Bokar Ngedon Chokhor Ling

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Shangpa Kagyu Retreat Center

The Shangpa Kagyu was founded by the Tibetan yogi and scholar Kyungpo Naljor who seven times made the treacherous journey across the Himalayas to India, gathering teachings from the most illustrious masters of the day. It is said that he had 150 root gurus, foremost among them were two highly accomplished women practitioners Niguma and Sukkhasiddhi who were great wisdom dakinis. The teachings Kyungpo Naljor received from them and from his other most influential teachers, Dorje Denpa, Rahulagupta, and Maitripa, comprise the core of the teachings that became known as the Shangpa Kagyu – “the Oral Instruction Lineage of Shang,” named after the region Shang where Kyungpo Naljor established his principal monastery.

For seven generations, many of the practices that Niguma and Sukkhasiddhi received directly from the primordial Buddha Vajradhara were passed on to only one student. From the outset, the core of the Shangpa teachings were not widely practiced in monasteries. Even when the teachings were permitted to be more broadly disseminated, the lineage survived often on the fringe of other more established traditions. Early lines of transmissions flowed through the Jonang, Sakya, and Gelukpa schools. It was more recently, in the 19th century, when a strong affiliation with the Karma Kagyu tradition emerged. It is often misreported that the Shangpa Kagyu is one of the sub-schools of the Dakpo Kagyu—the lineage that has its Indian roots in the mahasiddha Tilopa and continued through Dakpo Rinpoche, that is, Gampopa. However, this is not the case.

The Shangpa Kagyu lineage possesses three exceptional qualities: First, all the lineage holders have been Bodhisattvas in their final incarnations; no ordinary individuals have interrupted this transmission. Second, the oral instructions—which are the words of Niguma herself—are exceptionally profound and have not been diluted by the interpretations of others. Third, the blessings are exceptionally potent. Even in this degenerate age, individuals with diligence and unimpaired tantric commitments can achieve genuine realization through the practices.