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Guru Gampopa

In East Tibet, Gampopa (1079 1135) was the son of a doctor, and a doctor himself. Gampopa was trained as a physician who devoted himself to the Dharma after the death of his wife. Guru Gampopa became the heart son of Milarepa and was the root guru of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyempa. It is his synthesis of the traditions of Dharma teachings melded with the experiential meditative teaching of Milarepa that formed the Kagyu tradition, as we know it today. Guru Gampopa wrote the "Jewel Ornament of Liberation" and is usually depicted wearing robes and a red hat, which has become synonymous with the Kagyu School.

Guru Gampopa married in his early twenties, and fathered two sons. Several years later, an epidemic took both their lives, despite his skill. His wife falling sick of the same disease, and similarly failing to respond to his ministrations, begged him as she died not to marry again, but to become a monk.

One might question her motives, but nevertheless, at the age of twenty six, Guru Gampopa became a novice in the Kadampa tradition. Guru Gampopa applied himself, working with many masters, and achieved a high degree of proficiency before - at thirty two hearing talk of Milarepa. Feeling a surge of devotion in response to these tales, and understanding that this must be his true teacher, he set out on a grueling but eventually successful search to find him.

Gampopa, a talented writer, of great insight, was entrusted by Milarepa with the complete Kagyu transmission - the only one of Milarepa's students so honored before leaving Milarepa to go into retreat at Dagpo in South East Tibet. There he founded the monastery of Daglha Gampo, where he drew many disciples. Four of these were to found the four "major" Kagyu branches. Eight "minor" branches would appear later. One of the four, Dusum Khyenpa was both the next Kagyu lineage holder, and the first Karmapa.

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