Ogyen Ling Monastery
Nine Yanas Study Institute

A Brief History of Ogyen Ling Monastery

Introductory History of the Five Tibetan Traditions of Buddhism and Bon

Brief History of Dzogchen

A Brief History of Ogyen Ling Monastery

The Ogyen Ling Monastery was founded at the base of Dhado Lhawang Karpo Snow Mountain also known as the Chain of Teshoe Snow Mountain of Hor Tewo County, situated on the Western shore of the River Dachu which is formed four great rivers (Chushe) and the Marza Gang Range. This range in turn is formed by six great ranges (Gang Duk), and is called Dokham, in the Eastern Province of Snow Land, Tibet, named 'The Roof of the World' by His Holiness the Karmapa, the knower of three times, in 1164, the Wood-Male-Monkey year, 3rd Rabjung of the Tibetan Calendar. At that time he named the monastery there Mila Monastery.

Later in 1639, the Earth-Rabbit year, during the 11th Rabjung of the Tibetan Calendar, the monastery was completely destroyed by the incitement of the Mongolian Gushri Hen. The monastery has been called by several different names, such as Mila Monastery, Minya Monastery. In actual fact, it is apparent that these different names came about through the linguistic declination of the tone in Tibetan of the monastery’s name itself: ‘Mila’ of ‘Mila Gon’.

Even though no great instructors of the teachings of Sutra and Tantara emerged from this monastery, many true holders of the Practice Lineage (Karma Kagyu) through their pure ascetic life style renounced the ordinary aims of this life. These practitioners had come from the incarnate succession of Mila Tulku, the lineage of the Saint of spiritual practice. For example these were the 1st incarnation Thinley Dhondup, the 2nd incarnation Tsedup Rinpoche, the 3rd incarnation Minyak Repa Drodul Lekyi Dorjee, Sangnyak Tharchin and others.

During the life time of these acclaimed revered Lamas, they used to go to attend the annual great religious festival at Tsurphu, the renowned monastery of the Drogon Kagyupa tradition. In more than 600 hundred years of its long history since the monastery was founded, it has historically upheld the practices of the Kagyupa Order. Even today, it still maintains the regular performance of some ritual rites of Kagyupa tradition. It was when Minyak Repa invited Tulku Choekyi Nyima, the holder of the religious tradition of Pelyulwa and it became a Nyingma Monastery.

The 4th Mila Tulku, Nyima Sechok was born to the son of Choephuk Tsang in 1910, the Iron-Male-Dog year, 11th Rabjung of the Tibetan Calendar. He visited Gochen monastery to study Buddhist monastic education and he stayed in his uncle’s room there.

When he had reached his early twenties, he visited Pelyul Namgyal Jangchup Choeling Monastery, and took Bhikshu vows at the feet of Dupwang Pelchen Dupa. He then entered the associated Buddhist College of the Magon Monastery, and studied and contemplated deeply on the monastic teachings of both Sutra and Tantra, including the higher Tibetan grammatical studies. His Excellency the Karma Thekchok Nyingpo gave him his favorite Pema Thongdol hat to him as a gift. This hat still exists even today.

Later, he, Sayul Tulku Phatop and Khenpo Rabgyal, all three together built the Buddhist Lecture College and Meditation Centre in the Monastery, and they performed magnificent deeds for the benefit of the Buddha Dharma. After that he again twice visited Pelyul Magon Monastery and built many objects of reliance, and offered an abundance of religious allowance to the Sangha. He and Domang Terchen jointly recognized the reincarnation of Tala Tonpa and gave him a grand enthronement ceremony.

During his visit to China in the company of other high Lamas from Kham, he witnessed the activities of Cultural Revolution in full swing followed by the occupation of China. He returned to his monastery with great sadness in the depths of his heart. Later, when he was tortured by the barbarians, he was said to be possessed with the qualities of wise, conscientious and righteous, appearing to be more superior than others. This story is being narrated even today by his spiritual friends who are still alive at present.

Finally, at the age of 63, in 1972 of the Western Calendar and on the evening of the 3rd day of 1st month, in the Water-Male-Mouse year, on the 16th Rabjung of the Tibetan Calendar, the 4th Minyak Rinpoche dissolved his form body into the sphere of emptiness. Also Sayul Phatop had rendered a huge contribution to the teachings and practices of Buddha Dharma in Mila Monastery and he passed away into the sphere of emptiness in 1984. Khenpo Rabgyal went to India and established Buddhist Institutes in Rewalsar and Bir Tibetan settlements, and then passed away into the state of peace.

The entire religious and ritual objects and artifacts of the monastery were totally destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. In 1982, grabbing the chance of the Chinese Government policy which permitted the restoration of monasteries in Tibet, Tulku Dawa Gyaltsen, Lama Tashi Wangyal, Khenpo Pema Dorjee, Lama Yeshi Sangpo and many others, undeterred from any difficulties, reconstructed the new prayer hall on the same spot as the ruined monastery of the past. They also built the one-storey statue of the Buddha perfectly prepared fashioned in gilded bronze, a statue of Jowo, as well as five big statues of second Buddha Guru Padmasambhava etc. The texts of the Buddha’s teachings and the commentaries on these teachings were printed at the Dege Printing Press representing the aspect of speech, a stupa was also made in gold and silver adorned with precious jewels and ornamented as the aspect mind. Several diifferent kinds of ritual utensils made of gold and silver were also offered. Construction of traditional religious ritual objects for protection and devotion were also completed with the help of huge material contributions mainly from Lobsang Tashi, a relative of Sayul Tulku, as well as many other faithful and generous sponsors.

Every year on the grand religious festival, the ritual rite of great Guhyasamaja, summer retreat, purification and confession ceremony are held from the 13th of the 1st Tibetan month. In the 12th Tibetan month, rituals of the three, Ngon, Tsa and Zog are performed according to the Pelyulwa Tradition. At the end of the month, there is a tradition of performing the ritual of nine offerings and the display of the Mandala of Zabchoe Shetro Gongpa Rangdol to the departed souls of the past and present, to guide them to more fortunate rebirths.

In 1984, the 5th Minyak Tulku was born to the family of Tehor Tsang. He was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous incarnation by His Eminence Shukgang Matul Choekyi Nyima. He was then invited by the Treasurer Yama Tsewang of the Gukteng Hermitage to study there with Lama Dorjee. After that he returned to his own monastery and resided there for few years. He then went to the religious town of Serta Larung Monastery. During his three years' stay in this monastery, he learned a wide range of Sutra and Tantra Buddhist philosophies at the feet of His Eminence Jigme Phuntsok. After that, he visited Pelyul Monastery and studied all the treatises, beginning with the three Tibetan grammatical studies Sumchupa, Tagjug and Dagyig, to the fourth chapter of the Lower Sutra.

In 2002, he went to India and entered the Buddhist Lecture College from the Fifth Grade. There he completed his studies of the Sutra, Tantara and all other fields of Tibetan traditional studies. On graduation he received the prestigious degree of Khenpo in 2006. At present, he has been conducting the welfare of sentient beings in different foreign countries according to the guidance of His Eminence.

In 2002, he went to India and entered the Buddhist Lecture College from the Fifth Grade. There he completed his studies of the Sutra, Tantara and all other fields of Tibetan traditional studies. On graduation he received the prestigious degree of Khenpo in 2006. At present, he has been conducting the welfare of sentient beings in different foreign countries according to the guidance of His Eminence. However, by this time it was becoming increasingly more difficult for him to return to his monastic seat and also his old monastery campus was very small so the location of the monastery was shifted to Namteng. The religious ritual objects of the new monastery are at the completion stage at present and His Eminence Dupwang Pema Norbu has named the monastery Pel Ogyen Sangchen Ngagyur Donyak Khedup Ling. The monastery has three main branches, which includes Kharchak Hermitage to the East, Takgo Hermitage to the North and Gugteng Hermitage at the South. There are a total of more than two hundred monks some of whom are studying in Serta Monastery, some in Pelyul Monastery, and a few others are in India.

Introductory History of the Five Tibetan Traditions of Buddhism and Bon

The history of the five Tibetan traditions of Buddhism and Bon. The four Buddhist traditions are Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug, while the pre-Buddhist Tibetan tradition of Bon makes the fifth. Often we hear the syllable "pa" at the end of these names. It means a follower of that tradition; for instance, Gelug pa means someone who follows the Gelug tradition.

Introduction of Buddhism by Emperor Songtsen-gampo

To survey the history, we need to go back to the seventh century of the Common Era. At the beginning of that century, a king from Central Tibet named Songtsen-gampo conquered the Western Tibetan kingdom of Zhang-zhung and created the first unified Tibetan Empire. The custom in those days to unify an empire was for the king to marry princesses from nearby kingdoms - neighboring kings were less likely to attack the palaces where their daughters lived. Emperor Songtsen-gampo married princesses from China, Nepal, and Zhang-zhung. These princesses brought with them the religions of their native countries. The Chinese and Nepali princesses brought Buddhist texts and the Zhang-zhung princess brought her Bon beliefs. Bon was the Zhang-zhung native religion.

If we look from a Western historical viewpoint, Buddhism did not have much of an impact in this earliest period. The main development was that this first emperor built thirteen Buddhism temples in his domain. The map of Tibet was seen as a female demon lying on the earth. Choosing thirteen spots on the body of the demoness, like acupuncture points, the emperor commissioned temples built on each of them to subdue and control the energy of the demoness of Tibet. That is how Buddhism came to the Land of Snows.

To unify his empire further, Songtsen-gampo wished to have an alphabet for writing the Tibetan language. Thus, he sent his minister, Togmey-sambhota, to obtain the alphabet from Khotan - not from India, as is often explained in the traditional Tibetan histories. Khotan was a Buddhist kingdom north of Western Tibet in Central Asia. The route to Khotan that the minister took passed through Kashmir. When he arrived there, he discovered that the master he was going to meet in Khotan happened to be in Kashmir at the time. This is how the story evolved that the Tibetan writing system came from Kashmir. Orthographic analysis reveals that the Tibetan alphabet actually follows features distinctive only to the Khotanese script. Afterwards, there was much more contact with Buddhism in China and Khotan then there was with Indian Buddhism. The Bon religion, however, remained stronger in Tibet than Buddhism during this earliest period. It provided the ceremonies used in state rituals.

The Old Transmission Period (Nyingma)

In the mid-eighth century, another great emperor, Tri Songdetsen, ascended to the throne. He received a prophecy about future Buddhist teachings in Tibet and, in accord with this prophecy, he invited a great Buddhist teacher from India, Shantarakshita. Soon after the arrival of the Indian Abbot, a smallpox epidemic broke out. The court ministers, who were against all foreign influences in Tibet, blamed the smallpox on Shantarakshita and expelled him from Tibet. Before leaving, Shantarakshita advised the Emperor to invite Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, to come and subdue the adverse conditions and problems. Tri Songdetsen followed this advice, and Padmasambhava came and rid Tibet of the interferences. The Emperor then invited Shantarakshita to return. There were already several Buddhist temples in the land, but now they built the first monastery in Tibet, at Samyay, just south of Lhasa. The Indian Abbot ordained the first monks.

Guru Rinpoche taught a little, but actually did not teach very much in Tibet. He mostly buried texts, thinking that the Tibetans at that time were not yet receptive. These texts were of the highest tantra teachings called dzogchen, the great completeness.

After this, many Chinese, Indian, and Zhang-zhung scholars worked together harmoniously at Samyay monastery, mostly compiling and translating texts from their own traditions. Soon, Buddhism was made the state religion. The Chinese had the largest influence at this time. Every second year, the Chinese emperor sent two monks to Samyay. The form of Buddhism the Chinese monks followed was Chan, the Chinese predecessor of Japanese Zen.

Shantarakshita predicted some conflict with the Chinese. Please keep in mind that the religious history did not happen in a vacuum; it happened in connection with the political history and there were a lot of wars between China and Tibet at this time. Shantarakshita said that they should invite his disciple, Kamalashila, to settle whatever problems might arise.

Meanwhile, Emperor Tri Songdetsen sent more Tibetans to India to bring back teachings and invite more Indians to his land. More texts were buried. Because there were so many wars with China and Central Asia and because the ministers were against any foreign influence in Tibet, it makes sense that there was a persecution of the Bonpos in Samyay and at the court. After all, the Bonpo faction was primarily from Zhang-zhung.

There was also a Dharma debate between Kamalashila, representing the Indians, and the Chinese representative. The Chinese lost. Of course, there was no way that a Chan master could defeat, in logical debate, a master in logic from India. It was no contest: Chan practitioners have no training in logic. For many reasons, one could postulate that the debate was a political move taken to provide an excuse for expelling the Chinese and for adopting Indian Buddhism as the main form of Buddhism in Tibet. Of all the kingdoms and empires neighboring Tibet, the Indians posed the least military threat.

I like to present history not from the standard devotional Tibetan point of view but a little bit more from a Western, scientific viewpoint, since I do have that training. I think it indicates a little more clearly what happened. It makes more sense.

Many more translations took place after this. In the early ninth century, under imperial sponsorship, the scholars compiled a Sanskrit-Tibetan dictionary and standardized the translation terms and style. It is quite interesting that the scholars did not include any tantra terms in the dictionary; tantra was already quite controversial.

In the mid-ninth century, the infamous persecution of Buddhism by the Emperor Langdarma took place. Rather than making Langdarma into the devil, as devotional histories tend to do, it may be more objective to see this persecution as a reaction to the abbots and monks at Samyay who were trying to assert too much influence on the government. Too much of the taxes raised by the state went for supporting the monasteries, and the economic burden had become untenable.

Actually, what Langdarma did was shut down the monasteries; it was not that he destroyed Buddhism. He did not destroy the Buddhist libraries, because Atisha found them when he came to Tibet a century later. Buddhism continued outside the monasteries. What had started before and continued during this so-called "old transmission period" (old translation period) later became known as "the old tradition," the Nyingma tradition.

The New Transmission Period

As already mentioned, a persecution of Bon had taken place many years before the persecution of Buddhism. Like Guru Rinpoche and other Buddhist masters at that time, several Bon masters had also buried texts for safekeeping. In the early tenth century, the Bonpos started to recover their texts, which were not only about tantra, but about sutra as well. The Bon teachings are very similar to those found in Buddhism. It is quite interesting that Bon started the tradition of revealing treasure texts before the Buddhists began the custom.

Later in the tenth century, there was a lot of misunderstanding about tantra in Tibet - this was in the Nyingma tradition, as it had survived outside the monasteries. People were taking the teachings too literally - particularly the parts that seemed to be about sex and violence. The fascination with sex and violence is not something new in society; they certainly had it at those times as well.

As before, the king at that time sent scholars to India to bring back the teachings once more and to try to correct the misunderstanding. The misunderstanding came about primarily because there were no monasteries anymore to standardize the study and training. Now, we get what is called the "new transmission period" (Sarma, new translation period). At this time, the Buddhist traditions called Kadam, Sakya, and Kagyu began. These names did not exist in India. They came about because many different translators went to India and Nepal and returned with different sets of texts, teachings, and tantric empowerments (initiations). Various Indian, Nepali, and Kashmiri teachers also came to Tibet. The different Tibetan lineages derive from these different teachers.

This phenomenon is quite similar to what we find today. A large number of Tibetan lamas come to the West. Hardly any seem to cooperate with each other and most of them start their own Dharma centers. Many Westerners go to India and Nepal to study with the Tibetans in exile there, and many of them also start their own Dharma centers when they return to their homelands. Now we have things like a Kalu Rinpoche lineage, a Shamar Rinpoche lineage, a Sogyal Rinpoche lineage, a Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche lineage, a Lama Yeshe lineage, a Geshe Thubten Ngawang lineage, a Geshe Rabten lineage, a Trungpa Rinpoche lineage: it goes on and on. None of them existed in Tibet. There are Western people saying, "I am a Kalu Rinpoche follower," "I am a Namkhai Norbu follower" - we identify ourselves with a teacher. The lineages in Tibet formed in the same manner as they seem to be forming now in the West. They were completely new; they did not exist before.

Just as, today, many people have studied with numerous teachers, so it was at that time. The lineages crossed; people studied several lineages and they intermixed in some way. Instead of starting Dharma centers, they founded monasteries. What happened then - and will hopefully happen in the West - is that several of these lineages with their distinct teachings and teachers combined to form a sustainable number of schools. It is impossible for two hundred different flavors of Buddhism to survive. The transmission lines of various practices, texts, and tantric empowerments came together and congealed into the Kadam, Kagyu, and Sakya schools during this new period. The various lines that were in Tibet before this new phase congealed into the Nyingma and the Bonpo schools. Prior to this period, there had been only scattered monasteries, not joined into any organized schools.

The five Tibetan traditions do not have inherent identities. They are just conventions, bringing together different lines from different teachers - lines of teachings and empowerments that visiting teachers transmitted in Tibet. This is how the five Tibetan traditions of Buddhism and Bon came about, starting at the end of the tenth century.

Kadam and Gelug

The Kadam lineage derives from the Indian master Atisha. One of the outstanding features of this tradition was the lojong teachings. Lojong is usually translated as "mind training," but I prefer "cleansing of attitudes." This lineage split into three, then was reunified and reformed by Tsongkhapa in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries to become the Gelug tradition.

One of Tsongkhapa's most remarkable achievements was that he read almost the entire Buddhist literature available in his day. Many texts had several versions in Tibetan. Most had been translated three or four times and had a wide assortment of commentaries. Tsongkhapa read nearly all of them - sutra and tantra - and compared everything. He went through and wrote, "Concerning this passage, this version translates it like this and that version like that, and this commentary explains it like this and that one like that. But, this translation or this explanation is illogical and makes no sense, because it contradicts this and that…"

In this way, Tsongkhapa reached a conclusion as to the correct translation and understanding of ALL the major texts. He did not just state his findings as "This is what this passage means, because I say so," he supported everything with logic and reasoning. Moreover, he especially focused on the most difficult passages of each text, the ones that everybody else tended to skip over. His works became the foundation of the Gelug school.

Tsongkhapa had many disciples. One of them was later called "The First Dalai Lama," although the name "Dalai Lama" did not come to that line until the third incarnation. The Third Dalai Lama was given the name by the Mongols. It was the Fifth Dalai Lama, in the middle of the seventeenth century, who gained political rule of Tibet, given to him also by the Mongols. The Mongols did this primarily to end the 150-year-long Tibetan civil war and to foster unity and stability in the land. The Dalai Lamas then became the protectors of all traditions in Tibet, not just Gelug, although the Dalai Lama line had come originally from within the Gelug school. The Fifth Dalai Lama's main teacher became known as "The First Panchen Lama."


The Sakya lineage came primarily from the Indian master Virupa. From him, derives the teachings known as Lamdray, "the paths and their results," the main Sakya teaching combining sutra and tantra. The Sakya school developed through a line of five early masters, all belonging to the same noble family. One of them, Chogyal Pagpa, was given the political regency of Tibet in the thirteenth century by the Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan. This step reestablished political unity in Tibet for the first time during the new translation period.


The Kagyu tradition has two major lines. One is Shangpa Kagyu, the lineage that the late Kalu Rinpoche headed. It came from the Tibetan master Kyungpo Neljor, who went to India at the beginning of the eleventh century and brought back teachings, primarily from Naropa and two great female masters, the yoginis Niguma and Sukhasiddhi.

The other main Kagyu line is Dagpo Kagyu. This is the line that passed from Tilopa to Naropa and then to the Tibetans Marpa, Milarepa, and Gampopa. After Gampopa, the line divided into twelve lineages among his students and then the next generation of students. Of the twelve, only three are widespread today and known in the West. The Karma Kagyu school was started by the first Karmapa, a direct student of Gampopa. The other two are Drugpa and Drigung Kagyu.

Traditionally, each Kagyu school was independent, without there being a general head of all the Kagyu lines. When the present Tibetan refugee community fled to India at the time of the Lhasa uprising in 1959, the most eminent of the Kagyu lineage heads that escaped was the Sixteenth Karmapa. To help with the resettlement process, he was provisionally chosen as the leader for all the Kagyu lineages. Nowadays, the various Kagyu traditions have resumed their individual paths.

During the early eleventh century when the new translation schools were emerging, Nyingma masters started to uncover the texts that were buried earlier. Longchenpa put them together in the thirteenth century to form the textual basis for the Nyingma school. The Nyingma tradition is probably the least uniform of the various Tibetan schools; each of its monasteries is quite independent.

The Rimey Nonsectarian Movement

One more movement needs mention, the Rimey or "nonsectarian movement." This began in the early nineteenth century in Kham, Southeastern Tibet. The founding masters all came from the Kagyu, Sakya, and Nyingma lineages. Among them, perhaps the most well known was the First Kongtrul Rinpoche, Jamgon Kongtrul. The main reason for starting the Rimey movement was to preserve lineages and texts from all traditions, including Gelug, that had become rare at that time.

Some Western scholars speculate an additional hidden political agenda behind the establishment of the Rimey movement. The Gelug school had become extremely strong and was the main tradition in Central and Northeastern Tibet (Amdo). Moreover, followers of that school dominated the Central Tibetan Government. The other traditions perhaps felt threatened and, by working together, they might have felt that they could not only preserve their identities, but could also present an alternative unifying force for Tibet. Thus, we get the Rimey movement.

This is perhaps enough of an introduction to the history of the five Tibetan traditions. Although there are many names, it is helpful to have some idea of the history and who the main figures are, such as the Dalai Lamas, Panchen Lamas, and Karmapas. This, in turn, can help us to avoid the pitfalls of sectarianism so that we can develop respect for all the traditions of Tibet.

Brief History of Dzogchen


Dzogchen (rdzogs-chen), the great completeness, is a Mahayana system of practice leading to enlightenment and involves a view of reality, way of meditating, and way of behaving (lta-sgom-spyod gsum). It is found earliest in the Nyingma and Bon (pre-Buddhist) traditions.

Bon, according to its own description, was founded in Tazig (sTag-gzig), an Iranian cultural area of Central Asia, by Shenrab Miwo (gShen-rab mi-bo) and was brought to Zhang-zhung (Western Tibet) in the eleventh century BCE There is no way to validate this scientifically. Buddha lived in the sixth century BCE in India.

The Introduction of Pre-Nyingma Buddhism and Zhang-zhung Rites to Central Tibet

Zhang-zhung was conquered by Yarlung (Central Tibet) in 645 CE. The Yarlung Emperor Songtsen-gampo (Srong-btsan sgam-po) had wives not only from the Chinese and Nepali royal families (both of whom brought a few Buddhist texts and statues), but also from the royal family of Zhang-zhung. The court adopted Zhang-zhung (Bon) burial rituals and animal sacrifice, although Bon says that animal sacrifice was native to Tibet, not a Bon custom. The Emperor built thirteen Buddhist temples around Tibet and Bhutan, but did not found any monasteries.

Guru Rinpoche and the Introduction of Nyingma Dzogchen

The next major figure, Emperor Tri Songdetsen (Khri Srong sde-btsan), was cautious of the Chinese and paranoid of Zhang-zhung, most likely because his pro-Chinese father had been assassinated by the xenophobic, conservative Zhang-zhung political faction in the imperial court. In 761, he invited the Indian Buddhist abbot Shantarakshita to Tibet. There was a smallpox epidemic. The Zhang-zhung faction in court blamed Shantarakshita and deported him from the land. On the abbot's advice, the Emperor then invited Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava) from Swat (northwestern Pakistan), who drove out the demons who had caused the smallpox. The Emperor then reinvited Shantarakshita.

Guru Rinpoche left in 774, without having completed the full transmission of dzogchen. Seeing that the times were not ripe, he buried some texts as buried treasure texts (gter-ma, "terma"). They were exclusively texts on dzogchen

Samyay Monastery and the Bonpo Exile

Samyay Monastery (bSam-yas) (the first monastery in Tibet with the first seven Tibetan monks) was completed shortly afterwards. Chinese from the Chan (Jap. Zen) tradition, Indian, and Zhang-zhung translators worked together there. Buddhism became the state religion in 779, probably because Emperor Tri Songdetsen needed an alternative culture to Zhang-zhung for unifying the country. The Emperor appointed three families to support each monk.

Tibet conquered Dunhuang (Tunhuang, a Buddhist oasis on the Silk Route northwest of Tibet) from China in 781. Yet, the Chinese emperor sent two Chinese monks to Samyay every other year from 781, to maintain his influence.

Shantarakshita died in 783, warning of trouble from the Chinese, and advised inviting his disciple Kamalashila to debate them, which the Tibetans did.

The next year, in 784, a grand persecution and exile of the Bonpos (followers of Bon) took place. Most went to Gilgit (northern Pakistan) or Yunnan (southwestern China). According to the traditional Bon account, Zhang-zhung Drenpa-namka (Dran-pa nam-mkha') buried the Bon texts (all categories, not just dzogchen) at this time for safekeeping.

Historical and political analysis reveals that the reason for the exile was suspicion that the xenophobic conservative Zhang-zhung political faction might assassinate the Emperor for being pro-Indian, as they had done to his father. Moreover, the state kept the Bon burial rituals and sacrifices. Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that it was a persecution of the Zhang-zhung political faction, not a persecution of the Bon religion.

For this reason, several Western scholars assert that the term Bonpo (followers of Bon) in this period had primarily a political rather than religious reference. It was used for the Zhang-zhung political faction at the court and their followers, rather than for the spiritual leaders who performed the Zhang-zhung religious rites at the court and their followers.

Vairochana, Vimalamitra, and the Samyay Debate

Emperor Tri Songdetsen sent Vairochana, one of the seven original Tibetan monks from Samyay, to India for more texts. He brought back both dzogchen and Buddhist medicine tantras, and invited the Indian dzogchen master Vimalamitra, who brought more texts.

The Samyay debate was in 792-794, between Indian and Chinese Buddhism. The Indian side, led by Kamalashila, won; the Chinese, led by Hoshang Mahayana (Chinese for "Mahayana monk"), were expelled from Tibet. The Tibetans officially adopted Indian Buddhism and Indian Buddhist medicine, although they kept some Chinese medicine influences combined with it.

Shortly afterwards, the Tibetan Vairochana was exiled after Indian abbots slandered him for revealing too much, so he buried more dzogchen texts, as did the Indian Vimalamitra.

The Three Divisions of Nyingma Treasure Texts

From the treasure texts buried by Vairochana and Vimalamitra and those buried earlier by Guru Rinpoche, the dzogchen teachings were later divided into three divisions.

  1. semdey (sems-sde, mind division), emphasizing pure awareness (rig-pa) as the basis for all (kun-gzhi, Skt. alaya),
  2. longdey (klong-sde, open space division), emphasizing the cognitive open space aspect (klong) of pure awareness as the basis for all,
  3. menngag-dey (man-ngag sde, quintessence teachings division), also called nyingtig (snying-thig, heart essence division), emphasizing pure awareness being primally pure (ka-dag).

The first two derive from the treasure texts buried by the Tibetan monk Vairochana and are not practiced much today. The mind division comes from Indian texts that Vairochana translated; the open space division from his oral teachings. The quintessence teachings division has two sections from the two Indian teachers, one from Guru Rinpoche: Kadro Nyingtig (mKha'-'gro snying-thig, Dakini Heart Essence Teachings) and one from Vimalamitra: Vima Nyingtig (Bi-ma snying-thig, Vimalamitra's Heart Essence Teachings).

The Persecution of Buddhism

Emperor Ralpachen (Ral-pa-can) (a Buddhist fanatic), in 821, after signing a peace treaty with China (complete with animal sacrifice) made the Samyay abbot the head of the State Council. He decreed that each monk in Tibet be supported by seven families. He also formed a council to authorize terms to be included in a large Sanskrit-Tibetan compendium of translation terms he commissioned, Mahavyutpatti ( Bye-brag-tu rtogs-pa chen-po, Grand [Lexicon] for Understanding Specific [Terms.]) No tantra terms were included. The Emperor and his council decided what was translated and allowed practice of only the first two classes of tantra.

Most likely due to the excesses of Emperor Ralpachen, his successor Emperor Langdarma (gLang-dar-ma) closed monasteries and persecuted monks from 836-842. The Buddhist libraries and the ngagpa (sngags-pa, tantric) lay tradition, however, were preserved.

The first buried Bon treasure texts were recovered by accident at Samyay in 913.

The New Transmission Schools

Atisha was sent for from India in late tenth century, to clear up misunderstandings of Buddhism, especially about tantra, concerning sex and sacrifices. New translations were made from Sanskrit, starting with the work of Rinchen-zangpo (Rin-chen bzang-po).

During the early eleventh century, the Kadam (later became Gelug), Sakya, and Kagyu traditions developed as the Sarma (gSar-ma, New Transmission, New Tantra) Schools. In contrast, Nyingma is the Old Transmission or Old Tantra School.

Bon also revived at this time, but now its contents are very Buddhist. Bon texts were codified in 1017 - mostly non-dzogchen texts in the main categories of the Buddhist literature. Later in the eleventh century, Nyingma and more Bon dzogchen texts were found, often by the same person.

The Southern and Northern Treasure Text Lineages

In first half of fourteenth century, the Sakya master Buton (Bu-ston Rin-chen grub) compiled the Zhalu Manuscript, which was the forerunner of the Kangyur (bKa'-'gyur, the words of the Buddha). He did not include any dzogchen materials in it, or any of the Old Translation Period translations of the tantras.

Buton's contemporary, Longchenpa (Klong-chen Rab-'byams-pa Dri-med 'od-zer). put together Kadro and Vima Nyingtig into Zabmo Nyingtig (Zab-mo snying-thig, The Profound Heart Essence Teachings), and collected and organized the dzogchen texts available at his time. From him derives the Nyingma Southern Treasure Text Lineage (lho-gter).

Bon codified its equivalent of the Kangyur in the second half of fourteenth century, which includes dzogchen.

The Nyingma Northern Treasure Text Lineage (byang-gter) was started in the late fourteenth century by Rigdzin Godem Jey (Rig-dzin rGod-ldem rJe dNgos-grub rgyal-mtshan), a descendent of the early Tibetan kings. The head of this lineage is called Rigdzin chenpo (rig-'dzin chen-po).

Compilation of the Nyingma Canon and Major Texts

In the early fifteenth century, Ratna Lingpa (Ratna gling-pa) compiled the Nyingma Gyubum (rNying-ma rgyud-'bum, Lakhs of Nyingma Tantras), the collection of all dzogchen texts and all the Old Transmission translations of tantras, expanding on Longchenpa's work.

Jigmey Lingpa (' Jigs-med gling-pa mKhyen-brtse 'od-zer), in the late eighteenth century, revised Longchenpa's Zabmo Nyingtig and made it into Longchen Nyingtig (Klong-chen snying-thig, Longchenpa's Heart Essence Teachings), the main Nyingma dzogchen system practiced today. His disciple, the First Dodrubchen (rDo-grub chen 'Jigs-med 'phrin-las 'od-zer), wrote a ritual text of preliminary practices for it, Longchen ngondro (Klong-chen sngon-'gro).

The Rimey Nonsectarian Movement

In the next generation, of the three main founders of the Rimey (nonsectarian movement): Kongtrul (Kong-sprul Yon-tan rgya-mtso), Jamyang-kyentsey-wangpo (' Jam-dbyangs mkhyen-brtse dbang-po), and Mipam (' Ju Mi-pham rgya-mtsho), the latter wrote the main Nyingma commentaries to the major texts.

In the next generation of disciples, Peltrul (rDza dPal-sprul 'O-rgyan 'jigs-med dbang-po) wrote Guideline Instructions from My Totally Excellent (Samantabhadra) Spiritual Mentor (Kun-bzang bla-ma'i zhal-lung, Perfect Words of My Excellent Teacher, Kunzang Lamey Zhellung). This is the most elaborate Nyingma text on the equivalent of lam-rim (graded stages of the path) and on the preliminaries for the Longchen Nyingtig.

Peltrul and Jamyang kyentsey-wangpo's disciple, the Third Dodrubchen (rDo-grub-chen 'Jigs-pa'i bstan-pa'i nyi-ma) , wrote the clearest commentaries on dzogchen -Dzogchen Cycles (rDzogs-chen skor) and Miscellaneous Writings on Dzogchen (rDzogs-chen thor-bu) - putting dzogchen in the context of the other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. These are the commentaries that His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama strongly relies on as a source for his explanations of a unified theory of all four Tibetan traditions.

Is Dzogchen Buddhist or Bon?

Is Bon Buddhist or non-Buddhist? Both lead to enlightenment, and use the term Buddhahood. The seventh-century Indian master Dharmakirti said that if a work accords with the main themes of Buddha, it is Buddha's teaching. Thus, both Nyingma and Bon dzogchen are clearly Mahayana Buddhist teachings because both have shared features with the Mahayana sutras. Each, of course, also has its unique uncommon features. Furthermore, whether we say dzogchen is a division of tantra or beyond the divisions of sutra and tantra, Nyingma and Bon dzogchen also share features in common with the various tantra classes.

Since Nyingma and Bon both claim the origin of dzogchen and that the other copied it from them, there are three possibilities:

  1. Dzogchen developed very early in Buddhism and Bon received it through the early spread of Buddhism in Iran and Central Asia, through Zhang-zhung. Thus, Bon dzogchen had a Buddhist origin, but not directly an Indian Buddhist one.
  2. Bon learned of dzogchen from Guru Rinpoche at Samyay and buried it when the Zhang-zhung Bon faction went into exile in 784, mostly to Gilgit (northern Pakistan).
  3. 3. When the Zhang-zhung Bonpos went into exile to Gilgit, they learned of it there, separate from Guru Rinpoche.

It is not possible to come to a decisive conclusion about which possibility is correct.

Dzogchen in the Kagyu Traditions

Dzogchen is also found in Drugpa Kagyu, coming from its late twelfth-century founder, Tsangpa Gyaray (gTsang-pa rGya-ras).

The Third Karmapa (Kar-ma Rang-byung rdo-rje) introduced dzogchen into Karma Kagyu in the early fourteenth century and wrote the Karma Nyingtig (Kar-ma snying-thig, Karmapa's Heart Essence Teachings). He studied dzogchen with Kumararaja, the same dzogchen teacher as Longchenpa had. Thus, Guru Rinpoche is visualized in the Second Karmapa Karma Pakshi's heart in the Karma Pakshi practice. There is also a Karma Kagyu practice of Guru Rinpoche.

Dzogchen entered the Drigung Kagyu tradition via the treasure texts discovered by the sixteenth century masters Drigung Ratna (rGyal-dbang Rin-chen phun-tshogs ‘Bri-gung Ratna) and the Fourth Drigung Lho Jedrung (‘Bri-gung Lho rJe-drung O-rgyan nus-ldan rdo-rje).

Dzogchen and the Dalai Lamas

In the mid-seventeenth century, the Fifth Dalai Lama had pure visions of dzogchen. He compiled them into Bearing the Seal of Secrecy (gSang-ba rgya-can) and introduced these dzogchen practices to his Namgyal Monastery, which otherwise mostly practices Gelug.

Guru Rinpoche prophesied that if the line from the early Tibetan kings - whose descendants, the line of Rigdzin-chenpos, were the heads of the Northern Treasure Text Lineage - discontinued, it would be detrimental to Tibet. Thus, the Fifth Dalai Lama transmitted his dzogchen lineages also to the Rigdzin-chenpo of his times. Consequently, the Northern Treasure Text Lineage also practices the Fifth Dalai Lama's dzogchen teachings.

The next Rigdzin-chenpo transmitted the Fifth Dalai Lama's dzogchen teachings to Nechung Monastery, the monastery of the state oracle, Nechung (gNas-chung). The Nechung oracle was appointed at Samyay by Guru Rinpoche to protect Tibet. There has been a personal connection between the Dalai Lamas and the Nechung oracle since the time of the Second Dalai Lama, when he moved from Tashilhunpo Monastery to Drepung Monastery.

The Fifth Dalai Lama also appointed the throneholder of the Nyingma Mindroling monastery (sMin-gling khri-can, "Minling Trichen") the head of the Southern Treasure Text Lineage. Thus, the Fifth Dalai Lama supported both major Nyingma lineages. There has been a close connection between the line of Dalai Lamas and the Nyingma tradition ever since.

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