historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, gave many different kinds of teachings
in order to accommodate the various capacities of beings. All these
teachings are subsumed under the Sutrayana and the Tantrayana. Although
the Buddha gave only oral teachings, his early disciples recorded
his instructions in writing and thus passed them on in their original
Buddhist masters also authored many treatises that explain the meaning
of the Buddha's teachings. The emphasis was on the authentic and
accurate transmission of the teachings as this is of prime importance.
Over the centuries different lines of transmission, each with its
own characteristics, came about.
Buddhism in Tibet includes
all the teachings that originated in India. Through the effort of
Tibetan translators and Indian masters, the whole corpus of Buddhist
teachings was translated into Tibetan. Thus, Buddhism flourished
in Tibet until the middle of the 20th century.
the 8th century the Tibetan King, Trisong Detsen, invited two Buddhist
masters, Guru Rinpoche and Shantarakshita, to Tibet. At the same
time the king initiated translation of important Buddhists texts
into Tibetan. This early activity of teaching and translation brought
about the Nyingma tradition, the 'Old Tradition'. The teachings
in the Nyingma tradition are based on the texts of this early period
During the 11th century a second period of translation which involved
the revision of earlier terminology as well as new translations
took place. The traditions that base their transmission on that
period are referred to as the Sarma traditions, the 'New Traditions'.
Of these, the Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug are the most well-known.
The Kagyu tradition was
introduced to Tibet by Marpa the translator (1012-1097), who emphasized
four special transmissions that trace their origin to the Indian
siddha Tilopa and other Indian masters of the Mahamudra lineage.
The Sakya tradition was founded
by Khon Konchog Gyalpo (1034-1102), who focused his transmission
on the teachings expounded by the Indian Mahasiddha Virupa. The
Gelug (or Ganden) tradition was established by Tsongkhapa (1357-1419),
who stressed the teachings of the Kadampa school founded in Tibet
by the Indian master Atisha (982-1054).
and translated by members of the Karmapa International Buddhist
Institute's Department of Translation.