|Anyone who has read more than a few books on Tibetan Buddhism will have encountered references tot he Six Yogas of Naropa. The six practices-inner heat, illsory bosy, clear light, consciousness transference, forceful projection and bardo yoga-gradually came to prevade thousands of monastaries, nunneries, and hermitages throughout Central Asia over the past five and a half centuries.
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Anyone who has read more than a few books on Tibetan Buddhism will have encountered a reference to the Naro Choe Druk (Tib. na ro'i chos drug), a phrase that renders literally as "Naro's Six Dharmas," but is more often encountered in English translation as "the Six Yogas of Naropa." These six-inner heat, illusory body, clear light, consciousness transference, forceful projection, and the bardo yoga-represent one of the most popular Tibetan Buddhist presentations of yogic technology to come from India to the Land of Snows. The Tibetan word choe (Tib. chos) in the expression Naro Choe Druk is a translation"'of the Sanskrit term dharma, which means" doctrine," "teaching," "instruction" or "yogic training." Druk means" six." Thus the system can be called Six Dharmas, Six Doctrines, or Six Yogas. I generally use "the Six Yogas of Naropa," or simply "the Six Yogas," because these are the forms best known to Western readers. Occasionally I resort to the more literal "Naro's Six Dharmas," although whenever I do so I enclose the phrase in quotation marks in order to indicate that I am honoring the Tibetan form of the name, Naro Choe Druk. Tibetan literature randomly refers to the illustrious Indian Buddhist master after whom this tradition is named as Naro, Naropa, and Naropada (born 1016). Naropa was a disciple of the Indian mahasiddha Tilopa (b. 988). The lineages that Naropa gave to his Tibetan lay-disciple Marpa Lotsawa (lit. "Marpa Translator"; b. 1012), especially that of the Six Yo gas, came to pervade thousands of monasteries and hermitages throughout Central Asia, regardless of sect. This is certainly true within all the Sarmai Choeluk, or "New Schools, such as the Kadampa, Kargyupa, Sakyapa, Jonangpa and Gelukpa. In addition, the Six Yogas have also gradually become absorbed into most the Nyingma Choeluk, or "Older Schools." The treatise on the system written by Tsongkhapa the Great (1357-1419)-A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Naro's Six Dharmas – is regarded as one of the finest on the subject to come out of the Land of Snows. Lama Tsongkhapa was the forefather of the Gelukpa school (Tib. dGe 'lugs; lit.. "Order of Excellence"), which quickly swept across Centrall Asia and became the largest single school of tantric Buddhism. He was also the guru of the First Dalai Lama (b. 1391). His treatise has served as the fundamental guide to the system of the Six Yogas of Naropa as practiced in the more than three thousand Gelukpa monasteries, nunneries and hermitages across Central Asia over the past five-and-a half centuries. The Gelukpa lineage came down over the generations to the present day. The principal transmission holder, when I arrived in India in 1972, was Kyabjey Trijang Rinpochey, the Junior Tutor of His Holiness the DalaiLama. He in turn passed it to numerous disciples. I was in Dharamsala in 1973 when Kyabjey Rinpochey delivered his last transmission on Naropa's Six Yogas. At the time I was studying Tibetan language, philosophy and meditation at the Buddhist Studies Program initiated by H. H. the Dalai Lama as part of the activities of his recently established Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala. A few months into the program it was announced that the Junior Tutor to His Holiness, the very venerable and very elderly Kyabjey Trijang Rinpochey, would be giving a teaching in the museum room, the largest space in the building. The subject would be the Six Yogas of Naropa, and the recipients would be a large group of Tibetan yogis, hermits, monks and nuns. We Westerners couldn't attend, but if we liked we could sit in an adjoining room and listen through the sound system. The Dalai Lama's Junior Tutor was considered to be one of the greatest living masters to come out of Tibet, and was regarded as a living buddha by the Tibetan community. News of his discourse had travelled throughout the refugee communities of India and Nepal and great lamas began to roll into town from all directions. One monk who was pointed out to me was said to have spent more than forty years in meditation in the mountains. There were dozens of others with twenty or more years of solitary retreat under their belts.
Rinpochey spoke six hours a day for many, many days, using the text of Lama Tsongkhapa as his focus. One day one of the yogis coming out of the room at the end of the session looked at me and said, "Really what a Buddha he is!" When this great lama passed away a few years later, the Tibetan spiritual community mourned.the loss of one of the last of the super-greats to come out of Tibet. When I think back twenty-two years ago to the faces in the front couple of rows at that teaching, many of them have today come to rank among the foremost lamas in the Gelukpa school.