Things That Must Remain for Authentic Dharma Practice

This year at our annual summer course at Changlochen Ling, Dechen’s retreat centre in
Dordogne, France, Lama Jampa guided students through his text, Diamond Sky. He has given
the sub-title ‘Preparing for Vajrayana’ for this newly extended version (originally published in
1989). The enhanced text clearly shows how, with his or her first steps on the path, the student
can be laying necessary foundations for the highest level of practice, the Vajrayana.

It may seem obvious to say that it is only possible for us to embark upon the Buddhist path
because the teachings are still available for us. However, this cannot be taken for granted and
Lama Jampa’s first chapter focuses on ‘The Things that Remain’: the vital texts, teaching and
initiation lineages, maintained through transmission between master and disciple: without which
and without whom we – even now and in locations far-flung in respect to their origins – would
have no chance of being able to learn about and practise the Dharma.

It is widely known that Dharma came to Tibet from India in broadly two waves. The early
diffusion – later to be known as the ‘ancient’ or Nyingma tradition – took place in the 8th century.
With the patronage of the Tibetan KIng Trisong Detsen, the Indian masters Padmakara (whom
we know as Guru Rinpoche) and the monastic abbot Shantarakshita established a centre for the
study and practice of sutras and tantras at Samye, south-west of Lhasa. At the same time,
buddhist monasticism – one of the ‘four pillars’ of the Dharma – was introduced into Tibet and
subsequently thrived alongside – and with the necessary support of – a lay Buddhist community.

A major discontinuity occurred in the 9th century during the time of King Langdarma who
withdrew royal patronage Buddhism in Tibet. Consequently, monasteries ceased to be
supported and were forced into closure. Throughout that time it fell to Nyingma clans, families
whose members were lay Vajrayana practitioners, to maintain lines of transmission coming from
Padmakara. One such clan was Khon, around which family the Sakya school formed at the time
of the later diffusion of Dharma that began in the 11th century.

Lama Jampa explained how distinct “schools” came to incorporate clusters of particular
transmission lineages that remain their staple to this day. Transmission lineages are
fundamental in Vajrayana because specific tantric teachings and their corresponding practices
must always be transmitted directly from master to student. Hence, sects and sub-sects typically
formed as a “crystalisations” around teachings and transmissions of particular early Tibetan
masters such as Sachen Kunga Nyingpo and Marpa, and later masters such as Ngorchen
Kunga Zangpo and Tsarchen Losal Gyatso.

Reflecting on such historical aspects as these helps to focus on the importance for us, here in
Britain and beyond, of working in support of our lamas putting in place ‘things that must remain’
so that future generations will be able to practise Dharma authentically as we have been able to
do during our lives.

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.
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