Religion and spirituality is extremely
important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of
lives; ingrained deeply into their cultural heritage. Bön is the ancient
traditional religion of Tibet, but following the introduction of Tantric
Buddhism into Tibet by Padmasambhava this became eclipsed by Tibetan
Buddhism, a distinctive form of Vajrayana. Tibetan Buddhism is practiced
not only in Tibet but also in Mongolia, parts of northern India, the
Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and in the Republic of Kalmykia.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions (the suffix pa is comparable to
"er" in English):
Gelug(pa), Way of Virtue, also known casually as Yellow Hat, whose
spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal, the Dalai Lama.
Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th
centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je
Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition.
Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The
Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the
embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Kagyu(pa), Oral Lineage. This contains one major subsect and one
minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu
schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of
four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa
Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. There are further eight minor
sub-sects, all of which trace their root to Pagtru Kagyu. Among the
eight sub-sects the most notable of are the Drikung Kagyu and the Drukpa
Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by
the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the
Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an
oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential
dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an
eleventh century mystic.
Nyingma(pa), The Ancient Ones. This is the oldest, the original
order founded by Padmasambhava.
Sakya(pa), Grey Earth, headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon
Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya
Pandita 1182–1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This
school very much represents the scholarly tradition.
Main article: Islam in Tibet
In Tibetan cities, there are also small communities of Muslims, known as
Kachee (Kache), who trace their origin to immigrants from three main
regions: Kashmir (Kachee Yul in ancient Tibetan), Ladakh and the Central
Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from
Persia. After 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian
nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian
government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that
year. There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community (gya
kachee), which traces its ancestry back to the Hui ethnic group of
China. It is said that Muslim migrants from Kashmir and Ladakh first
entered Tibet around the 12th century. Marriages and social interaction
gradually led to an increase in the population until a sizable community
grew up around Lhasa. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibet )