Buddhism in Tibet
By Householder Fo'en
Q: What about Tibetan Buddhism?
A: Tibetan Buddhism dates back to the mid-7th century, the Tubo Dynasty. Tibet's ruler at the time, Songtsen Gampo, converted to Buddhism under the influence of his two wives, Princess Wencheng of Tang China and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. He sent ministers to India to learn Sanskrit and Buddhist scriptures. On their return they created the Tibetan writing system and began to translate Buddhist texts. In the mid-8th century, Tibetan King Trisong Detsen invited the renowned Indian Buddhist scholars Santiraksita and Kamalasila, as well as Tantric master Padmasambhava, to build temples and ordain monks in Tibet, and undertake systematic translation of scriptures. Buddhism spread throughout Tibet. In the 8th century, Padmasambhava and Vimalamitra established the earliest Tibetan lineage -- the Nyingmapa, or Red Hat Sect.
However, in the mid-9th century, Buddhism in Tibet suffered a setback with the Glandar-ma Persecution. It languished for more than a hundred years.
Buddhism revived in the 10th century, with its reintroduction from the Xikang (Sikang) region. The time before the Glandar-ma Persecution is known as the Early Propagation Period, and that after is called the Later Propagation Period.
In 11th century, the Bengali Dharma Master Atisa arrived in Tibet, which led to the founding of the Kadam school. It was inherited by Master Tsongkhapa, who established the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat Sect. It spread throughout Tibet, regions of China, and Mongolia. Adherents later developed the well-known reincarnation system of two living Buddhas, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. Tibet's Marpa also visited India three times to study the Dharma; he founded the Kagyupa, or White Hat Sect. Its second patriarch was the world-renowned Tibetan sage Milarepa. The Sakyapa (Colorful Sect)
was set up by Khon Kontchok Gyalpo. Its fifth patriarch Baspa was given the title of "Royal Preceptor Karmapa" by Kublai Khan, the first emperor of China's Yuan Dynasty. Baspa's successors inherited the title.
In year 1203, a Turkic military invasion of India destroyed Nalanda and Vikramasila monasteries, and Buddhist scholars went to Tibet in large numbers. As a result, a very rich collection of later works of Indian Buddhism are preserved in the Tibetan Tripitaka.
There are now four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism: the Nyingmapa (Red Hat Sect), Sakyapa (Colorful Sect) , Kagyupa (White Hat Sect) and Gelugpa (Yellow Hat Sect).
Q: What are the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama?
A: The Dalai Lama, leader of Gelug sect, lived in the Potala Palace in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital. The New Record of Tibet says: The Dalai Lama was the ranking disciple of Tsongkhapa and Panchen Erdeni was his second one. Tsongkhapa was born in 1359 and attained enlightenment at Galdan Temple in Tibet. He passed away in 1419, in his will urging his two leading disciples to reincarnate life after life to propagate the Mahayana teachings without losing their true nature of mind.
The Panchen Lama, also called Panchen Erdeni, is a leader of the Yellow Hat Sect, his position second only to the Dalai Lama. The Panchen Lama lived in Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Xigaze, Tibet.
- Recitation of Amitabha’s name, relying on his Fundamental Vow (the 18th)
- Rebirth of ordinary beings in the Pure Land’s Realm of Rewards
- Rebirth assured in the present lifetime
- Non-retrogression achieved in this lifetime
The 18th Vow of Amitabha Buddha
If, when I achieve Buddhahood, sentient beings of the ten directions who sincerely and joyfully entrust themselves to me, wish to be reborn in my land and recite my name, even ten times, should fail to be born there, may I not attain perfect enlightenment. Excepted are those who commit the five gravest transgressions or slander the correct Dharma.
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings