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Buddhism Buddhism in Tibet
by
David Gray

Introduction

Buddhism reached Tibet relatively late, around the 7th century, and within a few centuries it became the dominant religion on the Tibetan plateau. Tibet continued to receive transmissions of texts and practices from India until approximately 1500 CE, and thus received the full flowering of Indian Buddhism, particularly the tantric or Vajrayāna form of Buddhism that developed in India around the 7th century. The first transmission of Buddhism to Tibet took place with the support of the imperial government, and it continued until disrupted in the mid-9th century by the collapse of the Tibetan empire. This first transmission constitutes the basis of all of the Tibetan Buddhist traditions, as a number of exoteric Buddhist works such as sutras were translated into Tibetan at this time. The “Ancient” Nyingma (rnying ma) school of Buddhism also claims that its secret Tantric teachings were also transmitted to Tibet at this time. The process resumed with the second or “latter” transmission (phyi dar) of Buddhism to Tibet, which resulted in the formation of the “New” (gsar ma) schools of Tibetan Buddhism, the Geluk, Kadam, Kagyü, Jonang, and Sakya traditions. With the rise of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Central Asia and China. With the diaspora of Tibetan lamas following the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950s, Tibetan Buddhism has spread throughout the world and has become one of the most influential forms of Buddhism on the global stage.

General Overviews

A number of useful introductions to Tibetan Buddhist culture and history have been composed over the past fifty years. Stein1972 and Tucci1980 are classic works that still provide useful introductions. Snellgrove 2002 is worth reading as an introduction to Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, and Snellgrove and Richardson 1986 provides a short, readable, but somewhat outdated introduction to Tibetan culture and religious traditions. Kapstein 2006 provides one of the best introductions to Tibetan culture and religious history. Samuel 1993 is an exhaustive and thought-provoking study of Tibetan religious history.

Textbooks

There are many introductory works on Tibetan Buddhism in print that are designed for use in undergraduate teaching. These include the classic extensive introduction in Powers 1995 and the newly published concise version (Powers 2008). Lopez 1997 provides an introduction to a wide range of Tibetan religious practices. Instructors might also consider the introduction to Tibetan Buddhism authored by the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso 1995). Hopkins 1999 provides a solid and concise introduction to Tantric Buddhist practice, as does Yeshe 2001, the clarity of which is appealing to many undergraduates. Batchelor 1987 provides a brief introduction to Tibetan Buddhism followed by an anthology of translations of texts from the major traditions.

  • Batchelor, Stephen, ed. The Jewel in the Lotus: A Guide to the Buddhist Traditions of Tibet. London: Wisdom Publications, 1987.

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    This work begins with a succinct introduction to Tibetan Buddhism by the editor and is followed by chapters containing short translations of important works from five of the major Tibetan Buddhist traditions: the Kadam, Kagyü, Nyingma, Geluk, and Sakya schools. This work is particularly useful for instructors seeking a single introductory volume with an abundance of primary source texts.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. The Tantric Distinction: A Buddhist’s Reflection on Compassion and Emptiness. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1999.

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    Provides an introduction to Tibetan Buddhist practice. Begins with a summary of basic Buddhist teachings and then moves on to Tantric meditative practice, with a focus on deity yoga.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr., ed. Religions of Tibet in Practice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997.

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    Contains many short essays dealing with various aspects of Tibetan religious life. It includes studies and translations of pilgrimage guides, short hagiographies, and a wide range of ritual texts.

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  • Powers, John. Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1995.

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    Provides a more extensive introduction to the Buddhist religion than the concise version (Powers 2008). It features more extensive coverage of the history of Buddhism in Tibet, as well as chapters such as “Festivals and Holy Days,” “Geography and Architecture,” “Death and Dying,” and the non-Buddhist Bön tradition, which are omitted in the concise version.

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  • Powers, John. A Concise Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2008.

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    Provides an overview of the basic teachings and practices of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as a historical summary of the four main orders.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. The World of Tibetan Buddhism: An Overview of Its Philosophy and Practice. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1995.

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    Provides a traditional and clear presentation of Tibetan Buddhist teachings and practices.

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  • Yeshe, Thubten. Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    Provides a clear introduction to Tantric Buddhist practice, as taught by an influential lama.

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Anthologies

With the growth of the study of Tibetan Buddhism over the past few decades, numerous anthologies have been published that address this topic specifically. Cabezón and Jackson1996 provides the best introduction to the various genres of Tibetan religious literature. Eimer and Germano 2002 contains a series of essays treating the formation of Tibetan canonical collections. Davidson and Wedemeyer 2006 presents essays dealing with the transmission of Buddhism from India to Tibet and the development of Tibetan canonical collections. Goodman and Davidson 1992 contains essays that explore Tibetan Buddhism from philosophical and visionary perspectives. Goldstein and Kapstein 1998 sheds light on the current state of Buddhism in Tibet, while Goodman and Davidson 2007 contains a series of essays on the early history of Tibet.

Reference Works

There are several websites that provide important resources for those interested in Tibetan Buddhism. The Tibetan and Himalayan Library offers numerous resources for specialists and nonspecialists. The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center provides scans of Tibetan texts. Himalayan Art Resources provides free online access to an extensive collection of Tibetan religious art.

Religious Histories

Numerous published works focus on specific topics or eras in Tibetan Buddhist history. Kapstein 2000 explores early Tibetan religious history from several different topical perspectives. Davidson 2005 provides an insightful analysis of the “second dissemination” period. Schaeffer 2005 demonstrates the degree to which our knowledge of the Indian mahāsiddha Saraha is largely the product of medieval Tibet rather than India. Vose 2009 investigates the history of the Tibetan reception of Candrakīrti and the formation of the Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness. Lopez 2006 presents a study and translation of an unconventional work of Buddhist philosophy by the early 20th-century Tibetan intellectual Gedun Chopel. Smith 2001 contains a series of essays on Tibetan authors and texts from across the landscapes of Tibetan traditions and history. Dalton 2005 provides one of the best studies of the Tibetan attempts to categorize the tantric teachings transmitted from India.

  • Dalton, Jacob. “A Crisis of Doxography: How Tibetans Organized Tantra during the 8th–12th Centuries.” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 28.1 (2005): 115–181.

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    In this work Dalton documents complex process by which Tibetans categorized the complex array of tantras transmitted from India.

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  • Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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    Examines the process by which Indian Buddhist Tantric texts and practice traditions were transmitted to Tibet and translated into Tibetan during the “second dissemination of the dharma” period, around the 10th through 14th centuries. It provides a rich examination of this topic.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, Memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Contains a series of ten essays examining the Tibetan reception of Buddhism. This is a key work on Tibet’s early religious history.

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  • Lopez, Donald S., Jr. The Madman’s Middle Way: Reflections on Reality of the Tibetan Monk Gedun Chopel. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

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    A study and translation of an unconventional work on Buddhist philosophy by Gedun Chopel (Dge ‘dun chos ‘phel, b. 1903–d. 1951), a former Geluk monk and Tibetan intellectual.

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  • Schaeffer, Kurtis R. Dreaming the Great Brahmin: Tibetan Traditions of the Buddhist Poet Saint Saraha. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    Focuses on the Tibetan reception of the stories about, and songs attributed to, the great Indian Tantric Buddhist saint Saraha. It argues that the oeuvre of the Indian saint Saraha is largely the production of medieval Tibetan authors. It makes a sophisticated contribution to our understanding of the Tibetan reception and creative transformation of Indian Buddhism.

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  • Smith, E. Gene. Among Tibetan Texts: History and Literature of the Himalayan Plateau. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    Contains a series of insightful essays on major works and figures from the major Tibetan Buddhist traditions.

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  • Vose, Kevin A.Resurrecting Candrakīrti: Disputes in the Tibetan Creation of Prāsaṅgika. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2009.

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    Examines the Tibetan discovery of a previously little-known Indian philosopher, Candrakīrti, and the creation of the Prāsaṅgika school of Madhyamaka philosophy, which came to be the position of the Geluk school. This contributes to our understanding of the Tibetan reception and transformation of Indian Buddhist traditions.

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Traditional Tibetan Histories

The Tibetans had a strong historical tradition that was strongly connected to their religious identity, as they composed many histories of their religion in both India and Tibet, as well as secular histories. Martin 1997 provides an annotated bibliography of these works. A number of these works have been translated: in Ahmad 1995, Chimpa and Chattopadhyaya 1990, Obermiller 1986, and Roerich 1976. Sørensen 1994 presents an academic study and translation of a 14th-century history, and Sakyapa Sonam Gyaltsen 1996 contains a translation of the same work aimed at general readers. Dudjom Rinpoche 1991 provides an extensive history of the Nyingma tradition.

The Geluk Tradition

The Geluk (dge lugs) tradition, founded by Tsongkhapa (b. 1357–d. 1419) is the last of the five major traditions to form. It rose to great prominence as a result of its success in securing the patronage of powerful Mongol allies, which led to the Fifth Dalai Lama rising to power as Tibet’s chief spiritual and secular leader. The tradition is best known for the Dalai Lama and Panchen lineages of reincarnated lamas.

Studies and Hagiographies of Key Figures

The Geluk tradition has produced numerous figures who have inspired others to compose hagiographies for them. Unlike the Nyingma and Kagyü traditions, these figures were less likely to be yogis living in seclusion, dedicated to spiritual cultivation, although there are exceptions to this generalization, as Willis 1995 demonstrates in a translation of the hagiographies of Geluk yogis. Tsongkhapa has inspired several works, including Kaschewsky’s study of his life (Kaschewsky 1967) and Thurman’s anthology of short works by and about him (Thurman 2006). Lastly, much has been written on the Dalai Lamas, including Ahmad’s translation of a biography of the Fifth Dalai Lama (Ahmad 1999), Mullin’s summary of the lives of all fourteen Dalai Lamas (Mullin 2001), and the autobiography of the current Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso 1990). Ricard 2001 translates the extensive autobiographies of Shabkar, a Geluk monk and renowned Dzogchen practitioner.

Translations and Textual Studies

Since scholastic accomplishment was generally well respected in the Geluk traditions, many works were composed by masters of these traditions, some of which have been studied and translated. Tsongkhapa 2004 is a three-volume translation of one of Tsongkhapa’s best-known works, and Thurman 1991 is a study and translation of his most influential work on philosophy. Mullin 1996 translates a key work by him on advanced yogic practice. Hopkins 1983 is a classic synthesis of the Geluk Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness. Kilty has translated an important commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra by the early Geluk scholar Khedrup Norsang Gyatso 2004, and Williams 2004 deals with the beloved love songs of the sixth Dalai Lama.

  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Meditations on Emptiness. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1983.

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    A classic exposition of the Geluk Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka view of emptiness.

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  • Khedrup Norsang Gyatso. Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra. Translated by Gavin Kilty. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    This work is a translation of an important commentary on the Kālacakra Tantra written by the early Geluk scholar Khedrup Norsang Gyatso (Mkhas grub nor bzang rgya mtsho, b. 1423–d. 1513).

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  • Mullin, Glenn H. Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1996.

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    A study and translation of a major Tibetan work on the six yogas of the Nāropa tradition of advanced yoga practice. This is the Book of Three Inspirations, A Treatise on the Stages of Training in the Profound Path of Nāropa’s Six Yogas (zab lam na ro’i chos drug gi ‘khrid yig yid ches gsum ldan), written by the founder of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkhapa.

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  • Thurman, Robert A. F.The Central Philosophy of Tibet: A Study and Translation of Tsongkhapa’s Essence of True Eloquence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1991.

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    A study and translation of one of Tsongkhapa’s key works on Buddhist philosophy.

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  • Tsongkhapa. The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment: The Lamrim Chenmo. 3 vols. Edited by Joshua W. C. Cutler. Translated by the Lamrim Chenmo Translation Committee. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    This is a collaborative translation of Tsongkhapa’s magisterial and extensive introduction to the Buddhist path.

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  • Williams, Paul D. Songs of Love, Poems of Sadness: The Erotic Verse of the Sixth Dalai Lama. London: I. B. Tauris, 2004.

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    Provides a study and sound translations of the popular songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama.

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The Jonang Tradition

The Jonang (jo nang) tradition was founded by the 12th-century Tibetan master Yumo Mikyo Dorje (Yu mo mi bskyod rdo rje). It was characterized by its dedication to the Kālacakra Tantra and advocacy of the Zhentong or “other emptiness” (gzhan stong) philosophical position. It produced several exceptional scholars, most notably Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (Dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan, b. 1292–d. 1361) and Tāranātha (b. 1575–d. 1634). It was eradicated throughout most of Tibet due to the fifth Dalai Lama’s suppression of the tradition in the late 16th century, surviving only along the Sino-Tibetan border. Stearns 1999 provides an introduction to Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen’s life and works. Hopkins translates one of his key philosophical works (Hopkins 2006), as well as two of Tāranātha’s (Hopkins 2007). Tāranātha 1981, Tāranātha 1983, and Tāranātha 1989 provide translations of several of Tāranātha’s shorter works. Seyfort Ruegg 1963 is a study of the Jonang school with a focus on its unique ontological stance, and Kapstein 2001 explores Jonang exegetical approaches to Prajñāpāramitā literature.

  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Mountain Doctrine: Tibet’s Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix. Translated and introduced by Jeffery Hopkins. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2006.

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    An important and massive annotated translation of one of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen’s works on emptiness and the nature of ultimate reality.

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  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. The Essence of Other-Emptiness by Tāranātha. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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    An important study and translation of two short works by Tārānātha on the controversial concept of “other emptiness.”

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. “From Kun-mkhyen Dol-po-pa to ‘Ba’-mda’ Dge-legs: Three Jo-nang-pa Masters on the Interpretation of the Prajñāpāramitā.” In Reason’s Traces: Identity and Interpretation in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Thought. Edited by Matthew Kapstein, 301–316. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    This is a study of a distinctive feature of Jonang scholarship: the focus on the exegesis of the Prajñāpāramitā literature to advance the Jonang interpretation of the doctrine of emptiness.

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  • Seyfort Ruegg, David. “The Jo nang pas: A School of Buddhist Ontologists According the Grub mtha’ shel gyi me long.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 83.1 (1963): 73–91.

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    An early and still quite useful study of the Jonang tradition.

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1999.

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    Introduces the life and work of the great Jonang master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. Includes translations of several of his shorter works.

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  • Tāranātha. The Origin of the Tārā Tantra. Translated by David Templeman. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1981.

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    This translates a short work by Tāranātha on the history of the Tārā Tantra.

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  • Tāranātha. The Seven Instruction Lineages: Bka’ babs bdun ldan. Translated by David Templeman. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1983.

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    An important work detailing instruction lineages believed to originate with the mahāsiddhas of India.

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  • Tāranātha. Tāranātha’s Life of Kṛṣṇācārya/Kāṇha. Translated by David Templeman. Dharamsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1989.

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    A translation of the hagiography of an important Indian mahāsiddha.

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The Kadam Tradition

The Kadam (bka’ gdams) was a venerable tradition founded by Dromtönpa (‘Brom ston pa, b. 1005–d. 1064), a disciple of the great Indian master Atiśa (b. 980–d. 1054). It was best known for the meditation practice known as “mind training” or Lojong (blo sbyong). The school eventually ceased to exist independently. Its legacy was claimed by the Geluk tradition; Tsongkhapa called his school the “New Kadam” to emphasize the continuity between the traditions. However, distinctive Kadam teachings, such as the Lojong contemplative tradition, were taken up by all of the major Tibetan Buddhist traditions. Eimer 1979 compiles invaluable resources on the early Tibetan sources concerning the life of Atiśa, and Atiśa 2000 contains translations of a number of his works. Chattopadhyaya 1996 provides a study of his life. Tucci 1988 is a study of the “great translator” Rinchen Zangpo, who was also one Atiśa’s students. Atiśa and Dromtönpa 2008 provides translations of key works in the Kadam tradition.

The Kagyü Traditions

The Kagyü (bka’ brgyud) traditions are the schools of Tibetan Buddhism that specialize in teachings and practice lineages deriving from the Mahāsiddhas Tilopa, Nāropa (b. 956–d. 1041), and their disciples. Major figures in the early history of these traditions include Marpa (b. 1012–d. 1097), who studied with Nāropa in India, and his disciple, the great yogi Milarepa (b. 1052–d. 1135). There are numerous Kagyü schools, most of which originated with the disciples of Milarepa’s disciple Gampopa (Sgam po pa, b. 1079–d. 1153). But some do not, most notably the closely related Shangpa Kagyü (Shangs pa bka’ brgyud) tradition, which was founded by Kyungpo Naljor (Khyung po rnal ‘byor, b. 978/990–d. 1127), who studied with the yoginī Niguma, the consort of Nāropa’s guru Tilopa. The Kagyü traditions emphasize the practice of meditation and yoga and require a strong personal connection with a guru. They are best known for their Mahāmudrā meditation system.

Studies and Hagiographies of Key Figures

Given their emphasis on meditation and yoga, the Kagyü traditions had no shortage of great masters to celebrate in hagiographies. Tsangnyön Heruka 1982, Guenther 1963, and Tsangnyön Heruka 1977 are translations of famous hagiographies of the early great masters seen as founding figures of the Kagyü traditions. Dowman and Paljor 1980, Ruegg 1966, Stearns 2007, and Stewart 2004 translate the biographies of important later masters.Karma Tinley 2001 provides a useful overview of the lives of the Karmapas, the chief lineage of reincarnated lamas in the Karma Kagyü tradition.

  • Dowman, Keith, and Sonam Paljor, trans. The Divine Madman: The Sublime Life and Songs of Drukpa Kunley. London: Rider, 1980.

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    A translation of the hagiography of Drukpa Kunley (‘Brug pa kun legs, b. 1455–d. 1529), a Tibetan who emulated the unconventional lifestyle of the siddhas and became a revered master and cultural hero in Bhutan. The work is notable for its erotic character as well as the numerous songs included in the hagiography.

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  • Guenther, Herbert V.The Life and Teaching of Nāropa. Boston: Shambhala, 1986.

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    This work is a translation of the major Tibetan hagiography of Nāropa, composed by the 15th-century author Lha-tsun Rin-chen Nam-gyel (Lha btsun rin chen rnam rgyal, b. 1473–d. 1557). It narrates the traditional account of the life story of one of the most influential siddhas. Originally published in 1963 (Oxford: Clarendon).

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  • Karma Tinley. The History of the Sixteen Karmapas of Tibet. Boston: Shambhala, 2001.

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    Provides a useful introduction to the lives of the Karmapas, the spiritual leaders of the Karma Kagyü tradition.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. The Life of Bu ston Rin po che with the Tibetan Text of the Bu ston rNam thar. Serie Orientale Roma 34. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1966.

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    A translation of the hagiography of a major figure in the history of Tibetan Buddhism, Butön Rinchendrup (Bu ston rin chen grub, b. 1290–d. 1364), who established his own tradition, the Zhalu or Butön tradition (bu ston lugs).

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. King of the Empty Plain: The Tibetan Iron-Bridge Builder Tangtong Gyalpo. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2007.

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    Provides an excellent introduction to the remarkable life of the Shangpa Kagyü master and intrepid civil engineer Tangtong Gyalpo (Thang stong rgyal po, b. 1361–d. 1485). It introduces his life and translates two of his hagiographies.

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  • Stewart, Jampa Mackenzie. The Life of Gampopa. 2d ed. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    A translation of the hagiography of a key figure in the early history of the Kagyü traditions, Milarepa’s disciple Gampopa.

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  • Tsangnyön Heruka The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan. Translated by Lobsang P. Lhalungpa. New York: Dutton, 1977.

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    A translation of the hagiography of the great Tibetan yogī Milarepa composed by Tsangnyön Heruka (Gtsan smyon he ru ka, b. 1452–d. 1507). It relates what became in Tibet (and beyond Tibet) an extremely popular narrative of a spiritual quest and has been widely emulated.

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  • Tsangnyön Heruka. The Life of Marpa the Translator. Boston: Shambhala, 1982.

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    This work narrates the life of the Tibetan translator Marpa, who traveled to India to study with the mahāsiddha Nāropa. The text provides a fascinating portrayal of the founding father of the Kagyü traditions.

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Translations and Textual Studies

As the Kagyü traditions have generally favored spiritual practice over scholarship, these traditions have not engaged in religious textual production to the same degree as some of the other schools. Nonetheless, they do preserve numerous classic works, only a fraction of which have been translated thus far. Milarepa 1999 is a translation of Milarepa’s beloved songs. Guenther 1986 provides a study and translation of Gampopa’s lucid introduction to the Buddhist path. Sernesi 2004 is a study of an important Kagyü practice lineage, and Stearns 2000 contains translations of the songs of an early Shangpa Kagyü master.

The Nyingma Tradition

The Nyingma, or “Ancient” (rnying ma) tradition, is the school of Tibetan Buddhism that traces its origins to the imperial period, to the 8th and 9th centuries, when the Tibetan king Trisongdetsen (Khri srong lde btsan, b. 742–d. c. 797) invited the Indian masters Sāntarakṣita and Padmasaṃbhava to Tibet. Although it is rooted in the imperial transmission of Buddhism, it developed as a distinct school from the 11th century onward, in creative reaction to the second transmission of Buddhism to Tibet. It is notable for its highest teaching, the Dzogchen or “Great Perfection” (rdzogs chen) meditative tradition, as well as its focus on the rediscovery of hidden “treasure” texts (gter-ma).

Studies and Hagiographies of Key Figures

The Nyingma tradition has produced a plethora of hagiographies of their awakened masters. Numerous biographies are presented in Dudjom Rinpoche 1991. The founder of the tradition, Padmasambhava, has had numerous hagiographies written about him. Toussaint 1978 translates one of the most popular of these, while Ngawang Zangpo 2002 provides an overview of this literature, and Dalton 2004 sheds light on the earliest evidence of this narrative cycle. Dowman 1984 translates the “autobiography” of Padmasambhava’s Tibetan consort, Yeshe Tsogyel. Gyatso 1999 is a groundbreaking study and translation of two of Jigme Lingpa’s secret autobiographies. Aris 1989 is a study of a famous “treasure revealer,” Pemalingpa, and the Sixth Dalai Lama.

  • Aris, Michael. Hidden Treasures and Secret Lives: A Study of Pemalingpa (1450–1521) and the Sixth Dalai Lama (1683–1706). London: Kegan Paul International, 1989.

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    A fascinating study of two intriguing figures in Tibetan history, the “treasure revealer” (gter ston) Pemalingpa (Pad ma gling pa), and the unorthodox sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso (Tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho). Originally published in 1988 (Shimla, India: Indian Institute for Advanced Study).

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  • Dalton, Jacob P. “The Early Development of the Padmasambhava Legend in Tibet: A Study of IOL Tib J 644 and Pelliot tibétain 307.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 124.4 (2004): 759–772.

    DOI: 10.2307/4132116Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    This article is a study of the earliest Padmasambhava narratives from Dunhuang.

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  • Dowman, Keith, trans. Sky Dancer: The Secret Life and Songs of the Lady Yeshe Tsogyel. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984.

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    Dowman translates a popular hagiography that is traditionally understood to be the autobiography of the 8th-century Tibetan princess Yeshe Tsogyel (Ye shes mtsho rgyal), who became the consort of the Mahāsiddha Padmasambhava.

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  • Dudjom Rinpoche. The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History. Translated and edited by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 1991.

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    This work is an encyclopedic resource on the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, and it includes biographies of many key figures. The extensive translated text is accompanied by useful indices and glossaries.

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  • Gyatso, Janet. Apparitions of the Self: The Secret Autobiographies of a Tibetan Visionary. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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    This work is a translation and sophisticated study of two of Jigme Lingpa’s (‘Jigs med gling pa, b. 1729–d. 1798) secret autobiographies.

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  • Ngawang Zangpo. Guru Rinpoché: His Life and Times. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2002.

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    A study of the sources for the life story of one of the great mahāsiddhas, Padmasambhava, a major figure in the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. The work’s greatest contribution is the translation of a number of short Tibetan works focusing upon him.

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  • Toussaint, Gustave-Charles. The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava. Translated from the French by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays. 2 vols. Berkeley, CA: Dharma Publishers, 1978.

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    A still-unsurpassed translation of the extensive biography of Padmasambhava, the Padma bka’ thang, attributed to his consort Yeshe Tsogyel and “rediscovered” by the Örgyen Ling-ba (O rgyan gling pa) in the 14th century. It is a work of great importance for the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

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Translations and Textual Studies

There have been numerous translations and studies of Nyingma works. Patrul Rinpoche 1994 is a translation of a classic Nyingma introduction to the spiritual path. An important scripture association with the Dzogchen tradition has been translated twice (Neumaier-Dargyay 1992, Namkhai Norbu 1999). Koppl 2008 is a translation of an important theoretical text on tantric practice by Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo, and Guenther 1987 provides a translation and study on a 19th-century work on tantric meditation practice. Cantwell and Mayer 2007 contains editions of two tantras from the rnying ma rgyud ‘bum, an important and understudied Tibetan canonical collection of tantras. In Cantwell and Mayer 2008, sheds light on the development of an important Nyingma textual tradition. Tulku 1986 introduces the Nyingma “treasure” textual tradition.

  • Cantwell, Cathy, and Robert Mayer. The Kīlaya Nirvāṇa Tantra and the Vajra Wrath Tantra: Two Texts from the Ancient Tantra Collection. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2007.

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    Consists of critical editions of two of the Phur pa Tantras’ Tibetan texts preserved in the “Ancient tantra collection” (rnying ma rgyud ‘bum). This is one of the first editions of texts preserved in this collection. The volume includes a CD-ROM containing searchable digital texts of these editions.

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  • Cantwell, Cathy, and Robert Mayer. Early Tibetan Documents on Phur pa from Dunhuang. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2008.

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    An important study of early Tibetan texts dealing with Phur pa practice preserved at Dunhuang, shedding light on the formation of the Nyingma tradition. The work contains diplomatic editions and translations of a number of Dunhuang texts.

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  • Namkhai Norbu, Chögyal. The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999.

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    A translation of an important Dzogchen scripture, the “All-Creating King” (kun byed rgyal po).

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  • Guenther, Herbert. The Creative Vision. Novato, CA: Lotsawa, 1987.

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    Study and translation of a short work on Creation State (bskyed rim, utpattikrama) meditation practice composed by Gyurmé Tsewang Chok-drup (‘Gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub, b. 1764 CE).

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  • Koppl, Heidi I. Establishing Appearances as Divine: Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo on Reasoning, Madhyamaka, and Purity. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2008.

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    Provides a complete translation of an important theoretical work by the Nyingma author Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (Rong zom chos kyi bzang po, b. 1012–d. 1088) that explores the theoretical basis of deity yoga meditation practice.

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  • Neumaier-Dargyay, Eva K. The Sovereign All-Creating Mind, The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po’i mdo. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.

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    An academic translation of the “All-Creating King” (kun byed rgyal po), a key Nyingma scripture.

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  • Patrul Rinpoche. The Words of My Perfect Teacher. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1994.

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    An introduction to the Buddhist path, taught from the perspective of the Nyingma Dzogchen tradition composed by Patrul Rinpoche (Dpal sprul rin po che, b. 1808–d. 1887).

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  • Tulku Thondup Rinpoche. Hidden Teachings of Tibet: An Explanation of the Terma Tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Edited by Talbott, Harold. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1986.

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    An informative introduction to the “treasure text” (gter ma) textual tradition of the Nyingma school.

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The Sakya Tradition

The Sakya (sa skya) tradition was founded in the later 11th century by the translator Drogmi (‘Brog mi) and his aristocratic patron and disciple Khön Könchog Gyalpo (‘Khon dkon mchog rgyal po, b. 1034–d. 1102). It produced a number of distinguished scholars, most notably Sakya Paṇḍita (Sa skya paṇḍita, b. 1182–d. 1251), who negotiated peace with the Mongols in 1244 and brought the Sakyas into a politically powerful position for about a century, until Mongol power in Tibet waned. Gold 2008, Jackson 1994, and Rhoton 2002 have contributed to our understanding of Sakya Paṇḍita with studies and translations of his work. Cyrus Stearns focuses on the highest teaching of the Sakya school, the Lamdré (lam ‘bras) “Path and Fruit” teaching, with a translation of hagiography of the early masters of this teaching (Stearns 2001), and an anthology of Lam-’bras texts (Stearns 2006). Deshung Rinpoche 2003 presents commentary on a classic Lamdré text. Sobisch 2008 further illuminates this topic with a study of the history of the Lam-’bras composed by the 17th-century scholar-author Ame-zhab. Sobisch has also written a detailed study of the Sakya Three-Vows (sdom gsum) theory 2002. Cabezón and Lobsang Dargyay 2007 is a translation of an influential and polemical work of philosophy by the 15th-century author Gorampa Sönam Senge (Go rams pa bsod nams seng ge, b. 1429–d. 1489).

  • Cabezón, José Ignacio, and Geshe Lobsang Dargyay. Freedom from Extremes: Gorampa’s “Distinguishing the Views” and the Polemics of Emptiness. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2007.

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    A translation of a polemical work on Buddhist philosophy by the Sakya author Gorampa Sönam Senge.

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  • Deshung Rinpoche. The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception: A Commentary on the Three Visions. Translated by Rhoton, Jared Douglas. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2003.

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    Presents Deshung Rinpoche’s oral commentary on the “Three Visions” (snang gsum), an important Lamdré text composed by Ngorchen Konchog Lhundrup (Ngor chen dkon mchog lhun grub, b. 1497–d. 1557).

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  • Gold, Jonathan C.The Dharma’s Gatekeepers: Sakya Paṇḍita on Buddhist Scholarship in Tibet. Albany: Wisdom Publications, 2008.

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    Focuses on a key figure in Tibetan religious history, Sakya Paṇḍita and one of his best-known texts, the Gateway to Learning (mkhas pa ‘jug pa’i sgo). The book demonstrates his role of establishing in Tibet a model of scholastic authority on the basis of Indian intellectual traditions.

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  • Jackson, David P.Enlightenment by a Single Means: Tibetan Controversies on the “Self-Sufficient White Remedy” (dkar po chig thub). Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1994.

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    This monograph is a study of Sakya Paṇḍita’s polemic against a controversial teaching advanced by several Kagyü Mahāmudrā masters.

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  • Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen. A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes: Essential Distinctions among the Individual Liberation, Great Vehicle, and Tantric Systems. Translated by Jared Douglas Rhoton. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

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    A translation of an influential and controversial text by Sakya Paṇḍita on the subject of the three systems of vows in Tibetan Buddhism. It also includes translations of six letters written by Sakya Paṇḍita in defense of this work.

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  • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. Three Vows Theory in Tibetan Buddhism: A Comparative Study of Major Traditions from the Twelfth through Nineteenth Centuries. Wiesbaden, Germany: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2002.

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    An exhaustive study of the history of the “Three Vows” theory in Tibet, from its early history as a distinctively Sakya teaching and its later developments in other schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

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  • Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich. Hevajra and Lam ‘bras Literature of India and Tibet as Seen through the Eyes of A-mes-zhabs. Contributions to Tibetan Studies 6. Wiesbaden, Germany: Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2008.

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    Provides an invaluable survey and study of the Tibetan Lam ‘bras literature, which focuses on advanced meditative practices in the Hevajra tradition. It focuses particularly on the presentation of this literature contained in the works of the 17th-century author Sakya author Ame-zhab (a myes zhabs, b. 1597–d. 1659).

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  • Stearns, Cyrus. Luminous Lives: The Story of the Early Masters of the Lam ‘Bras Tradition in Tibet. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2001.

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    This is a translation of an important hagiography of early Lam ‘bras masters. Composed by Sakya Paṇḍita.

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  • Stearns, Cyrus, ed. and trans. Taking the Result as the Path: Core Teachings of the Sakya Lamdré Tradition. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2006.

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    This extensive 750-page work contains translations of a dozen works from the Lamdré tradition, the highest system of practice of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. The founding of this tradition, which is closely connected to the Hevajra Tantra, is credited to the Mahāsiddha Virūpa, and the first text in the volume is a work attributed to him.

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Nonsectarian Movement

The “nonsectarian” or “Eclectic” Rimé (ris med) movement was a movement founded by prominent 19th-century intellectuals, typically but not exclusively from schools other than the Geluk, who engaged with important intellectual issues in a nonsectarian fashion—although to a certain extent it constituted a challenge to Geluk hegemony. The movement is particularly known for its advancement of the teaching of “other emptiness” (gzhan stong), which was resisted by the Geluk tradition. Notable teachers in this movement included Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (b. 1820–d. 1892) and Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye (‘Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas, b. 1813–d. 1899). Barron 2003 is a translation of Jamgön Kongtrul’s autobiography, and Ringu Tulku 2007 is a study of his distinctive philosophical approach. Harding translates a short work on highest yoga tantra practices in Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 1996. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 1995 is a translation of the volume on cosmology from the massive Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche 1996 is a commentary on Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo’s work on tantric preliminary practices.

Death and Dying in Tibetan Buddhism

Ever since the publication of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, there has been perennial interest in Tibetan beliefs and practices concerning death and the afterlife. Anyone with serious interest in the Tibetan Book of the Dead would be advised to read Gyurme Dorje’s complete translation (Gyurme Dorje 2006), as well as Cuevas’s study of the work’s history (Cuevas 2003). Cuevas 2008 is a study of popular Tibetan narratives concerning death and the afterlife. Childs2004 and Mumford 1989 provide accounts of Tibetan practices concerning death. Mullin 1998 is an anthology containing translations of short texts concerning death, and Germano 2005 provides a fascinating study of the “funerary transformation” of a major Tibetan contemplative tradition. Kapstein 2007 presents a fascinating study of a Tibetan transformation of a Chinese death narrative.

  • Childs, Geoff. Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004.

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    An anthropological account of the Nubri, an ethnic Tibetan people in northern Nepal. It contains detailed descriptions of beliefs and practices concerning death, the intermediate state, and rebirth in this community.

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  • Cuevas, Bryan J.The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    A detailed study of one of the most popular but widely misunderstood classics, the bar do thos grol chen mo, the “Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States,” more commonly known to English readers as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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  • Cuevas, Bryan J.Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Cuevas has complemented his work on the Tibetan Book of the Dead with a study of popular Tibetan narratives concerning death.

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  • Germano, David. “The Funerary Transformation of the Great Perfection (Rdzogs chen).” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies 1 (October 2005): 1–54.

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    This essay explores the ways in which the “Great Perfection” tradition became increasingly concerned with death and practices involving death. Available online.

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  • Gyurme Dorje, trans. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: First Complete Translation. Edited by Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa. New York: Viking, 2006.

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    This work, as the title claims, provides the first complete translation of the entire bar do thos grol chen mo also known as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This is a guidebook for the dying and dead, commonly used in Tibetan funeral rites, attributed to Padmasambhava.

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  • Kapstein, Matthew T. “Mulian in the Land of the Snows and King Gesar in Hell: A Chinese Tale of Parental Death in its Tibetan Transformations.” In The Buddhist Dead: Practices, Discourses, Representations. Edited by Bryan J. Cuevas and Jacqueline I. Stone, 345–377. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007.

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    This essay explores the impact of Chinese narratives concerning Mulian’s rescue of his mother from hell in Tibet.

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  • Mullin, Glenn H.Living in the Face of Death: The Tibetan Tradition. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1998.

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    An anthology of short works dealing with Tibetan beliefs and practices concerning death and dying.

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  • Mumford, Stan. Himalayan Dialogue. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

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    This anthropological account of Tibetan and Gurung communities in the Nepalese Himalayas contains detailed descriptions of beliefs concerning death and funerary practices maintained by these communities.

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Political Dimensions of Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism has been inextricably involved in politics from the start, and this tendency has become more pronounced since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950s. Mills 2003 is a study of the political roles played by traditional Geluk monastic institutions, and Ruegg 1991 illuminates an important aspect of traditional Tibetan religio-political discourse and practice, the “patron-priest” relationship. Powers 2004 analyzes the claims and counterclaims made by pro-Tibet and pro-China writers, while Schwartz 1994 is a study of a series of a Tibetan political protest movement that was in part religiously inspired. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, presents his views on the current global situation in Tenzin Gyatso 1999.

  • Mills, Martin A. Identity, Ritual, and State in Tibetan Buddhism: The Foundation of Authority in Gelukpa Monasticism. London: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003.

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    An anthropological study that focuses on the political roles played by major Tibetan monastic institutions.

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  • Powers, John. History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People’s Republic of China. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Provides a critical and balanced look at the arguments advanced by both sides in the debate over Tibet’s status vis-à-vis China.

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  • Ruegg, David Seyfort. “mchod yon, yon mchod and mchod gnas/yon gnas: On the Historiography and Semantics of a Tibetan Religio-social and Religio-political Concept.” In Tibetan History and Language: Studies Dedicated to Uray Géza on His Seventieth Birthday. Edited by Ernst Steinkellner, 441–454. Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien, 1991. [LCCN: 94-223695]

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    A short but important essay on the political implications of the Tibetan Buddhist “patron-priest” relationship.

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  • Schwartz, Ronald David. Circle of Protest: Political Ritual in the Tibetan Uprising, 1987–1992. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

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    This work highlights the roles played by monks and nuns in the Tibetan uprising in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. Ethics for a New Millennium. New York: Riverhead, 1999.

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    The Dalai Lama’s attempt to articulate a universal ethical system loosely based on Buddhist teachings.

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Practice

Tibetan Buddhism contains a rich assortment of ritual and contemplative practices. These two categories are not readily disassociated, for most Tibetan external ritual practices have contemplative dimensions and are often practiced as a fully internalized contemplative exercise. Contemplative exercises, moreover, typically take place in a performative context, or, at the very least, require some sort of ritualized introduction or initiation.

Dzogchen

A great deal has been published on the topic of the Dzogchen (rdzog chen) or “Great Perfection,” a signature teaching of the Nyingma school but not an exclusively Nyingma practice. Karmay 1988 is a history of the tradition, and Germano 1994 is a sophisticated elucidation of it. Guenther 2001 attempts an innovative approach to the elucidation of Dzogchen thought. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche translates a selection of Longchen Rabjam’s writings on the subject in Longchen Rabjam 2002, while Van Schaik 2004 provides a study, edition, and translation of Jigme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingthig. Barron and Fairclough translate a visionary text on the subject in Dudjom Lingpa 1994. The current Dalai Lama introduces readers to the Geluk tradition of Dzogchen practice in (Tenzin GyatsoLingpa 2004.

  • Dudjom Lingpa. Buddhahood without Meditation: A Visionary Account Known as Refining One’s Perception (Nang-jang). Translated by Richard Barron and Susanne Fairclough. Junction City, CA: Padma, 1994.

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    A translation of a visionary work composed by the Tibetan yogi Dudjom Lingpa (Bdud ‘joms gling pa, b. 1835–d. 1904) on the topic of the Dzogchen “breakthrough” (khregs chod) practice.

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  • Germano, David. “Architecture and Absence in the Secret Tantric History of the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen).” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 17.2 (1994): 203–335.

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    Presents a sophisticated intellectual history of the Dzogchen tradition of meditation.

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  • Guenther, Herbert V. Matrix of Mystery: Scientific and Humanistic Aspects of rDzogs-chen Thought. Boston: Shambhala, 2001.

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    A challenging and innovative attempt to translate Dzogchen thought into Western conceptual categories.

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  • Karmay, Samten Gyaltsen. The Great Perfection: A Philosophical and Meditative Teaching of Tibetan Buddhism. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1988.

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    A detailed historical study of the Dzogchen tradition of Nyingma and Bön meditation.

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  • Longchen Rabjam. The Practice of Dzogchen. Translated by Tulku Thondup. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2002.

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    An excellent introduction to the Dzogchen (rdzogs chen) system of the Nyingma tradition. It begins with an introduction to Dzogchen, followed by short biographies of a number of Dzogchen masters. This is followed by an anthology of translations from the works of Longchen Rabjam (klong chen rab ‘byams pa, b. 1308–d. 1364), one of the great masters of the tradition.

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  • Tenzin Gyatso. Dzogchen: Heart Essence of the Great Perfection. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004.

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    Contains edited versions of four lectures given by the current Dalai Lama on Dzogchen practice.

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  • van Schaik. Approaching the Great Perfection: Simultaneous and Gradual Methods of Dzogchen Practice in the Longchen Nyingtig (klong chen snying thig). Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2004.

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    A detailed study of Jigme Lingpa’s Longchen Nyingthig synthesis of Dzogchen practice. It includes an extensive introduction and translations and editions of ten of the Longchen Nyingthig texts.

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MahāMudrā

Along with Dzogchen, Mahāmudrā (phyag chen) is one of the best-known Tibetan traditions of meditation. Although the term Mahāmudrā originated in the Indian tantric traditions, it emerged as a distinct practice tradition in the Kagyü school and then quickly spread to other traditions as well. Dakpo Tashi Namgyal 2001, Dakpo Tashi Namgyal 2006, and Duff 2008 are translations of classic works on Mahāmudrā contemplative practice. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche 1999 is a clear contemporary presentation of the same. Karma Chagme 2000 is a 17th-century attempt to integrate Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen practice, and Tenzin Gyatso 1997 presents the Geluk approach to Mahāmudrā practice. Martin 1992 is an important study of an early Mahāmudrā text.

Other Contemplative Practice Traditions

Numerous works have been published on other Tibetan contemplative practice traditions. Thupten Jinpa 2005 translates key works for the popular “Mind Training” tradition of meditation, and Traleg Kyabgon 2007 elucidates these practices for beginners. Hopkins 1982 translates a contemporary Nyingma work on Tantric practice, Harding translates a short work by Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé on Highest Yoga Tantra practices (Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé 1996), while Cozort 1986 presents from the Geluk perspective of the same. Lama Yeshe provides a clear presentation of the Geluk system of the Six Yogas of Nāropa (Yeshe 1998).

Pilgrimage, Festivals, and Other Ritual Practices

Pilgrimage practices and festivals are among the most important Tibetan Buddhist practices, and much work has been published on them. Toni Huber has written several works on contemporary pilgrimage practices (Huber 1999a, Huber 2006, and Huber 2008) and also edited an anthology on pilgrimage and related practices (Huber1999b). Ortner 1978 provides an account of Sherpa ritual practices, and Kohn 2001 is a detailed study of one of these—the Mani Rimdu festival. Nebesky-Wojkowitz 1975 is the classic study of Tibetan practices involving spirit possession. Bentor 1996 is a detailed work on Tantric rites of consecration.

Tibetan Buddhism and Globalization

Despite the relative isolation of Tibet, Tibetans engaged in cultural exchange with their neighbors throughout their history. Kapstein 2009 presents an anthology of essays detailing the long history of Sino-Tibetan relations, and Tuttle 2005, and Tuttle 2006 document these from the 19th century though the present. A great deal has been recently written concerning the Western understanding of Tibet. Lopez 1998 argues that Tibet has long been the object of Western fantasy, and that Western study of Tibet has significantly contributed to this problem. Dreyfus 2005, however, argues that although this problem is real, Lopez has exaggerated its extent. Brauen 2004, Lopez 1998, and Dodin2001 explore Western conceptions of Tibet and criticize romantic and misleading portrayals of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism. Jackson 2003 presents the life story of an influential Sakya lama who settled in America.

Women and Gender in Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism, like many religious traditions, has exhibited pronounced patriarchal tendencies. This tendency is the focus of Gross 1993. Klein 1995 argues that Tibetan Buddhism offers helpful resources for Western feminists. Campbell 1996, however, details the author’s troubling experiences with a sexually exploitive Tibetan lama. Gutschow 2004 describes the challenges faced by contemporary Tibetan Buddhist nuns, and Schaeffer’s translation of a Tibetan nun’s autobiography provides an example of a nun who successfully overcame these challenges. Willis 1989 and Gyatso and Havnevik 2005 are both helpful anthologies on this topic.

  • Campbell, June. Traveller in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism. New York: George Braziller, 1996.

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    A reflection on the author’s experience as a “consort” of a well-known Tibetan lama in the 1970s. It is a clear account of a quite common but rarely discussed problem: the sexual exploitation of disciples by some Tibetan lamas.

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  • Gross, Rita M.Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

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    Discusses the problem of patriarchy in Buddhism and attempts a feminist reconstruction of Buddhism.

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  • Gutschow, Kim. Being a Buddhist Nun: The Struggle for Enlightenment in the Himalayas. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004.

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    A study of communities of nuns in Zangskar, an ethnic Tibetan region of India. It explores in depth the conceptual and practical obstacles to the nuns’ advancement.

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  • Gyatso, Janet, and Hanna Havnevik, eds. Women in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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    This anthology contains a series of essays on women in Tibet, several of which address female religious figures.

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  • Klein, Anne Carolyn. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen: Buddhists, Feminists, and the Art of the Self. Boston: Beacon, 1995.

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    Although she does not deny the history of patriarchy in Tibetan Buddhism, Klein argues that Buddhist meditation techniques can serve as useful resources for Western women interested redefining their sense of identity.

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  • Schaeffer, Kurtis R.Himalayan Hermitess: The Life of a Tibetan Buddhist Nun. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Due to the patriarchal nature of Tibetan religious institutions, female practitioners were not encouraged to write, nor was their writing often preserved. Schaeffer presents a study and translation of one of the few extant autobiographies of a female practitioner, the life story of Orgyan Chökyi (O rgyan chos skyid, b. 1675–d. 1729).

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  • Willis, Jan, ed. Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1989.

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    This anthology contains a range of interesting essays focusing on women in Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393521-0166

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