The Shangpa Kagyu (ཤངས་པ་བཀའ་བརྒྱུད) is known as the "secret" lineage and differs in origin from the better known Dagpo Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Dagpo Kagyud come from the lineage of Tilopa whereas the Shangpa lineage descends from Naropa's Sister Niguma  as well as Sukhasiddhi. It was revitalized in the 20th century by the first Kalu Rinpoche, who had many students in Tibet and in the West.
The Shangpa Kagyu lineage was founded by the 11th-Century Tibetan scholar Khyungpo Naljor. Seeking to increase his understanding of the teachings he received in Tibet, he traveled to India, where he met the female mystic yogini Niguma. (Vajradhara Niguma is the full Tibetan name of the Indian yogini Vimalashri (her Sanskrit name). He received many teachings from her; in particular, the teachings of a special tradition of Mahamudra and The Teachings of Niguma. Khyungpo Naljor was a Tibetan yogi and Bönpo and her most famous disciple. He was the only one to whom she imparted her most secret teachings. He also met and studied with Sukhasiddhi, another female mystic and student of Virupa, as well as Vajra-asana, Maitripa, Rahula, and others.
On his return to Tibet, Khyungpo Naljor established a monastery at Shang-Shung in Central Tibet. This was his main seat, and he became known as the Lama of Shang. Although he was reputed to have founded hundreds of monasteries and had thousands of students, he passed the teachings of Niguma to only one of his students, Mochok Rinchen Tsondru. The Shangpa lineage is often referred to as the "secret lineage" because Niguma instructed Khyungpo Naljor to transmit the teachings to only one student for the first seven generations (beginning with the Buddha Vajradhara and Niguma).
From Mochok Rinchen Tsondru, the lineage was passed to Kyergang Chokyi Senge, Nyen-ton Rigung Chokyi Sherab, and Songjay Tenpa Tsondru Senge. These first seven teachings are known as the Seven Great Jewels of the Shangpa tradition. Songjay Tenpa was the first teacher who gave these instructions to more than one of his disciples, and from this point on, several different lines of transmission developed. The intention for keeping the lineage secret in this fashion was to protect it from becoming an established monastic tradition. As one of the more esoteric traditions, it was meant to be practiced rather than codified.
Although the Shangpa teachings were highly regarded and were assimilated by many schools, the tradition itself ceased to exist as an independent school with the dissolution of the Jonangpas in the 17th century. However, its teachings were still practiced and transmitted. In the 19th century Jamgon Kongtrul gathered together the surviving transmissions and ensured their continued survival by including them in his Treasury of Key Instructions.
Modern Lineage Holders
In the west, the principle teacher of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage was the first Kalu Rinpoche. He received the lineage teachings in the early 1940s when he went for training at Tsa Tsa Monastery in Eastern Tibet. He trained with the Abbot of the monastery, His Holiness the eighth Tsa Tsa Drubgen, Yizhin Norbu, also called Karma Singhe and the White Crown Master. The Karma Kagyu regent H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche described Yizhin Norbu as “one of the most learned and accomplished Kagyu masters now living.”
There, Kalu Rinpoche received the complete cycle of the Shangpa teachings during a closed retreat. Tsa Tsa monastery is also a major Dakpo Kagyu Centre and preserves the rime tradition. His Holiness the Tsa Tsa Drubgen Yizhin Norbu died in the middle of June, 2005. The Shangpa traditions are currently held by his regent and successor His Holiness the second Gyalten Thongwa Rangdrol.
After the first Kalu Rinpoche died his student Bokar Rinpoche became the main lineage holder. After Bokar Rinpoche died Yangsi Kalu Rinpoche, a young tulku who finished a Shangpa three-year retreat in September 2008, became the holder of the seat of the lineage (the monastery of Sonada in northern India). The other current holders of the Shangpa lineage are the lamas who have been entrusted by Vajradhara Kalu Rangjung Künchab as well as Ven Mogchok Rinpoche currently living and teaching in France.
Wangchen Rinpoche is a current lineage holder, who was recognized by Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche as “Kalu the Younger”, his meditation companion in Tibet.
Practice and doctrine
There are many unique teachings in the Shangpa tradition, but the most important are "The Five Golden Teachings", also called the Five Golden Doctrines of the Shangpas (Tib., shangs pa gser chos lnga), a group of teachings envisioned as forming a tree,.
- The innermost teachings are the "Six Yogas of Niguma," which are very similar to the "Six Yogas of Naropa" practiced by all other Kagyu schools. The Six Teachings of Niguma include the teachings on heat, illusory-body, the dream state, sheer clarity, transference, and bardo (the intermediary state between death and birth)
- The next tier includes "The Locket Tradition of Mahamudra" which combines the mahamudra teachings of Niguma, Maitripa, and Sukhasiddhi.
- The teachings on the three methods of carrying one's understanding from meditation into daily activities.
- The practice of development and completion with the white and red dakinis.
- The teaching of the deathless nature of mind and body.
The principal Shangpa protector is the Six-Armed Mahakala, and it was from this transmission that the practices of this deity spread to other schools.
The Shangpa Kagyu is not always counted among the Dagpo Kagyu schools, widely known simply as "Kagyu" and coming from Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa. It is still called "Kagyu" because it is a whispered lineage. Another derivation for the name "Kagyu" is the use in the Shangpa School of a cycle of teachings called "Kagyama" (bka' rgya ma) which refers to "A Hundred Secret Things."
- Sarah Harding Niguma, Lady of Illusion (Tsadra Foundation). Ithica: Snow Lion Publications (2012). ISBN 978-1559393614
- Jamgon Kongtrul Timeless Rapture: Inspired Verses of the Shangpa Masters. Ithica: Snow Lion Publications (2004). ISBN 1-55939-204-5
- Kapstein, Matthew “The Shangs-pa bKa'-brgyud: an unknown school of Tibetan Buddhism” in M. Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi (eds.), Studies in Honor of Hugh Richardson Warminster: Aris and Phillips, 1980, pp. 138–44.
- Kapstein, Matthew “The Illusion of Spiritual Progress”, in Robert Buswell, ed., Paths to Liberation, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1992. pp. 193–224
- Riggs, Nicole (2000) Like An Illusion: Lives of the Shangpa Kagyu Masters Dharma Cloud Press, Oregon. ISBN 0-9705639-0-6.
- 2nd Dalai Lama. Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma, Snow Lion Publications, 1st ed. U. edition (May 1985), ISBN 0-937938-28-9 (10), ISBN 978-0-937938-28-7 (13)
- The Palden Shangpa Kagyu Website - Dedicated to the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.
- Samdrub Darjay Choling Monastery - Home monastery in Sonada, India
- Kagyu Dzamling Kunchab, New York, NY, USA - Founded by Kyabje Dorje Chang Kalu Rinpoche, his Eastern Seat in the USA
- Chinese article
- Karmaling - a French center that follows the Shangpa Kagyu lineage
- Shangpa (Kagyud)@khandro.net
- Shangpa Kagyu