Tibetan Buddhism, also “Tibetan Language Buddhism”, refers to the branch of Buddhism introduced into Tibetan area. It belongs to Northern Buddhism, together with Chinese Buddhism and Southern Buddhism, and is called the three major geographical systems of Buddhism, or together with Pali Language (Southern Buddhism ), Chinese Language (Chinese Buddhism ) constitute three major Buddhism languages. China is the only country in the world that the three major Buddhism language systems exist together.
Tibetan Buddhism is Tantra heritage, and has no inheritance of Hinayana.
The origin of Buddhism
After the birth of Buddhism in the fifth and sixth century BC, it spread to the world and it was divided into Southern Buddhism and Northern Buddhism by later generation scholars.
Spreading from ancient India southward to Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Yunnan province of China, predominantly Theravada Buddhism , known as “Southern Buddhism”; its scriptures are written in Pali language.
Spreading from ancient India northward to Central Asia, China, Mongolia, Korean Peninsula, Vietnam, Japan and other countries, predominantly Mahayana Buddhism , known as “Northern Buddhism”; its scriptures are written in mostly Sanskrit, various Central Asian scripts and Chinese.
Ever since the emergence of Tibetan Buddhism, the way to divide buddhism in “Southern Buddhism” and “Northern Buddhism” was gradually no longer used. Instead of that, Buddhism has been regarded as three branches, which are Theravada Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism; Tibet, Mongolia, Sikkim, Bhutan, Nepal and the former Soviet Union belong to the areas that Tibetan Buddhism dominates.
The basic definition(knowledge) of the three schools of Buddhism
In general, Southern Buddhism basically retains the characteristics of early Buddhism in India which is Theravada Buddhism. Chinese Buddhism is Mahayana Buddhism; Tibetan Buddhism is Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism. In terms of Buddhist precepts, Southern Buddhism is more rigorous than Chinese Buddhism and Chinese Buddhism is more strict than Tibetan Buddhism. In other words, the commandments of Tibetan Buddhism are relatively loose which is compatible with the local culture and environment.
-1), Theravada (Southern Buddhism), is now popular in places such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam Khmer, Lao and Thai settlements, and some ancient Indian heritage remains in the mountainous areas of Chittagong of Bangladesh, Nepal, Mizoram & Arunachal Pradesh of India, and Yunnan province of China; Together with Mahayana Buddhism that are listed as the two most basic factions of existing Buddhism. Because it honors Pali Canon and uses Pali language as the canonical language, it is also known as Pali language Buddhism and Pali Buddhism. Nowadays Theravada Buddhism is derived from the Sri Lankan Theravada, which is said to be the inheritance of the Mahavihara-Nikaya.
-2), Hinayana is the general term used to derogate Sravaka and Pratyekabuddha of Triyana, it is also used to depreciate all traditional Sectarian Buddhism including modern Theravada Buddhism. Because “Hinayana” contains derogatory meaning, there has been a long-term dispute between scholars and Buddhists. Modern Southern Buddhism does not accept the term “Hinayana”. The World Buddhist Association held in 1950 reached a clear consensus that whether the correct term for Southern Buddhism in the West or the East should always use “Theravada” instead of “Hinayana”
“Hinayana”, that “Hina” means small and low; “Yana” means ride, which can refer to all transportation vehicles such as car, boat, with extended meaning of the “teachings”, or the way to liberation; together it is “small car”, “small boat”, which means the so-called “Low teaching” that only cares about self-interest and no altruism. This concept exists relative to “Mahayana”. The origin of this term cannot be verified. But there is no Buddhist Order calling itself “Hinayana”. It’s the derogation of Mahayana Buddhism for other traditional Buddhist Orders.
Hinayana is only to seek self-interest and eliminateing own troubles
-3), Mahayana is one of the two fundamental sects of Buddhism. In some traditions, Vajrayana is considered a branch under Mahayana Buddhism, but there are also views that Vajrayana is the third-largest buddhism sect by juxtaposing with Mahayana and Hinayana.
“Mahayana”, that “Maha” means big and great; “Yana” is a ride, which can refer to all transportation vehicles such as car and boat. It is a customary name for Buddhist teachings; Here, it is also translated as “Great Teaching” according to its meaning. The difference between “Hinayana” and “Mahayana” lies in self-interest and altruism.
Mahayana is for self-interest and altruism, then become a Buddha; Mahayana aims to “deliver all living creatures from difficulty”
The term “Lamaism” is short for Tibetan Buddhism in Chinese folks which was subsequently used by European in history. However, this word is considered a contemptuous or derogatory word in Tibetan language and academia, which implied that this religion was fabricated by lamas, not inherited from Buddhism. Therefore, it is mostly to use “Tibetan Buddhism” to replace “Lamaism”.
The term “Lama” is a homage to a Tibetan Buddhist monk or Guru in Tibet, such as the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Lama. Because The Tibetan Tantric believes that the Guru is higher than the Buddha, Dharma, Monk and being the Fourth conversion. “Lama” in Tibetan language is translated as “Guru” as to be a common name or alternative title, so “Tibetan Buddhism” is still called the Lamaism traditionally. However, most orthodox Tibetan scholars believe that the term “Lamaism” is extremely not rigorous and is a typical foreign word, so that “Lamaism” is not used in formal occasions
Tibetan Buddhism is well-known for its profound and numerous literature of Tibetan language. The most popular Buddhist scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism are “Kanjur” and “Danjur”. Tibetan language has a close inheritance relationship with Sanskrit, which is to be used recording the original Buddhist classics. Regardless meaning of words translated from Sanskrit, Tibetan language is the only language that can reinstate what Sanskrit truly means.
Tibetan language is also the only text that completely records the Buddhism teachings, Buddhism philosophy, and Buddhism science that have been formed and developed since the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha for more than two thousand years. Including all the Scripture of the “Open school” and “Tantra” of Nalanda vihara. Especially inheriting the teaching, learning of Tsema(Logic, theory) which only Tibetan language has complete records today
Tibetan Buddhism began in the Songtsen Gampo period. Buddhism was introduced into Tibet by Princess Bhrikuti from Nepal and Princess Wencheng from Tang Dynasty of Chinese. During the period of Trisong Detsen (37th king of Tibet Kingdom, AD 742-797), ancient Indian Buddhism monk Santaraksita introduced Indian Buddhism to Tibet,and the Padmasambhava of Svatantrika came to Tibetan Area. While subduing the local primitive Bon religion, it also accepts some content of local Bon religion, the foundation of Tantric Buddhism was gradually established, and this period was called the “Snga dar”, meaning “the first Propagation” OR “the earlier dissemination” OR “the first dissemination”.
Then after, Tibetan Buddhism fell into a dark period. During the reign of Langdarma (the last king of Tibet Kingdom, AD 799-842) . Tibetan Buddhism was banned, the monasteries were shut down, the monks were ordered to convert to Bonism, or returned to laity; the Buddhist scriptures were destroyed, and the Buddha statues were thrown into the rivers; this ban on Buddhism was historically known as “Lundama destroying Buddha” which last more than 100 years;
In the early years of the Song Dynasty (960–1279 AD), Tibetan Buddhism gradually revived, and gradually formed the inheritance of various schools such as Ningma, Kagyu, Kadang, Sakya, Jonang, Gelug, etc. This period is called “Phyi dar “, meaning “the Second Propagation” OR “the later dissemination” OR “the second dissemination”
After Tsongkhapa created the Gelug Sect and became the mainstream of Tibetan Buddhism, Tantra flourished and there was a unity of politics and religion. Two fixed reincarnations ruled Tibet, called Dalai Lama and Panchen lama. The spread of Tibetan Buddhism was in Tibetan areas, Nepal, Bhutan, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Dharamsala, as well as Tuva and Kalmykiya. In the 13th century, it began to spread in Mongolia. Today, Mongolian, Tu people, Yugu people and Pumi people,…etc still believe in Tibetan Buddhism. Nowadays, Tibetan Buddhism has gradually spread throughout the world.
–“Snga dar” (AD 641- 841, about 200 years)–
“Snga dar” meaning “the first Propagation” OR “the earlier dissemination” OR “the first dissemination”.
Buddhism in Tibet began in the middle of the fourth century. Tibet came into existence of Buddhism Chorten (Dharmakaya, one of Triratna) and to worship during the reign of Thothori Nyantsen (28th Tibet King). According to Tibetan Buddhism literature, Tibetan Buddhism began in the middle of the 7th century AD. At that time, Tibet King Songtsen Gampo married Princess Bhrikuti from Nepal and Princess Wencheng from Tang Dynasty of Chinese. 641 AD (15th year of Zhenguan in Tang Dynasty) Princess Wencheng was escorted into Tibet, and to take Shakyamuni statue which is the same size as when he was 12 years old, treasures, scriptures 360 Scrolls, etc. as a dowry.
Songtsen Gampo also introduced many scriptures, Buddha statues and pagodas from ancient countries such as Nepal and Kashmir, and he converted to belief in Buddhism under the joint influence of his two wives, Princess Wencheng and Princess Bhrikuti. And to build the Ramoche Gompa for the Shakyamuni statue brought by Princess Wencheng, and Jokhang Temple for the eight-year-old Shakyamuni statue brought by Princess Bhrikuti. He sent Thonmi Sambhota and other 16 people to India to study Sanskrit and Buddhism scriptures. After returning, he created Tibetan text and began to translate Buddhist scriptures.
By the middle of the 8th century, Tibet king Trisong Detsen welcomed the Buddhism master Santaraksita and his disciple Kamalasila to enter Tibet, established the first Tibetan Buddhism monastery – Samye monastery, and 7 noble youth were taken the tonsure (this is known as “Seven Sages”), gradually laid the foundation of Tibetan Buddhism. But there were still many people opposed.Then the master Santaraksita, who was proficient in Tripitaka, returned to India, and he urged Master Padmasambhava, who is proficient in Dharani, to enter Tibet from India. After Padmasambhava came to Tibet, he showed a variety of magical powers. While subduing the local primitive religion of Bon, which was popular at the same time, it also absorbed some of the contents of Bon, and passed on a large number of precious tantras, which created the Tibetan Tantra (Vajrayana)
What Padmasambhava had done makes all sects of Tibet Tantra respecting him very much. In addition, Trisong Detsen also extensively have the Buddhism scriptures translated in order to lay the foundation of Buddhism. He not only welcomed many translators coming to Tibet from India to translate the scriptures, but also sent Tibetan talents to India to study the canon and translation. In this way, not only has a large number of Indian Buddhist scriptures been preserved, but it has also pushed Buddhism to the highest place among the Tibetan religions. According to the existing “Lhenkarma”, there were 738 kinds of theories of Open School and Tantra of Mahayana and Hinayana translated at that time,among of which 32 theories were translated from Chinese. Therefore, Buddhism was very prosperous. Another important contribution of Padmasambhava was that he had absorbed many of Tibetan traditional beliefs and joined Indian Buddhism, allowing Buddhist beliefs to take root in Tibet and establish a unique Tibetan Buddhism.
In 786 AD, Dunhuang was captured by Tibet, and with the support of Trisong Detsen Buddhism had just risen in Tibet, so that many Zen monks from Dunhuang were invited to come to Lhasa to promote Buddhism and translate scriptures. The khenpo Mahayana (also Mahayana Hva-san)was one of the most famous. During his practice in Lhasa, Zen had gained a large number of believers with simple and easy-to-understand teachings such as no thought, and no intention. On the contrary, the Tantra from India was greatly affected. So both sides wrote their own articles, attacked and denigrated each other. The leader of the India monks was the Kamalasila, advocating the “Gradual Approach”; The leader of the Chinese monks was the khenpo Mahayana, advocating the “Sudden Enlightment”; The relationship between the two parties reached a state of incompatibility.
In 792 AD, Kamalasila asked for banning Zen; khenpo Mahayana asked for debating with India monks and loser tooe the initiative to leave Lhasa. A debate between Chinese Buddhism Zen and India Tantrics was held in Samye. This detat, which was called ” Council of Lhasa (also Samye Debate)”, lasted 3 years from 792-794 AD. Eventually the criticism of the two factions subsided, but the result is still a mystery.
Most of the history books of Tibetan Buddhism in later generations record: Trisong Detsen determined that the Chinese Buddhism Zen had lost, and the India monks won. Then khenpo Mahayana led the Zen monks to leave Lhasa and returned to Tang Dynasty. However, the Chinese Zen sect document unearthed in Dunhuang “Sudden Enlightment Mahayana Righteous Judgment” (AD 794) records that khenpo Mahayan won, and Zen was orthodox and being promoted. Although the academics do not agree on the outcome of this debate, they all agree: After this debate, Tibet respected Mahayana Buddhism of the India Tantric rather than Chinese Buddhism. but the philosophy of Sudden Enlightment of Zen also deeply affected Tibetan Buddhism. Especially in the inheritance of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) and the Great imprint (Mahamudra) in Tibet, it can still be seen that it has been influenced by Han Buddhism.
After Buddhism was introduced to Tibet, it conflicted with the local Bon religion, historically known as the “Fight between Buddhism and Bon”. In 841 AD, Tibet King Trisong Detsen was killed in a coup initiated by noble ministers who believed in Bon religion. After his brother Langdarma was embraced as the “Tsenpo” (Tibet King), Buddhism was prohibited in Tibet. In the first 2 -3 years, Buddhism was not forbidden, Since AD 838, the temple was destroyed, the Buddhist scriptures were burned, the monks were forced to return to secularism or were killed. This caused Tibetan Buddhism to fall into a dark period. After this ban on Buddhism, it took nearly more than 100 years before Buddhism was reintroduced into Tibet from the eastern Tibet of Amdo and Kham, and the “Phyi dar” period began.
–“Phyi dar ” (AD 978 – till now)–
“Phyi dar ” (AD 978 – till now), meaning “the Second Propagation” OR “the later dissemination” OR “the second dissemination”
In the middle of the 9th century, Buddhism fell silent for a long time (842-978) due to the destruction of the Buddhism by Langdarma. Around 978 AD, Buddhism revived again in Tibet. Some people began to excavate and edit old Buddhism scriptures which was called “Terma” (meaning “Buried treasure” in Tibetan language). The sect established based on the early translated Buddhism scriptures in the “Snga dar” period and the “Terma” is called Nyingma school, also known as the old school (old translation school); The re-translated Buddhism scriptures that were retrieved from India after the destruction of the Buddha in Rondamar were called “New translations”.
Since then, Buddhist scholars in India, especially the ones of Nalanda monastery, and Vikrama sila monastery,whom were in a period of upheaval, went to Tibet on a pilgrimage for buddhist scriptures; As a result, the interpreting career flourished. Master Marpa is one of the most famous and important translator in this period. He introduced the Tantra Way such as Kalachakra, and established the Tibetan Kagyu lineage, and to become the first Guru of Kagyu school in Tibet. Marba was the reincarnation of the honorable “Tilopa”, and “Lam Ngawang Choygal” was the reincarnation’s name after Marba. Marba also brought the Vajrayana and theGreat imprint (Mahamudra) to Tibet.
In 1042, Venerable Atisha, a Buddhist master of Bangladesh, entered Tibet, and he promoted the Dharma, rebuilt the Sangha, and spread “Prasangika”. At the same time, Renqin Zangbo (the principal translator) translated a lot of scriptures in Guge kingdom and diffusing to U-tsang region (the middle and the west Tibet) of Tibet, which is known as “Upper Road Diffusion”; Monks went to Amdo to learn and then diffusing to U-tsang region, which is known as “Lower Road Diffusion”;
1260 AD, Chogyal Phagpa, whom the fifth leader of the Sakya school, was confered the title ” Imperial Preceptor of Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty” by Kublai Khan (Mongol Empire); he was granted to have Jade seal to lead Tibet. Hence, the Sakya faction became the political and religious leader of Tibet at the time, known as the Sakya Pa. And starting to master the local government of Tibet. In the end of Yuan Dynasty and beginning of Ming dynasty, Phagmodrupa dynasty rose up and replaced Sakya Pa’s power, Phagmo Kagyu and its branches began to flourish.
As the Kagyu power gradually rose up, in AD 1407 (The fifth year of Yong Le of Ming dynasty), The fifth Dharma King of Deshin Shekpa of Karma Kagyu was confered the title “Karmapa” by Chengzhu emperor of Ming dynasty. And the title of “Karmapa” has been dedicated to every generations of Dharma Kings of the Karma Kagyu Sect since then.
In the early 15th century, Tsongkhapa carried out religious “reform” and founded the Gelug Sect. And Altan Khan of the Tumed Mongols met Sonam Gyatso (the 3rd Dalai Lama ) in Yang Hua (Chabacha) monastery in the south of Korkonor lake, Altan Khan offered the honorary title of “Dalai Lama” which made this meeting an opportunity for Tibetan Buddhism to be introduced to Mongolia again. By the mid-17th century, most Mongolians had believed in Tibetan Buddhism. At this time, the newly established Gelug sect also developed rapidly, and continued to expand. Ever since the middle of the 17th century, the Gelug sect eventually controlled the power of Tibetan politics and religion with the support of the Qing dynasty.
There are five representative works of Exoteric Buddhism that were introduced to Tibet from India.”Pramanavarttika”, “Mulasarvastivada”, “Abhidharmakosakarika”, “Madhyamakavatara “, “Abhisamaya Alankara”.
Most of the nearly 6,000 books of Tripitaka (including Kangyur and Tanjur ) in Tibetan Language were translated from Sanskrit, and a few were translated from Chinese. Therefore, A large number of papers and works of the late period of Indian Buddhism are kept in the Tibetan Tripitaka, especially Hetuvidya ( science of logic), Sabdavidya (science of language), Cikitsavidya(science of medicine)
–Heyday period of Yuan Dynasty–
During the Kublai Khan period, Buddhism especially Tibetan Buddhism gained considerable respect from the Yuan Dynasty; The Dharma master Drogon Chogyal Phagpa of Sakya Lineage was enshrined by Kublai Khan as a State Master, (later promoted to be Imperial Preceptor), and being awarded jade seal. Drogon Chogyal Phagpa served as the Great China Empire’s Dharma King and led Buddhism across the country. In 1263 AD, he returned to Tibet, before his departure, he was named the Master of politics and religion in the Tibetan area. In 1264 AD, he established “Bureau of Buddhism and Tibetan Affairs” and to become the first director.
Today, Tibetan Buddhism is already the most important religion in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, Inner Mongolia, Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, Kalmykia (located along the Caspian Sea), southern Siberia, and in particular the Buryatia and Tuva Republics. In the regions of Sikkim and Ladakh, the people also believed in Tibetan Buddhism.
— Wheel Turning King (Chakravartin)–
“Chakravartin” is the terms of Indian Buddhism. It Literally translated as “The one who turns the wheel”, it is from “His chariot wheels will crush all rebels”
In Indian mythology, when the king who will unify the world appears, a spinning golden wheel will appear in the sky as a proof of his ruling power; The person who owns this spinning golden wheel will be the ruler of this world and the universe, and he will govern the world with “compassion”, “wisdom” , to create a sacred dynasty (sarvabhauma）. Buddhism and Hinduism have both inherited this legend. This title first appeared in the Maurya Empire (324 – 185 BC) and to be one of the titles of “Predecessor” and “Ashoka”. The founding monarch of Cambodia of Angkor Dynasty, Jayavarman II also claimed to be the Chakravartin. Buddhism and Hinduism have all inherited this legend. This title first appeared in the Maurya Dynasty and is one of the titles of Bintou Sala and King Ashoka.
In the lengends of Hinduism and Buddhism that Chakravartin is considered to possess the sacred thirty-two laksana; and it has 4 different kings that are gold, silver, copper and iron
-1, King of Iron Wheel Turning — To rule one of Dvipa
-2, King of Copper Wheel Turning — To rule two of Dvipa
-3, King of Silver Wheel Turning — To rule three of Dvipa
-4, King of Gold Wheel Turning — To rule four of Dvipa
*Dvipa — the four continents that are located in the salt sea surrounding Mount Meru
The Manchu emperors of the Qing Dynasty all claimed to be descendants of Manjushri Bodhisattva. Emperor Qianlong proclaimed that he was the incarnation of the “wheel turning king” of Buddhism mythology, and vigorously shaping the “wheel turning king tradition” in order to enhancing the power of the ruler.
Exotoric means “clear and easy-to-understand teaching”, as opposed to Esoteric Buddhism;
Esoteric Buddhism, or Tantra, also known as Vajrayana, means “secret teaching”. It is another one of the practice methods of Buddhism, as opposed to Exotoric Buddhism