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- Speech given to the Inter-Religious Assembly -
   The Vatican. Rome, 25th. October 1999

- The Lineage of Tibetan Buddhist Tradition -
   Second World Conference for the Propagation of Buddhism.
Thailand, 9th. November 2000

The Lineage of Tibetan Buddhist Tradition


Today, on the occasion of the Second World Conference for the Propagation of Buddhism, in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, I consider it my great good fortune to be present at this gathering, as a representative of Tibetan Buddhism.

Regarding the first among the five sets of proposals to a be presented at this Conference, I consider this to be a topic of the greatest importance, like the root within the five proposals, As followers of the same Teacher, we are-meant to encompass each other with the light of the jewel of pure outlook, putting aside any falling into sectarianism, or contention between schools of tenets and yanas such as the Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana which came into being through the unfolding of the enlightened activity of the Buddha in many different countries. For this reason I would like to offer a few thoughts or reflections on this matter.

In order for us to come to a proper egalitarian relationship of interconnectedness, among the different Buddhist denominations which is not merely pay lip-service, it is very important to be able to know mid have a full grasp of each other's view, meditation, and conduct as they are, rather than holding in esteem our own tradition and completely rejecting, without clear examination, the other traditions, whether good or bad.

The essence of the teaching of the Sugatas, the Four Seals of the transmitted precepts, that all composite are impermanent, all contaminations are suffering, all Dharmas are empty and devoid of self, and Nirvana is peace. And then, the suffering of samsara is like the pain of an illness; the origination like the cause that makes it develop; the truth of the path like the treatment, the antidote that overpowers the illness; and the truth of cessation like the well-being of being freed from the illness. Having acknowledged suffering, the cause is to be given up, the truth of cessation is the attainment to be actualized and the truth of the path is to be followed. There are also the 37 Aspects on the Path of Enlightenment and the 3 Higher Trainings. We are unified in these and it is important that we all show respect for and appreciation of each other's traditions.

Therefore I believe that it is of essential that those who previously did not understand clearly the view, meditation and action of the Buddhist tradition of Tibet, should definitely come to know and comprehend it.

Nowadays it seems that some people have the wrong idea that Tibetan Buddhism is an invention of Tibetan lamas. Lacking understanding of the situation, they think that the teachings are not the pure teachings of the Buddha. It is most important to clarify this misconception.

In a Sutra, the Buddha predicted that at some point in the future the teachings would flourish in the North and in the South. In the North, in Tibet, this happened since the time of the Tibetan's Dharma King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th. Century. Later in the 8th. Century, the Tibet's 2nd. greatest Dharma King Trisong Deutsen, an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, invited the Buddhist Master, Padmasambhava of India, to his country. Subsequently, many Tibetan translators undertook the arduous journey to India at great personal risk, travelling for months and undergoing great hardships such as treacherous paths, the scorching beat and attacks by robbers.

Upon arrival in India they sat as humble students at the feet of great and famous scholars and accomplished practitioners, at the monastic universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila and others. They studied Sanskrit for many years and translated into Tibetan the Sutras, Vinaya, Abhidharma, as well as the tantras and commentaries. Likewise many Indian scholars were invited to Tibet by the religious kings to oversee translations, thus ensuring their accuracy. Thus, by means of teaching, learning and meditating, over a period of thirteen hundred years a great development of Buddhism occurred in Tibet.

The hundred volumes of teachings known as the Tripitaka make up the doctrine of the kind teacher Buddha Shakyamuni and in the Tibetan translation are known as the Kangyur. The two hundred and thirteen main commentaries by Indian scholars and siddhas on the Tripitaka in Tibetan are called the Tengyur.

The Tibetan Buddhist tradition is based exclusively on the Kangyur and the Tengyur. The translations made between the 8th and 10th centuries CE are said to belong to the "early translation" school. Those made from that time onwards by the translators Rinchen Zangpo, Marpa, Gö and others constitute the "new translation" school. All of these many translations were made from Sanskrit and not from Pali.

To emphasise their authenticity the original titles of the texts and commentaries of the Tripitaka have been left in Sanskrit. When present day scholars compare the. same text in the original Sanskrit with its Tibetan translation, they are amazed by the accuracy and the absence of error.

Between the 7th and 17th centuries CE, the number of important Indian translators and scholars who traveled to Tibet is estimated to be one hundred and twenty-eight, and the main Tibetan translators visiting India about seventy six. Their interpretations of the Kangyur and Tengyur were not influenced by cultural bias neither was their approach at all superficial.

The Tibetan masters devoted their entire lives to learning, contemplation and meditation. In addition, based on the Kangyur and the Tengyur, they wrote many hundreds of texts in order to further clarify and maintain the precious teachings of the Buddha. They transmitted the Buddhadharma to thousands of monks and nuns. But they never tried to alter the doctrine of the Buddha or to invent a new Dharma.

In India during the early years of the dissemination of the Buddha's teachings, four separate Buddhist philosophy schools developed. They were: Vaibhasika, Sautantrika, Cittamatra and Madhyamika.

The Vaibhasika subsequently divided into 18 traditions, which were four main schools: Mulasarvastivadin, Mahasamghika, Sthaviravada and Sammitiya, as well as further fourteen sub-schools, branched from these four main ones. One of them, the Sthaviravada known in Pali as Theravada, is followed today by monastics in India, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka, etc.

In the 8th. Century CE the supreme abbot Shantarakshita, a lineage holder of the Mulasarvastivada school, was invited to teach in Tibet. After some time twelve fully ordained Indian monks from the monastic university of Vikramashila were also invited to Tibet to act as the ordaining assembly for a select group of seven Tibetan men, chosen to be the first monastics ever ordained in Tibet, Subsequently they ordained a further three hundred. Thus the Tibetan Vinaya derives solely from the Indian Mulasarvastivada school. Only these four schools, three of the Sthaviravada and Mulasarvastivada have continued until today, whereas the rest 14 traditions eventually wanded and disappeared.

The precepts for the Sthaviravada Vinaya fully-ordained monks are 227. They are divided into several different classes:
4 defeats
13 remainders
2 indefinite
30 abandoning downfalls
92 solitary downfalls
4 individual confessions
75 faults
7 practices that pacify conflicts.

On the other hand, the precepts for the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya fully-ordained monks are 253. They are also divided into several different categories:
4 defeats
13 remainders
2 indefinite
30 abandoning downfalls
90 solitary downfalls
4 individual confessions
112 faults.

So there are small differences between the two schools. For example, among the 112 faults in the Mulasarvastivada system, there are 7 concerning the wearing of the lower garment. In the Sthaviravada system, this subject appears as only one fault. But as these examples show, although there are minor differences among the schools, regarding the root precepts they are identical.

Likewise, there are differences in the background stories giVenerable When the Mulasarvastivada Vinaya texts expound on the downfall of "Carrying wool", they recount the travelling of six monks to Nepal in some detail. The Sthaviravada mention only their travelling to a country in the North.

Further differences are that the Mulasarvastivada considers being an albino as an obstacle to receiving vows, while the Sthaviravada does not mention this; and when the Mulasarvastivada school maintains that at the time of ordination only head and moustache need to be shaved, while one of the other school includes also the eyebrows. Also in the Sthaviravada schools, when a novice monk breaks any one of the 10 novice precepts, his vow is broken but it is not a defeat, which means that he can take back that precept and return to his previous novice status. But in the Mulasarvastivada school, once a novice monk breaks any one of the four defeats which are included in the ten novice precepts, he is defeated and not allowed to take that precept back and return to the status of a novice. So there are some differences such as these.

Concerning the Pitaka of the holy teachings of the Vinaya, translated into the Tibetan language drawn from the Tripitaka, the teachings of the Buddha, there are three parts: the Root Sutra, the Sutra of the Expositions and the Sutra of Similar Class. Within the first, the Root Sutra, are found the texts of the Bhikshu Pratimoksha and the Bhikshuni Pratimoksha. The Bhikshu Pratimoksha presents in brief the 253 rules of a Bhikshu. The Pratimoksha Sutra for females shown in brief the 364 rules for Bhikshunis.

Secondly, in the Sutra of the Expositions there are four parts; these are: the Basic Scripture (agama), the Explanatory Scripture, the Minor Instructions and the Transmission of the Sublime Teaching.

Among the categories of the Basic Scripture are 17 fundamental pronouncements. These are called fundamental because they support the three trainings: ethics, concentration and wisdom. The basis for completely cultivating the trainings is threefold: the ceremony of restoration of vows (Posadha), the summer retreat (Varsha) and the ceremony of releasing from its vows. The basis for the conditions for remaining at ease are twofold: the basis of clothing and of medicine. As to the basis of clothing there are three aspects: they are coarse blankets, garments and hide or leather. As to the basic medicines, there are four aspects: they are appropriate times, a suitable span of time, weekly permission and fitting to be kept for the whole of one's life.

The basis for the actions in Vinaya is 121 procedure. In short there are three: the ceremony of requesting, which is informing the Sangha; the request and the ceremony of the two, which means to inform but ask if there is any objection. And then, there is the requesting and the ceremony of the four which is the completion of the entire procedure.

Regarding the basis of reparation in order to purify moral downfalls, there are three divisions: the cause of abandoning the vows, restoring the downfalls, and mending disputes.

There is also abandoning the two extremes concerned with dwelling places. Altogether these are the 17 fundamental pronouncements.

Concerning the Sutra of the Explanatory Scripture, there are male and female classifications. As to the male classification, there are the 253 precepts of a Bhikshu and many teachings on training. It also shows extensively the 7 Dharma which pacify contention. As to the female classification, there are the eight classes of defeat, the 20 remainders, the 33 abandoning downfalls, the 180 downfalls, the 11 individual confessions, the 112 faults and many Dharmas on discipline. It also shows extensively the 7 Dharmas for pacifying contention.

The Minor Instructions are a commentary which gives the general meanings of the two Pratimokshas by extensively putting in order the minor points which reside in the discipline.

The Sublime Teaching Sutra is the last and most cherished commentary since it resolves and teaches the meanings of the first three Vinaya texts which are profound and difficult to understand.

The Sutra of Similar Class includes:
The Sutra which Annihilates the Breaking of Ethical Conduct
The Sutra of Nejok, the Discourse which is Essential for Monks
The Sutra of the Bhikshu's Staff
The Sutra which Teaches all the Manner of Holding the Staff
The Sutra of the Gandi (Wooden Gong)
The Sutra on the Occasions for Use of the Gong
The Sutra for Possessing Perfect Moral Discipline, and so forth.

Previous to 1959 CE, thousands of monasteries and nunneries existed in Tibet. Ordained Sangha in various numbers dwelled in them. In the larger monasteries there were thousands of monks, hundreds in the average ones and some ten or so in the smaller ones. Among these were monastic centers of nuns and monasteries of upasaka vow-holders. However most were monasteries containing Shramanera and Bhikshu. This majority abided in the authentic observance of the three basic precepts of the Vinaya: the Summer Retreat, the ceremony for releasing its rules and the Posadha ceremony for restoring the vows. In the second millennium the Buddhist Sangha of Tibet upheld one of the Pratimoksha traditions, but at the time of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet, they went into decline. Nevertheless at present, the Tibetan Sangha who abide in India and Nepal, are upholding and preserving the Pratimoksha doctrine as before.

In that way, without transgressing the intent of these four classes of scriptures on the monastic discipline, the Tibetan Sangha uphold the Vinaya and, as well as never having failed in the observance of the Vinaya, also take on the Bodhisattva vows and the vows of Vajrayana and therefore perform the practice of the three Dharmas - Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Vajrayana.

Those with an intellect that narrowly clings to partiality like the "gaze of a one eyed man", might maintain that the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva and Tantric vows contradict each other. This is due to seeing these as classifications and not perceiving their true intention, in which there is never a contradiction. It is explained at the level of Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva or Tantra that the cause of being bound to the three realms of samsara is the actions of the three doors which are under the influence of the negative emotions or kleshas, such as desire, aversion, and so forth. According to the Pratimoksha of the shravakas, by abiding by the vows which teach one the method for avoiding wrongdoing one becomes free from rebirth in the lower realms and creates the cause to attain rebirth in the heavens and liberation.

According to the Bodhisattva vows, one abide by the Pratimoksha through refraining from negative conduct; then by skilful means one cultivates great compassion and the wisdom of emptiness, engaging in the conduct of a Bodhisattva such as the six paramitas and the four "samgraha vastu" or ways of attraction, for the sake of benefiting others, and then these become the cause of attaining the level of supreme Enlightenment.

In the Tantric vows, even greater than the great skilful means and wisdom of a Bodhisattva is the special practise of the generation and completion stages, which is the cause for attaining to unexcelled supreme Enlightenment without requiring a long period of time.

In brief, in whichever level, the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, or Tantra, there is uniformity of view in the need to relinquish the negative emotions or kleshas and cease wrongdoing, and then, it is necessary to train in the cultivation of virtuous actions and positive qualities. According to one's situation, whether beginner, yogi, siddha or omniscient, one must not confuse the behaviour; it is essential to act in a manner appropriate to that condition. In the great commentary on the Kalachakra Tantra, it is stated "Therefore the beginner should not perform the actions of the yogin. The yogin should not do the actions of a siddha, and a siddha should not do the actions of an omniscient one". So it is necessary to understand what is to be accepted or rejected at the each condition.

Thus, for those who enter the door of the precious teachings of the Buddha, the main point is to know the avoidances of the Pratimoksha since this is the basic support of all good qualities. When the capacity of the mind is raised by skilful means and wisdom, having grasped the profound practice of the generation and completion stages. It is then necessary to practice according to one's own development of increasingly higher realization. The vows of the Pratimoksha, the Bodhisattva, and the Tantra are like the steps of a ladder. Without being supported by the lower ones, the upper ones do not arise. In the Lamp of the Path by the lord Atisha Dipankara he reflects the view of Arya Asanga that only those who have the seven levels of Pratimoksha may receive the Bodhisattva vow, but others do not have the good fortune.

In relation to the Mahayana path, the importance of pure motivation is stressed, along with the outer observance of the Pratimoksha rules of restraint. Actions of body, speech and mind should be blended with the intention to attain Enlightenment in order to benefit others. And the deeper one's penetration of wisdom, the greater one's capacity for love and compassion.

As Geshe Kharak Gotrichung says: "It is no use taking all the vows, from those of refuge up to the tantric samayas, "Unless you turn your mind away from the things of this world. "It is no use constantly preaching the Dharma to others "Unless you can pacify your own pride. "It is no use making progress if you relegate the refuge precepts to the last place. "It is no use practising day and night unless you combine this with Bodhichitta."

In order to take the vows of the Vajrayana commitments, one must first take those Pratimoksha vows which restrain from harmful action and the pledges that generate the aspiration for supreme Buddhahood of the Bodhisattva vows. Without these there is no way to generate the Vajrayana commitments of the vidyadharas - the precepts of the Vajrayana practitioner, nor to engage in the practice of the Vajrayana. In short, whether Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva or Vajrayana vows, the essential point is to restrain the non-virtues of one's mind-stream.

In the Vinaya scriptures it is stated "One must understand that any teaching which directly or indirectly becomes a cause of desire, or does not aid in becoming free of desire, is not the Dharma; it is not the Vinaya; it is not the teaching of the Buddha. One should understand that any Dharma which indirectly or directly is the cause of becoming free of desire and is not a cause of desire, is the Dharma, is the Vinaya, and is the teaching of the Buddha." Likewise, concerning aversion, ignorance and so forth it is also explained in detail.

In the mental continuum of a Vajra holder of the three-hold vows, the qualities of these three sets of vows are present in such a way that the higher absorbs the lower. The avoidance of harming others, in accordance with the Pratimoksha is complete in the accomplishment of helping others in the Bodhisattva vow. As to both of these, when they are enhanced by special means and wisdom, they are complete and brought together on account of the higher incorporating the lower within the Vajrayana pledges. Unlike hot and cold, these are not in contrast.

The doctrine that flourished in Tibet is the pure doctrine of Lord Buddha. The reasons being the first it is the authentic Sutras spoken by the Buddha, collected and compiled by Arhants, meditated upon by the siddhas, and elucidated by the Panditas. Then they were translated into Tibetan by the undisputed translators of India and Tibet and these precise sutras and commentaries were set down.

The second reason is that practicing in accordance with the instruction, they attained the qualities of the signs on the path and they manifested the level of accomplishment. They attained not just one or two of the signs but many such as gliding unimpeded through rocks and mountains, flying through the sky like a bird, the ability to display to many people the body as the mandala of the deity, and knowing the minds of others, etc. From these two reasons, one is able to gain conviction. These are not just stories from antiquity. In these times also, there are bhikshus completely pure in their reliance on the Pratimoksha, who devote their entire lives to the training in the enlightened attitude of the Mahayana and who practice in accordance with the two stages of the Vajrayana. At the time of cremation of the corpse, the heart, tongue and eyes do not burn. Furthermore red and white sharira - tiny pearl-like relics- manifest, as well as many hundreds of five-coloured sharira and many sharira in the form of clock-wise turning miniscule white conch shells, very-distinct and amazing. Rainbows appear in the sky, evident phenomena visible to all present. Such events also happened in our monastic center which is situated in India.

Concerning the manner in which the Vajrayana teachings spread in Tibet, in the two above-mentioned sutras and commentaries, there are included many tantra of the Kriya, Charya and Yoga classes with their explanations. In particular, in the 8th Century CE when the precious master Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet, he bestowed extensively the empowerments (which ripen the mental continuum and liberate) and the oral instructions of the Three 'Yogas and classes of inner tantras to many disciples of extraordinary good fortune. At the same time, encouraged by his monarch Trisong Deutsen, Vairochana, the king of all Tibetan translators, reached India, where he attended the twenty-five Panditas, and in particular studied extensively the profound teachings of Dzogchen from the Vidhyadhara Shri Singha, later spreading these teachings in Tibet. King Trisong Deutsen also sent to India the two translators, Kawa Paltseg and Chog-Ro Lui Gyaltsen, to invite to Tibet the great Pandita Vimalashila. Upon reaching Tibet, the Pandita turned many times the wheel of the Doctrine of the class of the Oral Instructions of the Great Perfection, Dzogchen. This period of time came to be known as the Vajrayana of Early Translations.

In the 10th Century CE, Drogmi Lotsawa Shakya Yeshe studied the oral instructions of the Hevajra Triple Tantra from the great Indian Panditas Shantipa and Gayadhara and so forth and later bestowed them on Konchog Gyalpo of Khon. And the Indian Mahasiddha Virupa arrived at the land of Sakya in Western Tibet, as if delivering the Dharma to the door, entrusted to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo the secret short transmission of the Lamdre or Path and Fruition teachings, which spread and flourished greatly in the region of Sakya.

In the 10th Century Marpa Chokyi Lodro, having travelled three times to India, bowed at the feet of many learned and accomplished masters such as Pandit Naropa and Maitripa, and having requested them to satiate him with the ambrosia-like profound oral instructions of Chakrasambhara, Hevajra and Guhyasamaja, subsequently propagated them in Tibet.

Similarly, in the 10th Century CE the accomplished scholar Khyungpo Naljor went to India where he followed 150 panditas and siddhas, receiving from them the 5 classes of Tantras: Chakrasambhara, Hevajra, Mahamaya, Guhyasamaja and Yamantaka, which he later propagated in Tibet. The Indian siddha Phadampa Sangye lived in the last part of the 11th Century, mid he visited Tibet five times. On the second occasion he granted the practice known as "Advice on the Holy Dharma for Pacifying Misery", and others. For all these reasons during the next 12 hundred years the outer and inner teachings of Vajrayana became widespread and flourished in Tibet.

Regarding all this, it is possible that there are many who would wish to know more about the view, meditation and action of the Vajrayana. But I would not be able to explain this tradition adequately in a mere few words and had I written more, would not have the time to read it now.

I have yet some final words to say to the spiritual friends, the learned delegates who are worthy of honour and respect. The Bhagawan stated in the Lankavatara Sutra "just as a physician gives medicine to different kinds of patients, in like manner the Buddha teaches the Dharma according to the capacity of sentient beings to withstand it". In that way the teacher, the Buddha, in conformity with the nature, faculties and motivation of those to be tamed, teaches the variety of Dharmas, such as for the Shravakayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana, and so forth. Everyone is agreed that the ultimate aim of our endeavours is the state of Buddhahood alone. Despite the slight differences of' language and terminology, and the distinctions between the skilful methods of training of each one's various Dharma traditions, in general, regarding the View of the Four Seals of the Budhavachana and the meditation which acts as an antidote to the kleshas of the peak of existence, and the training on the path of peace which is non-violent conduct, all these are the sole path of the entire Buddhist Schools.

Since these traditions are the followers of the one teacher, it is essential to increase more and more the unity, friendship and harmony between them. Through this potential of unity, in order that the peace, happiness and stability of the world comes about, we must work together to persuade Governments to stop wars and prohibit the manufacture of and trade in weapons such as nuclear arms, etc. Not only that, but in order to pacify the evil weapons of the inner mind which overcome both oneself and others, such as envy, anger, ill-will and so forth, which occur again and again in the mind-stream of all beings, we should genuinely show the path to establish in the mind-stream of all the people of the world the foundation of peace and happiness, the essence of the Dharma which was taught by the compassionate Master Buddha love, compassion, forbearance, altruism. and non-violence.

To enable people to increase their mental capacity, learning is certainly required. However that intelligence must not remain isolated but should combine with the higher behaviour of the good heart of universal responsibility as explained in the Buddhist texts. Thus the younger generation of this new Millennium will be able to benefit society on a vast scale and we should all accept that responsibility.

Thank you.





Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche In Tibet
In Tibet
Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche In Pilgrimage
In Pilgrimage
Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche Main Temple
Main Temple
Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche Stupas
Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche Standing Buddha
Standing Buddha
Kyabje Dorzong Rinpoche Jangchub Jong
Jangchub Jong