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Rimé in Tibetan letters

The Rimé (T. ris med རིས་མེད་) philosophy of Tibet is non-sectarian understanding of the various teachings and practice lineages that developed in Tibet. "The Ri-me approach is an inclusive one, recognizing the distinctions of the various lineages and teachings, while seeing them all as valid instructions that lead to the same ultimate understanding.”[1]

The Rimé approach

Contemporary Tibetan scholar Ringu Tulku states:

Ris or Phyog-ris in Tibetan means "one-sided", "partisan" or "sectarian". Med means "No". Ris-med (Wylie), or Rimé, therefore means "no sides", "non-partisan" or "non-sectarian". It does not mean "non-conformist" or "non-committal"; nor does it mean forming a new School or system that is different from the existing ones. A person who believes the Rimé way almost certainly follows one lineage as his or her main practice. He or she would not dissociate from the School in which he or she was raised. Kongtrul was raised in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions; Khyentse was reared in a strong Sakyapa tradition. They never failed to acknowledge their affiliation to their own Schools.

Rimé is not a way of uniting different Schools and lineages by emphasizing their similarities. It is basically an appreciation of their differences and an acknowledgement of the importance of having this variety for the benefit of practitioners with different needs. Therefore the Rimé teachers always take great care that the teachings and practices of the different Schools and lineages and their unique styles do not become confused with one another. To retain the original style and methods of each teaching lineage preserves the power of that lineage experience. Kongtrul and Khyentse made great efforts to retain the original flavor of each teaching, while making them available to many. Kongtrul writes about Khyentse in his biography of the latter.... When he (Khyentse Rinpoche) taught, he would give the teachings of each lineage clearly and intelligibly without confusing the terms and concepts of other teachings.[2]

The Rimé approach cautions against the viewpoint that one school or lineage is superior to another, while at the same time appreciating that debate and discussion with respect to each school's viewpoints is still valid discourse. Jamgon Kongtrul pointed out the necessity of each practitioner to have a strong foundation in one school:

The scholars and siddhas of the various schools make their own individual presentations of the dharma. Each one is full of strong points and supported by valid reasoning. If you are well grounded in the presentations of your own tradition, then it is unnecessary to be sectarian. But if you get mixed up about the various tenets and the terminology, then you lack even a foothold in your own tradition. You try to use someone else's system to support your understanding, and then get all tangled up, like a bad weaver, concerning the view, meditation, conduct, and result. Unless you have certainty in your own system, you cannot use reasoning to support your scriptures, and you cannot challenge the assertions of others. You become a laughing stock in the eyes of the learned ones. It would be much better to possess a clear understanding of your own tradition.

In summary, one must see all the teachings as without contradiction, and consider all the scriptures as instructions. This will cause the root of sectarianism and prejudice to dry up, and give you a firm foundation in the Buddhas teachings. At that point, hundreds of doors to the eighty-four thousand teachings of the dharma will simultaneously be open to you.[3]

The Rimé movement

A Ri-mé movement developed in Tibet in the 1800s that advocated for a ri-mé (nonsectarian) approach to the different lineages in Tibet.[4] This movement was initially intended to counteract the growing partisanism building between the different traditions.[5] The aim of the movement was "a push towards a middle ground where the various views and styles of the different traditions were appreciated for their individual contributions rather than being refuted, marginalized, or banned."[5] Many of the teachings of various schools were close to being lost and the movement set out to preserve them.[5] However, though the Rime movement gathered together teachings from each of the various traditions, it did not mix these, but recognised the individual integrity of each.[5]

Two of the founding voices of Rimé were Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul, both from different schools. Jamgon Kongtrul was from the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions, while Wangpo had been raised within the Sakya order. At the time, Tibetan schools of thought had become very isolated, and both Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul were instrumental in re-initiating dialogue between the sects.[6]

The movement began within a large context of increasing domination by the Gelug lineage. Beginning in the 17th century, the Gelug view and politics increasingly dominated in Tibet and the minority lineages were at risk for losing their traditions.[7] At its founding, the Rimé movement was primarily non-Gelugpa teachers and at times the movement has appeared critical of Gelug views. Professor Georges Dreyfus suggests this argumentation was less to create further division but was to bolster minority views that had been marginalized by Gelug supremacy. Nonetheless, philosophic commentaries by early Rimé writers tend to criticize Gelugpa tenets.[7]

The general principles of the ri-mé movement were not new to this time period. Ringu Tulku says:

The Rimé concept was not original to Kongtrul and Khyentse – neither were they new to Buddhism! The Lord Buddha forbade his students even to criticise the teachings and teachers of other religions and cultures. The message was so strong and unambiguous that Chandra Kirti had to defend Nagarjuna's treatises on Madhyamika by saying, "If, by trying to understand the truth, you dispel the misunderstandings of some people and thereby some philosophies are damaged – that cannot be taken as criticising the views of others" (Madhyamika-avatara). A true Buddhist cannot be but non-sectarian and Rimé in their approach.[3]

Ri-mé has become an integral part of the Tibetan tradition, and continues to be an important philosophy in Tibetan Buddhism.

Rimé approach of modern teachers

Many present-day teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage support the Ri-mé approach, including the 14th Dalai Lama. For example, the 14th Dalai Lama emphasizes this approach in the following prayer:

In short, may all the teachings of the Buddha in the Land of Snows
Flourish long into the future— the ten great pillars of the study lineage,
And the chariots of the practice lineage, such as Shijé (‘Pacifying’) and the rest,
All of them rich with their essential instructions combining sutra and mantra.
May the lives of the masters who uphold these teachings be secure and harmonious!
May the sangha preserve these teachings through their study, meditation and activity!
May the world be filled with faithful individuals intent on following these teachings!
And long may the non-sectarian teachings of the Buddha continue to flourish![8]


  1. Ringu Tulku 2006, Preface.
  2. The Rime ( Ris-Med ) Movement. Abuddhistlibrary.com (24 July 2000). Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Ringu Tulku 2006, Chapter 1: The Meaning of Ri-Me.
  4. Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. ris med.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Callahan, Elizabeth (2007). The Treasury of Knowledge: Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy. Introduction, p. 10
  6. Extract of Ri-me Philosophy Of Jamgon Kongtrul The Great paperback, A Study Of The Buddhist Lineages Of Tibet by Ringu Tulku And Translated By Ann Helm. Wisdom-books.com. Retrieved 20 November 2011.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dreyfus (2003) p.320
  8. Dalai Lama | Sage's Harmonious Song of Truth. Lotsawa House (28 February 1999). Retrieved 20 November 2011.


External links

This article includes content from the September 2014 revision of Ri-mé on Wikipedia ( view authors). License under CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikipedia logo