Martsang Kagyu of Traditional Tibetan Buddhism
The Martsang Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is an unbroken lineage based on the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha’s sutras and tantras which was founded 850 years ago by Choje Marpa Sherab Yeshe in 1167 (1134-1203).
The Vajrayana teaching tradition of Martsang Kagyu derives from both the Kagyu lineage and the Sakya tradition. The Martsang Kagyu Mahamudra comes from the unbroken oral tradition of Choje Marpa’s achievements and practice. The Mahayana is based on the Kadampa tradition and Choje Marpa’s exploration of his own practice experiences which were then integrated to become the Martsang Lam Rim.
Choje Marpa was born in Kham, east Tibet, which he left at the age of twenty to go and study at Sangphu the great monastic college of the Kadampa tradition in central Tibet. There he studied such subjects as pramana, madhyamaka, paramita, vinaya and abhidharma under such Kadampa masters as Chadul Dzinpa (1091-1166) and Chapa Chokyi Senge (1109-1161). After five years he became a great scholar, having thoroughly learned and understood these teachings.
Choje Marpa went on to follow Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo (1110-1170), receiving and mastering the profound secret Kagyu teachings and the teachings of the Sakyapa tradition and other teachings.
In 1167, Choje Marpa founded Tashi Sho monastery in Markham. Tibet. During his lifetime, the monastic community came to number more than ten thousand, establishing the Martsang tradition as a union of the Kadampa tradition, Kagyu lineages, and Sayka lineage.
Choje Marpa’s principal pupil was Drogon Rinchen (1170-1249), who in 1200 founded Tsomdo Monastery in Markham, Tibet. He promulgated the teachings and practices of Martsang Kagyu and had numerous pupils who were both scholars and siddhas. The Tashi Sho and Tsomdo monasteries became famous and were called “Sun Sho and moon Tsom.”
In 1274, Lochen Chogyal Phakpa (1235-1280), who was then the ruler of Tibet, visited Tsomdo Monastery and became its benefactor.
During the time of lineage holders as Drogon Rinchen, Yeshe Gyaltsen, Changchub Drakpa, Sonam Yeshe, Rinchen Gyaltsen, and Konchok Gyaltsen, thousands of pupils from Tashi Sho and Tsomdo monasteries and beings in general greatly benefited from the teachings. In particular, numerous individuals became siddhas through practicing the meditation instructions of the transmission originating from Choje Marpa’s experience and realisations.
Unfortunately , in 1639, a Mongolian army destroyed the Martsang Kagyu monasteries along with many other Tibetan monasteries. Although both monasteries were rebuilt, Dzungarian Mongols destroyed them again in 1718, sadly Martsang Kagyu was unable to recover so fell into decline. Following this many Martsang Kagyu great siddhas hid in the mountains to continue their practice.
Despite the loss of the monasteries, fortunately the Martsang Kagyu teachings never stopped being transmitted and in the twentieth century, the Eleventh Gangri Karma Rinpoche (1910-1959) received them from Trinlay Gyamtso, who was the Khenpo, of the Tropu Kagyu, and from the lama Karma Lingpa.
The Eleventh Gangri Karma Rinpoche passed this transmission on to his main disciple, Chodrak Gyamtso, who in turn transmitted these teachings to H.H. the Twelfth Gangri Karma Rinpoche who is the present lineage holder of the Martsang Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.
There have been many siddhas have prophesied that there will come a time when Martsang Kagyu will be revived and will once again bring benefit to all beings.