Literature from the Tibetan Tradition Relevant to Six Yogas of Naropa Practitioners
An Annotated Bibliography and Selected Excerpts
Note 1: All references included here were available before 2008. Literature appeared only after 2008 is not included here.
Note 2: Several excerpts have been omitted or edited here because the publications were restricted to initiates; however, these excerpts may be made available to three-year retreat initiates with the proper permissions who write requesting them to the right person. For more information leave a message for Manu here
Note 3: This is a work in progress. If you would like to contribute with editing or new annotated bibliography entries (from publications appeared before or after 2008 and also unpublished manuscripts), you are welcome to do so by leaving a message for Manu here .
Chang, Garma C.C. The Six Yogas of Naropa and Teachings on Mahamudra. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 1986 (2nd edition; 1st edition of 1963, published as Teachings of Tibetan Yoga), 128 pp., introduction, endnotes. ISBN: 0-937938-33-5.
The book is divided into two parts: part I, “The Teachings of Mahamudra,” which consist of translations of Tilopa’s “The Song of Mahamudra”; the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje’s “The Vow of Mahamudra”; and Ven. Lama Kong Ka’s “Essentials of Mahamudra Practice”; and part II, “The Epitome of an Introduction to the Six Yogas of Naropa,” which is a translation (very abridged) of a meditation manual of the same name by Karma Dakpo Tashi Namgyal, a prominent 16th century Karma Kagyu writer, who also studied with the Drigung Kagyu. In fact, his treatise is almost identical to the Drigung Kagyu’s main Six Yogas manual, though much more succinct. For excerpts from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Chen, Yogi C.M. “The Essential Teaching of Adi-Buddha”, pp. 10-11. In www.yogichen.org
Certain trulkhor exercises would yield the best results on a specific phase of the moon. For more information see www.yogichen.org
Chen, Yogi C.M. “Why All Beings are Our Benefactors,” pp. 8, 11. In www.yogichen.org
A secret commentary of the four initiations is provided. For excerpts from this article relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Chökyab, Könchog, and Pachung Rinpoche. Yonten Gyatso, Eric (translator). Dechen Wangmo, Sara (editor). Notes on the Yogic Exercises of the Profound Path of the Six Yogas of Naropa, p. 4, 2007.
Provides an explanation of the six hearths’ yogic meaning (excerpt restricted).
Cozort, Daniel. Highest Yoga Tantra: An Introduction to the Esoteric Buddhism of Tibet. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1986, 195 pp., charts, preface, English-Sanskrit-Tibetan glossary, bibliography, endnotes, index. ISBN: 0-937938-32-7.
This work provides one of the best explanations of Highest Yoga Tantra available. Especially complete and clarifying for the completion stage yogas. Very well documented, with invaluable translations from the Tibetan work Presentation of the Grounds and Paths of the Four Great Secret Tantra Sets, by Ngawang Belden and invaluable translations from the oral commentary / lecture given by the Ganden Tri Rinbochay, H.H. Jambel Shenpen, at a seminar of the University of Virginia during the academic year 1980-1981. Focuses on the system of Guhyasamaja and compares it to the system of Kalachakra. Excellent academic work which also happens to be very concise and readable.
David-Neel, Alexandra. “Psychic Sports.” In Magic and Mystery in Tibet. New York: Dover, 1971 , pp. 199-241.
It has a chapter on the lung-gom-pa runners (perhaps the most detailed description of this phenomenon ever published), tummo or inner heat yoga, and the creation of thought-projections or a telepathic form of communication at a distance. The section on tummo provides some interesting details that are not commonly found elsewhere in the literature on the Six Yogas, such as the display of outer tummo when drying wet blankets, description of some trulkhor exercises, and of some visualizations. Her work, however, seems to be clouded by a lot of fantasy and her claims should be taken “with a pinch of salt.” For excerpts from this article relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Evans-Wentz, W.Y., editor. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines: Or Seven Books of Wisdom of the Great Path, According to the Late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup’s English Rendering (arranged and edited with introductions and annotations to serve as a commentary by W.Y. Evans-Wentz; with foreword by Dr. R.R. Marett and yogic commentary by translator-professor Chen-Chi Chang). London, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1958 (second edition), 1935 (first edition), 389 pp., prefaces, foreword, general introduction and specific introductions to each of the seven books-chapters, copious footnotes, illustrations, exhaustively thorough index.
Valuable translations, though commentary in introductions and footnotes is often inaccurate and misleading due to the scarce reference literature the editor had access to at the time of publishing this book and his lack of knowledge of secret oral tradition and of actual Tibetan yoga practice. Book I is a translation of Gampopa’s famous Precious Rosary, with the twenty eight categories of yogic precepts. Book II is a translation of Padma Karpo’s Epitome of the Great Seal, a treatise on Mahamudra meditation. Book III is a translation of a treatise on the Six Yogas of Naropa, also written by Padma Karpo. Book IV is a translation of a treatise on the yoga of consciousness transference, or Phowa. Book V is a translation of a treatise on Chöd meditation. Book VI is a translation of a short treatise on the yoga of the Long Hung or an explanation of the fivefold division of the five Buddha families, five wisdoms, etc. Book VII is a translation of a text, which is one section of the Prajña Paramita or a “Prajña Paramita in a Few Letters,” a treatise on the doctrine of emptiness from a Mahayana perspective.
Guenther, Herbert V. The Life and Teachings of Naropa: Translated from the original Tibetan with a Philosophical Commentary based on the Oral Transmission. London, Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1963, 292 pp., introduction, appendix, endnotes, indexes.
This book provides a translation of a fifteenth-century work by Lhatsun Rinchen Namgyal of Ragkar, based on a transmission by Phagmo Drupa. It is a very careful and precise translation, although at times difficult to understand because of its philosophical depth and subtlety. It offers fascinating and unique details and insights on the Six (or Twelve?) Yogas of Naropa / Tilopa. It includes a philosophical-existentialist commentary by Guenther. Sections on tummo and karmamudra / Four Joys are particularly useful.
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Clear Light of Bliss: Mahamudra in Vajrayana Buddhism. (Translated by Tenzin Norbu. Edited by Jonathan Landaw with Chris Kolb.) London: Wisdom Publications, 1982, 254 pp. ISBN: 0-86171-005-3.
Possibly the best and most complete commentary and meditation manual on completion stage yogas ever written for a general readership. It follows a secret mantra mahamudra lineage mainly based on the Heruka Chakrasamvara cycle as transmitted in the Gelugpas from Tsongkhapa through Pabongkha to Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Extremely lucid in its presentation, this is a groundbreaking, pioneering work which blazed the path to other secret-revealing tantric works, such as Highest Yoga Tantra by Cozort; Six Yogas of Naropa by Mullin; and Bliss of Inner Fire by Lama Yeshe (all Gelugpas). Clear Light of Bliss provides one of the most complete explanations of the four joys and the unabridged completion stage illusory body practices. A possible problem of these teachings is that they seem to have been standardized by Pabongkha, so there are doubts on how close to Tsongkhapa’s original transmission they really are. For a few commented notes on the four joys from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Guide to Dakini Land: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Buddha Vajrayogini. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2000 , [second revised edition, U.K., 1996], xii + 532 pp., illustrations, appendices, glossary, bibliography, study programmes, index. ISBN: 81-208-1725-7.
Extremely useful book, especially for people embarking on a Vajrayogini yidam retreat. It explains practically everything one needs to know to do such a retreat. It also provides precious details on secret highest yoga tantra practices, especially on completion stage and tummo meditations, not found elsewhere. The first part of the book is Kelsang Gyatso’s lucid and detailed commentary based on Tsongkhapa’s commentary on Heruka and Vajrayogini, Illuminating All Hidden Meanings (Beden kunsel). The second part includes several Vajrayogini sadhanas, fire pujas, etc. Among many other interesting pieces of information, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso clarifies here a tummo preliminary technique in which a chöjung or dharmadayo (“phenomena source” with a tetrahedral shape) is visualized in the head as reaching the forehead.
Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang. Essence of Vajrayana: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Heruka Body Mandala.
A very complete commentary and manual, helpful to those who are doing the yidam Chakrasamvara practice. Precious clarifications on the wisdom mudra practice are given here. For commented notes on this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Gyatso, Gueshe Tamding. La Dama del Espacio: Comentario a la Práctica del Tantra de Vajra Yoguini. English translation by Tenzin Wangdak. Spanish translation and editing by Isidro Gordi and Marta Moll. Ciutadella de Menorca: Ediciones Amara, 1995, 194 pp., illustrations, appendix, outline of text, course description, glossary. ISBN: 84-920119-1-2.
This is a fascinating book on the tantra and commentary of the sadhana of Vajra Yogini from the Sakya / Gelug (Pabongkha) tradition. It explains (in Spanish) with great detail the meaning of the different parts of the sadhana. It discloses a great number of very precious tantric secrets from the oral tradition –even more than in the books by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. It also offers an explanation of the Vajra Yogini completion stage practices. Geshe claims that the Gelugpas have the very high teaching of the Central Channel of the Father (which is an advanced tummo practice), through which the practitioner may reach Vajradharahood in only one lifetime.
Gyatso, Tenzin, The XIV Dalai Lama. “The Six Yogas of Naropa.” Unpublished and unedited preliminary transcription from the Dalai Lama’s lecture in Dharamsala, March 22-26 1990.
The yogic way to perform the six triangles of tummo is described (excerpt restricted). During the experiences of clear light and four joys there are no propelling energies left and all that happens then is due to habituation stemming from constant practice (excerpt restricted). There seems to be some consensus among various authors that the nature of the Four Joys of ascent is quite different from the nature of the Four Joys of descent. It is not the exiting from a certain point in the body an absolute determinant of the next specific type and place of reincarnation one will experience, but rather the latter indicates from which point the exit took place (excerpt restricted). An explanation of the butterlamp-like vision is given, according to Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara commentaries (excerpt restricted).
Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, Jamgön’s Buddhist Ethics. Translated and edited by The International Translation Committee founded by the V.V. Kalu Rinpoche. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1998, 564 pp., foreword by Bokar Rinpoche, introduction by H.H. Sakya Trizin, translators’ introduction, four chapters, root text, abbreviations, endnotes, bibliography of works cited by the author, reference bibliography, index. ISBN: 1-55939-066-2.
Almost two hundred pages of very complete endnotes, with precious references to many obscure texts on completion stage yogas, most of them still only in Tibetan. One can see that the International Translation Committee is made by Buddhist and Tibetan scholars of first caliber and the immense amount of data gathered was very well edited in the endnotes. This amazing book has information of special interest in chapter IV, “The Vows and Pledges of Secret Mantra.” For excerpts from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Mackenzie Stewart, Jampa. The Life of Gampopa, 1995. Chapter “Tummo Retreat."
This chapter contains some interesting hints on tummo transmission. For an excerpt from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Mullin, Glenn H., translator and editor. “The Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma: A Treatise on the Profound Six Yogas of Sister Niguma; Entitled A Transmission of the Wisdom Dakini.” In Selected Works of the Dalai Lama II: The Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma, Glenn H. Mullin, editor. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1985 , pp. 92-151.
Very interesting yet quite brief treatise on the Six Yogas of Niguma. Provides unique details not found elsewhere, such as the visualization of the dharmadayos and bija syllables in the body, and the four red suns around the navel (for inner heat yoga); also the different uses of the mystic heat: as nutriment (tummo yoga, properly), clothing, resting place, magic horse (lung gonpa), liberation from hindering forces, and for receiving powerful mystic initiations. For an excerpt on the four joys from this chapter relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Mullin, Glenn H., translator and editor. Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa (by Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa). Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1996, 276 pp., preface, introduction, appendices, glossary, endnotes, bibliography, illustrations. ISBN: 1-55939-058-1.
Excellent translation with very detailed introduction of Tsongkhapa’s commentary-treatise on the Six Yogas of Naropa. Extremely lucid and clarifying, although not fully academic. One can discern Tsongkhapa’s amazingly lucid and broad-minded, contextualized thinking despite the translator's constrained treatment of the text and ideas. For an excerpt from this book on the four joys relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Mullin, Glenn H., translator and compiler. Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1997, 175 pp., preface, introduction, endnotes, glossary, bibliography. ISBN: 1-55939-074-3.
Excellent translation of six compiled treatises, mostly by Gelug authors of the past, on the Six Yogas of Naropa. First treatise is a poem by Tilopa. Second treatise is a poem by Naropa. Third treatise is by Jey Sherab Gyatso (1803-1875). Fourth treatise is by Gyalwa Wensapa (1505-1566). Fifth treatise is by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). This is a short, hands-on manual, unlike his most extensive treatise translated as Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa by Glenn H. Mullin as a separate book. Sixth treatise is by the First Panchen Lama (1568-1662). Very useful book as it provides unique details on the tradition of the Six Yogas.
Norbu, Namkhai. Yantra Yoga: Yoga of Movements. Edited by Oliver F. Leick, Gleisdorf, Germany: Edition Tsaparang, 1988, 95 pp. + 31 photos in several pages at the end, preface by Oliver F. Leick, introduction by Namkhai Norbu, endnotes, index, bibliography, books by Namkhai Norbu, contact address.
Perhaps one of the first books ever published on trulkhor or Tibetan yantra yoga in a Western language. Its numerous photos and detailed descriptions of the trul khor (“magic wheel”) exercises makes it an indispensable guide, though it has several errors here and there; even some photos are missing or are wrongly displayed and the English translation is poorly edited. It only shows twenty-four exercises out of the one hundred and eight exercises in the original Tibetan treatise by Vairocana.
Phuntsog, Thubten, editor. Tsa Lung Trulkhor. Lhasa: Sitron Mirigpe Trunkhang Library, c.1993-1995, 484 pp., illustrations. Foreword by Sönam Gyatso, in 1992. ISBN: 7-5409-(1 or 4)353-3.
This book, by Marpa Lotsawa and other Kagyu masters from a lineage coming from Tilopa, was edited by Thubten Phuntsog from the Karma Kagyu (?) lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The book is in Tibetan. Among many chapters and subjects on tummo meditation, Six Yogas of Naropa, etc., the book describes thirty nine trulkhor exercises. It provides illustrations (drawings) for several movements of some trulkhor exercises on pp.21-34 (rest of 471 pages of book is text). (The book is pocket-size, thin pages colored red on border, it has green soft covers and was purchased in Dharamsala, India, probably in late 2001/early 2002 by possibly a Drigung Kagyu rinpoche.
Shaw, Miranda. Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994, 291 pp., illustrations, extensive endnotes, extensive bibliography, index.
Original study based on a Ph.D. dissertation in religious studies at Harvard, this work challenges current notions in tantric studies that held that women were mere objects used for the purposes of male yogis. This book effectively shows that women—yoginis—had indeed a high status among tantric Buddhist circles of Pala India period (8th to 12th century C.E.) and, in fact, women in most cases were the “mothers” of the “founding fathers” of tantric Buddhist lineages. Another premise that is challenged in this book is that karmamudra was only for those of lower capabilities who could not succeed in jñanamudra. Shaw demonstrates exactly the opposite. However, at times her narrative is rhetorical and obviously biased. For commented notes from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Taranatha. Meaningful to behold, ff. 135b3-137b2. Mentioned in Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé’s Treasury of Key Instructions (gDams ngag mdzod), vol. Ba, pp.133-232. Delhi: N. Lungtok and N. Gyaltsen.
It provides a discussion of the elaborate and simple forms of the inner heat techniques.
Yeshe, Lama Thubten. The Bliss of Inner Fire: Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Boston: Wisdom, 1998, 230 pp., foreword by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, appendices, glossary, bibliography, suggested further reading, index.
A commentary on Tsongkhapa’s commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa, Having the Three Convictions, based on oral teachings that Lama Yeshe gave on tummo, or inner fire in 1983, one year before he died. Excellent addition to the literature on the Six Yogas, it contributes Lama Yeshe’s enlightened perspective and yogic advice based on his personal experience. Many otherwise obscure details of the oral tradition are clarified by lama Yeshe, as the exact location of the chakras, etc. Appendix 1 is a Sanskrit pronunciation guide. Appendix 2 is a table of foreign word transliterations. Appendix 3 is an outline of Tsongkhapa’s Having the Three Convictions. For a commented note from this book relevant to Six Yoga practitioners, click here
Yeshe, Lama Thubten. Tummo Meditation: Heart of the Six Yogas of Naropa; An Experiential Commentary.
Early draft on tummo with interesting information (on consort practice, etc.) that was not included in The Bliss of Inner Fire.
Zopa Rinpoche, Thubten. The Six Yogas of Naropa: A Commentary on Having Three Reliances by Lama Tsongkhapa (For Maha-Anuttara Tantra initiates only). Mahamudra Centre New Zealand, November 1987, first published in 1988. Copyright by Wisdom Publications, 1988, 40 pp.
Pp. 7, 31: Details on how to tie the meditation belt to best attain tummo (excerpt restricted). Explanation on how to drive the bodhicitta to better experience the four blisses (excerpt restricted).
For Literature from Traditions Other than Tibetan, which are also useful to Six Yogas of Naropa practitioners, click here
To Be is the Blissful Reality of Mind. To Do is the Activity of Love. Everything we Do is Just a Game to Recognize the Activity of Love.
There are no people, things, or circumstances which are good or bad, beautiful or ugly; it is only our emotionality toward them what is there. Wisdom is to remain free from judging, aware of one's emotions. Alchemy is to transmute emotions, maintaining a homeostasis of harmony and wellbeing. Meditation is to recognize the thought that generates the emotion, observing it with equanimity. Mahamudra is to wake up after dying, having a vision of what has always been, is, and will be.
Yoga is a Technology of Consciousness-Energy Developed to Experience Union. It Transcends Religion and Culture.
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