Nyingma vs Sarma

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Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby Vidyaraja » Fri Aug 23, 2013 12:54 am

Can someone either give me an explanation or a source which describes some of the differences between the Nyingma or Ngagyur school and the newer Sarma schools? From my limited understanding, the Nyingma retained some archaic practices that were purged from the later schools?

I also have some sub-questions related to the above. Forgive my ignorance on these issues, but is it the case that the Sarma schools are primarily based on Tilopa, Naropa, Milarepa whilst the Nyingma aren't? Are the views of Padmasambhava and the previously mentioned figures different in the various schools, i.e. since Padmasambhava is recognized as the founder of Nyingma and Tilopa, Naropa, etc. the founder of Kagyu, how do these schools respectively view these different figures?

Finally, is it the case that the Nyingma incorporated more Bon or pre-Buddhist practices, considering they are the two schools which practice Dzogchen, than the other schools?

Thanks!
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:01 am

HH the DL says:
As is said in an oral transmission by the great lama
Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro, when the great
Nyingmapa adept Longchen Rabjam gives a presentation
of the ground, path and fruit, he does so
mainly from the perspective of the enlightened state
of a Buddha, whereas the Sakyapa presentation is
mainly from the perspective of the spiritual experience
of a yogi on the path, and the Gelukpa presentation is
mainly from the perspective of how phenomena
appear to ordinary sentient beings. His statement
appears to be worthy of considerable reflection;
through it many misunderstandings can be removed.

You can read it here:
http://goo.gl/uPk5S
ཨོཾ་ཏཱ་རེ་ཏུཏྟ་རེ་ཏུ་རེ་སྭཱཧཱ༔
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby michaelb » Fri Aug 23, 2013 1:51 am

Vidyaraja wrote:Can someone either give me an explanation or a source which describes some of the differences between the Nyingma or Ngagyur school and the newer Sarma schools? From my limited understanding, the Nyingma retained some archaic practices that were purged from the later schools?
The Nyingma also 'purged' or ceased practising archaic practices that were retained by the later schools, such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra, perhaps because it was favoured by the later schools.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby conebeckham » Fri Aug 23, 2013 6:18 pm

Sarma influences would include all the later Indian Mahasiddhas, and the tantras associated with them.....so, Atisha, Dombhi Heruka, Virupa, as well as Tilo and Naro, etc.--many others, like Lalitavajra, Kukuripa, etc.....

I don't think Sarma "purged" any elements of Nyingma Tantra, really.....I think Sarma lineages practiced the methods of the later transmission from India, and Nyingma practiced the methods of the Kama and Terma.

I have read somewhere (perhaps here?) that the earliest Tantras of Nyingma didn't include much of the Chakra/Nadi/Vayu material that you find in Sarma methods. Also, the Sarma texts don't speak of Togal and Trekcho. Some Nyingma terma transmissions do include TsaLung subjects, obviously. I've also heard that the Yangdak practices are thought to be an earlier rescension of the Hevajra material......

In my own personal experience, Nyingma transmissions do include a great deal of specific "activity rituals" which you largely don't find in Sarma. Take a look at the last sections of the Rinchen Terdzo, for instance...and notice also the "lower" Heruka practices from the Kagye. This may be due to the need for the earliest Buddhists in Tibet, including Guru Rinpoche, to subdue demons and other sorts of forces--including Bon or even pre-Bon forces, etc. I mean no offense to Bonpos though--I'm just not clear if those who needed to be subdued were associated with any Bon tradition, or were considered antithetical to Bon as well.

In terms of actual practice, sadhana, there are differences as well, but these are very detailed, and best learned from one's guru. Just as an example, in most Sarma traditions, there is no "White Torma" to the Land Owner prior to starting a practice, but this is a very common feature in Nyingma sadhanas. But most "Sarma" practitioners also practice some Terma, in my experience....perhaps the Gelukpas do not, but I know HHDL and his monastery uphold Lerab Lingpa's Purba, for instance.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby Vidyaraja » Sat Aug 24, 2013 1:44 am

So how exactly is Padmasambhava viewed in Kagyu or other schools and how are the Mahasiddhas viewed in Nyingma? Is there mutual respect and cross pollination or is that Padmasambhava is mainly the concern of the Nyingma and someone like Naropa is mainly the concern of Kagyu, etc.?

Forgive me if this is an ignorant question or something of common knowledge.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby Sherlock » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:28 am

I recommend reading Geoffrey Samuel's The Origins of Yoga and Tantra. Many of you might be familiar with the different classification schemes in sarma and nyingma (4 tantras vs 9 yanas) but Samuel describes how Mahayogatantra was indeed a classification used in India around the time of the first wave of translations to Tibetan and the presence of "union" practices without the associated system of chakras, nadis etc. Malcolm has mentioned here how some Nyingma authors complained about the Sarma systems being "New Age" with all their channels and chakras.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:42 am

conebeckham wrote:perhaps the Gelukpas do not, but I know HHDL and his monastery uphold Lerab Lingpa's Purba, for instance.
Off the top of my head, Tsongkhapa was suspicious of any practice that couldn't be traced back to India. Termas might be genuine or not, so it's better to do practices that are genuine beyond a doubt. That is the standard Gelug position.

Interestingly, Kalachakra was thought of as a non-Buddhist fraud by many in Tsongkhapa's time, including by his Root Guru Rendawa. But Tsongkhapa accepted the Kalachakra and taught it.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby jmlee369 » Sun Aug 25, 2013 6:54 am

Konchog1 wrote:
conebeckham wrote:perhaps the Gelukpas do not, but I know HHDL and his monastery uphold Lerab Lingpa's Purba, for instance.
Off the top of my head, Tsongkhapa was suspicious of any practice that couldn't be traced back to India. Termas might be genuine or not, so it's better to do practices that are genuine beyond a doubt. That is the standard Gelug position.

Interestingly, Kalachakra was thought of as a non-Buddhist fraud by many in Tsongkhapa's time, including by his Root Guru Rendawa. But Tsongkhapa accepted the Kalachakra and taught it.


It is my understanding that the main deity of Sera Je is a terma form of Hayagriva. The entire monastic assembly does the retreat practice on an annual basis. http://www.serajeymonastery.org/events/ ... mtsok.html The fifth Dalai Lama is also considered to have been a terton.

Also, Yamantaka was also considered heretical at some point if I remember correctly.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Aug 25, 2013 8:09 am

I actually think it was some within the Nyingma tradition who considered the bull headed form of Yamantaka to be a "tirthika god" but I cannot remember the source for this.

Sera Jey is big time into Hayagriva and the retreat is mandatory for all monks, they also have a group fire puja at the end using several hearths, it is quite impressive. Hayagriva and Vajrakilaya are both important to Namgyal monastery, where a fusion of Nyingma and Gelug practices is the core of the program.
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Re: Nyingma vs Sarma

Postby tingdzin » Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:37 am

According to many modern teachers, the distinction is an artificial one. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of ink spent discussing the situation by both Tibetan and foreign scholars. Basically, "Nyingmapa" refers to those who accept the translations of Buddhist works that were done starting in Tibet's Imperial period, and continuing up to the so-called "second dissemination of Dharma in the centuries after the empire fell. The cutoff point, the lifetime of one particular translator, is certainly in some respects arbitrary.

A very early Nyingmapa scholar, writing when the distinctions were first being drawn drew some very broad lines. For one, he said that Nyingmapa tantras came from Oddiyana, the country of Guru Rinpoche, while Sarmapa tantras came from India. Although this is an oversimplification, it does seem that the Nyingmapa were more willing to accept Buddhist works that originated outside of Central India (i.e.the Gangetic plain), while some Sarmapas got very prickly about works that did not have a demonstrable Indian ancestry. He also said that the earlier Nyingmapa works were translated supported by the emperors of Tibet, while later ones were the result of independent translators working for money. This is also to put things too simply.

It's useful to keep in mind that there was no established school that called itself "Nyingmapa" until the second wave of translation began. There were rather, it seems. a lot of independent and perhaps largely unrelated lineages and movements going on, that only came together to certain extent, in response to the challenges to their orthodoxy posed by the Sarma scholars.

Owing to the vicious political sectarianism that caused so much harm to Tibet, since the Chinese takeover, Tibetan religious leaders have for the most part not emphasized the sometimes significant different approaches not only between Nyingma and Sarma, but within these categories themselves.
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