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The Six Yogas of Nāropa or Naro Choe Druk (Tib. na-ro'i-chos-drug), also called the Six Dharmas of Naropa[1] and Naro's Six Doctrines (Mandarin: Ming Xing Dao Liu Cheng Jiu Fa; rendered in English as: Wisdom Activities Path Six Methods of Accomplishment)[2], describe a set of advanced Indo-Tibetan Buddhist tantric practice and meditation sadhana compiled in and around the time of the Indian monk and mystic Nāropa (1016-1100 CE), and conveyed to his student Marpa the translator. The Six Yogas were intended in part to help in the attainment of siddhi and enlightenment in an accelerated manner.



The Six Yogas are a synthesis or collection of the completion stage practices of several tantras. In the Kagyu traditions by which the Six Yogas were first brought to Tibet, abhisheka into at least one Anuttarayoga Tantra system (generally Chakrasamvara and/or Vajrayogini/Vajravarahi) and practice of its utpatti-krama is the basis for practice of the Six Yogas; there is no particular empowerment for the six yogas themselves.

Though variously classified, up to ten yogas, the Six Yogas generally conform to the following conceptual list:

(Tibetan Wylie transliteration and Sanskrit in parentheses)

  • Tummo (T: gtum-mo, S: caṇḍālī) — the Yoga of Inner Heat (or Mystic heat).
  • Gyulu (T: sgyu-lus, S: māyākāyā) — the Yoga of the Illusory Body.
  • Ösel (T: hod-gsal, S: prabhāsvara) — the Yoga of the Clear Light or Radiant Light.

These next three are considered the main practices of the completion stage (T: dzog rim, S: saṃpanna-krama) in the Anuttara Yoga Tantra . [3][4]

  • Milam (T: rmi-lam, S: svapnadarśana) — the Yoga of the Dream State.
  • Bardo (T: bar-do, S: antarābhava) — the Yoga of the Intermediate State. This is well-known through the Bardo Thodol. Bardo yoga as the yoga of liminality may include aspects of Gyulu and Milam and is therefore to be engaged as an extension of these disciplines.
  • Phowa (T: hpho-ba, S: saṃkrānti) — the Yoga of the Transference of Consciousness, to a pure Buddhafield.

Other yogas, sometimes grouped with those above, or set as auxiliary practices, include:

  • Forceful projection, into another body.[5] This technique may no longer be extant, or is kept secret. The forceful projection of the mindstream into the bodymind of another is a variation that consists of elements of Phowa, Ösel and Gyulu.
  • Keown, et al. (2003) list a "seventh yoga" that is a variation of Phowa, in which the sadhaka by transference (grong 'jug), may transfer their mindstream into a recently deceased body.[6]
  • Kāmamudrā or "loveseal" (sometimes Karmamudrā or "actionseal") (T: las kyi phyag rgya). This is the tantric yoga involving a physical partner. Like all other yogas, it cannot be practiced without the basis of the inner heat yoga, of which kāmamudrā is an extension.
  • Nāropa himself, in the Vajra Verses of the Whispered Tradition, adds the practice of self-liberation in the "wisdom of non-duality" [7], which is the resolved view of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. But this is always considered as a distinct path.
  • There are many preliminary practices, and physical exercises called yantras, to the inner heat yoga. A good example of this is the visualization on the body as being hollow: "here the body and the energy channels (nadis) are to be seen as completely transparent and radiant". [8] This essential technique releases tensions and give suppleness to the prāna channels.

As Nāropa is a Kagyu lineage holder, the six meditative practices are strongly associated with the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. The teachings of Tilopa (988-1069 CE) are the earliest known work on the Six Yogas. Tilopa was said to have received the teachings directly from Chakrasamvara. Nāropa learned the techniques from Tilopa. Nāropa's student Marpa taught the Tibetan Milarepa, renowned for his yogic skills. Milarepa in turn taught Gampopa. Gampopa's student, the future first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, attained enlightenment while practicing the Six Yogas.

The Karmapa, the first figure in Tibetan Buddhism whose reincarnation was officially recognised, has been strongly associated in certain reincarnations with particular yogic attributes. Many Gelukpa practitioners, including Dalai Lamas, are expert in the Six Yogas of Nāropa.

The Six Yogas in Progressive Order

The Six Yogas of Naropa are ordered and progressive.

The Physical Exercises

Before engaging in the actual yogas, one begins by doing the "six exercises of Naropa". Trul Khor (Tib. 'khrul 'khor)

  • Filling like a Vase

Breathing technique

  • Circling like a Wheel

Rolling the solar plexus

  • Hooking like a Hook

Snaping the elbow into the chest

  • Showing the Mudra of Vajra Binding

Moving the mudra from the crown downwards

  • Straightening like an Arrow

Hands and knees on the floor with spine straight; heaving like a dog

  • Shaking the Head and Entire Body

Pulling the fingers followed by massaging the two hands [9]

The Meditation on the Body as an Empty Shell

Here the body is envisioned as being entirely without substance, appearing in the mind like a rainbow in the sky. This meditation and the physical exercises should be practiced in conjunction with one another.

The Stages of Meditating upon the Actual Path

Inner Heat (Tib. gtum-mo)

Visualizing the channels, Visualizing the mantric syllables, and engaging in the vase breathing technique. This gives rise to five signs: like a mirage, like a whisp of smoke, like the flickering of fireflies, like a glowing butter lamp, and like a sky free of clouds.

Four Blisses (Tib. dga' ba bzhi)

Bliss at the throat chakra, Supreme Bliss at the heart chakra, Inexpressible Bliss or Special Bliss at the navel chakra, and Innate Bliss at the secret place, tip of the jewel. This is accomplished by relying on two conditions; the internal condition of meditating on inner heat yoga and the external condition of relying upon a karmamudra.

The four types of Karmamudras

  • Karma Mudra A maiden possessing the physical attributes of a woman, for dull yogis.
  • Jnana Mudra A maiden created through the power of one's visualization, for middling yogis.
  • Maha Mudra The images within one's own mind spontaneously arise as various consorts, for sharp yogis.
  • Samaya Mudra The mudra experienced as a result of accomplishing the former three.

Pure Illusory Body (Tib. dag-pa’i sgyu-lus)

Meditations on all appearances as Illusory, Dream Illusions, and Bardo experience.

Actual Clear Light (Tib. don-gyi ‘od-gsal)

The four emptinesses lead to the experience of clear light during the waking period and during sleep.

Union of Clear Light and Illusory Body (Tib. zung 'jug)

Actualizing the Results. The state of Buddha Vajradhara.

Transference of Consciousness and Forceful Projection (Tib. phowa grong 'jug)

The Branches of that Path. [10]

  • These last four yogas are extremely complex and require many years of training under a qualified teacher.

Related traditions

The Six Yogas of Niguma are almost identical to the Six Yogas of Nāropa. The second Dalai Lama, Gendun Gyatso has compiled a work on the Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma. [11] Depending on the sources, Niguma [12] was either his sister or his spiritual consort. Her teachings were transmitted to yogini Sukhasiddhī and then to Khyungpu Neldjor, [13] the founder of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage.


  1. ^ The Tibetan term chos or choe is often translated as Dharma and holds a cognate meaning.
  2. ^ Dr. Yutang Lin (2006). Six Yogas in Great Harmony. [1] (accessed: November 16, 2007)
  3. ^ Philippe Cornu, Dictionnaire encyclopédique du Bouddhisme. Editions du Seuil, Paris, 2001. 843 p./ p.541.
  4. ^ And also: Readings on The Six Yogas of Naropa. Translated, edited and introduced by Glenn H. Mullin. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca (USA), 1997. 175p./ p.14. This latter is also the main source of the other informations contained herein.
  5. ^ This process was comically rendered in the film All of Me.
  6. ^ Keown, Damien (ed.) with Hodge, Stephen; Jones, Charles; Tinti, Paola (2003). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Great Britain, Oxford: Oxford University Press. P.270. ISBN 0-19-860560-9
  7. ^ Ibid.2, p.39
  8. ^ Ibid.2, p.58.
  9. ^ Verses on the Path Technology: A Supplement by Pakmo Drupa (Tib. Thabs lam tshigs bead ma'i lhan thabs)
  10. ^ A Book of Three Inspirations: A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Naro's Six Dharmas by Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa
  11. ^ 2nd Dalai Lama. Tantric Yogas of Sister Niguma, Snow Lion Publications, 1st ed. U. edition (May 1985), ISBN 0937938289 (10), ISBN 978-0937938287 (13)
  12. ^ ni gu ma ( b. 10th cent. )
  13. ^ khyung po rnal 'byor ( b. 978/990 d. 1127 )

See also


Further reading

  • Mullin, Glen H (2005) The Six Yogas of Naropa, Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-234-7
  • Mullin, Glen H (1997) Readings on the Six Yogas of Naropa, Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-074-3

External links

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