Skip to Content


"Your worst enemy cannot
harm you as much as your own
unguarded thoughts."
- The Buddha

Tibetan Buddhism

<Click here to view in Chinese>

The propagation of Buddhism in Snowy Land Tibet: Pre-translation, Mid-translation, and Post-translation period.

(A) Pre-translation Period: Buddha has predicted “my teachings shall first be propagated in the North (that is the snowy land Tibet). The Dharma that was propagated in the pre-translation period is the teachings of the Nyingmapa. Padmasambhava was the lineage master of all these teaching,. Bodhisattva Khenpo Shantarakshita was the teacher that propagated these teachings, and King Thrisong Detsen was the protector of these teachings and gathered 108 Pandits to formulate the 4 classes of Vinaya, and the various Hinayana and Mahayana Sutra and Abhidharma. As for the Mahayana uncommon tantra scriptures, which include the tantra and its discourse, etc that were found in India, were translated into Tibetan. All the Sutrayana and Tantrayana, Mahayana and Hinayana teachings are all translated into Tibetan. As for the foundation of Buddhism, the Monastic Sangha, first there were seven probationers received monastic vows, and when the upholding of the vows were perfected, there were then many Tibetan received the monastic bhikshu vows and formed the monastic Sangha community. Thus, Buddhism was able to remain in Tibet. As for the Terma and Karma tantric lineages, due to the great intention of Padmasambhava, they were able to be propagated in the snowy land Tibet.

(B) Mid-translation Period: Uncommon Vajrayana Tantric scriptures include the tantra series, Guhyagarbha (Magical Net), and the Mind Class Tantra. All the tantric teachings were first transmitted from Padmasambhava to Nyab (Jnyanakumara), then to Nub (Nubchen Sang-gye Yeshe), and fell to Zur (Zurpoche). The lineages are as followed:

Nyab (Jnyanakumara) Lineage: Nyab was born in Shepa in the district of Yarlung. When he grew up, he received monastic ordination from Bodhisattva Shantarakshita and learned all the sutra and tantra teachings, involved in the translation of sutra and tantra texts, and received the oral instructions of Terma and Karma from Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Vairochana, and Yudra Nyingpo. Especially he received transmission of the mandala of Vajramirta, Nectar the Enlightened Attributes, from Padmasambhava for the ripening of his capacity. He then entered retreat in the Crystal Cave of Yarlung to practice the Mandala of the Yidam, and obtained attainment with the sign that the water spring forth from the Crystal Cave. When Vimalamitra returned from China to Tibet, he transmitted to him the practice of Vajrakilaya and the practice of Yamantaka. When he and other translators gathered at Lhodrag to propitiate Vajrakilaya, the purbas in the mandala arise up to the sky and fly to and fro, such was his sign of accomplishment of the wrathful practice of Vajrakilaya. Throughout his entire life, he showed many signs of accomplishments, and translated many sutra and tantra scriptures, and became a famous accomplished translator. He was also the lineage holder of the trilogy of the mDo, Gyu, Sem (mDo refers to the Sutra that Gathers All Intentions, Gyu refers to the Guhyagarbha (Magical Net) Tantra, and Sem refers to the Mind Class Tantra). And he greatly propagated these trilogy lineages of mDo, Gyu, Sem in the snowy land Tibet. Finally, he realised the great accomplishment through the Vajra Bridge of Aural Lineage and through teaching belonging to the Esoteric Instructional Class of the Great Perfection and entered into nirvana with his body vanished into a mass of light, the union of radiance and emptiness.

Nub (Nubchen Sang-gye Yeshe) Lineage: Nub’s father was Selwei Wangchug, and his mother was Chim-mo Trashi-Tsho. When he was 7 yearsold, he learned to read and write Tibetan language from Odran Palgyi Wangchug. Later he received 3 stages of monastic vows from Bodhisattva Shantarakshita. He also received the Eight Heruka Empowerment from Padmasambhava and actualised the signs of accomplishment. He then followed Master Vasudhara and received from him many root tantras and oral instructions, and he also received many empowerments and practice instructions of the mandala of the assembly of the secret mind of deities from Khenpo Chetsunkye of Drushi. When Nub was in Samye Monastery to translate the tantra with many of the other translators, he subdued many enemies of Buddhism with wrathful practice. In order to protect the Dharma, he introduced many wrathful Yamantaka practice from India, and also received from Padmasambhava many oral instructions in a five-spoke vajra cave located at the border between Tibet and Nepal. From Master Sogpo Palgyi Yeshe, he learned the Mind Class Tantra of the Great Perfection and Guhyagarbha Tantra. He practiced and accomplished at the charnel grounds and places where tigers appeared, and personally saw many meditation deities. Due to his powerful attainment, he subdued many spirits and worldly gods. He could not endure the suppression of the Dharma by Langdarma, he resolved to bring him to an end by means of wrathful practice. But when Langdarma was destroyed by Lhalung Paldorgyi, Nub concealed the wrathful practice as terma (hidden treasure), lest they be misused. Throughout his life, he propagated the lineage of the trilogy of mDo, Gyu, Sem. Finally he entered nirvana with a rainbow body, spontaneously accomplished by the path of the natural Great Perfection. His disciples include So Yeshe Wangchug, Pagor Lonchen-phag, Nganyon Tanchog, Suleg Paidronma, Yontan Gya-tsho, Yeshe Gyacho, and Lhaje Hung-chung. His lineage was the lineage of Nyab. Yeshe Jungne was the disciple of Yontan Gya-tsho and Yeshe Gyacho. Zurpoche was the disciple of Yeshe Jungne.

Zur (Zurpoche) Lineage: Zur was born in Kham region. His father is Zurzang Sherab Jungne and his mother is Dewacham. Since young he followed his father to learn how to read and write, and when he mastered these skills, he followed master Lachen Gongpa Rabsal and received the 3 stages of monastic ordination from him. He then followed his uncle Rinchen Gya-tsho to learn the science of logic, the five sciences of Buddhism, and the Outer and Inner Tantra and he mastered them. Zurpoche had many root gurus. He followed Yeshe Jungne to learn the Mind Class Tantra of the Great Perfection and Guhyagarbha Tantra. He learned Threg-chod (Cutting Through) and Thod-gal (Direct Crossing) from Master Dre Throchung. He also learned under Master Sonam Shakya many Yidams Practices from the Sutra that Gathers All Intentions. He received many oral instructions from many root gurus and he practiced and accomplished with many sign of attainments, thus, he became a siddha (accomplisher) who mastered the Tripitaka of all sutras and tantras. At the valley of Tanag in a cave facing east, which contains an owl’s nest, he practiced the nine-deity mandala of Yanggdag Heruka and actually beheld the visage and mandala of the deities. The site was later being built with a monastery and Zurpoche became famed everywhere as Lama Ugpalungpa, the “Guru of Owl Valley”. His lineage also has trained many distinguished accomplishers. Throughout his entire life, he often demonstrated miracle as a sign of his attainment, such as during the construction of a monastery where he made the uneven length of the pillars even by rolling them with his feet. This monastery was formed by Zurpoche Shakya Jungne, and Zurchung Sherab Dragpa established its system of practice. Zur Shakya Sengge (also known as Sangdag Drophugpa) propagated the teaching of this lineage. This monastery became a historical cause of the profundity of the lineage of Nyingmapa.

(C) Post-translation Period: Seventy years after the suppression of Dharma by Langdarma, three masters Mar, Yo, and Tsang came from Qinghai to Kham Region, together with a bhikshu from China, total four of them, bestowed the three stages of ordination vows to Lachen Gongpa Rabsal. Then Masters Mar, Yo, Tsang and Lachen Gongpa Rabsal bestowed the three stages of ordination vows to ten persons in the Central Tibet. Thus, the Dzogchen (Great Perfection) lineage of the “Monastery of Owl Valley” was transmitted from western Tibet to central Tibet. The three stages of ordination vows propagated in eastern Tibet and the Great Perfection Lineage propagated in western Tibet became the cause for the propagation of Buddhism in the Post-translation period. Tibetan King’s descendant Lhalama Yeshe-od invited India Pandit Dharmapala to bestow the three stages of ordination vows in Tibet, however, the lineage of this three stages of ordination vows was later broken. He then invited Pandits from Kashmir to bestow three stages of ordination vows in Tibet and this lineage was able to continue till this day without disruption. Because of the combination of two types of three stages ordination vows in Central Tibet, and also propagated in most places in snowy land Tibet, and thus became the cause for the wide spread of Buddhism in Tibet. However, the Dharma in Tibet was mixed with other kind of non-Buddhist teachings. In order to restore the Dharma to its purity state, the Tibetan King’s descendant Lhalama Yeshe-od and Jangchu-od sent translators to India’s Nalanda Monastic University to invite Arya Atisha. Lama Atisha in A Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment taught the Lineage of Profound View of Bodhisattva Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika and the Lineage of Extensive Deeds of Six Perfections of Bodhisattva Asanga. The union of these two lineages was propagated in Tibet. Due to the difference in the period and region of transmission of the Dharma, Tibetan Buddhism developed into many difference lineages. The six main lineages are Nyingma, Gelug, Sakya, Kagyud, Jonang, and Zhijed. Among these many traditons, the most ancient lineage is the Nyingma lineage. And Nyingma lineage are subdivided into six sub-lineages, namely, Mindroling, Dorje Drag, Shechen, Dzogchen, Kathok, and Palyul. Among them only Palyul lineage possessed the profound dual lineages of the union of Sutra and Tantra and the union of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) and Mahamudra (Great Seal).