Sakya Lamdre Tradition

His Holiness Sakya Trizin at SIBA 2009His Holiness the Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism has agreed to return to SIBA Retreat Centre to bestow the precious Lamdre teachings. The date is yet to be confirmed.

In the same spirit in which His Holiness the Dalai Lama regularly bestows the elaborate Kalachakra empowerment, Lamdre represents the most revered system of empowerments and teachings of the Sakya School held by HH Sakya Trizin. HH Sakya Trizin annually gives Lamdre for Tibetan and foreign disciples around the world. In the last few years he has given Lamdre in England, France and Australia (Sydney 2009) as well as in India (Dzongsar Institute, Chauntara 2008).

You can register your interest in attending Lamdre at SIBA Retreat Centre by emailing us and we will put you on our contact list of updates.

Lama Choedak Rinpoche


Lama Choedak Rinpoche is one of the most qualified Tibetan lamas to teaching on the Lamdre tradition. He has completed a traditional three and a half year Hevajra Lamdre retreat under the guidance of the Lamdre Lineage holder H.E. Chogye Trichen Rinpoche. He has also completed number of academic thesis around the Lamdre tradition. Being committed to the translation of this Buddhism in general and the Sakya Lamdre in particular, Rinpoche has produced a number of works to assist those interested in taking the Lamdre empowerment. These include:

  • Books:
    • LAMDRE - Dawn of Enlightenment was written by Lama Choedak Rinpoche to help students aspiring to take higher initiation, particularly Lamdre.
    • TRIPLE TANTRA - His Holiness Sakya Trizin requested Lama Choedak Rinpoche translate this text by Panchen Ngawang Choedak to assist students in the Lamdre Tsogshe system of the Sakyapa Tradition. It includes three fascinating chapters on the origin of the Lamdre tradition including a biography of Mahasiddha Virupa which is available to those who have not received the Hevajra Empowerments yet.
  • Audio
    • Introduction to Lamdre - a complete outline of the Lamdre system and basis of the book LAMDRE - Dawn of Enlightenment.
    • Three Levels of Spiritual Perception - Ngorchen Konchok Lhundrup's classic work showing the fundamental techniques to change one's mind-stream from the deluded to the liberated. The "Three Visions" (snang gsum) covers the exoteric sutric teachings of the Lamdre System. This is the Sakya's equivalent of the Lam Rim.
    • Ngondro Preliminary Practices - complete teaching on the fundamental preliminary practices vajrayana meditation practices as taught in the Sakya Lamdre tradition. Email us for the latest recordings of these teachings.

  • Online Articles


The Five Founding Fathers of the Sakya Lineage

The origin of the Sakya Lamdre Tradition in India and it's evolution in Tibet

By Lama Choedak Rinpoche

Lamdre represents one of the most precious non-canonical literatures of Sakya Tibetan Buddhism. It generally covers esoteric teachings of Mahnuttara-yoga-tantra and Hevajra Tantra. The Lamdre literature is not only the greatest historical evidence of the tradition but the greatest gift of its masters. While exact dates of the Indian masters are not easy to determine, the preservation of their teachings in notes, manuscripts and stories has provided primary sources for the study of this 1400 year old tradition.

The Lamdre texts are meditational and practical manuals used by hundreds of ecclesiastics and lay practitioners of the Sakya tradition, constituting a sacred and secret path which past great masters have trodden. Those who are fortunate enough to own a set of Lamdre texts would treat them as most valuable thing and they are taken wherever they may go. Thus these texts are known as "non-detachable" ['bral spas] for practitioners. Works on Lamdre contain sacred oral history, hagiographies of the lineage masters, instructions on esoteric meditation practices of Hevajra Sdhana, numerous commentaries on Hevajra Tantra, and related liturgies on rites and rituals of the Tantra.

Traditionally these texts are only accessible to the faithful and fortunate initiates, who are then allowed to practice the meanings of these texts. A brief account of the origin of the selective accumulation of Lamdre works written by scholars and Yogins during a period that spanned from the 7th to the 20th century C. E. will be useful. Generally the entire Lamdre literature can be divided into six main divisions:

1. Expositions on Hevajra Tantra [gu bad].

2. Classical Lamdre Manuscripts [lam 'bras glegs bam].

3. Hagiography of the Lineage Masters [bla ma brgyud pa'i rnam thar].

4. Treatises on Common Lamdre Teachings [lam 'bras tshogs bad].

5. Manuals on Uncommon Lamdre Teachings [lam 'bras slob bad].

6. Liturgy on Initiation Rites, Mala Rituals and Hevajra Sadhana

[dba da dkyil chog sgrub thabs skor].

In addition to the expositions written by Lamdre masters and the like, there are numerous Indian expositions gu bad or rnam 'grel on Hevajra Tantra in the Tibetan Buddhist canon. They are used and consulted within and outside the Lamdre tradition. The classical Lamdre manuscripts are pre-15th century scriptures extracted both from expositions and oral instructions which are compiled and edited, and named after the color of the wrapping cloth excluding "Lamdre Blue Annals" [lam 'bras pod son]. Prior to 13th century, notes on the secret oral teachings were passed down from master to disciple and were circulated in manuscript form. In 13th century when carving and production of xylographic blocks began in Tibet, selected works were compiled and edited in the collected works of the five founding masters of Sakya [saskya go ma la].

Beside Virupa and other Indian authors, the earliest Lamdre authors were Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158) and his sons, Loppon Sonam Tsemo (1142-1182) and Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147-1216), whose works were published in their collected works [bka' 'bum]. This was then followed by Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen (1182-1251/52) and his nephew Drogon Choegyal Phagpa Lodro Gyaltsen (1235-1280), whose works on Lamdre are also found in their collected works. In spite of the inclusion of the Lamdre works by the Five Masters in their collected works, the Lamdre literature did not become known until the emergence of separate editions of extracted Lamdre work(s) wrapped in different colored clothes. The hagiographies (Spiritual Biographies) of Lamdre lineage masters cover one third of the entire Lamdre literature. There are many works on Lamdre in the bka' 'bums of Sakya masters which are not included in this edition. The success story of Sakyapa scholarship from the 13th to the 16th century and the glorification of individual scholars and Yogins have led to the compilation and creation of "Collected Works" [bka' 'bum].

However the nature of the contents of Lamdre works being secret and esoteric did not allow its disclosure through compilation and printing. There was a self-imposed restriction on the disclosure of Tantric instructions in almost every tradition. For instance, Zhangton Choebar advised Sachen not to write or even talk to anyone about Lamdre practice for eighteen years, and only after the lapse of time, did Sachen began to teach and write on Lamdre. Out of his eleven commentaries, which were in fact commentaries to the same root text [gurtsa ba rdo rje tshig rka], lam 'bras gags ma, being the last one of all and especially because of its conciseness, was compiled together with some notes and they sealed and locked in a wooden trunk. Although it was originally known as "sag ubs ma," a name derived from the wooden trunk, its actual name is gags ma since it was given to gags i ra ba dba phyug dpal, not to be confused with gags si po rgyal mtshan, a disciple of tshogs sgom kun dga' dpal. According to Ngorchen, since Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltshan located, selected, compiled and wrapped this and other instructions on Lamdre in a yellow cloth, it became known as "Lamdre Yellow Annals" [lam 'bras pod ser ma]. As a matter of interest we can see here that within one generation, this work had received three different names much to the confusion of the historians of Lamdre literature. One can imagine how the discrepancies in identification of the eleven commentaries would have arisen. Another important Lamdre author is dmar chos kyi rgyal po, who as a close disciple of Sapan (Sakya Pandita, wrote " gu gad dmar ma " on the basis of instructions given by Sapan which later became known as "Lamdre Red Annals" [lam 'bras pod dmar]. In his introduction, dmar reiterates that lam 'bras gags ma was primarily used as a reference by Sapan when giving teachings on Lamdre. Based on these two works, the first systematic and comprehensive Lamdre treatise, "Lamdre Black Annals" [lam 'bras pod nag], was written by Lama Dampa Sonam Gyaltsen (1312-1375), who also sponsored the first edition of the collected works of the five masters as a tribute at the funeral observance of his deceased teacher dpal ldan se ge. His treatise was so named because it was wrapped in a dark iron colored cloth. Beside these, there were number of works on Lamdre written by some disciples of Drogmi and the five masters which are not listed in this edition.

The 16th century saw the emergence of a galaxy of Lamdre scholars and masters. In spite of the aforementioned Lamdre works named after the different colors of the volumes, other works found in the collected works of numerous masters may have been carved earlier but there is no evidence of Lamdre being printed. In this edition of Sakya Lamdre Literature Series (S. L. L. S.), we will notice that the works are divided into Lamdre Lobshe (Uncommon or Explanation to Disciples) and Lamdre Tsogshe (Common or Explanation to Assembly).

Prior to 15th century, there was neither any literature which distinguished between the two lineages nor any evidence of their existence. This system of two lineages has been developed from a practice of Muechen Konchog Gyaltsen (1388-1469), who gave pithy instructions to Dagchen Lodro Gyaltsen (1444-1479) in private. It was restricted to small number of selected disciples, and was seldom given, as it was designed to guide advanced individuals who were making experiential progress [myo khrid] on the basis of the teacher's experiential advice [man ag]. The common lineage, however, allowed a larger group of students and was given annually in Ngor monastery in Tibet, and bore the name tshogs bad. Dagchen Lodro Gyaltshan, who has also written numerous works, is regarded as the first promulgator of both lineages.

Subsequently his disciples and grand-disciples, who followed the two distinct lineages, made a vast liturgical contribution to the development of the lineages. An obvious difference between the two is the language and style of composition rather than the contents. Lobshey manuals are straight forward instructions written in the warm colloquial language of Upper Tsang, while Tshogshey manuals use rather classical and scholastic Tibetan, with numerous quotes from Sutras and Tantras. Ngorchen Konchog Lundrup (1497-1547), a prolific Sakya author, wrote some scholastic treatises on Three Visions and Three Tantras. His works simplified the duties of many later Lamdre masters, who made a habit of reading it in teaching sessions, so that it became the classical Lamdre Tshogshey manual of Sakya and Ngor monasteries. Perhaps his works were widely read than any others.

My first introduction to Lamdre work was his "Beautiful Ornament of Three Visions" [sna gsum mdzes rgyan] in 1970. Later 'jam mgon a mes abs ag dba kun dga' bsod nams (1537-1601) and Panchen Choedak (1572-1651) works were and are still used as alternative or supplementary to the former manuals in Tshogshey tradition.

The uncommon Lamdre lineage was transmitted through Doringpa Kunpang Choejay (1449-1524) to Gorum Kunga Lekpa and from both of them to Tsarchen Losal Gyatso (1502-1567).

It remained solely as oral teachings until Jamyang Khyentse Wangchuk (1524-1568) and Mathong Lundrup Gyatso (1523-1594) who became the sun and moon-like disciples of Tsarchen. These two eminent masters took notes on the basis of instruction heard from Tsharchen, and wrote two complete sets of Lamdre Lobshey manuals, which were later endorsed by Tsharchen. Most of these works remained as manuscripts [gzigs dpe]. In 1904 Jamgon Loter Wangpo (1847-1914) courageously arranged and sponsored the task of preparing xylographic blocks of seventeen volume Lamdre Lobshey (including all the biographies) in spite of criticism from others who feared that the printing and disclosure of the secret teachings might displease the Dharma protectors. Ignoring their opposition, he wrote a synthesis of the two Lamdre Lobshey manuals and dispelled the doubts of contradiction between the two works raised by other scholars. Without his tireless effort and noble example of sponsoring, editing and publishing many important Sakya works e.g. Drubthab Kuntu including Lamdre Lobshey, this edition of the complete collection of Lamdre (31 Volumes) could not have materialized. Prior to this they were not published together since the uncommon texts were indirectly censored from printing.

This catalogue is based on the collection of legitimate works on Lamdre tradition written by many lineage Gurus of both traditions from Virupa to His Eminence Chogay Trichen Rinpoche. They are a gradual accumulation of works compiled, edited and re-edited by numerous masters. Naturally there are Lamdre bibliographies and lists of received teachings [gsan yig] of early prominent masters which do not contain the latter works. Notwithstanding this, we do not see any theory to guide us how to distinguish between the authors or works of the two traditions. The classification neither follow chronological order nor are there technical reasons to indicate how the works were distinguished. If the concept of Lamdre Lobshey tradition came into being after Dagchen Lodro Gyaltshan, then all works prior to him should be Lamdre Tsogshey and post Dagchen Lodro Gyaltshan works should be Lobshey. But this does not appear to be the case. For instance, while most works of Drakpa Gyaltshan are listed in the Lamdre Lobshey, some of his works are listed in Tsogshey. Similarly the lam 'bras gags ma and other ten commentaries which served the basis of all works listed in this catalogue were and are not used for either of the Lamdre teaching situation.

Separate teaching and oral transmission sessions [lu rgyun] on these commentaries were held outside of Lamdre sessions if the commentarial lineages and transmissions were extant. It is essential to include the eleven commentaries in the collection of Lamdre works since they were the first expositions on the subject. Eminent Lamdre scholars such as Panchen Ngawang Choedak's works should not necessarily fall in the Tsogshey division as he has been a recipient and promulgator of both traditions.

The free usage of his works practiced in both traditions is evidence of the impartiality of his works. He has been a great exponent of both traditions.

The emergence of this thirty one volume Sakya Lamdre Literature Series is a welcome and new phenomenon in the history of Lamdre texts. We may hope that this edition can be enlarged and developed in the near future. It amalgamates Tsogshe, Lobshey, the eleven commentaries by Sachen, as well as many other works related to Lamdre. It was edited by His Holiness Sakya Trizin for its publication undertaken by Sakya Center, Dehra Dun in 1983. His Holiness explains the model of his edition in the postscript of its bibliography. It is published in the traditional folio style [dpe gzugs] or loose leafs which required several years of painstaking calligraphy work by many dedicated monks of Sakya Center. Thanks are due to all the monks, including Venerable Migmar Tseten, for their dedication in making such a publication possible. For the sake of convenience in locating the references, I have amended the title numbers, which are numbered in sequence. The folio numbers are given without specifying side a or side b since odd and even numbers indicate them. Translation of the essential part of the Tibetan titles are provided together with their transliterations. Volumes are marked alphabetically; hence the first volume is marked 'pod ka pa' Volume One. Future editors of Lamdre texts need to consider collecting more works on Lamdre from a wider sources e.g. bka' 'bums, which are not included in this edition, and to develop a systematic theory of classification arrangements between the two traditions and different works.


Quote of the Day

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject all help are you freed.”
The Buddha