The Buddhism followed by the people of Himalayan region like Tibet, Bhutan and northern part of Nepal and India is broadly called Himalayan Buddhism. Otherwise it is called Tibetan Buddhism. When Buddhism arrived in Tibet in 7th century, this faith was only adored by the royal family. Later on, in 8th century it was successful in attracting its people. In Tibet, Buddhism is accepted bestowing the geographical location and its climate with native culture and tradition that differentiate with actual Buddhism. From the 9th to 11th century because of the conflict between followers of Buddhism and Bon, there was a vacuum of faith and later on both faiths assorted in each other which created different natures of Buddhism. In the 11th century when Buddhism was revived in Tibet in the presence of Atisa Dipankar from Vikramasila Mahavihara, a new kind of Buddhism appeared. Then, the followers of the ancient faith of Buddhism were known as Nyingma Pa and the new one as Serma Pa.
In the11th century Kagyu Lineage was founded by Marpa and Sakyapa Lineage by Khon Konchok Gyalpo. Later on, in the beginning of the 15th century Je Rimpoche (Tsongkhapa) established another school, Gelukpa Lineage. Two of the three were Sherma Pa with an ancient lineage in Tibet, 4 schools of Buddhism were originated.
Buddhism that was established by Trio – the king Trisong Deutsan, the abbot Shantaraksita and powerful tantric Padmasamhava is known as Nyingma, the ancient one. This tradition holds unique teaching of Tantra of the Secret Essence and the Great Perfection. In this school, the Tantra of the Secret Essence or Dzogchen is regarded as the most significant work on Buddhist tantra, a form of spiritual practice that stresses using all facets of life as paths to awakening. The Great Perfection most commonly refers to a continually evolving set of spiritual instructions and the linage of enlightened beings who have mastered these teachings and passed them down through the ages. This radically direct approach points out the mind’s fundamental nature of luminous purity. In this teaching, enlightenment is not a distant goal to strive toward, but an immanent reality that must be recognized in the present moment. Effort and agendas only serve to obscure the true nature of mind. Once this nature has been recognized, however, problems and negativity inevitably dissolve, leaving the open space of pure awareness, in which the qualities of enlightenment spontaneously disclose.
The Kagyu lineage was founded by the Tibetan translator and Master Marpa after reviving Buddhism by Atisha Dipankar in Tibet. Marpa was initiated by Indian Guru Naropa and Nepalese Guru Maitripa. The uniqueness of tantra practice of Kagyu are six yogas of Naropa, Chakrasambhava and Mahakala. In this lineage, there are two major paths – the path of skillful means and the path of liberation. The travel of four levels: Kriya tantra (tantra of activity), Charya tantra (tantra of performance), Yoga tantra (intensive spiritual practice) and Anuttaryoga tantra (unsurpassed yoga tantra) comprise the first path. The second path is related to the highest meditation skill, Mahamudra. There are three types of Mahamudra: Sutra Mahamudra, Mantra Mahamudra and the Essence Mahamudra. The teaching of both paths is related to the direct understanding and realizing the true nature of mind, known as the Ordinary mind and the Vajra mind in this tradition which is the singularity of this lineage.
Khon Konchok Gyalpo established a monastery named Sakya in the Tsang province according to the instruction of his Guru Drokmi Lotsava in the 11th century. Sakya denotes grey earth in Tibetan language which is the color of region where this monastery is situated. In this tradition five Patriarchs are very popular. Two of them are Sakya Pandit and Chogyal Phagpa who propagated this lineage in the Mongolian court and created patron – lama relationship between Mongol and Tibetan based upon mutual cooperation and respect. Lamdre or The Path and its Fruit that do not differentiate between Samsara and Nirvana, is the essence teaching and practice of this school. From the perception of this philosophy, mind is an essential subject. When it is obscured it is in Samsara and once it is freed from the obscurity, it is in the form of Nirvana.
Tsongkhopa who learned from the great masters of Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya, founded this lineage by establishing Ganden Monastery in 1409 AD. He amalgamated teaching of all three schools to give a new approach to Buddhism in Tibet. This school follows Lamrim chemo of Tsongkhopa influenced on Atisha’s Lamrim, that guides Gelug practice in union of sutra and tantra. Tsongkhopa believed that the three principal attributes: Renunciation, Bodhicitta and the correct view of Sunyata. They were essential to learn and contemplate in the successful path of Buddhahood and practice of Vajrayana Buddhism. Dalai Lama belongs to this lineage.