A Brief History of Tibetan Buddhism  བོད་རྒྱུད་ནང་བསྟན་གྱི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་གནས་བསྡུས།

A Brief History of Tibetan Buddhism བོད་རྒྱུད་ནང་བསྟན་གྱི་ལོ་རྒྱུས་གནས་བསྡུས།

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 arrival of Padmasambhava & Master Atisha

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

Nyingmapa School 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.

Kagyupa (Oral Lineage) School of Tibetan Buddhism

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 –

  1. The development of single-pointedness of mind,
  2. The transcendence of all conceptual elaboration,
  3. The cultivation of the perspective that all phenomena are of a “single taste”,
  4. 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.

Sakyapa (Grey Earth) School of Tibetan Buddhism

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.


Gelugpa (Way of Virtue)School of Tibetan Buddhism

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

  1. Tibetan Culture & Customs
  2. About Tibet the roof of the world
  3. Eight Auspicious Signs བཀྲ་ཤིས་རྟགས་བརྒྱད་།
  4. Prayer Wheels མ་ཎི་འཁོར་ལོ།
An Unique Tradition of Tibetan Prayer Flags or Lungta རླུང་དར།

An Unique Tradition of Tibetan Prayer Flags or Lungta རླུང་དར།

Tibetan Prayer Flags or Lungta

Tibetan Prayer Flags or Lungta are hung on all passes, bridges and on the roofs of houses. Prayer Flags or Lungta is unique to Tibetan Buddhism and they have a history well over a thousand years old. Originally the Lungta was used mainly as a military sign. Moreover, different tribes had their particular flag to represent their identity. Gradually, with the introduction of Buddhism into Tibet, the military flags were turned into religious prayer flags.

Tibetan prayer flags or Lungta


Therefore, Tibetan Buddhists for centuries have planted Tibetan prayer flags or lungta outside their homes and places of spiritual practice for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside. Tibetan prayer flags or lungta are inscribed with auspicious symbols, prayers, and mantras.  In general speaking, Tibetan Prayer flags have two distinguished types: – Vertical ones and Horizontal one. Vertical ones are known as Darchor meaning Flagstaff and Horizontal ones are known as Lung Ta meaning Wind Horse.  Vertical ones (Darchor) are rectangular cloth attached to the poles along their vertical lines. Whereas Horizontal ones (Lung Ta) are rectangular or square cloth connected along their top edges to a long thread.

Color of Prayer Flags or Lungta

They are hung in a diagonal line between two objects. Prayer flags come in sets of five different colors arranged from left to right representing the five elements of nature. The five colors are in a specific order. At first and foremost the color comes the blue which represents the sky, white represent cloud or wind, red represents fire, green represents water and yellow represents earth. Tibetan Medicine theory also starts with the five elements, mainly because the five elements form the entire universe. In our human bodies, the five elements combine to form the three Nyepa, or “elemental humor”.

Relation of Body, Energy, and Mind with Prayer Flags or Lungta

The three Nyepa form our characteristics of a body, energy, and mind. Each person has a special combination of the three Nyepa, called the Rang Zhin. This is their elemental personality or humoral constitution. Therefore, Tibetan prayer flags or lungta show that the harmony of these elements is important for the health of our human body. Moreover, it is also important for the earth. If the elements in our individual body or the earth are not balanced or harmonious then we will suffer from the disaster.


Wind horse


Corresponding five elements in the human body, The comparison between the macrocosm of the earth and the microcosm of the human body is also fascinating: Earth = body 20% Earth = body 20% Water = water and blood flow 80% Fire = heart and divine spark Air = lungs and oxygen Ether = mind and soul The elements also correspond to the five bodies, which are linked by the seven chakras (ether). Tibetans believed and prayed that the blessings of the sacred words are carried by the wind. And, it spread everywhere and the world remains in peace and happiness. So, they putting up Tibetan prayer flags or lungta up onto the mountains and on the roofs.

Tibetans believed and prayed that the blessings of the sacred words are carried by the wind. And, it spreads everywhere and the world remains in peace and happiness. As a result, people are putting up prayer flags up onto the mountains and on the roofs.


Chakras and five colors

Tibetan Prayer Flags or Lungta Hanging Time

The Tibetan prayer flags or lungta should be hanged at a particular time as well. The best time to put up a prayer flag is in the morning on windy days. It is believed that prayer flags become the permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure. Just as life moves on and new life replaces old one. Tibetans renew their hopes for the world continually mounting new flags alongside old ones. The symbols and mantras on the prayers flags are sacred, thus they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on ground or used for clothing. The old Tibetan prayer flags or lungta should be burned once it is taken off.



Tsalung (Trul Khor) – Tibetan Yoga Practice རྩ་རླུང་ཉམས་ལེན།

Tsalung (Trul Khor) – Tibetan Yoga Practice རྩ་རླུང་ཉམས་ལེན།

Tsalung (Trul Khor) – Tibetan Yoga Practice of Breath and Movement: 

Tibetan Yoga has been practicing since ancient time. It rooted in indigenous tradition and the form of Tibetan Yoga called Tsalung. Tibet Bon religion is the indigenous spiritual tradition of Tibet rooted before the arrival of Buddhism. It teaches us about deepening our connection with the five elements which are the fundamental energetic qualities of all phenomena.


Therefore, Tibetan Yoga, Tsalung practice is the very ancient practice of Bon tradition, Tibetan Yoga is coming from the source of mother tantric. In ancient time, great yogis and meditators they all practise this. The aim was to enrich their deep meditation spiritual practices. Moreover, to heal their physical health or prevent sicknesses and have a better health and balance. It has a history of 18000 years long.

These exercises are used in the Tibetan Bon tradition. Furthermore, it also used in the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism (Nyingma, Kagyu, Sakya, and Gelug). Historically, it practised and taught only in remote Himalayan monasteries and caves. These magical healing movements are now being taught to serious western students.

The Five Tsalung Exercises

The Five Tsalung, Tibetan Yoga exercises are movements that work with five chakra locations within the central channel of the body: the crown, throat, heart, navel and secret chakra. It contains five types of exercises corresponding to the five elements (Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void).

In each Tsalung, it bringing together the focus of the breath, mind, and physical movement. Tibetan Yoga exercises you inhale and open specific energetic centers in the body. Then you re-inhale and hold the breath and focus while performing a specific movement. The movement is designed to clear the obstacles that obscure and disturb you from recognizing the pure and open space of being. This pure and open space is the source of all positive qualities.



Blockages of the psychic paths are not only caused by psychological problems. Other strong factors like unwholesome food (and animal products), behavior and other external factors can cause them. Wrong behavior and diet are actually an important physical cause of the negative or positive energies. In short, all energetic, mental, and physical disorders manifested from the mind, wind and micro-bacterial aggravation. These are agents to produce channel blockages that finally manifest through physical symptoms.

Mount Kailash

The sacred peak of Mount Kailash and Bon tradition

The sacred peak of Mount Kailash spiritually has a very close connection with Bon tradition as they call the mountain Tise and believe it to be the seat of the Sky Goddess Sipaimen. Additionally, Bon myths regard Tise as the sight of a legendary 12th century battle of sorcery. The battle was between the Buddhist sage Milarepa and the Bon shaman Naro Bon-chung. Milarepa’s defeat of the shaman displaced Bon as the primary religion of Tibet, firmly establishing Buddhism in its place.

The benefits of Tsalung, Tibetan Yoga Meditation Practice are;

  • These exercises will awaken your subtle energy body, opening and clearing your five sacred energy centers (chakras) and channels (nadis). The five sacred chakras are: crown, throat, heart, navel and secret chakra.
  • Tsa Lung improves your ability to connect and rest in a naturally joyful state by alleviating any emotional blocks. Moreover, it also alleviates physical distractions, mental or energetic disturbances, or other hindrances to your spiritual practice.
  • The proper flow of energy (prana) through the body channels brings the cause of a good health and prolongs life. Moreover, it also helps to avoid the toxin accumulation in the nadis. The toxin blocks the nadis and important functions of the physical body.
  • These exercises help to clear the energetic dissonance that blocks clear open awareness, supporting profound meditative awareness on or off the meditation cushion. It is helping to reduce agitation, drowsiness, and dullness.
  • They will help to enhance your mental well-being, physical fitness, and spiritual growth. Furthermore, it also allows the natural human qualities of compassion, love, joy, and equanimity to arise.

We are a travel agency in Lhasa. We offer tours to Mount Kailash in private or a  Budget group tours to the Mount Kailash

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Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour a Traditional Staple Food of Tibetan

Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour a Traditional Staple Food of Tibetan

The traditional staple food of Tibetan: Tsampa or roasted barley flour

Tsampa or roasted barley flour is a traditional staple food of Tibetan, for thousands of years, Tsampa has been the traditional staple food of Tibetan people. It is made of roasted whole-grain barley and is very easy to prepare, both at home and whilst travelling.

There are several ways to prepare Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour and the process of making Tsampa is quite simple. All we do is to wash the whole barley grains, then roast them with sand or alone, and finally, we grind the roasted grains into powder. After that, it is ready for use.

How to make Tsampa, Roasted Barley Flour

In the farming areas, people mainly use water mills but in the nomadic areas, people use hand-mills to grind the roasted barley. There are few different qualities of Tsampa depending on the process of making Tsampa or the quality and the freshness of barley. Some Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is ground into very fine powder and others are quite coarse.

Water mill

Common form of eating Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour

The most common form of eating Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is a porridge which we call “chamdur”. This is especially suitable for small children or patients as it is easy to swallow. Another form is Tsampa dough balls or “ba”; which can be molded by hand and eaten piece by piece. It is also possible to make Tsampa cakes by adding more butter and cheese to the dough.

Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour is also found in Nepal, Bhutan, parts of Mongolia, Buryatia and nearby countries. In Turkistan it is called talkhan and in some parts of north China it is known as tso-miyen. In Indian Bihar Tsampa is made from chickpeas (sattu).

A European variation of Tsampa or Roasted Barley Flour can be found on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Finland’s talkkuna and nearby Estonia’s kama. “Gofio”, which is made from corn, is very popular in the Canary Isles, from where it spread along the Caribbean (Cuba, Dominican Republic) and Venezuela, Argentina, Chile. In North America it was part of the diet of some native inhabitants.

Barley farm


  • Decreases levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood, thus decreasing the risk of heart disease. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2006.
  • Barley is a rich source of vitamin E and the whole vitamin B complex. It contains many important minerals (phosphorus, calcium, potassium, magnesium, iron, manganese, copper and zinc), eight essential amino acids and phenolic substances with antioxidant characteristics, is rich in fiber (insoluble and soluble), and has a large ratio of beta-glucans. It has also been found that juice from fresh young barley leaves is effective in cleaning and detox.
  • Nutritional value is in the form of saccharides.  Barley contains 75 to 85 %  saccharides, 11-13 % proteins and 2-3% fats.
  • It is the key ingredient in making beer and whiskey.  The meal is used as a base in soups, barley flakes in cereal products, and barley flour is added to pasta. Coffee substitutes frequently contain barley, and because of its high nutritional values, barley is used in animal feed.
  • Barley is one of the oldest agricultural crops. Cultivated more than ten thousand years ago, it spread from eastern Asia to North Africa and was the food of the gladiators and soldiers of ancient Greece and Rome. Infusions from barley were used to feed infants and as a strengthening agent for the sick and convalescent. Grain was also used as a measurement unit of weight and length.
  • In the region of the Czech, Republic barley was cultivated 5000 years ago and used to make porridge and flour but was later largely replaced by wheat.


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