The great siddha Naropa (1016-1100) was born to a royal family in Bengal, India. His yearning for spiritual development was so strong that at age eight, he journeyed to Kashmir to study with the master Arya Akasha and received the lay ordination.
When Naropa returned from his spiritual and intellectual pursuits, he was forced by his parents to marry a Brahmin princess. However, the marriage only lasted for eight years. Naropa unveiled his spiritual goal to his wife and she decided not to be a hindrance on his path.
Naropa took the vows of a novice monk at the Happy Garden Monastery and was subsequently fully ordained in Kashmir. Thereafter, he stayed in Pullahari Monastery to continue his learning and practice, and received further teachings and training at the nearby University of Nalanda.
Naropa’s wisdom, oratory skills and spiritual understanding earned him the chancellorship of the famed University of Nalanda where he also became the Northern Gatekeeper. He was constantly faced with difficult debates with the heretics, but he was regularly victorious.
Although Naropa was well-versed in the theoretical aspects of Buddhism, he realized that he was still inept in the training of his restless mind. A dakini thus appeared before him, explaining the importance of meditation, and advised him to seek the guidance of Tilopa, a great master who could lead him to realize the ultimate nature of the mind.
Traveling eastward, Naropa finally met his destined root guru, Tilopa, who instantly put him to difficult tests. Naropa experienced 12 major and 12 lesser hardships so as to purify his karma and emotion-induced obscurations. Through receiving great blessings from Tilopa and accomplishing his own purification, Naropa realized the clarity and harmony of mind, truly experiencing the state of Vajradhara. After attaining this magnificent realization, Naropa taught in many places and had numerous disciples, especially in Kashmir where many monasteries were established by Naropa himself. Tilopa and Naropa were both recognized as two of the 84 great mahasiddhas in the history of Buddhism.
Amongst Naropa’s accomplished disciples was Marpa, the translator, who succeeded Naropa in the lineage and brought the entire teachings and transmissions to Tibet.