Nine yanas

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Nine Yanas (Tib. ཐེག་པ་དགུ, tekpa gu, Wyl. theg pa dgu) or nine successive vehicles (Tib. ཐེག་པ་རིམ་པ་དགུ་, tekpa rimpa gu, Wyl. theg pa rim pa dgu) — within the Nyingma tradition, the full spectrum of spiritual paths is divided into nine yanas, a system of practice bringing together all the approaches of the Buddha’s teaching into a single comprehensive path to enlightenment.

The Nine Yanas
sutrayana tantrayana
the three outer yanas leading from the origin,
i.e. the three yanas related to the outer vehicle of leading from the origin [of suffering] and the three pitakas of characteristics
the three yanas of vedic asceticism,
i.e. the three yanas related to the inner vehicle of Vedic asceticism and the three outer classes of tantra
the three yanas of powerful transformative methods,
i.e. the three yanas related to the secret vehicle of powerful transformative methods and the three inner classes of tantra
basic vehicle mahayana vajrayana[1]
path of renunciation[2] path of purification path of transformation path of self-liberation[3]
the shravaka yana
the pratyekabuddha yana
the bodhisattva yana
the yana of kriya tantra
the yana of charya tantra
the yana of yoga tantra
the yana of mahayoga
the yana of anuyoga
the yana of atiyoga


The nine yanas are referred to in the Kulayaraja Tantra (Kunje Gyalpo) and in the General Sutra of the Gathering of All Intentions (Düpa Do), which is the central scripture of Anuyoga.

Subdivision According to the Three Kayas[4]

  • Dharmakaya teachings refer to the teachings of Atiyoga
  • Sambhogakaya teachings refer to the teachings of the three outer yanas, as well as Mahayoga and Anuyoga
  • Nirmanakaya teachings refer to the teachings of the three causal vehicles

Notes & References

  1. The vajrayana is not a separate vehicle from mahayana, but actually belongs within mahayana as a distinctive vehicle of skilful means.
  2. This division into four paths is mentioned in The Nine Yanas, from Dzogchen & Padmasambhava, page 23.
  3. Wyl. rang grol lam.
  4. Based on Jokyab Rinpoche, in Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, Vol. 1 (Hong Kong: Rangjung Yeshe, 1999), page 247-8.

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

Further Reading

  • Chögyam Trungpa, The Lion's Roar: An Introduction to Tantra, The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Four (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2003).
  • Dzogchen Ponlop, Wild Awakening (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2003), 'Part 3: The Dzogchen Journey'.
  • Ron Garry, Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2005), 'Appendix 1: An Explanation of the Nine Vehicles'.
  • S.G. Karmay, Origin and Early Development of the Tibetan Religious Traditions of the Great Perfection
  • Jamgön Kongtrul, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Six, Part Four: Systems of Buddhist Tantra, translated by Elio Guarisco and Ingrid McLeod (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2005), pages 306-347.
  • Sogyal Rinpoche,
  • Thinley Norbu, The Small Golden Key (Shambhala Publications, 1999), ‘5. The Differences Between the Buddha's Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana Teachings'.
  • Tulku Thondup,
    • Masters of Meditation and Miracles, edited by Harold Talbott (Boston: Shambhala, 1999), pages 16-20.
    • The Dzogchen Innermost Essence Preliminary Practice, LTWA, 1982, 'Part Three, The Nine Yanas'.

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