the guru, like a green tree,

is the nature of unborn form,

served by an entourage like a flock of birds:

Nāro, with body unborn.


The guru, like a river,

by the river of stainless instructions,

washes the stains of neurotic emotions

with the elixir of ineffable speech:

Nāro, with ineffable speech.


The guru, with primordial awareness,

like the sun in the unobstructed sky,

clears away the darkness of beings:

Nāro, with nonconceptual mind.


Third, [Telopa’s] prophecy of the guru to attend:


Telopa’s disciples asked, “Master, since you are shifty like the clouds in the sky, who should we attend?


Nāropa, who in mindfulness never forgets,

followed me through twelve hardships.

He has my nature.

Those who strive for future generations,

if they desire realization, should attend him.


Thus he bestowed the prophecy of attending.


Fourth, Nāropa’s own prophecy of self-liberation:


The undivided mind on the path of mahāmudrā,

sees the primordial awareness of coemergence

of mind itself, free of embellishment, obscurations, and stains

and, by realizing primordial awareness, need ask no one.

Self-liberation comes automatically from nondualism.


Thus he spoke. That was the time of the hardships of the time of seeking the outer prophecy.



  1. The Inner: Unraveling the Symbolic Meaning Based upon the Hardship of Taking Suffering into Experience


  1. Unveiling the Vision of the Empowerments, the Path of Maturation


Master Telopa was sitting in a meadow as if staked to the ground. He was silent as a mute. His mind dwelt within nonduality. Lord Nāropa offered a mandala, prostrated, circumambulated, and requested him to bestow instructions. He taught the eleven symbols of the vase empowerment, eleven of the secret empowerment, and five symbols of the awareness [based on] knowledge empowerment, up through a total of twenty-seven symbols. With that presentation, they were gradually revealed.


To the guru, a precious gem,

one should have unchanging faith and devotion.

With one’s own being as pure as a crystal ball,

recall the instructions and drink of their stream.

The knots of this life’s eight concerns is released.

Water in many containers has the same taste.

The unborn source of dharmas

is the single sphere of dharmakāya.

A mute is without speech, without expression,

the fruit of the tree is naturally perfect.

You have released the knot of the symbols verbally.

You are a person who understands symbols.

The wishfulfilling jewel of Secret Mantra,

the secret abode of the ḍākinīs:

Look in the mirror of the ripening primordial awareness.


Then Nāropa asked:


Blinded by the darkness of ignorance,

how can I look?


Telopa answered:


Look in the way of not looking.

Within the state of not seeing,

you’ll be liberated in the way of no liberation.

Seeing the meaning, the yogin is self-liberated.


Nāropa said:


The precious gem of mind

within samsara’s ocean of three realms

is found by depending on the guru ship.

Happy is the yogin who sees the meaning of the ripening path.


Thinking that he might be attached to the Dharma, Telopa said:


Do not cling to the guru’s instructions

that introduce you from happiness to happiness.


After receiving the vase empowerment on the body, Nāropa was introduced to the environment and its contents as the mandala of gods and goddess, and the deities’ form appearances as being without intrinsic existence. After receiving the secret empowerment on his speech, he was introduced to undissipating bliss. Receiving the awareness-knowledge empowerment in the mind, he was introduced to the primordial awareness of the meaning of coemergent reflexive awareness. Receiving the fourth empowerment in the set of three doors, he was introduced to the ineffable mahāmudrā. Then, Telopa set fire to the edge of a piece of cloth and the whole cloth suddenly burned. He asked, “Do you get it?” Nāropa said:


I have understood that in one moment the primordial awareness of the third empowerment burns up samsara’s discursive thoughts like the cloth and the meaning of empowerment, like the spark of fire, readily burns the cloth of afflictive emotion.



  1. The Torch of Methods, the Path of Liberation


In this torch of methods of the path of liberation, Nāropa undergoes twelve major hardships.


The First Major Hardship


This is the time when Nāropa jumped off of the roof ornament of Otanta.[11] When his body had become like a corpse, he said:


This tangle of a fully ripened body

has the nature of destructibility like a reed.


Telopa said:


This tangle of a fully ripened body

is fit to be broken, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of mind, the lineage.


At that time Telopa gave him the instructions on the Four Transmitted Precepts.



The Second Major Hardship


After one year, Nāropa made a bridge [of his body over a stream] filled with leeches.


These penetrating leech critters

have pained me uncontrollably.


Telopa said:


This stream of the fully ripened body

is fit to be penetrated, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of common mind.


Thus the entire instructions of the creation phase without exception were completed.



The Third Major Hardship


Then again one time there was a three-fold fire heaped up on a hearth. Telopa told him to sit in the middle of it and sitting there, all of his flesh burned. Just as he was about to lose consciousness, Telopa came and said “Are you sick?” He responded:


This fully ripened body

is burned in the fire element and I suffer.


Telopa said:


This body of fully ripened karma,

is fit to be burned, Nāropa.

Look at the wishfulfilling gem of sacred oath.


Saying that, he gave the instructions of the wishfulfilling gem of sacred oath.



The Fourth Major Hardship


After another year had passed, Nāropa requested instructions. Telopa said, “Bring fire, bamboo, and oil, and come along.” Nāropa came carrying those three things, and sat down at Telopa’s feet. Telopa poured oil on the sticks, heated them in the fire and struck them against Nāropa’s body, drawing them from right to left, left to right, and back to front, until Nāropa said:


This heap of clinging to both apprehender and apprehended

is destroyed by the guru, yet the self suffers.


Telopa said:


Look in the mirror of mind, the bliss-heat

of the wishfulfilling gem of secret mantra.




The tangle of this body of self-clinging

is fit to be destroyed, Nāropa.


At that time he bestowed the instructions of the blazing wisdom fire of inner heat in the ḍākinīs’ secret place, as well as general instructions of inner heat practice.



The Fifth Major Hardship


After another year had passed, they went up to a high grassy meadow where there were many flowers. Telopa strung three flower garlands and handed them to Nāropa and said,

“There is a bride coming to this crossroads of the valley. You take this flower garland to that minister’s bride and when she is pleased and comes, then rub the bride’s breast.” He did that and the messenger said, “You did that right under our noses!” and he beat him until he couldn’t move. Telopa came and said, “What is wrong?”


The messenger crushed me

like an artist crushes paint and I suffer.


Telopa said:


The elixir of self-clinging to this body

is fit to be crushed, Nāropa.

Look at the mirror of mind, total liberation,

the wishfulfilling gem of Secret Mantra,

the secret abode of the ḍākinī.


Then he blessed him with the instructions of lucid clarity that clears away the darkness of ignorance and other teachings.



The Sixth Major Hardship


Another time, while staying in a hermitage in a remote forest, Nāropa went begging for alms. As he was coming back he met a man hosting a religious festival. There, he waited, noting that there would be excellent leftovers. He figured he would throw away his alms and take [that better food] back. He brought it to the guru, who was so pleased he smacked his lips while eating. Nāropa thought, “How is it that my guru who is not satisfied by whatever I do is now delighted? Will he entrust me again? ”

He asked, “Should I go search again?”

Telopa said, “Right.” So he returned to same place and found that the people had spread out. Looking inside, he saw a little bit in a container so he snatched it and ran. The patron and crowd of people chased him.

Among some useful auspiciously connected items that were formerly bestowed on him by the guru there was a mirror. Nāropa threw it and it became a big lake, which his pursuers could not cross and gave him time to escape. When the patron launched a buffalo hide boat and arrived at the other side, Nāropa hurled an iron chain. It turned into a mountain that blocked their path and he escaped. When they climbed that and arrived, he threw a rope, which became a great river. Again they crossed that and caught up with him. Then he swung a wooden sword, which became an iron hut and he hid inside it. His pursuers came carrying a bunch of sandalwood trees and stacked them up all around the edges of the iron and set them on fire. The fire blew in from all directions and heated the iron hut until Nāropa couldn’t stand it and came outside. The people all beat him. Then Telopa came along and said, “What is wrong?” Nāropa said:


Thrashed like grain,

pressed like sesame,

my head smashed, I suffer.


Telopa said:


This bald-headed body of self-fixation

is fit to be pummeled, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of immutable bliss.


He gave the instructions for the enhancement practices of bliss-heat and the dream practice that naturally clears up delusion.



The Seventh Major Hardship


Again following after Telopa, Nāropa came to a man in an empty field carrying a load and going on his way. Telopa ordered Nāropa to chase him but the man kept receding into the distance like a mirage. When Nāropa was punished by fatigue, Telopa came and asked, “What is wrong?” Naropa said:


Like an animal pursuing a mirage

that disappears and reappears far away, I suffer.


Then Telopa said:


This rope of samsara’s three realms

is fit to be cut, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of liberated illusion.


Saying that, he gave the instructions on illusory body that naturally liberates the eight concerns and all the general instructions on illusory body.



The Eighth Major Hardship


Another year passed. Along came a princess carried in a palanquin. Telopa told Nāropa to seize her and he did so. The minister’s entourage beat him until he couldn’t breathe. Again Telopa came and said, “What is wrong?” Nāropa said:


The unkind minister pounded me

into pulp as if making a meal.


Telopa said:


This body, a mountain of self-fixation,

is fit to be broken, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of undeceiving object perception.


Then Telopa gave him the instructions on “entering a corpse like a snake’s secret shedding” and all general instructions on entering the dead (grong ‘jug).



The Ninth Major Hardship


Again as Nāropa was following the guru, Lord Telopa said, “Abduct the wife of that king.” Nāropa abducted the king’s wife and the king punished him by stuffing him into a ballista catapult and launching him. His body was broken into pieces and he was nearly senseless. Again Telopa asked, “Are you not well?” He said:


With the king’s bow I was launched

like an arrow and I suffer.


Telopa said:


This body, a mountain of self-fixation,

is fit to be broken, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of naturally liberated mind.


He then introduced him to the meaning of the nondual empowerment and gave him instructions on severing the continuity of samsara and nirvana. That was the ninth hardship.



The Tenth Major Hardship


On another occasion, Telopa ordered Nāropa to seize a minister’s lady. When he did so the ministers cut his four limbs such that each were separated and beat him until he barely had any breath left. He thought that now he would not recover and felt great devotion and faith in the guru. Again Telopa came and said, “What is wrong?” He said:


Like a wild animal without refuge,

with no protector happiness is destroyed and I suffer.


Lord Telopa said:


The wild animal of this body of self-fixation

is fit to be killed, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of the immortal mind

in your own body without birth or death.


Then he reattached each of Nāropa’s limbs and snapped his fingers. Nāropa recovered. He gave him all the general instructions on the intermediate state and in particular the instructions that introduce the intermediate state dharmakāya after this tenth hardship.



The Eleventh Major Hardship


Telopa directed Nāropa to a qualified woman and told him to take her as a mudra consort. He did that and befriended her for a little while, but then came to see many faults in women. He said:


Dualistic clinging to duality of appearing objects

takes a lot of effort and I suffer.


Telopa said:


For samsara and nirvana inseparable,

effort is fitting, Nāropa.

The wishfulfilling gem of Secret Mantra,

the secret place of the ḍākinīs,

reveals the meaning of unembellished mind.

That is the instruction of essential meaning.

Look into the mirror of great bliss mind.


For this eleventh hardship he was given every instruction for relying on the wisdom of another’s body.



The Twelfth Major Hardship


Telopa commanded Nāropa to offer him his mudra consort, and Nāropa offered her without hesitation. Telopa asked, “Are you happy?” He answered:


Nāro is happy to offer the wisdom quality

without hesitation to the guru buddha.


Telopa said:


In the expanse of the realm of phenomena

happiness is fitting, Nāropa.

The wishfulfilling gem of Secret Mantra

the secret place of the ḍākinīs:

Look in the mirror of the unembellished mind.


For this twelfth hardship, he was given instructions of transference alchemy.



III. The Secret: Filling the Lamp of Methods Based on the Hardship of Performing the Offering of Giving up what is Cherished[12]


  1. Lighting the Undissipating Lamp


In that way twelve years passed. Having engaged in twelve hardships, at the last affliction, the guru told Nāropa to offer a mandala. Without hesitation Nāropa sprinkled the earth with blood and arranged heaps of the five senses: eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. According to Rechungpa, he cut off his head and placed it in the center. He arranged all of his limbs and appendages in the four cardinal and eight intermediate directions and said, “I offer these.” Telopa asked if he was happy, and Nāropa replied:


Nāropa is happy to offer the guru

the mandala of the dissipating body.


Telopa said:


The dissipating, hollow body

is a fitting offering, Nāropa.

In the space of no real entities,

it is fitting to be happy, Nāropa.

Look in the mirror of nonduality

of the wishfulfilling gem of Secret Mantra,

the ḍākinī’s secret place.


Then Nāropa asked:


Blinded by the stupid darkness of ignorance,

how can I look?


Telopa said:


Look in the way of not looking.

Within the state of not seeing,

seeing the meaning, the yogin is self-liberated.


Realization was born instantly and Nāropa answered:


My own mind is the precious gem!

Relying on the ship of the guru,

across the ocean of samsara’s three realms,

to see the meaning of nonduality—happy yogi!


Telopa sensed that he was there due to attachment to the instructions and said:


Do not cling to the instructions of the guru

that introduce you from happiness to happiness.


Again Nāropa replied:


Like a spark, primordial awareness

readily burns the cloth of discursive thought.


Thus the meaning of nonduality was introduced and once the realization of the meaning of mahāmudrā arose, Nāropa became free of striving for accomplishment. That was the end of hardship.



  1. The Suchness: Manifesting the Result Based Upon the Hardship of Fulfilling the Requests and Observing the Commands


After Nāropa had offered his realization of interdependent relationship forwards and backwards and had offered pearls and coral flowers, there was the hardship of fulfilling the requests and observing the commands and the final conduct.



  1. Showing Signs in Conduct


Nāropa made final prostrations to the guru and departed. He served as the chaplain for King Candrindriya, and while staying in meditation, Guru Telopa appeared in the sky and said:


The sitting blind does not see.

The sitting deaf does not hear sound.

The sitting dumb does not understand.

The sitting cripple does not follow along.

The stationary tree does not grow roots.

Mahāmudrā is not realized by sitting.


Nāropa thought that he was telling him to engage in the conduct in order to progressively improve the training of the enhancement practices. He donned a cotton angara,[13] took a skull cup, and went begging from everyone. A child skilled in gestures put a small sharp knife into the skullcup, which caused it to overflow and dissolve. Nāropa consumed it and everyone was amazed. The news travelled from person to person until it reached the ears of the king, who said, “What kind of yogi is this? I must see him.” So he sent four brigades to advance on him, but Nāropa killed them with his gaze. He then sent a mad elephant that had been doused with strong beer and Nāropa killed it with his gaze. By acting in this way, he caused suffering for the parents of the soldiers and suffering for all the local people over the dead elephant. The guru told the local people to dig a pit that could contain the elephant in a far off place. Then Nāropa performed “entering the dead” transference to the elephant and walked it over to the pit, making all the people happy. Then the king asked Nāropa to be his chaplain and offered him his daughter.

Nāropa still engaged in all kinds of activities, such as hunting, so the girl was asked to come back, but she didn’t listen. She said, “This is a very fine yogi.” There those two were tied together and a wall of sandalwood trees stacked up. Around that the king and the ministers made a mountainous firewall, a circle of swords, a fishing net, and so forth to surround them. Then they lit the sandalwood trees inside on fire. The smoke reached the sky and the flickering flames flared up, but inside the fire the couple danced. On the morning of the seventh day, the king and his entourage thought that now they must have died without even leaving any bones. But holding the vajra and bell, they had elevated into the sky, kissing. They suddenly appeared there clearly in the form of Heruka, the nature of a rainbow. Nāropa spoke these words:


This ring of sandalwood fire

helps burn the spirit of self-fixation.

This ring of sharp weapons

helps cut the continuity of samsara.

This karmic knot of hostility

helps release the knots of three poisons.

This weapon of harsh, abusive speech

helps don the small armor of patience.

This hammer of patron-priest rules

helps pound the spirit of self-fixation.

Severing the life of others without concern

while not dissociated from the three vows,

and not being born in the lower realms,

is Nāropa’s happy helper.


At that, regret was born in the king and he begged forgiveness.


Burning in fire for disrupting the community,

the fire at the end of the eon

is mind burned by the fire of dualistic clinging.

The time that the dharma king Aśoka asked questions,

those same meanings came to me in a dream.

I beg your forgiveness for my impure faults.[14]


Again Nāropa spoke:


Great arguments, damaging scripture and essence;

such division causes harm while

it is known one should not cause harm.

Leaving one’s country, going through training,

and contemplating existence purify the karmic ripening.

Those who are realized, or lack conventions,

have great purpose, or are unable to practice,

should be known as being without fault.

Realizing the unborn applies to all.

For scorning and slandering the guru

and dividing the sangha there is no antidote.


Then the king said:


The guru’s commands were shot

by the bow of eight worldly concerns.

In dreams I saw birth in the three lower realms.

Please forgive all of my faults!


And then he supplicated him:


In fact the full ripening of doing that to you appeared in my dream. I was born in the three lower realms. Now I request your forgiveness with those faults. I beg you to purify them.


Nāropa replied with teaching of advice:


Release the knots of the eight worldly concerns of this life.

Desiccate the three poisons in samsara’s swamp.

Repel the warring hosts of the darkness of ignorance.

Light the lamp of wisdom of a contrite mind.

Remain in the unborn state of confession.


The king was thus liberated on the spot by the guru’s blessing. With that, the conduct was complete.



II.B. Manifesting the Results (Fulfilling the Guru’s Prophecy)


Then Telopa’s form appeared clearly in the sky, saying:


If realization does not stabilize,

guru and ḍākinīs do not give permission,

and experience realization is not born.

Consequently clinging will not be liberated.

So do not engage in the conduct, Nāropa.


Nāropa asked:


Well then should I listen or explain or look

or meditate or engage in conduct to attain results?


Telopa said:


Listening to Dharma is like drinking salty water:

you will not turn away from existences, Nāropa.


From the elaborated garlands of words

you will not realize the meaning, Nāropa.


In the automatic self-liberation of clinging,

there is meditation on the experience, Nāropa.


The mental nonengagement beyond intellect

is not a view to be seen, Nāropa.


Beyond the objects of dualistic fixation

the conduct is nonaction, Nāropa.


Free of both hopes and fears,

results are meaningless, Nāropa.


Again Nāropa queried:


This aggregate of appearing form

is the nature of the unborn.

Supposing it exists, conduct makes sense.

If it does not exist, whence the desire to act?


This bliss-clarity of self-aware consciousness

is empty of anything whatsoever.

If it exists then the heart’s desire makes sense.

If it doesn’t exist, why this desire?


Mind itself, lucid and empty,

is free of both exaggeration and denigration.

If it is born then experience makes sense.

If not, then why is there experience?


In the great bliss of spontaneous existence,

if there is virtue and sin then happiness and sorrow

make sense as ripened results.

The very essence of the equality of everything

is without virtue, so why give up sin?


Telopa said:


This dependently arisen appearance

is unborn. Not realizing that,

do not disconnect the wagon wheels

of the two accumulations, Nāropa.


When the white and red appearances dawn

for the master who reveals the unborn,

let consciousness take flight like a crow from a ship.

Enjoy desires and pleasures, Nāropa.


Not realizing the spontaneous arising of appearance

in mind itself, reflexively aware and self-luminous,

meditative experiences involving clinging

will bind this very self, Nāropa.


From the beginning all phenomena, outer and inner,

are unborn and free of elaborations.

If this incidental experience and mindful awareness

is realized to be false, then engage as you like.


When the darkness of cyclic existence arises,

take the sharp hatchet of realization

to this variety of dualistic discursive thought

and cut through whatever appears, Nāropa.


If clinging arises toward desirables

such as form, sound, and so forth,

it is like bees stuck in honey.

Get rid of attachment, Nāropa.


Then he said:


The nature of the vajra body

is the total perfection of all grounds and paths.

Therefore by defeating devils in the four chakras

the connection is prepared for the mind,

in a single lifetime and in this very body,

to instantly realize coemergent primordial awareness

and consummate the union with lucid clarity.

By meditating on the five stages simultaneously,

the abilities of vajra-recitation and so forth

become the path of direct perception itself.

The qualities are successively attained

and the awarenesses of four kāyas are totally perfected.


Nāropa asked:


My faults are realized dimly like the moon,

attachment glues me like a bee in honey,

desirables engulf me like succulent clouds,

and ill will tightens the knots of karma

in samsara’s swamp of three poisons.

Experiences are like plucking turtle hairs,

realizations vanish like sky flowers.

How can the blind cast off attachment?


Then Telopa, in the guise of Heruka with bone ornaments, ḍamaru, and long hair bound up in a topknot, sang the Vajra Song of the Six Dharmas and prophesied:


At the monastery of Puṣpahari,

lucid clarity in the realm of space,

unity, with the wings of transference

the little bird of mind takes flight.

Let go of the clinging of self-fixation.


At the monastery of non-duality

from the homkung[15] of illusory body

the wisdom fire of bliss-warmth from inner heat

burns the fuel of habitual patterns in dream.

Let go of clinging to dualistic thinking.


In the monastery of the ineffable,

seeing the coemergent essence

of great bliss mahāmudrā,

the sharp weapon of realization

cuts the rope of jealousy in the intermediate state.

Let go of clinging to the characteristics of attachment.


Travel the highway of the wishfulfilling gem,

uproot the green tree of the eternalism,

proclaim the tongue of the speechless mute,

sever the rope of cyclic existence with blessings;

many there are who recognize what is already known.


Hey ho! This is reflective awareness

beyond the path of speech’s domain.

I, Telopa, have nothing to teach.

Let self-aware wisdom point to itself.


Nāropa said:


The path of mahāmudrā is without mental engagement.

Mind itself is free of elaboration, without obscuration, flawless.

Realizing that primordial awareness, no need to ask anyone.

The yogin is self-liberated automatically from nonduality.


Nāropa uttered that and attained supreme realization. Then Telopa gave the prophecy of Lord Marpa the Translator being a worthy recipient:


In the monastery of Puṣhpahari

a fortunate one from the Land of Snow

will dispel the darkness of ignorance in Bhoṭa

and spread the light of wisdom.


Riripa called on Nāropa to act for the benefit of beings:


Give up ideas of pursuing personal peace and happiness,

like those of Hearers and Solitary Realizers.

Please be a lamp of Dharma, Nāro,

clearing away the darkness of beings.


Kasoripa supplicated Nāropa to dispel the pain of afflictive emotions of sentient beings:


Nāro is the Dharma physician.

With the treatment of the medicine of the holy Dharma,

please extract the painful point of afflictive emotions

for beings that are tormented by sickness.


[Telopa?] prophesied:


In the sky of self luminous self awareness

of everything that is unborn,

clouds of holy Dharma continuously rain down:

Ripen the crops of those to be tamed!


Vajraḍākinī called on Nāropa to take hold of beings in order to ripen and liberate them. Then, Nāropa himself said:


In compliance with the guru buddha’s prophecy

and the words of my vajra siblings’ speech,

I will spread the quintessential meaning of sutra and tantra

and make it famous in indefinite places.


He made that promise and the guru Telopa then disappeared into the sky. The fortunate disciples felt great faith and were all liberated and the doctrine spread and flourished.


This is the liberation story of the one known as Nāropa the Great Lord of Yogins. It was arranged as outer, inner, secret, and suchness liberation stories. The symbolic meaning was unraveled. Lord Nāropa had four heart-sons: Kanakaśrī, Manakaśrī, Prajñārakṣita, and Phamtingpa. Also, there were Dīpaṃkara, Tiphupa, Kālasamayavajra, Ghuna Dherawa, Maitripa, and the Kaśmiri Jñānaka, and his two sons. Lord Ḍombhīpa the Younger was a disciple of Lord Nāropa, but then he was accepted by Lord Dīpaṃkara, who met Lord Nāropa, according to Lord Marpa. Also Lord Peṇḍapa was Nāropa’s disciple and someone who actually met Lord Marpa. The two translators Gya Tsöndrü Senge and Naktso only saw his face for a moment. Lord Tipupa became a student of Kasoripa and Riripa afterwards, it is said. Lord Marpa was the main one to spread the so-called “the river of lineage of four directions.”






Lord Nāropa’s Song of United View, Meditation, and Conduct


(Translated by Tucker Smith)


How delightfully blissful is unity of view,

Overjoyed by the unity of meditation,

Cheerful in the unity of conduct.


The nirvana of the Buddha

And the collected consciousness of six types of beings

Are a single essence in the realm of reality.

That unity of view—make it so!


The various appearances of white and red

And inexpressible primordial wisdom

Are a single intrinsic awareness if known.

That unity of meditation—make it so!


All-pervasive like space,

Unidentifiable like a rainbow,

Continuous like a river:

That unity of conduct—make it so!


If you do not know appearance as dharmakāya,

How can you engage in the unity of view?


If you do not know suffering as dharmakāya,

How can you engage the unity of meditation?


If you do not reverse attachment from within,

How can you perform the unity of conduct?


Five aggregates slip away ownerless,

Not stamped by the seal of the five families.

Clinging to designations night and day,

appearances are not stamped by the seal.


Afflictive emotions arise unobstructed in the mind

And the instructions are not internalized.

One’s body becomes a worldly ornament:

Do not adopt the path of afflictive emotions!




Song of Being Crazy if You Engage in the Conduct when the Qualities

Have Not Arisen Successively


(Translated by Jordan Ganz)


Look!—those who perform yogic conduct:


Reaping shoots and leaves

of seeds that have not ripened:

If you are able to have

such bountiful wealth, then do!


As soon as a tree of good stock is planted,

and immediately cut down while still unworkable:

If you can use it as timber, then do!


As soon as a son or daughter is born

and the years have not passed to learn archery:

If they are able to do

such work for their parents, then make them!


As soon as a baby buffalo is born,

if you are able to milk it, then do!


Similarly, as with the fire that arises from wood:

If you are able to burn it and cook

without touching the wood that blazes, then do it!


Such examples as these are inexhaustible.

Those successive comparisons illustrate

both this outer interdependent origination

and the inner arising of meditative absorption.


Without gradually generating enlightened qualities,

abilities won’t be completed all at once.


For that reason, a yogi engaging in yogic conduct

without perfecting these abilities in stages

is crazy to practice it.








Song of the Eight Supreme Hardships


(Translated by Laura Goetz)


Nāropa sang a song:


Renouncing all eight unfavorable states

Is the hardship of obtaining a precious human body.

Being disenchanted with the phenomena of saṃsāra

Is the hardship of attaining nirvāṇa.

Renouncing all pain and sickness

Is the hardship of the body that should be bound to service.

Having both tantras and their oral instructions

Is the hardship of [finding] a compassionate teacher.

Having tireless devotion

Is the hardship of the disciple who wanders the mountain wilds.

Abandoning doubt and fear

Is the hardship of perfect retreat.

Engaging view and conduct

Is the hardship of motivated and harmonious dharma friends.

Putting those seven together

Is the hardship of one pointedly practicing contemplation.


This Song of the Eight Supreme Hardships was written on the handle of Nāropa’s parasol.




Song of Transforming Afflictive Emotion into Primordial Awareness


(Translated by Celso Scott Wilkinson)


On the occasion of a tantric feast gathering, Nāropa said:


Like the armies of the wheel turning king

Rule over all continents,

When the co-emergent taste is found,

Cyclic existence is transformed into great bliss.

Like iron being transformed into gold

By the alchemical medicine,

Affliction is transformed into non-dual wisdom

By the jewel’s potent power.

Taught at the time of the gathered assembly.



In the great charnel ground of India, which is called, “Holding the Blazing Radiance,” Lord Nāropa was requested to be the master of the assembly. Gathering a feast banquet in the way of Śri-guhyasamaja (The Assembly of Secrets), Kanakaśri, Manakaśri, Pradñarakritajñakarapenta and many others were there. The patron kings named Candrindriya and Bhramacandra made the request and requested the empowering signs for their realization at the feast gathering.    



Song that Unravels the Meanings of the Signs of Empowerment


(Translated by Mike Engle)



In the ground luminosity, the spontaneously accomplished natural state,

The path of receiving the four empowerments matures one’s being.

In the union of skillful means and wisdom

The fruition of the four kāyas becomes the path.


By receiving the vase empowerment on one’s body,

The channels are purified into luminous emptiness.

In that purifying luminous continuity

Meditate on the wheel of deities as the path.

The fruition of the nirmanakāya’s inherent quality is established

And one’s body becomes the unborn vajra body.


By receiving the secret empowerment on one’s speech,

The subtle energies are purified into appearance and emptiness.

In that purifying empty continuity

Meditate on the wheel of mantra as the path.

The fruition of the saṃbhogakāya’s inherent quality is established

And one’s speech becomes the inexpressible vajra speech.


By receiving the third empowerment on one’s mind,

The amṛita is purified into bliss and emptiness.

In that purifying blissful continuity

Meditate on the wheel of great bliss as the path.

The fruition of the body of great bliss is obtained

And one’s mind becomes the non-conceptual vajra mind.


In that way, unravel the knot of empowerment.

If it becomes the path, then wisdom will arise.

In order for body, speech, and mind,

To be purified of co-emergent ignorance,

Receive the precious word empowerment.

Don’t desire the bestowing of the empowerment, desire the attainment.

The experience of bliss, clarity, and emptiness

Are purified by the non-conceptual flow.

From that, meditate on the co-emergent as the path.

The fruition of the dharmakāya will arise in the mindstream,

And one’s body, speech, and mind, will become

The vajra body, speech, and mind of all the tathāgatas.


The ground, the path, and the fruition

Do not transcend the four empowerments.

Being on the path of the four empowerments is samsara.

If that is undergone, it is the path of liberation.

If experience is nurtured in the mind, realization arises.

If you don’t forsake the meaning of the four empowerments,

It is the guardian of correct samaya.



[1]dPal nāro pa’i rnam thar dang gsung mgur, in The Collected Works of Marpa (Mar pa’ gsung ‘bum), vol. 1, pp. 58-85. Compared against the Drikung edition rJe nā ro paṇ chen gyi rnam thar by Don mo Ri pa, taken down in dictation from Ri khrod dbang phyug between 1244 and 1246, translated by Khenpo Könchog Gyaltsen in The Great Kagyu Masters; and with reference to mKhas grub kun gyi gtsug brgyan/ Paṇ chen nā ro pa’i rnam thar/ ngo mtshar smad byung by Lha’i btsun pa Rin chen rnam rgyal, translated by Herbert V. Guenther as The Live and Teaching of Nāropa.

[2]rig lnga: art (bzo rig), medicine (gso rig), grammar (sgra rig), logic (tshad ma or gtan tshigs), and inner science or dharma (nang don gi rig).

[3] Ye shes ‘od: A seventh century figure who debated with Śīlabhadra (teacher

of Hsüang-tsang) at Nālandā. His name evidently reconstructed on basis of

Chinese (and so, it could be Jñānākāra instead!). Nakamura, 287.

[4] Chos kyi byang chub, mistakenly written here as Chos kyi rgyal mtshan.

[5]bslab pa ‘ bogs pa, but based on the Drikung edition (sdom pa ‘bogs pa) it concerns bestowing ordination.

[6]‘khor ba gzhan gyi skyon dang dbang po rtog. Lhatsun Rinchen Namgyal ed: ‘khor ba dbang po gzhan skyon rtog (44), Drikung: dbang po sgo yis gzhan rkyon rtog.

[7]glang chen should be klang chen, as in the Drikung text.

[8] Taking mi gcig to be mig gcig, as in the Drikung edition.

[9] An interlinear note in the Drikung edition indicates that great bliss (bde chen) refers to the (Chakrasaṃvara?) root tantra (rtsa rgyud kyi don) and that “source of bliss” (bde ba’i ‘byung gnas) refers to everything (thams cad byung ba).

[10] Again the Drikung text has an interlinear note here: rdo rje ‘chang gis bcom ldan ‘das rab tu ming btags pa’o (“Vajradhara fully bestowed the name Bhagavan.”).

[11] Drikung: O tan tra gtsug lag khang Probably Odantapurī, about six miles from Nālandā in Bihar, identified by Gendun Chopel as the same as Pullahari where Nāropa stayed. (Atīśa and Tibet, Alaka Chattopadhyaya, p. 119).

[12] In this text, the heading for the first part of section two (II.A. “Lighting the Lamp of Happiness”) is absent. The Drikung text (113) suggests that the 12th hardship was the first part, as this is clearly the second.

[13]ang ga ra or ang 'ga' rag (called “ang-rak” for short)- a short skirt (like a tennis skirt) worn by tantric practitioners for doing yogic excercises.

[14] In the Drikung text (and that of Lhatsun Rinchen Namgyal) it relates that the king had a dream the previous night of falling into the hell realm for his impiety. The Drikung text also explains the reference to King Aśoka, which clarifies the verse by Nāropa.

[15] A triangular stove for ceremonial fire offerings.