Tibetan Buddhism

Katinka Hesselink 2010, 2014, 2016

Tibetan Buddhism has been called 'Vajrayana Buddhism', because it is part of the tantric Buddhist current, within Mayahana Buddhism.

The word Vajra can be explained as 'thunderbolt' or 'Diamond like'. It stands for the clear constancy of the mind of the enlightened meditator. Vajrayana is then the path of meditation, specifically visualization meditation. This doesn't mean all Tibetan Buddhists meditate, far from it. It does mean that the most respected of their spiritual leaders DO.

Prayer Wheels 

Detail of Prayer Wheels with Tibetan Pali Script, Kagbeni, Nepal
One of the most famous aspects of Tibetan Buddhism is the prayer wheels. These are turned by the faithful in the conviction that the prayer will go up in the air and help humanity gain enlightenment

Devotion - an alive aspect of Tibetan Buddhism 

Tibetan Buddhists believe ritually walking around a a mountain, a temple or a monastery, will help cleanse them spiritually. This circumambulating is often done while prostrating at every step - as shown in this picture. If you remember the Tibetan Climate and height - you will realize that this is no small feat.Buddhist Pilgrims Outside Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet

The Bodhisattva Vow

In all forms of Mahayana Buddhism, including Vajrayana Buddhism, the Bodhisattva Vow plays an enormously important part. The idea of staving off salvation (Nirvana) till all sentient beings have been saved is inspiring after all.

Types of Tibetan Buddhism 

There are 4 or 5 main schools of Tibetan Buddhism (depending on who you ask).

The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearance.
— Atisha was a famous Tibetan Buddhist sage

The Nyingma Tradition

The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism traces its origin to the Indian adept, Guru Padmasambhava, who came to Tibet in 817 C.E. at the invitation of King Trisong Deutsan (742-797) in order to subdue the evil forces then impeding the spread of Buddhism. Guru Rinpochey, as he is popularly known, bound all evil spirits by oath and transformed them into forces compatible with the spread of Buddhism. In collaboration with the great Bodhisattva Abbot Shantarakshita, Guru Rinpochey then built Samyey monastery, which became a principal centre of learning and the site where many of the texts that would make up Tibet's vast Buddhist literature were first translated into Tibetan.

The Sakya Tradition

The Sakya tradition is closely bound up with the Khon ancestral lineage, which derived from celestial beings. The lineage has descended intact up to the present time from Khon Könchok Gyelpo(1034-l 102), founder of the Sakya tradition through hereditary lama's.

Gelugpa tradition

Drepung Monastery The Kadampa tradition founded by Atisha was the direct source of inspiration for the development of the Gelug tradition founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419). The Gelugpa lineage is the one the Dalai Lama belongs to. I'm a Gelugpa Buddhist and the best way for most people to start on this path is to study the Lam Rim, though there are Kagyu and Nyingma versions of the Lam Rim as well.

Kagyu tradition

The Kagyu lineage, sometimes referred to as the "oral lineage" of Tibet, originated with the great yogi Tilopa, who lived in Northern India around the 10th century A.D. He is considered the founder of the lineage and, in addition, he received four special transmissions (Tib: bka-babs-bzhi) for which he became the lineage holder.

At all times, in every way, keep watch upon yourself.


The leader of Tibetan Buddhism: the Dalai Lama 

Pema Chodron: the most popular female Buddhist Teacher

And she's a Tibetan Buddhist (though not a Tibetan)

Mandalas and other Tibetan Buddhist art  Tibetan Buddha Statues

More Tibetan Buddhism