Part of a series on Tibetan Buddhism
|Timeline · Related-topics|
|Nyingma · Kagyu · Sakya · Gelug · Bön|
|Three marks of existence · Skandha · Cosmology · Saṃsāra · Rebirth · Bodhisattva · Dharma · Dependent Origination · Karma|
|Gautama Buddha · Padmasambhava · Je Tsongkhapa · Dalai Lama · Panchen Lama · Lama · Karmapa Lama · Rinpoche · Geshe · Terton · Tulku|
|Buddhahood · Avalokiteśvara · Four Stages of Enlightenment · Tantric yoga · Paramitas · Meditation · Laity|
|Changzhug · Drepung · Dzogchen · Ganden · Jokhang · Kumbum · Labrang · Mindroling · Namgyal · Narthang · Nechung · Pabonka · Palcho · Ralung · Ramoche · Sakya · Sanga · Sera · Shalu · Tashilhunpo · Tsurphu · Yerpa|
|Chotrul Duchen · Dajyur · Losar · Monlam · Sho Dun|
|Kangyur · Tengyur · Tibetan Canon · Mahayana Sutras|
|Sand mandala · Thangka · Ashtamangala · Tree of physiology|
|India • China • Japan
Korea • Vietnam
Taiwan • Mongolia
Tibet • Bhutan • Nepal
|Bodhisattva • Upāya
Samādhi • Prajñā
Śunyatā • Trikāya
Pure Land • Zen
Tiantai • Nichiren
|Silk Road • Nāgārjuna
Asaṅga • Vasubandhu
|Portal • Outline|
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet and certain regions of the Himalayas, including northern Nepal, Bhutan, and India (particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Dharamsala, Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, and Sikkim). It is the state religion of Bhutan. It is also practiced in Mongolia and parts of Russia (Kalmykia, Buryatia, and Tuva) and Northeast China. Texts recognized as scripture and commentary are contained in the Tibetan Buddhist canon, such that Tibetan is a spiritual language of these areas.
In the wake of the 1959 Tibetan uprising, a Tibetan diaspora has made Tibetan Buddhism more widely accessible to the rest of the world. It has since spread to many Western countries, where the tradition has gained popularity. Among its prominent exponents is the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. The number of its adherents is estimated to be between ten and twenty million.
Tibetan Buddhism comprises the teachings of the three vehicles of Buddhism: the Foundational Vehicle, Mahāyāna, and Vajrayāna. The Mahāyāna goal of spiritual development is to achieve the enlightenment of Buddhahood in order to most efficiently help all other sentient beings attain this state. The motivation in it is the bodhicitta mind of enlightenment — an altruistic intention to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings. Bodhisattvas are revered beings who have conceived the will and vow to dedicate their lives with bodhicitta for the sake of all beings. Tibetan Buddhism teaches methods for achieving Buddahood more quickly by including the Vajrayāna path in Mahāyāna.
Buddhahood is defined as a state free of the obstructions to liberation as well as those to omniscience. When, in Buddhahood, one is freed from all mental obscurations, one is said to attain a state of continuous bliss mixed with a simultaneous cognition of emptiness, the true nature of reality. In this state, all limitations on one's ability to help other living beings are removed.
It is said that there are countless beings who have attained Buddhahood. Buddhas spontaneously, naturally and continuously perform activities to benefit all sentient beings. However it is believed that sentient beings' karmas limit the ability of the Buddhas to help them. Thus, although Buddhas possess no limitation from their side on their ability to help others, sentient beings continue to experience suffering as a result of the limitations of their own former negative actions.
An emphasis on oral transmission as more important than the printed word derives from the earliest period of Indian Buddhism, when it allowed teachings to be kept from those who should not hear them. Hearing a teaching (transmission) readies the hearer for realisation based on it. The person from whom one hears the teaching should have heard it as one link in a succession of listeners going back to the original speaker: the Buddha in the case of a sutra or the author in the case of a book. Then the hearing constitutes an authentic lineage of transmission. Authenticity of the oral lineage is a prerequisite for realisation, hence the importance of lineages.
Merely reading about a teaching is helpful but no substitute for receiving a transmission on it. Listening to a text recited aloud by someone who holds the lineage for transmission of that text makes oneself also a holder of that lineage and the more ready for realization of the teaching in it. Oral transmissions by lineage holders traditionally can take place in small groups or mass gatherings of listeners and may last for seconds (in the case of a mantra, for example) or months (as in the case of a section of the canon). A transmission can even occur without actually hearing, as in Asaṅga's visions of Maitreya.
Spontaneous realisation on the basis of transmission is possible but rare. Normally an intermediate step is needed in the form of analytic meditation, i.e., thinking about what one has heard. As part of this process, entertaining doubts and engaging in internal debate over them is encouraged in some traditions.
Analytic meditation is just one of two general methods of meditation. When it achieves the quality of realisation, one is encouraged to switch to "focused" or "fixation" meditation. In this the mind is stabilised on that realisation for periods long enough to gradually habituate it to it.
A person's capacity for analytic meditation can be trained with logic. The capacity for successful focused meditation can be trained through calm abiding. A meditation routine may involve alternating sessions of analytic meditation to achieve deeper levels of realization, and focused meditation to consolidate them. The deepest level of realization is Buddhahood itself.
Two characteristic aspects of Tibetan Buddhism are skepticism and devotion to the guru which have led it into conflict with Chinese socialism and so invited the destruction of the Tibetan intelligentsia under Mao. An attitude of critical skepticism is encouraged to promote abilities in analytic meditation. However, as in other Buddhist traditions, an attitude of reverence for the teacher is also highly prized.
In favour of skepticism towards Buddhist doctrines in general, Tibetans are fond of quoting sutra to the effect that one should test the Buddha's words as one would the quality of gold. On the other hand, at the beginning of a public teaching, a lama will do prostrations to the throne on which he will teach due to its symbolism, or to an image of the Buddha behind that throne, then students will do prostrations to the lama after he is seated. Merit accrues when one's interactions with the teacher are imbued with such reverence in the form of guru devotion, a code of practices governing them that derives from Indian sources. By such things as avoiding disturbance to the peace of mind of one's teacher, and wholeheartedly following his prescriptions, much merit accrues and this can significantly help improve one's practice.
There is a general sense in which any Tibetan Buddhist teacher is called a lama. A student may have taken teachings from many authorities and revere them all as lamas in this general sense. However, he will typically have one held in special esteem as his own root guru and is encouraged to view the other teachers who are less dear to him, however more exalted their status, as embodied in and subsumed by the root guru. Often the teacher the student sees as root guru is simply the one who first introduced him to Buddhism, but a student may also change his personal view of which particular teacher is his root guru any number of times.
The opposing principles of skepticism and guru devotion are reconciled with the Tibetan injunction to scrutinise a prospective guru thoroughly before finally adopting him as such without reservation. A Buddhist may study with a lama for decades before finally accepting him as his own guru.
Vajrayāna is said to be the fastest method for attaining Buddhahood but for unqualified practitioners it can be dangerous. To engage in it one must receive an appropriate initiation (also known as an "empowerment") from a lama who is fully qualified to give it. From the time one has resolved to accept such an initiation, the utmost sustained effort in guru devotion is essential.
The aim of preliminary practices (ngöndro) is to start the student on the correct path for such higher teachings. Just as Sutrayāna preceded Vajrayāna historically in India, so sutra practices constitute those that are preliminary to tantric ones. Preliminary practices include all Sutrayāna activities that yield merit like hearing teachings, prostrations, offerings, prayers and acts of kindness and compassion, but chief among the preliminary practices are realizations through meditation on the three principle stages of the path: renunciation, the altruistic bodhicitta wish to attain enlightenment and the wisdom realizing emptiness. For a person without the basis of these three in particular to practice Vajrayāna can be like a small child trying to ride an unbroken horse.
While the practices of Vajrayāna are not known in Sutrayāna, all Sutrayāna practices are common to Vajrayāna. Without training in the preliminary practices, the ubiquity of allusions to them in Vajrayāna is meaningless and even successful Vajrayāna initiation becomes impossible.
The merit acquired in the preliminary practices facilitates progress in Vajrayāna. While many Buddhists may spend a lifetime exclusively on sutra practices, however, an amalgam of the two to some degree is common. For, example, in order to train in calm abiding, one might use a tantric visualisation as the meditation object.
In Vajrayāna particularly, Tibetan Buddhists subscribe to a voluntary code of self-censorship, whereby the uninitiated do not seek and are not provided with information about it. This self-censorship may be applied more or less strictly depending on circumstances such as the material involved. A depiction of a mandala may be less public than that of a deity. That of a higher tantric deity may be less public than that of a lower. The degree to which information on Vajrayāna is now public in western languages is controversial among Tibetan Buddhists.
Buddhism has always had a taste for esotericism since its earliest period in India. Tibetans today maintain greater or lesser degrees of confidentiality also with information on the vinaya and emptiness specifically. In Buddhist teachings generally, too, there is caution about revealing information to people who may be unready for it. Esoteric values in Buddhism have made it at odds with the values of Christian missionary activity, for example in contemporary Mongolia.
Some commentators have emphasised Tibetan innovations such as the system of incarnate lamas, but such genuine innovations have been few. True to its roots in the Pāla system of North India, however, Tibetan Buddhism carried on a tradition of eclectic accumulation and systematisation of diverse Buddhist elements, and pursued their synthesis. Prominent among these achievements are the Stages of the Path and motivational training.
Tibetan Buddhists practice one or more understandings of the true nature of reality, the emptiness of inherent existence of all things. Emptiness is propounded according to four classical Indian schools of philosophical tenets.
Two belong to the older path of the Foundation Vehicle:
The primary source for the former is the Abhidharma-kośa by Vasubandhu and its commentaries. The Abhidharmakośa is also an important source for the Sautrāntikas. Dignāga and Dharmakīrti are the most prominent exponents.
The other two are Mahayana (Skt. Greater Vehicle) (Tib. theg-chen):
Yogacārins base their views on texts from Maitreya, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, Madhyamakas on Nāgārjuna and Āryadeva. There is a further classification of Madhyamaka into Svatantrika-Madhyamaka and Prasaṅgika-Madhyamaka. The former stems from Bhavaviveka, Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla, and the latter from Buddhapālita and Candrakīrti.
The tenet system is used in the monasteries and colleges to teach Buddhist philosophy in a systematic and progressive fashion, each philosophical view being more subtle than its predecessor. Therefore the four schools can be seen as a gradual path from a rather easy-to-grasp, "realistic" philosophical point of view, to more and more complex and subtle views on the ultimate nature of reality, that is on emptiness and dependent arising, culminating in the philosophy of the Mādhyamikas, which is widely believed to present the most sophisticated point of view.
According to a Tibetan legendary tradition, Buddhist scriptures including the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra and relics including the cintamaṇi arrived in southern Tibet in the fifth century during the reign of Lha Thothori Nyantsen, the 28th king of Tibet. The tale is miraculous: the objects fell from the sky on the roof of the king's palace, but it may have a historical background in the form of the arrival of Buddhist missionaries.
The earliest well-documented influence of Buddhism in Tibet dates from the reign of king Songtsän Gampo, who died in 650. He married a Chinese Tang Dynasty Buddhist princess, Wencheng, who came to Tibet with a statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
According to a Tibetan legendary tradition, Songtsän Gampo also married a Nepalese Buddhist princess, Bhrikuti; but Bhrikuti, who bears the name of a goddess, is not mentioned in reliable sources. Songtsän Gampo founded the first Buddhist temples. By the second half of the 8th century he was already regarded as an embodiment of the bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara.
The successors of Songtsän Gampo were less enthusiastic about the propagation of Buddhism but in the 8th century, King Trisong Detsen (755-797) established it as the official religion of the state. He invited Indian Buddhist scholars to his court. In his age the famous tantric mystic Padmasambhāva arrived in Tibet according to the Tibetan tradition. In addition to writing a number of important scriptures, some of which he hid for future tertons to find, Padmasambhāva, along with Śāntarakṣita, established the Nyingma school.
The outlines of the history of Buddhism in Tibet from this time are well-known. At this early time also, from the south came the influence of scholars under the Pāla dynasty in the Indian state of Magadha. They had achieved a blend of Mahayana and Vajrayana that has come to characterize all forms of Tibetan Buddhism. Their teaching in sutra centred on the Abhisamayālankāra, a fourth century Yogacārin text, but prominent among them were the Mādhyamika scholars Śāntarakṣita and Kamalaśīla.
A third influence was that of the Sarvāstivādins from Kashmir in the south west and Khotan in the north west. Although they did not succeed in maintaining a presence in Tibet, their texts found their way into the Tibetan Buddhist canon, providing the Tibetans with almost all of their primary sources about the Foundation Vehicle. A subsect of this school, Mūlasarvāstivāda was the source of the Tibetan vinaya.
A fourth influence from China in the east came in the form of Chan.
According to A. W. Barber of the University of Calgary, Chan Buddhism was introduced to the Nyingmapa in three principal streams: the teachings of Master Kim, Kim Ho-shang, (Chin ho shang) 金和尚 transmitted by Sang Shi in ca. 750 CE; the lineage of Master Wu Chu (無住禪師) of the Pao T'ang School was transmitted within Tibet by Ye-shes Wangpo; and the teaching from Mo Ho Yen, 和尚摩訶衍 (Tibetan: Hwa shang Mahayana) that were a synthesis of the Northern School of Chan and the Pao T'ang School.
Tibetan king Khri srong lde btsan (742–797) invited the Ch’an master Mo-ho-yen (whose name consists of the same Chinese characters used to transliterate “Mahayana”) to transmit the Dharma at Samye Monastery. Mo-ho-yen had been disseminating Dharma in the Tun-huang locale, but, according to Tibetan sources, lost an important philosophical debate on the nature of emptiness with the Indian master Kamalaśīla, and the king declared Kamalaśīla's philosophy should form the basis for Tibetan Buddhism. However, a Chinese source says their side won, and some scholars conclude that the entire episode is fictitious. Pioneering Buddhologist Giuseppe Tucci speculated that Hwashang's ideas were preserved by the Nyingmapas in the form of dzogchen teachings.
From the outset Buddhism was opposed by the native shamanistic Bön religion, which had the support of the aristocracy, but with royal patronage it thrived to a peak under King Rälpachän (817-836). Terminology in translation was standardised around 825, enabling a translation methodology that was highly literal. Despite a reversal in Buddhist influence which began under King Langdarma (836-842), the following centuries saw a colossal effort in collecting available Indian sources, many of which are now extant only in Tibetan translation.
Tibetan Buddhism exerted a strong influence from the 11th century CE among the peoples of Central Asia, especially in Mongolia and Manchuria. It was adopted as an official state religion by the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Manchu Qing dynasty that ruled China. Coinciding with the early discoveries of "hidden treasures" (terma), the 11th century saw a revival of Buddhist influence originating in the far east and far west of Tibet. In the west, Rinchen Zangpo (958-1055) was active as a translator and founded temples and monasteries. Prominent scholars and teachers were again invited from India. In 1042 Atiśa arrived in Tibet at the invitation of a west Tibetan king. This renowned exponent of the Pāla form of Buddhism from the Indian university of Vikramaśīla later moved to central Tibet. There his chief disciple, Dromtonpa founded the Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism, under whose influence the New Translation schools of today evolved.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions:
These major schools are sometimes said to constitute the ”Old Translation” and ”New Translation” traditions, the latter stemming from the historical Kadampa lineage of translations and tantric lineages. Another common differentiation is into "Red Hat" and "Yellow Hat" schools. The correspondences are as follows:
|Old Translation||New Translation||New Translation||New Translation|
|Red Hat||Red Hat||Red Hat||Yellow Hat|
Besides these major schools, there is a minor one, the Jonang. The Jonangpa were suppressed by the rival Gelugpa in the 1600s and were once thought extinct, but are now known to survive in Eastern Tibet.
Although there were many householder-yogis in Tibet, monasticism was the foundation of Buddhism in Tibet. There were over 6,000 monasteries in Tibet, but nearly all were ransacked and destroyed by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Most of the major ones have been at least partially re-established but many still remain in ruins.
In Mongolia during the 1920s, approximately one third of the male population were monks, though many lived outside monasteries. By the beginning of the 20th century about 750 monasteries were functioning in Mongolia. These monasteries were largely dismantled during Communist rule, but many have been reestablished during the Buddhist revival in Mongolia which followed the fall of Communism.
Monasteries generally adhere to one particular school. Some of the major centers in each tradition are as follows:
The Nyingma lineage is said to have "six mother monasteries," although the composition of the six has changed over time:
Also of note is
Many Kagyu monasteries are in Kham, eastern Tibet. Tsurphu, one of the most important, is in central Tibet, as is Ralung and Drikung.
Three other monasteries have particularly important regional influence:
Great spiritual and historical importance is also placed on:
Today, Tibetan Buddhism is adhered to widely in the Tibetan Plateau, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, Kalmykia (on the north-west shore of the Caspian), Siberia (central Russia, specifically Buryatia and Chita Oblast), and the Russian Far East (concentrated in Tuva). The Indian regions of Sikkim and Ladakh, both formerly independent kingdoms, are also home to significant Tibetan Buddhist populations. In the wake of the Tibetan diaspora, Tibetan Buddhism has gained adherents in the West and throughout the world. Celebrity practitioners include Brandon Boyd, Richard Gere, Adam Yauch, Jet Li, Sharon Stone, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Glass and Steven Seagal (who has been proclaimed the reincarnation of the tulku Chungdrag Dorje).
|English||spoken Tibetan||Wylie Tibetan||Sanskrit transliteration|
|devotion to the guru||lama-la tenpa||bla-ma-la bsten-pa||guruparyupāsati|
|foundational vehicle||t’ek män||theg sman||hīnayāna|
|inherent existence||rangzhingi drubpa||rang-bzhin-gyi grub-pa||svabhāvasiddha|
|root guru||zawé lama||rtsa-ba'i bla-ma||–|
|stages of the path||lamrim||lam-rim||–|
|mind of enlightenment||changchub sem||byang-chhub sems||bodhicitta|
|omniscience||t’amcé k’yempa||thams-cad mkhyen-pa||sarvajñā|
|transmission and realisation||lungtok||lung-rtogs||āgamādhigama|
Tibetan Buddhism is the body of religious Buddhist teachings from Tibet. The form of Buddhism taught in Tibet is inclusive of the full range of Buddhist teachings (or "three vehicles"). All traditions of Tibetan Buddhism practice the fundamental teachings and vows of moral discipline (Pratimoksha) of the hearer's vehicle (Shrāvakayāna[a]); the vows of universal liberation and philosophy of the great vehicle (Mahāyāna); and the pledges and special methods of the secret mantra vehicle (Vajrayāna).
Buddhism first came from India into Tibet in 173 CE during the reign of Lha Thothori Nyantsen. However, Buddhism did not grow strong until much later.
In the 8th century, an Indian teacher called Padmasambhava brought Buddhism to Tibet again while Trisong Detsen was king of Tibet. Padmasambhava (more commonly known as Guru Rinpoche) merged Buddhism with the local Bön religion to create Tibetan Buddhism. He also wrote a number of important texts.
Padmasambhava started the Nyingma school. All other schools of Tibetan Buddhism come from this school, which is also known as the "ancient school".
Tibetan Buddhism had a strong effect on the peoples of Central Asia in the 11th century CE, especially in Mongolia and Manchuria. It was made the official state religion by the Mongol Yuan dynasty and the Manchu Qing dynasty that ruled China.
In the past, Tibetan Buddhism was also called Lamaism by some people. This is now thought to be based on a misunderstanding of the practice of guru yoga ('guru' is the Sanskrit equivalent of the Tibetan word 'lama' which means 'spiritual teacher') in Tibetan.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main schools. Two of these schools hold practice as more important and two hold scholasticism (study of philosophy) more important. The four schools are:
Some of the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are Mahamudra, the Six Yogas of Naropa, and Dzogchen.
Some people believe that Buddhism and Hinduism are similar. Why do they think that? Because Buddha (Siddhartha) was a Hindu prince who lived in India a long time ago. He left his kingdom, his wife and his son. He left them because he wanted to look for what was true. He sat under a tree, the holy pipal tree (Bo tree) in Bodhgaya (Buddh Gaya) a town in Bihar State in northeast India. His talks about religion were influenced by Hinduism's ideas about death, life, the soul, reincarnation, karma, and so on.
King Ashoka (269 BC to 232 BC) was important to Buddhism. He was very important to Buddhism outside India. King Ashoka became a Buddhist after he fought and killed people in war. Ashoka believed in 'Ahinsa' (nonviolence), love, truth, tolerance, and vegetarianism. He sent his son, daughter, and messengers to China, Cambodia, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, and so to talk about Buddhism.
These two religions share a lot of similar concept, but also differences over the existence of God and the soul (atman). Buddhist's also do not believe in the authority of the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures. Nevertheless, separated by borders, most Buddhists and Hindus in India, Nepal, Tibet, and other Asian countries feel religious and cultural proximeties which includes vegetarianism. Millions of Tibetan refugees including Dalai Lama living in India claim to be the son of Indian soil due of these religious and cultural similarities. Nepalese are practically Indians as they find their deep roots in Indian soil.