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Upagupta (Skt.; Tib. ཉེར་སྦས་, nyer bé, Wyl. nyer sbas), the fourth patriarch, who attained realization in a single week, was the son of an incense seller. He was ordained by Shanavasika, the third patriarch, who, after passing into nirvana, entrusted him with the Buddha's doctrine. The Buddha had predicted that no one would surpass Upagupta in compassion for living beings. His preaching attracted so many thousands of people that it is said that Mara, lord of illusion, began making magical displays to distract the listeners. Upagupta engaged Mara in magical contests, defeating him completely. The great reverence that this victory produced in Upagupta's followers allowed them to listen all night to his teachings, and in the morning hundreds achieved realization.

Upagupta spent his final years in Mathura, taking up residence in a cave. From there he issued a set of seven precise instructions to guide his followers to increasing understanding. Using wooden counters, he kept track as each one reached the state of an arhat, and eventually these counters filled his entire cave. He was succeeded by Dhitika, the son of a wealthy Brahmin.[1]


  1. Ways of Enlightenment, Dharma Publishing page 39

Further Reading

  • Ways of Enlightenment; Buddhist Studies at Nyingma Institute, pages 38-40. Dharma Publishing ISBN: 0-89800-255-9
  • Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, The Patriarchs of the Teachings, pp.432-439. Published by Wisdom Publications ISBN: 0-86171-199-9