the kind of Buddhism predominant in the Himalayan nations
of Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and also Mongolia. It is known as
Vajrayana because of the ritual use of the vajra, a
symbol of imperishable diamond, of thunder and lightning.
At the center of Tibetan Buddhism is the religious figure
called the lama, Tibetan for "guru"," source
of another of its names, Lamaism. Several major lineages of
lamas developed, beginning in the ninth century with the Nyingma-pa.
Two centuries later, Sarma-pa divided into the Sakya-pa and
the Kagyu-pa. Three hundred years later, one of Tibet's revered
lamas, Tsong-kha-pa, founded the reforming Gelug-pa.
Nyingma-pa Tracing its origin to the Indian adept, Guru
Padma-sambhava, who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation
of King Trisong Detsen (742-797) in order to subdue the evil
forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism. This lineage
of Buddhism is uniquely Tibetan in that many aspects of the
traditional Bon religion are mixed together with more properly
Buddhist beliefs and practices to form a unique expression
of Buddhist piety. This lineage emphasizes the move towards
more advance stages of enlightenment through "preliminary
practice" that comprises the beliefs and practices of
Buddhism before the advent of Tantra, and through the "higher
practices," which involve the attainment of enlightenment
through the chanting of magical spells, special hand gestures
and mystical diagrams.
Sakya-pa The lineage has descended intact up to the present
time from Khon Könchok Gyelpo(1034-1102), founder of
the Sakya tradition. From the doctrinal point of view the
tradition traces its origins to the Indian Yogin Virupa through
Gayadhara. His disciple Drogmi Shakya Yeshe (992-1074) travelled
to India where he received teachings on the Kalachakra, the
Path and its Fruit, and others from many Indian masters and
returned to Tibet. Later, Khon Könchok Gyelpo, one of
his main disciples, built a monastery in the Tsang province
of central Tibet and named it Sakya, or Grey Earth monastery.
So the school took its name, Sakya, from the location of the
monastery. Succession to the position of head of the Sakya
tradition has been hereditary since the time of Khon Könchok
Gyelpo. The present incumbent is the 4lst occupant of the
Sakya Throne. The central teaching and practice of the Sakya-pa,
called Lam-dre (Lam-bras), the Path and Its Fruit,
ultimately leads a practitioner to the state of Hevajra.
The Path and Its Fruit is a synthesis of the entire paths
and fruits of both the exoteric and esoteric classes of teachings.
Kagyu-pa The lineages of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism
derive primarily from two sources: Marpa Chökyi Lodro
(1012-1099) and Khyungpo Nyaljor (978-1079). Marpa received
the lineage of tantric teachings called the Four Commissioned
Lineages - concerning the Illusory Body and Consciousness
Transference, Dreams, Clear Light, and Inner Heat directly
from Naropa (1016-1100), who had been given them by his teacher
Tilopa (988-1069). Mahamudra, the unique feature of Kagyu
tradition, can be explained according to interpretations of
sutra and tantra. Both aspects of the teachings are aimed
at direct understanding of the real nature of the mind. The
approach to Mahamudra, which differs slightly within each
Kagyu school, generally follows through the stages of foundation,
path and fruit. Tantric practices unique to Kagyu tradition
are the Six Yogas of Naropa, Chakrasambhava and Mahakala.
In the context of tantric practice, the application of Mahamudra
becomes much more profound and sophisticated.
Gelug-pa Founded by Tsong-kha-pa (1357-1419) as a reform
movement within Tibetan Buddhism, followers acclaimed the
third teacher as an incarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara,
thus inaugurating the line of the Dalai Lama, the fourteenth
and most recent of whom was born in 1935. Emphasis in this
lineage is on a strict monastic discipline and on the conviction
that the bodhisattva, a Buddha who has foregone final nirvana
out of compassion for all sentient beings, is continually
present. This tradition remains dynamic even after coming
into exile. The major Gelug monasteries, Sera, Drepung, Ganden,
and Tashi Lhunpo monasteries and Gyumey Tantric College have
been re-established in various Tibetan settlements in Karnataka,
and Gyutö Tantric College has been re-established in
Bomdila, Arunachal Pradesh, all in India.