Tibetan Buddhism

Early History

The traditional account of its origin is that Buddhism was introduced into Tibet by a Nepali and a Chinese princess, devout Buddhists, who became (7th cent. A.D.) the wives of the Tibetan king Srongtsen Gampo. The new religion was actually established, however, by one of the successors of that king when he called from India the Padmasambhava, a Tantric mystic and teacher who founded (c.750) a Buddhist monastery near Lhasa. Buddhist writings were later translated from Sanskrit in two sections: the Kanjur [translated word], a collection of sacred texts, and the Tanjur [translated treatises], a collection of commentaries (see Buddhist literature).

The early lamas and their successors, constituting the so-called Red Hat sects, rapidly built up power. The Bon shamans, however, fought back successfully, and for over a century the new faith was suppressed. In 1042 a reformer, Atisa (982–1054), a monk from India, arrived in Tibet, unified the priesthood, improved the moral tone by enforcing monastic rules, and tried to eliminate any vestiges of Bon ritual from the religion. He was the founder of the Kadampa sect. Another sect, the Kargyupa, was founded by the translator Marpa (1012–97) and his famous disciple Milarepa.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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