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
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
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,