Tibetan Buddhist Traditions and SchoolsTibetan Buddhist Traditions

There are many ways to enumerate the various schools or traditions of Tibetan Buddhism: the four main schools, the Eight Chariots, and others.  The list of links below represent a high-level but inclusive map to explore the richness of the wider Tibetan religious milieu.  Here you will find tradition-specific books, articles, videos, audio, online courses, and more including the Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Gelug, Bon, Jonang, and more. For a quick overview of each school, you can also visit the Treasury of Lives.

Tibetan Buddhist Traditions - Nyingma

The school  which forms an umbrella for a host of lineages that come from the original transmission of Buddhism to Tibet from Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita in the 8th century.  The teachings culminate in the teachings of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection.

The 11th century tradition forged by Atisha and his disciple Dromtonpa, focusing on a special set of teachings on generating bodhicitta through  the practices of lojong and the stages of the path that came to be known as the Lam Rim.  It was absorbed into all the other tradtions, in particular the Gelug.

The 11th century school founded by Drogmi, specializing in the Lam Dre or Path and Its Fruit.

Tibetan Buddhist Traditions - Kagyu

The school, translated as the Whispered Lineage, hosts a wide set of sub-lineages but most trace their  roots to the teachings of Tilopa, Naropa, and Marpa and culminate in the teachings of Mahamudra.

The school established by Tsongkhapa in the 14th century and main heir to the Kadam teachings.  It became the largest due to its political hegemony across Tibetan but in particular central and western Tibet.

The 12th century school popularized by Dolpopa.  Philosophical differences – often masking political ones – resulted in the suppression of this school by the Gelug.

Sometimes considered as the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet but in the course of history evolved very much hand in hand with Buddhism and its teachings and practices often align.

Considered one of the Eight Chariots, or traditions, this is largely been absorbed into the other schools.

Considered one of the Eight Chariots, or traditions, this is largely been absorbed into the other schools.