TIBETAN BUDDHISM & THE FOUR SCHOOLS


HISTORY OF TIBETAN BUDDHIST TRADITIONS
AND ANCIENT INDIAN KNOWLEDGE




This period of time is described in the texts, as a fortunate aeon. A Buddha (‘Awakened to the true nature of reality) has appeared in this world system (Siddhartha Gautama Shakyamuni [the historical Buddha]), given teachings and these are practiced.

In other words, the cause, effect and conditions for sentient beings wandering in samsara (deluded mindstates) to awaken (be liberated from the confusion/ suffering of duality) – through the study and practice of the ultimate truth of the nature of true reality.

Buddha gave teachings on the emptiness of dependent arising (the nature of true reality) which is realised through the practice of the union of the (method) aspect, compassion and deep insight into the nature of reality (wisdom/emptiness) in the mental continuum (consciousness).

Emaho!


*** His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has recently (21 April 2023) given an address to the First Global Summit in India summarising the heart of practice (36 minutes).

This address is shared on His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s official website www.dalailama.com


and can also be found on the page entitled ‘Heart of practice of Buddha Dharma’ on this site.




Tibetan Buddhism


(A brief glimpse)


Background

Buddhism first came to Tibet in the late 7th century CE, when the first Tibetan King, Songtsen Gampo, asked Indian teachers to come to the country and instruct his subjects, who mainly had been practicing local traditions that likely resembled the shamanic practices found in contemporary Central Asia.

For several generations after Buddhism appeared in Tibet, it flourished under state sponsorship. In the mid 8th century, King Trisong Detsen invited Shantarakshita, abbot of the Indian Buddhist monastic university Nalanda and the Indian master Padmasambhava (later know as Guru Rinpoche) to establish a monastic center in Tibet.

They founded the Nyingma (“ancient ones”) school, the oldest of the four major schools, [Nyingma (c. 8th century), Kagyu (11th century), Sakya (1073), and Gelug (1409)] of Tibetan Buddhism that exist today. King Trisong Detsen’s minister traveled to India to learn Sanskrit and translate Buddhist texts into Tibetan. [The Tibetan scholars and practitioners preserved the Ancient Indian texts/ tradition].


Experience

In the 10th century, a second wave of Buddhist teachers from India was invited to Tibet, and in turn, Tibetan translators and scholars began traveling to India to receive teachings in various schools and lineages, including tantric ones, that had not reached Tibet previously.

This brought about a set of new dharma transmissions called the Sarma or “new ones” traditions. Among them was the Kadampa school, founded by Dromton, chief Tibetan disciple of the Indian master Atisha. After that, many great teachers arose in Tibet, passing down the various Buddhist transmission lineages over the following centuries.


Leadership

Tibetan Buddhism incorporated a range of practices from Indian Buddhism. These include the meditation practices of shamatha (calm abiding) and vipassana (insight), refuge vows, and monastic discipline from the Theravada tradition, and from the Mahayana, the bodhisattvas vow, Pure Land practices, and lojong (mind training method to awaken compassion).

Tibetan Buddhist schools also incorporated the Vajrayana practices of ngondro (preliminary practices), mantra (sacred syllable and verses), mudra (sacred hand gestures), mandala (sacred diagrams representing the universe), and yogic discipline.


Topics

The transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet was inspired by the lively and rich Buddhist atmosphere of late Indian Buddhism, from the 8th-century to the 12th century, with interactions among various traditions, philosophies and practices.

Tibet became the center of Buddhism in central Asia, as Tibetan Buddhism spread to neighboring Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal, and parts of what are now Russia and India. Today, Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion of the Himalayan region.

(- Abridged from www. tricycle.com)




The four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism


The four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism and some of their key practices, a brief overview:

Nyingma: The Nyingmas (Ancient Ones) are the original Buddhists of Tibet. Their founder […] Vajrayana master Padmasambhava, is said to have first brought Buddhism to Tibet. The nine-step (yana) Nyingma path culminates in the practice of Dzogchen.

Kagyu: The Kagyu (Ear-Whispered Lineages) specialises in Vajrayana practices passed orally from teacher to student. The lineage traces its origins to the Indian scholar-yogi Naropa, his Tibetan student Marpa, and poet-yogi Milarepa. Key practices include Mahamudra and the Six Yogas of Naropa.

Sakya: The Sakya […] lineage was founded in the eleventh century by Drogmi, a scholar and translator who studied with Indian masters, including Naropa. A key practice is Lamdre (“Path and Its Fruit”).

Gelugpa: Established in the fifteenth century, the Gelugpas are the newest […] school. The Dalai Lama is always a Gelugpa […]. Key practices include the Madhyamika (Middle Way) logics and the Lam Rim (Stages of the Path) system.

[Excerpt from lionsroar.com]

[to be continued…]