In the 11th century, Khyungpo Naljor, considered the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage, went on pilgrimage to India seven times and studied with more than 150 gurus. His main two teachers were the dakinis Sukhasiddi and Niguma. Kyungpo Naljor traveled to India with much gold as offerings to teachers including Niguma, a wisdom dakini, whom he discovered in the sky over charnel grounds, surrounded by many wrathful dakinis. He prepared a mandala offering of five cups full of gold dust, but Niguma kicked the offering into the air saying she had no need of gold because when the pure view of all appearance is obtained, the whole world is gold. Then Niguma gave Khyungpo Naljor “the five golden doctrines of the Shangpa.” These five golden doctrines, which are the entirety of the Shangpa Kagyu teachings, are likened to a tree. The six roots are the six yogas of Niguma: heat, illusory body, dream state, sheer clarity, transference, and bardo. The main trunk is the tradition of the Mahamudra of Niguma, Maitripa and Sukhasiddhi. The three branches are the three methods of carrying one’s understanding in meditation into daily activities. The flowers are the practice of development and completion of white and red dakinis. The fruit is the wisdom of deathlessness, changelessness, and body. Similar additional teachings were given to Khyungpo Naljor by Sukhasiddhi, the main student of Virupa, an Indian Mahasiddhi.
Sukhasiddhi was banished from her home for giving her poor family’s last container of rice to a begging monk. She wandered around and eventually earned a living making beer. The Mahasiddha Virupa was very fond of beer, especially hers, and he became her teacher. After three years of study and contemplation, Sukhasiddhi obtained the rainbow body and the 60 year old woman then looked like a beautiful 16 year old girl. She lived in many isolated places and appears throughout time in various forms to people of appropriate realization in the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.
The Shangpa lineage begins in Tibet with Khyungpo Naljor and contains many famous yogis. One of the most famous depicted on the wall is the 15th century Siddha, Tangtong Gyalpo, who developed a method of forging iron and was the inventor of the iron chain link bridge. His major activity was connecting Tibet with bridges and roads. He had a vision of the whole of Tibet as the body of a demoness lying prostrate on the ground. At various points on her body, the demoness had certain energy potentials that could be enhanced and create a way for pilgrims. Kyungpo Naljor also composed the main meditation used at this Center, the Sadhana of Chenrezig (Avalokiteshvara). His teachings were transmitted through many disciples and were preserved by the great nineteenth century teacher Jamgon Kongtrul Lodrö Taye who included them in his Treasury of Key Instructions. Jamgon Kongtrul was one of the founders of the Rime movement, the intent of which is to preserve the teachings of all lineages in a non-sectarian way.