900 – 1100 Following a century marked by persecution and political fragmentation, Tibet receives a second wave of Dharma transmission by Indian teachers who establish the Kadampa, Kagyu, and Sakya schools. In Japan, the tantric Shingon and Tendai Lotus schools are established. Persecution ends in China and the Sung dynasty supports a revival of Buddhism; the Chinese canon is printed. The Theravada school flourishes in Burma. Muslim Turks invade and rule the Central Asian kingdoms such as Oddiyana.

Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana 982-1054

Master Pandita of Vikramasila in India. Studied all vehicles; ten years on Sarvastivadin doctrines alone. Studied tantra with Naropa, Avadhutipa and Dombipa. Leads second wave of Dharma, arriving in Tibet 1042. After three years, was entreated by Dromton to remain. His impact on the recovering Buddhist community was enormous as he created a revival that drew its inspiration strictly from Indian tantric sources. Stayed in central Tibet, emphasizing monastic reform, bodhicitta and the graduated path. Among his many works is the influential Bodhipathapradipa (Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment). Dromton formalized these teachings which gave rise to the Kadampa school.


Tilopa 988-1069

Wild teacher of Naropa, wore chains for 12 years at Somapuri, mastered Mahamudra, became a wandering yogi after serving as a priest in the royal court. It is said he became enlightened while was extracting sesame oil, which was part of his duty as a servant in the house of a courtesan.

Dromtonpa Gyalwa'i Jungne 1004-1064

Layman and heart student of Atisha, considered the first of the incarnation lineage which was transferred to the Dalai Lamas. Founded Radreng monastery and formally established the Kadampa School based on the study of the Six Doctrines of Atisha. Three centuries later, he reincarnated as Je Gendun Drubpa (1391-1474), the First Dalai Lama.

Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo 1012-1088

His knowledge of Sanskrit, as of both Nyingma and Sarma teachings and styles was a stabilizing influence, preserving the integrity of the older lineages during a time of flux.

Naropa 1016-1100

Tilopa's disciple, born in Bengal, married then separated, became Abbot at Nalanda for eight years before searching for his guru who transmitted Mahamudra teachings after an intense sadhana. Naropa taught his ex-wife Niguma and Marpa Lotsawa, guru of Milarepa.


Marpa Lotsawa 1012-1097

Born among farmers, he studied Sanskrit in Tibet with Drogmi Sakya Yeshe, walked to India, met Naropa near Nalanda. Spent 17 years in India on three trips, received teachings from Naropa, Jnanagarbha, Avaudhutipa and Niguma on the Six Yogas. He was the reknowned guru of Milarepa.


Padampa Sangye 1020 - 1100

From south India, he visited China and Tibet, where he met Milarepa and established the Zhi-byed school. Yogini Machig Labdron was his main student, and through her, Chod teachings, based on Prajnaparamita, flourished.

Machig Labdron 1055 – 1150

The yogini who codified and refined Padampa Sangye’s teachings into the developed practice of Chod. Remained in retreat most of he life, taking on disciples in her later years and systemizing the Chod practice. She is thought to have been an emanation of the buddha Tara or of a wisdom dakini.

Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135

Tibet's Poet-Saint, sporting a single cotton cloth. In avenging the swindle of the family farm, he wields black magic with murderous effects. Only the compassion of Marpa will begin to help this wound heal. Milarepa serves his guru for six years.


Gampopa 1079-1153

Born in Central Tibet, Gampopa was a doctor who became a monk after his wife and two children were killed by plague. A student of Jetsun Milarepa, he became a great scholar and forefather of the Kagyu lineage who attracted the greatest concentration of monks in Tibet up to that time. Prophesied by Buddha as a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Chandra Prabha Kumara; viewd by others as a reincarnation of Guru Rinpoche.


Chekhawa Yeshe Dorje 1101-1175

Kadampa master in the lineage of Atisha, responsible for spreading Atisha’s "Seven Points of Mind Training" into all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The teachings were passed from Atisha’s pupil Drontompa, to Geshe Potopa, to Geshe Langtangpa (1054 -1123), and to Chekhawa, who put it into writing, creating the root text. He was was drawn in by the line "Give all gain and profit to others; take all troubles and difficulties upon yourself." This line is attributed to Langtangpa.

1100 – 1400 The Tibetan canon is gathered and established and treasure texts are discovered. Ch’an and Pureland schools flourish in China. Nichiren Shoshu is founded in Japan. The Chinese canon is printed in Korea. Mongols takeover China in the 13th century as Tibetan Sakya monks gain modest influence in the Mongol court and Kublai Khan converts to Buddhism. Cambodia and Thailand adopt Theravada Buddhism. A hybrid Buddhist/Shivaite tantra develops in Indonesia.

Nyang ral Nyima Oser 1124-1192

One of five great tertons predicted by Padamsambhava, a reincarnation of Trisong Deutsan. Born near Lhodrak, married and had two sons, both of whom became lineage holders. Began having visions at the age of eight and discovered Dakini Teachings.

Chokyi Wangchuk 1212-1270

Known as the "moon" of the five tertons prophesied by Padmasambhava, discoverer of the "Lower Treasures," he recalled his previous existence as Nyima Ozer.

Drubchen Melong Dorje 1243-1303

Born in the upper valley of Dra. Ordained at nine, at 16 he recited the Prajnaparamita 100 times and had a realization of the abiding nature. After experiencing the hardships of pilgrimage, he received Nyingthig transmissions at 18 from Senge Bonpo and had continuous visions of Vajrasattva for six days before discovering termas. He studied with 13 great teachers and died amidst miraculous signs.

Rigdzin Kumara-radza 1266-1343

Root teacher of Longchen Rabjam. Reincarnation of Vimalamitra, born in Yoru, learned to read and write without studying. At 12 he was ordained as a novice, trained as an artist. While reciting the six-syllable mantra he had a vision of Avalokitesvara. While propitiating Vajravarahi, he had a vision of Padmasambhava. Teacher of Longchenpa and Rangjung Dorje, received full empowerment of Nyingthig from Melong Dorje, Dzogchen teachings from Lama Nyanra. He endured many hardships and tended to live in mountain hermitages and desolate valleys.

Rangjung Dorje, Karmapa III 1284-1339

Born to a yogin couple, he had an unparalleled ability to recollect past lives. Already a monk, whose wisdom eye had been opened by a vision of Vimalamitra, he studied with Kumaradza at age seven. Presented Sarma teachings to Longchenpa and passed on Dzogchen views to many of his students. He sought out masters of all the Buddhist traditions of the time, studying with Trophu Kunden Sherab and Nyenre Gendun Bum among others. As a result, he achieved great fame, and attracted any disciples. A practical man, he built bridges as well as meditation centers, benefiting his countrymen's daily life as well as their spiritual one. For posterity, he wrote many texts and commentaries, preserving many of the teachings in a form we use today.

Buton 1290-1364

Sakya scholar-historian and yogi who finalized the compilation of the Tibetan Buddhist canon. One of the lineage lamas of the Six Yogas of Naropa. Author of "The History of Buddhism in India."

Longchen Rabjam (Longchenpa) 1308-1363

Born in Tötrong in Tra Valley, south central Tibet, educated by his father until taking vows at 12. Poet, scholar, called the "All-Knowing," considered an incarnation of Vimalamitra, emanation of Manjusri, ordained at Samye in 1319, studied with Karmapa Rangjung Dorje and Sakya master Dampa Sodnam Gyaltsen. Met Kumaradza at 29 and received Vimalamitra's Nyingthig empowerment from him, and through vision, direct transmission from Padmasambhava of his Nyingthig. Receiving many transmissions as well as achieving great unobstructed intelligence independently, this master wrote extensively and left many important works.

Karma Lingpa 1327-1387

Reincarnation of translator Cogro Klu'I Gyaltsen, translator and disciple of Padmasambhava, discovered the Zhi-khro termas, which is the source of The Bardo Thodol and much more. Not having met an appropriate consort the teaching was solely transmitted to his son and then to his grandson before it was spread at large.

Sangye Lingpa 1340-1396

Born in the Nyangpo district of Kongpo, an emanation of prince Murup Tsenpo, took lay vows at five, had visions of Avalokitesvara, and was able to read and write upon being shown the letters. After his father’s death, he suffered under a cruel stepfather, but was instructed by a red woman to connect with Karmapa IV. He took novice ordination at a monastery near Tsari and received many transmissions from his teachers before Karmapa returned, delighted to prophesy that the boy would guide many living beings. In solitary retreat, a dharmapala provided an inventory of treasures on three paper scrolls. Padmasambhava also appeared and blessed him in this work and in his 24th year he revealed the first of many texts and treasures. By the time he was 32, he had discovered 18 major treasure troves and countless minor ones, occasions marked by flowers falling from the sky, rainbow arcs, celestial music and the presence of dakinis. Founder of Dechen Samdrup monastery in Nyipu. Among the masters of the treasures of Sangye Lingpa was Karmapa IV Rangjung Dorje as well as Sakyapa and Drikung lamas.

Pema Lingpa 1346-1405

Born in Central Tibet in a lineage of mantrikas, took novice vows from the great Trhapa Sakya, at 13 he had seven visions of Padmasambhava and discovered his first terma. At 15, he discovered more, even publicly extracting terma from two places at once. His enlightened activity was extensive. His son, Chöyingpa, an emanation of Nub, carried the lineage. His principle seat was at Lingmokha. His corpse didn’t decay for three years - and it is said to have occasionally spoken and recited dedications of merit.

Rendawa Zhonnu Lodro 1349-1412

Great scholar respected for his commentaries on every level and vehicle of the Dharma from abhidharma to tantra, especially his Madhyamika and Perfection of Wisdom writings. Teacher to Je Tsongkhapa.

1400 – 1600 In Tibet, the Gelug school is established by Je Tsongkhapa. After a second wave of transmission, the Mongols convert to Buddhism. The Gelugs, seeking support in their struggle against the Sakyas, curry favor with the Mongol emperor and the title of Dalai Lama is conferred upon Gelug lama Sonam Gyatso and posthumously on two predecessors ( thus he is recognized as the Third Dalai Lama). In Southeast Asia, the dharma dissappears from Indonesia in the wake of Muslim invasion, while the Theravada tradition is established in Laos. The Mahayana is purged from Cambodia as Theravada Buddhism is firmly established by the royal family.

Je Tsongkhapa, Losang Drakpa 1357 -1419

Born into a nomadic family in Amdo, as the reincarnation of Atisha. He received teachings from all lineages and founded the Kadampa school in 1409, emphasizing a reformed and monastic sangha that stressed logic and formal debate. At three, he took the layman's vows from the 4th Karmapa, Rolpay Dorje, and received the name Kunga Nyingpo. Before taking the novice vows he received many tantric initiations and teachings, including the Heruka empowerment, and was given the secret name of Donyo Dorje. He also entered the mandalas of Hevajra and Yamantaka, and other deities – he was even performing self-initiation meditations upon Heruka when he was only seven, also when he took novice vows at seven from the 4th Karmapa, who named him Losang Drakpa.

Tsong Khapa attached greater importance to guarding his vows than his eyes or his own life. His eminent teacher took care of him until he went to central Tibet at the age of sixteen. Traveling with Denma Rinchen Pel, Tsong Khapa arrived at Drikung where he met the head Lama of the Drikung Karguy monastery, Chennga Chokyi Gyalpo. This great lama was his first teacher after leaving his original Master, and tutored him on various topics such as the Altruistic Mind (bodhichitta), and five sections of the Great seal (Mahamudra) during his stay at the monastery. He also met the great doctor Konchog Kyab who taught him the major medical treatises and, by the time he was 17, he had become an excellent doctor. Thus his fame was already spreading even in the early years of his study. He took full ordination vows, becoming a monk at 24.

Young Scholar

From Drikung, Tsong Khapa went to the Chodra Chenpo Dewachen monastery in Nyetang where he studied with Tashi Sengi and Densapa Gekong. Furthermore Yonten Gyatso taught him how to read the great treatises and continually helped him with the Ornament for the Realizations. Within 18 days he had memorized and assimilated both the root text and all its commentaries and soon mastered all the works of Maitreya Buddha. He then gained a complete understanding of the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) at great speed and with little effort. His teachers and fellow students with whom he debated were astonished at his knowledge and, after two years of studying the Perfection of Wisdom, he was recognized at the age of 19, as a great scholar. That year Je Rinpoche debated at the two biggest monasteries of the day in Tibet: Chodra Chenpo Dewachen and Samye. He now became very famous in U-Tsang, the central providence of Tibet. He visited many other monasteries engaging in debate.

Tsong Khapa then went to visit Nyapon Kunga Pel at Tzechen requesting instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom. However, this master was unwell and referred him to his disciple, Venerable Rendawa. Je Rinpoche developed tremendous respect for Rendawa's method of teaching the Treasury of Knowledge and its auto-commentary. This master had innumerable spiritual qualities and Tsong Khapa later came to regard him as his principal teacher. Their relationship became such that simultaneously they were each other's Master and disciple. He also received teachings on the Middle Way (Madhyamika) philosophy from Rendawa. He composed a verse in honor of Rendawa and would often recite it. However, Rendawa replied that this was more applicable to Tsong Khapa than to himself and so adapted the verse as follows. This is now regarded as Tsong Khapa's Mantra (mig me tse)

Further Studies and His First Teachings

During the autumn and winter he received many teachings on the Entrance to the Middle Way by Chandrakirti. He then returned to Nyetang to become the student of the great scholar of Monastic Discipline (Vinaya), abbot Khenpo Kazhiwa Losal, at whose feet he studied the root texts of Discipline and of the Treasury of Knowledge. By the time he left, his depth of understanding surpassed that of his teacher. He memorized a commentary on the extensive root text of the Discipline at the daily rate of 17 Tibetan folios which is 34 pages!

While reciting prayers with the other monks, he had complete and effortless single-pointed concentration on insight meditation. However, he remained dissatisfied and continued to search for further teachings and teachers. During that winter a troublesome back pain developed and he thought of returning to Rendawa but the bitterly cold weather forced him to stay at Nanying where he gave his first teachings. Scholars had asked for teachings on Knowledge (Abhidharma), and in particular Asanga's Compendium of Knowledge which composes the Mahayana Abhidharma. Tsong Khapa studied the higher tenets and even if it was his initial encounter with this text, he mastered it on first reading and gave perfect teachings.

From there he went to Rendawa, who was at Sakya, and for eleven months taught the Compendium of Knowledge. At this time he himself received teachings on Dharmakirti's Commentary on the Compendium of Valid Cognition, as well as various texts such as the Entrance to the Middle Way and the transmission of the Sutra on Discipline. While at Sakya he also received an explanation on the Root Tantra of Hevajra from Dorje Rinchen. This lama also taught him a method by which to cure his painful back. In the company of master Rendawa, he left for northern Tibet and spent the spring and summer at the monastery of Ngamring Choday.

Gyaltse Darma Rinchen, Khedrub Gelek Palzang and Gendun Drub, the first Dalai Lama, were among his disciples. Because of lapses in monastic discipline, unclear thinking on exoteric and esoteric topics, and a decline in tantric practice One of his main goals was the reform of Tibetan Buddhism – because of lapses in monastic. Part of his reform was the creation of a new order which, likes its founder, has traditionally stressed the importance of strict adherence to the rules of Vinaya, the importance of comprehensive study of Buddhist thought, and reformed tantric practice in accordance with monastic vows. He began the yearly Great Prayer Festival, Monlam Chenmo, still celebrated today as one of the major religious events of the year. Tsong Khapa is also credited with founding the Gelugpa school’s three major monasteries: Ganden, Drepung, and Sera.

Rongton Sheja Kunrig 1367 - 1449

Founded Nalendra Monastery in 1435, when in his 60s. Regarded as one of the "Six Ornaments of Tibet" and as an emanation of Maitreya. He is most famous for commentaries on Prajnaparamita, and on the works of Dharmakirti and Maitreya. He wrote some 300 commentaries and eulogies. Having reached the '6th bodhisattva ground' he could emanate, resurrect and fly in the sky. A contemporary of Tsongkhapa, he was the first to oppose the Gelugpa teachings interpretation of Madhyamika. This great tantrica is described thusly in the 'Blue Annals' : "Outwardly he seems to have concentrated on the preaching of the Doctrine only. Inwardly he practiced yoga constantly, and was able to recognize the different shades of the panca-prana."

Thangtong Gyalpo 1361-1485 (or 1385-1481)

"The Great Engineer," emanation of Avalokitesvara and Hayagriva, master of geomancy, he built temples in power spots as well as 58 iron suspension bridges and 118 ferry crossings which are still in use, and wrote dramas about the lives of great bodhisattvas which are still performed. He began a career in engineering when he was refused a ferry passage on the grounds of his eccentric appearance. This experience served as a catalyst and he consequently embarked on a campaign to build bridges and ferry crossings. His first endeavour was in 1430 at the Chusul River where, with the assistance of two blacksmiths, he forged iron – said to be "the thickness of an 8-year-old boy's arm" – into chain links, with which he attempted to span the river. The project was beset with problems, and more funding was required. Drawing upon the traditions of the itinerant religious storytellers of his time, Thangtong Gyalpo formed the first operatic troupe in Tibet. The troupe performed and raised the necessary funds to complete the project. Thangtong Gyalpo and his troupe of seven beautiful sisters then toured Tibet, raising money to construct a reputed 58 iron chain bridges and 108 ferry crossing stations. Between 1449 and 1456, he built the Riwoche stupa in a breathtaking setting on the banks of the Tsangpo river, about 400 kilometres west of Lhasa towards the Nepalese border.

Gendun Drub, the First Dalai Lama 1391 -1474

Born in Tsang, Central Tibet. Under Sakya master Sherab Senge he became a great scholar and logician. Met Tsong Khapa and became his disciple in 1415. As a holder of the four he was largely responsible for the strict monastic reforms qualifying the new Kadampa school. In 1445, he built Tashi lhunpo which later became the residence of the Panchen Lamas. He was named Dalai Lama by the Mongolians.

Ratna Lingpa 1403-1479

Born at Grushul in Lhodrak. Many of the Nyingma kama texts were very rare at this point. Ratna Lingpa sought out the surviving copies, finally locating the condensed bodies of the text at the residence of Zurpoche. At Ukpalung Monastery, he assembled this collection into the Nyingma Kyujum, the Hundred Thousand Nyingma Tantras which survives in several editions. It has remained distinct from the general Canon.

Terchen Orgyen Pema Lingpa 1450-1521

Born in Mon Bum-than, he was enlightened as a child, received a list from Padmasambhava at 27 and made more than 50 discoveries, some of them in Bhutan.