The Nyingma Palyul Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism
1. A brief introduction to Tibetan Buddhism
In the 7th century AD when King Songtsen Gampo ruled over Tibet, Buddhism was introduced into Tibet. At that time the king sent Thonmi Sambhota, a translator, to India to study Indian languages and scripts. This led to the creation of Tibetan alphabet and establishment of classical Tibetan which started the written history for Tibet. Afterwards, the translator translated into Tibetan twenty-one sutras and tantras of Avalokitesvara, and The Powerful Secret and various other texts. Then, the king took as his queens two princesses respectively from China and Nepal, who introduced two images of Shakyamuni Buddha and numerous representations of the Three Jewels into Tibet. The king built the series of temples known as the Thadul and Yangdul, of which the principal one was the Rasa Trulnang. In this way he established Buddhism in Tibet.
Besides the Tibetan script, Buddhism, temples, sutra translation, the king also formulated the law to educate his people. Thus, Tibet Empire gradually became strong, powerful and civilized from then on.
In the 8th century AD, the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen invited to Tibet such Indian Buddhist masters and panditas as Padmasambhava, Shantarakshita, Vimalamitra, etc. To uphold representations of the Buddhas' form, he built Samye Monastery and many other temples. To uphold the Buddha's speech, the authentic Dharma, he also sent 108 translators including renowned Vairotsana from Tibet to India to learn the art of translation and then translated all the main sutras, tantras and sastras then current in the noble land of India. Furthermore, the king selected seven individuals as the “seven to be tested”, in order to observe if the Tibetan people are suitable to be monastic. This formed the Sangha, upholding the Buddha's mind. Subsequently, their efforts completely introduced into Tibet or Land of Snow all dharmas in India ranging from Hinayana to the supreme tantra.
2. A brief introduction to the Nyingma school
Through a series of ups and downs, Tibetan Buddhism has been developed into the four major schools: Nyingma (Red), Gelug (Yellow), Kagyu (White), Sakya (Tri-colored) and the Tathagata teachings and assurances have never been destroyed in the developing period.
Therein, the Nyingma school is the oldest among the major four, dating back to more than 1,200 years ago when Guru Padmasambhava started to spread its dharmas in Tibet. It is the Dharma origin of Tibetan Buddhism. Among its teachings, “Dzogchen” is the most famous. From the Nyingma school, derived Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug and other schools one after another. Therefore, the Nyingma Dharma can be called the mother of Tibetan Buddhist dharmas. The Nyingma school has six famous Vajra Practicing Fields or Six Mother Monasteries, that is, Dorje Drak and Mindrolling in west Tibet, Shechen and Dzogchen in central Tibet, and Katok and Palyul in east Tibet. They are the six major lineages in the Nyingma school. Our lineage belongs to Palyul.
3. A brief introduction to Palyul Monastery
It is Palyul’s mother monastery, located in Baiyu County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichaun Province, China, fully styled “Palyul Holy Bodhi Dharma-Island”. It was a place blessed by Guru Padmasambhava and where the great translator, Vairotsana cultivated himself. Here was also the place where Jirechuejong Wangbo, the first disciple of Ma Chok Rinchen, stayed. Now the visitors to the place can still make a pilgrimage to his spiritual retreat cave. Ma Chok Rinchen was one of the 25 main disciples of Guru Padmasambhava.
Jirechuejong Wangbo was an excellent Dharma host and extremely important heir to the Big Magical Net of Tantras. He once preached and practiced the tantras of the net here, and made unsurpassed achievements. Later, the masters like Kadang Badexie in Katok Monastery also came here to practice tantras of the net. Totally, there were about one hundred thousand persons attained the great rainbow body at this place. This is why here was also called Katok’s Holy Island. In addition, masters known as the Palyul Three Father-and-Sons, the great achiever Karma Chagme, the great terton Namcho Mingyur Dorje and the Maha-siddha Kunzang Sherab—all of them passed down their systematic guiding legacy of the Dzogchen Namcho Buddha in the Palm of the Hand from here, too.
In 1665, Rigzin Kunzang Sherab founded Palyul Temple, formerly known as Palyul Holy Bodhi Garden Monastery, and assembled 500 monastics to spread the Dharma. He was the first abbot of the temple. Based on early-period Katok teachings, Namcho Terma, and Ratna Lingpa’s Terma, he rolled the Dharma-wheel. Under his leadership, the temple was developed into a large monastery of more than 3,000 monastics. Later, a huge number of his disciples set up their own dharma-seat temples as hundreds of branches to Palyul Monastery.