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Nyingma (rnying.ma, ‘ancient’). One of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, so-called because its adherents trace their tradition to the first diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet, and particularly to the figure of Padmasambhava, whom they consider their founder.

The Nyingma are noted for their separate canon, consisting of terma literature and the Compendium of Old Tantras (rnying.maʾi.rgyud.ʾ-bum). While the Tibetan Book of the Dead is the best known, the most important Nyingma text is the Heart-Drop (snying.thig); a terma text discovered in the 12th cent. by Zhangtön and commentated upon by Longchenpa, it contains teachings on Dzogchen (rdzogs.chen; ‘Great Perfection’), the primary Nyingma system of meditation.

The Nyingma has produced several great scholars, such as Longchenpa (1308–63) and Mipham (d. 1912), who was influential in the 19th-cent. Rimé movement. A recent supreme head of the order, Dujom Rinpoche (1904–87) was considered an incarnation of Dujom Lingpa.

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