Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism
The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism has the longest established history of the transmission of all of the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This is reflected in the name Nyingma which literally means “Old Order” The other three main schools of Tibetan Buddhism including Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug are collectively referred to as Sarma “New Order” Because they rely on the Tibetan translations of Indian Buddhist texts that were prepared under the system established during the period of the second dissemination of Buddhism into Tibet.
Nyingma primarily relies on the old translations, particularly of tantric texts, and its Tibetan origins are traced to Buddhist pioneers of the time of King Trisong Detsen. Because of this, it called the “Old Translation Order” (Ngagyur).
The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origins back to the Buddha Samantabhadra, Vajrasattva, and Garab Dorje of Uddiyana. The most important source of the Nyingma order is the Indian Guru, Padmasambhava, the founder of the Nyingma Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, who came to Tibet in the eighth century C.E. invitation by King Trisong Detsan (742-797) of Tibet in order to subdue the evil forces and establish the genuine teachings of the Buddha. Among Tibetans, he is most well known as “Guru Rinpoche,” or the “precious guru.” He overcame obstacles and evils, transforming them into a positive field of energy that became the fundamental basis for the spread of Buddhism in the Land Of Snow, Tibet.
The great Bodhisattva Abbot Shantarakshita, Guru Padmasambhava, and the King together completed the building of Samye monastery, probably around 779 C.E. Samye became the principal Buddhist centre of learning and also the place where many of the Indian Buddhist texts were first translated into Tibetan, the beginning of the creation of a vast Buddhist literature in Tibet.
For many years, Abbot Shantirakshita and Guru Rinpoche taught sutra and tantra extensively in Tibet. Guru Rinpoche taught the highest classes of the tantras to his twenty-five principal disciples. These disciples became the first wave of Tibetan yogis to attain realization; their supreme spiritual accomplishments benefited countless sentient beings.
Guru Padmasambhava hid hundreds of teachings and instructions as treasures, in the forms of scriptures, images, and ritual articles, to be revealed at an appropriate time in the future. He saw that though the time was not ripe for him to teach them at that time, many of the teachings would benefit future generations. Since that time, more than one hundred tantric masters have revealed these treasures and taught them, as instructed by Padmasambhava, to their students. In this way, the Terma (revelation) lineage emerged.
From the 8th century to 11th century, the Nyingma was the sole school of Buddhism in Tibet. It was a period when Buddhism was severely suppressed by the ruling kings. It was only after the 11th century that Nyingma recognized itself as a separate School due to the emergence of other Schools. The followers of this School called themselves Nyingmapa, Nyingma happens to be the only one amongst the four schools whose supporters have never been in charge of political power.
Unlike other Schools, where tantric teachings involve four levels, Nyingma School has 6 levels. The Outer Tantra comprises Kriya, Carya or Ubhaya and Yogatantra while the Inner Tantra includes Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga/Dzogchen (The “Great Perfection”).
The Termas (Hidden Treasures) and the Tertons (treasure revealers) are of special mention. It is believed that during the reign of king Langdarma, when Buddhism was on the decline, Padmasambhava, along with his disciples, hid numerous scriptures, ritual objects, and relics in concealed places to protect Buddhism. This gave rise to the practice wherein two methods of dharma transmission were adopted. The first one involved “long” oral transmission from Teacher to the student in unbroken lineages while the other one was basically a “short” transmission of “hidden treasures”. This discovery could either be physical, from the rocks and caves or directly to the minds of Terton.
Important Nyingma Monasteries in Central Tibet
- Samye monastery the first Buddhist monastic in Tibet.
- Chimphu hermitage caves, one of the most sacred meditation retreat site of Padmasambhava.
- Mindroling monastery one of the six major monasteries of the Nyingma school in Tibet,
- Dorje Drak monastery, good maintaining of Terma tradition of the Nyingma School known as the Northern Treasures.
- Lamaling temple, the main seat of the late Dudjom Rinpoche head of the Nyingma School
- Drak YerpaHermitagee one of the holiest cave hermitage sites.
- The gorgeous sight of highland Basum Tso Lake in Kongpo, notably a holy lake of Nyingma tradition in Tibetan Buddhism, a small temple with the 1500 year’s history is seated at the center of the lake on an islet where Padmasambhava has been worshiped for centuries.
Important Nyingma Monasteries in East Tibet
- Shechen Monastery, one of the 6 Great Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism founded in 1695 by Shechen Rabjam Tenpé Gyaltsen who was sent to Kham by the 5th Dalai Lama, It is renowned for the authenticity to the teachings at Shedra and the quality of its sacred arts.
- Dzogchen Monastery as it is recognized as the major pilgrimage site of in east Tibet, one of the six great monasteries of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Pema Rigdzin, 1st Dzogchen Rinpoche (1625-1697) in 1684.
- The Katok Dorjeden Monastery, the oldest surviving monastery of the Nyingma tradition and it is known to have maintained certain rare lineages of teaching from the 12th century at times when they were lost in central Tibet. The Monastery was founded in 1159 by a younger brother of Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo, Katok Dampa Deshek at Derge, the historic seat of the Kingdom of Derge in Kham.
- Pelyu Namgyle Jangchubling, one of the six great “mother monasteries” following the Nyingma School, or Ancient Translation Tradition, of Tibetan Buddhism, the monastery was founded in 1665 by the king of Derge, Lachen Jampa Phuntsok, who appointed Regdzin Kunzang Sherab (1636-99) as its first throne holder.
- Yachen Orgyen Samten Choling established in 1985 by a Nyingmapa Rinpoche.
We can organize a thematic tour of following the footsteps of Nyingma in Tibet. If you are interested please read more about the tour in the link below. We can give special discount for the Nyingmapa centers abroad.
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