Vajrayana-Tibetan Buddhism

Vajrayana-Tibetan Buddhism

Buddhism was originally exported from Nepal to Tibet, courtesy of the Licchavi princess Bhrikuti, who married tibetan emperor songstan Gampo in the seventh century. At the time, Tibet was under the sway of a native shamanic  religion known as Bon, and Buddhism absorbed many of Bon tradition may be encountered while trekking in nepal:for example, a follower of Bon will circle a religious monument anti-clockwise , the opposite direction to a Buddhist.

Buddhism only really took of in nepal and Tibet in the eighth century, however, thanks to founding father Padmasambhava. Better known as guru rinpoche or precious teacher-and recognizable in paintings by his wide-eyed stare, and the thunderbolt symbol and skull-cup he holds in each hand-he introduced magical and ritualistic practices from the tantric cult that was then sweeping across south Asia. In doing so, he apparently mediaed in just about every cave in the region, frequently, leaving foot or hand-prints in the rock as signs of his passing.

Bon and Tantra proved an explosive mix, giving, rising to he spectacular branch of Buddhism now knnown as Majrayana, or thunderbolt a diamond sceptre or dagger used in tantric rituals to signify indestrucative . true to its tantric root, vajrayana placed great emphasis on close contact with a lama. or spiritual guide, who steers the initiate through the complex mediations and rituals and progressively reveals teachings at ever higher and more esoteric levels. the most important lamas are regarded as tulkus, reincarnations of previous teachers.

Four main sects developed in tibet, all now represented in Nepal. The oldest, founded by Padmassmbhava, is the Nyingma-pa sect-known as the Red hats for obvious reasons. The Sakya-pa and Kagu-pa orders emerged in he eleventh and twelfth centuries-the latter inspired by the Tibetan mystic Marpa and his enlightened disciple Milarepa, who also mediated his way around Nepal. The Gelug-pa sect, or Yelllow hats, led by the Dalai Lama, is the only one hat takes a significantly differs theological line. Born out of a fifteenth-century reform movement to purge lamaism of its questionable, religious practices, it places greater emphasis on study and intellectual debate

Vajrayana disciples make heavy use of quasi-magical rituals, such as the ringing of bells, the reading aloud of holy texts and the chanting of manras or sacred syallables-most importantly, Om mani padme hum in tibetan meaning Hail to he jewl in lotus. in part, these rituals are aida to mediation, the most important action oa all, but they also srve to acclerae the pasage of the disciple towards the ultimate goal:enlightement. the most visible sign of vajrayana Buddhism is the stupa a dome -like stone structure which serves to enshrine the relics off he saints and to act as a giant abstract representation of Buddhist beliefs. around kathmandus swayambhu stupa, for instance, stand five statues representing the transcendent of dhyani buddhas. stupas are also surrounded by prayer wheels and prayer flags, tibean innovations which allow writen mantras to be not spoken but spun or fluttered into the air.

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