The Nyingma Tradition, the old Secret Tantra
"The Nyingma Tradition, the old Secret Tantra, classifies the Buddha's Dharma into nine successive Vehicles, collectively contained in the Cause Vehicle and the Result Vehicle of Tantra.
The Cause Vehicle has three divisions:
the Hinayana Vehicle of the Sravakas,
the Hinayana Vehicle of Pratyekabuddhas and
the Mahayana Vehicle of the Bodhisattvas.
for the benefit of future generations), and the 'Lineage of Profound Pure Visions' (Tib: Zab.mo.dag.sNang - from teachings received by various Saints during visions in meditation and post-meditation)."
Written by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro.
Central Tibet's earliest exposure to Buddhism is ascribed to the reign of the twenty-eighth king Lha Totori Nyentsen (lha tho tho ri gnyan btsan; 374-493), although there may have been even earlier contacts in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands.
Some Buddhist texts were translated into Tibetan from Chinese, Khotanese, and Burushaski, but the vast majority of translations were made from Sanskrit sources, in two distinct phases, that are demarcated by the implosion of the Tibetan empire during the ninth century.
This is in contrast to the various so-called new, or
An even narrower line of demarcation between the early and later phases of translation is sometimes drawn between the lifetime of the Indian scholar Smotijnanakirti (early tenth century) and that of the Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po).
One sober account, written by the thirteenth-century historian Nelpa Pandita Dragpa Monlam Lodro (nel pa paNDi ta grags pa smon lam blo gros), asserts that around 433 CE certain Buddhist texts, including the Karandavyuhasutra and a text recorded under multiple names, including Pankyong Chagyapa (spang skong phyag brgya pa),
At that time, Khotan was already an important oasis and crossroads for Buddhist teachers moving between India and China. Nelpa Pandita recounts how they returned to Khotan having discovered that no one could read or understand the meaning of the books.
Popular legends alternatively assert that these sutras along with the dharani of the Wish-Fulfilling Gem, dedicated to Tibet's patron deity Avalokiteshvara, a mould engraved with the six-syllable mantra of Avalokiteshvara,
These objects were consequently given the name 'awesome secret' (gnyan po gsang ba) and were concealed because no one could understand their meaning. The king obtained a prophesy to the effect that the meaning of the awesome secret would be disclosed after five generations, a
It appears from other sources, such as Faxian's records of Buddhism in Central Asia (dated 400 CE), that Lha Totori's discovery of Buddhism was probably predated by Buddhist contacts in northeast Tibet, where the Tibetan Pu / Fu family formed the ruling house during the Earlier Qin Dynasty (351-394).
Songtsen Gampo campaigned against the Azha T'u yu-un, an Altaic people who then inhabited the Amdo area of northeast Tibet, and skillfully reabsorbed the Sumpa pastoralists of the extreme northeast within the fold of the Tibetan empire.
Then, following the Sui Emperor's annihilation of the Azha around 630, the Tibetans (known in Chinese sources as Tubo) expanded into the northeastern borderlands to fill the vacuum, routing the remnants of the Azha as they went.
In the course of establishing his empire Songtsen Gampo came into contact with the Buddhist traditions of India, Khotan, and China, and quickly immersed himself in spiritual pursuits, reportedly under the influence of his foreign queens.
Tibetan influence during this period extended into Nepal and India, enabling the king, according to Tibetan legend, to send his able minister Tonmi Sambhota to India, where the uchen (dbu chen) script was developed from an Indian prototype to represent the Tibetan language.
In the course of establishing his empire, Songtsen Gampo came into contact with the Buddhist traditions of India, Khotan, and China. He quickly immersed himself in spiritual pursuits, reportedly under the influence of his foreign queens Bhrikuti, the daughter of Amshuvarman, king of Nepal, and Wencheng, daughter of Tang Taizong, Emperor of China.
Moreover, when Princess Wencheng arrived in Tibet, she is said to have introduced Chinese divination texts, including the so-called Portang scrolls, and she encouraged the king to build geomantic temples at important power-places across the length and breadth of the land.
Tibetan geomantic temples were laid out, following an ancient Chinese model, according to four zones of imperial influence, corresponding to the central government, the royal domain, the zone of pacification, and the periphery of allied barbarians.
the Jokhang (jo khang) at the heart, the four 'district controlling' temples on her shoulders and hips, the four 'border taming' temples on her elbows and knees, and the four 'further taming' temples on her hands and feet.
His Chinese consort, princess Jincheng, is said to have established a short-lived community of Khotanese monks in Central Tibet, prior to her death in 739. King Tride Tsugten also married Nanamza, a princess of Tibetan aristocratic background, who gave birth to his son and heir in 730.
The king was assassinated by discontented ministers in 755.
Trisong Detsen (khri srong lde'u btsan), the thirty-eighth king (r. 755-797), built a royal temple near his own birthplace at Drinzang (mgrin bzang), shortly before his construction of Samye Monastery.
Mune Tsenpo (mu ne btsan po; r. 797-804), the thirty-ninth king, established the temple of Karchung at Ramagang (skar chung ra ma sgang), near Lhasa, and Ralpachen (ral pa can; r. 815-841), the forty-first king, followed his example at Onchangdo Pemei Tashi Gephel (on cang do pad+ma'i bkra shis dge 'phel), where he established a committee of translators, in order to standardize the Buddhist terminology of the Tibetan language.
There are several extant sites in Eastern Tibet - in Drayab (brag g.yab), Jyekundo (skye rgu mdo), Sershul and Minyag, among others - that attest to the final days of imperial patronage of the great religious kings of Tibet.
The Tibetan army occupied the imperial capital Xi'an in 763, and the Zhol pillar was erected at Lhasa to commemorate this event. Increasingly, the king sought to promote Buddhism, which offered Tibet a system of universal ethical laws and spiritual values, and supported a rich core of learning in the classical sciences.
In order to establish monasticism in Tibet and pave the way for Buddhist civilization within his empire, King Trisong Detsen invited the Indian preceptor Shantarakshita to expound the teachings of the causal vehicles in Tibet and found a monastery at Samye, possibly in the year 779.
He establishment of Buddhism as the state religion of Tibet, commemorated by an inscribed pillar at the entrance to Samye Monastery, was a threshold of enormous significance, in that the eclipse of Bon and the gradual demilitarization of the Tibetan world can be traced back to that event.
When their objective was thwarted by obstacles instigated by hostile non-Buddhist forces, the king was advised by Shantarakshita to invite the ritual specialist Padmasambhava to participate in this endeavor.
King Trisong Detsen, at Shantaraksita's suggestion, ensured that the complex was modeled on the plan of Odantapuri Monastery, where the buildings themselves represented the Buddhist cosmological order, with Mount Sumeru in the centre, surrounded by four continents and eight subcontinents, sun and moon, all within a perimeter wall known as the Chakravala.
Ba Selnang (sba gsal snang), Pagor Vairocana, Ngenlam Gyelwa Choyang (rgyal ba mchog dbyangs), Khon Lui Wangpo Sungwa ('khon klu'i dbang po srung ba), Ma Rinchen Chog (rma rin chen mchog), and Lasum Gyalwa Jangchub (la gsum rgyal ba byang chub).
In 792, Samye was the setting for a grand debate held between Kamalashila, an Indian proponent of the graduated path to buddhahood, which emphasizes the performance of virtuous actions, and the Chinese monk (Hoshang) Mohoyen, a proponent of the instantaneous path to buddhahood, with its emphasis on meditation and inaction.
According to most histories, Kamalashila emerged as the victor.
However, according to other historians, such as Nubchen Sanggye Yeshe (gnubs chen sangs rgyas ye shes) and Nyangral Nyima Oser (nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer), the Chinese side was declared the superior teaching, albeit one that was unsuitable for Tibetans.
Though recognized as a lavish patron of Buddhism, Mune Tsepo is also known for having thrice attempted to introduce socialist measures, in order to promote equality between rich and poor, and on each occasion he is said to have failed.
Evidence suggests that the universal laws of Buddhist philosophy became increasingly important during this period, as an instrument of policy for the maintenance of the Tibetan empire in Central Asia.
Politically, he managed to safeguard the borders of the Tibetan empire when confronted with the prospect of a Uighur-Chinese alliance in the northeast by waging a ferocious military campaign that resulted in the sack of Liangzhou and the signing of peace treaties with both sides in 821-823.
However, the expense of conducting wars to secure the imperial borders, combined with decreasing revenue from the Silk Roads and the king's generous patronage of Buddhism, often to the detriment of the older Bon tradition and Tibet's aristocratic families, provoked an inevitable backlash.
His elder brother, Langdarma Udumtsen, orchestrated a coup in 838.
By the late decades of the ninth century the Tibetan empire had disintegrated and nationwide patronage of the Buddhist teachings had ceased. Tibet entered what is traditionally known as the 'dark period,' during which Buddhism in Tibet is supposed to have ceased to exist, or, worse, become irreparably corrupted.
It is clear from the surviving accounts of the life of Nubchen Sanggye Yeshe that the teaching and practice of tantra did survive the turmoil of the age, in remote mountain retreats and isolated villages.
Buddhist monasticism, on the other hand, could only survive in Amdo, the remote northeast of the country, where at Dentik (dan tig) and Achung Namdzong (an chung gnam rdzong) three far-sighted monks transmitted the Vinaya to Lachen Gongpa Rabsal (lha chen dgongs pa rab gsal),
Smrtijnanakirti, active most probably at the end of that century and in the early years of the tenth, is considered to have been the last of the early wave of Indian scholars translating texts into the Tibetan language.
The new phase of translations that followed at the end of the tenth century, during the lifetime of Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po), still sought to conform to the standards established in the reign of Tri Ralpachen.
However, whether they succeeded or not would become a matter of some contention.
Authors: Gyurme Dorje and Jakob Leschly, 2009 </poem>