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Tibet used to be known as ‘The Land of the Snows’ and in this secluded area of our world a unique culture used to flourish and Buddhism was the main factor. Sadly, in 1959 the Tibetan culture has been systematically destroyed by the Chinese Communists who have slowly but surely forced their Marxist ideology on the people. There have been some signs that a certain level of Buddhist observance is now allowed to take place but with Tibet seemingly disappearing off world maps, who knows what the future holds?
It is generally accepted that there are two periods of Tibetan Buddhism interdispersed with ‘The Dark Ages’ which were from about 838 - 1000.They are:- The First Transmission 640 – 838 The Second Transmission 1000 – 1959
The First Transmission 640 – 8381. Primitive, nomadic and warlike2. Spiritually inclined towards animism3. Priests called Bon - Po existedwho recited mantras and performed exorcisms4. Only with the arrival of the Tantric PADMASAMBHAVA (Guru Rinpoche) towards the end of 8th century did Buddhism take off
The First Transmission 640 – 838 (cont)5. He conquered spirits at the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet in Samye6. It is hard to disentangle truth from myth but most believe Buddhism flourished during the Three Great Religious Buddhist Kings in Tibet namely :- Gampo 609 – 649; Detsen 704 – 797 and Ralpachen 805 - 838
The First Transmission 640 – 838 (cont)7. Gampo was believed to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara(known in Tibet as Chenrezig)8. Detsen invited the famous Indian Buddhist master Sangharakshita who was very influential and means that at first Tibetan Buddhism was exclusively Indian based Buddhism9. They then set about translating Indian Buddhist texts
The Dark Ages 838 - 10001. Ralpachen was weak, he was murdered and his brother took over who was evil and repressed the dharma2. He was himself murdered by a vengeful Buddhist monkBuddhism did not entirely die out but little is known of it during the Dark Ages
The Second Transmission – 1000 - 19591. Translators, temples springing up, trips to India and Buddhist universities all characterise the second wave of Buddhism in Tibet2. Organisational and spiritual development of Buddhism flourished and a number of distinctive schools emerged3. There also developed a Buddhocratic (made up word!) style of government
The Second Transmission – 1000 – 1959 (cont)4. ‘Doors’ to the outside world became closed , teachings of the Buddha were analysed and by the 14th century a complete Buddhist canon in Tibetan had been standardised masterminded by a scholar named Buton5. So we get two texts – The Kangyur 108 Tibetan teachings and the Tengyur which comprise of 225 commentaries
The Second Transmission – 1000 – 1959 (cont)You now need to look up two things if you want to do Tibetan Buddhism in the exam (if it crops up!)(a) Look up the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism that emerged (see previous notes you did and John Snelling pages 201 – 210)(b) Look up different special aspects of this type of Buddhism e.g. figure of the Lama (see John Snelling – Buddhism pages 210 - 213