Eight practice lineages

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Eight Practice Lineages aka the Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineage (Tib. སྒྲུབ་བརྒྱུད་ཤིང་རྟ་ཤིང་རྟ་ཆེན་ཆེན་མོ་བརྒྱད་, drubgyü shingta shingta chen chenmo gyé, Wyl. sgrub brgyud shing rta chen mo brgyad) — the eight principal traditions which 'transported' the Buddhist teachings from India to Tibet. They are:

  1. Nyingma—the teachings of the kama, terma and pure vision traditions within the Nyingma School of Ancient Translations, which had come down in an aural lineage transmitted by countless learned and accomplished masters, all thanks to the kindness of Khenpo Shantarakshita, Guru Padmasambhava and the Dharma-King Trisong Deutsen.
  2. Kadam—the divine teachings of the Old and New Kadam traditions, founded by the incomparable and glorious Lord Jowo Atisha and further developed through the magnificent efforts of Lobsang Drakpa, who was Manjushri in person.
  3. Lamdré/Sakya—the essential instructions of the 'Path with its Result' (Tib. ལམ་འབྲས་, Lamdré), the heart-essence of the mahasiddha Virupa, which came down to the glorious Sakyapa founders and their heirs, and were then passed on by the various lineages including those of Sakya, Ngor and Tsar (Tib. ས་ངོར་ཙར་གསུམ་, Wyl. sa ngor tsar gsum).
  4. Marpa Kagyü—the four streams of teachings within the Kagyü tradition that stems from Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, and branched into the four major and eight minor Kagyü lineages.
  5. Shangpa Kagyü—the golden doctrine of the dakini Niguma from the glorious Shangpa Kagyü, which comes from the learned and accomplished Khyungpo Naljor.
  6. Kalachakra/'Six Branch Practice of Vajrayoga' (Tib. Jordruk; Wyl. sbyor drug)—the 'Six-Branched Application', which emphasizes the Vajra Yoga of the perfection stage of the splendid Kalachakra, and which came to Tibet from the noble Dharma-kings of India and others such as Kalapada in early, intermediate and later phases, and developed into seventeen traditions, which were then brought together and passed on by the renunciate Tukjé Tsöndru and others.
  7. Shyijé and Chö—the noble teachings of the 'Pacifying of Suffering' Tradition coming from Padampa Sangyé together with the profound teachings on the objects of severance, or Chö, which were passed on by Machik Lapdrön and others.
  8. 'Approach and Accomplishment of the Three Vajras'—the teachings bestowed on the mahasiddha Orgyenpa Rinchen Pal by the mother of the buddhas, Vajrayogini herself.

Note: the Jonang and Gelug schools are not part of this list because they formed within Tibet.


Although these eight practice lineages figure prominently in the literature of the Rimé movement, especially, for example, the Treasury of Precious Instructions of Jamgön Kongtrul, and Shechen Gyaltsab's history of the teachings, the list pre-dates the movement by about 200 years. The list may be derived from an earlier list of the most important figures in each lineage, the so-called 'eight great pillars of the practice lineage', first mentioned by the 16th century master Tertön Sherab Özer.

Further Reading

In Tibetan

In English

  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Eight, Part Four: Esoteric Instructions, A Detailed Presentation of the Process of Meditation in Vajrayana, Snow Lion, 2007
  • Matthew Kapstein, 'gDams-ngag: Tibetan Technologies of the Self' in Cabezón and Jackson, ed., Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, Snow Lion, 1996
  • Ngawang Zangpo, Jamgon Kongtrul's Retreat Manual, Snow Lion, 1994
  • Ringu Tulku, The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great, Shambhala Publications, 2006