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About Tibet


Buddhism took root in India and spread throughout Asia. In Tibet it competed with the native shamanistic religion ( Bon), which it eventually absorbed while retaining some of its symbolism.

Buddhism is the following of the path to self-awareness and enlightenment, a way of dissolving the emotional confusion within ourselves that is seen as the source of human strife. The Buddhist must commit himself to the " Three Jewels" - to the Buddha ( Sakyamuni, the manifestation of the ideal of enlightenment); to the Dhama( the way revealed by Buddha); and to Sangha ( devotion to the religious community). And in Tibet there is a fourth " jewel" devotion to a spiritual teacher, or lama.

There are three types of Buddhism. The first is known as Hinayana ('' the lesser vehicle"), which presents the basic teachings of the Buddha himself, its practice requires a high degree of moral discipline combined with meditation. As the number of devotees grew, so the monasteries expanded, requiring more complex administration on the part of the monks, which in turn was to have political implications. Gradually Tibetan government became theocratic, a process reinforced by the custom whereby families made a contribution to the Buddhist order by offering a son as a monk.

Mahayana(" the greater vehicle") is based on Hinayana but asserts that the search for enlightenment ( nirvana) should not require complete detachment from the world but also find expression in compassion and love. Compassion is one of the central themes of Tibetan Buddhism, embodied in the " bodhisattva," the disciple who refrains from entering nirvana in order to save others. In Tibet the most important bodhisattva is Chenrezi, manifested in many temples, sometimes with four arms, sometimes a thousand, and as many faces. The vocal expression of compassion is " Om mani padme hum," which you hear murmured everywhere you go. Sometimes the chanting is accompanied by the beating of a drum to ward off the supplicant's ego, for his quest is to know emptiness, to be free of all prejudice in his interpretation of himself and of the world around him.

The third type is Vajrayana (" the diamond"), also based on the twin objectives of compassion and enlightenment but through the teaching of Buddhist tantras. Sutras are the words spoken by Buddha for all, but tantras are vouchsafed only to a select few. Tantrist Buddhism sees the human condition as more than making moral choices. Internal energy if misdirected adds to the store of human misery, but , by channeling it in the correct way, you achieve nirvana. Studying the tantras helps speed up the way to enlightenment.

Tibetan temples are filled with images. Mandalas are a series of colored squares within a circle and are used as an instrument of meditation. You must shed all preconceptions about reality, and imagine you are a deity and that the mandala is your world. The wheel of life, often seen at temples entrances, represents the eternal universe, seen by Buddhists as an infinity of systems inhabited by humans, animals, giants, ghosts, devils, and celestials. Existence without enlightenment is a meaningless cycle of reincarnation from one to the other. Liberation is achieved by breaking out of this cycle.


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