Lexicon of the great masters of Tibetan Buddhism

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

Classification in alphabetical order.

Ajahn Shah (1918-1992)

He was one of the greatest Theravada Buddhist meditation masters of the XNUMXth century.


Means "Buddha of infinite light" and evokes the Buddha reigning over the pure land of Déwatchèn, land of bliss on which it is easy to be reborn. Amitabha Buddha is practiced by all Buddhists in the world, whether Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese, Tibetan or otherwise. He is the father of Tara, Chenrezig and Vajrapani.

Atisha Dipamkara (982-1054)

Great Indian Buddhist master Atisha who reintroduced Buddhism to Tibet.

Bokar Rinpoche

Tibetan Lama of the Kagyupa lineage. Born in 1940 in Tibet, he died in India in 2004. Very learned, he was the disciple of Kalou Rinpoche.

Buddha (563-480 BC)

The Buddha designates a person who, in particular through his wisdom, achieved enlightenment, that is to say, reached nirvana, or transcended the samsara/nirvana duality.

Shakyamuni Buddha

The historical Buddha was born in northern India in the XNUMXth/XNUMXth century BC. He is at the origin of the Buddhist tradition. Here he is depicted in a meditation posture, holding the alms bowl in his left hand and taking the witness earth with his right hand.

Bodhidharma (XNUMXth century BC)

Buddhist monk from South India. Founder in China of the Chan school, the Mahayana, which became the Zen school in Japan.


Seventh-century Indian philosopher specializing in the Buddhist view of reality. Candrakirti is a XNUMXth century philosopher, born in southern India. He returned to Nagarjuna and his refutable method, denouncing various schools which, in his view, challenged the radicality of the Buddhist perspective of emptiness as Nagarjuna had presented it. After studying at Nalanda, the famous Indian university, he became its rector, as his erudition and his ability to debate were recognized. In the Gelugpa school, to which the Dalai Lama belongs, he is considered the most orthodox interpreter of the Buddhist vision of reality, clarifying and systematizing the thought of Nagarjuna.

Chamgön Kènting Tai Situpa 

Born in 1954 in Eastern Tibet, Chamgön Kènting Taï Situpa was enthroned as the 12th Taï Situpa by the 16th Karmapa, who was also his principal instructor.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987)

Tibetan master considered as the XIth reincarnation of the lineage of Tulkus Trungpa, important masters of the Kagyu lineage.

Confucius (551-479 BC)

Chinese philosopher, creator of the Confucian movement.

Deshimaru Taisen (1914-1982)

Japanese master of Zen Buddhism of the Soto school.

Desjardins Arnaud (1925-2011)

French author and director. He is one of the first Westerners to make known, through televised and written documents, Eastern spiritual traditions such as Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen and Sufism.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991)

Tibetan master of Vajrayana Buddhism and head of the Nyingma school, considered the spiritual heir of Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö.

Dogen (1200-1253)

The greatest master of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism, which he brought to Japan from China.

Dorje Sempa 

Means "Buddha of purification". The Buddha teaches that all the sufferings of beings are the result of negative actions of the past and all the happinesses are the fruit of positive acts of the past (past lives). Dorje Sempa purifies negative karma so that one does not have to suffer suffering.

Dromtonpa (1005-1064)

Tibetan layman and main disciple of Atisha. Founder of the Kadampa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.

Dujum Rinpoche 

Grand master of the Nymgmapa tradition. Born in Tibet in 1904, died January 17, 1987.


Born in central Tibet in 1079, he died at the age of 77. His master was the great Milarepa. He studied the eight branches of medicine with his father and the dharma with various masters. Very young, he excelled in these studies. At 22, he married the daughter of the local lord. They lived happily and had two children, a son and a daughter. During a ferocious epidemic, he lost his family and then entered orders. He was 32 years old. He studied under many Kadampa teachers, but his master was the great Milarepa. When he met him, Gampopa could not remember ever being so happy, at peace and contented in his entire life. It was as if he was finally returning home after a long journey. After many years of retreats, Gampopa unified the Kadampa monastic lineage, which originated from Atisha, with the lineage of Mahamudra and the six yogas he received from Milarepa. He wrote two major books: The Precious Garland of the Supreme Path et The Jewel of Liberation, which are still great classics today. He died in the sixth month of the year of the water bird, at the age of 77.

Gendun Rinpoche 

A great Tibetan master of the Kagyüpa school of Vajrayana Tibetan Buddhism of the 1918th century. Born in 31 in Eastern Tibet and died on October 1997, XNUMX in Dhagpo Kundreul Ling in Auvergne.

Gyatso Tenzin

Born in 1935. 1989th Dalai Lama, spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet and Nobel Peace Prize in XNUMX.

Geshe Lobsang Yeshe

Tibetan monk born in 1927. He was the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Thailand for seven years. He lives in France at the Vajra Yogini Institute.

Geshe Chayulpa 

Tibetan master of the Kadampa lineage. 

Gu Mei Sheng

XNUMXth century Taoist Chinese master.

Guru Padmasambhava

Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche – guru meaning master and Rinpoche meaning precious – introduced Buddhism to Tibet around the XNUMXth century. Tibetans consider him the second historical Buddha. His furrowed brows and slight smile indicate that he is half wrathful and half peaceful at the same time. It therefore perfectly symbolizes by its appearance, the Buddhist path also called the middle path. In his right hand he holds a Vajra, symbolizing skillful means, compassion. His left hand holds a kapala, a skull cap, receptacle of wisdom. Compassion and wisdom are two complementary and inseparable qualities that the practitioner must develop along the way.

Guru Rinpoche

Indian master of the XNUMXth century AD He introduced Buddhism to Tibet. Considered by Tibetans as the second historical Buddha.

Geshe Lobsang

Monk of the Gelugpa tradition, born in 1965 in Eastern Tibet.

Hui-Neng Huìneng (638 AD-713 AD)

Sixth Patriarch of Chan in China.

Sayadaw U. Jotika

Buddhist monk from Theravada, born in Burma in 1947.

Kabat Zinn Jon

Born in 1944, he is an American professor emeritus of medicine. He is known as one of the founders of the MBCT method, which uses mindfulness meditation.

Kalu Rinpoche (1905-1989)

Grand master of the Kagyupa school.

Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö Dzongsar, known as Khyentsé Chökyi Lodrö (1893-1959)

Tibetan Lama, master of many lineages. 

Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche (1931-2008)

Kyabje Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche was a highly regarded Vajrayana master. He comes from a long family line of throne holders of Mindrolling Monastery, founded in 1676 in Tsang, a former province of Tibet. He himself became the 11th holder in 1962, after the death of his father. But his enthronement took place in northern India, where he had to go into exile after the arrival of the Chinese Communists. It was also India that he chose to re-establish the seat of his monastery in 1976. The new Mindrolling is now located in Dehra Dun, in the foothills of the Himalayas. In 2001, Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche was appointed head of the Nyingma school, a position he held until his death in 2008. Such a position did not exist in Tibet, it was set up by Tibetans since they live


Contemporary Chinese sage of Confucius. He is considered a posteriori as the founding father of Taoism. Supposed dates: Birth: 604 BC. AD, Henan, China / Death: 531 BC BC, in China.

Longchen Rabjam, known as Longchenpa (1308-1363)

Great Tibetan Buddhist master of the Nyingmapa school. Born in 1308 in southeastern central Tibet, Longchenpa began his studies under the guidance of his father before joining the monastery of Samye at the age of 12. Twenty-six years in a long solitary retreat in darkness, he had a vision and knew he was going to meet his master, Rigdzin Kumaradza. After long years of practice, he presented a number of teachings which are considered today as the heart of the tradition of the elders (nyingmapas), showing the correctness and coherence of this Buddhist perspective.


Chinese thinker who lived around 380-289 BC. J.-C. 

Milarepa (1040-1123)

Renowned yogi and master of Tibetan Buddhism.

Mingyur Rinpoche

Born in Nepal in 1976, he is the 7th representative of the reincarnation line of Yongey Mingyour Dorje. He is a current Tibetan master. He teaches in Europe, the United States and Asia.

Mogchok Rinpoche

Tibetan master holder of the Shangpa Kagyu and Gelugpa lineages, the Venerable Mogchok Rinpoche was recognized by His Holiness the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of Mogchokpa Rinchèn Tseudruk, a great yogi whose lineage dates back to the XNUMXth century.

Naropa (1016-1100)

Monk who was born into a royal family in Bengal. He was the disciple of Tilopa. 

Nagarjuna (XNUMXnd-XNUMXrd century AD)

Indian Buddhist monk, philosopher and writer, originally from the region corresponding to present-day Andhra Pradesh. Nagarjuna is one of the main philosophers of Buddhism. According to legend, Nagarjuna was instructed by the Naga serpents, in their underwater palace which gave him the deepest scriptures that the Buddha had not yet taught to human beings. His presentation of emptiness remains one of the pinnacles of the Buddhist tradition. He developed a particular approach, consisting of pushing reasoning to the absurd in order to show that everything is relative and without real reality. It is wrong to say that things exist or do not exist, the truth lies in the middle of these two hypotheses, in the void.

Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

Contemporary Grand Master of Tibetan Buddhism, born in 1938.

Patrul Rinpoche 

Grand master of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. Date of birth unknown. Date of death: 1887. 

Pema Chodron

Born in 1936, she is a Tibetan Buddhist nun. Author and teacher of the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

Rabjam Rinpoch

Born in 1966, grandson of Kyabje Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche.

Rangjung Rigpe Dorje (1924-1981)

Considered the 16th incarnation of the Karmapa. This title, which means "He who spreads the activity of the Buddhas" has been attributed since the 1959th century to a succession of spiritual leaders of one of the branches of Tibetan Buddhism: the Karma Kagyu within the Kagyu school. Having chosen to go into exile in 16, the XNUMXth Karmapa founded his headquarters in Roumtek, Sikkim.

The search for his successor proved difficult. Since the original Karmapa in the 16th century, the Karmapa have been the first spiritual lineage designated by successive reincarnations*. Tradition has it that the child reincarnating the previous karmapa is found thanks to the indications that the latter left during his lifetime. But after the death of the 17th Karmapa, senior Tibetan dignitaries failed to agree on the identity of the 1985th Karmapa. Some, including Tai Situ Rinpoche and the Dalai Lama, have recognized Orgyen Trinley Dorje, born in 1992 in eastern Tibet. This child was enthroned in 1983. Others, including the Sharmapa, have recognized another child, Trinley Thaye Dorje, born in 2018. A long controversy ensued which divided the Karma Kagyu lineage. In October XNUMX, the two young men were able to meet for the first time, and it was in France! At the end of this meeting, they published a joint letter, in which they undertake to do “everything they can to bring the lineage together”. "We see it as our collective responsibility to restore harmony to our tradition, which is a lineage of wisdom and compassion."

* Subsequently, following the example of the karmapa, other lineages of the same type were born, making this model a specific characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism (Philippe Cornu, encyclopedic dictionary of Buddhism, Seuil 2006)

Ricard Matthew

Born in 1946, Tibetan Buddhist monk, doctor in cellular genetics, author, photographer and interpreter for the Dalai Lama in Europe.


Tibetan yogi born in the XNUMXth century.

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche

Born in 1962 in India. Contemporary spiritual master of Tibetan Buddhism trained in the Nyingma and Kagy schools.

Sayadaw U. Jotika 

Buddhist monk from Theravada, born in Burma in 1947.

Shabkar (1781-1851)

Yoga master.

Shantideva (687-763 AD)

Madhyamika Indian philosopher, a branch of Mahayana Buddhism. One of the last Indian Buddhist meditation masters. He is the author of the classic text the Guide of the bodhisattva, the hero for enlightenment, now learned by heart by many Buddhists, especially in Tibet. Son of a king, he fled to become a monk. Since he spent his nights writing and studying, and the day sleeping, he was thought to be a stupid lazy man. One day, decided to trap him and expel him from the monastery, he was asked to teach. To everyone's surprise, he presented one of the most profound teachings and left the monastery to live the existence of a wandering hermit.

Shin Jin Mei 

Mahayana Buddhist Master.

Swami Prajnanpad (1891-1974)

Brahman, heir to the Hindu religious tradition.


The female Buddha, a very popular deity among Tibetans who pray to her when they need to eliminate obstacles and fears on their life path. Tara is commonly referred to as The Prompt, because once summoned, she appears and acts very quickly. In Buddhism, Buddhas can have both male and female appearance.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Buddhist monk, born in 1926 in Vietnam, activist for peace in the world.

Thiradhammo Ajahn 

XNUMXth century Indian master

Tilopa (988 AD-1069)

Indian master of the Buddhist tradition

Tsongkhapa (1357-1419)

Born in Northeastern Tibet, he is the founder of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism, to which the Dalai Lama belongs, which emphasizes rigor in discipline and rigor in the thought of emptiness. From his religious name Lobsang Dragpa, born in the province of Amdo (northeast of Tibet). Tsongkhapa began his education at a very young age, receiving lay ordination at age three and taking novice vows four years later. He received an eclectic education which allowed him to know the best of all currents. He established a "Progressive Path" called the "Lamrim", still in use today. He is the founder of the Gelugpa branch of Tibetan Buddhism, to which the Dalai Lama belongs, which emphasizes the rigor of discipline and the rigor of the thought of emptiness.

Tulku Pema Wangyal

Tibetan Lama of the Nyingmapa school, born in 1947 in Tibet.

Tulku Thondup Rinpoche

Born in Eastern Tibet. Date of birth unknown. Grand master of the Nyngmapa school.

Varela Francisco (1948-2001)

Chilean biologist, neurologist and philosopher. He is known for his research in neuroscience, in particular on meditation and consciousness.

Yeshe Tsogyal

Yeshé Tsogyal was born a princess in the 38th century. She first married King Trisong Detsen, XNUMXth ruler of Tibet, where Buddhism was not yet established. Convinced of the benefits of Dharma (the way of the Buddha and its teachings), he invited great masters to his country. Thus came Padmasambhava, whose name means "Born of the Lotus." True founder of Tibetan Buddhism, he is considered the "Second Buddha" by practitioners of this path. The king gave the master his young wife, who quickly became his main disciple. Yeshe Tsogyal thus received countless teachings from Padmasambhava. All her life, she worked tirelessly to preserve them, transcribing them and teaching them herself. Yeshe Tsogyal is considered a Dakini.


Taoist philosopher of the XNUMXth century BC.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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