Ornament of Precious Liberation - Foreword
A welcome new translation of Gampopa’s classic overview of the Buddha’s teachings.
When we consider the life and achievements of Lord Gampopa, it is self-evident that he was extraordinary and highly talented. Nine hundred years ago in the snow land of Tibet, few people had such great capacity. Tibetan Buddhism in general and the Dakpo Kagyu in particular owe him a profound debt of gratitude. Before he renounced the life of a householder to become a monk, he was an accomplished physician, widely respected not just for his knowledge and ability to heal but also for his compassion and his concern for the welfare of others. In addition, he was a devoted husband and a loving father, a good human being. After his ordination at the age of twenty-five, he focused his mind on the Dharma. There were many different lineages at that time in Tibet. Some only practicedthe sutra teachings, others were purely tantric, and there was much mutual suspicion. The genius of Lord Gampopa was to bring together these seemingly conflicting traditions. Having established a strong base in the sutra tradition of the Kadampas, he met the great yogi Milarepa and received the instructions on the six yogas and mahāmudrā that had been passed down from the great Indian mahāsiddhas Nāropa and Maitripa. Gampopa was able to unite these two traditions, weaving them into a seamless path to liberation in what is known as “the confluence of mahāmudrā and Kadam.” Milarepa himself acknowledged Gampopa’s greatness when he predicted that future generations would not call his own lineage the practice lineage of Milarepa but would call it Dakpo Kagyu. Of the three Kagyu forefathers, Gampopa was the only one to be ordained. Marpa the Translator and Milarepa were lay practitioners. When Gampopa, following the instructions he had received from Milarepa, settled at the remote Daklha Gampo hermitage, a large community of meditators gradually gathered around him, and thus Gampopa established the first monastery of the Dakpo Kagyu. Gampopa’s own teaching practices became the root from which developed the distinctive system that all the Dakpo Kagyu schools follow to this day. Students first studied the lamrim teachings on the stages of the path from the Kadam tradition, and then they were allowed to study mahāmudrā and other tantric practices. Hence, the extant lineages within the Dakpo Kagyu—the Drikung, Drukpa, Karma Kamtsang, Taklung, and Barom—resemble the branches of a family tree, and Lord Gampopa is our common ancestor. The Ornament of Precious Liberation is our great family treasure and our shared inheritance. lt is my aspiration that through this text the different traditions of the Dakpo Kagyu will rediscover their common ancestry and become a joyous and harmonious family once more. We should consider reading Gampopa’s Ornament of Precious Liberation as unlike reading other books. This text has the power of a direct transmission from master to student. Gampopa himself promised that in the future those who were unable to meet him personally should not despair, because reading his two texts Ornament of Precious Liberation and Jewel Garland of the Supreme Path would be identical to receiving the teachings directly from him. Finally, I would like to commend Ken and Katia Holmes for bringing Gampopa’s words directly to English speakers. Though there are several earlier translations of Ornament of Precious Liberation, this translation is the most readable and faithful, and the extensive footnotes will be of help to practitioners and scholars alike. The Seventeenth Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje, Dharamsala