Marpa (1012-1096) was born in Chukhyer in southern Tibet. From the Sakyapa lama Drogmi Lotsawa he learned Sanskrit and received a few teachings. Dissatisfied with his learning progress, Marpa decided to trade all of his possessions for gold to travel to India in order to receive more teachings, and to bring them back to Tibet.
It was during his trip to India through Nepal that Marpa met two of Naropa’s disciples, Kantapa and Pentapa, and received teachings from them. Marpa was so impressed by them that he decided to meet Naropa in person to receive direct instructions. For many years, Marpa studied under the guidance of Naropa. He received teachings during the day, and practiced with one-pointed devotion during the night, mastering the theoretical and practical aspects of Mahayana and Vajrayana. Naropa eventually appointed Marpa as his successor in Tibet, and prophesied that his lineage would prosper considerably in the Land of Snow.
Marpa made repeated trips to India and Nepal, brought many teachings back to Tibet, and translated them from Sanskrit to Tibetan for the benefit of the people of Tibet. He underwent several hardships, and almost lost his life during the arduous journey to seek the Dharma. He met many masters, but Naropa and Maitripa were the most important amongst all.
Although Marpa was married with wife and children, his realization was incomparable and was likened to a lotus in the mud, free from defilements. To him, samsara and enlightenment were inseparable, and all worldly phenomena were no different from Buddha nature. Therefore, he could lead a conventional samsaric life and remain unstained. Marpa truly attained the state of Vajradhara, or Buddhahood, in one lifetime.