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History of the Nyingma Doctrine

Historically, the Land of Snow had many Dharma kings who were manifestations of the Lords of the three Families: Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, and Vajrapani. The dharma first originated in 433A.D. during the reign of the 28th King, Lha-Tho-Tho-Ri-Nyentsen. When he was 60, a Buddhist scripture called Pang Kong Chag Gya Pa descended onto the rooftop of his palace, along with a few other religious objects. During the reign of Songtsen Gampo (617-698), the 33rd King of Tibet, the Tibetan Script was created, and hundreds of temples were built, including Rasa Thrulnang. Scores of sutra teachings were translated into numerous lessons and the rules of the divine doctrine of ten virtuous actions and the sixteen worldly principles were laid down. Tibetan history considers this period as the time when Buddha dharma was firmly established in Tibet.

The 38th King, Trisong Deutsen (790-858), fully propagated the Buddha’s teaching in the whole of Tibet by inviting one hundred and eight eminent scholars and masters from India, the Land of the Aryas, including Guru Padmasambhava, Acharya Shantarakshita, Pandita Vimalamitra and so on. Vairocana, Kawa Peltseg, Chongro Lui Gyaltsen, Zhang Yeshe De and many other outstanding translators translated most of the sutra and tantra teachings prevalent in India at that time. In addition, Guru Rinpoche brought many esoteric teachings of the unsurpassed Tantra from various places through his supernatural powers, including countries other than India and even non-human areas, for the benefit of beings in Tibet.Thus the teachings of Nine Yanas were widely spread through every nook and corner of Tibet, like the rays of sun. During the rule of Tri Relpachen (866-901), the 41st King, the previously translated works were edited. At this time recognition was given to two classes of practitioners: the shaved haired ordained monk with maroon robes, and plaited haired lay practitioner with white robes.

Gradually, many scholars and masters who held this tradition came to Tibet, and until the present day, the teachings of sutra and tantra continued to be practiced without degeneration. Due to the difference in the period of translation, there came in Tibet, the traditions of the Ngagyur Nyingmapa (the 'earlier translations') and the Sarmapa (the 'later translation'). Mentioned above is the brief account of Ngagyur Nyingmapa on its origination at beginning, establishment in middle and finally its dispersion throughout the country.

The Nyingma tradition includes two types of teachings: Kama and Terma. Kama teachings are the profound teachings of the inner tantra taught by Lord Buddha manifesting himself as Dharmakaya or Sambokaya, which are successively passed down through great masters to present root-master. Terma teachings are those which were concealed by Guru Rinpoche for the benefit of future beings and were later revealed by accomplished masters. Large monasteries that practiced both kama and terma teachings came to be known as ‘ma-gon’ or mother monasteries. Smaller monasteries originating from these are called ‘bu-gon’, son monasteries. From these as well small monasteries were born, which are called ‘yang-gon’ or additional monasteries.
In olden days, there were two different ways of listings the six mother Nyingma monasteries. Previously they included Dorje Drag, Mindroling and Palri Monasteries in Upper Tibet; and Kathok, Palyul and Dzogchen monasteries in Lower Tibet. Following the decline of Chongye Palri Thegchog Ling monastery and the flourishing of Zhechen Monastery, the mother monasteries became Dorje Drag and Mindroling in the upper region, Zhechen and Dzogchen in the centre, and Kathok and Palyul in the lower part of Tibet. These six great mother monasteries uphold the distinct Nyingma teachings to this day and their popularity are reaching far and wide.