Kadampa Buddhism is a Mahayana Buddhist school founded by the great Indian Buddhist Master, Atisha (AD 982-1054). His followers are known as “Kadampas.” “Ka” refers to Buddha’s teachings, and “dam” to Atisha’s special Lamrim instructions known as “the stages of the path to enlightenment.” Kadampas are practitioners who regard Buddha’s teachings as personal instructions and put them into practice by following the instructions of Lamrim.
Key figures in Kadampa Buddhism
The great Indian Buddhist Master Atisha(982-1054 AD) was responsible for reintroducing pure Buddhism into Tibet.
Although Buddhism had been introduced into Tibet some two hundred years earlier by Padmasambhava and Shantarakshita, Buddhist practice in the country had largely been destroyed during the anti-Buddhist purges of the Tibetan king, Lang Darma (circa 836 AD), a follower of Bön, the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet.
Invited by Jangchub Ö, a ruler of Ngari in western Tibet, Atisha was asked to present a Dharma that everybody could follow and that would show how all the paths of Sutra and Tantra could be practiced together.
In response, Atisha wrote Lamp for the Path, the original Lamrim text that served as the basis for all subsequent Lamrim instructions. The revival of pure Buddhist practice in Tibet at this time was largely due to Atisha.
Je Tsongkhapa, whose ordained name was Losang Dragpa, was a great 14th century Tibetan Buddhist Master who promoted and developed the Kadampa Buddhism that Atisha had introduced three centuries earlier.
His appearance in Tibet had been predicted by Buddha himself.
Je Tsongkhapa patiently taught the Tibetans everything they needed for their spiritual development, from the initial step of entering into a spiritual practice through to the ultimate attainment of Buddhahood.
This was a golden age in Tibet, and thousands of Tibetans were inspired by Je Tsongkhapa’s immaculate example of pure moral discipline, compassionate way of life, and profound, liberating wisdom.
His followers became known as the ‘New Kadampas’, and to this day Kadampa Buddhists worldwide study his teachings and strive to emulate his pure example.
Venerable Geshe Kelsang Gyatso is a fully accomplished meditation master and internationally renowned teacher of Buddhism.
Geshe-la, as he is affectionately called by his students, is primarily responsible for the worldwide revival of Kadampa Buddhism in our time.
From the age of eight Geshe-la studied extensively in the great monastic universities of Tibet and earned the title ‘Geshe’, which literally means ‘spiritual friend’. Under the guidance of his Spiritual Guide, Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche, he then spent the next eighteen years in meditation retreats in the Himalayas.
In 1977 he accepted an invitation to teach at Manjushri Kadampa Meditation Centre in England, where he has lived and taught ever since, giving teachings and guidance to an ever-growing group of disciples.
Practicing Dharma in Daily Life
By integrating their knowledge of all Buddha’s teachings into their practice of Lamrim, and by integrating this into their everyday lives, Kadampa Buddhists are encouraged to use Buddha’s teachings as practical methods for transforming daily activities into the path to enlightenment. The great Kadampa teachers are famous not only for being great scholars, but also for being spiritual practitioners of immense purity and sincerity.