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Chanting the Collected Songs of Realization of the Kagyu Masters (Kagyu Gurtso)

Seto Gompa, Seto Gompa Marg 1
Kathmandu, Nepal

August 19 All day

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“Kagyu” refers to the Kagyu lineage whereas “Gurtso” refers to “Gur” meaning “song” and “Tso” meaning “collection.”

Kagyu is one of the four major lineages of Tibetan Buddhism and features the continuous oral transmission of the teachings from realized master to gifted disciple.  There is also emphasis on the profound meditation techniques of mahamudra and the special tantric practices called the “Six Yogas of Naropa”. Both are used to recognize the true nature of mind. Due to this focus, the Kagyu lineage is also called the “practice lineage”.

The origins of the Kagyu lineage trace back to Buddha Śākyamuni. At the center of the Kagyu lineage tree is Vajradhara (Dorje Chang in Tibetan), the primordial dharmakaya Buddha and source of realization.  According to legend, the great Indian yogi, Tilopa, received direct transmission of mahamudra from Vajradhara. After Tilopa, the lineage continues through Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, the 1st Karmapa, up to the 17th Karmapa of today, and other great masters of all the Kagyu lineages. 

Each year on the full moon day of the 7th month of the Tibetan calendar, the monks of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery gather to chant the Collected Songs of Realization of the Kagyu Masters found in the renowned classic text, the Kagyu Gurtso. This includes the Marme Daksum (songs of Mar-Marpa, Me-Milarepa, Dak-Dakpo also known as Gampopa, and sum-3). The songs describe each meditator’s endeavor to fully realize their Buddha Nature and path to Enlightenment. The collection includes more than 100 songs from more than 30 Kagyu lineage masters. The spiritual advice of these great beings spans more than ten centuries of practice and realization.

During the full day of the puja (7 am to 6 pm), the monks wear yellow robes and puja hats. A storyteller chants the background story for each narrative, skillfully setting the stage for the listeners to visualize each yogi’s remote retreat place and the unique situation that led them to give rise to their spontaneous song of realization. The monks then sing the songs with powerful voices. It is not unusual for participants to become deeply moved and shed tears due to the profoundly meaningful and melodious chanting.

Among the many benefits that arise for those who support and rejoice in this great activity are: 1) the opportunity to remember the Guru; 2) the opportunity to develop faith and devotion; and 3) the opportunity to reflect on the hardships endured by the great Kagyu masters, rejoice in their accomplishments, and be inspired by their stories and songs.

The Kagyu Gurtso was translated into English by the Nalanda Translation Committee in 1980 under HE Chögyum Trungpa Rinpoche’s guidance and is published as “The Rain of Wisdom” by Shambhala Publications.

May the virtue of anyone who rejoices in this auspicious activity be dedicated to the Enlightenment of all sentient beings.