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Article on one of the oldest Buddhist tradition of Tibet, Nyingmapa tradition. An attempt is made to bring out the correct picture of Nyingmapa practice here, while refuting all the unedifying assertions of its being close to Bonpo...
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   1 N YINGMAPA :   T HE O LDEST T IBETAN B UDDHIST T RADITION   Milan ShakyaChakupat, Lalitpur  1. Historical Background: Although Buddhism was introduced in Tibet in theseventh century during the time of King SrongstenGampo (617-650 CE), the teachings of the Buddha began to thrive in the land of snow only 100 years later owing to the great contribution of the three remarkable persons namely King Thrisong Detsen, the abbotShantaraksita and above all Padmasambhava. 1  At the invitation of the king Thrisong Detsen,Acarya Shanta Raksita, the abbot of NalandaMonastery, came to Tibet from India. In Tibet, he laidthe foundation to the Samye Monastery in the YarlungValley, the first ever Monastery in Tibet. But hismission was not successful because of the resistancefrom local deities. The monastery built in the day wasdestroyed by malevolent spirits at night. Thus the project of building the monastery became abortive. 2 The abbot then speculated that the problem would be solved only if the king would invite Guru Padmasambhava to Tibet.Guru Padmasambhava who was at that time staying at Kathmandu doing his practiceof Vajrakila Sadhana. 3 At the invitation of the king he came to Tibet, subduing along theway all the malevolent forces opposed to Buddhism. Padmasambhava purified the groundto lay the foundations for the temple at Samye and then assembled all the subjugated or subdued demons and spirits. He bound all evil spirits by oath and transformed them intoforces compatible with the spread of Buddhism. Thus he completed the constructionsuccessfully with the help of both human and non-human beings. 4 Then, GuruPadmasambhava inspired the translation of most of the Buddhist sutras and tantras, byoutstanding pandits and Tibetan translators. He also taught the whole corpus of Buddhistteachings, especially those of the esoteric tradition of the Vajrayana and bestowed 1 Graham Coleman (ed.),  A Handbook of Tibetan Culture , (Calcutta: Rupa & Co., 1993), p. 17 2 Min Bahadur Shakya,  Boudhanath , (Kathmandu: Talisman Worldwide, 1997), p. 57 3    Ibid. 4   Crystal Mirror  , Vol IV, (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1975), pp. 28-29. Guru Padmasambhava   2empowerments and pith instructions on countless gifted people especially thoserenowned as his ‘twenty Five Disciples’ 5 . These first Tibetan adepts or Siddhas wererenowned for their spiritual accomplishments which George Roerich in his Book ‘BlueAnnal’ exemplifies in the following way.  During the time of Tri-song De-tsen, many followers of the Vajrayana who wereable to move in the sky, penetrate mountains and rocks, float on water, and exhibit before multitudes their forms inside divine mandalas. 6  Due to the collective efforts of the King, Tri song Detsen, Santaraksita in foundingmonastic tradition and the Guru Rinpoche's powerful esoteric teachings of the Buddha,the Buddha's teachings have survived to the present day in its pristine and sublime form.It is the same Vajrayana lineage that Pt. Vimalamitra, Santaraksita, Padmasambhava andGuru Hum-karavajra of Nepal taught and practiced in Nalanda and VikramasilaMonasteries of India. It was never stated that the new religious tradition was modeled onthe Bonpo. The tradition they thus established is called Nyingma   that is, ancient one. It isthe oldest Buddhist Tradition in Tibet. 7 Thus we can say the Nyingma school dates back to the masters like the king Khri-song lde btsan, Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra,Vairotsana raksita and their hundreds of disciples who established and maintained theVidyadhara lineages; Shantaraksita and Kamalasila, who propagated the Madhyamikaand Yogacara teachings; and the Kashmiri and Indian Panditas who spread the Vinaya,Sutra, and Abhidharma. Backed by the great Dharma kings, and propagated by Tibetanmasters who were Nirmanakaya Bodhisattvas, the Nying-ma tradition has maintainedlineages of the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya. 8 This tradition has thelongest established history of transmissions of all of the four schools of TibetanBuddhism. Even the name 'Nyingma', suggest this is the oldest school. 9   5 The names of Padma Sambhava's Twenty Five Disciples are: 1. Tri-song De-tsen, 2. Ye-shey Tso-gyal, 3.Vairocana, 4. Sang-gye Ye-shey, 5. Gyal-wa Chog-yang, 6. Nam-khay Nying-po, 7. Ye-shey Zhon-nu, 8.Pal-gyi Ye-shey, 9. Pal-gyi Seng-ge, 10. Dorje Dud-jom, 11. Ye-shey Yang, 12. Sog-po Ha-pal, 13. Ye-shey-de, 14. Pal-gyi Wang-chug, 15. Tse-mang, 16. Ka-wa Pal-tseg, 17. Pal-gyi Seng-ge, 18. Gyal-way Lo-dro, 19. Khye-hu Chung-lo-tsa, 20. Ten-pa Nam-kha, 21. Pal-gyi Wang-chug, 22. Rin-chen Chog, 23. Pal-gyi Dorje, 24. Kon-chog Jung-nay and 25. Gyal-wa Chang-chub. Source: Crystal Mirror, Vol IV  6 George Reorich, The Blue Annals , (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1976), p. 104. 7 Shakya, op cit  ., f. n. 2, p. 58 8   Crystal Mirror  , Vol VI, (Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1984), pp. 152-153. 9 John Powers,  Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism , (New York: Snow Lion Publications, 1995), p. 319. TheFour schools of Tibetan Buddhism are Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Geluk. The Latter three schools arecollectively known as Sarma (  gsar ma ), or the New Schools because they are based on the Tibetantranslations of the Indian Buddhist texts that were prepared under the system established during the periodof the second dissemination of Buddhism into Tibet.   3 2. Nine Vehicles In Nyingmapa tradition, the entire Buddhist teachings are classified into Nine Yanas or vehicles to liberation which are as follows:1.   Hearer's Vehicle (Sravaka Yana)2.   Solitary Realizer's Vehicle (Pratyaka Buddha's Vehicle)3.   Bodhisattva Vehicle4.   Kriya Tantra5.   Carya Tantra6.   Yoga Tantra7.   Mahayoga8.   Anuyoga9.   Atiyoga (Dzogchen) 10  The first three vehicles are known as three common Vehicles dealing with thosecategories of teachings included in the sutras taught by Buddha Sakyamuni. The threeouter Tantras are Kriya Tantra, which emphasizes on the practice of proper external behaviors, physical and verbal conduct aimed at purification and simple visualization practice. Upa Tantra or Carya Tantra focuses on developing both external and internalfaculties with a view to gaining a deeper affinity with the istadevata and Yoga Tantraconsists in developing the strength of inner psychophysical vitality (  prana ) as taught byVajrasattva. 11  The outer tantra lineages were srcinally disseminated to Tibet through disciples of Buddhaguhya, whose own lineage descends from Indrabhuti and Lilavajra. 12 Finally, thethree innermost Tantras include Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga. Mahayoga primarilyemphasizes on the Generation Stage Practice ( utpatikrama ) in which the ordinary level of  perception and attachment are eliminated through sacred vision and divine pride. TheAnuyoga focuses on the Completion Stage (  sampannakrama ) practice in which the vajra body is used as a serviceable means to actualize primordial awareness ( rigpa ) and inAtiyoga all emphasis is directed towards full activation of the generation and completionstage practices, enabling the yogi to transcend all ordinary time, activity and experience. 10 The Sanskrit Equivalent for Dzogchen is Mahasandhi or Mahasampanna. Atiyoga and Dzogchen aresynonymously used terms although the Tibetan equivalent for Atiyoga is not Dzogchen. This is confirmed by John Powers in his footnote as well. 11 The description of the Nine vehicles can be found on the World Wide Web:http://www.tibet.com/Buddhism/nyingma.html. 12 Powers, op cit  ., f. n. 9, p. 327   4This is taught by Samantabhadra Buddha. 13 The other three traditions have the first six of these nine vehicles. The last three is unique exclusively to the Nyingma Tradition. 3. Lineages, Transmissions and Practices The translation lineage of the Nyingmapa began in the monastery of Samye, the firstmonastic center in Tibet. According to traditional histories, over one hundred scholarsand translators were assembled there to translate the sutras and tantras. 14 The practitioners mostly are non-celibate tantric masters while a few are monks. Nyingmatradition contains a complex array of intersecting lineages. Of them, there are twocrucially important transmissions given as follows:1.   Kahma ( bka' ma ) or Oral lineage, passed on from teacher to student over thecenturies,2.   The miraculously direct lineage of Terma (  gter ma ) or Spiritual Treasures. 15  Kahma tradition begins with Samantabhadra and consists of doctrines, texts, practices,rituals and realizations that have been passed on from master to disciple in an unbrokenchain. 16 The three sections of the Kahma, namely mdo, rgyu, sems corresponding to theAnuyoga, Mahayoga and Atiyoga classifications of the Inner Tantras. Most of the Kahmatexts have been preserved in the Nying-ma rgyud-'bum 17 .Padmasambhava concealed hundreds of scriptures, ritual objects and relics in secret places with specific instructions to be discovered in later ages at the appropriate time to protect Buddhism during the time of decline under King Langdarma. Certain teachingswould be especially effective at particular times in the future, and so they were hidden.These termas were later rediscovered and special terma lineages were establishedthroughout Tibet. Rinchen Terdzod is a collection of these termas. The practitioners whodiscover them are called the Terma Revealer or Discoverers ( Tertons ) 18 . The foremost 13   ibid.   14   ibid  ., p. 320 15 Paltrul Rinpoche, The Words of My Perfect Teacher, (New Delhi: Padmakara Translation Group, 1994), p. xxxii. The title is an English translation of the famous Nyingma Ngon do text kunzang Lama'i shelung. 16 Powers, op cit  ., f. n. 9, p. 321 17 Nyima-ma rgyud-'rbum was compiled in the fifteen century by Ratna gling pa mostly from the textshoused in Zur-'ug-pa-lung Monastery. It exists today in three printed and two manuscript editions but noone edition has a complete collection of texts may be because much has been lost. op cit  ., f. n. 8, p. 155 18 Rinpoche, op cit  ., f. n. 14. Numerous tertons have already appeared ever since the time of Padmasambhava upto now. Still there are more terma to be revealed and many tertons prophesied have yetto appear.
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