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Tibetan name
Tibetan script :
རྙིང་ མ་
Wylie transliteration :
rnying ma
Pronunciation in IPA :
[ ɲiŋma ]
Official transcription of the PRCh :
THDL transcription :
Other spellings:
Chinese name
Traditional :
寧瑪派 、 紅 教
Simplified :
宁玛派 、 红 教
Pinyin :
Níngmǎpài, Hóngjiào
Samye - the oldest monastery in Tibet

The Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism is the oldest of the four great traditions of Nyingma, Kagyu , Sakya and Gelug . The followers of the original translations of the Buddha's teachings into Tibetan are known as the Nyingma or Old School of Tibetan Buddhism and were made until the time of the Indian translator Smirtijnanakirti towards the end of the 10th century. That is why it is also called the early translation school (Ngagyur Nyima) in order to distinguish it from the later translations of the New Schools (Sarma) such as Kagyu, Sakya, Kadam and Gelug, starting with the translator Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) . With regard to the overall structure and practice of all three "vehicles", i.e. different forms of belief, the Buddhist path Hinayana , Mahayana and Vajrayana , there are no differences between the four great traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and they all share the philosophical standpoint of the Madhyamaka school.


Buddhism was transferred from India to Tibet in the 8th century . The Tibetan King Thrisong Detsen summoned the Indian masters Padmasambhava ("lotus-born"), also known by the Tibetans as Guru Rinpoche ("Precious Master"), and Shantarakshita ( Tib . : zhi ba 'tsho ; "Guardian of Peace") around 779 Tibet to teach Buddhism there. Padmasambhava especially emphasized the tantric aspects of Buddhism. Through his power and realization he is said to have subjugated the spirits and demons of Tibet and bound them to the Buddha's teachings by oaths as "protectors" (see: Dharmapala ). For this reason, Vajrayana Buddhism prevailed against the Bon religion that had prevailed until then in Tibet .

The Nyingma tradition is also known as the school of "ancient translations" and goes back to the first wave of transmission, which began with Padmasambhava's and Shantarakshita's teaching activities.

Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita founded the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet, Samye , which developed into the most important teaching center of Tibetan Buddhism at the time. From King Thrisong Detsen, Padmasambhava and his students, of whom the 25 main students became famous for their high level of realization, received the order to translate the Buddhist teachings from Sanskrit into Tibetan. Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita trained 108 translators to accomplish this task. The scriptures of this major translation phase form the basis of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, there are only differences in the Tantric scriptures and translations. From the 8th to the 11th centuries, the Nyingma tradition was the only Buddhist school in Tibet. From the 11th century on, the schools of "New Translations" (see: Sarma ) developed, which mainly refer to the transmission of tantras that have not yet been translated.

The main monasteries of the Nyingma school are apart from Samye-Ling , Kathog , Mindrölling , Dorje Drag , Pelyül , Dzogchen and Shechen . A large number of Nyingma monasteries derive their origin from these "great seats" of the Nyingma.

Termas and Tertöns

A specialty of Tibetan Buddhism are the "hidden treasures" (see: Terma ). Padmasambhava and his closest disciples hid hundreds of texts, ritual objects and relics in secret places in order to protect the teachings of Buddhism from destruction by the Tibetan King Lang Darma (9th century) , who was hostile to Buddhism . In the Nyingma tradition in particular, two types of transmission emerged: the so-called “long” transmission line from master to student in an uninterrupted line, and the “short” transmission line of “hidden treasures”. The termas were later rediscovered by masters with special skills, so-called "treasure hunters" (see: Tertön ) and passed on to their students. These masters were often incarnations of Padmasambhava's 25 main disciples. Thus, over the centuries, a complex system of lineages emerged that constantly supplemented the teachings of the Nyingma schools with "fresh" teachings that were appropriate to their time and that led many students to realization / enlightenment.


There were also many great scholars in the Nyingma tradition. The most important of them is Longchen Rabjam (1308–1363). His most important works are the “ Seven Treasures ” (tib .: klong chen mdzod bdun ; “Dzö thin”), the three “cycles of relaxation” (tib .: ngal gso skor gsum ; “Ngalso Korsum”), the three “cycles of natural liberation ”(Tib .: rang grol skor gsum ;“ Rangdröl Korsum ”) and the texts on the“ Four branches of the heart essence ”(Tib .: snying thig ya bzhi ;“ Nyingthig Yabshi ”). Longchen Rabjam also systematized the transmission of the Dzogchen teachings of the Nyingma lineage, emanating from Garab Dorje , which have been taught since then as the "Heart Essence of the Wide Dimension" (Tib .: klong chen snying thig ; "Longchen Nyingthig").

100,000 Nyingmapa tantras

The Tantric teachings of the Nyingma are compiled in the collection of 100,000 Nyingmapa Tantras (Tib .: rnying ma rgyud 'bum ; " Nyingma Gyübum "). The Nyingma's tantric system is characterized by its own division of tantra classes. The Nyingma schools differentiate the tantric teachings into the so-called outer tantras:

  1. Kriyayoga
  2. Caryayoga
  3. Yogatantra

and the Inner Tantras:

  1. Mahayoga
  2. Anuyoga
  3. Atiyoga / Dzogchen (The teachings on the "Great Perfection")

In schools of the “New Translations” the inner tantras are represented by the anuttarayoga tantra , also called “supreme yoga tantra ”. This corresponds roughly to Mahayoga. Anuyoga and Atiyoga were initially not included in the new translation traditions, even if some of their representatives practice these yogas and later the transmission of individual tantras to different schools took place.

Head of the Nyingma

Historically, there was never a "head of the Nyingma" until the late 20th century. Because of the diversity and complexity of the various lines of transmission, the Nyingma tradition was not very suitable for developing central structures. A circumstance that has kept the Nyingma tradition as the only one of the Tibetan schools largely out of political conflicts in Tibet. The introduction of a head of the respective large schools became significant with the establishment of the Tibetan government in exile after the occupation of Tibet , to which a representative of each of the major school traditions was now sent. The “head of the Nyingma” is not, as one might assume at first glance, the lineage holder of all Nyingma lineages and transmissions, rather it is merely a political office in the Tibetan government-in-exile . The eminent Nyingma master Düdjom Rinpoche (1904–1987) was the first to serve as "head of the Nyingma" at the request of the 14th Dalai Lama . He was succeeded by Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). After Dilgo Khyentses death, Penor Rinpoche (1932-2009), the lineage holder of the Pelyül tradition, was elected head of the Nyingma. At the suggestion of Penor Rinpoche, the 11th Mindröl-Ling Thrichen Gyurme Künsang Wanggyel (1930-2008) became "head of the Nyingma". After that, Taklung Tsetrul Rinpoche (1926-2015) was the head of the Nyingma tradition.

The rime movement

In the 19th century, under Tertön Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo , Jamgön Kongtrül Lodrö Thaye and Orgyen Choggyur Lingpa, the so-called " Rime Movement" arose , which collected group-wide teachings from all parts of Tibet and from masters of all traditions, including the Rinchen's Terma collections Terdzo .


In addition to the original area of ​​distribution in Tibet , Bhutan , Nepal and Sikkim , which are of particular importance for the Nyingma schools due to the Terma tradition, Nyingma communities have meanwhile also spread to America and Europe. Quite a few of these communities can also be found in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

See also


  • Dudjom Rinpoche, Jikdrel Yeshe Dorje: The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: its Fundamentals and History . 2 volumes. Translated by Gyurme Dorje with Matthew Kapstein. Wisdom Publications, Boston 1991, ISBN 0-86171-087-8 .


  • Chagdud Tulku: Gates to Freedom. The Buddhist Way to Happiness. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 2000, ISBN 3-89620-154-9 .
  • Dilgo Khyentse: The heart jewel of the enlightened. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-89620-102-6 .
  • Dilgo Khyentse: Enlightened Wisdom. One hundred pieces of advice from Padampa Sangye. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-89620-214-6 .
  • Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche: Why you are not a Buddhist. Windpferd Verlag, ISBN 3-89385-564-5 .
  • Guru Padmasambhava: The Secret Doctrine of Tibet. Kösel Verlag, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-466-20439-9 .
  • James Low: Being Guru Rinpoche. A commentary on Nuden Dorje's terma Vidyadhara Guru Sadhana. Edition Khordong, Trafford Publishing, Victoria 2006, ISBN 1-4120-8407-5 .
  • James Low: One with Guru Rinpoche. A comment on Nuden Dorjes Terma "The Vidyadhara Guru Sadhana" edition khordong im Wandel Verlag, Berlin, 2007, ISBN 978-3-942380-01-0 .
  • Karin Brucker, Christian Sohns: Tibetan Buddhism. Handbook for Practitioners in the West. OW Barth Verlag, Bern 2003.
  • Padmasambhava: The legend of the great stupa. Dharma Publishing Germany, Münster 1993, ISBN 3-928758-04-7 .
  • Patrul Rinpoche: The words of my consummate teacher. Arbor Verlag, Freiamt 2001, ISBN 3-924195-72-2 .
  • Sogyal Rinpoche: Dzogchen and Padmasambhava. Ratnakosha Publications, 1995.
  • Tulku Thondup: The Hidden Treasures of Tibet. An explanation of the terma tradition of the Nyingma school of Buddhism. Theseus Verlag, 1994, revised new edition: Wandel Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-942380-08-9 .
  • Yeshe Tsogyal: The lotus born in the land of snow. How Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Tibet. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1996, ISBN 3-596-12975-3 .
  • བསོད་ ནམས་ དོན་ གྲུབ །: ༄ ༅ ༎ སྔ་ འགྱུར་ རྙིང་ མའི་ བྱུང་ བ་ མདོ་ ཙམ་ བརྗོད་ པ ༎. མི་རིགས་ དཔེ་ སྐྲུན་ ཁང ། / Mínzú chūbǎnshè 民族 出版社, Beijing 1991.
  • Liu Liqian: Nyingmapa of Tibetan Buddhism (PDF file; MS Word ; 272 kB)
  • The secret Dakini teachings. Padmasambhava's oral teachings to Princess Tsogyal. A jewel of the Tibetan wisdom literature. Translated from the Tibetan by Erik Pema Kunsang, edition khordong im Wandel Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-942380-03-4 .
  • James Low, Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche: Lights of Wisdom. Chhimed Rigdzin Rinpoche's butter lamp wish prayer. With a comment by James Low, edition khordong im Wandel Verlag, Berlin, 2014, ISBN 978-3-942380-06-5 .


  • Dalai Lama: Dzogchen - The Heart-Essence of Great Perfection. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89620-171-9 .
  • Dudjom Rinpoche: The Enclosure on the Mountain - Dzogchen Teachings and Commentaries. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-85936-071-X .
  • James Low: Being here and now. A Commentary on Dong Sal Melong, The Mirror of Clear Meaning - A Dzogchen Treasure Text by Nudan Dorje. 1st edition. Edition Mandarava from Sequoyah Verlag, Gutenstein 2004, ISBN 3-85466-063-4 .
  • James Low: From the hand luggage of a Tibetan yogi. Basic texts of the Dzogchen tradition. Theseus Verlag, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-89620-089-5 . Revised and reissued: edition khordong im Wandel Verlag, Berlin, 2013, ISBN 978-3-942380-17-1 .
  • James Low: At home in the game of reality. A comment on the Dzogchen treasure text: "Immediate demonstration of Buddhahood beyond all classification" by Nuden Dorje. edition khordong im Wandel Verlag, Berlin, 2012, ISBN 978-3-942380-09-6 .
  • Keith Dowman: The Flight of the Garuda. Four Dzogchen texts from Tibetan Buddhism. Theseus Verlag, Zurich / Munich 1994, ISBN 3-85936-065-5 .
  • Namkhai Norbu: The Harmony of the Elements in the Art of Breathing. Oddiyana Edition, Landshut / Düsseldorf 1998, ISBN 3-9801635-9-8 .
  • Namkhai Norbu: Dzogchen the way of light - The teachings of Sutra, Tantra and Ati-Yoga. Diederichs, 1998, ISBN 3-424-01462-1 .
  • Namkhai Norbu: Dzogchen - The original state. Oddiyana Edition, Rome 1993, ISBN 3-9801635-0-4 .
  • Namkhai Norbu: Mirror of Consciousness. Diederichs Verlag, Kreuzlingen / Munich 1999, ISBN 3-424-01501-6 .
  • Namkhai Norbu: Yantra Yoga - Yoga of Movement. Edition Tsaparang, Gleisdorf 1988, ISBN 3-900890-00-5 .

Web links

Commons : Nyingma  - collection of images, videos and audio files