What are the sects of Buddhism

5 sects of Tibetan Buddhism

In the 11th century, several new sects of Buddhism emerged in Tibet, including Nyingma, Gatang, Sagya, Gelugpa and Kagyu are still of great importance today. The rather weak currents Zhigyed, Gyoyul, Gyonang, Kodrag and Xalhu disappeared over time due to their lack of support.

Below is information on the 5 most widely spread sects of Tibetan Buddhism.


Gelug Sect (The Virtuous)

The Gelugpa emerged from a change in Tibetan Buddhism, while the higher-ranking monks with too much power and a decadent lifestyle lost support in the population.

The founder Tsongkhapa wanted to get people to refer to Buddhist beliefs again and wrote numerous writings and lectures. The Gelugpa have long been famous for strictly adhering to the Buddhist rules and are also known as "yellow hats" or "yellow sect" because of their characteristic hats. Numerous institutions such as the Sera Monastery or the Tashilhungo Monastery and the Dalai and Bainqen reincarnation systems go back to the sect.



Yellow hat monks. Gelug sect
Mindroling Monastery. Nyingma sect

Nyingma sect (the ancients)

The oldest sect of Busshism is also known as the "Red Sect", derived from the red hats that the monks wore.

It takes up parts of the Bon religion, but mainly pursues the teaching of Tantrism, strongly influenced by Han Chinese Zen Buddhism. Today the Nyingma sect is not only widespread in the Tibetan culture, but also in other Asian countries, parts of Europe and the USA.


Gatang sect

This teaching focuses on esoteric, later mainly tantric elements, Buddhism should be carried out strictly according to the teachings of the Buddha. Due to the spread of the Gatang Current, it also had a great influence on various Tibetan Buddhist sects, but disappeared with the emergence of the Gelug Current.


Sakya sect (sect of the white land)

The Sakya sect dates back to the 18th century and is therefore still relatively young, the name refers to the bright Sakya monastery, the main monastery of the sect. However, due to the colorful murals on the building, they are also known as "Stripes Sect".

The most important personalities are the so-called "5 Sakya ancestors" who expanded the influence of the doctrine and submitted to the Chinese emperors.


Kagyu sect (sect of oral tradition)

The sect focuses on tantrism and the oral transmission of tantristic beliefs from generation to generation. Soon after its founding in the 11th century, the current split into Xangba Kagyu, which experienced a sharp decline, and Tabo Kagyu, which was able to concentrate the great local power.