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Tibetan schools..just for information.

CittaCitta Veteran
edited June 2013 in Buddhism Basics
It struck me that references to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism ( more properly called the Vajrayana because it is also found outside Tibet ) might be confusing to those not familiar with things...
Roughly speaking there are four main schools
The Nyingma ..which trace their origin back to the great Padmasambhava, and which is the largest group in terms of numbers.
The Kagyu which traces its origin back to Marpa The Translator, the guru of Milarepa.
The Sakya which has its origin in the teachings of Sakya Pandita and
The Gelug which has its origins in the teachings of Tsongkapa..

All schools take their teachings from the Tantras to a greater or lesser extent.
All schools have both monastic and lay followers, but there are relatively few monks or nuns among the Nyingmapa.
Many of its leading teachers have been laypeople ..including one of its greatest recent teachers Dudjom Rinpoche, who was a married man with children.
The school which most resembles the monastic practices of the Theravada is the Gelug. The Dalai Lama is a Gelug monk.
They keep almost the same vows as do the Theravada.
The Kagyu and Sakya have both monastic and lay teachers.
The most well known Sakya teacher in the UK for example is Lama Jampa Thaye who is married with several children.

So in debates about the Vajrayana there is no one model concerning the lives of its teachers.

NB Just to make things more complex many teachers belong to more than one school....


  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    I've heard the schools characterized as being on a continuum between shamanic/gnostic and priestly/philosophical.

    Nyingmapa as being the most shamanic/gnostic then Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug as being more priestly/philosophical.
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    Yes I think there is truth in that.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    Also keep in mind that the teachings are not all tantric. The prajnaparamita sutras are mahayana unless I am mistaken.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    This was really helpful! I can never remember all the different Vajrayana schools, nor did I know any significant difference between them. Awesome.
  • Citta said:

    The school which most resembles the monastic practices of the Theravada is the Gelug. The Dalai Lama is a Gelug monk.

    According to his official website, the Dalai Lama says that it is important for monastics ordained in the Tibetan tradition to follow the vows set forth in the Mulasarvastivadin school of monastic codes. This means that monks in the Tibetan tradition are expected to follow 253 monastic rules. That's actually more than a Theravadin monk who follows 227 monastic rules.

    In fact out of the three lineages of Vinaya still in use, the Theravadin one has the least rules while the Tibetan one has the most. According to Wikipedia:

    Mūlasarvāstivāda Vinaya (Tibet and Mongolia): 253 rules for monks, 364 rules for nuns
    Dharmaguptaka Vinaya (China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam): 250 rules for monks, 348 rules for nuns
    Theravadin Vinaya (Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, and Thailand): 227 rules for monks, 311 rules for nuns

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