Tibetan Culture

Buddhism entered Tibet in 10th century and Lamaism saw its light upon the marriage of King Songtsen Gampo with Chinese and Nepalese princesses. As both these princesses followed Buddhism, the faith spread in Tibet also. Afterwards, numerous sects and sub-sects developed along the five significant orders – Nyingma, Gatang, Gagyu/Kagyu, Sagya/Sakya and Gelgpa.

Nyingma refers to historic and is renowned as Red Sect because its monks dressed in red hats and robes. Further, it also promotes Tantrism’s study. Nyingma Lamas have the belief that by following Buddhist cultivation, it’s possible to become Buddha. A renowned monastery in Tibet is the Mindroling Monastery. Gatang sect instructs people to believe in Buddhism as per Buddha’s teachings. It influences different Tibetan Buddhist sects and has faith in samsara and retribution. It combined with the Gelugpa sect as 15th century commenced.

Gagyu/Kagyu can be defined as ‘passing down orally.’ Further, it has been also called the ‘White Sect’ due to its founders (Marba and Milha Riba) dressing in white robes while enacting Buddhism. This sect is centered on Tantrism and encourages oral teachings through generations. It is of the faith that cultivation can be gained through asceticism and obedience. It is also responsible for establishment of the highly renowned incarnation system. Its main shrine is the Tsurpu Monastery.

Sagya/Sakya is influenced by the Sagya monastery. The renowned monastery can be also called the Stripe Sect. Further, the sect instructs people to perform good actions which will help them in achieving good incarnation in next samsara. Further, they are also advised to leave temporal wishes so as to be alleviated from worldly sufferings. One can explore the Sagya monastery situated in Shigatse area.

Gelugpa, is renowned as Yellow Sect. It is also famed as the order of revered religious leaders like Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. This sect talks about reforms in the Buddhist faith and strictly believes in Buddhist precepts. Monasteries drawing the highest number of tourists involve Ganden Monastery, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery and Tashilumpo Monastery.

The homegrown religion of the Tibetan region is Bon Faith. Bon monasteries are spread in Dengchen County of Chamdo and the biggest is Zezhol Monastery.

Tibet received Buddhism as early as the 7th century. Bon faith lost its clout in Tibetan affairs as their rising political interests conflicted with the Tubo Royal family; who then extended their support towards the Buddhist faith. Lang Darma’s rule witnessed some revival for Bon. However, it lost popularity with a resurgent Buddhism. It has survived since then and also utilizes tenets of Buddhism for longevity.

List of Tibet Journeys