Tilopa’s Open Sesame

July 28, 2008 by     Print This Post Print This Post

Tilopa, the founder of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, is said to have spent his time pressing sesame seeds into oil while serving as a bouncer for a prostitute. The Mahamudra tradition, that of the Great Symbol, comes from him, and, in our case, through Chögyam Trungpa who was a direct socket into its transmission stream.

This came to mind recently as I was practicing a very short Chakrasamvara text, composed by Naropa, who was a student of Tilopa. It was translated by Naropa and Marpa, put into writing by the Eighth Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, and preserved by Surmang Monastery, which was in Trungpa Rinpoche’s care before he left for the west, where we met him, that lineage, and that practice in its living essence.

From that point of view, as Juliete (Judith) Ferris recently pointed out, we, the sangha of Chögyam Trungpa, are Tilopa’s Open Sesame. That’s what this site, and the people contributing to it, are about. That magic is alive, in the world, and in us. Let’s be open to it, and be willing to be its expression as well.


3 Responses to “Tilopa’s Open Sesame”

  1. madeline schreiber on September 28th, 2008 2:55 pm

    I take issue with designating the Madam Darima, for whom Tilopa worked as a pimp and bouncer, as a prostitute. As the Madam of her own establishment, she was certainly a business woman. This does not mean that she was also a working prostitute. As a successful Madam, she may never have turned a trick in her life. Until we know for sure, we should respectfully refer to her as a Madam, not as a prostitute.

  2. Mark Szpakowski on September 28th, 2008 3:47 pm

    Hi Madeline! Hmm, well Darima seems to have had an effect on more than just Tilopa. She and her daughter (“whose charming face, seductive gait, well-developed hips and nubile breasts caused even the sun to halt in its tracks”) were intimately involved with Ghantapa’s realization. Re Tilopa, the Kagyu site says:

    [Tilopa] also worked at a brothel for Dharima, a prostitute, in Bengal, as instructed by his guru Matangi. He attained great mahamudra realization through practicing in this situation.

    Maybe courtesan is a better word? But madame, hostess of the feminine principle that blows away academic and administrative forms, is fine by me 🙂

  3. Mark Szpakowski on February 21st, 2009 1:27 am

    The Chronicles site pointed to a Kagyü Monlam page on HH Karmapa XVII commenting on the Kagyü Lineage Prayer : Great Vajradhara, Telo, Naro…

    His Holiness said that the great blessings of the lineage are still warm, they are hot.