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Kadam (Tibetan Buddhism)

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Title: Kadam (Tibetan Buddhism)  
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Kadam (Tibetan Buddhism)

The Kadampa (Tibetan: བཀའ་གདམས་པ་Wylie: bka' gdams pa) school of Tibetan Buddhism. Dromtön (1005–1064), a Tibetan lay master and the foremost disciple of the great Indian master Atiśa (982-1054), founded it and passed three lineages to his disciples. The Kadampa were quite famous and respected for their proper and earnest Dharma practice. The most evident teachings of that tradition were the teachings on bodhicitta. Later, these special presentations became known as lojong and lamrim by Atiśa.


  • Kadam lineages 1
    • Scriptural traditions lineage 1.1
    • Oral transmissions lineage 1.2
    • Pith instructions lineage 1.3
    • Lojong lineage 1.4
  • Atisha's legacy 2
  • Later developments 3
  • The modern New Kadampa Tradition 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Kadam lineages

After the death of Atiśa, his main disciple Dromtön organized his transmissions into the legacy known as "The Four Divinities and Three Dharmas" - a tradition whereby an individual practitioner could perceive all doctrines of the Sutras and Tantras as non-contradictory and could personally apply them all as complementary methods for the accomplishment of enlightenment.

Dromtön founded Reting Monastery (Wylie: rwa sgreng) in 1056 in Reting Tsampo Valley north of Lhasa, which was thereafter the seat of the lineage. The nearby Phenpo Chu and Gyama Valleys were also home to Kadampa monasteries.[1]

Scriptural traditions lineage

Putowa (1031–1106) received the transmission and responsibility to hold the teachings of the scriptural traditions, the six Kadampa treatises and hidden verbal transmission of both sutra and tantra from Dromtonpa.

The six Kadam treatises he held are:

  • The Bodhisattva Stages (Sanskrit Bodhisattvabhumi) by Asanga
  • An Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (Skt. Mahayanasutraalamkara) by Maitreya/Asanga
  • A Compendium of Bodhisattva Trainings (Skt. Shikshasamucchaya) by Shantideva
  • A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way (Skt. Bodhisattvacharyavatara) by Shantideva
  • A Garland of Birth Stories (Skt. Jatakamala) by Aryadeva, and
  • The Collected Sayings of the Buddha (Skt. Udanavarga) - the Tibetan Dhammapada by Dharmatrata.

It is the tradition to read at the Monlam the fifth, A Garland of Birth Stories, during the morning session. It was also the tradition of the Kadampas to teach the two texts Jatakamala and Udanavarga together and when they taught Shantideva's Bodhisattvacharyavatara they taught the Shikshasamucchaya too.

The scriptural traditions were of two main types: those dealing with ultimate reality and the wisdom of emptiness; and those dealing with conventional reality and the vast bodhicitta activities.

The six Kadam treatises were mainly used to elucidate the nature of the bodhisattva's vast activities. Those dealing with the ultimate wisdom of emptiness, the principal texts stressed here were Nagarjuna's six treatises on emptiness philosophy, such as The Root of Wisdom (Skt. Mulamadhyamakakarika) and so forth, together with the commentaries to them by the later Indian masters; and also Atisha's own commentaries on the middle view and on the nature of the two truths. These were the principal scriptures studied in the Old Kadam School.

Oral transmissions lineage

Geshe Chenngawa (Chengawa Tsultrim Bar) received the transmission and responsibility to hold the oral tradition of instructions (oral transmission). These teachings were mainly dealing with the Four Noble Truths. One of his students, Jayulwa, inherited a special practice lineage which was called Chenga Kague and became a part of the Dagpo Kagyu lineage.

Pith instructions lineage

Phuchungwa received the transmission and responsibility to hold the teachings of the pith instructions of the Sixteen Circles of the Kadampa. As a support he received also the empowerments, instructions, and secret teachings of the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment (Skt: Bodhi Pradipa, Tib: byang chhub lam gi rdon mey). The pith instructions lineage has its root in the secret oral teachings of Atisha and are embodied in The Precious Book of the Kadampa Masters: A Jewel Rosary of Profound Instructions on the Bodhisattva Way. This text is seen as the main text of the Kadampas. These instructions were passed down only to one student in each generation in a single transmission until the secrecy was lifted at the time of Narthang Shönu Lodrö. Later these teachings were incorporated into the Karma Kamtsang Kagyu lineage by Pal Tsuglak Trengwa and into the Gelug lineage by the First Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gedun Drup.

Lojong lineage

These oral tradition teachings are generally known as The Instructions for Training the Mind in the Mahayana Tradition (Tibetan, Theg-chen-blo-sbyong-gi-gdampa-pa). According to the 1st Dalai Lama Atisha had received three lines of Lojong transmission, but there are conflicting accounts of from whom. It is agreed that he received teachings in Sumatra, Indonesia, from a master called Serlingpa (Wylie: gSer-gling-pa) by Tibetans. It is also agreed that he received teachings from a master named Dharmarakshita. However, sometimes Serlingpa is identified as Dharmamati of Suvarnadvipa,[2] and sometimes as Dharmarakshita.[3] In the former case, Dharmarakshita is identified as a scholar at the monastic university of Odantipuri. The final main Lojong teacher is the Indian master Maitriyogi. Atisha secretly transmitted them to his main disciple, Lama Dromtonpa.

During the time of The Three Noble Kadampa Brothers many of these oral teachings were collected together and compiled into the text Stages of the Doctrine (Lamrim; tib.: sTan-rim). Yet at the time the lineages from Atisha’s Indonesian master Dharmakirti (the Lojong - Teachings on how to train in Bodhichitta) were still kept secret.

When the time was sufficiently mature, the Lojong Teachings were publicly revealed. First Geshe Kham Lungpa published Eight Sessions for Training the Mind (Tib., bLo-sbyong-thun-brgyad-ma), then Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054–1123) wrote Eight Verses for Training the Mind (Tib., bLo-sbyong-tshig-brgyad-ma). After this, Sangye Gompa composed A Public Explanation (Tib., Tshogs-bshad-ma) and Geshe Chekhawa (1102–1176) wrote Seven Points for Training the Mind (Tib., bLo-sbyong-don-bdun-ma).

In this manner, the Lojong Oral Transmission Teachings gradually emerged and became known to the public. Before being revealed, the secret lineage was as follows: Dharmarakshita-> Atisha-> Dromtonpa -> Potowa -> Sharawa (1070–1141) -> Chekhawa (1101–1175). From Khamlungpa, Langri Tangpa and Chekhawa onwards they became public and later they were integrated into all four Tibetan Buddhist Schools. (These Kadampa-Lojong texts were brought together into the anthology A Hundred Texts on Training the Mind (Tib. bLo-byong-brgya-rtsa)).

Atisha's legacy

Je Atisha had three chief students. Besides the famous Dromtonpa (Drontön Gyalwe Jungne), who established the Radreng monastery, there were Khu (Khutön Tsöndru Yungdrang) and Ngok (Ngok Legpe Sherap). Ngok established the dharma center of Sangphu Neuthok and this institute was later developed further by his nephew, the translator, Ngok Loden Sherap and it became the source of all the Tibetan centers for advanced study (Shedra). Ngatso Lotsawa Tsultrim, a translator who brought Atisha to Tibet, and served him for 19 years was another important student of Atisha. Ngatso Lotsawa Tsultrim received teachings from Atisha, Jnana Akara and others, and his main lineage is called the Ngatso Kagyu.

It is said in the Tibetan Tradition of Buddhism that the holder of the Kadam lineage have their bodies adorned with the four deities (Shakyamuni, Avalokiteshvara, Tara and Achala), their speech adorned with the three Pitakas (Vinaya, Sutra, Abhidharma) and their minds adorned with the practice of the three trainings (ethical discipline, meditation and wisdom). It is said the Kadampas practiced Seven Divine Dharmas: The four deities and the three trainings of the three pitikas. The Kadampas mainly emphasised the Sutra path (the union of compassion and wisdom).

In general it can be stated the teachings of the Kadampas are upheld by the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Later developments

Je Tsongkhapa a reformer, collected all the three Kadam lineages and integrated them, along with Sakya, Kagyu and other teachings, into his presentation of the doctrine. The pervasive influence of Tsongkhapa was such that the Kadampas that followed were known as "New Kadampas" or, more commonly, as "Gelugpas", while those who preceded him became retroactively known as "Old Kadampas" or simply "Kadampas."

The Kadam tradition ceased to exist as an independent tradition by the end of the 16th century.[4]

The three other Tibetan Buddhist schools (Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu) also integrated the Lojong (Wylie: blo sbyong) teachings into their lineages. Gampopa (Wylie: sgam po pa), who studied for six years within the Kadam Tradition and became later the main disciple of Milarepa (Wylie: mi la ras pa), included the Lojong and Lamrim teachings in his lineage, the Karma Kagyu (Wylie: ka rma bka' brgyud).

Nowadays the Gelug tradition keeps and transmits the Kadam lineage of the Scriptural Traditions of the Six Canonical Texts. Together with Dagpo Kagyu Tradition they keep and transmit The Pith Instructions of the Sixteen Essences, and the Dagpo Kagyu Tradition keeps and transmits the Key Instructions of the Four Noble Truths.

One of the most important sayings of the Kadam masters is said to be

The modern New Kadampa Tradition

In 1991, Kelsang Gyatso (Wylie: bskal bzang rgya mtsho), a Buddhist monk trained at Sera Monastery, a Gelug university in Je Tsongkhapa's tradition, founded a new religious movement he named the "New Kadampa Tradition - International Kadampa Buddhist Union" (NKT-IKBU).

As mentioned above, Je Tsongkhapa referred to his monastic order as "the New Kadam."[6] The term Gelug came into use only after his death.[7] The NKT-IKBU explains that they are independent of other contemporary Tibetan Buddhist centers and Tibetan politics, although they are in the same tradition as the Gelugpas (i.e., New Kadampas). They explain that the purpose of using the term "Kadampa Buddhism" is not to introduce confusion about the origins of these teachings, but to encourage students to emulate the purity and sincerity of the ancient Kadampas.[8]

See also


  1. ^ McCue, Gary (October 1999). Trekking in Tibet: A Traveler's Guide.  
  2. ^ Dhargyey, Geshe Ngawang (2001-01-01). An Anthology of Well Spoken Advice on the Graded Paths of the Mind (Volume 1).  
  3. ^  
  4. ^ Jinpa, Thupten (2008-07-15). The Book of Kadam: The Core Texts.  
  5. ^ The Rimé (Ris-Med) Movement Of Jamgon Kongtrul The Great by Ringu Tulku
  6. ^ Cozort, D.. quoted in Heine, S., & Prebish, C. S. (2003). Buddhism in the modern world: Adaptations of an ancient tradition. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 230.
  7. ^ Lopez, Donald S. (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 193
  8. ^ Belither, James. "Modern Day Kadampas The History and Development of the New Kadampa Tradition". Tara Buddhist Centre. Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2008-09-16. 

Further reading

  • Rinchen, Geshe Sonam; Sonam, Ruth (1997-09-25). Atisha's Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment.  
  • Jinpa, Thupten (2005-11-28). Mind Training: The Great Collection (Library of Tibetan Classics).  
  • Tulku, Ringu (2007-10-09). The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great: A Study of the Buddhist Lineages of Tibet. Shambhala Publications.  

External links

  • Lojong and Tonglen community website
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