Written by Mr. Felix Gerk October 15th, Germany Frankfurt
To be completely honest with you, I didn’t know anything about Tibet. Didn’t know what the people looked like, didn’t know what they eat, what they do – in short, I didn’t know what to expect from this tour/journey at all.
Reflecting on my experience, I reckon it was a good thing. I started out with an open mind and heart and Tibet exposed me to a constant stream of things to explore and wonder about.
Personally I cultivate the habit of travelling alone – that’s what I know and have almost always done. Naturally I was skeptical how My Adventure Trip to Mt. Kailash will play out in a form of a pre-organized group and correspond with my interests. Even more so since I didn’t have the idea and neither laid out the plan for this Tibet trip – my mother and uncle did. We joined a Chinese-american couple that proved to be the best addition to our little team that we could have wished for. After hours of laughter, learning, as well as physical challenge, we parted ways as friends. Which is not surprising since the tour offers countless talking points and plenty of time to converse with your fellow travelers and ask the friendly and forthcoming guides ( Chodak in our case ) regarding any questions about Tibet.
Our little adventure group linked up in Lhasa, where we explored holy sites and enjoyed the atmosphere of Lhasa created by the friendly and curious Tibetans. I have never been waved at or photographed that much in my life before – a smile will easily find its way on your face in this bubbly anthill.
Losal took us to an authentic restaurant to, as he said, “exchange ideas and cultures”, which was the first of many interesting lessons about Tibetan habits and beliefs. What made this so special for me is, that Losal is a very open minded and well articulated person and found joy in talking openly about Tibet culture, spirituality, tradition and everything in between – no small talk.
We continued our well organized tour by driving 4 days to Mt. Kailash were we would give the traditional Kora around this holy site a try. The drive in a minivan was long, but the travel company is committed to even making the long hours of navigating through the Tibetan nowhere as interesting as possible. We saw monasteries, landmarks and always had time to take a picture or enjoy a hot meal and some butter tea.
The Kora itself was not too challenging for me personally, but I would recommend the hike only to physically and well adapted ( altitude ) individuals. Everyone who doesn’t feel up for it, can rent a yak or horse, which is however quite expensive.
The pilgrimage itself is rewarding as can be and one can feel the spiritual energy transcend between the mountains. Another highlight for fans of spirituality or people who want to broaden their horizon is lake manasarovar, where we were lucky enough to be invited to a Hinduism ritual – another experience that I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life.
The drive back is long as well, but offers another highlight in form of a visit to Mt. Everest base camp and sleeping in a nomad tent. With a little bit of luck on your side, you’ll catch stunning views of Mt. Everest and the neighboring 8000 meters above sea level.
The tour itself is well thought through with a good mix of physical activity, “sightseeing” and getting a feel for the landscape and people of Tibet – all in all a refreshing plunge into a culture that fights for an existence. I dare you to take a dip.
Who can I recommend travelling with Tibet Universal International Tours and Travel. Everyone seeking a unique and sometimes challenging experience that takes you on an adventure you won’t easily forget, if you keep an open mind, an open heart and adapt a little bit. Losal and his guides will make sure everything runs smoothly and to your liking.
They will quite literally cross rivers and build bridges for you ( when the roads are flooded ) – and all that with a smile and Buddhist ease and peace.
You will learn, smile and come home full of positive, calm energy – seriously, I’ve drank 5 cups of tea, done my taxes and even cleaned the garage and it’s not even midday.
Embark on a trip that will last for a lifetime with Tibet Universal International Tours and Travel:
- Nepal to Tibet Overland Tour with Everest Base camp
- Nepal to Tibet Overland Tour without Everest Base Camp
- 18 Day Advanced Everest Base Camp Trekking Tour
- TOP 4 REASONS TO VISIT TIBET: THE BEST TRAVEL DESTINATION
- Attractions in Tibet
- Tibetan Culture & Customs
Written by Mrs. Courtney Rae October 8th, United States of America
Travel in Tibet is fraught with ethical and moral concerns, given the current situation. If you want your money to go to Tibetans, and if you want to better understand Tibetan culture and history, as well as what life is really like these days, this is absolutely the company to choose. I had the most incredible trip thanks to Losal and Nima, whose quiet strength, profound faith, and deep knowledge opened the place and culture to me in ways that left me humbled and grateful.
Nima, my guide, was a fount of information and wisdom, answering every question I had no matter how obscure, helping to educate me in the nuances of schools of Buddhism and sharing her own faith in every sacred place we visited. Losal strove to help me understand the historical and the long-standing customs, and cultural traditions of Tibet, and facilitated conversations with several remarkable people who are spearheading projects to improve the lives of Tibetans, from training artisans in traditional crafts to improving health care access in rural villages.
Apart from the major sights in Lhasa like Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple that, while important, are on every traveler’s itinerary, I was able to visit Samye Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery, among others, which few Westerners ever see. Tibet Universal Tours and Travel makes a point of taking its visitors to lesser known but arguably more significant sites in order to better understand the inextricable links between Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism. Sharing food in a monastery kitchen with a pilgrim who performed prostrations for over 500 km to reach Samye was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had. And walking up to Sera Monastery to see the enormous thangka on display during the Shoton Festival, along with more than 10,000 local Tibetans, amidst murmured prayers and wafting juniper smoke, and then joining half the city for a picnic on the grounds of Norbulingka Palace, gave me a glimpse of the lived experience of the faithful.
I stayed in charming Tibetan-run hotels and ate amazing Tibetan food in family-run restaurants—every arrangement Tibet Universal Tours and Travel makes is with an eye to supporting local people and local enterprises, which is a really important consideration when traveling in this region.
Losal even arranged for me to visit to a traditional rural village outside of Shigatse prefecture, so that I could learn about rural life, and the generous hospitality I was shown by the family was unparalleled. Apart from the incredible open-heartedness and resilience of the Tibetan people, there’s the staggering beauty of the country itself, which simply defies description and has to be seen to be believed. I’ve traveled all over the world, but this must be one of the most meaningful and powerful trips I’ve ever undertaken. I hope someday to return.
Here are some more associated topics that you might be interested in:
- My Tibet Adventure Tour…
- Tibetan Local Travel Agency
- About Tibet
- A Brief History of Tibetan Buddhism བོད་རྒྱུད་ནང་བསྟན་གྱི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་གནས་བསྡུས།
Blog written by Mr. Lucero from Spain on 19th September 2018
It is the history, the culture, tradition, devotional faith and the Tibetan people that truly mesmerize me and keeps me haunting for having a Tibet Tour. I remember it was 25th July 2018 and the clock striking 8.10 pm. As I had just returned from my office so I am immediately ran for taking a hot water shower and slipped into comfortable pajamas. I then thought to feed something to my hungry stomach. And what could be better than 2 minutes of instant Cuppa Maggie (my all-time favorite). After grabbing the Maggie cup, I turned on the TV and grabbed my couch to enjoy the yummy soupy noodles. It was then when I found the movie to be tele-casted again on HBO HD.
And when the adventurous idea of exploring Tibet hit me instantly…..
And as I am a globetrotter, it felt like the almighty above immediately gave the answer to my question of “where to go next?” You know that feeling when a secret escape is impending – you can feel it on the top just as you have been manacled down into a workload of riotous proportions. I just want to run away and didn’t want to come back to the office on Monday morning and reply to hundreds of emails those will just be waiting for me.
I wanted to set my out-of-office reply to something hilarious like, “Sorry I am currently out of the office exploring the breathtaking beauty of the Himalayas and drinking yak butter tea, which is a bit disgusting, but I’ll suggest you all to try it out once. I will be returning on…” and then the idea hit me. YES! It’s Tibet where I will be going on my next adventure.
Amazing Tibet Trip Package….
With a reputable travel agency, you can pick this excellent Tibet Trip Package and get set for one of the most adventurous holiday experiences of your life. The tour critically features majesty, limitless, quietness of many sacred Buddhist sites, including the splendid Potala Palace, the great Jokhang Temple, the deeply luminous Sera Monastery and Drepung Monastery and so on. Also, you will travel amidst the world’s highest mountain range, with incredible views of the Mt. Everest, and make heartfelt connections with ‘her’.
Oh Yes, the Not-To-Forget….My Tibet Tours and Travels
Oh! My Tibet Adventure Tour what an adventure it was. From the highlights of the ancient city Lhasa and the base camp of Mount Everest, the Tibet Tours was truly the trip of a lifetime that I’ll cherish forever and the one I had been waiting for. The landscape of the Tibet was awe-inspiring, the people were overtly friendly and amazingly kind, the history and culture were richly rewarding, and the photo ops were everywhere. It was a phenomenal introduction to the Himalayan culture and Central Asia.
Lhasa, City of the Gods
I got off the train at Lhasa station. Nothing but crisp, fresh, and neat pavement. Taking a taxi to the city center, took me via designer stores, tall hotels, and wide planes. This was something I had not imagined. Everything was so new and modern, where’s the spiritual and magical Lhasa?
Soon the driver dropped me off at my hotel I got to encounter a little bit of the real Tibet. I stayed in a luxurious hotel near Barkhor Square and the breakfast was served on the rooftop terrace where one can mostly enjoy the breathtaking beauty of Lhasa. On my first evening, I thought to take a stroll around the town and checked into the supermarket. I ventured off in the direction of Potala Palace and again, I was mesmerized to see all the branded shops and designer stores. It felt like am going to get bankrupt now (in all smile).
Oops, I forgot to mention about the Yak Burger…
I am a hard-core non-vegetarian and I love my meat. On my first night at Tibet, I had a good encounter with a yak. Being on the roads for a while made my stomach cry in hunger for a real big meal and I ended up at a Tibetan restaurant where within few seconds I got myself indulged on the local special of Yak meat. Oh! The dish was sweet and savory, perhaps the best meal of the whole trip. So surely I can recommend eating some burger, steak or yak meat, it doesn’t matter as they are equally delicious.
On this tour of Tibet, you can also pay a visit to the world famous highest peak, the Mt. Everest at Everest Base Camp. If you have more time left, you can also make a visit to heavenly Namtso Lake or explore holy Mt. Kailash in Ngari. I was ecstatic about being in Tibet. I made my dream come true! I wanted to come to Tibet and here I was. Have you ever been to Tibet? What are your Tibetan experiences? Don’t forget to share them in the comment section below.
“With a reputable travel agency, you can pick this excellent Tibet Trip Package and get set for one of the most adventurous holiday experiences of your life.” Know all about my adventurous trip to Tibet….
Below here some more blog links that you might be interested in
- About Tibet Universal Tours and Travel
- Potala Palace
- TOP 4 REASONS TO VISIT TIBET: THE BEST TRAVEL DESTINATION
- A Brief History of Tibetan Buddhism བོད་རྒྱུད་ནང་བསྟན་གྱི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་གནས་བསྡུས།
Tibet Winter Tour. A trip does not only mean travelling to some alluring land of one’s choice and roam around the area to enjoy the time. Yes, all of these are true while you are on a tour, but travelling has always been something more to me – it is a refreshment which helps me to breathe for the rest of the year, it has become a major part of my life, something which I cannot live without!!
Among so many places that I have already visited, Tibet is something which attracts me like its height!! And Tibet travel guides are one of the ‘musts’ when you are planning to have a trip to the Roof of the World. As I said that Tibetan Highlands tops my list of enjoying the vacation or some long time from the scheduled life, I have learnt what can be the best time to visit this mesmeric place – winter!! Yes, though not so popular, winter is my most favorite time to visit Tibet.
Well, I am sure that now you are curious why in the earth I am saying winter is the most enjoyable time to go to Tibet!! So, why not get your answer from this blog…
Become the Solitary Reaper
For me, solitude is kind of a bliss where I can fully enjoy and relish some time with my own self, where I can explore maybe some unknown facts about myself, and of course, the place. So, when I decided to go to the top of the world in winter, I found out that it does not attract a lot of tourists at that time; most of the areas are peaceful and you can enjoy the breezing refreshment fully. I have delved into a much more beautiful Tibet during winter because of less tourists count!! And being one of your Tibet travel guides with this blog, I can assure you that winter-Tibet will never disappoint you because hills are always more ravishing when you have less people around!!
Treat yourself with the Pleasing Weather & Enticing Views
There are many people who think the weather of Tibet Winter Tour will be unbearable. But truly speaking, it is not so!! Yeah, it is really unbearable at some places, but at most of the places you will be greeted with a pleasing weather of highest 9.5 degree Celsius and lowest -10 degree Celsius with the bright ray of sun which will keep on warming you during the day (December – January).
And winter-Tibet always treats with the most perfect scenic beauty of Mount Everest, of the roads, of the sky, and everything around!! Most of us go the hills to enjoy the scenic beauty and peace, no!! So why not choose winter when it can present the best of its beauty in front of you!!
It’s so Easy and also Cheaper to get the Tickets, Permits, and Accommodation during Winter
See, I have already told you that Tibet in winter does not attract a lot of tourists as it not considered as the season-time. And that’s why it becomes a lot easier to get the tickets, permits, and accommodation in Tibet during winter. And you know what, there are hotels who actually offer almost 50% discount on the bookings in winter. So, winter will suit your pocket as well, isn’t it!!
Introduce yourself with the Purity of Tibet – Culture, Festival, and Pilgrims
Visiting Tibet in the season does not offer you much of the real Tibetan culture. But winter is always different. You will experience the New Year festival of Tibet in winter, you will come across more and more pilgrims in winter (who actually involve themselves in farming during summer!), and thus you will know the hardcore culture of Tibet – how the place actually is!!
Receive the Additional Gift of Wildlife Photography
How!! You know it that winter is the season of migratory birds to move from one place to other in search of food and some warmth. As I said, that Tibet in winter is not that cold, you will see a lot of wild birds during winter in Tibet for the warmth they receive at that place. So, for those who love photography, just like I do, it is a grand chance for you to find some unknown birds and snap their beauty. Also, even if you are not photography-lover, who does not enjoy seeing some unknown beautiful birds!! Winter will gift you with that…
Let me know in the comments section below if this blog has become one of your Tibet travel guides; also tell me if you enjoyed Tibet during winter or not. And if you have not yet gone to Tibet in winter and want to visit, but don’t know how to prepare yourself for that, then read my blog of “Preparing Yourself for a Winter Trip to Tibet” – you will get all your answers there… Cheers!!
Here are some other similar post your would like to read
- Nepal to Tibet Overland Tour without Everest Base Camp
- Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials བྱ་གཏོར།
- Tibet Travel Protocols
- TOP 4 REASONS TO VISIT TIBET: THE BEST TRAVEL DESTINATION
Written by Mr. Jeffery Ashley July 18th, 2018, Washington DC
OUTSTANDING Travel Company and staff! Kudos to Tibet Universal Tours and Travel for their excellent services
Tibet is a land of wonders due to its awe-inspiring Plateau Landscape, the ancient, beautiful, devoted Religion, the welcoming and friendly Tibetan people, the long-standing customs, and cultural traditions, among so much more. One can easily envision a trip to Tibet as a top “must-visit” place on a personal travel itinerary. I have wanted to visit Tibet for many years, and to that end, I realized and arranged my travel through Tibet Universal Tours and Travel in July 2018. A most wonderful decision and travel company which made my trip outstanding!
I have traveled the world for most of my life and have been to all 7 continents and 140 countries. I mention that to offer context and to highlight that I am an experienced world traveler. Very rarely do I meet or encounter a travel company or tour organizer with such highly professional, courteous, attentive and considerate staff like those I encountered with Tibet Universal Tours and Travel. Co-founded and headed by Mr. Losal Gyamtso and his wonderful team of outstanding professionals.
Tibet Universal Tours and Travel is among THE BEST tour companies I have ever encountered in ALL of my world travels. My local travel guide Rinchen Pelmo and my driver Sonam were wonderful and thoughtful, kind and considerate at all times, as was Mr. Losal.
They were all so helpful, so accommodating and so professional throughout my entire 10 days stay in beautiful Tibet and clearly invested in making sure my trip was flawless and wonderful! They ensured very informative tours of the sacred sites, went out of their way to make me comfortable, and were adaptable to my needs and interests and offered nothing but kindness, excellent service, and warm friendship each and every day of my trip.
I haven’t enough words to describe or articulate how great Mr. Losal, Ms. Rincehen Pelmo and Mr. Sonam were on my trip. In a word, outstanding doesn’t even describe their company with the justice it deserves. They are the consummate professionals who offer customer service and focus on the warmth and kindness of the Tibetan culture and way.
I will say that if you are planning a trip to Tibet, Tibet Universal Tours and Travel is THE Company to work with. One of the best I have ever seen anywhere in the world!
HANDS DOWN! I highly highly recommend this organization. Truly unforgettable, kindness and lovely people, wonderful company and tour organizer and just an outstanding, professional service throughout. Enjoy Tibet with them…you’ll be happy you did!
Tibet A plateau region
Tibet a plateau region north of the Himalayas. It is an autonomous region of China. It is metaphorically described as the Roof of the World for it is the highest region on earth. The area lies at an average elevation of 4,900 meters above sea level. It has a total population of 3.18 million (census Dec 2014) and occupying an area of 1.25 million km², about the size of Western Europe. Geographically, It shares borders with India, Kashmir, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Myanmar in the south and west. Within China, it abuts Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces to the north, east, and south.
Ecosystem of Tibet
The ecosystem of Tibet endowed with numerous breath-taking natural landscapes and sceneries. For example, the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, along with the Yarlung Zangbo River. It is one of the deepest and longest canyons in the world. The world’s top 10 tallest peaks are here. There are many must-sees and hugely sacred sights located in Tibet. The famous sites are the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Ganden Monastery. Climatically, it is severely dry nine months of the year, and low temperatures are prevalent. The environment is harsh with little vegetation, especially in northern areas.
History of Tibet
Since the seventh century, Tibet has the historical records. It is when a unified Tibet came into existence under the then ruler of the 33rd Tibetan King, Songtsan Gampo. The recorded history owes much to the fact that a written standard script came into existence. Which was devised by Thonmi Sambota, who is traditionally regarded as the inventor of the Tibetan script. Full of mysteries and legends, there are five major phases in Tibetan history. These are: 1) The Primitive Historic Phase; 2) The Tsenpo Phase; 3) The Decentralisation Phase, 4) The Sakya, Pagdru and Tsangpa Kingdom Phase; and 5) The Ganden Podrang Phase.
Economy of Tibet
The economy of Tibet largely bases on the primary sector of agriculture. It much subsistence-based, with some level of extraction of raw materials. The main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, and assorted fruits and vegetables. Due to limited arable land, the primary occupation is raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, and horses. The secondary or the manufacturing sector is not dominant. The service sector is becoming increasingly an important pillar of the economy. Tourism is becoming a significant source of revenue.
Religion of Tibet
The Tibetans have developed a distinct religion (what many describes as the Science of Mind) cultures. It has strongly been influenced by the local Bon religion and Buddhism. In the hearts of the Tibetan people, respect to nature is considered to be the key or the foundation of a healthy and happy life. Moreover, taking refuge in the “Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”, appreciation and a sense of gratitude to parents and respect for teachers, doctors and the elders.
Tradition and Cultures of Tibet
Tibet is blessed with amazingly rich arts and crafts, architecture and music, and festival traditions. These are all reflective of a rich cultural heritage of local roots as well as influence from the trans-Himalayan region. Every Tibetan takes a strong pride in for these. In many respects, Tibet is synonymous with the image of Shangri-La and exoticism of a mystical land gifted with remarkable natural landscapes, deeply devout people, and rich culture.
Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials is a common practice when people die in most Tibetan areas. It has more than a millennium of history. Before Padamsambhava introduces the Buddhism in Tibet, the corpse of essential people was just put in tombs or buried. The reason why Tibetans later chose vulture-disposal is that a story inspired them. It was about one of Buddha’s previous life when he gave away his flesh to a hungry tiger. This story teaches people about the importance of generosity.
For Tibetans, the Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials serves both practical and spiritual functions. Some of the central values in Tibetan culture revolve around being humble, generous, and honoring of nature.
Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials allow the physical bodies of Tibetans to turn to the earth in a way that generously provides a meal for the vultures and very minimally disturbs the environment. Because of their belief in reincarnation, death is more of a transition as opposed to an ending. They believe the soul moves on from the body at the very instant of death, leaving very little room for attachment to the physical body after death.
In fact, for the soul of the person to have a smooth transition into their next life, the Tibetans believe there should be no trace left of the physical body after death, providing another advantage of this practice.
According to Tibetan Buddhist history says that at the beginning of the 12th century, an Indian master called Padhamba Sangye started the Shichey or the pacification school in Tibet. And his spiritual wife and student, Machik Labdron practiced and taught the teaching of “Changing corpse into food.” This practice is known as “Chod,” and its primary purpose is to cut attachment to our physical body.
This also strongly influenced Tibetan people’s mind to give away their dead body to hungry vultures. They are special people namely burial master “Tobden” in the Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials system. “Tobden” takes the corpse to the vulture disposal ground and cut them into pieces so that the vultures can eat them conveniently.
Drigung Til monastery in Tibet is a most sacred place for Tibetan Sky-burial site.
Above summary are just a nutshell overview of the Tibetan Sky Burial or Celestial Burials and the reasons for why they do so. However, many Non-Tibetans might be extremely curious about the following associated topics.
1. How efficiently is the Burial Master able to cut up another person?
Though it sounds like a gruesome job, Buddhism teaches us impermanence of life and the transmigration of spirits. There is no need to preserve the body as it is now an empty vessel. Therefore, the burial master perceives that his service is purely an act of generosity and compassion for all beings. It is an essential part of virtues in Buddhism practice.
2. Does everyone get to see the body pieces?
There are some restrictions to see the scene, only the helpers of funeral service can see the body that is arranged by the deceased family. The local government law prohibits Tourist to go and look around the sky burial.
3. If Tibetans believe that no part of the body should remain. what do they do with the bones?
No trace of the physical body remains at the sky burial. The Burial Master process the bodies neatly without leaving remains. The tiny pieces of fragmented or smashed bones mixed with bones Tsampa (Roasted Barley Flour) and feast to the vultures.
4. Does the family or loved ones allow to watch the whole Tibetan sky burial process?
Family members and relatives will not participate and watch the funeral process at the sky burial.
Here go some other relevant pages on our website
- Getting to Tibet
- Tibet travel permits
- Tibet tour packages
- Tibetan travel agency
The arrival of Buddhist Scriptures
History of Tibetan Buddhism can be traced back to the latter half of the 2nd century. When Thothori Nyantsen was the king of Tibet. During his time, some Buddhist scriptures arrived in southern Tibet from India. The 3rd century saw the spread of scriptures in the northern part of Tibet. At this point of time, Buddhism was not a dominant religion in Tibet. But, it was actually beginning to take shape. The tantric text was yet in the process of being written in India.
King Songtsen Gampo
The first major event in the history of Tibetan Buddhism occurred during the reigns of King Songtsen Gampo in 641. During his rule, Tibet was unified and he also married two Buddhist, Princess Wencheng from China and Princess Bhrikuti Devi from Nepal. This was followed by Buddhism being declared as the State Religion. A network of 108 Buddhist temples was constructed. And, to facilitate the installation of the Buddha statues his wives had brought from their homes. However, along with all this, conflict with the existing national religion, Bon, too continued for long.
The most important event in the history of Tibetan Buddhism was the arrival of sage Padmasambhava. He was invited over to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen in the year 774. Padmasambhava translated numerous Buddhist texts into Tibetan language and combined tantric Buddhism with the local Bön religion. It created what is today widely known as the Tibetan Buddhism. Apart from these, Padmasambhava also laid down the foundation of the first Tibetan Buddhist School, Nyingma. Subsequently, in the coming years, all the other schools of Tibetan Buddhism arose from this School itself.
By the middle of the 9th century, Buddhism suffered a major opposition from the locals. Furthermore, the government withdrew its support. It took the arrival of another great Indian scholar, Atisha to restore Buddhism in Tibet. His disciple, Dromton laid down the foundation of yet another old School of Buddhism, Kadampa.
With the advent of the 11th century, Tibetan Buddhism became dominant in Central Asia. Especially in countries like Mongolia and Manchuria. In both these countries, it was adopted as the State Religion. From the 11th century onwards, the other Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug, also started emerging. In the successive centuries, each of these Schools established itself in different parts of Tibet.
Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism
Nyingma (The Ancient Ones’) Nyingma implies ancient and old in the Tibetan language. This School is the oldest amongst the four school. It is also the largest one after the Gelukpa School. Because the Nyingma lamas wear red robes and caps. There is another name of the school is the Red Hat Sect in the history of Tibetan Buddhism.
History of Nyingmapa Tradition
The School traces its origin to the 8th century when Guru Padmasambhava and the Nalanda University abbot Shantarakshita came to Tibet. King Trisong Deutsan (742-797) invited them to spread Buddhism there. Guru Padmasambhava and Shantarakshitas arrived along with 108 translators and 25 of Padmasambhava’s trusted disciples.
At this point in time, Bon religion was prevalent in Tibet. King Trisong Deutsan entrusted the task of translating the Buddhist Dharma Texts into the Tibetan language. He also entrusted to both these men and their translators and disciples. Padmasambhava looked after the translation work of tantric while Shantarakshita paid attention to the Sutra-teachings. These laid the foundation of the Tantric history of Tibetan Buddhism.
From the 8th century to 11th century, the Nyingma was the sole school of Buddhism in Tibet. It was a period when Buddhism was severely suppressed by the ruling kings. It was only after the 11th century that Nyingma recognized itself as a separate School due to the emergence of other Schools. The followers of this School called themselves Nyingmapa. Nyingma happens to be the only one amongst the four schools whose supporters have never been in charge of political power.
Characteristics of Nyingmapa Tradition
Unlike other Schools, where tantric teachings involve four levels, Nyingma School has 6 levels. The Outer Tantra comprises Kriya, Carya or Ubhaya, and Yogatantra while the Inner Tantra includes Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga/Dzogchen (The “Great Perfection”).
The Termas (Hidden Treasures) and the Tertons (treasure revealers) are of special mention. It is believed that during the reign of king Langdarma when Buddhism was on a decline. Padmasambhava, along with his disciples, hid numerous scriptures, ritual objects, and relics in concealed places to protect Buddhism. This gave rise to the practice wherein two methods of dharma transmission was adopted. The first one involved “long” oral transmission from Teacher to a student in unbroken lineages. While the other one was basically a “short” transmission of “hidden treasures”. This discovery could either be physical, from the rocks and caves or directly to the minds of Terton.
Six Mother Monasteries of Nyingmapa Tradition in Tibet
Six Monasteries have been considered mother monasteries in the Nyingma tradition. Initially, these monasteries included Dorje Drag, Mindrolling and Palri monastery in Upper Tibet. Kathok, Palyul and Dzogchen monasteries in Lower Tibet. However, the decline of Palri Monastery and subsequent growth of Shechen Monastery led to Dorje Drag and Mindroling in Tsetang becoming the mother monasteries in the upper Tibet. In the central and lower Tibet, Shechen and Dzogchen and Kathok and Palyul Monasteries occupied the position of Mother Monasteries respectively. Quite often, the Dodrubchen replaces Kathok in the list. Samye monastery, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet belongs to this tradition. From these mother monasteries, several other monasteries were developed not only in Tibet but also in Bhutan and Nepal.
The another name of Kagyu School is the Oral Lineage” and “the Spotless Practice Lineage” school.
History of Kagyupa
The Kagyu School owes its origin in Tibet to the great Translator Marpa (1012-1097). Marpa spent 17 years in India. During this period, he received teachings from the renowned Indian sages Tilopa and Naropa. Marpa spread these teachings in Tibet. Amongst his disciples, Milerepa was the most important one. Milerepa, in turn, had a disciple Gampopa (1079-1153). He established the distinct Kagyu School. Further, Gampopa’s teaching also led to the foundation of ‘Four Major School’ and ‘Eight Minor’ sub Schools of Kagyu.
Characteristics of Kagyupa
The doctrine lays emphasis on four principal stages of meditative practice. The Four Yogas of Mahamudra through which the follower achieves the perfect realization of Mahamudra. The four stages include –
- The development of single-pointedness of mind,
- The transcendence of all conceptual elaboration,
- The cultivation of the perspective that all phenomena are of a “single taste”,
- The fruition of the path, which is beyond any contrived acts of meditation.
Four Major Schools of Kagyupa
Kagyu School comprises one major and one minor subsect. The major subsect, Dagpo Kagyu that includes all those Schools dating back to the times of Gampopa. It is further subdivided into four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. The Pagtru Kagyu (minor subsect) gave birth to eight subsects – Drukpa Kagyu, Drikung Kagyu, Mar Kagyu, Shugseb Kagyu, Taklung Kagyu, Trophu Kagyu, Yamzang Kagyu and Yelpa Kagyu.
Kagyupa Monasteries in Tibet
In the history of Tibetan, Kham, and eastern Tibet is the center of the BuddhismImportant Kagyu Monasteries. Some of the important Buddhist Monasteries of Tibet include Palpung Monastery, Ralung Monastery, Surmang Monastery and Tsurphu Monastery.
History of Sakyapa
During the late 11th century, Sakya Schools of Tibetan Buddhism emerged when the Buddhist scripts were being translated from Sanskrit to the Tibetan language in the second round of translation. “Five Venerable Supreme Masters” – Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, Sonam Tsemo, Drakpa Gyaltsen, Sakya Pandita and Chogyal Pakpa founded the school. The first monastery of this sect was established by Tibetan lama, Khon Konchog Gyalpo. The monastery was erected at a unique grey landscape of Ponpori Hills near Shigatse in southern Tibet. It is from here that Sakya that translates into ‘Pale Earth’ draws its name.
Characteristics of Sakyapa
The most important teaching of the Sakya sect in the history of Tibetan Buddhism is the system of Lambdre or the “Path and its Fruit”. This is drawn from the Siddha Virupa (Birwapa/Birupa) and rests upon the Hevajra Tantra. The esoteric Vajrayogini lineage known as “Naro Khachoma” and tantric practices also forms part of the Sakya School.
Unlike other Schools, Sakya has two different forms of teachings. The first one is for the generic audience and has sutra as its basis. On the other hand, the second is private education with tantric as its base.
Sub-schools of Sakyapa Sect
Two sub-schools of Sakya sect spring from the main lineage. The Ngor was established by Ngorchen Kunga Zangpo and Tshar was founded by Tsarchen Losal Gyamtso.
Important Sakyapa Monasteries in Tibet
Important Monasteries in the history of Tibetan Buddhism associated with Sakya sect include the Sakya Monastery, Gonggar Monastery, and the Erer Monastery. The location of the Gonggar Monastery is in Gonggar County of Shannan Prefecture. And, the Ngor Monastery stands near Shigatse.
The most recent, nonetheless the largest of all the Schools, the Gelug is the School of the Virtuous.
History of Gelugpa Tradition
It was founded by Gyalwa Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) as a reform movement within the Tibetan Buddhism. Gyalwa Tsongkhapa was a philosopher and a Tibetan religious teacher who was greatly influenced by the Kadam School of Tibetan Buddhism (11th century). The Kadampa had three lineages and Tsongkhapa combined all the three along with Sakya, Kagyu and other teachings to present his doctrine.
The first monastery of the Gelug School was founded by Tsongkhapa at Ganden. This monastery, till present date, is the nominal head of the school, however, its temporal head and most influential figure are the Dalai Lama. The first Dalai Lama, Gyalwa Gedun Drupa, was the disciple of Tsongkhapa. The current Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso.
By the time, 16th century drew to its end, the Gelug School had established itself as the most important School in Tibetan Buddhism. From the 17th century onwards to the mid of the 19th century, the Dalai Lama held the political power over central Tibet.
Characteristics of Gelugpa Tradition
The primary teachings of the Gelug School are Lamrim, or the “Stages of the Path” and the systematic cultivation of the view of emptiness. The first teaching rests upon the teachings of Atisha, an 11th-century Indian master. This is united with the deity yogas of Highest Yoga Tantra deities where the central focus is the realization of the indivisible union of bliss and emptiness.
Each Gelug Monastery has its own set of texts, however, the texts written by the Gelug School founder are considered most important. These texts are – The Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path, The Great Exposition of Tantras, The Essence of Eloquence on the Interpretive and Definitive Teachings, The Praise of Relativity, The Clear Exposition of the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja and The Clear Exposition of the Five Stages of Guhyasamaja.
Important Gelugpa Monasteries in the history of Tibetan Buddhism
Important Gelug Monasteries include Ganden Monastery, Sera Monastery, Drepung Monastery, and Tashi Luhnpo Monastery. The monks of this monastery wear yellow hats which is why they are also called the Yellow Hat Sect.
Tibet Universal Tours and Travel offers in-depth thematic tour services, predominately focusing on Tibetan Bon religion and the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, for more information please link to THEMATIC TOURS
Here are some more topics about Tibet and Tibetan culture
- Tibetan Culture & Customs
- About Tibet the roof of the world
- Eight Auspicious Signs བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྟགས་བརྒྱད་།
- Prayer Wheels མ་ཎི་འཁོར་ལོ།
- TOP 4 REASONS TO VISIT TIBET
Visit Tibet to discover the amazing place in the earth. Here are top 4 reasons to visit Tibet. Traveling to Tibet gives you a great opportunity to explore the plateau region north of the Himalayas. The average altitude of Tibet is over 4000 meters above sea level. It is best described as the “Roof of the World”. For centuries Tibet has been known as the last home of mystery, the hidden and sealed land. In the place, where ancient mysteries still survive that have perished in the rest of the Orient. Many people from all over the world want to visit Tibet as a trip destination for at least once in their lifetime.
After a glance at the reasons below to visit Tibet, the Awe-inspiring Plateau Landscape, the Overwhelming Devoted Religion, the Welcoming and Friendly Tibetan People, the Long-standing Customs, and Traditions. One will surely start picturing before their eyes a trip to Tibet as a must-visit place. A well-known English proverb says that “Better to see something once than hear about it a thousand times.”
1. Visit Tibet the Awe-inspiring Plateau Landscape
In many respects, Tibet is synonymous with the image of Shangri-La. And, the exoticism of a mystical land gifted with remarkable natural landscapesn and beauty. Over one-fifth of world’s top 100 independent summits is situated in Tibet. They include the Mt. Everest (alt. 8844.43m), “the world’s summit”; the Mt. Cho Oyu (alt. 8201m), the sixth highest mountain on the planet and the Mt. Shishapangma (alt. 8013m), the fourteenth highest mountain in the world. Moreover, the Mt. Kailash, one of the most sacred spots on earth, and is also a holy pilgrimage site for many religious believers in South Asia including the Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Bon faiths.
There are numerous gorgeous and beautiful lakes in Tibet. These are Yamdrok Lake, Namtso Lake, Manasarovar Lake and Lhamo La-tso Lake. In addition, there are many other natural beauties like deep canyons, grand glaciers, bare stones, Gobi desert, lush forest, wild species, and vast prairie in Tibet. It shows a good reason to visit Tibet and experienced with a unique land and culture.
2. The Overwhelming Devoted Religion
Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence on every aspect of their lives. Tibetan Bon religion is the indigenous spiritual tradition of Tibet. It rooted before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century AD. But nowadays Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion. It is evident when you set your eyes on many things around you. Even on the attractive key chains that you buy from the smallest street shops. There has a depiction of Buddhism in some form or another. Tibetan people take their religion, beliefs, and values very seriously.
If you visit Tibet, you can visit many ancient monasteries, temples and palaces. These are dotted around the land of Tibet. You can explore many best-loved religious sites, which would enable you to familiarize with the biographies of the renowned spiritual masters and scholars of the past. You can observe the unique landscapes and the buildings that represent Bon and Buddhist architectures. They include such sites as the Potala Palace, which was built in the 7th century by the Tibetan King Songtsen Gambo. Jokhang and Ramoche temples, which are two of the holiest Buddhist temples in Tibet. These were built in the 7th century. The Yumbu Lhagang Palace, which was built in the second century B.C. by the first king of Tibet, ‘Nyatri Tsenpo’. Gaden, Sera and Drepung Monasteries, which are the biggest learning centres of Gelugpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. All are attracting you to visit Tibet.
3. The Welcoming and Friendly Tibetan People
Tibet has a rich cultural heritage as well as a deep unique societal tradition and values. Wisdom, knowledge about life, compassion, tolerance and peace of mind are some of the key values that underpin the Tibetan culture. The simplicity of life and the spirituality of minds of the people in this land are always distinct in many senses. Even a few days of stay and travel in and around Tibet will leave you with a strong impression. The simple traditional courtesies and values in the life of people. You also impressed by the ways in which one can attain some of the desirable qualities such as compassion and empathy for others.
4. The Long-standing Customs and Tradition
As many cultures around the world, Tibet has formed its own unique customs and traditions over thousands of years. They include traditional beliefs and practices. These are much related to everyday lives (i.e. clothing, food, housing, festival, folklore, wedding, funeral, customs and social taboos). Furthermore, the special sectors such as animal husbandry, astronomy, calendric system, medicine, architecture, hardware, textiles, literature, paintings, and sculptures. The music, dance, and local operas are great assets to enjoy as tourists.
Buddhist Prayer Beads or Mala ཕྲེང་བ།
Buddhist Prayer Beads or Mala in Sanskrit are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited. It also uses to count breaths while meditating and counting prostrations, or the repetitions of a Buddha’s name. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads or mala used in various world religions. And, therefore the term “Buddhist rosary” also appears.
Conventional Buddhist tradition
Conventional Buddhist tradition counts the beads at 108. It is signifying the mortal desires of mankind. The number of the Buddhist prayer beads or mala is attributed to the Mokugenji Sutra. Wherein Shakyamuni Buddha instructed King Virudhaka to make such beads and recite the Three Jewels of Buddhism. In later years, various Buddhist sects would either retain the number of beads or divide them into consecutive twos, fours, for brevity or informality. Attachment of the decorative tassel to the beads, flanked by talismans or amulets depending on one’s local tradition. Because prayer beads are often painted in pigment. Various traditional schools attribute a consecration ritual by the Sangha to the beads. To “open the eyes” for the purpose of achieving Enlightenment unique to the Karma of each believer.
Since a common part of Tibetan Buddhist practice is repeating (mentally or out loud) certain mantras thousands or even hundreds of thousands of times. It is useful to use your mala for counting off the number of prayers. This is like a spiritual abacus. It is helpful, even if you are not actively counting. The mala serves to focus and calm the mind though the repeated recitation of the mantra.
Materials of Mala
The most common type of materials of the Buddhist prayer beads or mala is precious or semi-precious stones, wood, seeds, or bone.
Each time you work your way around the mala, saying a mantra for each bead. You are considered to have completed 100 mantra recitations. The extra 8 beads are “spare” to make up for any miscounts or mistakes you may make along the way.
There is also a head bead and it is larger than the others and it is often called a “guru bead.” Some believe that these Buddhist prayer beads have a special significance, as representing one’s guru. For example, but very practically, this bead is the starting point for the circuit and is not counted among the 108 total.
Counting of a large number of mantras
In case it is necessary to recite a very large number of mantras, Tibetan Buddhist Beads or malas have Bell and Dorje counters. It is a short string of ten beads, usually silver, with a bell or Dorje at the bottom. The Dorje counter is used to count each round around the mala. And the bell counters to count each time the Dorje counter runs out of beads. After that, the Dorje counter is reset. These counters are placed at different points on the mala depending on tradition. Sometimes at the 10th, 21st or 25th bead from the Guru bead. Traditionally, one begins the mala in the direction of the Dorje (skillful means) proceeding on to the Bell (wisdom) with each round.
A ‘Bhum’ counter, often a small brass or silver clasp in the shape of a jewel or wheel is used to count 1000 repetitions. When mala is not in use you can hang it in a clean place, maybe near your altar. We actually keep ours in a special bookshelf under our altar. It’s all up to you and your intention to treat it with care and respect while maintaining a practical, non-extreme attitude.