Buddhism in Tibet PDF Print E-mail

The Spread of Buddhism in Tibet

Before Buddhism was brought from India to Tibet , the religion widespread in our country was the Bon belief. It had originated in the neighbouring country called Shang-Shung, and until recently there were still centers in Tibet where the followers of Bon pursued deep study and meditation. In its beginning, I believe, it was not a very fruitful religion, but when Buddhism took root and began to flourish in Tibet , it benefited Bon also by enriching its own religious philosophy and meditational resources.

It was King Lha-Tho-Ri Nyen-Tsen of Tibet who first introduced Buddhism to the country, well over a thousand years ago. Buddhism spread steadily, and in the course of time many renowned Pandits from India can to Tibet and translated the Sutra and Tantra texts and their commentaries.

This activity suffered a setback for some years during the reign of the irreligious King Lan-Dar-Mar in the tenth Christian century; but that temporary eclipse was soon dispelled, and Buddhism revived and spread again, starting from the eastern and western parts of Tibet. Soon scholars, both Indian and Tibetan, were busy once more in translating religious works, and distinguished Pandits were visiting our country again for that purpose. But as Tibet began again to give birth to eminent native scholars, so, from that period, the number of scholars who came to Tibet from India and Nepal began to diminish gradually.

Thus, in what may be distinguished as the later period of Buddhism in Tibet , our religion developed separately from the later school of Indian Buddhism . But it retained the exact basis of the teachings of Lord Buddha. In its essentials, it never suffered alterations or additions at the hands of Tibetan lamas. Their commentaries are clearly distinguishable as commentaries, and for their authority they referred to the main teachings of Lord Buddha or the works of the Indian Pandits.

For this reason, I cannot think it is correct to regard Tibetan Buddhism as separate from the original Buddhism preached in India , or to call it Lamaism, as some people have. Certainly in minor matters there have been difference[s] due to local conditions—as for example, the difference in the habit worn by the religious in Tibet which is due to climatic reasons. But I believe that a thorough study of the Tibetan language and Tibetan texts is essential now for anyone who would understand the entire teachings of Lord Buddha on both Sutras and Tantras.

Buddhism, as we have seen, was not brought to Tibet , all at once; the scriptures were introduced by different scholars at different times. In India during that period there were great Buddhist institutions, like Nalanda and Vikramashila Universities , which differed slightly in their styles of teaching, although they taught the same fundamental religion and philosophy. Because of this, different groups grew into separate organizations or sects, all having the same basic tenets. The most prominent of these Tibetan schools are Nyingma, Kaguy, Sakya and Geluk. Each of them adheres to all the teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana, including Tantrayana, for Tibetan Buddhists do not separate these teachings, but pay equal respect to them all. For moral guidance, they conform to the Vinaya rules which are principally followed by Hinayanists, which for more esoteric practices, of every degree of profundity, they use the methods of the Mahayana and Tantrayana schools.

By H. H. the Dalai Lama of Tibet