Nyingma Pa is the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism
The Tibetan transliteration of “Ningma” means “ancient, old”, (commonly known as “Old Transcription of Tantra”)
Because the monks of Nyingma Pa all wear red hats, therefore it is also commonly known as the “Red Hat School” or “Red Sect”.
The tradition of Nyingma Pa has a direct inheritance relationship with the Buddhism of the Tubo Kingdom (633-842 AD).
It mainly inherits and promotes the old Tantras translated and transmitted in the Tubo period (“the first Propagation to 8th century). Its historical origin is earlier than other sects (i.e, Sakya Pa, Kagyu Pa, Gelug Pa) of Tibetan Buddhism that appeared in the “the Second Propagation (also known as ‘Phyi dar’, AD 978 – till now)”
Nyingma teachings have been passed down from 8th century and formed in the 11th century
The founding master of Nyingma Pa was Padmasambhava, who made great contributions to reconciling the contradictions between the Tibet native Bon religion and Buddhism from India, and making them integrate with each other.
The creator of Nyingma Pa is recognized as “Zur Poche Shakya Yungna, AD 1002–1O62”, and his highest practice of his inheritance is “Dzogchen (Great Perfection)”.
It was spread in the areas of Mongolian in the 13th century, and in addition to Tibetan, there are also believer of Nyingma Pa of Mongolian, Tu, Yugu, Manchu, Chinese Han
It was not until 16th and 17th centuries that Nyingma Pa began to build large-scale monasteries.
In modern times, monasteries of Nyingma Pa have been built in India, Belgium, Greece, France, and United States.
Characteristics of Nyingma Pa
Nyingma Pa is with the following characteristics:
1st, since the formation of the Nyingma Pa, it had been inherited between fathers, sons and brothers. It had always been in a scattered state, the organization was relatively loose, and the content of teaching was inconsistent, and even each was with its own inheritance.
2nd, the most prominent teaching of the Nyingma Pa is the Dzogchen (Great Perfection)”, which advocates “The nature of the heart is pure, Self-enlightenment suddenly formed, Limited compassion expands equally to all beings, and it has to be realized
with the thoughts of heart”. The fundamental tantra of Nyingma Pa is 18 Tantras
3rd, many contents of Bon religion, such as gods, rituals and so on, are accepted and absorbed by Nyingma Pa
The emergence of the Nyingma School and its spread in Kham can be traced back to the period of Tubo king “Trisong Detsen” (AD 755-797).
In the 8th century, during the Trisong Detsen period, he actively supported the development of Buddhism. During his reign, he invited Indian monks Zhi Ba Tsho and Padmasambhava to Tibet to promote Buddhism.
“The Dzogchen Dharma” (not called Dzogchen at this time) began to be translated into Tibet by Padmasambhava, Vimalamitra, Bairo Ttsana and others.
Due to the influence of local Tibetan culture and the interference of political power, it was gradually combined with Bon religion in the process of dissemination, and gradually became a buddhism teaching with strong Tibetan characteristics.
In the late 8th century, the 1st monastery of Tibetan Buddhism, Samye Monastery, was established in Tibet, and the first batch of Tibetan monks, the “Seven Awakened Men”, were ordained.
Samye Monastery is one of the representative monasteries of the Nyingma Pa. Since Sakya Pa once ruled Tibet, and during the reign of the Sakya Pa which once invested in the repair of the Samye Monastery and sent monks to Samye Monastery. Since then, Nyingma Pa and Sakya Pa co-existed in Samye Monastery
After the completion of Samye Monastery, the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen sent people to India to invite eminent Buddhist monks while sent people to India to study Buddhism. At that time, Buddhist scriptures were learned while translated, and translated while disseminated at the same time.
The Tibetan King Trisong Detsen was forced to exile Bairo Ttsana to the Tsavarong area (Barkham City) in the east Tibet of Kham, hence, Nyingma Pa was introduced into Kham, and even becoming a sect of Tibetan Buddhism with greater influence in Kham
According to the “Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture Ethnography”, “When Bairo Ttsana was in Tsavarong (Barkham City), a total of 12 early Tibetan Buddhist monasteries were built, which are called ‘Bairo sect’ and belong to the old sect of the early Nyingma Pa (the old mantra system).”
In the middle of 9th century, during the reign of Tubo King Langdama (reigned from 841 to 846 AD), he severely attacked Buddhism, which is known as “Langdama destroys the Buddha”.
During this period, Nyingma Pa was greatly impacted and suffered huge losses. From that time on, Nyingma Pa was gradually passed down as a family unit in the form of father-son or uncle and nephew.
The spread of the Nyingma Pa was not as prosperous as other new sects （Kagyu Pa, Sakya Pa, Gelug Pa）, and it was not closely related to the local government of Tibet, but it still continued anyway.
In the middle of the 11th century (in the early stage of the “the Second Propagation” of Tibetan Buddhism), it was marked by the construction of Wukpa Lung Monastery by Zurpoche Shakya Yungna (1002-1062 AD), which is the formation of Nyingma Pa as a sect in the strict sense.
After the establishment of Wukpa Lung Monastery, a lecture school and a practice school were set up,
In the middle of 11th century, the existing teachings and rituals of the Nyingma Pa were sorted out.
In 13th century, it was spread to Bhutan, and then to Nepal, where it was all the rage.
In 14th century AD, the teachings and rituals of the Nyingma sect were reorganized, and the content and name of the “Dzogchen Dharma” were determined, making it theoretical and systematic. Since then, the Nyingma Pa has been on the right track. The monks also began to pay attention to learn “exotoric buddhism“
In the middle of 20th century, Ningma Pa was spread to India, and a monastery was built in Darjeeling, which became a sect of the Buddhist revival movement in India.
In 1973, it spread to Europe, a Ningma Pa monastery was built in Belgium, and later spread to Greece, France and other european countries. Some Rinpoche (Living Buddha) of Nyingma Pa also went to Europe and the United States to teach the Dharma, set up monasteries, print the Tibetan Tripitaka, and publish related articles about the Nyingma Pa
Ancient classic inheritance
This inheritance is also divided into three types,
1, It is the inheritance of “Variety Scripture”, “3 Zur” is its main representative,
3 Zur are “Zur·Poche Shakya Yungna”, “Zur·Chung Sherab Drapa”, “Zur·Shakya Sengge”
2, It is the inheritance of “Abhiniskramana Sutra”, its fundamental sutra was combined with “Variety Scripture” when the time was of Zur Poche Shakya Yungna
3, It is the inheritance of Dzogchen (The great perfection). It is further divided into “Semde”, “Longde”, “Menngagde (incantations, or Instruction Class)”
Semde emphasizes that the nature of mind is in clarity
Longde, meaning the foundation of all manifestations – the void, which emphasizes emptiness
Menngagde, meaning the secret, and the key from the siddha’s practice experience, which emphasizes Being presence, which is divided into two parts: Quintessential Dzogchen and Khadro Yangtig（to understand the most essential meaning of emptiness)
3.3.1, The inheritance of “Quintessential Dzogchen”. The important figure Longchen Rabjang·Tsetsen Lozhe (1308-1363 AD) wrote “Seven Treasures”, which is the fundamental text of Nyingma Pa. He once built monasteries in Bhutan, and the Nyingma teachings in Bhutan and Nepal are all derived from him.
3.3.2, The inheritance of “Khadro Yangtig”, it is a “terma (hidden teachings)”, that is, it was passed on to Yeshe Tsogyal(AD 757-817) by Padmasambhava, and then buried in the ground by Yeshe Tsogyal
Inheritance of modern terma
Terma was once popular in India, which all sects of Tibetan Buddhism have it as well, but Nyingma Pa attached more importance to them.
Legend has it that predecessors such as Padmasambhava buried Buddhist scriptures and tantra classics in mountain rocks and grottoes; When Langdama banned buddhism, Tibetan Buddhists also buried Buddhist scriptures in grottoes in order to protect the buddhism treasures.
In the “the Second Propagation (also known as ‘Phyi dar’, AD 978 – till now)”, buddhism began to revive, and buddhists took out these “termas” and buddhism began to spread among the Tibetan again.
Inheritance of the deep and pure realm
According to masters, practitioners sense Buddha, Bodhisattva or Patriarch appearing to teach in meditation, dream or ordinary times. All sects of Tibetan Buddhism have this kind of sense, but Nyingma Pa attaches great importance to this .
The main sites
Unlike other major sects such as the Sakya Pa, Kagyu Pa, and Gelug Pa, Nyingma Pa did not have a central monastery from the very beginning.
It also did not adopt the method of joint operation by a local force, especially in the early stage of its establishment and development, Nyingma Pa did not form a relatively powerful monastic group force.
Samye Monastery, although it is the first monastery of Tibetan Buddhism and one of the representative monasteries of Nyingma sect, but in fact this is a monastery where Nyingma and Sakya sects coexist
“Note: In history, none of the eminent monks of Nyingma Pa ever served as the leader of the “unity of politics and religion”, but the abbots of each monastery were the opinion leaders.”
From Langdama’s destruction of Buddhism to before 17th century, the monks of the Nyingma Pa appeared mostly as ordinary people, and lived in the mountains to practice, and there were no larger-scale monasteries.
In 17th centry, the six main monasteries of the Nyingma Pa were gradually established, and then the main monastery was divided into smaller sub-monasteries. From that time on, many Nyingma monasteries were gradually built in Tibet and the eastern Tibet of Kham and Amdo
The six main temples are as follows
Dorje Drak Monastery, located on the north bank of the Yarlung Zangbo River in Gongga County, is regarded as the “ancestral monastery of Nyingma Pa”, and it was built in 1598 AD
Mindrolling Monastery, located in Zhanang County, was established in 1676 AD. Buddhism is not only taught in this monastery, but also taught knowledge of medicine, astronomy, calendar, calligraphy, etc. The monks trained here are often transferred to Lhasa Manzi Lhakhang to be in charge of studying the calendar and compiling the “Tibetan Calendar”.
Dzogchen Monastery, located in the northeastern part of Dege County, was founded in 1685 AD by the 1st Dzogchen King Pema Rinzin (AD 1625–1697) in Dege County, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Province.
Shechen Monastery, located in the northeast of Dege County near Dzogchen Monastery, was established in 1695 AD.
Katok Monastery, located in Hepo Township of Baiyu County, was rebuilt in 1656 AD.
Pelyul Monastery, located in the county seat of Baiyu County, was founded in 1665 and its full name is “Pelyul Namgyal Jangchubling”.
One of other important Nyingma monasteries is Dodrupchen Monastery belonging to the Longchen Nyingthig sect of the Nyingma Pa
There are also hundreds of Nyingma monasteries in Sichuan and Qinghai, which exist as sub-monasteries of Kathok Monastery, Pelyul Monastery and Dzogchen Monastery.