The Barawa Kagyu tradition

A journey through the centuries that reflects not only the religious history of a Buddhist tradition, but also cultural, social, political, economic and feminist aspects. The Barawa Kagyu is one of the many traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. It was founded in the 14th century and spread to Tibet, Bhutan and northern India, where it is still alive today.

Long-term research project, since April, 2010

The Barawa tradition has preserved numerous texts, dating from the 14th century to the present day, describing the lives of important personalities, philosophical interpretations and important religious practices. The Barawa Kagyu (‘ba’ ra ba bka' brgyud) is one of the many traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The Kagyupa (bka' brgyud pa) is one of the main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The term Kagyupa refers to the oral tantric teachings, which are passed from teacher to disciple.

Barawa Gyeltsen Pelzang (‘Ba’ ra ba rGyal mtshan dpal bzang po, 1310-1391) is considered the founding father of the Barawa Kagyupa. He was born in Baradrak (‘Ba’ ra brag) in the Shangs valley, about 30 km from Shigatse (gZhis ka rtse). This Kagyu offshoot took its name from this place. Barawa Gyeltsen Pelzang also brought the Barawa teachings to Bhutan, to where he undertook several journeys and did not only spread his teachings but also acted as a kind of mediator between local chieftains. As a gesture of gratitude, and probably to encourage him to stay in Bhutan, monasteries were built.

During the 17th century, the teachings of the Barawa teachings spread to Sikkim at that time. Nevertheless, this tradition was not as strong presence as the Nyingma, and the teachings were not as popular as those of the Nyingma. However, it is still practised there up to this day.

  • 2024: The Second Kagyu Tulku, Tenzin Nyida, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2024: The Third Kagyu Tulku, Ngawang Chokyi Gyatso, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2024: The Fourth Kagyu Tulku, Kelzang Choying Gyatso, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2024: The Fifth Kagyu Tulku, Tubten Woden, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2024: The Sixth Kagyu Tulku, Sanggye Gyatso, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2024: The Seventh Kagyu Tulku, Ngawang Tenpai Gyeltsen, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2021: Konchok Gyeltsen, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2021: Barawa Gyeltsen Pelzang, Treasury of Lives [Online].
  • 2019: The Sisters of Pho lha nas. Preliminary Remarks on Two Women and Their Links to the ‘Ba’ ra ba Bka' brgyud Tradition, in Wind Horses: Tibetan, Himalayan and Mongolian Studies, ed. by Andrea Drocco, Lucia Galli, Chiara Letizia, Giacomella Orofino and Carmen Simioli, Series Minor, LXXXVIII, Napoli, pp. 139-150.
  • 2019: Learning, Discipline, and Nobility: rJe ’Ba’ ra ba and his Spiritual Father Zur phug pa, in Unearthing Himalayan Treasures: Festschrift for Franz-Karl Ehrhard, Indica et Tibetica 59, ed. by Volker Caumanns, Marta Sernesi and Nikolai Solmsdorf, pp. 189-202.
  • 2018: Tibetan Troops Fighting the “Enemy of Buddhist Doctrine” (bstan dgra): The Invasions of the Gorkhas as Witnessed by Two Tibetan Masters of the Barawa (‘Ba’ ra ba) Tradition, Cahiers d’Extrême-Asie 27, Special Issue: Buddhism and the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period (1642-1959), ed. by Alice Travers and Federica Venturi, pp. 121-137, DOI 10.3406/asie.2018.1509.
  • 2017: The ’Ba’-ra-ba bKa’-brgyud-pa: Historical and Contemporary Studies. Wiener Studien zur Tibetologie und Buddhismuskunde, Heft 92. Wien: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien.
  • 2016: Where the roads from Tibet, India, and Bhutan meet: The bKa’ brgyud dgon gsar in the Chumbi valley, Zentralasiatische Studien (ZAS) 45, pp. 451-465.
  • 2014: The monastery bKa’ brgyud dgon gsar in the Chumbi valley: the ’Ba’ ra ba bKa’ brgyud pa school and its connection with Sikkim, Bulletin of Tibetology 50 (1+2), Special Issue: The Dragon and the Hidden Land: Social and Historical Studies on Sikkim and Bhutan, Series 2, ed. by Jenny Bentley, pp. 117-132.
  • 2013: The ‘Ba’ ra ba Teachings reach the hidden land of ’Bras mo ljongs : Mahāsiddha dKon mchog rgyal mtshan (1601-1687) and the Taming of Demons in Chungthang, Bulletin of Tibetology, 49 (2), pp. 25-33.
  • 07/2022: Authoress, messenger, nun: Nyima Chodron and her role(s) within the Barawa Kagyupa, Prague, Sixteenth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies (IATS).
  • 07/2021: Onorate, maliziose, seducenti: la tradizione Barawa (‘Ba’ ra ba bKa' brgyud pa) e la rappresentazione delle donne, Sapienza Università di Roma, Convegno AISTHiM “Traditions, Translations and Transitions in the Cultural History of Tibet, the Himalayas and Mongolia”.
  • 01/2020: Gelehrter, Gründervater, Grenzgänger: Barawa Gyeltsen Pelzang (1310-91) im Kontext seiner Zeit, Universität Wien, Guest lecture at the Department of South Asian, Tibetan and Buddhist Studies.
  • 09/2017: La tradizione ‘Ba’ ra ba, un ramo dei bKa' brgyud pa, Procida, Italy, conference on the occasion of the foundation of an Italian society for Tibetan, Himalayan and Mongolian Studies (AISTHiM).
  • 07/2017: Tibetan troops fighting the “enemy of Buddhist doctrine” (bstan dgra): The ‘Ba’ ra ba master Rig ‘dzin chos dbyings rdo rje (1772-1838) depicts the invasion of the Gorkhas, Paris, Symposium “The Ganden Phodrang Army and Buddhism”.
  • 05/2017: Entstehung und Verbreitung einer vergessenen Lehrtradition: die Barawa Kagyü, Bonn, Germany, Lecture at the 67th open lecture event of the German-Tibetan society (Deutsch-Tibetischen Kulturgesellschaft e.V).
  • 11/2012: Die buddhistische Lehrtradition der Barawa Kagyü in Sikkim – von den Anfängen bis heute, Bonn, Germany, Lecture at the 58th open lecture event of the German-Tibetan society (Deutsch-Tibetischen Kulturgesellschaft e.V).