Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism

The Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origins to India, particularly to the great adept Virupa, who is the first human to disseminate the most distinctive of its teachings, the practices of “Path and Result” (Lamdre). According to the traditional histories, Virupa was born in Bengal during the region of king Devapala. As a child, he entered the monastic university of Somapuri, where he was given the ordination name Dharmapala. In the monastery, he pursued the standard scholastic curriculum and tantric studies.

The Sakya tradition is one of the four major religious traditions that existed in Tibet. The name “Sakya” literally means “Grey Earth” because the ground of Sakya monastery was of grey color, which was considered auspicious. Sakya rose to play a significant role in the development and spread of the new Tantras that came to Tibet in the 11th century. During the 13th and 14th centuries, the holders of the Sakya tradition were also the principal political powers that ruled over Tibet. Although its political stature gradually declined over the centuries, emphasis on its unique religious traditions continued to be nurtured and sustained.

Consequently, the Sakya tradition strengthened and flourished and produced many great and distinguished practitioners, saints, and scholars. The origins of the Sakya tradition are closely connected with the ancestral lineage of the Khön family: a family which itself originated from celestial beings. Beginning with Khön Konchok Gyalpo (1034-1102), the founder of the Sakya tradition, the lineage continues to be unbroken to this day. Khön Konchok Gyalpo was a disciple of the translator Drokmi (993-1077) who had traveled to Nepal and India, where he studied Sanskrit with Santipa. One of the great masters of his day and author of a commentary on the Hevajra Tantra. Drokmi brought the text to Tibet and translated it, and it later became the basic text of Sakya tantric practice.

Not unlike the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, a number of sub-traditions gradually emerged within the main Sakya tradition. The lineages of teachings within the discipline instituted by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo (1382-1457) and the successive masters of this discipline, namely Konchok Lhundrup, Thartse Namkha Palsang, and Drubkhang Palden Dhondup have come to be known as the Ngor lineage. The lineage of Tsarchen Losel Gyatso (1502-1556), known as the Whispered Lineage of Tsar, includes the secret doctrines of the greater or lesser Mahakala, Vajrayogini, Dzambala, and others, and is known as the Tsar tradition. Another important tradition that arose was the Dzongpa tradition founded by Dzongpa Kuna Namgyal (1432-1496).

To use a simple illustration, the Sakya School of the divine Khön lineage might represent the main trunk of a tree, from which the Ngorpa and Tsarpa schools branch out in different directions, but essentially remain connected at the source.

The teaching and practice that is the essence of the Sakya tradition are called “Lamdre (Lam/bras),” or “The Path and its Fruit.” Fundamentally, the philosophical viewpoint expressed in “The Path and its Fruit,” is the “Non-differentiation of Samsara and Nirvana.” According to this view, an individual cannot attain Nirvana or cyclic existence; because the mind is the root of both Samara and Nirvana. When the mind is obscured, it takes the form of Samsara and when the mind is freed of obstructions, it takes the form of Nirvana. The ultimate reality is that a person must strive to realize this fundamental inseparability through mediation.

Important Sakya Monasteries in Tibet:

  1. Sakya monastery the principal monastery of the Sakyapa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism with over 900 year’s history.
  2. Ngor monastery founded by Ngorchen Kunga Sangpo in 1429 renowned for its rich library of Sanskrit texts and magnificent 15th century Newar derived paintings.
  3. Nalanda monastery founded by renowned scholar Rongton Chenpo Mawei Senge in 1435 who recognized as one of the “Six Jewels of Tibet”.
  4. Gongga Chode founded in 1464 by Dorjedenpa Kunga Namgyel of the Sakya school, contained an important extant mural typical of the free-flowing Khyenri school of painting, which was the original work of Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (b 1524).

Dzongsar Monastery, the main Sakya institution founded in the 13th century, it was a home base for Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo and his re-birth Dzongsar Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, who combined the Sakya, Nyingma and Kagyu traditions.

Following the footsteps Sakya tour in Tibet

We can organize a thematic tour of following the footsteps of Sakya in Tibet. If you are interested please read more about the tour in the link below. We can give a special discount for the Sakya centers abroad.

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