Overview of the Sakyapa
The Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s teaching can be grouped into three vehicles. The Smaller Vehicles-Hinayana, Greater Vehicles-Mahayana, Tantric Vehicles-Vajrayana.
Vajrayana Buddhism spread directly from India to Tibet and to East Asia. Now the practice of Vajrayana is growing in many parts of the world especially in the West. In Tibet, there are four major schools of Vajrayana namely Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug and Sakya.
The Vajrayana teachings of Lord Buddha came to Tibet in two waves, known as the two transmissions. The first wave is known as the “Ancient Tantra” transmission, introduced by Guru Padmasambhava, followed by other great Indian siddhas. The second wave is known as the “New Tantra” transmission.
The Sakya School, which was founded in Sakya in South West Tibet belongs to the “New Tantra”. The history of the Sakyapas is found within the lineage of the Khon, a noble family whose members proved to be outstanding adepts of the Buddhist path. The Khon family ancestors were “The Gods of the Realm of Clear Light” who take up residence in the Snow Mountains of Tibet for the benefit of living beings. So the family was known as Lha-Rig or “The Celestial Race”. The Khon family had a long connection with the dharma for ten generations since the time of Guru Padmasambhava. In the middle of 11th century, the people of Tsang had become very lax in religious observances. In dismay, the members of the Khon family, led by Konchog Gyalpo made a definite decision to take up and practice the New Tantric transmission which was spreading to Tibet from India at that time.
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Lophon Sonam Tsemo, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen and Drogon Chogyal Phagpa were the first five lineage holders of the Sakya Order. Of “The Five Great Sakya Masters”, Sakya Pandita was the most outstanding and his scholarship and wisdom were known far and wide. Godan Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan, intrigued by Sakya Pandita’s reputation, invited him to Mongolia to give Buddhist teachings. Chogyal Phagpa was given the title of “Ti Shih”, which means “The Teacher of the Emperor” by the Emperor Kublai Khan. The first ecclesiastical government of Tibet was then formed and the Sakya Lineage ruled the entire of Tibet for several generations.
The present throne holder of Sakya Lineage is His Holiness Sakya Trizin Ngawang Kunga, who is a direct descendant of the Khon lineage. His Holiness is the 41st Patriarch of the Sakya tradition, 2nd in Tibetan religious protocol only to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As with other traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, a number of sub-divisions of the Sakya tradition also emerged from the main Sakya tradition. The other three main sub-sects are the Ngorpa sub-sect, the Tsharpa sub-sect and the Dzongpa sub-sect.
The Ngorpa sub-sect was founded by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo with the establishment of the Ngor Evam Monastery in 1430. The current head of Ngorpa sub-sect is His Eminence Ludhing Khenchen Rinpoche.
The Tsharpa sub-sect was founded by Tsarchen Losal Gyatso with the establishment of the Dar Drongmoche Monastery. The current head of Tsharpa sub-sect is His Eminence Chogye Trichen Rinpoche.
The Dzongpa sub-sect was founded by Thumi Kunga Namgyal with the establishment of the Gongkar Dorjeden Monastery. The current head of Dzongpa sub-sect is His Venerable Tulku Dorje Denpa.
Thus, the Sakya School of the Khon lineage represents the main trunk of a tree, of which the Ngorpa, Tsarpa and Dzongpa schools are branches.
There are several major Sakya monasteries in Central Tibet. Amongst them, the main Sakya monastery is the great temple Lhakhang Chenmo founded by Khon Konchok Gyalpo. In all, there were several thousand Sakya Monasteries spreading from China and Mongolia to Western Tibet, Kashmir, Nepal and India. Presently, the Sakya Centre in Rajpur, near Dehra Dun in the Indian state of Uttaranchal is the main seat of the Sakya, and the personal monastery of His Holiness Sakya Trizin. The Centre and other Sakya monasteries are monastic institutes, which also offer traditional education in Buddhist religion, rituals, ritual music and dance, art and other related subjects. After completing their studies at these Monasteries student monks can attend either Sakya College or the Sakya Institute for further education in Higher Buddhist Studies. Institute of Buddhist Academy (IBA) is an institution for laymen to study Buddhism philosophy.
The Sakya College is an institute of traditional Buddhist philosophical and scriptural studies where the ideals of Buddhist monasticism and rigorous scholarship are cultivated simultaneously. The college was established in 1972 in India. Khenpo Appey Rinpoche is the first principal of the college. The main subjects of teaching and study at the college are the basic Buddhist scriptures of India in their Tibetan translations. Special emphasis is also laid on the commentarial and scholastic traditions of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. In addition, various other branches of learning such as Tantric Philosophy, ritual, grammar, poetics, calligraphy and so forth are also taught. The college also offers classes in English language and advanced students are given practice in the translation of texts from Tibetan into English. Kachupa (equivalent to BA) and Loppon (equivalent to MA) degrees will be awarded to students upon completion of courses. These graduate students will return to their home monasteries to make valuable contributions or go on to other responsible positions. Khenpo Gyatso is the current Principal and has been serving as the chief instructor and administrator of the college.
The Singapore Buddha Sasana Society
The Singapore Buddha Sasana Society or the present Sakya Tenphel Ling of Singapore had its humble beginnings in early sixties in a classroom of the Maha Bodhi School. It was originally founded in 1959 as the Singapore Buddhist Youth Circle by the late Rev. Sumangalo who was an American monk.
The Youth Circle was later renamed the Singapore Buddha Sasana Society in 1965 and was then registered with the Registry of Societies. A few young people were eager to know more about the Buddha’s teachings got together to form a Dharma study group.
Initially, the Society’s activities such as Dharma talks and discussions were held in the homes of members. Then in late seventies, His Holiness Sakya Trizin and the late Ven. Tharig Tulku Rinpoche visited Singapore and established the link with our members. Having received encouragement from these two great teachers, the members decided to operate the Society out of rented premises. With growing membership, the Society which became the first full fledged centre to embrace Vajrayana in Singapore, bought her first very own premises, located at 9 Topaz Road.
The Society had to move a second time as a result of the government’s need to acquire the Topaz Road premises for expansion of the Pan Island Expressway. This time, the move was to 37/39 Lorong 25A Geylang, the first Vajrayana Centre to move in to the area. During the early nineties, circumstances imposed on the Management Committee to make a serious decision to look for a more permanent premise.
Finally, the Society managed to realize her dream of having a permanent home in Paris Ris Drive 4. The new premise is an incorporation of both the Chinese and Tibetan style of architecture, which reflects simplicity, peace and harmony. Since then many activities were introduced and expanded.
A few of the regular activities are Chenrezig (Kuan Yin) meditation English and Mandarin sessions, Green Tara Puja, Medicine Buddha Puja and Green Tara Discussions.
Through the activities and services, the Society hopes to be able to benefit more people.