Gampopa is a pivotal figure in Tibetan Buddhism, with close ties to both the Kadampa and Kagyupa traditions. Yet - perhaps because his thought has been variously interpreted by later Tibetans - many aspects of his life and work remain unclear and unexplored.
In Part I of this thesis, Chapter One investigates how Gampopa's personal experiences and the spiritual, intellectual and societal trends of his time may have influenced his thought. Chapter Two summarizes the teachings in each work included in his Collected Works , discusses his pedagogical style and examines the biographies and other works in Tibetan that deal with Gampopa. Chapter Three discusses Gampopa's doctrine of Three Paths, and Four Dharmas. It also deals with his synthesized method of teaching and his doctrinal positions, focusing on his concepts of sutra and tantra, study and practice, and mahamudra.
This study considers how far the evolution of Gampopa's teachings in his lifetime and later among his students may be traced, not just to a development of 'skillful means', as tradition suggests, but rather to larger changes in Tibetan society. For example, Gampopa has much to say about sutric teachings, but - possibly because of the influence of his teacher, the yogi Milarepa - he laid little emphasis on a monastic mode of life. His followers - perhaps because of the increasing monasticization of Tibet - closely connect sutra with monasticism. The priority Gampopa gave to practice, rather than philosophical study, may be traced to Milarepa and to the practice-oriented instruction lineage of Kadampa. This dissertation examines apparent differences and similarities in the treatment of mahamudra by Gampopa, his predecessor Maitripa and the proto-Kagyu teacher Tilopa.
Part II consists in an edition and a translation of Gampopa's Rnam rtog don dam gyi ngo sprod. This text offers many illuminating comparisons of sutra and mantra and of Kadampa and Kagyupa teachings. It also provides valuable information about the views of representatives of these two traditions. Most importantly, Gampopa here discusses rnam rtog, conceptualization, a central concept for him.
In addition to a bibliography, appendices include a map and a table of place names related to Gampopa and tables summarizing the events in his life and the editions of his works.
The 4th Trungram Gyaltrul Rinpoche (1968–present), more commonly known as Trungram Gyalwa Rinpoche, was born into a Nepalese Sherpa family and was recognized by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa, as the reincarnation of the 3rd Trungram Gyaltrul. He is the head of the Trungram lineage, its monasteries, meditation centers, schools, dharma centers and groups around the world. He is one of the highest tulkus of the Karma Kagyu lineage; having received extensive transmissions of the Nyingma lineages he teaches in the spirit of the Rime movement.
He is the first lama recognized as reincarnate to earn a Ph.D. in the West, having completed a doctoral program in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies at Harvard University. He is the founder of Trungram International Academy, United Trungram Buddhist Fellowship, the Dharmakaya Organization, the World Center for Peace and Unity at Lumbini, Buddhist Relief Services and the Trungram Gyalwa Foundation.