Albero Rifugio Karma Kagyu

The Kagyu tradition, like all authentic Buddhist lineages, has its roots firmly planted in the teachings of the Buddha. The central point is always one and the same: how to emerge from the transient ups-and-downs, pains and limited pleasures of worldly existence, based in illusion, and find the permanent, ultimate happiness which is the true nature of existence? Illusion and truth, relative and ultimate.

What distinguishes the Kagyu from the other traditions is the way in which the Buddha's teaching is formulated and the extremely powerful meditation techniques it employs to enable one to experience and make real the meaning of the Buddha's teaching. The clarity of formulation and vividness of technique arise through a direct and unbroken line of teaching coming directly from the Buddha.

The Kagyu lineage itself stems directly from the Buddha through two streams of teaching. The content of both, and the real heart of the Kagyu doctrine is called mahamudra:

The first stream of teachings comes from the Buddha, in the form of Vajradhara, through a succession of Indian masters including Saraha and Nagarjuna and ending with Maitripa in 11th century India. The main thrust of this aspect of mahamudra is direct meditation work with mind itself. These teachings were taken to Tibet by Maitripa's disciple - the Tibetan, Marpa.

The second stream of teachings came from Vajradhara to Tilopa, an extraordinary Buddhist mahasiddha who had assimilated and mastered the teachings of over 100 important gurus of his day. He passed on the quintessence of his heritage to Mahapandita Naropa, one of Buddhism's greatest scholars and one of the 84 great siddhas of India. This line of mahamudra uses many visualisation and yoga techniques to assist the overall understanding of the nature of reality. The Tibetan, Marpa, was the main spiritual heir to this transmission too.

MarpaThus both streams of mahamudra went to Tibet due to the incredible strong- minded diligenece of Marpa who, in his search for understanding, made the perilous journey from Tibet to India three times and who spent over 20 years there under the guidance of Naropa absorbing the finest of Indian vajrayana Buddhist teachings.

Marpa's own main disciple was Milarepa , a person driven to Buddhism by the dramatic events of his own life. Milarepa was to become Tibet's most famous yogi, on account of his completing the journey to enlightenment within just one lifetime and also through his unequalled diligence meditating in a thin cotton robe in caves high in the snow-clad mountains.

The next two generations of Kagyu patriarch were to really shape its future for the millenium to follow. Milarepa's disciple Gampopa integrated the profound teachings he received into the great scholarship and pure monastic discipline that he had already mastered, to become a Buddhist master competent in every aspect of the teachings and embodying the perfection of all three yanas. Gampopa's coming had even been predicted by Buddha Sakyamuni, in the Samdhiraja Sutra. Whereas Milarepa achieved enlightenment in one life, Gampopa is seen as someone who remains for countless cosmic ages as a 10th level bodhisattva, in order to assist Buddha after Buddha in bringing their teachings to the world.

There are 4 major and 8 minor Kagyu lineages stemming from the disciples of Gampopa. They are collectively known as the Dagpo Kagyu, Dagpo Rinpoche being another name for Gampopa. Both names (as do many Tibetan names) originate in places. Dagpo was, in fact, the name of Gampopa's birth place and Gampo is the name of the holy mountain on which he established the first Tibetan Kagyu monastery.

Then follows an extraordinary phenomenon in the Kagyu lineage. Gampopa's main disciple was the 1st Gyalwa Karmapa, Dusum Chenpa. He was to reincarnate, again and again from then onwards, to guide and protect the Kagyu lineage. Thus he was to become Tibet's first tulku , or reincarnate guru. In between each successive Karmapa reincarnation, the continuity of the lineage of spiritual insight was ensured by his chief disciple at the time, who re-transmitted the details of the teachings to the reincarnation of his previous guru. This unbroken succession, from Tilopa down through Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, the Karmapas, Situpas, Sharmapas, Gyaltsabpas and the other gurus, is known as the Golden Rosary of Kagyu teachers:

Dorje Chang

Vajradhara (Dorje Chang)






Dusum Kiempa (1° Karmapa)

Drogon Rechen


Karma Pakshi (2° Karmapa)


Rangjung Dorje (3° Karmapa)

Gyalwa Yungtönpa

Rolpe Dorje (4° Karmapa)

Khachö Wangpo

Deshin Shekpa (5° Karmapa)


Thongwa Dönden (6° Karmapa)

Bengar Jampal Sangpo

Goshir Paljor Dhöndrup

Chödrak Gyatso (7° Karmapa)

Tashi Paljor (3° Tai Situpa)

Mikyö Dorje (8° Karmapa)

Könchok Yenlak

Wangchuk Dorje (9° Karmapa)

Chökyi Wangchuk

Chöying Dorje (10° Karmapa)

Yeshe Nyingpo

Yeshe Dorje (11° Karmapa)

Palchen Chöki Dhondrup

Changchub Dorje (12° Karmapa)

Chökyi Jungne (8° Tai Situpa)

Dudul Dorje (13° Karmapa)

Thekchok Dorje (14° Karmapa)

Lodrö Thaye

Khakyab Dorje (15° Karmapa)

Pema Wangchok Gyalpo (11° Tai Situpa)

Palden Khyentse Öser

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (16° Karmapa)

Orgyen Trinley Dorje (17° Karmapa)