A little bit of Buddhism

Sects of Buddhism:

Within Tibetan Buddhism there are four great traditions: Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya and Geluk. “Nyingma” means old or early and is one part of Tantric Buddhism that came to Tibet from India first during the seventh century. It is called “Nyingma” because it is the oldest form of Tibetan Buddhism. Subsequently Buddhism was suppressed for a period of seventy years until religion reemerged in the year 978. The great Buddhist traditions founded after this time are referred to as the “New Tantric Buddhist traditions.” The second tradition to appear, and the first of the new systems, is the Kagyu tradition. This name means “stream of oral teaching.” The Kagyu tradition was passed through a long line of teachers from Vajradhara to the great Tilopa, to Naropa, to Marpa and so forth in an oral manner. The third tradition is the Sakya. “Sakya” means “place of white earth.” The founder of this tradition was the master Konchok Gyalpo. In looking to establish his monastery, he examined many places but finally he decided on a place on the side of a mountain called Ponpori that was covered with a whitish earth and built his monastery there. After that the tradition he founded was called “Sakya” for the white earth. The fourth and newest tradition is the Geluk tradition. “Geluk” means meritorious or virtuous tradition. “Ge” means virtue and “luk” means system or tradition. Originally this tradition had the name “Ganden” because that is the name of the monastery founded by the great Lama Tsongkhapa who also founded this tradition. This great teacher lived five hundred years ago.

What’s in a Name?

In Sikkim too, like in Tibet parents it is common for us to go to High Lamas to name our children. The origin of the name ‘Dalai Lama’ is from Mongolia. ‘Dalai’ is a Mongolian word and was originlly a title given by the Mongolian King Altan Khan to the Third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyaltso who was the King’s teacher and friend. The title ‘Dalai Lama’ was bestowed to Sonam Gyaltso for his Buddhist teachings, and out of respect. ‘Dalai’ in Mongolian means ‘Ocean of Wisdom’. There was a close spiritual relationship between Tibet and Mongolia and since then, the name ‘Dalai Lama’ has been used for all successive Dalai Lamas and was also applied to the two predecessors of Sonam Gyaltso.

The current Dalai Lama is the fourteenth. His Holiness the Fouteenth Dalai Lama’s personal name is Tenzin Gyaltso and was given to him by his religious tutor. “Gyaltso” in Tibetan means”Ocean of Enlightened Qualities.” Tibetans refer to His Holiness the Dalai Lama by other names such as “Yeshi Norbu” which means “Wishfulling Gem,” and “Kundun” which simply means “the presence.”

Excerpted from: Names in Tibetan Culture by Venerable Tenzin Gephel Cornell University Buddhist Chaplain


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