the name of natural, pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet. It is still
practiced by part of the population and many
of its elements
have been integrated into Tibetan Buddhism.
for all living things” is a key characteristic
of the Tibetan Buddhism religion, however most Tibetans are not
vegetarians and yak meat is a staple diet.
Buddhism is made up of several main schools:
6000 monasteries were in Tibet in the 1930s,
less than 70 survived after the ‘democratic reform’ by the
In the nineties
rebuilt from the rubble.
Monks take up 250 vows, nuns (ani) 360.
been living in Tibet since its empire was bordering the Caliphate
of Baghdad in the 8th century. Even today
they are a significant minority. Habaling
Khache is the name of the Lhasa Muslims. Surprisingly there
is also a significant
number of Chinese (Hui) Muslims.
Pilgrims to the Buddhist shrines make offerings of water and yak-butter
Prostrating in front of important temples and holy places
is a popular way of gaining religious merits.
burials: Tibetans traditionally do not bury their dead – the
bodies and left high in the mountains for the vultures. To
are usually chopped into smaller pieces.
all Buddhists the Tibetans believe in reincarnation of spirit,
but while a normal person may be reincarnated as an
animal or an insect some prominent lamas are reincarnated
are called TULKU. Both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama
are reincarnated this way. Tulku reincarnations were introduced
in the early XIV
century as a means
political power and influence. There are elaborate rituals
for discovering the new incarnation of the lama who has
died recently. They
are very well
depicted in the 1997 film ‘Kundun’ telling the story of
the Dalai Lama.
Dalai Lama. A lama is a spiritual leader,
doesn’t have to be a monk. The title of DALAI (meaning ‘the
ocean of wisdom’) is a Mongolian
title. It was first awarded to Lama Sonam
Gyatso by Altan Khan around 1580 AD. Because Sonam Gyatso
was the third
the Lamas of
the Gelug Order he became
the Third Dalai Lama, and his two predecessors were given
the titles of the First and the Second Dalai lamas posthumously.
The current XIV Dalai Lama is Tenzin Gyatso. His photographs
are illegal in Tibet. He has not been in his country
since going into
exile in 1959.
Panchen Lama and
the Dalai Lama are the two most important spiritual
leaders of Tibet. A reincarnated Panchen Lama was traditionally
‘approved’ by a Dalai Lama. Since the 1950 invasion the Chinese
in spite of rejection of religion and not believing
The previous Panchen Lama died in 1989 and in 1995
his reincarnation was discovered. The authorities
took away the
child and replaced him with their
own candidate – a son of party officials. The real
Panchen Lama hasn’t been seen since and is widely
recognised as the youngest
The Tibetan Government in Exile and
His Holiness the Dalai Lama reside in Dharamsala in North India.
Chances of his visit to
Tibet are slim, in spite or signs of liberalisation there.
find out more about the Tibettan Buddhism see the Links section
of this site.