Tibetan Buddhism comprises the teachings of the three vehicles of Buddhism: the Foundational Vehicle, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna. The Mahāyāna goal of spiritual development is to achieve the enlightenment of buddhahood in order to most efficiently help all other sentient beings attain this state. The motivation in it is the bodhicitta mind of enlightenment — an altruistic intention to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas are revered beings who have conceived the will and vow to dedicate their lives with bodhicitta for the sake of all beings. Tibetan Buddhism teaches methods for achieving buddhahood more quickly by including the Vajrayāna path in Mahāyāna.¹

Main Schools

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Nyingma – Click here to find retreats
“The Ancient Ones” is the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism and the original order founded by Padmasambhava and Śāntarakṣita.Whereas other schools categorize their teachings into the three yānas or “vehicles”, Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana, the Nyingma tradition classifies its teachings into Nine Yānas, among the highest of which is Dzogchen Terma “treasures” (revealed texts) are of particular significance to the Nyingma school.

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Kagyu – Click here to find retreats
“Lineage of the (Buddha’s) Word”. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an 11th-century mystic. Its speciality lies in the profound meditation techniques of mahamudra and special tantric practices called the “six yogas of Naropa” that are used to speed up realisation of the true nature of mind. These profound teachings were gathered by an illustrious line of Indian patriarchs, including the great 11th century master Tilopa, who was the one responsible for integrating the mahamudra teachings with the tantric practices.

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Sakya – Click here to find retreats
The “Grey Earth” school represents the scholarly tradition. Headed by the Sakya Trizin, this tradition was founded by Khön Könchok Gyelpo (1034–1102), a disciple of the great lotsāwa Drogmi Shākya and traces its lineage to the mahasiddha Virūpa. A renowned exponent, Sakya Pandita (1182–1251CE), was the great-grandson of Khön Könchok Gyelpo.

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Gelug – Click here to find retreats
The “Way of Virtue” school was originally a reformist movement and is known for its emphasis on logic and debate. The order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, renowned for both his scholarship and virtue. Its spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and its temporal one the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama is regarded as the embodiment of Avalokiteśvara. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries.