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Development of Buddhism in Tibet

After the unification of Tibet under the command of Emperor Songtsan Gampo, he was able to wed two Buddhist princess from China and Nepal. Both Princess were devout Buddhist devout are and thus Tibetan Buddhism generally started after the legacy of King Songtsan Gampo, Princess Bhrukuti, Princess Wencheng. Both princesses brought different Buddhist sutras and Nepali Buddha statues as well as Chinese Buddha statues. Under the influence of both Buddhist princesses, he built Jokhang temples in Lhasa and sent his minister to India as well as many Tibetan representatives to China to study the teachings of Buddha to bring back the Buddhist texts so that he could spread the knowledge of Nirvana to all the citizen of Tibet. With these Buddhist campaigns and his role in constructing many Buddhist temples in Tibet made him the first Buddhist patron of Tibet.

monks in tibetan buddhism
monastery in tibet

Early Buddhism in Tibet

The period of early Buddhism can be seen in the time period of 37th Tibetan King Trisong Detsen. It was during that time, when King Trisong reinforced the spread of Tibetan Buddhism all over the Tibet, and his first move was to invite the great Indian monk Shankarakshita to Tibet. But Shankarakshita propose King Trisong to invite great Vajrayana Buddhism Master i.e. Padmasambhava. Meanwhile, Shankarakshitea decided to visit Nepal, where Lord Buddha spent his childhood, in order to learn more about Buddhism in Nepal.

Thus Padmasambhava, one of the important Buddhist disciples in the history of Buddhism translated the Buddhist sutra written in Sanskrit to Tibetan. This can be considered as one of the important turn in the history of Buddhism of Tibet. King Trisong also built Samye Monastery in Lhasa which is one of the important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Tibet and the first monastery in Tibet. Other important Buddhist pilgrimage sites that influence in the Buddhism in Tibet are Palcho Monastery, Jokhang temple and the residence of Dalai Lama i.e. Potala Palace.

Revival of Buddhism in Tibet

Until 836 C.E. Tibetan Buddhism flourished all over the Tibet until the assassination of King Ralpachen by his own brother Langdarma and started the dark age of Buddhism in Tibet by repressing Buddhism throughout the Tibet, closing the monasteries, destroying many Tibetan Buddhist sculptures. Many Buddhist monks, disciples of Tibetan Buddhism, direct descendants of Shakarakshita managed to escape the Dark Age. Some fled to northern part of Tibet especially, Lay Vajrayana Buddhists and other managed to escape to neighboring countries.

In 1042, King Yeshe O decided to revive the Tibetan Buddhism and called the famous Buddhist scholars from India, where Lord Buddha attained Nirvana sitting under the Bodhi Tree of Bodh Gaya. This famous scholars was known as Atisha DipankaraShrijana was famous by setting a path for Enlightenment through his book i.e. "The Lamp of Path to Enlightenment". Through sheer effort of the current king, he greatly impacted the revival of Buddhism in Tibet, thus establishing a firm foundation of Buddhism in Tibet. Due to the influence of the king, many Buddhist schools in Tibet were established but only four major Buddhist schools have great influence in the current era. These four Buddhist schools are:

  1. Nyingma Buddhist school
  2. Kagyupa Buddhist School
  3. Sakyapa Buddhist school
  4. Gelugpa Buddhist school

Aside these upside downs in Buddhism in Tibet, the institution of Dalai Lama greatly influence Buddhism in Tibet, since Dalai Lama are considered as the embodiment of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, one of the major Bodhisattvas.

The great art of Tibetan Buddha statues which were greatly influence from the Buddhist art of Nepali Buddha statues have greatly developed the Buddhism in Tibet, and known in many Buddhist countries in Asia and many Western Countries. The Tibetan Buddha statues of Shakyamuni Buddha and Vairocana Buddha i.e. one of Five Pancha Buddhas, are quite famous in Tibet as well as Nepal.

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