Tibetan History: A Snippet

To inaugurate this Jonangpa blog, I thought it might be helpful to provide historical context for some of the socio-cultural and religious forces that eventually led to the founding of the Jonang as a distinct tradition of Buddhism in Tibet. What follows is an abbreviated outline of the early history of Tibetan Buddhism, highlighting some of the major figures and events that preceded the commencement of the Jonangpa.

A Chronology of Tibetan Buddhism[1]

    • c. 779 Emperor Tri Song Detsen establishes Samye, the first major monastery in South Central Tibet, beginning the “early dissemination” (snga dar) of the Buddha’s teachings in Tibet and what later becomes referred to as Nyingma or “Ancient” tradition; Tibetan empire reigns Dunhuang in northern China; the Chinese Chan master Moheyan and the Indian philosopher Kamalashila are invited to debate at Samye Monastery in order to resolve the tensions between which system of Buddhism to adopt in Tibet

  • 800-840 Buddhism flourishes under royal patronage until the reign of Emperor Ralpachen, when the imperial support for Buddhism as the state religion of Tibet is withdrawn
  • 842 Persecution of Buddhism in Tibet comes to an end with the assassination of Emporer Ralpachen
  • c. 850 Beginning of the downward fall of the royal dynasty in Central Tibet
  • c. 950 Renaissance era of monastic Buddhism in Central Tibet; Tibetan translators and scholars journey to India and Nepal in search of gurus and Buddhist knowledge
  • 1042 The Indian master Atisha (982-1054) is invited to teach in Western and Central Tibet, initiating the “later dissemination” (phyi dar) of the Buddha’s teachings in Tibet; transmission lineages and texts in Tibetan translation associated with this period become known as Sarma or the “New” traditions
  • 1071 The Kadampa (bka’ gdams pa) Monastery at Sangphu is established
  • 1073 The Sakyapa (sa skya pa) Monastery of the Khon family in Sakya is established by Kontan Konchok Gyalpo (1034-1102)
  • 1050-1135 The Kagyupa (bka’ brgyud) lineages begin to branch with Marpa’s (1012-1097) successors; Milarepa’s (1040-1123) disciple Gampopa (1079-1153) formally establishes a monastic and scholastic tradition at Gampo Mountain Monastery in the year 1121; Khyungpo Neljor (d. 1135) establishes the Shangpa Kagyu lineage
  • 1294 The Jonangpa (jo nang pa) tradition is initiated with the arrival of Kunpang Thukje Tsondru (1243-1313) at Jomonang


1. Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation, and Memory, xvii-xviii. Oxford: University of Oxford Press, 2000.

Blog Category: Research Articles