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The Three Lineages of Ngagyur Nyingma

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 The brief account of the Atiyoga lineage will be explained here.

Atiyoga, the king of all the vehicles is defined by the name Dzongpa Chenpo; the natural expression of enlightened mind.


The All-Accomplishing King says:

“Perfect in one, perfect in two, perfect in mind:

Perfect in one, it is the perfection of mind’s creations.

Perfect in two, it is the perfection of excellent attributes.

Perfect in all, it is perfection of the enlightened mind.”


Garab Dorje

The Atiyoga was first transmitted in the heaven and later to this human realm. When the Lord of Secrets, Vajrapani, was teaching doctrine to the host of dakas, dakinis and many accomplished masters in the Blazing Fire Mountain charnel ground, there lived a king called Uparaja and queen Alokabhasvati, in the island of Dhanakosha, in west India. Their daughter named Sudharma was ordained as a nun. She devoted her time in practising meditation with her servant Sukhasaravati, on an island covered with golden sand.

One night, she dreamed of a flawless white man thrice pacing a crystal vase sealed with the syllablesOM AH HUNG SVAHA’ upon the crown of her head. The light radiating from the vase was very wonderful that she could obviously see the three worlds.

After few days, the nun gave birth to a child, who was none other than Adhi Citta (Sems-Lhag-Chen), the emanation of Vajrasattva who had preached the Dzogpa Chenpo in heaven. But, the nun was really ashamed and saw her given-birth as a great impropriety; with huge embarrassment, she made her mind to throw the child. To that, her servant requested her to refrain from ignoring the child, but she did not pay attention to her servant’s words and threw the boy into an ash pit, and at once wonderful sounds, lights and many other phenomena arose spontaneously.

After three days of abandonment, she was extremely astonished having found him unharmed by anything. Thus, with great reverence, she brought him back from the ash pit. Dakas, dakinis, gods and other mundane protectors honoured him with lots of praises and respects.

At the age of seven, with her mother’s consent, he approached before king Uparaja and got an opportunity to have lengthy discussion and vital dialogues with the highly learned scholars, where he overwhelmed their brilliance so they bowed at his feet. The scholars gave him the namePrajnabhava’ (Source of Discriminative Awareness). The delighted king conferred the title ‘Great Master’ and the nameGarab Dorje’ (Vajra of High Delight) upon the child. Garab Dorje’s memory was gifted with all the scriptures of the outer and inner vehicles, and in particular, the six million four hundred thousand verses of the Dzogpa Chenpo. Vajrasattva appeared to him and betowed him the Vase Empowerment of Awareness, and commanded him to write down the verbal tantras.

Then, on the summit of Mount Malaya, the great master, jointly with Vajradhatu Dakini (who relishes mundane bliss), Pitasankara Dakini (the Yellow Bliss-giving Dakini) and Anantaguna Dakini (the Dakini of Limitless Virtues), lived there for three years recording the precepts in writing without even a word of error. Along with the emanational writings, which were self-originated and naturally established, they placed these secret doctrines in a cave called the ‘Real Origin of the Dakinis’. At the great Sitavana charnel ground, he taught the doctrine to the dakini Suryakirana and countless fortunate beings.


When the master Garab Dorje was in the great Sitavana charnel ground, the transcendent Manjushritiksna gave prophecy to the master Manjushrimitra:

“O son of the enlightened family!

If you wish to become a Buddha in a single lifetime,

Go to the great Sitavana charnel ground.”

Then, Manjushrimitra went there and studied the secret doctrine under Garab Dorje for seventy-five years, where the great master bestowed him all the instructions including his last testament entitled the ‘Three Phrases which penetrate the Essential’ (Tshig-Sum-Nad-Du Deg-pa). He classified the Dzogpa Chenpo into three classes: the Mental Class (Sems-De), the Spatial Class (Long-De) and the Esoteric Instructional Class (Man-Ngag-De).

After concealing his Secret Innermost Spirituality (Nying-thig), he went to the Sosadvipa charnel ground, to the west of Vajrasana, where he taught the secret doctrine to the ugly dakinis, countless animals and many fortunate practitioners of the secret mantra. He remained there and continued his noble service for one hundred and nine years.


Manjushrimitra’s chief disciple was Buddhajnanapada, a vajra master of the great mandalas. At first, he relied upon many gurus, such as Jalandhari, Lilavajra, the yogini Guniru, and received many teachings on the secret mantras. He also served the master Raksitapada for nine years, and had heard the Guhyasamaja Tantra eighteen times. While he was practicing in Kupavana, a forest behind Vajrasana, for eighteen months, he received this injunction:

“If you want to understand reality,

You must ask the sublime Manjushri.”

So, he headed to China with the aim of approaching Manjushri. Around midday, near a white house, he saw the master Manjushrimitra ploughing the field with an old peasant woman. After thorough observation, Manjushrimitra empowered and gave him the instructions on the Mental Class of the Dzogpa Chenpo, upon which Buddhajnapada’s understanding became as vast as the limitless sky.

He compiled a work on the cultivation of the true nature of the two stages, of creation and perfection, entitled ‘Oral Instructions of Manjushri.’ He realised the profound depth of the entire doctrine. Raksitapada also received the secret instructions from him and attained accomplishment. Buddhajnapapa composed many great treatises like the Point of Liberation and the Means for Attainment entitled ‘Samantabhadra.’ The esoteric instructions of this great master on the stage of perfection are considered as one of the purest tenets of the Mental Class.

Shri Singha

Shri Singha was a son of Gewei Yicen and Nangwa Selwa Raptukhyenma, who once lived in the city of Shokyam in China. One day, the sublime Avalokiteswara appeared in the sky and made this prophetic declaration:

Fortunate one! If you really wish to realise the fruit of enlightenment,

Go to the charnel ground of Sosadvipa in India.”

The master was delighted to hear such precious prophecy. On the Five-peaked Mountain of China, he studied all the outer and inner doctrines on mantra, under the outcaste master Bhelakirti and mastered them. Shri Singha strictly observed the vinaya vows for thirty years. He practiced the means of attainment for three years and attained the body of an awareness-holder.

Then, traveling with his feet without touching the ground, he reached Sosadvipa charnel ground, and met the great master Manjushrimitra. After bestowing instructions and further advice for twenty-five years to him, the body of the great master vanished in a mass of light. Shri Singha cried out in distress, whereupon the body of the master appeared in the sky and dropped into his hand a finger nailed-sized casket made of precious stones. It contained Manjushrimitra’s last testament entitled the ‘Six Experiences of Meditation.’ In that way, the master Shri Singha realised the profound truth.

The master Manjushrimitra bestowed all the outer and inner mantra transmissions to the great master Padmasambhava. It is also said that the corrupt body of master Aryadewa vanished when he received teachings on the Dzogpa Chenpo from him. Later, the true reincarnation of Manjushrimitra was born miraculously from a lotus, in west India, and carried out the spiritual activities of his predecessor.

Master Shri Singha extracted the hidden tantras. He went to China and divided the Esoteric Instructional Class into four cycles: Outer, Inner, Secret and Unsurpassedly Secret. He collected the first three cycles together, and concealed them as treasure in the balcony of Bodhi Tree Temple. In accordance with a prediction of dakinis, he concealed the unsurpassedly secret cycle as well. He himself then dwelt in the great Siljin charnel ground and engaged in contemplation.

During those days, in Hatisthala, in western India, the householder Sukhacakra and wife Atmaprakasa had a son called Vimalamitra. Likewise, in the eastern city of Kamalasila, the outcaste Santihasta and his wife Kalyanacina had a son named Janasutra. Vajrasattva appeared to them and made this prophetic declaration:

“O sons of the enlightened family!

You have both been born as scholars for five hundred times;

And you have both practised the true doctrine.

But you have not attained its fruit in past lives,

Nor will you in the present one (if you persist in the same course as before).

If you wish the corrupt body to vanish and to attain enlightenment,

You must go to the Bodhi Tree Temple in China.”

Accordingly, Vimalamitra arrived there and met the master Shri Singha. He was given all the outer, inner and secret instructions of the aural lineage, within twenty years, but he was not given the text books. Vimalamitra returned contentedly to India, and narrated Janasutra about what had happened.


Janasutra travelled to China, and he met the great master in the Siljin charnel ground. After three years of serving master with full faith, he made an offering of a golden mandala and requested the guru to bestow him the instructions. He was then bestowed the instructions of the aural lineage, together with the text books. He received those instructions over a period of nine years. The master Shri Singha also bestowed him the complete outer empowerments, and then for three years imparted the esoteric instructions of the unsurpassedly secret cycle.

Janasutra also received the complete unelaborate empowerment, the very unelaborate, and after all, the extremely unelaborate empowerment. Subsequently, he meditated on those practices for sixteen years.

After many successful activities, the master Shri Singha passed into nirvana, dropping the testament entitled ‘Seven Nails’ (gzer-bu-bdun) into Janasutra’s hand with the prophetic declaration: “The texts of the esoteric instructions of the unsurpassedly secret cycle of the Innermost Spirituality are hidden inside a pillar in the Auspicious Myriad Gate Temple. Take them and go to the Bhasing charnel ground.” Then, Janasutra extracted the secret texts and went to the Bhasing charnel ground, in India, where he turned the wheel of the Secret Innermost Spirituality for mundane and supramundane dakas and dakinis.


At that very period, when Vimalamitra adhered to the conduct of a mantrin, the dakinis declared to him: “Fortunate one! If you want the instructions of the Innermost Spirituality, more profound than before, you must go to the great charnel ground in Bhasing Forest.”

Subsequently, Vimalamitra went there, and met the master Janasutra. The master displayed many miracles, and bestowed on him the elaborate and unelaborate empowerments. On the summit of Mount Bhaskara, Vimalamitra performed the practice, which divides samsara and nirvana, where he received the very unelaborate empowerment in its entirety, and extraordinary understanding was born in his mind stream.

The white syllable ‘AH’ appeared at the tip of his nose. Then, Vimalamitra was bestowed the whole extremely unelaborate empowerments, by which Vimalamitra perceived the naked reality of mind. The master Janasutra also gave him all the instructions and texts on the four cycles of the Great Perfection. For ten years, Vimalamitra thoroughly refined his understanding of them.

Afterwards, when his master Janasutra vanished in an aura of light, he cried out in great pain, where his master appeared in body, and dropped into his hand a precious casket sealed with five types of precious stones. From this, he found the testament entitled ‘Four Methods of Establishment’ (Zhag-Thab Zhi).

The master Vimalamitra lived in the city of Kamarupa for twenty years as the root guru and priest of King Hatribhadra. Vimalamitra also served as the priest to the king Dharmapala. Later on, the master resided, practised and taught in the great charnel ground of Prabhaskara for many years. A host of savage beings were his followers. Vimalamitra copied out the most secret texts for three times, and were concealed in these three different lands: on an island covered by golden sand in Oddiyana, in a rocky hollow in Suvarnadvipa district of Kashmir and in the charnel ground of Prabhaskara. The master Vimalamitra attained the body of supreme transformation and lived for sometimes in India, before he was invited to Tibet by King Trisong Duetsen.

Among the adepts of the path of secret mantra, there were many who followed and upheld the victorious lineages of the great master Guru Padmasambhava, Goraksanatha, Santigupta and his heart sons. The Indians assert that the Buddha had predicted about the revival of the true doctrine in the future, in Vindhya Mountains, in South India.

Vimalamitra had propagated the Innermost Spirituality of the Esoteric Instructional Class, whereas the great master Padmasambhava taught his own Innermost Spirituality, thereby spreading the true lineage of the Esoteric Instructional Class of Atiyoga.

Finally, this concludes the brief account on the three Lineages of Ngagyur Nyingma. These Spiritual lineages continued to serve the dharma and beings until today, and may it continue to flourish for the welfare of all beings of the six realms! ]