Guru Marapa- Marapa was the founder of Kagyudpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. After Drogmi Lotsava from whom he learnt Sankrit, Marpa had two Nepali Gurus, Paindapa and Chitherpa from whom he learnt the Chakrasamvara and Chatuhpith Tantras for three years, giving him a great deal of dharma instruction and language. Marapa with his great passion and diligence went on to learn the vast range of Tantric teachings from Naropa, Maitripa, Kukkuripa and others. Marapa came back to Tibet with these vast resources and taught his disciples extensively. Among his disciples, Tibet’s great yogi Milarepa was the foremost and he had many outstanding disciples of his own through whom Kagyudpa lineage is continued uninterruptedly till today.
Guru Milarepa- Milarepa is believed to be the most beloved and highly accomplished Buddhist master of Tibet. His songs on enlightened experiences are still sung today by the learned and lay people alike. Milarepa during his early career committed many evil deeds through black magic. Later regretting his evil deeds, he eventually found his worthy and enlightened Marpa, who put him on trials and hardships in other to test his guru devotion and eagerness to practice dharma teachings. Acknowledging his devotion, Guru Marapa later bestowed the series of empowerments and essential teachings of Maha Mudra which he received from Naropa. Milarepa meditated on these tantric teachings with great enthusiasm in wild for 6 years, eventually achieving the realization of Vajradharahood in his very life time.
Guru Gampopa- In East Tibet, Gampopa was trained as a physician who devoted himself to the Dharma after the death of his wife. Guru Gampopa became the heart son of Milarepa and was the root guru of the first Karmapa, Dusum Khempa. It is his synthesis of the traditions of Dharma teachings combined with the experiential meditative teaching of Milarepa that formed the Kagyu tradition, as we know it today. Guru Gampopa wrote the “Jewel Ornament of Liberation” and is usually depicted wearing robes and a red hat, which has become synonymous with the Kagyu School. Gampopa, a talented writer, of great insight, was entrusted by Milarepa with the complete Kagyu transmission before leaving Milarepa to go into retreat at Dagpo in South–East Tibet. There he founded the monastery of Daglha Gampo, where he drew many disciples. Four of these were to found the four “major” Kagyu branches. One of the four, Dusum Khyenpa was both the next Kagyu lineage–holder, and the first Karmapa.