From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Nyingmapa)
Jump to: navigation, search
Tibetan name
Tibetan རྙིང་མ་
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 紅教
Simplified Chinese 红教
Padmasambhava statue - near Kullu, India

The rNying-ma (“Ancient”) is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the other three being the bKa’-brgyud, Sa-skya, and dGe-lugs, which are collectively the gSar-ma (“New”) schools. The rNying-ma school associates itself with the “Early [Period of the] Dissemination [of Buddhism in Tibet]” (snga dar) or with “Earlier [Period of the] Translation” (snga ’gyur), as opposed to the gSar-ma schools, which associate themselves with the “Later [Period of the] Dissemination [of Buddhism in Tibet]” (phyi dar) or with “New [Period of] Translation” (gsar ’gyur). The rNying-ma school can thus be perhaps defined as a strand of Tibetan Buddhism, whose followers associate themselves with Buddhism that flourished during the periods of the three generations of the Tibetan religious kings collectively known as “Chos-rgyal-mos-dbon-rnam-gsum”—i.e. the 33rd king Srong-btsan-sgam-po (617–650), the 38th king Khri-srong-lde-btsan (730–785), and the 41st king Ral-pa-can (806–841)—and who consider themselves as followers of the triadic iconic figures known as “mKhan-slob-chos-gsum” (i.e. Upādhyāya (mkhan po) Śāntarakṣita, Ācārya (slob dpon) Padmasambhava, and the Dharma-King (chos rgyal) Khri-srong-lde-btsan). According to the traditional portrayal of the history of the rNying-ma school, the flame of Buddhist teachings glowed the brightest during these periods, which have been considered a golden era in Tibetan history, because both political (rgyal khrims) and religious systems were said to be in tact during this period.

The following period of the history of rNying-ma school (9–12th century) is characterized by three episodes of what is known as the “three levels of descent” (babs so gsum)—that is, the “four great rivers of teachings” (bka’i chu bo chen po bzhi)[1] descended first to gNyags Jñānakumāra, then to gNubs Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes (832–945), and finally to Zur-pa masters, who are collectively referred to “gNyags-gnubs-zur-gsum.” Alternatively, the expression “So-zur-gnubs-gsum” has also been employed, which refers to So Ye-she-dbang-phyug (i.e. one of gNubs-chen Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes’s chief disciples), Zur-chen Shākya-’byung-gnas, and gNubs-chen Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes himself, which, however, follows no chronological sequence. Jñānakumāra and Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes are not the only persons mentioned in this context through whose efforts the rNying-ma doctrine managed to survive even during the dark and tumult period of the ninth and tenth centuries. A group of Jñānakūmara’s nine disciples called the “Nine Glorious Ones” (dpal dgu) or “Nine Great Glorious Disciples” (slob ma dpal chen dgu) —which includes lHa-lung dPal-gyi-rdo-rje, the assassin of emperor ’U-dum-btsan-po—and a group of gNubs-chen Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes’s seven disciples called the “four dear [spiritual] progenies” (thugs (kyi) sras bzhi) and “three precious ones” (rin po che gsum) have also been mentioned through whose efforts the rNying-ma doctrine is said to have survived during the dark period of the ninth and tenth centuries and made its way to the three generations of the Zur-pa masters, collectively, known “Zur Mos-dbon-rnam-gsum.” During this phase of the history (i.e. 11–12th centuries), it is said that Zur-po-che Shākya-’byung-gnas (1002–1062) planted the root of the rNying-ma doctrine (snga ’gyur gyi bstan pa’i rtsa ba btsugs), Zur-chung Shes-rab-grags-pa (1014–1074) extended the branches (yal ga bskyangs), and sGro-phug-pa Shākya-seng-ge (1074–1134) brought the fruits to maturity (lo ’bras rgyas par mdzad). In this context, the role of A-ro Ye-shes-’byung-gnas (ca. 10th century), who is considered a disciple of Jñānakūmara, and Rong-zom Chos-kyi-bzang-po (11th century) in the transmission of several lineages of the rNying-ma doctrine, particularly of Tantric teachings, should be borne in mind. Jo-sras, for example, suggests that during the eleventh century, the “golden yolk of political system” (rgyal khrims gser gyi gnya’ shing) may have been broken but the “silk knot of the religious system” (chos khrims dar gyi mdud pa) was in tact, for “the embers of Dharma have been rekindled/revived” (chos kyi me ro bslangs) and Rong-zom-pa has been mentioned in this regard as one who upheld the lineages of Tantric Buddhism. The Zur-pa tradition (Zur-lugs) and Rong-pa tradition (Rong-lugs), though associated mainly with the traditions of the *Guhyagarbhatantra of the Mahāyoga system, seem to represent two distinct traditions of the pre-eleventh-century rNying-ma Tantric Buddhism in general. Also the rekindling of the so-called “Lower Vinaya” (smad ’dul) through the efforts of “dMar-g.Yo-gTsang-gsum,” namely, sMar Shākya-mu-ne, g.Yo dGe-ba’i-’byung-gnas, and gTsang-pa Rab-gsal, and “ten heroic men” (nus pa can gyi mi bcu), or, “ten men of dBus and gTsang” (dbus gtsang gi mi bcu) has been considered crucial in the history of Tibean Budddhism in general. Most of the major monasteries, namely, the so-called “six matrix-monasteries” (ma dgon drug) or the “six major seats” (gdan sa chen po drug) of the rNying-ma school of the later period—(1) rDo-rje-brag and (2) sMin-grol-gling in upper Tibet, (3) Zhe-chen and rDzogs-chen in middle Tibet, (4) and Kaḥ-thog and dPal-yul in lower Tibet—were founded or revived only in the seventeenth century during the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682). [2] Most living traditions and sub-traditions of the rNying-ma school can be considered in one way or another related to or associated with these six seats.

Early Lineage and Traditions[edit]

In the Tibetan historical sources, it has often been mentioned that (the light of) the Buddhist teachings dawned (dbu brnyes) in Tibet for the first time during the reign of the 28th Tibetan king Lha-tho-tho-ri gNyan-btsan (ca. 254–375); was formally introduced (srol gtod) during the reign of the 33rd King Srong-btsan-sgam-po; flourished (dar shing rgyas) during the reign of the 38th King Khri-srong-lde-btsan; and was thoroughly systematised (shin tu gtan la phab) during the reign of the 41st King Ral-pa-can.[3] A greater part of the history of dissemination of Vajrayāna (or Tantric Buddhism) in Tibet during these periods involves the processes of what is regarded in some rNying-ma historical sources as the “ten phases of translation” (’gyur bcu) or “seven stages of decent” (babs bdun), implementation of the “four types of exegetical methods” (’chad tshul bzhi), and “point of culmination” (yongs su rdzogs pa’i skor).[4]

The rNying-ma school of Tibetan Buddhism has some shared components with Bon religion of Tibet inasmuch both traditions accept the nine-vehicle doxographical scheme and also the phenomena of gTer-ma (“[Revealed] Treasure”) teachings.

Historically, Nyingmapa[5] are categorised into Red Sangha and White Sangha. Red Sangha denotes a celibate, monastic practitioner; whereas White Sangha denotes a non-celibate practitioner who abstains from vows of celibacy. At different times in one's life, due to changing circumstances and proclivities, individuals historically moved between these two Sanghas. Rarely was either determination of Red or White for the duration of one's life.

Nyingma maintains the earliest Tantra teachings that have been given the popular nomenclature of Vajrayana. Early Vajrayana that was transmitted from India to Tibet may be differentiated by the specific term "Mantrayana" (Wylie: sngags kyi theg pa).[6] "Mantrayana" is the Sanskrit of what became rendered in Tibetan as "Secret Mantra" (Wylie: gsang sngags): gsang sngags is the self-identifying term employed in the earliest literature, whereas Nyingma became associated in differentiation from the "New Schools" Sarma.


Geographical dissemination of Buddhism into the Tibetan plateau[edit]

Dargyay (1998: p. 5) provides a sound case[citation needed] that:

...at least in Eastern Tibet, there existed during and after the time of Lha-tho-tho-ri [Fl.173(?)-300(?) CE] a solid knowledge of Buddhism and that the upper classes of the people were faithfully devoted to it. But the border regions in the north and west probably had also come into contact with Buddhism long before the time of Srong-btsan-sgam-po. Buddhist teachings reached China via a route along the western and northern borders of the Tibetan culture and language zone; the same route was travelled by Indian Pandits and Chinese pilgrims in their endeavour to bring this Indian religion to China. There used to be contacts with the Tibetan population in these border regions. It is possible that the knowledge gained from these encounters was spread by merchants over large areas of Tibet. Thus, when Srong-btsan-sgam-po succeeded to the throne of Tibet in the year 627, the country was ready for a systematic missionary drive under royal patronage.[7]


Germano (2002: unpaginated) states:

While Buddhist figures and movements surely were active on the Tibetan plateau long before, Tibetan religious histories concentrate on events in the latter half of the eighth century as marking a watershed during which Buddhism definitively established itself within Tibetan culture. With the official sponsorship of the emperor Trisong Detsen (khri srong lde btsan), the first major monastery was established at Samye (bsam yas), a broad scale translation project of the Buddhist canon into a newly minted Tibetan literary language was initiated, and a variety of lineages began to take hold. The explosive developments were interrupted in the mid-ninth century as the Empire began to disintegrate, leading to a century-long interim of civil war and decentralization about which we know relatively little.[8]

Around 760, King Trisong Detsen invited Padmasambhava and the Nalanda University abbot Śāntarakṣita (Tibetan Shiwatso) to Tibet to introduce Buddhism in the "Land of Snows." King Trisong Detsen ordered the translation of all Buddhist Dharma Texts into Tibetan. Padmasambhava, Shantarakṣita, 108 translators, and 25 of Padmasambhava's nearest disciples worked for many years in a gigantic translation-project. The translations from this period formed the base for the large scriptural transmission of Dharma teachings into Tibet. Padmasambhava supervised mainly the translation of Tantra; Shantarakshita concentrated on the Sutra-teachings. Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita also founded the first Buddhist monastery Samye on Tibetan ground. It was the main center for dharma transmission in Tibet during this age.

Early period[edit]

From this basis, Tantric Buddhism was established in its entirety in Tibet. From the eighth until the eleventh century, the Nyingma was the only school of Buddhism in Tibet. With the reign of King Langdarma (836–842) a time of political instability ensued which continued over the next 300 years, during which time Buddhism was persecuted and largely forced underground. From the eleventh century onwards, the Nyingma tradition flourished along with the newer Sarma schools, and it was at that time that Nyingmapas began to see themselves as a distinct group and the term "Nyingma" came into usage.

Political ethos[edit]

Historically, the Nyingma tradition is unique amongst the four schools in that its supporters never held political power, and therefore its practitioners were mostly removed from the political machinations of Tibet. Indeed, the Nyingma traditionally had no centralized authority and drew significant power from not having one. Only since the Tibetan diaspora following the Chinese annexure of Tibet have the Nyingma had a head of the Tradition and this seat was only invested at the polite request of the Dalai Lama. Even so, the Nyingma tradition is still politically decentralized and often decisions are made in an oligarchy or community of the senior sangha within a given jurisdiction or locale. Nyingmapa are also historically characterized and distinguished by decentralization and by their general wider political disinterest, with a lesser emphasis on monasticism relative to the other schools, with a correspondingly greater preponderance of ngagpas, uncelibate householders and yogins.

There was never a single "head of the lineage" in the manner of either the Ganden Tripa or Dalai Lama of the Gelug, the Karmapa of the Kagyu or the Sakya Trizin of the Sakya. It was only recently in exile in India that this role was created at the request of the Central Tibetan Administration and it is largely administrative. Nevertheless, the lamas who have served in this role are among the most universally highly regarded. They are:

Rise of scholasticism and monasticism[edit]

In 1848, Dzogchen Shri Sengha (rdzogs chen srwi sengha), was founded by a charismatic teacher, Zhanphan Thaye (gzhan phan mtha' yas, 1800-), in association with the active participation of Do Kyentse (rndo mkhyen rtse). As scholar Georges Dreyfuss reports,

The purpose of this school was not . . . the study of the great Indian treatises . . . but the development of Nyingma monasticism in Kham, a particularly important task at that time. Up to then, the Nyingma tradition had mostly relied on non-ordained tantric practitioners to transmit its teachings through authorized lineages. The move toward monasticism changed this situation, putting a greater emphasis on the respect of exoteric moral norms of behavior as a sign of spiritual authority. This move participated in the logic animating the nonsectarian movement, the revitalization of non-Geluk traditions so that they could compete with the dominant Geluk school. Since the Geluk hegemony was based on a widespread monastic practice, it was important for the other schools to develop their own monasticism to rival the dominant Geluk tradition. This seems to have been one the goals of Zhanphan Thaye in creating the Dzokchen commentarial school. . . .A further and equally important step was taken a few decades later with the transformation by [Khenpo] Zhenga of this institution into a center devoted to the study of the exoteric tradition. This step was decisive in creating a scholastic model that could provide an alternative to the dominant model of the Geluk seats and could train scholars who could hold their own against the intellectual firing power of Geluk scholars.[10]

For Zhenga and his followers, the way to return to this past was the exegetical study of commentaries, the proper object of scholarship. By downplaying the role of debate emphasized by the Geluk monastic seats and stressing exegetical skills, they accentuated the differences between these two traditions and provided a clear articulation of a non-Geluk scholastic tradition. In this way, they started the process of reversal of the damage inflicted on the non-Geluk scholarly traditions and created an alternative to the dominance of Geluk scholasticism, which had often tended to present itself in Tibet as the sole inheritor and legitimate interpreter of the classical Indian Buddhist tradition.[10]

This scholastic movement led by Khenpo Shenga came on the heels of the work of Mipham, who "completely revolutionised rNying ma pa scholasticism in the late nineteenth century, raising its status after many centuries as a comparative intellectual backwater, to arguably the most dynamic and expansive of philosophical traditions in all of Tibetan Buddhism, with an influence and impact far beyond the rNying ma pa themselves."[11]

Distinguishing features of the Nyingma lineage[edit]

Nine Yāna[edit]

The doxography employed by the Nyingma tradition to categorize the whole of the Buddhist path is unique. Nyingmapas divide the Buddhist path into nine yanas, as follows:

The Sutra System

  • Śrāvakayāna, the Vehicle of the Listeners or disciples.
  • Pratyekabuddhayāna (Hinayana) the Vehicle of the Solitary Buddhas, the way of solitary meditation.
  • Bodhisattvayāna (Mahayana) the Great or Causal Vehicle, the Vehicle of Enlightened Beings, is the way of those who seek or attain enlightenment for the sake or intention of liberating not just oneself, but all sentient beings from Saṃsāra.

Outer/Lower Tantra

Inner/Higher Tantra

  • Mahāyoga (Wylie: chen po'i rnal 'byor) Great Yoga
  • Anuyoga (Wylie: rjes su rnal 'byor) Subsequent Yoga
  • Atiyoga (Dzogchen) (Wylie: lhag pa'i rnal 'byor or rdzogs chen) Ultimate Yoga; The Great Perfection

In the later schools the inner tantric teachings are known as Anuttarayoga Tantra, which corresponds to Mahāyoga in the Nyingma system, while the Mahāmudrā teachings of the later schools are said to lead to similar results as the Dzogchen teachings.

Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (2nd Dudjom Rinpoche) emphasizes the eight lower vehicles are intellectually fabricated and contrived:

"The eight lower levels have intellectually fabricated and contrived that which is changeless solely due to fleeting thoughts that never experience what truly is. They apply antidotes to and reject that which is not to be rejected. They refer to as flawed that in which there is nothing to be purified, with a mind that desires purification. They have created division with respect to that which cannot be obtained by their hopes and fears that it can be obtained elsewhere. And they have obscured wisdom, which is naturally present, by their efforts in respect to that which is free from effort and free from needing to be accomplished. Therefore, they have had no chance to make contact with genuine, ultimate reality as it is (rnal ma'i de kho na nyid)."[12]

Philosophy and doctrinal tenets[edit]

Koppl notes that although later Nyingma authors such as Mipham attempted to harmonize the view of Dzogchen with Madhyamaka, the earlier Nyingma author Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo did not:

Unlike Mipham, Rongzom did not attempt to harmonize the view of Mantra or Dzogchen with Madhyamaka.[13]

Rongzom held that the views of sutra such as Madhyamaka were inferior to that of tantra, as Koppl notes:

By now we have seen that Rongzom regards the views of the Sutrayana as inferior to those of Mantra, and he underscores his commitment to the purity of all phenomena by criticizing the Madhyamaka objectification of the authentic relative truth.[13]

Tantra and Dzogchen texts and praxis in the Nyingma tradition[edit]

With the advent of the transmission of Sarma traditions into Tibet, various proponents of the new systems cast aspersions on the Indic origins of much of the Nyingma esoteric corpus. Indic origin was an important component of perceived legitimacy at the time. As a result, much of the Nyingma esoteric corpus was excluded from the Tengyur, a compilation of texts by Buton Rinchen Drub that became the established canon for the Sarma traditions.

In response, the Nyingmapas organized their esoteric corpus, comprising mostly Mahayoga, Atiyoga (Dzogchen) Mind class Semde and Space Class (Longde) texts, into an alternate collection, called the Nyingma Gyubum (the Hundred Thousand Tantras of the Ancient School, Wylie: rnying ma rgyud ‘bum).[4] Generally, the Gyubum contains Kahma (Wylie: bka' ma) and very little terma (Wylie: gter ma). The third class of Atiyoga, the Secret Oral Instructions (Menngagde), are mostly terma texts.

Various editions of the Gyubum are extant, but one typical version is the thirty-six Tibetan-language folio volumes published by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in New Delhi, 1974. It contains:

  • 10 volumes of Ati Yoga (Dzogchen)
  • 3 volumes of Anu Yoga
  • 6 volumes of the tantra Section of Mahayoga
  • 13 volumes of the sadhana Section of Mahayoga
  • 1 volume of protector tantras
  • 3 volumes of catalogues and historical background


There are 'eighteen great tantras' (Wylie: bshad pa dang cha mthun gyi rgyud tantra sde bco brgyad) at the heart of the 'Mahayoga' (Wylie: rnal 'byor chen po) tradition, grouped into 'five root tantras' (Wylie: rtsa ba sku gsung thugs yon tan phrin las kyi rgyud chen po lnga), 'five practice tantras' (Wylie: sgrub pa lag len du bstan pa rol pa' rgyud chen po lnga), and 'five activity tantras' (Wylie: spyod pa'i yan lag tu 'gro ba'i rgyud chen po lnga), and the 'two supplementary tantras' (Wylie: ma tshang kha bskong ba'i rgyud chen po gnyis). Together they are known as the Māyājāla. The Guhyagarbha Tantra (Wylie: rDo rje sems dpa' sgyu 'phrul drwa ba gSang ba snying po) is the foremost of all of these and it abridges the content of the seventeen others.

"Eighteen" Texts of the Mind Division (Semde)[edit]

Main article: Semde

The mind class (semde) of Dzogchen was also said to comprise eighteen tantras, although the formulation eventually came to include slightly more. The Kunjed Gyalpo (Sanskrit: Kulayarāja Tantra; The All-Creating King) Tantras is the most significant of the group and is taken to be the primary or root tantra of the Mind Series. The first five are the "Five Earlier Translated Tantras", translated by Vairotsana. The next thirteen were translated primarily by Vimalamitra.

Yidam practice & protectors[edit]

The foremost deities practiced by the Nyingma masters are Vajrakīla (Tib. Dorje Phurba) and Vajra Heruka (also Vishuddha Heruka; Tib. Yangdak Tratung, Wylie: yang dag khrag 'thung), the third of the Eight Herukas who closely resembles Śrī Heruka of the Chakrasamvara tantra. The three principle protectors of the Nyingma lineage are said to be Ekajaṭī (Wylie: e ka dza ti), Rāhula (Wylie: gza' ra hu la) and Dorje Legpa (Wylie: rdo rje legs pa, Sanskrit: Vajrasādhu).

Termas and tertons[edit]

The appearance of terma ("hidden treasures") is of particular significance to the Nyingma tradition. Although there have been a few Kagyupa "tertons" (treasure revealers) and the practice is endemic to the Bönpo as well, the vast majority of Tibetan Buddhist tertons have been Nyingmapas. It is held that past masters, principally Padmasambhava, secreted objects and hid teachings for discovery by later tertons at appropriate and auspicious times such that the teaching would be beneficial. These teachings may be physically discovered, often in rocks and caves, or they may be "mind terma," appearing directly within the mindstream of the terton.


Padmasambhava and his main disciples hid hundreds of scriptures, ritual objects and relics in secret places to protect Buddhism during the time of decline under King Langdarma. These termas were later rediscovered and special terma lineages were established throughout Tibet. Out of this activity developed, especially within the Nyingma tradition, two ways of dharma transmission: the so-called "long" oral transmission from teacher to student in unbroken lineages and the "short" transmission of "hidden treasures". The foremost revealers of these termas were the five terton kings and the eight Lingpas.

The terma tradition had antecedents in India; Nagarjuna, for example, rediscovered the last part of the "Prajnaparamita-Sutra in one hundred thousand verses" in the realm of the Nāgas, where it had been kept since the time of Buddha Gautama Buddha[citation needed].


According to Nyingma tradition, tertons are often mindstream emanations of the 25 main disciples of Padmasambhava. A vast system of transmission lineages developed through the ages. Nyingma scriptures were updated when the time was appropriate. Terma teachings guided many Buddhist practitioners to realisation and enlightenment.

The rediscovering of terma began with the first terton, Sangye Lama (1000–1080). Tertons of outstanding importance were Nyangral Nyima Oser (1124–1192), Guru Chowang (1212–1270), Rigdzin Godem (1307–1408), Pema Lingpa (1450–1521), Migyur Dorje (1645–1667), Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892) and Orgyen Chokyur Lingpa (1829–1870). In the nineteenth century some of the most famous were the Khen Kong Chok Sum referring to Jamyang Khyentse, Jamgon Kongtrul and Orgyen Chokyur Lingpa[citation needed].

Various traditions and important historical figures[edit]

It is generally agreed that Rongzom Pandita, Longchenpa and Ju Mipham are three of the greatest scholars in the history of the Nyingma lineage. Also important in establishing the modern curriculum was Khenpo Shenga.

Longchenpa (1308-1363)[edit]

During the ages, many great scholars and tantric Masters appeared within the Nyingma lineage. Most famous of all is the master and scholar Longchenpa (Longchen Rabjam), who, along with Rongzom Pandita, and Jigme Lingpa are known as kun kyen or "omniscient ones" - a rare title denoting doctrinal infallibility. He wrote many scriptures on the whole Nyingma-dharma. He is especially known for his presentation of the Nyingma philosophical view, that of Dzogchen in particular. His main works are the "seven treasuries" (Dzö dün), "three cycles of relaxation" (Ngalso Korsum), "three cycles of natural liberation" (Rangdröl Korsum) and the three "inner essences" (Yangtig Namsum). Longchen Rabjam also systematized the transmission of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, in a collection of texts called "The Four-fold Heart Essence" (Nyingthig Yabzhi).

Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) and the Longchen Nyingthig[edit]

Jigme Lingpa further condensed the Nyingthig Yabzhi of Longchenpa into a cycle of termas called the Longchen Nyingthig, or "Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse". The Nyingthig Yabshi and the Longchen Nyingthig are known, respectively, as the earlier and later "heart essence." The Longchen Nyingthig became both the foundation of the main Dzogchen teachings in the contemporary period and of the Rime movement. Jigme Lingpa's teaching lineage flourished in Kham (eastern Tibet) around Dege, and after his death three incarnations were recognised as being his emanations: Do Khyentse (1800?-1859?), Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, (1820–1892) and Patrul Rinpoche, (1808–1887), all of whom were central to the Rime movement.

Rinchen Terdzod[edit]

The Rinchen Terdzod (Tibetan: རིན་ཆེན་གཏེར་མཛོད།Wylie: rin chen gter mdzod) is the most important collection of terma treasure to Nyingmapas today. This collection is the assemblage of thousands of the most important terma texts from all across Tibet made by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, at the behest of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo in the nineteenth century.

Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912)[edit]

Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso (“Mipham the Great”) was born into an aristocratic family in 1846 in Kham, a province of eastern Tibet. His name, Mipham Gyatso, means “Unconquerable Ocean,” and as a scholar and meditator he was so accomplished that he was enthroned as an emanation of the Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom. As such, he was asked to compose a definitive articulation of the philosophical outlook of the Nyingma lineage. This had never been systematized in the manner of the other four lineages and, as a result, was vulnerable to attack by hostile scholars.

As requested, Mipham Rinpoche composed authoritative works on both the Sutra and Vajrayana teachings as understood in the Nyingma tradition, writing particularly extensively on dzogchen. He is said to have composed these vast works effortlessly. They reinvigorated and revitalized the Nyingma lineage enormously, and he soon became one of the most renowned lamas in Tibet, attracting disciples from all traditions, many of whom became lineage holders. Mipham's works have become the foundation of study for not only the Nyingma lineage, but the Kagyu lineage as well. They hold a central position in all Nyingma monasteries and monastic colleges. Along with Longchenpa, he is considered the source of the Nyingma doctrine.

Six Matrix Monasteries (ma dgon drug)[edit]

Tradition has held that there are six monasteries known as "mother monasteries" of the Nyingma lineage, although there have been slightly different formulations of the six. At one time they included Dorje Drak, Mindrolling monastery and Palri monastery in Upper Tibet; and Katok, Palyul and Dzogchen monasteries in Lower Tibet.[citation needed] After the decline of Chongye Palri Thegchog Ling monastery and the flourishing of Shechen, the mother monasteries became Dorje Drak and Mindrolling in the upper region, Shechen and Dzogchen in the center, and Kathok and Palyul in the lower part of Tibet. Dodrubchen is often substituted for Kathok in the list. Out of these "main seats of the Nyingma" developed a large number of Nyingma monasteries throughout Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.

Also of great importance to the Nyingma lineage is Samye, the first Tibetan monastery, founded by Shantarakshita.

Contemporary lineage teachers[edit]

Contemporary Nyingma teachers include Trulshik Rinpoche, Chatral Rinpoche, Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche, Kyabje Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche, Kyabje Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Yangthang Rinpoche, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, Lama Gonpo Tseten, Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche, Jigme Lodro Rinpoche, Terton Orgyen Kusum Lingpa, Sogyal Rinpoche, The Fifth Padtshaling Trulku Pema kunzang Tenzin Jamtsho (1960), Palden Sherab Rinpoche, Khenpo Sherab Sangpo, Garab Dorje Rinpoche (son of Thinley Norbu Rinpoche), Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche, Chamtrul Rinpoche, Khandro Rinpoche, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, and Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ That is, “the river of the exposition of treatises” (dkyus bshad gzhung gi chu bo), “the river of orally transmitted instructions” (snyan brgyud gdams ngag gi chu bo), “the river of empowerments and initiations” (byin rlabs dbang gi chu bo), and “the river of the execution of [Tantric] rituals and practices” (phyag bzhes ’phrin sgrub kyi chu bo). See the Klong chen chos ’byung (pp. 392–430); cf. mKhyen-dbang, gSar rnying gdan rabs (p. 39.6–8): dbang | rgyud bshad | bskyed rim | rdzogs rim ste snga ’gyur bka’ babs kyi chu bo bzhi….
  2. ^ Smith 2001: 17–20; Kaḥ thog lo rgyus (pp. 15–16); rDzogs chen chos ’byung (vol. 2, p. 502); Barron 2005: 549–556.
  3. ^ Wangdu & Diemberger 2000: 23–24; cf. Klong chen chos ’byung (pp. 218–266).
  4. ^ lDe’u chos ’byung (p. 398.9–11); mKhyen-rab-rgya-mtsho, Sangs bstan chos ’byung (pp. 270.5–291.5).
  5. ^ Followers of the tradition are known as Nyingmapa "pa" being a common suffix comparable to "er" or "ite" in English.
  6. ^ Source: [1] (accessed: Monday July 22, 2008)
  7. ^ Dargyay, Eva M. (author) & Wayman, Alex (editor)(1998). The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet. Second revised edition, reprint. Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd. Buddhist Tradition Series Vol.32. ISBN 81-208-1579-3 (paper) p.5
  8. ^ Germano, David (March 25, 2002). A Brief History of Nyingma Literature. Source: [2] (accessed: Wednesday July 23, 2008)
  9. ^ [3]
  10. ^ a b "Where do Commentarial Schools come from? Reflections on the History of Tibetan Scholasticism" by Dreyfus, Georges. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies Vol. 28, Nr 2 2006. pgs 273-297
  11. ^ Review by Robert Mayer of Mipham’s Dialectics and the Debates on Emptiness: To Be, Not to Be or Neither. Buddhist Studies Review 23(2) 2006, 268
  12. ^ Dudjom Rinpoche. Wisdom Nectar. Snow Lion 2005.
  13. ^ a b Koppl, Heidi. Establishing Appearances as Divine. Snow Lion Publications 2008, chapter 4.


  • Dudjom Rinpoche and Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: its Fundamentals and History. Two Volumes. 1991. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje with Matthew Kapstein. Wisdom Publications, Boston. ISBN 0-86171-087-8
  • Dargyay, Eva M. (author) & Wayman, Alex (editor)(1998). The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet. Second revised edition, reprint.Delhi, India: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd. Buddhist Tradition Series Vol.32. ISBN 81-208-1579-3 (paper)

Further reading[edit]



  • Dudjom Lingpa. Buddhahood Without Meditation, A Visionary Account known as Refining Apparent Phenomena. Padma Publishing, Junction City 1994, ISBN 1-881847-07-1
  • Reynolds, John Myrdhin, Self-Liberation through seeing with naked awareness. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca-New York 2000, ISBN 1-55939-144-8
  • Longchen Rabjam. A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission, a Commentary on The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena. Padma Publishing, Junction City 2001, ISBN 1-881847-30-6
  • Longchen Ragjam. The Practice of Dzogchen. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca-New York 1996, ISBN 1-55939-054-9
  • Longchen Rabjam. The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena. Padma Publishing, Junction City 2001, ISBN 1-881847-32-2
  • Longchen Rabjam. The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding. Padma Publishing, Junction City 1998, ISBN 1-881847-09-8
  • Longchenpa. You Are the Eyes of the World. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca-New York 2000, ISBN 1-55939-140-5
  • Manjushrimitra. Primordial Experience, An Introduction to Dzogchen Meditation. Shambhala Publications, Boston & London 2001, ISBN 1-57062-898-X
  • Nudan Dorje, James Low. Being Right Here - A Dzogchen Treasure Text of Nuden Dorje entitled The Mirror of Clear Meaning. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca-New York 2004, ISBN 1-55939-208-8
  • Padmasambhava. Advice from the Lotus-Born. Rangjung Yeshe Publications, Hong-Kong 1994, ISBN 962-7341-20-7
  • Padmasambhava. Natural Liberation - Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos. Wisdom Publications, Boston 1998, ISBN 0-86171-131-9
  • Reynolds, John Myrdhin. The Golden Letters. Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca New York 1996, ISBN 1-55939-050-6

External links[edit]