Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism...

 


"Buddhanature is the innate primordial freedom of the mind, which is naturally imbued with wisdom, compassion, power, and bliss."        Karl Brunnholzl


Getting to Know the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism


Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism

Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism

Over the hundreds of years that the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism  Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelugs  have evolved out of their common roots in India, a wide array of divergent practices, beliefs, and rituals have come into being. However, there are significant underlying commonalities between the different traditions, such as the importance of overcoming attachment to the phenomena of cyclic existence, and the idea that it is necessary for trainees to develop an attitude of sincere renunciation. John Powers’ fascinating and comprehensive book, Introduction to Buddhism, re-issued by Snow Lion in September 2007, contains a lucid explanation of those similarities.

One important point of agreement lies in rules of monastic discipline: All orders of Tibetan Buddhism follow the vinaya of the Mula-Sarvastivada school, which has been the standard in Tibetan monasteries since the founding of the first monastic institution at Samye. In addition, they also share the same body of philosophical and liturgical texts imported from India, and all four orders present a path to awakening that incorporates practices of sutra and tantra systems.

They also share some common assumptions about the doctrines and practices they inherited from India. It is generally agreed that the Buddha provided divergent dispensations for various types of trainees, and these have been codified by Tibetan intellectual historians, who categorize Buddha’s teachings in terms of three distinct vehicles – the Lesser Vehicle (Hinayana), the Great Vehicle (Mahayana), and the Vajra Vehicle (Vajrayana) – each of which was intended to appeal to the spiritual capacities of particular groups.

… Indian Buddhism is also commonly divided by scholars of the four Tibetan orders into four main schools of tenets – Great Exposition School, Sutra School, Mind Only School, and Middle Way School. Each of these is associated with particular teaching lineages, texts, doctrines, and practices, and all are thought to have value for particular people and in particular contexts. Moreover, although the classification scheme is a hierarchical one, none of the practices and doctrines is disparaged, since all are thought to have been taught by Buddha and to be conducive to spiritual progress. 

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