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Guru Naropa
About Guru Naropa

Nāropā was an Indian Buddhist Mahasiddha. He was the believer of Tilopa and brother, or some sources say partner and pupil, of Niguma. As an Indian Mahasiddha, Naropa's instructions inform Vajrayana, particularly his six yogas of Naropa which are relevant to the completion stage of anuttarayogatantra.

Guru Naropa lived in India about 900 years ago. Guru Naropa was a well educated man versed in Sutras, Tantras and many other ancient lore. During his stay in the well-known Nalanda monastery his intellectual accomplishment was leading and without any match. But his academic pride was humbled by an old lady who was an emanation of Vajrayogini. At that time, she also suggested him to consult Guru Tilopa for the real understanding of Mahamudra. Guru Naropa is usually dressed in the white lower garments of a yogi. His body is of an ash color like that of a wandering mendicant. His left hand holds a skull cup filled with nectar and his right hand shows Varada Mudra. Guru Naropa sits in Lalitasana posture under an antelope mat. Guru Naropa wears a meditation band on his waist.

Guru Naropa searched for Guru Tilopa exerting much effort. His search and devotion to Guru Tilopa has become a legend in itself. Guru Naropa found Guru Tilopa by the bank of a river. He was dressed like a mad man and was eating fish which was strange for a holy man. Guru Naropa undergo training under him for about twelve years and received the inner transmission of Mahamudra practice. The profound Mahamudra teachings were received by Guru Tilopa directly from Buddha Vajradhara.


Naropa was born a high status Brahmin but from an early age showed an independent streak, hoping to follow a career of study and meditation. Succumbing to his parents' wishes, he agreed to an arranged marriage with a young Brahmin girl. After 8 years they both agreed to dissolve their marriage and become certain. At the age of 28 Naropa entered the well-known Buddhist University at Nalanda where he studied both Tantra and Sutra. He gained the reputation of a great scholar and faultless debater, essential at that time as the tradition of debate was such that the loser automatically became a student of the winner. Finally he gained the title "Guardian of the Northern gate", engaged in many debates and taught and won many students.

According to his Tibetan namthar, or spiritual biography, one day, while he was studying, adakini appeared to Naropa and asked if he understood the words of the Dharma, Buddha's teachings. He replied that he did and when she seemed happy with his response, he added that he also understood their meaning. At this point the dakini burst into tears, stating that he was a great scholar, but also a liar, as the only one who understood the teachings was her brother, Tilopa. On hearing the name "Tilopa", he experienced a strong feeling of devotion, and Naropa realized he needed to find the teacher in order to achieve full realization. He abandoned his studies and position at the university and set out to find Tilopa. Naropa then underwent what is known as the twelve minor hardships in his mission to find his teacher, all the hardships being hidden teachings on his path to enlightenment. When he finally met Tilopa, he was given the four complete transmission lineages which he then began to practice. While studying and meditating with Tilopa, Naropa had to undergo a further twelve major hardships, trainings to overcome all the problems on his path, culminating in his full realization of Mahāmudrā. Naropa spent a total of twelve years with Tilopa.

Later in his life Naropa stayed in Phullahari, where he died at the age of 85. One of the few consistent historical accounts of him comes from a Tibetan translator named Ngatso Lotsawa, who made an effort to visit Naropa at the monastery of Phullahari while waiting to visit withAtisha at Vikramashila.


Naropa is remembered for his trust and devotion to his teacher, which according to his namthar enabled him to attain enlightenment in one lifetime.

He is also remembered as part of the "Golden Garland" which means a lineage holder of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu school, and was believed a proficient scholar. A great practitioner, Naropa is best known for having gathered the six yogas of Naropa. These practices help achieve Buddhahood more quickly. Many subsequent KagyuKarmapas have been mainly adept at one or more of these six yogic practices, which in Vajrayana tradition are held to have been given by the Buddha and were passed on through an unbroken lineage via Tilopa to Naropa, Marpa and Milarepa and on to the present day.

Naropa is believed as one of the eighty-four Mahasiddhas, the 'saints' of Vajrayana. The Naropa University in Colorado, U.S.A. was named in his honour.


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