The Tibetan term Lam Dre means Path and the Result. Lam Dre is the highest teaching in the Sakya tradition. This secret system of teaching encapsulates core Sakya philosophy and practices resulting in the realisation of the indivisibility of samsara and nirvana, the ultimate view.
The Lam Dre consists of two parts. The first part, the Triple Vision, explains the Sutrayana, which is the path of the Hinayana and Mayahana, and the second part is the Triple Tantra which explains the esoteric Hevajra teaching.
Lam Dre is taught in a single place by a single teacher over a period of several weeks. Within the Sakya lineage, which is the Lam Dre lineage, there are only a handful of lineage holders in each generation.
The origins of the Lam Dre
Over 2,600 years ago Lord Buddha turned the wheel of dharma for the sake of all sentient beings. The most profound of these teachings is the Hevajra, the main teaching of the Lam Dre. The form we will receive has an ancient lineage from Mahasiddha Virupa (837CE-909CE), the Great Abbot of Nalanda university, who received the entire empowerment of the deity Shri Hevajra from Vajra Nairatmaya, Hevajra's consort. Over the next six nights, Virupa attained six bhumis (stages of enlightenment).
Virupa had innumerable great followers, but only Dombipa and Krishnapa, his two main disciples, received the Lam Dre (path and result instructions). For the benefit of Krishnapa he also gave the additional teaching known as the Vajra Words, containing the essence of all the Lam Dre. Then Krishnapa gave these teachings to Damarupa, Avadhutipa and Gayadhara.
The Lam Dre in Tibet
The Lam Dre spread from India to Tibet in three stages. Firstly the Indian master Gayadhara brought the Lam Dre to Tibet in the 11th century. In the second stage, it was spread by Drogmi Lotsawa (992-1072), the first Tibetan Lam Dre master. In the third stage this lineage passed to the great lama Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158). He also received the lineage directly from Mahasiddha Virupa, in a series of visions over the course of a month. Before Sachen Kunga Nyingpo's time the Lam Dre was solely a secretly transmitted oral lineage; subsequently it was both an oral and written lineage, which flourished through the five Sakya founders, from father to son and then comes unbroken to the 41st patriarch, His Holiness the Sakya Trizin.
Lam Dre: precious to all Tibetan Buddhists
Dezhung Jamyang Kunga Gyaltsen stated, "Fearless lord of the yogis Mahasiddha Virupa taught this pith instruction, bringing beings into the path of the Lam Dre, so this practice is suitable for all levels of practitioner".
- For those at beginner level the aspects of view, meditation and conduct are practsed separately and in a gradual way.
- For the intermediate person the detailed instruction is received from the teacher. Then view, meditation and conduct are practised all together in the one spot.
- For the most advanced practitioners, view, meditation and conduct are beyond thought and expression. They are primordial in nature, all one taste and non-dual.
The heads of all the Tibetan Buddhist schools practise this precious Lam Dre; in this way all four schools share the same ultimate view. The Nyingma master, Longchen Lamchempa (1308-1364), and the Kagyupa master, Jay Phagmo Drubob (1110-1170), were both great Lam Dre practitioners. The Gelugpa master, the Great 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682), studied every detail of the uncommon Lam Dre and was a great supporter of the lineage. He received the Lam Dre from the Sakya master Gonpo Sonam Chogden (1603-1659). This continues to this day - His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama received the Lam Dre from the late His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche (head of the Tsarpa sub-sect of the Sakyas).
The path including its result
Lam Dre contains teachings and practices covering the whole range of sutra and tantra teachings given by Lord Buddha, but its main teachings are based on the Hevajra tantra. During the time of Muchen Sempa Chenpo Konchok Gyeltsen, Lam Dre was divided into two sub-traditions: the explanation for private disciples or the uncommon Lam Dre (Lobshe) and the explanation for the assembly or the common Lam Dre (Tsogshe).
The central point of the Lam Dre teaching is the inseparability of worldly existence (samsara) and enlightenment (nirvana). It follows that nirvana is merely a transformation of samsara; there is no abandoning of samsara in order to achieve nirvana, as the mind is the root of samsara and nirvana. Realising this inseparability is the key to attaining enlightenment.
It is said that Lam Dre is the complete path to enlightenment, and is divided into two parts: the preliminary section and the tantric section. The preliminary section contains the instructions and teachings on sutras of Lord Buddha and focuses on the three visions: impure vision, the vision of experience and the pure vision. The tantric section is esoteric or tantric teachings, which include teachings on the three tantras.