bka' sde zur pa

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Zurpoche Shakya Jungne, a native of Yardzong or Sarmo in Dokham, received the three stages of monastic ordination from Lachen Gongpa Rabsal, and under his grandfather, Zur Rinchen Gyatso, he studied the sütra and tantra-texts, including the cycle of the Magical Net (Tingkye Vols. 14-16). Later, he received instruction on the Magical Net and the Mental Class (sems sde) from Nyang Yeshe Jungne of Cholung, on the Sütra Which Gathers All Intentions (mdo dgongs pa 'dus pa), the Parkhab Commentary ('grel pa spar khab) and the Great Perfection from Namkhade; and on the Sequence of the Path of the Magical Net (Mäyäjälapathakrama, P. 4736) from Dre Trochung of upper Nyang. Zurpoche is known to have amassed at his Ugpalung monastery the root tantras and exegetical tantras; the root-texts and their commentaries; the tantras and their means for attainment; and he applied them in practice.

Foremost among his disciples were the four "summits":

- Zurchung Sherab Drakpa, who had arrived at the summit of the view, and enlightened intention
- Menyak Jungdrak, who had arrived at the summit of the exegesis of the Guhyagarbha
- Zhang Drochung, who had arrived at the summit of vast knowledge
- Zanggom Sherab Gyalpo, who had arrived at the summit of meditative practice
Zurpoche inhabited Ugpalung in the lower Shang valley for many years, and he constructed a temple in that place, where he had visions of the Forty-two Peaceful Deities and of the Fifty-eight Wrathful Deities, according to the Guhyagarbha. As he himself said:

“I perceive all the earth, stones, mountains and rocks of Ugpalung to be the host of peaceful and wrathful deities.
But in particular, I always see this southern peak of Ensermo as the Buddhas of the Five Enlightened Families.
Therefore, I shall build a temple of the peaceful deities."

Since in the past, the accomplished masters were completely mindful of preserving secrecy, Zurpoche said that it was improper to make images according to the secret means for attainment in places where many people would congregate, and commissioned images according to the tradition of the tantras. The frescoes painted to the right were of the peaceful deities of the Magical Net, and those on the left were of the blazing wrathful deities.

His main student and nephew, Zurchungpa Sherab Drakpa (1014-1074) mastered and widely propagated the "distant lineage", including the Guhyagarbha Tantra. Foremost among his students were the "four pillars": Kyoton Shayka of Gungbu who was the pillar of the Mental Class; Yangkheng Lama of Kyonglung who was the pillar of the Sütra Which Gathers All Intentions (mdo dgongs pa 'dus pa); Len Shakya Zangpo of Chubar who was the pillar of the Magical Net; and Datik Josak of Nagmore who was the pillar of ritual and means for attainment.

However, it was Zurchungpa's actual son, Drophukpa Zur Shakya Senge (b. 1074) who widely disseminated the Guhyagarbha Tantra in Tibet. He began his study of this text in his fifteenth year under Len Shakya Zangpo of Chubar, and received the entire exegetical tradition of the Zur family from the other three main students of Zurchungpa, who all were invited to his residence. His spiritual accomplishment in the Guhyagarbha is illustrated by the following incident:

Once, when he was teaching the sacred doctrine in Drophuk, he sat on a backless teaching-throne, and students surrounded him on all sides. He appeared to be facing his audience in all directions. Therefore, they were convinced that he was actually the representative of the lord of the (maôçala?) of the Magical Net of Vajrasattva (Tingkye Vols. 14-16) and he became renowned as an undisputed emanation.

Despite the recent criticisms of Lha Lama Yeshe O and Go Khugpa Lhetse, Drophukpa could reportedly gather five hundred literate students during the summer and winter and three hundred during the autumn and spring. Owing to his mastery of this tantra, the two mainstream lineages diverged from him, i.e., the Zur lineage of Central Tibet and the Kham lineage of Eastern Tibet.


In Central Tibet, Zur Drophukpa's principle disciples were known as the four "black ones"; the four "teachers"; and the four "grandfathers". The four "black ones" (nag po, so-called because their names all contained the element nag, "black") included Cheton Gyanak of Upper Nyang, the main lineage-holder of the Central or "Upper Zur Tradition", Zurnak Khorlo, Nyangnak Dowo, Danak Tsuktor Wangchuk. The four "teachers" (ston pa, whose names all contained ston, "to teach") were Nyeton Choseng, Gyapton Dorje Gonpo, Zhangton and Gyaton. The four "grandfathers" were Tsangpa Chiton, Yuton Horpo, Bangton Chakyu and Upa Choseng.

Nyingma Kama Lineage of Zur