Tibetan Buddhism

Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of their lives.

What Is Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism ( Tibetan : བོད་ བརྒྱུད་ ནང་ བསྟན ་ ), as known as Lamaism(also referred to as Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, Himalayan Buddhism, and Northern Buddhism) , refers to the incoming Tibetan areas of Buddhism branch. Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet and Bhutan, where it is the dominant religion.

It was first actively disseminated in Tibet from the 6th to the 9th century CE, predominantly from India. During the Era of Fragmentation (9th–10th centuries), Buddhism waned in Tibet, only to rise again in the 11th century. With the Mongol invasion of Tibet in the 13th century and the establishment of the Mongol Yuan dynasty, Tibetan Buddhism spread beyond Tibet to Mongolia and China.

The term “Historical Buddha” (Shakyamuni Buddha) refers to the Buddha Siddhattha Gotama, the founder of Buddhism, who was born in North India some 2,500 years ago (around 600 BC) and whose authentic teaching has lived on to this day, mainly through Theravada Buddhism. 

The Buddha was primarily a man and did not claim to have been inspired by any God, any supernatural being or any external authority.

The Buddha never claimed to be a saviour who tried to save “souls” through a revelatory religion. Through his own perseverance and understanding, he proved that man has infinite possibilities and that human effort plays an important role in order to develop these possibilities. He showed with his own experience that enlightenment and liberation are entirely and utterly in the hands of man. Thus, according to Buddhism, the position of man is supreme.

The Development of Buddhism in Its Totality

During the 2500 years after the Lord Buddha Shakyamuni’s MahaParinirvana, the Buddhist Holy Dharma has evolved through two main evolutionary lines, namely: the “Hinayana” path (the “Smaller Vehicle” as represented mainly by the Theravada Traditions of Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, etc. in the South) of liberation, and the “Mahayana” path (the “Greater Vehicle” as represented by the diverse Bodhisattva Traditions in China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Tibet, etc. in the North) of enlightenment.

At the same time, the Buddhist Holy Dharma can be further classified into the “Sutrayana” (the “exoteric” school) and the “Tantrayana”, or “Secret Mantra Vajrayana” (Tib. “Sang-ngag Dorje Thekpa”, the “esoteric” school). The former mainly composed of the “shravaka, pratyekabuddha, bodhisattva” vehicles. The first two vehicles are in the category of “Hinayana”, while the last vehicle belongs to “Mahayana”. In this regard, the “Sutrayana” was mainly spread to China, Korea, Japan and other places.

The earlier teachings and practices of Tibetan Buddhism were brought into Tibet from India during the 8th century by the great Tantric Master Guru Padmasambhava (more generally known to the Tibetans as Guru Rinpoche), and the Abbot of Nalanda Khenpo Shantarakshita, both of whom were invited by the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen. They further helped to build the Samye Monastery, in which a huge translation site was organized with the help of both Indian Panditas and Tibetan Lotsawas in translating all of the Sutras and Tantras from Sanskrit into the Tibetan language.

According to estimates from the International Religious Freedom Report of 2012, most of Tibetans (who comprise 91% of the population of the Tibet Autonomous Region) are adherents of Tibetan Buddhism.

Most of the Han Chinese who reside in Tibet practice their native Chinese folk religion (shén dào; 'Way of the Gods'). There is a Guandi Temple of Lhasa where the Chinese god of war Guandi is identified with the cross-ethnic Chinese, Tibetan, Mongol and Manchu deity Gesar. The temple is built according to both Chinese and Tibetan architecture. It was first erected in 1792 under the Qing dynasty and renovated around 2013 after decades of disrepair.

Tibetan Buddhism has a long history of more than one thousand years. Prior to the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, it was already well established in neighboring regions such as India, the land of its origin, and China, where it was introduced during the Han dynasty. Up to the seventh century CE, the religion of Tibet consisted of astrological, divinatory, propitiatory, healing, exorcistic, funerary, and other rites.

Due to the fact that it has many different ways of Dharma practices, with a lot of rituals and ceremonies, it may seem to be exhilarating at the very beginning to the newcomers.