The great yogi Tilopa, after he attained very high spiritual initiations and a very elevated state of consciousness, became a fisherman and lived the life of an ordinary fisherman for many years. At the same time, in Bengal, there was a great scholar, Naropa. Naropa was from a very respected family that was very rich and well-known in the land. He had married a princess, and he lived a life of wealth.
Naropa was attracted to spirituality, so he became a scholar of Buddhism. He was extremely charismatic. At that time, Hindus and Buddhists would hold spiritual matches in public: there would be a great teacher on each side, accompanied by smaller teachers. For hours and hours, sometimes days and days, they would debate which religion is better. The Buddhists would say that theirs is better, the Hindus that theirs is the best. They would go from the very practical to the very philosophical aspects. And Naropa, who became a very learned scholar of Buddhism, was becoming a superstar of these matches. After one such contest that Naropa won, 600 people converted from Hinduism to Buddhism. This made Naropa very well-known and respected.
Then at one point, a woman who is described by the texts as one of the ugliest possible women – she had 27 defects of ugliness, an atrocious nose, hair, and forehead with wrinkles and pimples, and all sorts of things – this woman, who was extremely ugly, (in fact, just like Tilopa), came, and she told Naropa: “Do you know the scriptures? Do you know them intellectually? And do you have the experience?” Naropa said, “I have the experience.” She looked at him very angered, and said, “Do you have just the knowledge or also the direct experience?” Something inside Naropa cracked, and he admitted, “No, I only have the intellectual knowledge.” Then she told him, “You should find my brother, Tilopa. He will teach you.” Very angry, she left immediately.
Naropa felt a spiritual impulse. He felt where that woman was coming from, so he left everything. He left the life of the prince and his wife – a pattern typical of Buddhists since Buddha himself left his wife. And although she might have felt heartbroken at the beginning, later she became his disciple. And thus Naropa started searching for Tilopa.
Unlike today, back a thousand years ago finding someone was very difficult. There was no internet, no google, no facebook. Naropa was just going from city to city trying to find Tilopa. After a period of searching, he realized that in order to find him, he must purify himself. So he started doing practices to prepare himself to meet his guru.
Once he purified enough, he entered a village and asked, “Is there a spiritual teacher here by the name of Tilopa?” And they all were laughing, “No, we don’t have a spiritual teacher, but there’s a fisherman there. You can go and see him. His name is Tilopa.”
So he went, and Tilopa was dressed like a fisherman, sweating like a fisherman, talking like a fisherman. Naropa said, “My guru at last, I found you.” And bowed to his feet. Tilopa looked at him and said, “Are you crazy? You are a nobleman, a prince, a spiritual teacher. I’m a fisherman, why do you bow?” Naropa said, “No, you are not. I will not be fooled. I know you are a great master. Please teach me.” Tilopa told him, “You’re crazy. I don’t want to be near crazy people.”
He started walking and Naropa went after him, and then Tilopa started running, and Naropa started running after him. The distance between them remained equal. Just like magic, Naropa realised that no matter how fast he walked or how slow he walked, he was always a few steps behind Tilopa. They reached the edge of the cliff and Tilopa stopped, nowhere to go, and Naropa reached him and he said, “Tilopa, please accept me as your disciple. I will do anything.” And Tilopa said, “No, a disciple of mine would jump off the cliff.” Naropa, without thinking, jumped off the cliff. And it repeated, you’ll see, it’s not the worst thing he was asked to do. He jumped off the cliff, and all his bones were broken. Tilopa put his hand on him, immediately Naropa healed and said, “Now, will you accept me as a disciple?” Tilopa said, “Yes, I accept you as my disciple.” Then, he punched him very strongly in the face. Naropa fainted and entered into Samadhi. The biography of Naropa is really a pearl to read. You see how the story continues.
He came out of Samadhi, and Tilopa gave him one technique (one of the six yogas: the yoga of dreams, the yoga of fire, the yoga of death, the yoga of the illusionary body, and so forth). He gave him one technique. He gave him the power to initiate him, and then Tilopa went in Samadhi for one year, and he entered the state of super consciousness. He came back, and he would challenge Naropa, his disciple, twelve times.
They sat next to the fire, and Tilopa said, “Oh, if I had a disciple, he would have jumped in the fire a long time ago.” And Naropa would jump into the fire, and Tilopa would say, “Naropa, what happened to you?” Naropa said, “Oh, my body is on fire, being identified with the ego, I suffer.” Tilopa said, “So come out of there.” Then he would heal him again and teach him one more technique. Tilopa entered Samadhi for a year, and Naropa would practice. Tilopa would come out, and then he came and he said, “Where is your wife? Bring me your wife.” Naropa brought the wife. Tilopa had sex with his wife (for I don’t know how long). He tortured Naropa’s concepts of what to do, what not to do in society and so forth. And he tortured him like this tremendously.
One time, he told him, “I feel like eating rice, go to the wedding there, and get me some rice.” Naropa was dressed like a monk, he asked for rice, so they gave rice. And then Tilopa ate the rice and said, “Oh, Naropa, it’s fantastic! Go and ask for more rice.” Now, it’s forbidden, as a monk to ask for food twice in the same day from anywhere. So he went and asked for rice, and Tilopa told him, “If they refuse, don’t worry, pour a bucket of water all over their food.” So Naropa did that; he asked for more rice. They refused. He took the bucket of water, poured it all over their food, the whole wedding went after Naropa, and Naropa ran. Tilopa had given him a sword and said, “wave that sword if they start chasing you.” So he waved the sword and then magically, there was a hut around him. The people couldn’t break into the hut, so they made a fire around it, and Naropa had to escape. And then he made the kind of shape of the half moon, and there was a little river there, they passed the river, eventually, and to make the story short, he got really badly beaten. And like this, Naropa passed all his tests.
The last one: he was sitting in meditation for many, many years silently, and then he attained liberation. And Tilopa told him, “Naropa, you are the last person in history who will have strength to endure such an intense practice. You be soft on your students. Never ever should the master treat a disciple the way I treated you because nobody will ever be able to take it, but for you, I have burned all your bad karma in the course of a few short years by this intense suffering.”
And Naropa came back and started teaching and basically he received, from Tilopa, these six yogas that Tilopa received from the Dakinis and from other teachers. And Naropa added the knowledge, added the text of Tilopa. And it was the first time that these very, very secret practices, were brought about openly, publicly by Naropa.