One of the most popular spiritual paths that is in the news today is Buddhism – practiced by everyone from teenagers to celebrities – but just what is Tibetan Buddhism?
The answer to “What is Tibetan Buddhism?” is not something that can be explained in a word, or even a paragraph. Buddhism is a very broad spiritual practice, with all branches and types of Buddhism having the same goal – to reach Nirvana. This is the state of being completely free of all obstructions to enlightenment, meaning you are free of all hateful thoughts, desires, worldly obsessions and negativity. At this time, you will enter a state of bliss that is beyond explanation – attaining Nirvana.
In Tibetan Buddhism, three types of Buddhist devotions are taught in order to practice the rules and rituals that will help you attain this ultimate state of bliss. They are Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana – but primarily, Tibetan Buddhism is considered to be Mahayana Buddhism. This means that the ultimate goal of all practices and meditations is to attain the state of Buddhahood, and then to help other living beings also reach this state. The name for the motivation of this practice of Buddhism is “Bodhichitta”, which means “mind of enlightenment”.
Another way to define what is Tibetan Buddhism is to explain the four schools of Buddhism taught in this country. The first is Nyingma (The Ancient Ones) – the oldest school of Buddhism, which is primarily focused on the practice of meditation. The second is Kagyu (Oral Tradition) – there are a few subsects in this school, which deals with meditation as an experience and ritual to test one’s self. The Sakya (Grey Earth) represents the most scholarly tradition of any of the schools, and the Geluk (Yellow Hats) is perhaps the most well known Tibetan Buddhist sect, headed by the Dalai Lama.
The popularity of Buddhism in Tibet was greatly increased by a number of monasteries that were started in the country during the 16th century. It is estimated that during the time period between the 16th century and 1959, when Tibet was invaded, over 25% of the population of Tibet were monks. The most important monastery today, at least by Western standards, is the Drepung Monastery, home to the Dalai Lama.
What is Tibetan Buddhism? While Buddhism itself is already a complicated idea to grasp, the Tibetan form is even more detailed and intricate, taking years of study to fully understand.