Tibetan Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism, sometimes called Lamaism, branch of Vajrayana( Tantric, or Esoteric) Buddhism that evolved from the 7th century CE in Tibet. It is based mainly on the rigorous intellectual disciplines of Madhyamika and Yogachara philosophy and utilizes the Tantric ritual practices that developed in Central Asia and particularly in Tibet. 

Tibetan Buddhism incorporates Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophy, Tantric symbolic rituals, Theravadin monastic discipline and the shamanistic features of the local Tibetan religion Bön. Among its most unique characteristics are its system of reincarnating lamas and the vast number of deities in its pantheon.

Tibetan Buddhism is most well-known to the world through the office of the Dalai Lama. “Tibet” officially refers to the Tibetan Autonomous Region within China, which is about half the size of historical Tibet.

Distinctive Beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism

In common with Mahayana schools, Tibetan Buddhism includes a pantheon of Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and Dharma protectors. Arya-bodhisattvas are able to escape the cycle of death and rebirth but compassionately choose to remain in this world to assist others in reaching nirvana or buddhahood. Dharma protectors are mythic figures incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism from various sources (including the native Bön religion, and Hinduism) who are pledged to protecting and upholding the Dharma. Many of the specific figures are unique to Tibet.

Distinctive Practices of Tibetan Buddhism

Non-initiates in Tibetan Buddhism may gain merit by performing rituals such as food and flower offerings, water offerings (performed with a set of bowls), religious pilgrimages, or chanting prayers (see prayer wheels). They may also light butter lamps at the local temple or fund monks to do so on their behalf.

Tantric practitioners make use of rituals and objects. Meditation is an important function which may be aided by the use of special hand gestures (mudras) and chanted mantras (such as the famous mantra of Avalokiteshvara: “om mani padme hum”).

Another important ritual is the Cham, a dance featuring sacred masked dances, sacred music, healing chants, and spectacular richly ornamented multi-colored costumes. Mudras are used by the monks to revitalize spiritual energies which generate wisdom, compassion and the healing powers of Enlightened Beings. With accompanying narration and a monastic debate demonstration, the program provides a fascinating glimpse into ancient and current Tibetan culture. However, due to China’s occupation of Tibet, this ritual is now forbidden.

Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

There are four principal schools within modern Tibetan Buddhism:

1. Nyingmapa 

Nyingmapa (“School of the Ancients”) is the oldest of the Tibetan Buddhist schools and the second largest after Geluk. The Nyingma school is based primarily on the teachings of Padmasambhava, who is revered by the Nyingma school as the “second Buddha.” Padmascambhava’s system of Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism was synthesized by Longchenpa in the 14th century. The distinctive doctrine of the Nyingma school is Dzogchen (“great perfection”), also known as ati-yoga (extraordinary yoga). It also makes wide use of shamanistic practices and local divinities borrowed from the indigenous, pre-Buddhist Bon religion. Nyingma monks are not generally required to be celibate.

2. Kagyüpa

Kagyüpa is the third largest school of Tibetan Buddhism. Its teachings were brought to Tibet by Marpa the Translator, an 11th century Tibetan householder who traveled to India to study under the master yogin Naropa and gather Buddhist scriptures. Marpa’s most important student was Milarepa, to whom Marpa passed on his teachings only after subjecting him to trials of the utmost difficulty. In the 12th century, the physician Gampopa synthesized the teachings of Marpa and Milarepa into an independent school. As its name indicates, this school of Tibetan Buddhism places particular value on the transmission of teachings from teacher to disciple. It also stresses the more severe practices of hatha yoga. The central teaching is the “great seal” (mahamudra), which is a realization of emptiness, freedom from samsara and the inspearability of these two. The basic practice of mahamudra is “dwelling in peace,” and it has thus been called the “Tibetan Zen.” Also central to the Kagyupa schools are the Six Doctrines of Naropa (Naro Chödrug), which are meditation techniques that partially coincide with the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

3. Sakyapa

Sakyapa is today the smallest of the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. It is named for the Sakya (“Gray Earth”) monastery in sourthern Tibet. The Sakya monastery was founded in 1073 by abbots from the Khön family. The abbots were devoted to the transmission of a cycle of Vajrayana teachings called “path and goal” (Lamdre), the systemization of Tantric teachings, and Buddhist logic. The Sakyapa school had great political influence in the 13th and 14th centuries.

4. Gelugpa

Gelugpa (or Dge-lugs-pa or Gelukpa, “School of the Virtuous”), also called the Yellow Hats, is the youngest of the Tibetan schools, but is today the largest and the most important. It was founded in the late 14th century by Tsongkhapa, who “enforced strict monastic discipline, restored celibacy and the prohibition of alcohol and meat, established a higher standard of learning for monks, and, while continuing to respect the Vajrayana tradition of esotericism that was prevalent in Tibet, allowed Tantric and magical rites only in moderation.” {1} Practices are centered on achieving concentration through meditation and arousing the bodhisattva within. Three large monasteries were quickly established near Lhasa: at Dga’ldan (Ganden) in 1409, ‘Bras-spungs (Drepung) in 1416, and Se-ra in 1419. The abbots of the ‘Bras-spungs monastery first received the title Dalai Lama in 1578. The Gelugpa school has held political leadership of Tibet since the Dalai Lamas were made heads of state by the Mongol leader Güüshi Khan in 1642.

Major Buddhist Temples in Tibet

1Princess Wencheng Temple in Yushu City

Princess Wencheng Temple (Nampar Nangzed Lhakhang), or Nampar Nangzed Chok-hangis situated in Bainagou, the south of Jieshi Township, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province, where Princess Wencheng stayed the longest when she was married to Songtsen Gampo in 641 AD.

2.Gedeng Qukuolin Temple in Namling County, Shigatse

Located in Namling County of Shigatse, 1 km away from county, Gedeng Qukuolin Temple is the main temple in the area of Shigatse with an altitude of  3,800 meters above sea level. 

3Qiangqin Temple in Rinbung County, Shigatse

Located at the foot of the Gongbajiabu Mountain (贡巴加布山) of Tibet Autonomous Region and with an altitude of about 3,800 meters above sea level,  Qiangqin Temple was built by Renbu Zongzong Benobu Sanbo in 1427. Covering an area of about 6,000 square meters, more and more monks and worshippers come to Qiangqin Temple after vicissitudes occurred more than 600 years.

4Naijiaqiemu Cave Temple in Gamba County, Shigatse

Naijiaqiemu Grottoes Temple is located at Najia Village(纳加村) Changlong Township(昌龙乡) in Kamba County. Changlong Township is adjacent to Xijinguo(锡金国), 5000 meters above sea level, with mountains on both sides of north and south. 

5Qudiannima Temple in Gamba County, Shigatse

Qudiannima Temple is located at the mouth of Nima mountain(尼玛山口) Changlong township(昌龙乡) of Kamba County in Shigatse, with an elevation of 5000 meters. It is the largest temple in Kamba County, and it is said that it was built in the era of Tubo(吐蕃时代).

6. Panjielin Temple in Nyalam County, Shigatse

Panjielin Temple is a Tibetan Buddhist Gelug monastery, located in Jianglin Village(江林村) of Nyalam Town(聂拉木镇), Nyalam County in the Tibet Autonomous Region, near the China-Nepal highway.

7. Sanggha Fangtuo Temple in Lhozhag County, Lhoka

The temple was built in Lhozhag County by the famous Tibetan ascetic monk Mirahab(米拉日巴) in the Northern Song Dynasty (107 years). At first, his master, Marba(马尔巴), asked him to build a triangular house, and half work was done, then his master asked him to taken down the house. 

8. Langzhen Temple in Qusum County, Lhoka

The temple is built on the south-east of the village on the river, which is East and south of the river. Really stuffy in the temple, drinking is an important period for the Cameron temple area, was caught in the second half of the thirteenth Century to the early fourteenth Century.

9. Jokhang Temple, Lhasa

Jokhang Temple (or Jokhang Monastery) is the spiritual center of Tibet and the holiest destination for all Tibetan pilgrims. It is is listed in the World Cultural Heritages with Potala Palace and Norbulingka.

10.Yuru Temple in Qusum County, Lhoka

This temple is located in the north of Qusum County, Cara. It is built on the three floors, and the next two layers of the monastery can be accepted by the monks, and the third is the cultivation cave of the Mogu School of Mo Gullo Gio Zhuoma. Now, there are existing two layers.

If you want to know about temples in Tibet, please refer to https://www.mysterioustibet.com.