The sparse population, the slow meansured pace of daily life and an almost anarchical disdain for political involvement have encouraged the spiritual cultivation of Buddhism to such an extent that it came to permeate the entire culture.

All schools of Buddhism in Tibet maintain the monastic discipline of the Vinaya the graduated spiritual practices and philosophical systems based on the Sutra and their commentaries,the shastras, and the esoteric meditative practices assorciatated with the Tatras. Different school developed in different periods of Tibetan history,each derived from distinctive lineages or transmissions of the Indian Buddhism.

The oldest,the Nyingmapa,are associated with the early dissemination of Buddhism during the period of the Yalung Dynasty. The Sakyapa and the Kagyupa, along with the Kadampa, appeared in the 11th century on the basis of later developements in Indian Buddhism. The Gelukpa originated in Tibet during the 14th century,but can claim descent from the oters,particularly the Kadampa and the Sakyapa. Each of these schools has had its great teachers and personalities over the centuries. Each has held political power at one time or another and each continues to exert influnese in different parts of the whole Tibet plateau.


meaning ‘old’ in Tibetan, is the oldest Buddhist sect, which dates back to 1300 years. Nyingmapa school maintains the teachings introduced into Tibet by Shantarasita, Padmasambhava,Vimalamitra and their contemporaries during the eighth century. The entire range of the Buddhist techings are graded by the Nyingmapa according to nine hierarchcal vehicles,starting from the exoteric sutras of the Lesser Vehicle and the Greater Vehicle and continuing through the classes of Outer Tantras to those ot the Inner Tantras. It is the InnerTantras known as Mahayoga,Anuyoga and Atiyoga ( or Dzogchen) which are the teachings of the Nyingmapa par excellence.

The establishment of Buddhism in Tibet by Tibetan King Trisong Detsen in 8th century,the Nyingmapa literature was systematically translated into Tibetan at Samye monastery.


The Kagyupa school maintains the lineages of the Indian master Tilopa,Naropa,Marpa and Malarapa,which emphasize the perfection stage of meditation enlightenment or buddhahood within a single lifetime. Malarapa,his biography and songs are classic texts.

Gampo (1070-1153) founded the first monastery of that school at Daklha Gampo in the early 12th century.


When the Benggali master Atisha (982-1054) reintroduced the teachings of the pradual path to enlightenment into Tibet in 1042,he transmitted the doctrines of his teacher Dharmakirti of Sumatra,which focussed on the cultivation of compassion and the propitiation of the deitiess Tara,Avalokiteshvara, Acala and Shakyamuni Buddha. His disciples included Ngo Lakpel Shirop (1059-1109) and Dromto Gyalwei Jungnei(1004-1064) who found the important monasterys of Sangphu Neutok and Reting. During the early 15th century this tradition was absorbed within the indienous Gelukpa school.


The Sakyapa tradition represents a unique synthesis of early eighth century Buddhism and the latter diffusion of the 11th century. The members of the Khon family had been adherents of Buddhism since the time of Khon Luiwangpo Sungwa, a studentof Padmasambhava. Then ,in 1073, his descendant Khon Konchok Gyelpo, who had received teachings of the new tradition from Drokmi Lotsawa,founded the Gorum temple at Sakya.His tradition therefore came to emphasize the ancient teachings of Vajrakila,as well as the new teachings on the Hevajra,Cakrasamvara,and the esoteric instruction known as the Path and its fruit.


The Gelukpa school maintains the lineages of Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419),who established a uniquely indigenous tradition on the basis of his Sakyapa and Kadampa background. His was born in Tsongka valley of Amdo,he moved to central Tibet and founded the monastery of Ganden in 1409. He instituted the Great Prayer Festival at Lhasa,and propagated his imprtant treatises on the sutra and tantra traditions in Tibet,and his disciples were founded many other Gelukpa monasteries all over Tibet as Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Tashilhunpo Monastery, Kubum Monastery and Labrang Monastery.

Tibetan Buddhism reached its height of power and splendor during the period between the founding of Gelugpa through to the mid 20th century. Since then, it has started to spread throughout the world. Its intensive philosophy, unique tantras, profound cultural connotation and communal values concept can commendably fill the lack of spiritual life often found in our modern times, and thus has become more and more popular. Now, in Europe, North America, Macau, Hong Kong, etc, the number of people who take Tibetan Buddhism as their belief is continuing to increase at an ever-increasing speed, making it a truly international religion.

Reincarnation System

Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama

Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama are the titles for the leaders of Gelupa, founded by Tsong Khapa in the 14th century. Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama are the two most influential religious leaders of Tibet.

Dalai Lama

The title of ‘Dalai Lama’ came into being during the third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso in year 1578 of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The title Dalai Lama was endowed by the Mongolian leader of Qinghai Province who was converted to Buddhism duo to Sonam Gyatso’s missionary work. ‘Dalai’ means ‘Sea’ in Mongolian and ‘Lama’ refers to the word ‘Master’ in Tibetan. Dalai Lama means ‘a master with profound knowledge and transcendent achievements in Buddhist cultivation’. Thus Sonam Gyatso became the third Dalai lama for Gedun Drub and Gedun Gyatso were admited posthumously as the first and second Dalai respectively. The title was acknowleged by the central government of the Ming Dynasty in 1587. Later in the year 1653, Emperor Shunzhi (Qing Dynasty 1644-1911) invited the fifth Dalai to Beijing and conferrd the title ‘Dalai lama’ on him officially. A gold seal and a gold nominating album were granted together. Since then the title ‘Dalai Lama’ had been significant both politically and religiously.

Panchen Lama

‘Panchen’ means ‘Great Scholar’ in Sanskrit and Tibetan. In the year 1645 the leader of Mongolian conferred the title ‘Panchen Lama’ on Lobsang Chokyi Gyaltsen, who became the forth Panchen Lama with the former three Panchen admitted posthumously. In 1713, the Emperor Kangxi formally granted the fifth Panchen the laudatory title of ‘Panchen Erdini’, which means ‘Treasure’ in Manchu. Since then the status of Panchen has been established. For the Dalai and Panchen are followed the reincarnation system, each reincarnated boy should be proved by the central goverment since then.

Relations between Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama

As Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama both root in the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, they bear a close relationship with each other. In fact, they bear the relatonship of master and apprentice. For example, the first Dalai Lama was the disciple of the first Panchen Lama. According to the sutras of Tibetan Buddhism, Dalai Lama is the incarnation of Avalokitesvara or the Bodhisattva of Compassion while Panchen Lama the Amitabha, Buddha of Infinite Light. Both of the two play significant role in Tibetans religion and politics. Theoretically speaking, the status of Amitabha is higher than Avalokitesvara, but Dalai Lama was stronger in terms of political and religious affairs. Dalai dominated the front Tibet centered by Lhasa while the rear Tibet centered by Tashihunpo Monastery was ruled by Panchen.

Succession of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama

Firstly, Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama were succeeded by their disciples. When it came to the succession of third Dalai and fourth Panchen, the Reincarnation System was adopted. According to Buddhism, Buddha’s soul never perishes and it incarnates to save mankind. The reincarnated boy should be found and identifed to be the successor. By doing so, the internal strives were avoided. Dalai Lama is said to incarnate to the 14th and Panchen Lama the 11th now.

Religious Symbols

Om Mani Pedme Hum

The Sanskrit ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is the most popular kind of all the mantras murmured by Tibetan Buddhists. Tibetans believe the unceasing murmur accumulates personal merits and helps each person to become Buddha. It can also be seen written on houses, rocks, mani stones, prayer wheels, amulets, and other sacred articles, in the hope that it will bless them.

‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ is said to be the fundamental true words of the Lotus of Esoteric Buddhism. It originated from the chant for Elysium sung by the Buddhist master Padmasambhava, and then became the spoken mantra of Avalokiteshvara, also known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Each word has a meaning by itself. ‘Om’ represents the heart of Buddha; ‘Mani’ means ‘treasure’ in Sanskrit; ‘Padme’ means ‘lotus’, symbolizing the pure dharma of Buddhism; ‘Hum’ represents the heart of the Vajra and implies that following the Buddha will lead us to the final Dzogchen. The whole expresses the good wish for living with the Buddha.