The present work is a humble attempt to present Tibetan Buddhism in a holistic way. Although it is a broad topic and very difficult to contain in a single book but the author has tried his best to cover all the important aspects. The book deals with the Pre Buddhist religious scenario of Tibet, Introduction of Buddhism, various sects of Tibetan Buddhism, Iconographical study of Tibetan Buddhist deities, Tibetan architecture, and language and literature. It also throws light on the Siddha tradition along with various aspects of Tibetan culture like the scroll painting, medicine, mandala, religious dance, customs, drama etc. Discussion were also made on the fusion of Tibetan Buddhism in the Himalayan tracts of India and also on the other Asian Countries. How and when the western world was influenced with Tibetan Buddhism is also highlighted. A brief history of Emperor Srong-btsan-sgampo, founder of the Tibetan Empire and Padmasambhava known as the second Buddha of Tibet is described in the appendix. While discussing on aforesaid subjects literary as well as archaeological evidences were used supported with maps and illustrations. Hope the book will be useful for the people who are curious to know about Tibetan Buddhism.
Dr. G. K. Lama, Professor, Dept. of AIHC & Archaeology, Centre of Advanced Study, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi having specialization in the field of Archaeology, Buddhism and South-East Asian Studies has twelve books in his credit namely Tibet Men Bauddha Dharma Ka Itihas, Samyak Darshan (Both in Hindi), Cultural Heritage of South-East Asia, Indus to Ganges, Pakkakot: Some New Archaeological Dimensions of Mid-Ganga Plain, Buddhist Cave Temples of Ancient India, A Buddhist Universe, An Archaeological Journey of Nalanda, Art Heritage of Nalanda, India: A Journey from Lithic to Iron, Indian Culture Through The Ages and Glimpses of North-East India. He has presented 67 research papers in various National and International seminars and 97 research papers have been published in various reputed journals. He has completed a Major Research Project granted by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi. He has invited twice to Lanka and once to Thailand to deliver special lectures.
In 2004 I have written a book entitled Tibet Me Bauudha Dharma Ka Itihas in Hindi which was published by Northern Book Centre, New Delhi. The book was highly appreciated by the scholarly world who was interested in Tibetan Buddhism. The reason for writing on the same topic after 16 years is actually to give a descriptive and update information about Tibetan Buddhism. The previous book throws light basically on the Nyingma-pa, the oldest sect of Tibetan Buddhism while present work deals with not only all the Buddhist sects of Tibet as well as other aspects too, like: Bon, the pre-Buddhist religious faith, geographical features, iconohraphy, architecture, language and literature, the Siddha tradition, various cultural aspects, impact of Tibetan Buddhism on the Himalayan tracts of India as well as outside India, just as Nepal, Bhutan and western countries too. A brief introduction about Emperor Srong-btsan-sgampo, the founder of the Tibetan Empire and Acharya Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche is also given in Appendixes. In brief, I can say that a single book is able to answer all the questions raised against Tibetan Buddhism.
I am grateful to the libraries of Tibetan Institute, Sarnath, Namgyal Institute, Gangtok (Sikkim), Gangchen Keyshong, Dharmasala, Darbar Library, Kathmandu (Nepal) and some private collections which may able to present this book before the scholarly world. The book is supported by tables, maps and a number of illustrations to understand the subject easily. Hope the book will be again appreciated by the scholarly world.
The land of Tibet received Buddhism in the early part of the 7th century CE. Tibet received the largest contribution to its culture in respect of religion, literature and art from India. Buddhism entered into Tibet during the reign of Srong-btsan-sgampo. The Emperor drew up a code of morals and customs and ruled over the kingdom on the basis of "Ten Golden Precepts" which agree fairly with the ten rules of morality as recommended by the Buddha for the observances of the Buddhist monks and the laity in their daily life. A code of sixteen virtues was further formulated to convert his subjects in spirit, not just in name. These are sixteen general human laws and except for the section on monastic co-ordination, the remaining portion of the doctrine received great circulation and the kingdom of Tibet turned towards virtue. Thon-mi-Sambhota, a wise minister of Srong-btsan-sgampo was sent to study in India along with sixteen others to invent a script for the Tibetan language. They studied there with Acharya Devavidya Simha, Pandit Lipikara and others noted for proficiency in the art of writing. There was no form of writing in Tibet at that time; the texts were memorized and translated orally. He reduced the Tibetan language to writing with the invented alphabetic script, consisting of 34 letters, 30 consonants and 4 vowel signs. This alphabet was an adoption of the central Indian script of the 6th-7th centuries CE. With this, all historical events in Tibet and also sacred Buddhist works were translated and written down in this script. He is said to have written 8 books on writing and grammar in Tibetan with the help of Acharya Kusaka, Brahman Shankara, the Nepalese Acharya Shilamanju and the Chinese Ho-Shang. Two of his grammatical works are preserved in the Tibetan Tangyur, namely Vyakaranamulatrimsakanama and Vyakaranalinanama. The Karandavyuha, the hundred precepts and the Ratnameghasutra also deserve mention. Thus, Thonmi is regarded as the father of Tibetan literature.
After the death of king Srong-btsan-sgampo in 650 CE, Buddhism was on the verge of decline but in 750 CE, king Khri-lde-srong-btsan came to the throne and championed the cause of the spread of Buddhism. He built many monasteries and temples and got translated many Sanskrit texts into Tibetan. He issued an edict requiring all Bon-pos to renounce their faith and embrace Buddhism. This reign marks the zenith of Tibetan power and the affirmation of Buddhism as the chief religion of the state. This king is revered as an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri. It was during his reign that Shantarakshita was brought to Tibet. But shortly afterwards an epidemic broke out and the followers of Bon, the old religion of Tibet, provoked the people by telling them it was all due to the introduction of the new form of religion and because of outside teacher in Tibet. In this situation, Padmasambhava the tantric teacher was invited. He visited Tibet in 747 CE and subdued all the evil spirits and local power. He expounded the fundamental teachings of Buddhism, spread the tantric doctrines and gave a fresh impetus to the development of Buddhism in Tibet. He organized the Sangha and selected a site for a monastery in Lhasa where Samye monastery was constructed. Both Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava collaborated in expounding the teachings of Buddhism. Padmasambhava even today is known as Guru and is also called Guru Rinpoche (Mahacharya) and is given the first place as the propagator of Buddhism in Tibet. Indian pandit Kamalshila had also played a great role in propagation of Buddhism in Tibet.
Tibetan Buddhism may be defined as a mixture of Mantrayana with various Tibetan practices and beliefs. Demonophobia and the worship of human beings as incarnate deities is the principal beliefs of the Tibetans. Tibetan Buddhism is not so much an amalgam as a phase of mediaeval Hindu religion, developed disproportionately in some directions. Demonophobia is a compendious expression for an obsession which victimizes Tibetans, meaning the conviction that they are at all times surrounded by fierce and terrible beings, against whom they must protect themselves by all the methods that religion and magic can supply. The Church in Tibet brought all the forces of art, theology and philosophy to aid in the war against demons. The Tibetans believe that benevolent deities assume a terrible guise in order to strike fear into the hosts of evil that is why Avalokita and Tara, the helpers and savers of mankind are portrayed or depicted in the shape of raging friends. But, Tibetan art at times represents gods and saints in attitudes of repose and authority and has also produced striking portraits and more importance is given to portray friends surrounded with terrible circumstances of horror, such as drinking blood from the skulls, all eyes, heads and limbs appalled with fire, etc.
Buddhism could develop in Tibet in 7th and 8th centuries CE when there were internecine political conflicts. We also know that after the assassination of gLang-dar-ma in CE 842, Buddhism eclipsed in Tibet for two centuries and it was revived there in CE 1042 when Atisa (Dipankar Srijnana) reached there as a missionary propagator and propagandist. In the 7th and 8th centuries Buddhism and its practices and beliefs could make headway only among the royalty and the converts who were indoctrinated and initiated in Buddhist lore and practices by the Indian and Chinese pandits. Because of its geographical location, Tibet was frequented by a host of Buddhist scholars from India, China, and Central Asian region like Khotan, Kuchi etc. All these scholars and pandits tried their best to dish out to the Tibetans a sublime thought and a spiritually colourful culture.
After the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet in due course it was divided into a number of sects and sub-sects. The oldest sect which was established by Padmasambhava was known as Nyingma-pa and the later was known as Sarma-pa. Sarma-pa was again divided into various sects like Kadampa, Kagyudpa, Sakyapa, Gelukpa, Zichedpa and Jonangpa. These sects are again divided into a number of sub-sects.
In Tibetan Buddhism two important proponents are combined. The first was that of eternal cosmic Buddha who is supported with other gods and goddesses within the scope of a highly developed philosophical system. The second concept was that of Bodhisattva. Tibetan Buddhism incorporated meditative practices with liturgical rites which lay stress on mantras (magic words), mudras (gestures) and mandalas (cosmic diagrams). In Tibetan Buddhism Bon element, which is an animistic cult governed by exorcists, shamans and priests, is also introduced. In Tibetan Buddhism there are several images either of a normal anthropomorphic form or with multiple heads and limbs which indicate supernatural powers, omnipresence, varied functions and attributes. The deities may be either of a benevolent or peaceful form or of a malevolent or wrathful manifestation or form. Some of the deities of the Tibetan Buddhism are common with the other Buddhist deities in Nepal while others are exclusively Tibetan. The names and functions of some Tibetan deities are also different. Some of these Tibetan deities have two functions; therefore they are included under two heads. Sridevi (Palden Lhamo) is included in female goddess as well as in Dharmapalas. Hayagriva is a Yidam (Protective deity) as well as Dharmapala (Protector of religion). Yamantaka is also both Yidam and Dharmapala. He is also included in Buddhist deities and is represented in sculptures and scroll paintings (Thankas). Vajravarahi is the most important Dakini and also a Dharmapala.
Beauty of Tibetan architecture may be seen in monasteries, nunneries, temples, palaces etc. Initially monasteries were only temporary shelters used by wandering monks during the rainy season, but later they were developed to accommodate the growing and increasingly formalized Buddhist monasticism. The most unusual feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south. They are often made out of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heating or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in Sun light. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area. Tibetan homes and buildings are white-washed on the outside, and beautifully decorated inside. Standing at 117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, the Potala Palace is considered the most important example of Tibetan architecture. Formerly the residence of the H. H. Dalai Lama, it contains over a thousand rooms within thirteen stories and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.
The tradition of tantricism in Buddhism is recorded in religious texts like Manjusri Mulakalpa Sutra and Guhya-Samaja Tantra. The time period of siddhas in Tantric Buddhism was 8th-12th century CE. Rahul Sankrityayan has given the list of 84 siddhas as mentioned in the list of Sakya monasterty of Tibet. Tibet boasts a rich culture. Tibetan festivals such as Losar, Shoton, Linka and the Bathing festival are deeply rooted in indigenous religion and also contain foreign influences. Religious dances known as Chham, scroll painting famous as Thanka, Mandala, and Tibetan medicine based on Ayurveda, dress and customs are those cultural aspects of Tibet which attracted the whole world.
Tibetan Buddhism has also influenced the Himalayan tracts of India and Indian regions like Arunachal, Ladakh, Himachal, Sikkim, Gorkhaland etc who used to follow the Tibetan form of Buddhism till date. Tibetan Buddhism has also a great impact not only on other Asian countries like Nepal and Bhutan but it also influenced the western world. Although Buddhism in Tibet was established and propagated by Indian people but in due course of time Tibetan people has developed it and now this form of Buddhism, generally known as Lamaism has affected a big geographical region of the world.
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