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Tibetan Religions Sects

Tibetan Religions Sects

Tibetan Buddhism has many sects and sub sects of which the following five are the most influential.

1. Nyingmapa,

the Ancient Ones, dates from around 750 with Padmambhava. Its name means "old", since it was the oldest of the
Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Nyingmapa lamas wear red robes and hats, so it is also known as the Red Sect. It has
a loose organization and focuses on mantra practice. Its lamas may marry and usually live in small groups. The sect
retains many more of the Bon features than the other sects. Nyingmapa lamas believe that the mind is pure and that
by cultivating one's being in such a way as to reject all outside influences, it is possible to become as one with
Buddha. This sect has a greater number of deities than the other four. The major Nyingmapa monasteries are the
Mindroling Monastery and the Dorje Drak Monastery. The former is particularly important for its collection of Tibetan

2. Kahdampa

ordains that Buddha's acts and teachings should be the doctrines of cultivation. It is based on the teachings of
Atisha, who arrived from India in 1042. The tradition lays stress on scriptures and discipline and emphasizes Tantra
can be imparted to only to a select few. Kahdampa preaches samsara and retribution, so it underwent rapid
development. By comparison with the other sects, its Yoga and Tantra remain pure. The main monastery is the
Nechung Monastery, the hegumen (or abbots) of which acted as regents during the ethnic group of the Dalai Lamas
and conducting the government of Tibet. Later this sect converted to Gelugpa.

3. Kagyupa

was originated by two great teachers, Marpa and Milarepa. Kagyupa means "to teach orally" and its focus is on Tantric
teaching. Since Marpa and Milarepa wore white robes, this sect is also called White sect. Its doctrines are unique and
stresses a combination of the practise of quasi-qigong and Buddhist satori. It also advocates asceticism and obedience
as the source of enlightenment. An important contribution of Kagyupa was the creation of tulku (reincarnating lamas)
system, in which an existing lama can show evidence of his prior incarnations. Kagyupa's principal shrine is the Tsurphu
Monastery, the traditional seat of Karmapa lama.

4. Sakyapa

dates from 1073 and was founded at the Sakya Monastery after which it was named. Later, the sect was to govern Tibet
for a period. As the monastery wall was painted with red, white and black stripes, the order became known colloquially
as the Colorful Sect. Sakyapa's doctrines persuade people to do good deeds so that they may gain a good incarnation
in their next samsara and to discard all temporal desires to ensure relief from pain.

5. Gelugpa

is the order of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama and is also called the Yellow Sect since they wear yellow hats. It was
founded by Tsong Khapa, a great Buddhist reformer, in 1407. It absorbed Kahdampa and carried on Atisha's tradition.
It stresses strict discipline and study of the scriptures. Its successful reform made it dominant in Tibet after the 17th
century, leaving other sects to play a minor role. Its six main monasteries are the Ganden Monastery, Ta'er Monastery,
Drepung Monastery, Labrang Monastery, Sera Monastery and Tashilhunpo Monastery.


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