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.