Sakya Lama gives Nyingma Teachings; Kagyu Lama gives Nyingma Teachings

“It’s not unusual”, said the Lama, “for a Sakya Lama to give Nyingma teachings.” So Lama Jampa said within the context of a teaching on the ‘bardo’. Bardo is a Tibetan term most commonly used, as here, to denote the intermediate state between death and rebirth. Teachings from the Nyingma tradition, the so-called ‘school of the ancient ones’, he told us, can be particularly detailed; although the teachings on this occasion were quite concise and able to be fully explained within a morning.

Apparently, it is also common for Kagyu Lamas to use Nyingma teachings to explain what occurs in the gap between death and rebirth. Often the Bardo Thotrol – first translated into English by Walter Evans-Wenz in 1927 as ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’ – is used in teachings. But, on this occasion, a briefer text by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, a 19th century Nyingmapa adept was used. 

The Lama told us that teachings on the bardo also exist in the New Tantra schools. In the Sakya, these are only given to more advanced Vajrayana practitioners (in the LamDre). And in the Kagyu, they are given together with ‘fulfillment stage’ practices which, again, are only for more advanced Vajrayana practitioners.

The Nyingma teachings mentioned here contrast with the advanced status of Sakya and Kagyu teachings on the bardo; because the intention of these particular bardo instructions is to aid Vajrayana practitioners who may not have become so accomplished during their life of practice. We learn that it is easier to achieve liberation in the intermediate, bardo, state than during the course of embodied life and these teachings are described as ones that can facilitate liberation for the less accomplished. Readers of this blog may be interested to listen to a talk, via SoundCloud, that Lama Jampa gave, in which he presented a more generalized version of these teachings.

As it turned out, 2022 was quite a year for Nyingma teachings from Lama Jampa. In May he taught a pithy text by the great Nyingma master Mipham Rinpoche (1846 – 1912) that shows how the practitioner can take the Middle Way teachings beyond conceptual analysis (a vital stage of practice in itself) with the support of ‘secret mantra’ practice.

The non-dual primordial wisdom

Free from mental objectification

Can be realised swiftly if wished

Through meditation on Mantra instructions.

In June, we heard about the life of Padmasambhava, Guru Rinpoche; which life Lama Jampa described as

“showing the pattern of enlightenment – the uncovering of what is present in all beings”.

He explained the significance of treasure teachings (terma in Tibetan) which Guru Rinpoche concealed in various ways in order that they be discovered over subsequent centuries by treasure revealers (terton in Tibetan). Guru Rinpoche himself apparently said that many fake termas would be claimed amongst the genuine ones. The great Sakya Pandita stated that a terma should be accepted if it could be seen to be in accord with the sutras and tantras. A recording of this teaching by Lama Jampa can be found here.

The two bardo teachings mentioned at the start of this blog are both termas. The Bardo Thotrol was discovered in the 12th century by the terton Karma Lingpa. The abbreviated text was discovered in the 19th century by Chokgyur Dechen Lingpa, known as the last of the 100 major tertons.

In his River of Memory, Lama Jampa tells us that one of the first initiations he received from Kagyu gurus was that of Padmasambhava in the form of Konchuk Chindu,The Union of all Jewels’, from the lineage of the treasure revealer Rikdzin Jatson Nyingpo, which he accomplished as one of his main practices. Thus, as he puts it in his book,

“it so happens that my first few initiations belonged to the Nyingma tradition, albeit they were ones that have been assumed into the Kagyu tradition over the years”.

The Lama subsequently received and mastered several other terma practices, which has enabled him to bestow their initiations upon us, his fortunate students, over the years. An example last year was alongside his teachings of Gampopa’s ‘Jewel Ornament of Liberation’, he bestowed the initiation of Vajrasattva from the lineage of the same Dechen Lingpa who discovered the treasure teachings on the bardo referred to above.

In the system of the new tantras, the realisation of one’s Buddha Nature is expressed as Mahamudra. Whilst, the equivalent realisation in the ‘ancient Nyingma tantras’ is called Dzog Chen. These are two subtly different systems, each with its own approach to leading the student practitioner towards realisation. Hence, the student practitioner must beware of getting mixed up between them. In September, Lama Jampa taught a text that provides guidance in this respect: ‘The Union of Dzog Chen and Mahamudra’ by Chagme Rinpoche. Using the example of the deity practice of Chenrezik, Chagme shows ordinary practitioners how they can avoid the need to concern themselves with technical differences between the two systems, knowing they both point to the same level of realisation.

So, although Lama Jampa Thaye is known as a Lama of the Kagyu and Sakya schools, we can see that he is also learned in teachings of Nyingma school; and is fully qualified to transmit and teach a significant number of Vajrayana practices within the Dzok Chen system. 

Please note that posts in this blog are not intended to represent full accounts of teachings given by the Lama. They focus on particular aspects of teachings that the authors think may be of interest to people coming new to the Dharma, and other fellow students. They represent the understanding of the authors who bear responsibility for the content. Please address any comments to