The Ngakpa is the cultural and non-monastic spiritual tradition of the Tibetan people. Padmasambava (Tib. Guru Rinpoche) founded it in the 8th century so that lay people could receive spiritual and cultural education. The king Trisong Detsan not only made large contributions to the development of the Ngakpa tradition but, as an example to the people, became a Ngakpa himself.
Ngak-Mang (large group of Ngakpas) are commonly called 'Gokar Chanlo De' which literally means 'The community with white dress and long hair' or more simply 'The group of white Sangha'. The first group of Ngakpa was called 'Je Bang Nyirnya'. They were 25 disciples of the Master Padmasambava and they were all trained by him to a very high degree.
The first Ngakpa College was a branch of Samye Monastery and was called the Ngakpa 'Dud dul Ling'. Here, people were trained in the subjects of Language, Literature, Translation, Agriculture, Medicine, and Astrology, Meteorology and especially Vajrayana studies and practice. Later the Ngakpa culture continued to develop, spreading all over Central Tibet and formed some of the following groups: 30 Sheldrak Ngakpa groups, 108 Chuon Ngakpa groups and 80 Drag Yir Pa Ngakpa groups.
Many Ngakpas have shown their great abilities by becoming highly educated people and practitioners. An example of this, is the founder of Traditional Tibetan Medicine (TTM), Yuthok Yongten Gonpo. He was a Ngakpa, as were many of his lineage physicians. In the 9th Century, Tri Ralpa Chan, the 3rd Tibetan Dharma King, became involved in the Ngakpa Tradition. Through his dedication and support the Ngakpa culture grew all over Tibet. The last King, Lhang Tharma, did his best to eradicate the Buddhist tradition in Tibet but he was not able to destroy the Ngakpa tradition. It is fundamental to native Tibetans.
Tibetan women are recognised as one of the largest contributors to the Ngak-Mang. Ngakmas (female Ngakpas) such as Yeshe Tsogyal, Machin Labdron and Chusep Jetsun were highly respected practitioners and were an inspiration to many Tibetan women. Yeshe Tsogyal (777 - 837 CE), the First Tibetan "Ngakma", is also considered the first female Tibetan Doctor, as she uncovered many mantras and therapies relating to Tibetan Medicine.
Free from any secterian believs, the Ngakpa-tradition continues today in China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Mongolia and more recently in the west, with men women studying and practicing throughout their daily lives.