One hopes, that all of you have had a wonderful Wesak/Beltane/May Day. Let’s continue this series about world religions and their relationship to New Age Metaphysics. We began the series here. Not too long ago, we discussed the schism that divided Buddhism into two branches, the Northern (Mahayana) and the Southern (Theravada). This article deals with what is, perhaps, the most prominent branch of Northern Buddhism, called “Tibetan Buddhism”, since it developed, primarily, in that isolated plateau known as Tibet.
Modern Tibetan Buddhism is a blend of elements from several other traditions into a unique form of Mahayana Buddhism, such as: Madhyamika (Middle Way) and Yogacara (Consciousness) Schools, Tantricism, and the native Tibetan Bön religion.
This movement started slowly. During the reign of King Lha Thothori Nyantsen, in the second century C.E., a few initial Buddhist scriptures were carried from India to
Tibet. At the time, Buddhism was not yet widespread or popular in Tibet. The first official historic introduction of a Buddhist scripture into Tibet happened during reign of King Hlato Ri Nyentsen, around 500 C.E.
In 641 C.E., King Songtsen Gampo , who unified Tibet, married two Buddhist wives (Princess Wencheng from China and Princess Bhrikuti Devi from
Nepal). Soon after, the King Gampo decreed Buddhism as the state religion, and established a network of 108 Buddhist temples. The followers of Bön continued to be resistant to Buddhism.
In 774 C.E., at the invitation of King Trisong Detsen, (the King who also built the first Tibetan Monastery), the tantric mystic Padmasambhava, more commonly known as Guru Rinpoche, travelled to
Tibet. He reconciled the apparent differences between tantric Buddhism and the Bön religion. The two Schools of Thought merged into one, forming the basis of modern Tibetan Buddhism, establishing the Nyingma (Translation) School.
By the eleventh century C.E., Tibetan Buddhism exerted a strong influence throughout Central Asia, especially in Mongolia and Manchuria; both the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and the Manchu Qing Dynasty of China adopted it as their official State Religion.
Tibetan Buddhism spread to the Western Hemisphere in the twentieth century as many Tibetan leaders were exiled from their homeland after the takeover by Communist
China. There are now Tibetan religious communities in the West consisting both of refugees from
Tibet and westerners. Tibetan Buddhism, with its vast pantheon of Gods, Buddhas and Boddhisattvas, and its reincarnating Lamas, holds a great fascination to us westerners. There is at least one major concept, however, which links it very strongly to the New Age Movement: the Gods, etc. are also viewed as a part of one’s own consciousness, and not separate or distant in the sense of those beliefs, with which many Westerners were brought up. This Nearness to the Divine is also cherished in the New Age. As it is said in New Age Churches, “There is no separation.”
Buddhism Is taught locally at:
Tubten Kunga Center in Deerfield Beach
Drolma Buddhist Center in Fort Lauderdale
Soka Gakkai international-U.S.A. in Weston