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Tsangnyön Heruka (Tibetan : གཙང་སྨྱོན་ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་, Wylie : gtsang smyon He ru ka "The Madman Heruka from Tsang", 1452-1507), was an author and a master of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Born in Tsang, he is best known as a biographer and compiler of the Life of Milarepa and The Collections of Songs of Milarepa, both classics of Tibetan literature.
Tsangnyön Heruka was a nyönpa (Wylie : smyon pa) or "religious madman", whose eccentric ways of life were considered signs of spiritual realization. He was ordained as a śrāmaṇera, but at the age of 21 renounced his vows and trained under various tantric yogis from different schools. His first teacher was Shara Rabjampa Sanggye Sengge (1427–1470) who conveyed to him the "Aural Transmissions" (snyan brgyud) of the Kagyu tradition. Tsangnyön spent years in solitary retreat on Tsari in southern Tibet, which is the major sacred mountain retreat for the Kagyu school. He also studied the tantras in Pelkhor Chode Monastery in Gyantse for three years.
After Heruka left the monastery, he became a wandering yogi for the rest of his life, never staying in one place permanently. He was known to keep his hair long, carry a khaṭvāṅga and drink from a kapala. When local villagers saw his body covered in human ashes and blood with his hair adorned by human fingers and toes, they gave him the name 'Nyönpa' (madman). He later used the name Trantung Gyelpo (Wylie : khrag 'thung rgyal po) "King of the Blood-drinkers", "blood drinker" being the Tibetan name for the deity Heruka. These eccentric ways were influenced by an Indian sect of yogis called Kapalikas or "skull-bearers", who practiced austerities as well as dressing in loincloths and human ashes and carrying symbols of the dakinis such as bone ornaments and skulls.
Many monks questioned his behavior and way of dress but Tsangnyön was known to strongly defend his unconventional practice through rigorous argument and accurate quotations from scriptures. He became a famous teacher and gathered numerous followers, he was also a composer of religious songs. Tsangnyön was very influential with various Tibetan political leaders and he used his influence to mediate between warring factions.
In 1488 while staying at the pilgrimage site Lapchi Snow Mountain, Tsangnyön completed the Life of Milarepa, a biography of the Tibetan poet. It was one of the first texts that was produced through woodblock printing in Tibet and it quickly became a widely circulated text.Tsangnyön's main goal seems to have been the promotion of the teachings of the early Kagyu masters.
In 1504, Ratna Malla, the king of Kantipur, invited Tsangnyön Heruka to Nepal to restore the famous stupa known as Swayambhunath. Tsangnyön traveled to Nepal and completed the renovation within three months. In 1505, he compiled a biography and a song collection of Marpa Lotsawa.He also completed his major life work, which was the collection of the aural transmissions of the Kagyu tradition. He died at the age of fifty-five in 1507 at Rechung-Puk north of the Yarlung Valley.
After his death three of his disciples wrote biographies of him: Gotsangrepa, Lhatsun Rinchen Namgyel and Ngodrub Pembar. Kuntu Zangmo, Tsangnyön’s female companion, oversaw the printing of his songs, writings and a biography of him.
A recent publication that includes research on the Madman of Tsang is David M. DiValerio's (2015) The Holy Madmen of Tibet.
The Sakya school is one of four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the others being the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Gelug. It is one of the Red Hat Orders along with the Nyingma and Kagyu.
The Kagyu school, also transliterated as, Kagyü, or Kagyud, which translates to "Oral Lineage" or "Whispered Transmission" school, is one of the main schools of Himalayan or Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu lineages trace themselves back to the 11th century Indian Mahasiddhas Naropa, Maitripa and the yogini Niguma, via their student Marpa Lotsawa (1012–1097), who brought their teachings to Tibet. Marpa's student Milarepa was also an influential poet and teacher.
The Drukpa Kagyu, or simply Drukpa, sometimes called either Dugpa or "Red Hat sect" in older sources, lineage is a branch of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyu school is one of the Sarma or "New Translation" schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Drukpa lineage was founded in the Tsang region of Tibet by Tsangpa Gyare (1161–1211), and later became influential in Ladakh and Bhutan.
Mahasiddha is a term for someone who embodies and cultivates the "siddhi of perfection". A siddha is an individual who, through the practice of sādhanā, attains the realization of siddhis, psychic and spiritual abilities and powers.
Jetsun Milarepa was a Tibetan siddha, who was famously known as a murderer when he was a young man, before turning to Buddhism and becoming a highly accomplished Buddhist disciple. He is generally considered one of Tibet's most famous yogis and spiritual poets, whose teachings are known among several schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is also famous for the feat of climbing Mount Kailash.
Marpa Lotsāwa, sometimes known fully as Marpa Chökyi Lodrö or commonly as Marpa the Translator, was a Tibetan Buddhist teacher credited with the transmission of many Vajrayana teachings from India, including the teachings and lineages of Mahamudra. Due to this the Kagyu lineage, which he founded, is often called Marpa Kagyu in his honour.
Ngawang Namgyal and known colloquially as The Bearded Lama, was a Tibetan Buddhist lama and the unifier of Bhutan as a nation-state. In addition to unifying the various warring fiefdoms for the first time in the 1630s, he also sought to create a distinct Bhutanese cultural identity separate from the Tibetan culture from which it was derived.
Gampopa "the Physician from Gampo" Sönam Rinchen was the main student of Milarepa, and a Tibetan Buddhist master that codified his own master's ascetic teachings, which form the foundation of the Kagyu educational tradition. Gampopa was also a doctor and tantric master. He authored the first Lamrim text, Jewel Ornament of Liberation, and founded the Dagpo Kagyu school. He is also known as Dvagpopa, and by the titles Dakpo Lharjé "the physician from Dakpo" and Daö Zhönnu, "Candraprabhakumara".
Drikung Kagyu or Drigung Kagyu is one of the eight "minor" lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. "Major" here refers to those Kagyu lineages founded by the immediate disciples of Gampopa (1079-1153) while "minor" refers to all the lineages founded by disciples of Gampopa's main disciple, Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170). One of these disciples, Jigten Sumgön (1143-1217), is the founder of Drikung.
Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is a prominent scholar yogi in the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. He teaches widely in the West, often through songs of realization, his own as well as those composed by Milarepa and other masters of the past. "Tsültrim Gyamtso" translates to English as "Ocean of Ethical Conduct".
Rechung Dorje Drakpa, known as Rechungpa, was one of the two most important students of the 11th century yogi and poet Milarepa and founder of the Shamngpa Kagyu lineage or Rechung lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism..
Drukpa Kunley (1455–1529), also known as Kunga Legpai Zangpo, Drukpa Kunleg, and Kunga Legpa, the Madman of the Dragon Lineage, was a Buddhist monk and missionary in the Tibetan Mahamudra tradition, as well as a famous poet, and is often counted among the Nyönpa. After undergoing training in Ralung Monastery under siddha Pema Lingpa, he introduced an aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan and established the monastery of Chimi Lhakhang there in 1499.
The Taklung Kagyu is a sub-school of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Thangtong Gyalpo, also known as Chakzampa, the "Iron Bridge Maker", Tsöndrü Zangpo "Excellent Persistence", and the King of the Empty Plain. He was also known by a variation of this name, Madman of the Empty Valley. He was a great Buddhist adept, a Chöd master, yogi, physician, blacksmith, architect, and a pioneering civil engineer. He is considered a mind emanation of Padmasambhava and a reincarnation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. He founded the Iron Chain lineage of the Shangpa Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, and he recognized the first Samding Dorje Phagmo, Chökyi Drönma (1422–1455), the female incarnation lineage of Vajravārāhī.
Songs of realization, or Songs of Experience, are sung poetry forms characteristic of the tantric movement in both Vajrayana Buddhism and in Hinduism. Doha is also a specific poetic form. Various forms of these songs exist, including caryagiti, or 'performance songs' and vajragiti, or 'diamond songs', sometimes translated as vajra songs and doha, also called doha songs, distinguishing them from the unsung Indian poetry form of the doha. According to Roger Jackson, caryagiti and vajragiti "differ generically from dohās because of their different context and function"; the doha being primarily spiritual aphorisms expressed in the form of rhyming couplets whilst caryagiti are stand-alone performance songs and vajragiti are songs that can only be understood in the context of a ganachakra or tantric feast. Many collections of songs of realization are preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon, however many of these texts have yet to be translated from the Tibetan language.
Divine madness, also known as theia mania and crazy wisdom, refers to unconventional, outrageous, unexpected, or unpredictable behavior linked to religious or spiritual pursuits. Examples of divine madness can be found in Hellenism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, and Shamanism.
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Ünyön Künga Zangpo was a famous yogin of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. While Künga Zangpo is a personal name that he received at the time of his monastic ordination, the moniker Ünyön ("ü-nyön"), meaning "Madman from the Ü [region]," was a title he earned through his distinctive tantric asceticism.
The Drikungpa, or more formally the Drikung Kyabgön, is the head of the Drikung Kagyu, a sub-school of the Kagyu, itself one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.