Sakya Tradition: A Brief History

Sakya Masters

The founding Masters of the Sakya tradition

The Sakya tradition is known as the ‘holder of all the Buddha’s teachings’ due to the vast extent of teachings and practices it has preserved in its long history.

It takes its name from the monastery founded at Sakya in south-western Tibet in 1073 by Könchok Gyalpo of the Khön clan. Since his time the leadership of the tradition has remained within the same family. Könchok Gyalpo was followed by his son, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, the first of the five ‘gongmas’ (venerable masters), who in turn was succeeded by Sonam Tsemo, Drakpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Phakpa, teacher of Kublai Khan. These five founding lamas gave the tradition its distinctive shape, Sakya Pandita being particularly renowned throughout Tibet and beyond for the depth of his knowledge and mastery of all the teachings. He was also instrumental in preserving the efficacy of the dharma by clarifying the misunderstandings which arose during the early history of Buddhism in Tibet. The current Sakya Trizin is directly descended from these ‘gongmas’.

The most important of the tantric transmissions that the Sakya school has preserved is the Hevajra Tantra with its associated instructions known as the Path and its Fruit, which had been developed by the 9th century Indian yogin, Virupa. Other key transmissions that form part of the Sakya teachings include the cycles of Vajrayogini, Vajrakilaya, Mahakala and Guhyasamaja. Over the centuries numerous men and women have achieved great realisation through the study and practice of the teachings preserved within the Sakya tradition.

His Holiness Sakya Trichen the 41st Sakya Trizin

HHSTHis Holiness Sakya Trichen (great throne), Ngawang Kunga Tegchen Palbar Samphel Wanggi Gyalpo, the 41st Sakya Trizin was born in Tibet in 1945. From his teachers, who included many great masters, His Holiness has inherited all the teachings that have been preserved within the Sakya tradition. In 1959 His Holiness was forced to leave Tibet after it was invaded by Communist China. He now lives in India and has worked tirelessly to establish the Sakya school worldwide. His Holiness is married and has two sons, Ratna Vajra Rinpoche (b. 1974) and Gyana Vajra Rinpoche (b. 1979) and five grandchildren. His Holiness has made a total of eleven visits to our centre where he has bestowed innumerable initiations and teachings.

His Holiness Ratna Vajra Rinpoche the 42nd Sakya Trizin

His Holiness Khöndung Ratna Vajra Rinpoche has recently been enthroned as the 42nd Sakya Trizin, throne-holder of the Sakya tradition, a role that he will maintain for the next three years. He was born in 1974 in Dehradun, India. During his childhood he studied under the tutelage of the Venerable Rinchen Sangpo. At the age of six, he received the precious Lam Dre teachings of the Sakya tradition for the first time. In 1990 he entered Sakya College and studied Buddhist philosophy for many years. His many eminent teachers, from whom he has received numerous philosophical and vajrayana teachings, include His Holiness the 41st Sakya Trizin, as well as Chogay Trichen Rinpoche, Luding Khenchen Rinpoche and Dezhung Rinpoche. He speaks excellent English and has travelled extensively around the world to give teachings from the tradition at the request of numerous centres. Rinpoche has visited Sakya Centre in Bristol often from the time he was a young child and, along with His Holiness Sakya Trichen, Karma Thinley Rinpoche and Lama Jampa, he is now one of the Centre’s principal teachers. Rinpoche is married and the father of three children.

Gyana Vajra Rinpoche

Gyana Vajra Rinpoche is His Holiness’s younger son. Like his brother, Rinpoche has received numerous teachings and has been invited to teach at many centres around the world. He speaks fluent English and has also been a regular visitor to Sakya Centre in Bristol since childhood. Rinpoche is also married and has two children.

For more information on the Sakya tradition, please visit www.hhthesakyatrizin.org/tradition.