Religion in Tibet
In Tibet, people are deeply rooted and dedicated to religious faith, therefore, religious customs are part of everyday life and Tibetans have developed a distinct religion (what many describes as the Science of Mind) cultures.
Tibet has strongly been influenced by the local Bon religion and Buddhism. The main religion practiced today in Tibetan culture is Buddhism, which first came to Tibet from India in the 7th century. Tibetan Buddhism is divided into four main sects: Nyinmapa, Kagyulpa, Sakyapa, and Gelukpa. Each sect values a similar set of basic beliefs but involves differing practices. Common to all four sects are beliefs in reincarnation, karma (a system of retribution and reward for one’s negative and positive actions), and compassion for all living beings.
Before Buddhism was brought from India to Tibet, the Bön religion was widespread in Tibet region. It had originated in the neighboring area of Shangshung, and until recently there were still centers in Tibet where the followers of Bön pursued deep study and meditation.
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, people take refuge in the “Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha”. “Karma”, the consequence of the actions of past lives, along with the consequences of this life’s actions in a subsequent life, form the theological basis of the people’s beliefs. The maintenance of the right attitude and the right mind to accumulate merit is the key to a better future life; few people hope to reach the enlightened state, by which they will escape the wheel of reincarnation. Each being has to practice religion in the best way possible at the level reached in this present life.
Other Sects in Tibetan Buddhism
Tibetan Bon religion is the indigenous spiritual tradition of Tibet rooted before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century AD and it was founded by Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, whose name means “Supreme Holy Man”. He is considered by Bonpos to be a fully awakened Buddha who took physical form in order to teach others the true path to awakening. His biography bears some similarities to that Sakyamuni. Like Sakyamuni Buddha, Tonpa Shenrab began his teaching career after deciding to descend from a heavenly realm and take rebirth among humans in order to teach them a path to salvation
Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism
The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism has the longest established history of the transmission of all of the four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. This is reflected in the name Nyingma which literally means “Old Order” The other three main schools of Tibetan Buddhism including Sakya, Kagyu, and Geluk are collectively referred to as Sarma “New Order” Because they rely on the Tibetan translations of Indian Buddhist texts that were prepared under the system established during the period of the second dissemination of Buddhism into Tibet.
The Kagyu (“oral transmission”) school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origins to Tilopa (968-1069), a tantric master of India, who is said to have received instructions directly from Vajradhara. Vajradhara’s teachings are considered to be superior to those of Shakyamuni in that he is a “complete enjoyment body”, while Sakyamuni is only an “emanation body. In order to receive teachings from a complete enjoyment body Buddha, one must have reached a high level of mystical awareness, and so the instructions of such buddhas are vastly superior to those of emanation bodies since the latter must adapt their message to the limited capacities of their audiences.
The Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origins to India, particularly to the great adept Virupa, who is the first human to disseminate the most distinctive of its teachings, the practices of “Path and Result” (Lamdre). According to the traditional histories, Virupa was born in Bengal during the region of king Devapala. As a child, he entered the monastic university of Somapuri, where he was given the ordination name Dharmapala. In the monastery, he pursued the standard scholastic curriculum and tantric studies.
The Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism was founded by Tsong Khapa Lobsang Drakpa (1357 – 1419), one of the great figures of Tibetan religious history. A renowned scholar, meditator, and philosopher, his written work contains a comprehensive view of Buddhist philosophy and practice that integrates sutra and tantra, analytical reasoning, and yogic meditation. He was also life to revitalizing Tibetan Buddhism and recapturing the essence of Buddha’s teachings as he understood them.
Other Religion in Tibet
Despite the fact that Tibet is popularly known as a monolithic region, Tibetan Muslim (also known as Kachee) community have blended in and thrived for around a thousand years now. The Muslim population is relatively minor in Tibet, but they are equally identified as a member of the Tibetan family and have been allowed to live on their own, building mosques, schools and making a livelihood of their own. This has, therefore, enabled them to sustain their own identity. It is hard to distinguish Muslim Tibetans from the Buddhist compatriots since both share the same language, food, clothing, culture, and heritage.
Perhaps it was a foregone conclusion that Tibet would become a Buddhist region, surrounded as it was by the Buddhist kingdoms of India, China, and Central Asia. Nevertheless, Tibet was subject to other influences of religions during its formative period, and among those influences, Christianity is one visible example.
Other aspect of Tibet Religion
When you visit Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, temples and palaces, you will come across with incredible numerous of gods and goddesses such as Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities worshipped by Tibetans, and many of which appear on different forms. Somehow, in general speaking, there are four main types of images found in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and temples, each conveying a different level of being in Buddhist cosmology: 1. Images of the Buddha; 2. Images of Bodhisattvas; 3. Images of deities, spirits, heavenly beings, and guardian god; 4. Images of Dharma kings who made a great contribution to Buddhism flourishing in Tibet.
Tibetan Prayer Wheels. Tibetan Buddhism is rich with many different ways of practice. In Buddhist practice, the key factor is the mind, but body and speech can also be applied to strengthen our commitment. So, besides mind training, meditation, and yogic practice, there are also other ways like prostration, pilgrimage circumambulation (kora), mantra recitation and the turning of prayer-wheels to help generate the mind of enlightenment.
Buddhist prayer beads or Malas in Sanskrit are a traditional tool used to count the number of times a mantra is recited, breaths while meditating, counting prostrations, or the repetitions of a Buddha’s name. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various world religions and therefore the term “Buddhist rosary” also appears.
Meditation in Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism has many different schools and lineages, with a variety of practices and goals. All schools of Tibetan Buddhism agree, however, that the final goal of Mahayana practice is the attainment of Buddhahood for the benefit of all other sentient beings. A Buddha, as we saw in previous sections, is someone who has awakened from the sleep of ignorance in which others live, who has broken through the cognitive barriers that impede understanding and become omniscient through a long process of mental training. The key factor in this process is meditation, a general term that encompasses a wide range of practices and goals
While yoga has become a common practice for health and well-being, the ancient tools of Tibetan yoga remained secret for centuries. Translated as “magical movements,” Tibetan yoga can improve physical strength and support positive emotional and mental health, healing the body-energy-mind system with a full sense of awareness and harmony.
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