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Nyingma (lit. 'ancient'), is the oldest of the four major school of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in the latter half of the eight century CE (AD). At that time the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan were made.

Gyalwa Janchub (Gyelwa Jangchub) of Lasum, 8th century Tibetan translator. Traditionally, one of the 25 main disciples of Padmasambhava, one of the first seven Tibetans to be ordained Buddhist monks.

History Glimpses

The Tibetan king Trisong Detsen reigned from 755 to 794. The first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye, was built under the king's patronage at that time; probably between 775-9 CE. Buddhism had been introduced to Tibet in 641 CE, when the Chinese Princess Wen Cheng became the bride of the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo, but the people did not welcome it so much at that time.

Then, around 760, King Trisong Detsen of Tibet invited Padmasambhava and the Nalanda abbot Shantarakshita to Tibet to introduce Buddhism there. Trisong Detsen ordered that all Buddhist texts should be translated into Tibetan. We are told that Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, 108 translators, and 25 of Padmasambhava's nearest disciples worked for many years in the translation project. Padmasambhava supervised the translation of tantras, mainly, whereas Shantarakshita concentrated on the sutras.

By these efforts, Buddhism was established in Tibet. Its first monastery there, Samye was built to house the translation work, and remained a stronghold for translating Indian Buddhist works into Tibetan for years later.

Dancing and translating

Two of the scholars began to lead the building work of the Samye Monastery, but the walls collapsed as often as they were built. Terrified construction workers believed that a demon or obstructive tulku in a nearby river was the cause of the trouble. Then the king sent for Padmasambhava, asking him to come from Northern India and help. According to the fifth Dalai Lama, Padmasambhava danced and enacted a rite to clear away obscurations and hindrances so that Samye could be built. He danced so well that he tied the bad vibes and cleansed the site, and his dance forced ill-meaning spirits into a skull mounted on top of a pyramid of dough.

This is from the traditional account of how Buddism was established in Tibet. We are told Padmasambhava's tantric dance cleared away the obstacles and enabled the monastery to be built in 767.

Padmasambhava is credited with bringing Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet and Bhutan. He is revered today as one of the great patriarchs of Tibetan Buddhism and the founder of the Nyinmapa school.

Monuments of daggers at the cardinal points of the monastery were built to hinder demonic forces from entering the monastery grounds. Indian scholar-monks could now help in translating works from India, now that Padmasambhava had danced in order to secure the building. They had walls around them and a roof over their heads. Several Tibetans were initiated as monks, and a vast translation project was undertaken, translating Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Tibetan, which had not been established as a written language until then. A great many Buddhist texts were translated and preserved, and Tibetan Buddhism arose from this massive undertaking.

The Great Padmasambhava and his Consorts

'Padmasambhava' literally means “born of the lotus flower," that is, born illuminated. There was a historical Padmasambhava, but little is known of him apart from that he helped in establishing Samye at the behest of the Tibetan king, and that he left Tibet afterwards because of court intrigues. Regardless of that, there are many legends about his life and deeds. He is sometimes called "Guru Rinpoche," or precious guru, and an embodiment of the essence of the universe, called dharmakaya. Padmasambhava is widely venerated as a 'second Buddha' across Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and the Himalayan states of India, and Padmasambhava's Tantric Buddhism gained more power or influence than verse-based Buddhist teachings.

A story as good as many. Padmasambhava means 'lotus-born'. His legend grew. There are a great many stories and legends about him, and it at least one of them he came to Bodh Gaya, where Gautama Buddha once had been Awakened. At this place, Padmasambhava was ordained a monk. He studied at the ancient Buddhist university at Nalanda in Bihar, and was mentored by many well schooled teachers and gurus.

Later he went to the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. There he lived in a cave with the first of his consorts, Mandarava. The couple got texts on Vajrakilaya, a tantric practice aimed at clearing away obstacles. Through Vajrakilaya, Padmasambhava and Mandarava were greatly enlightened. Padmasambhava became a renowned teacher who brought demons under control. For that reason he was invited to Tibet to cleanse the site of the Emperor's monastery. The demons on and near the monastery site were pacified and converted to Buddhism and became protectors of the Buddhist dharma (teachings).

Padmasambhava returned to Nepal, but came back to Tibet seven years later. The Emperor Trisong Detsen was so glad to see him that he offered him a lady from his harem, the princess Yeshe Tsogyal. Padmasambhava accepted the offer on condition that she would have him of her free will.

Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal hid many mystic texts (terma) in Tibet and elsewhere, and such terma are found when somebody is ready to understand them and run them, Nyingmapas tell. One terma is the Bardo Thodol, known as the "Tibetan Book of the Dead." According to Tibetan tradition, the text, which means "Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State," was composed in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, written down by his primary student, Yeshe Tsogyal, buried in the Gampo hills in central Tibet and in time discovered by Karma Lingpa in the 14th century.

Yeshe Tsogyal became Padmasambhava's dharma-heir, and she transmitted early Dzogchen teachings to her disciples.

Padmasambhava had three other consorts. His five women are called the Five Wisdom Dakinis. The year after King Trisong Detsan died, Padmasambhava left Tibet for the last time.

In Tibetan art, Padmasambhava is depicted in various stylised ways: The young prince; the bright youth who holds a skull bowl and beats a drum; a monk, a yogi in a loincloth with a trident pointing at the sun; a dark blue debater; the lotus-born holding a skull bowl; a monk sitting on a lotus, wearing Tibetan Tibetan boots. He holds a vajra and a skull bowl, has a trident staff and a Nepalese cloth crown; the angry look. By such stylised images and the insignia in them we may know who is depicted.

Tibetan Buddhism developed. Padmasambhava is said to have had twenty-five disciple, and several Nyingma schools branched out. All of them venerate Padmasambhava. Tantric Buddhism was established. It is said that there were in time more than a thousand Nyingma monasteries there, and that from the eighth until the eleventh century, the Nyingma was the only school of Buddhism in Tibet.

Then, in the ninth century, the kingdom began to disintegrate. King Langdarma (836–842) is depicted in Buddhist histories as a viciously anti-Buddhist ruler who executed and banished monks and closed monasteries. Facts and fiction may blend, here as elsewhere. A story:

A fleeing monk in a problematic past

Because the king persecuted Buddhists, the monk Pelgyi Dorje murdered him while performing a ritual dance, but with a bow and arrow hidden in the long robe of his costume. After murdering the king, the monk fled on a white horse that had been colored black with charcoal. The monk wore a cloak that was black on the outside and white on the inside. The fleeing monk crossed a river, and his riding-horse was washed white. He then turn his cloak to show the white side, and escaped the soldiers who were after him.

Pelgyi Dorje retired and lived in solitude for long years afterwards, we are also told.

However, it seems the earliest biographical descriptions of Pelgyi Dorje do not refer to the murder at all, so it is time to suspect that perhaps fiction has made inroads into history once again; it can be a problem. For all that, traditional accounts have that a Buddhist hermit or monk named Lhalung Pelgyi Dorje assassinated Langdarma in 842 or 846.

For 300 years Buddhism was persecuted and largely forced underground, but alive still, although far from flourishing, but from the eleventh century onwards, the Nyingma tradition flourished again; now along with the newer Buddhist schools (read: traditions), the Sarma schools. At that time "Nyingma" came into use. Today, various schools have their own translations of Tantric texts. Own translations were what the newer schools were founded on.

Formalisations during the last few centuries

There has been a drift toward saving old manuscripts and on integrating or formalising traditional ways and traditions.

Nyingma supporters have not had any political power in Tibet. The Nyingma tradition did not have any centralised authority or any wide-reaching hierarchy, and a lesser emphasis on monasticism than the other schools. There was never a single "head of the lineage" in the manner of the Yellow Hats' Dalai Lama, for example.

For such reasons and because of old, established customs, there are more ngagpas, non-celibate householders and yogis than in other Tibetan schools: only since the Chinese annexed Tibet has the decentralised Nyingma had a head of the tradition - at the polite request of the Dalai Lama. The head's function is largely administrative. Beside that, Nyingma is not involved with politics.


Dzogchen cultivates awakened awareness in sound meditation. It has its stages - and is not exclusive to Nyingma. But in 1848, Dzogchen Shri Sengha was founded by Zhanphan Thaye. Do Kyentse took part too. The aim may have been to better compete with the dominant Geluk school (Yellow Hats, headed by Dalai Lamas. Georges Dreyfus writes:

The purpose of this school was . . . development of Nyingma monasticism . . . Up to then, the Nyingma tradition had mostly relied on non-ordained tantric practitioners to transmit its teachings . . . The move toward monasticism [put] a greater emphasis on [hierarchical] authority. . . . 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. (cited in Wikiquote, sv. "Tibet")

A few decades later the Tibetan scholar Khenpo Shenga Rinpoche (1871–1927) in the Nyingma and Sakya traditions produced annotated commentaries on the thirteen primary texts of the Nyingma shedra curriculum. They are now standard commentaries.

Shedra: "Place of teaching". More specifically, the educational program in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.

Not all young monastics enter a shedra; some study ritual practices instead. Shedra equals a university, monastic college, or philosophy school. The age of students typically corresponds to secondary school and college. After completing a shedra, some monks continue with further scholastic training toward one of two degrees, khenpo/khenmo or geshe/geshe-ma degrees are about the same in the different traditions. Other monks pursue training in ritual practices.

Khenpo or khenmo (in the feminine) is a degree for higher Buddhist studies. In the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya traditions, the title is awardedd after 13 years of intensive study after secondary school level studies, and may be roughly equal to a PhD or MPhil in a Western university tradition. After a successful examination they are entitled to serve as teachers of Buddhism. — A comparable title in the Gelug lineage is Geshe/Geshe-ma - the first variant for monks, and latter for nuns. They correspond to PhD degrees. The first geshe-ma degree was conferred to a German nun, Kelsang Wangmo, in 2011. The geshe curriculum lasts from 12 to 40 years. It represents an adaptation of subjects studied at Indian Buddhist monastic universities such as the monastic Nalanda University in Bihar, India. Buddhism in Tibet has continued the tradition.

The Geshe-ma degree, equivalent to the Geshe degree for men, is the culmination of scholastic learning for Gelug nuns. Support from Gelug religious and political authorities, such as Dalai Lama, allowed the geshe-ma exams to begin in 2012. Those women who get the degree, may then teach and share essentials of the way of Buddha and encourage practice in many countries. Or teach other nuns in nunneries. The first Geshe degrees for Tibetan nuns will be awarded after the fourth set of exams in 2016.

Back to Khenpo Shenga

Khenpo Shenga (above) did much to revitalise scholarship in the Rimé movement by returning to Indian textual sources. He also taught a number of lamas.

The Rimé movement arose in response to Gelug domination as an effort to keep the other main traditions intact. Rimé involves the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma schools and some Bön scholars. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820–1892) and Jamgön Kongtrül (1813–1899) compiled the teachings of the Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma, including many near-extinct teachings. The compilations include the Rinchen Terdzod and the Sheja Dzö.


Nyingma Features

In the Nyingma tradition, there are methods and talk about and around them; in other words tantric and other practices and texts. The difference is somewhat like driving a car and describing the car, the driving, what to heed, what landscapes are worth seeing, what things to tend to, take care of, and much else. In short, good meditation methods are simple yet effective, while texts about the methods and preparatory training for them are many, many, many. "Different strokes for different folks," in other words.

The source texts and many added commentaries may not help you a bit if you do not understand them. Moreover, they may hardly help you much if you just read them. And if you should practice methods or ways, which methods are generally best, and which suit you best among all of them? And will they be safe for you with a little sound sense added to them? How far can a method take you if you are lucky?

If you do not practice any of the methods, such questions matter little. Besides, for most part at least, very potent methods are kept out of reach for outsiders or newcomers, to hinder them from coming to harm or for some other reasons.

On withholding some things from the general public or not. Now, here is one more problem to handle: it is historically grounded: In his farewell sutra, Buddha is reported to have said he did not operate with any secret teachings:

I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. [Mahaparinibbana sutta ("Last days of the Buddha"), part 2, sutra 32]

Considering how the Pali Canon came about - by oral transmissions in the first place, and later translations of what was written down, into the Pali language - is it so sure that what is in the Pali Canon is the whole truth in the matter? The Theravada claim that Gautama d Buddhaid not impart an esoteric teaching because of this source quotation, and that there is no reference to any such teaching in the Pali canon.

However, Pali manuscripts are not the only old Buddhist manuscripts, and Mahayana literature contains variants of many of them. So we are faced with two competing old streams of Buddhist camps and their claims. One is of Theravada, and the other of Mahayana, for in Mahayana it is maintained that Buddha imparted an esoteric (insider) teaching too. The Mahayana view is:

Mahayanists account for the claimed esoteric teachings in terms of "the three turnings of the Dharma-wheel". They maintain that the Pali suttas represent only the first turning of the wheel, the most basic presentation of the Dharma, sufficient for the majority of disciples; the Mahayana sutras represent the second turning, a more profound exposition containing material which only advanced disciples were fit to hear and apply; and the tantras of the Vajrayana, with their obscure symbolism, represent the third turning, a presentation of the highest and most difficult doctrines, for the benefit of the most competent or advanced students. (Op.cit, p. 2)

What is just maintained and claimed is not perfectly proved, all in all. Claims are many, and quality evidence is rare or missing, as in many a case of claimed esoteric transmission. What is more,

Many of the philosophical doctrines expressed in the Mahayana texts (sunyata, prajna-upaya, etc.) did not become current until some centuries after Gotama [Buddha]'s death. The claim that these doctrines were known only to certain chosen disciples charged with secretly transmitting them is unconvincing. (Op.cit, p. 3)

The two authors see evidence for an esoteric transmission in the elaborate symbolic language in Vajrayana of Tibet, and its Chinese/Japanese counterparts. They write, "This system of symbols, known as the Twilight Language . . . incorporates various symbolic devices (mandalas, mudras, etc.), often explicitly sexual . . . "that secret language" (Ibid).

Yogi insider language that uninformed folks guess about or try to unriddle is said to have been created by those who hold the keys to the lore - gurus in an esoteric meditative tradition - to aid in preserving and communicating secret doctrines. The keys are knowledge on just how to perform the methods hinted at; and skilled interpretations of what the symbols are supposed to mean, since those symbols are held to denote aspects of the meditative path to enlightenment. Yet, those who grasp them all full well may be few and far between, the authors go on to tell. Anyhow, there are books about Tibetan iconography, with explanations (Lauf 1995).

As for the exact old practices, many may be in the dark.

The Twilight Language has been around in Tibetan Buddhism for long, and is evidence of some form of esoteric transmission in Vajrayana Buddhism at least. Did such tantric teachings originated long after the time of Buddha to become grafted onto Buddhism? If so, if possibly so, do the constructs and practice the symbolic features are taken to refer to, stem from Buddha anyhow? In other words, could authors of the tantras have come up with new symbols adapted to an ancient transmission? If so, it can be awfully hard to document, since secret teachings seldom leave outward "footprints" or traces. We make do with: "'Could be' is not exactly 'is'." And there is where matters seem to stand for the lack of good evidence and agreement among great scholars in this field.

The art of being tentative builds on skills to be learnt. Armed with these outlooks and reservations, it behooves us to be a bit tentative among those who say, "There is no esoteric tradition" and those who say the esoteric tradition is "none the less potent, none the less reliable for the fact that it is nowhere, in more than fragments, written down"," as Christmas Humphreys has it in Buddhism (1962:14). Also, in the Pali Canon Buddha says he has access to much more knowledge than he had transmitted. That should have made it hard for him to teach all he had accessed and knew - It could be like emptying a huge mug into little cups. (Op.cit. p. 6n) He teaches a good selection, he says. (SN 56.31)

Weighing the probabilities and evidence at hand, Stuart-Fox and Bucknell find that "Overall, the Mahayana evidence for an esoteric transmission is inconclusive." Inconclusive evidence and circumstantial evidence is evidence you should not conclude aloud on top of, but you may show a leaning, as the authors do: "Buddha probably did initiate an esoteric transmission." That is what Martin Stuart-Fox and Roderick Bucknell conclude with in their article "Did the Buddha impact an Esoteric Teaching?"

The question is open to debate. [1]

On another note . . .

Buddha allows people to investigate and see in sceptical ways, and not just believe all one is told by whoever is said to be the source of it. Get to the kernels at hand and see how far well chosen and well sorted ones could help you. That is the tick tack tao teaching, basically. But one's own investigations can get costy without good funds and backup from experienced ones, however. That is a lesson that can prove very useful. Kalama Sutta]

Also, when you have come across teachings of methods - dogmatic assurance also - are they good and helpful in general, and can they help you? Where is the good evidence? Can it be furnished? Are the various methods quite safe to practice? Can it be documented fairly well now? Such things matter if you would like to have a go at the very best methods - the methods that may or may not be described in the sutras (texts) the theory that backs up the practice - since it has been part of the long Nyingma tradition to transmit practical methods by word of mouth - that is, orally.

Cutting through the cut-through practices - how soon? A little visualisation could be good for you. However, the plethora of Nyingma practices - preliminary, meditative and "creème de la crème (best of the best)" - gives rise to problems of choosing. It is tough to guess-choose among practices you are new to and ill-informed about. There are many such practices in Nyingma.

Also, learning words about the path is not treading it. Many words call for cutting to the bone, so to speak. A good reason:

It will be quite difficult to practice the entire Gradual Path of the Wisdom Essence, so you should use what is directly appropriate for your training. It is never said that you should practice an entire root text . . . But [the] ultimate practice is Dzogchen. - Kyabje Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

He says: apply the most helpful one(s) - go for that, whatever it is called, including "Great Perfection" or Atiyoga. Seemingly good counsel! However, within Dzogchen are many parts, many sorts of preliminary practices and meditative practices.

Alexander Berzin explains that after the preliminary practices follow meditative practices . . . Preliminary practices employ imagination and visualisation, and takes time until you are ready to be yourself, simply, and/or before the time is fit for meditating well, as you might have been taught to do all along in another tradition, because sound and deep meditation is the hub of The Wheel, and genuine development is the axle that links to it.

Complicated? Not really. It is designed to help you. There is a series of exercises known as Semdzin. They include focusing, breathing, and different body postures aimed to bring us into a form of meditation. The main practice, Trekchö, which crowns the practices, admonishes against practice (!) You practice till you don't practice, simply put. In this "don't-practice practice" you are yourself and get instruction added to it about your mind. According to Tsoknyi Rinpoche, these instructions are received after the preliminary practices, but there is also a tradition to give then before the preliminary practices.

Jigme Lingpa divides the trekchö practice into ordinary and extraordinary instructions. They include "the four ways of being at leisure" and dismiss meditation and effort out of clarity.

So we are told. There is a long way - a long chain of training and practices - aimed at not traning, not practicing, and being yourself purely. You may well wonder: "Why not cut through and be myself all along? After all, there is a tradition for it." There is a word for it too: tögal. It means "to proceed directly to the goal without having to go through intermediate steps." It speaks of a "direct transcendence". There is progression practices here too.

Directly being yourself - sincerity is one clue, and fairness another. For the lack of simple sincerity and being yourself well enough, there is a risk of making the life "an empty shell" through feigning, insincerity, bluffing along and hypocricy. These things undermine the soul. The good thing, a pure, simple mind, can do it, while others must have training - call it sincerity training if you will.

The more winding Tögal practices are related to complex tantric techniques and doctrines - from tantric "perfection phase" techniques as outlined in the early-eleventh-century Indian Tantric Kalachakra cycle, "The Wheel of Time", a direct inspiration for the Seminal Heart teachings in Tibetan Buddhism. The aim is full enlightenment, also called self-liberation.

Further, we are told that Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra realised a higher type of self-liberation - a fuller than full enlightenment - without dying.

So, "simply cutting through" as described and prescribed among Tibetan Buddhists is not for all all at once, but may be complex. There could be good reasons to sift through various cutting-through practices and arm yourself with the very best ones for you among the means for the ne plus ultra, the highest and deepest (innermost) "being-yourself" you may attain and yet survive. If you do, much is at your fingertips also, it follows. Thus we are told. And if you don't yet reach the pink of perfection part - being yourself -, seek to get the probably best skills involved and practice in balanced ways. Not too little, not to much, and in time you could get "there". Who knows?

Then, what are the best among those ne plus ultra practices and hints? Insiders may know, and outsiders not be told.

[More at Wikipedia, "Dzogchen"]

Influential works

Longchenpa Rabjampa (1308-1364 or 1369) systematized the Seminal Heart teachings and other collections of texts that were circulating at the time in Tibet, refined the terminology and interpretations, and integrated the Seminal Heart teachings with broader Mahayana literature.

Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798) wrote Longchen Nyingthig, said to be a hidden teaching from Padmasambhava and revealed by Jigme Lingpa. The work is one of the most widely practiced teachings in the Nyingmapa school.

Patrul Rinpoche (1808–1887) wrote down Jigme Lingpa's preliminary practices into a book called The Words of My Perfect Teacher.

The popular "Tibetan Book of the Dead," edited by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, is one more publication on the Great Perfection, Dzogchen, regardless of the mistakes in it.

Dzogchen teachers include Sogyal Rinpoche and Namkhai Norbu and Dalai Lama, since Dzogchen also has taught and practiced in the Kagyu lineage, beginning with Milarepa (c.1052–c.1135).

Dzogchen has incorporated concepts and practices from tantric Buddhism, and embraces a widely varied array of traditions: some Dzogchen lines reject all tantric practices, others incorporate them fully.

So which will it be? That is a recurrent question. One's teacher is to decide that, whereas self-help efforts toward being yourself naturally looks like a remote idea.

Systematic divisions of texts (sutras) vary with those who systematise and what is incorporated in them from tantra sources. Written texts have been added or brought to light in Nyingma also. Nyingmapas divide the Buddhist path into nine yanas, vehicles.The term refers to a mode or method of spiritual practice, and in particular to how different Buddhist schools organise or label their forms of practice. The nine vehicles of Nyingma are as follows:

The Sutra System

  1. Shravakayana, the Vehicle of the Listeners or disciples.
  2. Pratyekabuddhayana (Hinayana) the Vehicle of the Solitary Buddhas, the way of solitary meditation.
  3. Bodhisattvayana (Mahayana) the Great or Causal Vehicle, the Vehicle of Enlightened Beings, is the way of those who seek or attain enlightenment for all sentient beings from Samsara.

Outer/Lower/Exoteric Tantra

  1. Kriya ⁓ Tantra of Action which involves ritual, mantra repetition and visualization.
  2. Carya or Ubhaya ⁓ Tantra of Conduct - equal amounts of meditation and symbolic rituals.
  3. Yogatantra ⁓ Tantra of Union

Inner/Higher/Esoteric Tantra

  1. Mahayoga ⁓ Great Yoga
  2. Anuyoga, Subsequent Yoga ⁓ controlling breathing and energy (nervous and sexual).
  3. Atiyoga, (Dzogchen) ⁓ Ultimate Yoga; The Great Perfection - often practised in monasteries kept specially for this purpose.

In the later schools the inner tantric teachings are known as Anuttarayoga Tantra, which corresponds to Mahayoga in the Nyingma system, while the Mahamudra teachings of the later schools are said to lead to similar results as the Dzogchen teachings. The first two of the nine vehicles are seen as Hinayana, the third as Mahayana and the remaining six as specifically Vajrayana.

The emphasis is on the three inner tantras, as practised under a teacher. He or she may give teachings from any of the vehicles (yanas). Dudjom Jigdral Yeshe Dorje (1904–87) was appointed the first supreme head of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism by the the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration - he maintained that the eight lower vehicles are mostly intellectual fabrications, that fleeting thoughts seem to be a long way from what truly is (innermost Reality) and cannot be obtained by hopes and fears alone, or found elsewhere (than here and now within oneself). He refers to That which is free from effort and free from needing to say it, too. (Dudjom rendered)


Nyingma Teachings

Dzogchen (Great Perfection) is a central teaching in the Nyingma school. Dzogchen is aimed at getting and holding on to natural awareness. Dzogchen has also taught and practiced in the Kagyu lineage, beginning with Milarepa (c.1052–c.1135) and to Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama and other Gelugpas. (They are known by yellow hats).

The Nyingma teachings are divided into the Long Transmission of Kama and the Short Transmission of Terma (revealed texts). Other teachings are said to appear in Pure Visions from deities or gurus, in experiences or in dreams.

Three special tantras of the Nyingma are those of Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga, Dzogchen. Dzogchen, or "great perfection," is the central teaching of the Nyingma school. The aim is to get to and keep awareness. It is developable.

Dzogchen cultivates "awakened awareness", called rigpa through meditation so that such essential awareness flows through our actions in everyday life.

Padmasambhava Thought

- As quoted, extracted and summarised.


Allow the awakened state to be as it is, and it is spontaneously present right now.

Although you attain godhood, you have not transcended suffering. (In Tsogyal, p. 192)

Animals are enslaved by the humans, put to plow, carry loads, and slaughtered. Among the animals without an owner, deer get killed by hunters, fish by the fishermen, and the weak and timid are devoured by carnivorous animals, who also murder each other. In particular, the animals in the great oceans eat one another. There is an inconceivable number of miseries. (In Tsogyal, p. 193, abr.)

Apply yourself to spiritual practices in thought, word, and deed.

[At] death, your body, cherished so dearly, is left behind. You are separated from companions and friends. . . . Literally thrown out by your children and servants, your body will be cast away. [How to dispense with corpses differs, and burial customs too.] (In Tsogyal, p. 193)

By attaining at-one-ment, duality is is transcended (In Evans-Wentz 1968:206).

By realization a cowherd may attain Liberation (In Evans-Wentz 1968:237).

Cultivating fields, working, living, being unfree and destitute [ - all entail] sufferings [at least later on].

Do not forget that life flickers by and then you die.

Family ties are the guide to samsara [rounds of births and deaths]

Fortunate ones, mingle your mind with the Dharma and the happiness of Buddhahood will manifest within you!

Having done the many and futile activities . . . I will leave . . .

I will certainly need an understanding of the excellent Dharma (proper conduct). So why not practice now?

If you want to abandon your homeland, come follow me. (In Tsogyal, p. 205)

In the True State, the pluralistic Universe does not seem to exist (cf Evans-Wentz 1968:201).

Individuals who do not know the mind, do not know themselves (In Evans-Wentz 1968:205).

Listen to me, Tibetan people, you red-faced demons . . . have happiness in this life and further happiness in the next.


Seek the three jewels as escorts against the three lower realms.

Take the guru, yidam, and dakini as your support in both this and future lives.

As the road to freedom, practice the outlook, meditation, and conduct. . . .

Forsake the ten nonvirtues and adopt the ten virtues. (Based on Yeshe Tsogyal's The Lotus-Born, p. 186. For explanations of terms, try 'Words' in the nether left corner.)

May I engage without distraction in the study of and meditation on the teachings, while integrating appearance and mind. (Abr)

Mind in its true state is of Reality (cf Evans-Wentz 1968:212).

One mind embraces the whole Sangsara and Nirvana eternally, ever clear, radiant and not visible (p. 203 - Note: Sangsara: the manifested Universe, Nirvana, the state beyond. - TK).

One needs only to look within oneself to find Truth (In Evans-Wentz 1968:197).

Possess the intelligent strength of discriminating knowledge [to better] turn the tide in the battle with samsara.

Samsara and nirvana are indivisibly dharmakaya. (In Tsogyal, p. 201)

Sustaining awareness is the wisdom mind of all the buddhas. (Mod)

"The Great Symbol" (Mahamudra), is of the highest (or subtlest) at-one-ment and (Inner) Essence. [The Great Symbol is a doctrine of Dharmakarma. (cf Evans-Wentz 1968:209, 209n).

The Quintessential Deep Mind is at-one with all deep minds (cf Evans-Wentz 1968:212).

Tibetan teachers . . . do not explain the Buddha's words and the treatises correctly, but fool people with distorted teachings. I am tired of people who falsify the Buddha's words. (In Tsogyal, p. 149)

[There are people who lie to and fool themselves.] How sad that these people have human forms but possess no more sense than an ox!

There is an innumerable variety of fruits of yoga (In Evans-Wentz 1968:226).

There is no need to fall under the sway of the dualities of accepting and rejecting . . . these teachings (In Evans-Wentz 1968:226).

There is really no duality, so pluralism is untrue (In Evans-Wentz 1968:206).

Thinking is of the very essence of mind (cf. Evans-Wentz 1968:213).

This compound body of flesh and blood . . . know it to be transitory. (Mod)

Those fettered by desires, lack self-control (cf. p. 205).

To see things as a multiplicity . . . is to err (In Evans-Wentz 1968:232).

Two accumulations can be enjoyed after death. So gather the two accumulations as much as you can. [Accumulated merit and wisdom]

Understand appearances are impermanent. (Abr)

Understand creditors claiming their due. [About offspring] (Abr)

When you have obtained the precious human body, you continuously get carried away by mundane actions. Don't you notice that your life is running out? (In Tsogyal, p. 204)

When you meet with your hateful enemy, possess the instruction of being patient in the face of blame. (In Tsogyal, p. 206)

When you realise that samsara and nirvana are dharmakaya, you need not put effort into meditation practice.

When you recognize the nature of mind, fabrication and effort are naturally freed.

You may try to support your family and friends, but at the time of death, all other actions besides the virtuous practices of Dharma activities will have been pointless. [Generally].

Your own Wisdom within you is the Vast Deep. (Abr)


Nyingma, Vajrayana, Guru Rinpoche, Old School Tibetan Buddhism, Mahayana, Ngangyur, school of the ancient translations, Literature  

Lama is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru. The term used to be used for venerated spiritual masters or heads of monasteries. Today the title can be used as an honorific title conferred on a monk, nun or (in the Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya schools) advanced tantric practitioner, or may be part of a title such as Dalai Lama.

Rinpoché (literally 'precious one') is another honoric term, often used about someone who is recognised as a reincarnated, esteemed lama.

There are many texts to be found at A Buddhist Library, an educational site: [◦Many, many authors and works]


Chogyal Namkhai Norbu and Adriano Clemente. The Supreme Source: The Kunjed Gyalpo, The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde. Tr. from the Italian into English by Andrew Lukianowicz. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999.

Dargay, Eva M. The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet. 2nd rev. ed. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1979.

De Falco, Cristiane, tr., ed. A Biography of the Great Master Padmasambhava Taranatha. Arcidossi, IT: Shang Shung Publications, 2011.

Duckworth, Douglas S. Mipam on Buddha-Nature: The Ground of the Nyingma Tradition. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2008.

Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Trs. Gyurme Dorje, and Matthew Kapstein. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1991.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. Longchen Nyingtik Practice Manual: Advice on How to Practice. Ed. Chanel Grubner. San Francisco, CA: Khyentse Foundation, 2004.

Evans-Wentz, Walter Y., ed. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering. London: Oxford University Press, Paperback ed. 1960. ⍽▢⍽ The first edition was published in 1927 by Oxford University Press. The copy that the book is based on, was an abridged copy. A later and fuller translation may be recommended. Among such books are one by Francesca Freemantle (explaining concepts); one by Sogyal Rinpoche (from another angle - a good work).

⸻. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation or the Method of Realizing Nirvana through Knowing the Mind. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

⸻. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa: A Biography from the Tibetan, Being the Fets&uum;n-Kahbum OR Biographical History of Jetsün-Milarepa, According to the Late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering. Edited with Introduction and Annotations by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. With a new Foreword by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

⸻. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

Freemantle, Francesca. Luminous Emptiness: Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead. London: Shambhala, 2001.

Humphreys, Christmas. Buddhism. 3rd ed. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1962.

Ifergan, Gidi. The Man from Samyé: Longchenpa on Praxis, Its Negation and Liberation. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan, 2014.

Jig-Me Ling-Pa. The Dzogchen Innermost Essence Preliminary Practice. 4th ed. Tr. Tulku Thondup. Ed. Brian Beresford. Dharamsala, India: The Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2002.

Jigme Lingpa. Treasury of Precious Qualities: Book One, The Rain of Joy. With the Quintessence of the Three Paths Commentary by Longchen Yeshe Dorje, Kangyur Rinpoche. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2010.

Kunjed Gyalpo. The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde. Tr. from Italian to English by Andrew Lukianowicz. Ithaca NY: Snow Lion Publications, 1999.

Lauf, Detlef Into. Tibetan Sacred Art: The Heritage of Tantra. Reprint. Bangkok: White Orchid Press, 1995.

Lipman, Kennard, tr. Secret Teachings of Padmasambhava: Essential Instructions on Mastering the Energies of Life. London: Shambhala, 2010.

Longchenpa. You Are the Eyes of the World. Trs. Kennard Lipman and Merrill Peterson. Ithaca NY: Snow Lion, 2010. ⍽▢⍽ Translated under the inspiration of Namkhai Norbu, who has also written an introduction. This book is a translation of "The Jewel Ship: A Guide to the Meaning of Pure and Total Presence: The Creative Energy of the Universe."

Nyoshul Khenpo Jamyang Dorje, The Fearless Lion's Roar: Profound Instructions on Dzogchen, the Great Perfection. With commentaries on Jigme Lingpa's The Lion's Roar and Longchenpa's Resting at Ease in Illusion. Tr. David Christensen. London: Snow Lion, 2015.

Padmasambhava. Advice from the Lotus-Born: A Collection of Padmasambhava's Advice to the Dakini Yeshe Tsogyal and Other Close Disciples. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt). 3rd ed. Århus, DK, and Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2012. ⍽▢⍽ Recommended.

⸻. Guru' Heart Practices: Texts for Dispeller of Obstacles. Revealed by Chokgyur Lingpa and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Ed. and comp. Marcia Dechen Wangmo [Marcia Binder Schmidt]. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt), Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2014.

⸻. The Light of Wisdom: The Conclusion. Root Text by Padmasambhava. Commentary by Jamgöl Kongtrül. Comp. Chokgyur Lingpa. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt). Commentary by Lodro Taye. Notes by Jamyang Drakpa. Contributor: Pema Trinley Nyingpo. Ed. Marcia Binder Schmidt. Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2013.

⸻. Natural Liberation: Padmasambhava's Teachings on the Six Bardos. Commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche. Tr. B. Alan Wallace. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998.

Sogyal Rinpoche. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Rev. ed. Edited by Patrick Gaffney and Andrew Harvey. San Franscisco: Harper and Collins e-books, 2009. ⍽▢⍽ Anecdotes and stories are included to make the text better understood. Bardo (in-between-states, temporary) states, reincarnation, karma, are all explained.

Lama Tsongkhapa. Foundation of All Good Qualities. Comm. Geshe Tenzin Zopa. Selangor, Malaysia: Losang Dragpa Buddhist Society, Nd.

Tsogyal, Yeshe. 1999. The Lotus-Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava. Composed by Yeshe Tsogyal, Revealed by Nyang Ral Nyima Oser. Tr. Erik Pema Kunsang, ed. Marcia Binder Schmidt. Boston, MA: Shambhala.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche. Quintessential Dzogchen: Confusion Dawns as Wisdom. Paperback ed. Trs and comps. Marcia Binder Schmidt and Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt). Hong King and Esby, DK: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2006.

van Schaik, Sam. Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Approaches to Dzogchen Practice in Jigme Lingpa's Longchen Nyingtig. Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

  1. Stuart-Fox, Martin and Roderick Bucknell. "Did the Buddha impact an Esoteric Teaching?" Journal of Indian History 61 (1983) pgs 1-17.

Harvesting the hay

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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