Gampopa (1079-1153) was born in Nyal in southern Tibet to the clan known as Nyi. He was brought up and trained as a physician by his father who was in the same profession. By age 16, Gampopa was already a great physician and a knowledgeable scholar in Tantric studies. Gampopa married and had two children, but all were killed in a plague. This traumatic experience made Gampopa renounce the conventional life and enter the monastic order.
At age 25, Gampopa took the full ordination from Khenpo Lodan Sherab of Maryul. He then went to central Tibet to study the Kadampa tradition and began meditation retreat.
When he first heard the name of Milarepa, he immediately experienced an incomparable devotion and realized that Milarepa would be the destined root guru for him. Gampopa sold his farm for gold and set out to find Milarepa in western Tibet. Milarepa, who recognized Gampopa as his disciple, transmitted the entire Kagyud teachings to him. After receiving all the transmissions from Milarepa, Gampopa traveled to Dagpo to remain in meditation retreat for many years, and established the Dagla Gampo Monastery.
Gampopa was the author of many important Buddhist texts — “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation” and “The Precious Rosary of the Excellent Path” have been two of the most popular readings up to this day. Four of Gampopa’s foremost disciples founded the four main Kagyud branches, namely Karma, Phagdru, Shangpa and Darom. Phagmodrupa (Phagdru) later established the eight sub-schools of the Kagyud Order: Lingre, Drikung, Taglung, Yasang, Trophu, Shugseb, Yelba, and Martsang. Lingre was founded by Lingchen Repa, the root guru of the first Gyalwang Drukpa, Tsangpa Gyare Yeshe Dorje, founder of the Drukpa lineage.