The Ris-med movement does not have its own doctrines; it is rather an ecumenical approach which values a variety of teachings as appropriate for different individuals. Such a perspective tends to be associated with philosophical positions which stress the positive qualities of Enlightenment and Buddhanature (such as the gzhan-stong doctrine), and the meditative traditions of rdzogs-chen or mahamudra. However, this is not necessarily the case; the great Ris-med masters held a variety of doctrinal positions.
The Ris-med movement arose in Eastern Tibet (Khams) in the nineteenth century. In the nineteenth and early twentieth century, the dGe-lugs-pa administration in Central Tibet was expanding its area of influence and becoming increasingly centralised, while its monastic organisation was relatively rigid and its religious training was highly clerical. In sDe-dge, and later throughout the East, where less clerical approaches were more dominant, great lamas of the non-dGe-lugs-pa traditions began to compile textual collections which included numerous teachings from different lineages, some of which might otherwise have been lost, and to practise, master and transmit different meditative traditions. Some of the Ris-med lamas were prolific scholars, not only compiling texts but composing new presentations of teachings which integrated different approaches. To some extent, the Ris-med movement only developed the tendency towards cross-fertilisation of the different lineages which had always been present in Tibetan Buddhism (see Tibetan Buddhism: The Chart). Nonetheless, it heralded a period of great creativity, which has ultimately has had a profound influence on Tibetan Buddhism in the late twentieth century. Two great lamas - 'Jam-dbyangs mKhyen-brtse dBang-po (1820-1892) and 'Jam-mgon Kong-sprul (1813-1899) - were primarily responsible for the movement's inception, and their successors and reincarnations have been active in spreading the Ris-med movement in the twentieth century. An incarnation of mKhyen-brtse dBang-po, for instance, the 'Jam-dbyangs mKhyen-brtse Chos-kyi Blo-gros (1896-1959), was a root lama of many of today's Sa-skya-pa, rNying-ma-pa and bKa'-brgyud-pa teachers.
The Ris-med movement does not have its own symbolism.
Ris-med is an approach or a tendency which cuts across all the Tibetan Buddhist schools. The present Dalai Lama is well-known for his ecumenical approach and discouragement of sectarian practices. His teachers have included Ris-med masters such as the late Dilgo Khyentse (Dil-mgo mKhyen-brtse) Rinpoche, and he himself has publicly transmitted non-dGe-lugs-pa teachings. Some exclusivist and sectarian branches of the major traditions exist but they are outnumbered by the more open and Ris-med influenced centres.
Ris-med does not have any headquarters or main centre.