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Choying Tobden Dorje and the Story Behind the Complete Nyingma Tradition

In Memorium: Alak Zenkar Rinpoche reflects on Lama Tharchin Rinpoche and the Complete Nyingma Tradition
Lama Sonam Tsering on The Complete Nyingma Tradition
Praise for The Complete Nyingma Tradition

This guide to exploring The Complete Nyingma Tradition, a remarkable series of texts by Choying Tobden Dorje. Included in this guide are selections from the text in addition to words of advice and praise from distinguished teachers along with helpful resources. Use the above navigation menu above to explore each page and discover this truly remarkable and timeless series of texts!

Choying Tobden Dorje
Choying Tobden Dorje

About the Complete Nyingma Tradition

Mdo rgyud rin po che'i mdzod (Treasury of Precious Sūtras and Tantras)

In 1838, Choying Tobden Dorje, a Buddhist yogi-scholar of eastern Tibet, completed a multivolume masterwork that traces the entire path of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism from beginning to end. Written by a lay practitioner for laypeople, it was intended to be accessible, informative, inspirational, and above all, practical. Its twenty-five books, or topical divisions, offer a comprehensive and detailed view of the Buddhist path according to the early translation school of Tibetan Buddhism, spanning the vast range of Buddhist teachings from the initial steps to the highest esoteric teachings of great perfection. Choying Tobden Dorje’s magnum opus appears in English here for the first time.

The Story of Lama Sherab Dorje, Lama Tarchin Rinpoche, and the translation project of the Complete Nyingma Tradition

Lama Sherab Dorje

"During his lifetime, a Tibetan master often mentioned in his disciple’s hearing The Complete Nyingma Tradition from Sutra to Tantra as an excellent text that had greatly influenced him. The disciple had never seen the text and tried to procure a copy over many years, asking many high lamas and scholars where he could find it. Eventually, many decades after his master had passed away, he was given the condensed version of the work, and set out to have it translated. All this in the name of gong dzok—keeping alive the blessed sight and wisdom mind of a living buddha. The deceased master in question had never asked for this book to be translated; he merely praised the book on occasion. Those few words, perhaps delivered casually, remained: this book was something that gave pleasure to this master during his lifetime; that recollection on the part of his attentive disciple was enough to launch this project.

The master was Lama Sherab Dorjé Rinpoche, a native of Repkong and the same Nyingma communities of lay tantric practitioners that produced Choying Tobden Dorje. He was an authentic master who took a young relative under his wing as his disciple or apprentice—the master we now know as Lama Tharchin Rinpoche.

Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

Lama Tharchin began his spiritual journey as a perfect disciple of two masters he held in the utmost regard: His Holiness Dudjom Rinpoche and Lama Sherab. It is possible to object, “Well, he had two excellent masters to follow. It would have been difficult for him to become something other than a good disciple!” But discipleship is no easy matter. As rare as it is for us to find and to meet a perfect spiritual master, those incredible masters have just as challenging a task before them: finding persons who are worthy disciples at every level. Some excellent masters live and die never having met the right vessels for their instruction. This is a recurring tragedy: strong lineages do not depend simply on the appearance of a single living buddha but on a series of such buddhas, male or female, each of whom while alive pours the essence of timeless realization into a living golden vessel, who must then live long enough to find another.

Lama Tharchin was just such a golden vessel.

He was also the guiding light behind this project. I wish I could end that sentence with “from start to finish,” but he passed away too soon to see his tireless work come to fruition in this and the other books of this series. This would be the right place to write of him, but it is not the right time. It has been just a matter of months since he left. I am not yet sufficiently sober, emotionally, to reflect upon all he has given me and this project, and to put those thoughts into words. Another time, I hope."

Ngawang Zangpo from the Translator's Introduction to Foundations of the Buddhist Path

Available Books in the Series

We currently have four volumes available with more volumes coming in 2023. A full description of each volume, including those to come, can be found on the Complete Nyingma Tradition's books page or continue reading below to discover volumes that are currently available.



In Foundations of the Buddhist Path, which covers the first ten of the treatise’s twenty-five books, the author surveys the scope of the entire work and then begins with the topics that set the cornerstones for all subsequent Buddhist practice: what constitutes proper spiritual apprenticeship, how to receive the teachings, how to make the best use of this life, and how to motivate ourselves to generate effort on the spiritual path. He then describes refuge and the vows that define the path of individual liberation before turning to the bodhisattva’s way—buddha nature, how to uplift the mind to supreme awakening, the bodhisattva’s training, and the attainments of the paths leading to supreme awakening.

Complete Nyingma 13

Book 13 presents the philosophical systems of India and Tibet, according to the writings of Longchen Rabjam and the revelations of Orgyan Lingpa. First, it discusses the views attributed to classical Hinduism, Jainism, materialism, and nihilism. Second, it describes the standpoints of the Vaibhashika and Sautrantika exponents of the lesser vehicle, exemplified by pious attendants and hermit buddhas, and the Cittamatra (“mind only”) and Madhyamaka (“middle way”) commentators of the great vehicle, exemplified by great bodhisattva beings. Third, it analyzes the inner and outer vehicles of the Buddhist tantras, with an emphasis on the three classes of the great perfection. Fourth, it documents the lines of philosophical transmission within Tibet, including Bon, Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, Kadampa, and Geluk. It concludes with an extract from a well-known treatise of the Fifth Dalai Lama, applying the techniques of consequential reasoning to the first chapter of Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Phenomenology.

An Overview of Buddhist Tantra is the fourteenth volume from this collection and the first in the series to focus on tantra. Whereas previous volumes presented the general exoteric teachings of Buddhism, this work outlines the esoteric practice of tantra according to the Nyingma system. The author defines the parameters of tantra by dividing the work into outer and inner tantras, and concludes with explaining the result of the tantric path—enlightenment itself. Designed to be a companion for dedicated practitioners who receive direct instructions from a qualified teacher, this work is a comprehensive manual that provides the foundation for understanding the genuine and profound teachings of Buddhist tantra.

Books 15 to 17: The Essential Tantras of Mahayoga is presented in two volumes and concerns the first of the three classes of inner tantra. It presents the entire text of the Guhyagarbha Tantra, in Tibetan and English, together with the interlinear sections of one of its most important commentaries, Dispelling the Darkness of the Ten Directions, by the outstanding fourteenth-century master Longchen Rabjam. Also included is Choying Tobden Dorje’s rewriting of Candragomin’s inspirational Extensive Commentary on the Sublime Litany of the Names of Manjushri.

This translation is comprised of two physical books for the single price.

For the complete list of books including those forthcoming, see our Book Page for The Complete Nyingma Tradition.