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Teacher: Khyungpo Naljor Biography

Khyungpo Naljor

Khyungpo Naljor, 1050-1127 (?), (khyung po rnal 'byor) was born into the Khyungpo clan in Nyemo Ramang (snye mo ra mangs), in Eastern Tsang. His father was Khyung Gyal Tagye (khyung rgyal stag skye), also called Tagla Kye (stag la skye), and his mother was named Goza Tashi Kyi (mgo gza' bkra shis skyid). There is controversy over the year of his birth, a tiger year. Some sources give 978 or 990, while the most likely date would have been 1050.

Writings of Khyungpo Naljor

At the age of thirteen Khyungpo Naljor studied Bon with Yungdrung Gyalwa (g.yung drung rgyal ba), and soon after studied Dzogchen with Jungne Sengge ('byung gnas seng ge), supposedly accumulating seven hundred disciples. He also studied with Kong / Kor Nirupa (kong / skor nu ru pa) in Shamora (sha mo ra) in Tolung (stod lung). According to Tsuglag Trengwa (gtsug lag 'phreng pa), Nirupa taught him the Amanase'i Chokor Nyernga (a mA na sa'i chos skor nyer lnga), a Dzogchen cycle allegedly invented by Sheuton Jang (she'u ston byang).

Not satisfied with the available teachings in Tibet Khyungpo Naljor traveled to Nepal where he studied with a number of teachers. He served as an attendant of Amoghavajra, also called Ratnakaragupta and Sauripa, and received teachings from him. From Vasumati he received initiation in the Kriya and Yoga tantras. He also studied with the dakini of Devikoti, Kanashri; Ratnapala; and three disciples of Maitripa: Ratnavajra, Kshetravajra, Atulyavajra. According to the Blue Annals he also met Vairochana and received teachings from him.

After a short return to Tibet, Khyungpo Naljor traveled again to Nepal and on to India, where he studied with Danashila, a disciple of Naropa. Having brought with him a considerable amount of gold, he offered it to numerous teachers in exchange for their instructions and transmissions. He met Maitripa, and received from him a teaching on White Mahakala.

According to the Blue Annals, Khyungpo Naljor asked his teachers whether anyone in India had met the Buddha Vajradhara, the source of the Buddhist tantras. They replied that Niguma, reputedly the sister of Naropa, had done so. Khyungpo Naljor sought her out, finding her in the Sosa charnal ground in East India. He requested her transmission, to which she replied "I am a flesh-eating dakini!" When he pressed her, she demanded gold. Taking his gold and throwing it into the forest, her retinue of dakini formed a mandala, bestowing on Khyungpo Naljor the initiation of the Illusory Body (sgyu lus) and Dream Yoga, two sections that make up the Nigu Chodrug (ni gu chos drug), or Six Yogas of Niguma. Niguma then transported him to a golden mountain summit where she bestowed the complete Six Yogas, the Dorje Tsikang (rdo rje tshig rkang) and the Gyuma Lamrim (sgyu ma lam rim). She prophesied that the teachings should stay secret until the seventh lineage holder, she being the second after Vajradhara.

The list of additional teachers Khyungpo Naljor studied with includes the dakini Sukhasiddhi, a disciple of Virupa who promised to manifest to his lineage; Rahulaguptavajra; Kamalarakshita; and Atulyavajra. He returned to Tibet briefly to procure more gold, and then again to India to receive more teachings. Khyungpo Naljor reported that he met Atisha while passing through Toling on his return to Tibet, and compared texts that he had collected with Atisha's. Atisha told him that his texts were authentic, and he suggested that Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po) and Dharma Lodro (dhar+ma blo gros) translate them. Given that Atisha passed away in 1054, such an encounter is an historical impossibility, unless one was to accept that Khyungpo Naljor did indeed live for one hundred and fifty years, and if this incident took place during his youth.

Khyungpo Naljor received monastic ordination under the renowned Kadampa (bka' gdams pa) preceptor Langri Tangpa Dorje Sengge (glang ri thang pa rdo rje seng ge), the founder of Langtang (glang thang) monastery. He is reputed to have founded one hundred and eight monasteries in Tibet, although only two are known: Chakar ('chad dkar) in Penyul ('phen yul), and Shangshong Dorjedan (gzhang gzhong rdo rje gdan) in the Shang valley, in the year 1121, according to Dungkar (dung dkar).

The Blue Annals contains an interesting passage that suggests Khyungpo Naljor faced a certain amount of resistance to his teaching. Khyungpo Naljor accused "the monks" of focusing too much on books, and conjured apparitions of various peaceful and wrathful deities to propelled them to practice. However, jealous monks took up arms and Khyungpo Naljor had to conjure phantom troops to defeat them. He then went on to subjugate numerous non-human entities who were obstructing his teaching.

Khyungpo Naljor is said to have had six main disciples: Meuton (rme'u ston), Yorpo Gyamoche (g.yor po rgya mo che), Ngulton Rinwang (rngul ston rin dbang), Latopa Konchog Kar (la stod pa dkon mchog mkhar), Shanggom Choseng (zhang sgom chos seng), and Mogchogpa Rinchen Tsondru (rmog lcog pa rin chen brtson 'grus). Only to Mogchogpa did Khyungpo Naljor transmit the entire

Nigu Chodrug. Mogchogpa studied with Khyungpo Naljor for five years, until he was twenty-one, and returned to him some five years later to be with the master for the last year and a half of Khyungpo Naljor's life.

Khyungpo Naljor requested that his body be preserved in a stupa, but certain Khampa disciples chose instead to cremate him, his ashes reportedly giving up numerous relics.


Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo.

Beijing: Krung go'i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang, pp. 433-434.

Gtsug lag 'phreng ba. 1986. Chos 'byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang, vol. 2, pp 546.4 ff.

Kalu Rinpoche. 1970. Shangs pa gser 'phreng. Leh: Sonam W. Tashigangpa.

Kapstein, Matthew T. 2005. "Chronological Conundrums in the Life of Khyung po rnal 'byor: Hagiography and Historical Time." Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, vol. 1, no. 1.

Roerich, George, trans. 1996. The Blue Annals. 2nd ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidas, pp. 728-

Smith, Gene. 2001. "The Shangs pa Bka' brgyud Tradition." In Among Tibetan Texts. Boston: Wisdom Publications, pp. 53-57.

Alexander Gardner, November 2009

Extracted from the Treasury of Lives, Tibetan Lineages website. Formatted and edited for inclusion on the Himalayan Art Resources website.