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Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism is a religion in exile, forced from its homeland during the Chinese occupation of Tibet. It represents an organization of Buddhist doctrine and institutions found in Tibet, the Himalayan region, Mongolia, Buryatia, Tuva, Kalmykia (Russia) and northeastern China.  Tibetan Buddhism is identical to Vajrayana and is taught along with the other schools of Buddhism.

Dalai Lama is the best known face of this religion; he has lived in exile in India since he fled Chinese occupation of his country in 1959. Tibetan Buddhism combines basic teachings of Mahayana Buddhism with Tantric and Shamanic and an ancient Tibetan religion called Bon.

Features of Tibetan Buddhism:

The prime features in Tibetan Buddhism include :

  • Status of the teacher or "Lama"
  • Preoccupation with relationship between life and death
  • Important role of rituals and initiations
  • Rich visual symbolism
  • Elements of earlier Tibetan faiths
  • Mantras and meditation practice

History :

Buddhism in Tibet emerged with a combination of Buddhism and yoga in Tibet. The yogic method started in Tibet around late eighth century. It was brought from India at the invitation of two Buddhist masters by Tibetan king, Trisong Detsen to Tibet, who translated the Buddhist texts to the Tibetan language.

Firstly, Shantarakshitathe, chief of a monastery in Nalanda, India built the first monastery in Tibet. He was succeeded by Padmasambhava, who used his wisdom and power to defeat "spiritual" forces hindering work on the monastery.

From 13th century, Hindu yogic and tantric practices were integrated in Indian Buddhism along with the classical teachings of Buddha. This method of propagation preached that there were two paths to enlightenment.

Paths to Enlightenment :

As explained in the sutras, the first path encompasses morality, concentration, and wisdom. The second path gave ancient Buddhism in Tibet, its unique feature of tantric methods. Techniques of Hindu yogic and tantric practices were incorporated with the sutra teachings. Tantric methods convey that the basic human obsession of desire and hatred should be transformed to develop spiritual morality. But, it does not recommend total renunciation of these basic cravings.

Tantra purifies people into goodness, helping them in attaining enlightenment for which one needs to have qualities of self-control and acceptance. The Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist teachings are also included in Tibetan Buddhism, which is principally an obscure extension of these two. Similar to Mahayanas, Buddhism in Tibet principally based on the Dharma protectors, namely Pantheon of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Dharmapala.